The Flint debate came after presidential hopefuls Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns agreed to additional debates which were motivated by a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses.
Clinton’s campaign challenged Sanders to an unsanctioned debate on MSNBC at the University of New Hampshire, following their photo-finish race in the Hawkeye State. The DNC officialized the debate, propelling the first time the former secretary of state and the Vermont senator went one-on-one.
Flint’s debate is one of two more debates the Clinton campaign agreed to in exchange for the University of New Hampshire debate.
In the midst of Flint’s water crisis, the town has been at the top of both of the Democratic candidates’ talking points — highlighting what is at stake in this election and what the Democratic party can offer in terms of economic power and regulation.
Sanders went as far to call for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s resignation.
“And I think the governor has got to take the responsibility and say, ‘You know what, my administration was absolutely negligent and a result of that negligence, many children may suffer for the rest of their lives and the right thing to do is to resign,” Sanders said in an interview with The Detroit News.
Sanders further blasted the governor's response to the water crisis during the University of New Hampshire debate, saying, “A man who acts that irresponsibly should not stay in power.” The Vermont senator added that this is the first time he has ever called for the resignation of another politician.Flint was a stop on Clinton’s campaign trail Sunday as she urged Congress to pass a $200 million effort to fix the ailing city’s water infrastructure.
"This has to be a national priority," Clinton said at the House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church. "What happened in Flint is immoral. The children of Flint are just as precious as the children of any part of America."Clinton praised Flint Mayor Karen Weaver as "someone who is working every way she knows how to provide the help and support that all the people of Flint deserve to have." The Flint Water Crisis started in April 2014 after the city changed its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River — the new water source is contaminated with lead, prompting President Obama to declare a state of emergency.
The Flint River’s corrosion is caused by aged pipes that leach lead into the water supply. The EPA estimates thousands of residents are at risk of lead poisoning, and has recommended testing 12,000 children. The water is also possible responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, killing 10 people.The Michigan Army National Guard was deployed to Flint to assist in the crisis and President Obama has allocated $80 in government aid.
Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
Will Cincinnati and Hamilton County opt to stop working together on the Metropolitan Sewer District? Recent statements by Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel suggest that the two governments are more CeeLo Green than Al Green right now and that the idea is at least on the table. Since 2014, the two governments have cooperated on MSD, which is owned by the county but run by the city. But things between the city and county haven’t been all that cozy lately, and recent revelations that MSD may have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on contracts without competitive bids haven’t helped matters.
Now officials are at least floating the idea of splitting up — perhaps even dividing MSD’s assets and letting the two governments run separate systems. There are, of course, complications, not the least of which would be the enormous complexity of divvying up one of the county’s largest infrastructure systems serving 800,000 residents. The city says it should be the one solely in charge of MSD, while the county makes a similar claim. Meanwhile, the two governments will have to continue to cooperate on a federal court-ordered $3 billion renovation of the sewer district, no matter what they decide.
• While the above-mentioned $680 million sketchy procurement process was taking place at MSD under former director Tony Parrott, an oversight board that could have put checks on the potential improper spending was fading into the background, The Enquirer reports. That independent oversight board hasn’t operated since 2008, and no records exist of any audits of MSD’s activity from that group. Cincinnati City Councilman Kevin Flynn has been calling for funds and support to beef up that board over the past few months and has renewed his calls for increased oversight ahead of an audit of MSD by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. The city’s administrative code calls for such an oversight board, though cities aren’t required by law to maintain them. It’s unclear why Cincinnati abandoned its board in 2008 under Mayor Mark Mallory. City officials, including City Manager Harry Black, have said they’re in the process of reviving the board, but that it currently has five vacancies and can’t operate until they’re filled.
• Two neighborhood councils are pushing the city to keep, and expand, the controversial Central Parkway Bikeway, memos to the city reveal. Both Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council passed resolutions late last month and sent letters to the city administration and City Council asking that the lane be expanded for safety and economic development purposes. You can read more about that in our blog post here.
