by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 02:49 PM | Permalink
A look back at some of CityBeat's favorite news features from 2015
CityBeat's news team has been all over the map this year. In the past 365 days, we've delved deep into college athletic funding, the experiences of refugee families in Cincinnati, new community ownership models for neighborhood grocery stores and any number of other issues. Often, we’ve covered stories no other media outlet in Cincinnati thought to. Hopefully you enjoyed it. Here are some of our most unique news stories this year. Despite new development, Cincinnati is still a deeply segregated place.Our story detailing the long history that has kept large portions of Cincinnati’s African-American population in low-income neighborhoods explored why many in our city struggle to access economic opportunity. In the past year, intense tensions around race in America have re-emerged, sparking protests, civil unrest and reams of media coverage. But underneath issues around law enforcement’s role in black communities lie other problems. A pervasive and historically entrenched economic segregation in predominantly black neighborhoods continues to seal off many Cincinnatians, creating desperation and setting up extra barriers for residents of those communities. This lack of opportunity also informs the city’s much-publicized recent upswing in gun violence, its sky-high infant-mortality rate and a host of other problems. City officials, neighborhood activists and experts have all offered ideas to alleviate this segregation, but it’s clear a complex, long-term and multi-faceted set of solutions is needed to improve the prospects of black Cincinnatians. UC officials approved an $86 million renovation of Nippert Stadium in 2013 despite unanimous opposition from the Faculty Senate, which recommended using Paul Brown Stadium for home football games. Work was completed this summer. Photo: Jesse FoxUC students come for education, but their fees go to sportsOver the past decade, University of Cincinnati leaders have used student fees and tuition to cover a nearly five-fold increase in the university’s athletic department’s annual deficit while cutting academic spending per student by almost 25 percent.In 2013, UC officials provided the athletic department with a $21.75 million subsidy, records show, using student fees and money from the school’s general fund, which is primarily funded by tuition. The total subsidy amounts to $1,024 out of the pocket of every full-time undergraduate student on UC’s main campus. The four-year price tag costs each student more than $4,000.The situation at the University of Cincinnati is not unique. An investigation by a UC investigative journalism class, which was published by CityBeat, looked into the eight largest public universities in Ohio in the Football Bowl Subdivision, finding that with one exception, college administrators and trustees impose hidden fees and invisible taxes on thousands of working-class students who pay tens of millions of dollars in subsidies to keep money-losing athletic departments afloat.Many of these same schools are cutting faculty jobs and slashing academic spending. Between 2005 and 2013, academic spending per full-time undergraduate student at UC, adjusted for inflation, dropped 24 percent, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, a national group of current and former college presidents seeking to reform college athletics using research studies and, more recently, online databases. Are cooperative groceries the future in Cincinnati?Cooperatively owned groceries are uncommon in Cincinnati, but over the past few years, the concept — a business owned and controlled
by the people who work and shop there, instead of a large chain or local
corporation — has started to gain steam here. The model has existed, and even thrived, elsewhere for years. Interest in co-ops has seen a big revival in the last decade as well, specifically as an alternative to big-box chain stores like Walmart. Unlike chains, supporters say, co-ops keep their profits in the community and allow for local input.The increasing interest in this alternate model comes partly from necessity — neighborhoods like Clifton and Northside are popular places underserved by grocery stores, and the industry is only getting more difficult for those with more traditional business models in mind. But even with the big efforts and big visions of nascent co-ops like Apple Street Market and Clifton Market, questions linger. The excitement for an alternative grocery model has reached a high point, but there are also a number of voices questioning if co-ops will work in a challenging grocery market.Local efforts like Clifton Market have made strides, securing funding and setting construction dates. Despite doubts, Cincinnati’s age of the co-op might be around the corner. This building on Walnut Street, now called Branderyhaus, once