• Ohio has 10 times the number of failing charter schools as it has previously reported, according to a letter from the state to the federal government. The Department of Education says 57 Ohio charter schools are failing, not six, as the state originally stated. The state also has about half the number of high-performing charters it has recently touted, according to the letter, which was sent as Ohio works to regain access to a $71 million federal school choice grant that the DOE awarded last year and subsequently suspended last November following a charter school data rigging scandal here.
• It’s the big day for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. New Hampshire primary voters head out to the polls today for the country’s first primary (yes, candidates were vying for voter attention in Iowa last week, but that state has a caucus, which is a different system). Kasich has indicated he will drop out of the GOP presidential primary if he doesn’t do well in the state, so we could be talking about the last day of morning news updates on the big queso’s campaign. Heartbreaking.
Kasich is polling well in the state, however, and might finish as high as second place, especially after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, his main rival there, did pretty poorly in this weekend’s GOP debate. Kasich has spent a lot of time focusing on the Granite State, holding more than 100 town hall appearances there. He even beat Trump 3 votes to 2 in tiny Dixville, N.H. Side note: If you want to know how New Hampshire became the first voters in the primary process, this article has all the interesting political history you need.
• Finally, how much has all of Kasich’s traveling around the country with a security entourage cost Ohio taxpayers? Probably a lot. The Associated Press reports that non-highway security expenditures for the Ohio Highway Patrol have gone from $17,000 a year during Kasich’s first year in office to more than $350,000 in 2015. While that segment of highway patrol funding is primarily used for the governor’s security detail, officials with the patrol say other out of state costs are also involved in that number. They also point out that spending categories changed in 2011, so the two numbers might not be an apples to apples comparison. Still, it’s clear that expenditures have gone up during Kasich’s time in office and that taxpayers have footed some of the bill for the extensive traveling he’s done as he runs for the nation’s highest office.
I’m out. Tweet. Email. You know what’s up.
Community councils for two popular Cincinnati neighborhoods are urging the city to expand its bike lane program, which has stalled after the 2014 completion of a major protected lane leading downtown.
Both Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council passed resolutions last month reiterating support for the sometimes-controversial Central Parkway Bikeway and pushing for expansions to that bike project and others like it.
"Clifton Town Meeting desires to make Clifton into a premier bicycling community within Greater Cincinnati in order to improve the vibrancy, safety and overall health of visitors and residents," a Jan. 20 letter to city administration and Council reads. "To do so requires continued investment in on-street infrastructure such as the Central Parkway Bikeway, bike lanes, sharrows and bicycle-related signage."
That letter goes on to ask that the city not make changes to the bikeway that would deprive cyclists of a dedicated, protected lane.
Over-the-Rhine's community council, led by Ryan Messer, sent a similar message to the city Jan. 28, saying the council strongly supports the lane and hopes to see it extended in the near future. The letter cites successes with similar lanes in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, quoting research and news reports stating that the lanes increase rider safety.
"Experience with the Central Parkway bike lane has been positive," Messer wrote in his letter to the city. "There has not been an impact on traffic and ridership numbers continue to rise. When the bike lane is completed with a projected lane to and from Ludlow [Ave. in Clifton], we expect ridership to grow even more as it provides the connection to Clifton, Northside and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College."
Not all communication to Council was positive about the lanes, however. Councilman Christopher Smitherman presented a letter to Council today from Robert Schwartz that called the lane a "embarrassingly awful" and called for it to be removed. In the letter, dated late December of last year, Schwartz presented a list of 16 reasons why the lane should be removed, including confusion over parking, damaged plastic markers that are "a blight on what used to be a very picturesque street" and an accident that happened in Dec. 2013, before the lane was installed. Schwartz said he feared more such accidents would happen due to the lane.