housed Reginald Stroud’s karate studio and convenience store. Developers say tenants were relocated because the building needed major improvements.Photo: Nick SwartsellAs Over-the-Rhine changes, some long-time residents find themselves forced to leaveMany have trumpeted the changes happening in Over-the-Rhine, a quickly redeveloping but historically low-income, predominantly black neighborhood. But for former residents like Reginald Stroud, who ran a convenience store and karate studio in a building on Walnut Street he lived in with his family, that redevelopment has led to some bitter realities. Stroud was forced to move to Northside this year after the building was redeveloped. Recent Census data suggests that Stroud isn’t the only one departing OTR. The area’s demographic makeup seems to be changing in parts of the neighborhood that have seen large-scale redevelopment. Development in OTR has, until recently, been limited to the southern part of neighborhood, where the building Stroud lived in is located. Those efforts have changed the economic, and perhaps the racial, makeup of the area. Developers and city officials say diversity is a key concern as OTR continues to change. And work is underway in other neighborhoods like Northside to find ways to encourage equitable economic development. But for former OTR residents like Stroud, those assurances provide little comfort.UC suspends its campus sexual assault program, even as sexual assault continues to be a national issueAs University of Cincinnati students began filing onto campus to start classes this fall, a battle was raging over a program run by the UC Women’s Center designed to aid sexual assault survivors. The
debate — signaled by public meetings, a protest and a flurry of social
media posts — centered around the role of the RECLAIM Sexual Assault
Survivor Advocate Program. A round of training for the program was
suspended this fall, causing concern among students.RECLAIM
participants say they were just a few days away from beginning the
necessary 40-hour intensive training for the program, which offers
sexual assault counseling and prevention strategies, when they received
an email in early August from the Women’s Center stating that the
training was cancelled. Advocates say RECLAIM can’t exist
without yearly training. UC says the program will continue, but as the
university works to reschedule training, it has remained in flux.A baptism at St. Leo Photo: Nick SwartsellRefugees in Cincinnati find hardships in neglected neighborhoods, but also build communityIraqi refugee Oday Kadhimand his family came to the United States a year ago after an arduous four-year wait and settled in Millvale. That neighborhood and its surrounding communities are part of the unseen Cincinnati, an area that houses many of the city’s more than 90,000 residents living below the federal poverty line.
The neighborhood is also one of the city’s most violent, struggling with drug activity, shootings, break-ins and murders. For families like Kadhim’s, the violence is an echo of the very strife they’ve come here to escape.
Kadhim and his family aren’t the only ones who struggle with the neighborhood’s challenges. Two-hundred Burundian refugees have ended up there in the last decade, plus others who have arrived more recently. The total number of refugees in the neighborhood is unclear — even the organizations helping refugees get acclimated don’t keep long-term statistics — but it’s clear they’re a big presence there, and often a positive one.
Dozens of the refugees living in this often-ignored corner of the city have found unique and vibrant ways to build community, helping to energize a 125-year-old church just down the road in North Fairmount. Some see their presence as hope that the area can rise again.
But for many like Kadhim, the neighborhood’s danger, isolation and poverty remain obstacles to achieving the dreams of peace and prosperity they believed they could find in the U.S.A new court helps those who have been sex-trafficked start overWhen Caroline
(whose name CityBeat changed to protect her identity) came out as transgender during high school, her mother asked that she
leave her house and neighborhood in Northern Kentucky. That rejection
started a long, harrowing journey through sex trafficking and addiction from which it took Caroline years to recover. Now, a new court has helped her erase a criminal record she never should have had in the first place.Caroline’s transgender status was part of her vulnerability. Her pimps worked a whole group of transgender
women, playing on their insecurities and search for acceptance. She
describes how traffickers would brand them — burning them with
cigarettes or hot clothes hangers. Caroline suffered beatings and also
mental and emotional abuse. Then there was the danger from the johns.Two murders of transgender women in the
past few years illustrate the dangers Caroline once faced.