The Central Parkway Bikeway was completed in 2014 after multiple bouts of political wrangling. The protected bike lane uses plastic partitions to separate cyclists from drivers along the four-lane stretch of the Central Parkway running from Clifton, through the West End and University Heights and into Over-the-Rhine and downtown. The lane was initially proposed in a bike plan Cincinnati City Council passed in 2010, and Council in 2013 voted unanimously to build it using $500,000 in mostly federal money.
But that was before Mayor John Cranley took office. Cranley wanted Council to reconsider the lane, saying he preferred off-street bike paths such as the proposed Wasson Way trail that would go through much of Cincnnati's East Side on the way to Avondale. Council narrowly approved the lane in a 5-4 vote. Then there was contention about parking spaces that had to be ironed out with local business owners.
Even the construction of the lane didn't end the debate. Drivers and some local business owners say the lanes, which require motorists to park in Central Parkway's outside lanes during business hours, make traffic in the area more dangerous. News reports highlighted the fact that some of the plastic dividers along the lane had been run over and that some 33 accidents had happened along Central Parkway since they had been installed. That led Cranley last summer to say he was interested in removing the lanes.
"I've got plans to build dedicated bike trails on Oasis and Wasson Way and Mill Creek," the mayor said last summer, "but those are off the road, dedicated lanes, not in the middle of traffic like Central Parkway, which is a major artery into downtown. I think they should scrap it before somebody gets hurt. I think it's been a disaster and I hope that City Council will reverse course and stop it."
National research, like this 2014 study by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, tends to show that bike lanes increase safety, ridership and neighborhood desirability. The NITC study found that ridership numbers at newly installed lanes in Austin, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Portland, Ore., boosted ridership between 21 and 171 percent, while increasing perceptions of safety and the overall desirability of the neighborhoods they were in for residents and visitors. However, those cities are generally less car-dependent than Cincinnati.
New attention to bike safety has come in the days after the hit-and-run death in Anderson of Michale Prater, who was an active member of the city's cycling community. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld last week introduced a motion asking the city to study particularly dangerous intersections for cyclists and pedestrians and suggest ways of mitigating that danger. Meanwhile, cycling advocates and neighborhood councils continue to push for protected lanes.
"We need and endorse the full usage of roads for cyclists for a full and productive lifestyle, not just for riding on off-road trails," the Clifton Town Meeting letter concludes.
Hillary Clinton (Democratic)
Then-Senator Hillary Clinton had a vodka-drinking contest against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ.) when the two were touring Estonia in 2004, possibly the most legendary drinking story in modern politics.
“We agreed to withdraw, in honorable fashion, having, I think, reached the limits that either of us should have had,” the Democratic frontrunner said in a campaign video. There are unconfirmed reports of Clinton besting Sen. McCain with four shots of vodka, however the former first lady called the game a tie.
What’s up with the campaign?
Until her virtual tie in the Iowa caucus, Clinton’s campaign has been virtually in cruise control. While the former secretary of state may have had to move to the left a bit on some issues with the surprise threat of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), her rhetoric has mostly stayed in the center.
Aside from New Hampshire, Clinton has stayed on top of the polls, raised more money than any other candidate on either side of the aisle and seemingly has the backing of the entire establishment.
Voters might like:
● Clinton has one of the thickest resumes of any presidential candidate in history. Being a first lady is not usually a political job, but she was the first wife of a president to create an office in the West Wing. She led the way for subsidized health care in the ’90s with the Health Security Act, informally called “Hillarycare.”
● She went on to serve as senator of New York from 2001-2009. After losing her bid for the presidency to Barack Obama, she was appointed to secretary of state — giving her a huge advantage on foreign policy over Sanders.
● Some consider Clinton’s centrist policies as a weakness. However, her consistently not falling into liberalism will likely be the key to winning the general election if she earns the Democratic nomination. Clinton is not calling for free college education, a high minimum wage or universal healthcare — considering how far to the right Congress is at this point might lead to her being a successful president in the early years of her first term.
...but what out for
● Clinton spent more than a decade opposing gay rights. The former secretary of state did not support gay marriage until 2013. “I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman,” Clinton said in 2004.
● Most Americans are weary of getting into another war, and the Iraq War is largely considered one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history. Clinton was a part of the 58 percent of senate Democrats who voted in favor of the Iraq Resolution, which authorized President George W. Bush’s invasion.
● On both sides of the aisle, career politicians and the establishment have become toxic. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the country that is more establishment or embodies political privilege more than Clinton. The $600,000 she received in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and millions in corporate donations have raised a lot of eyebrows in this new political climate that is increasingly skeptical of big-money interests.
Biggest policy proposal:
The United States is one of the only developed nations in the world that does not have guaranteed paid family leave. A lot of career jobs offer paid time off, however it is not guaranteed by law — this mostly affects those in low-income jobs. Clinton says she aims to guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family leave with two-thirds of wages. The campaign claims this will also be accomplished without a mandate on the employer or an increase in payroll tax.
Clinton does not support conventional ground troops conducting combat operations in Iraq or Syria. However, she is in favor of continuing Obama’s air campaign and using Special Operations forces.
The Cincinnati Planning Commission has approved plans for a 131-unit apartment complex downtown. The $52 million complex will be at Eighth and Sycamore streets pending the approval of City Council as early as next week. The parking garage and apartments are part of a larger development plan for the city-owned site, which will also feature up to 10,000 square feet of street-level retail space. The Cincinnati City Center Development Corp., or 3CDC, will build a 500-car parking garage, while Cincy-based North American Properties is in charge of constructing the actual units. If plans are approved, the parking complex could be ready as early as June, but the apartments won't be completed until the second half of 2017 at least.
• Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine is calling on community support to help keep its winter shelter open to the homeless through Feb. 29. Rev. John Suguitan says the church is short the funds necessary to keep its doors open through one of the coldest months of the year. The church, which is located on Race Street, has focused on community outreach since 1969 and currently has 45 spots available for homeless individuals to stay overnight.
• A report from Disability Rights Ohio found major issues with the enforcement a 2013 Ohio law limiting the seclusion and restraint of students for the convenience of staff members.The rule requires schools to report such incidents to Ohio's Department of Education. But, according to the report, many instances still go unreported. Under the law, the DOE lacks the authority to force schools to do so and the schools face no punishment for not complying. It also found many schools were also not notifying parents if their child had been restrained or secluded, which is also a requirement of the law.
• Chicago police officer Robert Rialmo, who fatally shot a 19-year-old black man and unarmed bystander in December, is suing the teenager's estate for more than $10 million. The officer claims the Dec. 26 confrontation that lead to the death of teen Quintonio LeGrier, who was holding a baseball bat, and 55-year-old Bettie Jones, caused him "extreme emotional trauma." The shooting is still under investigation.
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey met with great success when they created next to normal, winning several Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. They didn’t strike gold with their next show, If/Then, onstage locally for just a week in a touring production — but I found it to be a very satisfying, if complex work. (Read my Curtain Call interview with Kitt and Yorkey here.) Elizabeth is recently divorced and trying to decide what path to take next. She asks herself musically “What If” she takes this path or that — and this show lets us follow her down two divergent threads, one toward a successful professional career as a city planner in New York, the other in a happy marriage with kids that doesn’t quite turn out as she imagined. Her stories are presented in overlapping narratives, since some moments and events are quite close. It requires paying close attention, but it’s definitely worth the effort. It’s made all the easier by a very strong cast — including Jackie Burns in the leading role, Broadway veteran Anthony Rapp as Lucas, one of her close friends (he originated the role on Broadway Lucas and played videographer Mark in the original cast of Rent back in 1996) and Tamyra Gray as Kate, who pushes Elizabeth in a different direction. The show’s inventive staging, using video and fluidly moving set pieces, is also a fine example of contemporary theater design. Definitely worth seeing. Onstage through Sunday.