Twenty-eight-year-old Tiffany Edwards was killed in Walnut Hills in June
2014, and Kendall Hampton died there at age 26 in August 2012. Police
suspect both were engaged in sex work at the time they died. Both, like
Caroline, were women of color.The CHANGE
Court, presided over by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Heather
Russell, will give those like Caroline a chance to expunge convictions
for acts done under the duress of sex trafficking. The court is part of a wider shift in
attitudes away from viewing sex trafficked individuals as criminals.
Social service and law enforcement agencies are increasingly seeing them
as victims in need of help.
The court’s focus
will go beyond folks like Caroline, who have already triumphed over the horrors of sex trafficking, providing a road out of the world of coerced sex work for those
who have yet to escape.Two immigrant laborers working on a Warren County job site Photo: Mike BrownImmigrant workers victimized by wage theft fight backImagine you work hard to put food on the table, but your employer isn’t paying you when it say it will — or at all. Now imagine you can’t take easily report it or take the employer to court.Because employers capitalize on their fear of being deported, undocumented immigrant workers are frequently victims of wage theft, whether it’s being paid less than minimum wage, shorted hours, forced to work off the clock, not being paid overtime or not paid at all.From 2005 through 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor collected more than $6.5 million in unpaid wages from Ohio construction companies for workers who were cheated out of minimum wage, overtime pay or the regional prevailing wages required for public projects. Some 5,500 workers were affected, but how many were undocumented immigrants wasn’t recorded by the agency. The $6.5 million collected by labor officials for all workers is likely only a fraction of the actual wage theft in the industry, union officials say. What’s needed, according to those officials, is the political will to adequately staff state and federal enforcement agencies so they can find violators without waiting for complainants to step forward. Ohio’s Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration, which enforces wage laws on public projects as well as minimum wage requirements and pay to minors, has just six investigators and one supervisor to cover the entire state. Enforcing wage and hour laws is seen as “anti-business” among Ohio employers, chambers of commerce and its Republican-dominated government, some watchdog groups say, meaning that changing the situation seems a daunting political challenge.Ice Cream Factory in Brighton Photo: Scott BeselerAlternative spaces are changing and evolving in CincinnatiThe DIY ethos in Cincinnati is alive and well, though where and how under-the-radar spaces operate is in flux. The city has been a surprising hotbed for self-funded, not-for-profit art, music and party spaces, which exist in a twilight world just beyond the economic, regulatory and social rules that usually bound more traditional, for-profit entertainment venues. They’ve been aided by the low rents and lax oversight often found in the city’s more neglected corners and by a community of people looking for something outside the norm. And proponents of these under-the-radar venues say they’re important for more than just a few boundary-pushing art shows.Many say these venues have given otherwise-unavailable opportunities to generations of Cincinnati artists and musicians. What’s more, urban experts say, such DIY spaces are good for the social health of cities. But as interest in urban living continues to take hold in Cincinnati and those once-neglected pockets of the city attract the gaze of developers, the future of these unique places has become uncertain.
Jose Salazar’s new restaurant plays off Colombian tradition with welcoming flavors
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 16, 2015
When Jose Salazar talks about his
grandmother’s kitchen in Medellin, Colombia, he doesn’t talk about a
specific food. His memories are of wooden carts going by in the street,
loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Local entrepreneur preps her french fry-only walk-up window
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Over-the-Rhine currently houses a
late-night walk-up taco window in the form of Gomez Salsa (now open
daily for lunch and Sunday brunch) and a couple spots for late-night
pizza, but what if it’s 1 a.m. and you’re craving a different type of
food from a window? Soon, OTR — and Cincinnati — will get its first
walk-up french fry window, Fryed, from entrepreneur Lindsey Metz.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The third-annual Taste of OTR is a
family-friendly day of food, craft beer and live entertainment in
Washington Park to benefit Tender Mercies, a nonprofit in the heart of
Over-the-Rhine that provides housing to homeless adults living with
mental illness and a variety of supportive services.