In BlackTop Sky at Know Theatre, Ida’s view from an asphalt-paved courtyard surrounded by the housing project where she lives isn’t pretty. The 18-year-old yearns to escape, but her avenues are limited. The safe, predictable route is with Wynn, her boyfriend, a hardworking auto mechanic. Then there’s Klass, an all-but-inarticulate homeless man who settle on two park benches. Ida is caught between these two poles. This is a show about lives that are pretty dead-end. Nevertheless, Christina Anderson’s script has its moments, especially with Kimberly Faith Hickman’s purposeful staging of 34 distinct scenes, several of them entirely wordless. Anderson writes with occasional lyricism and feeling, but desperation underlies these sad stories. That being said, the telling holds out a promise of change. That’s an important if not altogether entertaining message. Onstage through Feb. 20.
Also at Know, the fourth outing of Serials gets under way on Monday evening at 7:30 p.m. They’ve dubbed this one Thunderdome 2 – Beyond Thunder, meaning that each evening two of the five shows will be voted out by the audience, to be replaced by two new shows at the following session. Serials 4 features some writers and directors who entertained audiences in previous iterations of Serials. But several new talents have entered the fray, and the Know staff tells me, “There are some seriously strong story pitches this round!” They feel that the “gentle competition” of Thunderdome leads to stronger writing and a better audience experience. Writers who take the challenge must leap quickly into their narratives; if they lag behind, they’ll be struck by a thunderclap and end up in the audience at the next round. Subsequent episodes are set for Feb. 22, March 7 and 21 and April 4.
Finally: If you’re tuned in to the Super Bowl on Sunday evening, keep an eye out for a 30-second commercial for Gold Star Chili. It was shot locally, featuring 15 Cincinnati actors at several Gold Star locations. Ensemble Theatre’s Lynn Meyers did the casting for it, so you’ll see some familiar faces often featured on local stages.
That investigation didn't find any fetal tissue sales at the organization's Ohio clinics, but DeWine did announce that it appeared as if Planned Parenthood was violating state law by contracting with a company that autoclaved, or steam-treated, fetal tissue and then dumped it in landfills.
However, in an investigation published yesterday by Columbus WBNS-10TV, Lanny Brannock, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, says intact fetuses were not disposed of in landfills there. What's more, Brannock says Ohio investigators never spoke to anyone at the facilities nor visited them during the course of their investigation.
“It is illegal to landfill any human tissue in Kentucky, and by law it’s required to be incinerated," Brannock said. "We have no knowledge of any human tissue going into Kentucky landfills."
The investigation also shows that the state contracts with the same disposal company, Kentucky-based Accu Medical Waste Services, Inc., to dispose of medical waste. That contract includes state prisons, where inmates occasionally suffer miscarriages.
Morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today.
Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive commission last night voted not to censure Ben Lindy, a candidate to replace Denise Driehaus as state representative. But the party also had strong words about a paper Lindy authored that is currently in being used in a legal attack against teachers’ unions. Controversy erupted last week when party leaders found out that the paper, which Lindy wrote while studying at Yale University, is currently being used by anti-union groups in a pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case that could endanger collective bargaining arrangements for labor groups. Lindy says he supports unions and doesn’t agree with the suit. He’s facing other Democrats, including fellow Hyde Park resident Brigid Kelly, in the party’s primary to run for Ohio's District 31 state representative seat.
• I love going to Findlay Market, but like a lot of people, one of the big challenges I have is that I can’t get quite everything I need there. But that could change soon. Owners of current Findlay vendors Fresh Table are planning a new micro-grocery just across from the historic market. In addition to having a lunch counter, the store will feature hygiene items and other products that will help round out Findlay’s offerings. The store aims to serve people of all incomes and should be open by September, according to owners Meredith Trombly and Louis Snowden.
• A recent study shows that Cincinnati ranks favorably among the country’s biggest 100 cities when it comes to prosperity, but that it lags well behind when it comes to extending that prosperity beyond whites. The city ranked 18th in a Brookings Institution study released last week when it came to prosperity, but 81st in racial economic inclusion. We've checked out that study in-depth here.
• A men’s rights group whose leader has in the past advocated for rape legalization has cancelled plans for rallies around the world, including one near Cincinnati. Return of Kings, which was founded by 36-year-old Roosh Valizadeh, had planned numerous get-togethers for its so-called “tribesmen” this Saturday at 8 p.m. across the United States and as far away as Australia. Valizadeh has authored blog posts on the group’s website calling for women to be stripped of the right to vote and for rape to be legalized on private property. Valizadeh cited safety concerns for the cancellations. Feminist activists in Cincinnati called that “ironic,” saying that ROK represented the only threat to peoples’ safety in the area and that the group perpetuates rape culture.
• In the wake of its second student suicide in as many months, Cincinnati Public Schools is expanding its anti-suicide efforts. The push comes as community leaders highlight a crisis in teen suicide in the region, especially in its black communities. CPS has sent home suicide prevention guidelines and resources for parents. Meanwhile, faith leaders and others in those communities are working on long-term strategies to address that crisis.
• Finally, another night, another presidential primary debate. This time it was Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who tussled. Their past debates have been markedly civil compared to the Republican primary debates’ circus-like atmosphere, but the gloves have finally come off.
That meant lengthy (and annoying) semantic debates about the words “progressive” and “establishment” that mirror similar ideological pissing contests within the Republican Party. Unencumbered by flagging third candidate former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Sanders and Clinton were able to really go at it. But sandwiched in between the jabs traded back and forth there was some substance to the discussion.
Clinton came out well ahead on foreign policy, her home turf issue — she was U.S. Secretary of State, after all — with Sanders tripping over whether North Korea had one or multiple dictators. Seriously, man? Sanders, however, seemed to gain an upper hand on domestic issues around the economy, which is really the core of his campaign. He was able to land some substantive blows against Clinton when it came to her support from financial industry bigwigs, calling her out for donations and $100,000 speaking fees she’s received from big banks and other financial institutions. Sanders says should be more regulated by government.
Clinton called those questions an “artful smear” of her campaign, though she balked at promising to release transcripts of paid speeches she gave to those financial institutions, saying only that she would “look into it.” I say “I’ll look into it” when there is no chance in the world I’m going to do whatever it is I’m supposed to be looking into, but that’s just me.
And I’m out. Hit me on Twitter or via email.
A group of so-called "men's rights" activists led by a blogger who once advocated the legalization of rape has cancelled a word-wide series of meetups, including one near Cincinnati.
Return of Kings founder Roosh Valizadeh, 36, wrote on the group's website that all meetups, which had been scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday across the U.S. and as far away as Australia, would be cancelled due to safety concerns for men who might attend.
"I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to
attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be
made private in time," a statement on the website says. Cincinnati's meetup was scheduled to take place near I-75 on Sharon Road near a gas station.
The supposed meetups caused anger, and sometimes fear, in many communities, including Cincinnati. Pushback across the country appears to have triggered the cancellations. Local feminist activists here set up strategy meetings for the best way to protest the group, which has published articles with titles such as "Women Should not be Allowed to Vote" and "Make Rape Legal on Private Property."
Roosh says that article was satire, but activists say his group represents a toxic and dangerous movement. Local activist group the Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective called the cancellation "ironic," since Valizadeh's group threatens the safety of women and members of the LGBT community.
“The Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective embraces a culture of consent," Cincinnati Radical Feminist Collective member Abby Friend said in a statement today in response to the events' cancellation. "Return of Kings (ROK), the group planning the now-cancelled Saturday pro-rape rally, is a blatant representation of the problems inherent in a culture that casually accepts sexual harassment, sexual assault, homophobia and rape."