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by Nick Swartsell 11.30.2015 17 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Mount Auburn clinic clear to stay open until May; tensions on City Council; more liquor licenses for OTR?

Good morning all. Hope you had a great holiday weekend. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati’s last remaining women’s clinic that provides abortions will remain open until at least May following a last-minute decision by the Ohio Department of Health to grant it a license. Back in September, the ODH denied Planned Parenthood’s Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn its first request for a variance to state laws requiring clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals. That move could have shut the clinic down, but an ensuing court injunction kept it open. Now, the ODH has approved the clinic’s second request for a variance on the last day of a 60-day deadline stipulated by new state laws. That request listed four doctors with individual admitting privileges at local hospitals. The clinic’s previous request listed three.

• Three of Cincinnati City Council’s most conservative members have been pretty good buds up to this point, even tapping each other to pick their successors should one of them leave council early. But the cozy coalition between council members Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn, both Republicans, and Christopher Smitherman, an independent, could change rapidly as the race for a Hamilton County commissioner seat heat up. None of the three are officially running yet, but Smitherman and Winburn have at least grabbed petitions that would enable them to appear on the ballot, and Murray  said she’s considering her options in terms of the race. If two or all three jump into the race for departing commissioner Greg Hartmann’s seat, things could get less friendly. As the Business Courier points out, party primaries can be brutal, no-holds-barred affairs.

• Meanwhile, The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a story yesterday on City Council’s accomplishments two years into its newly extended four-year terms. It also, strangely, both lauds council for getting a lot done while at the same time criticizing it for being “rife with feuding, dysfunction and for some members, missed meetings.” The piece takes a negative view of council Democrats’ disagreements with Mayor John Cranley and dings council overall for its lack of “one voting bloc” and “one agenda among members.” Which, to editorialize, seems like a very weird critique of a democratic body. Don’t we have nine council members so we can have different viewpoints and different goals? Anyway, take a look at the article, which does have some good tidbits of information in it about what council has been up to.

• About 60 protesters with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati took to the streets downtown Friday. The group says the rally through downtown and Over-the-Rhine was held in solidarity with activists in Chicago, where hundreds have decried recently released video of the Chicago Police Department shooting of Laquan McDonald. McDonald was shot 16 times by a CPD officer last year as he was walking away from police. Though McDonald was armed with a three-inch knife, the officer who shot him had arrived on the scene just seconds before and was a safe distance away from McDonald. The officer was subsequently charged with murder. The rally in Cincinnati follows a similar event last weekend to remember Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police in Cleveland last year.

• Does Over-the-Rhine need more liquor licenses? As we explored this spring in our feature on neighborhood entertainment districts, many people are pushing for ways to expand the number of licenses available in some Cincinnati neighborhoods. A new plan being proposed would do just that for OTR, doubling the number of licenses available in the neighborhood by splitting up its current neighborhood entertainment district into two parts and extending its boundaries north. While advocates of the plan say it would aid economic development in the area, especially around Findlay Market, others are asking for balance and caution, saying that too many bars could make the area less livable for residents.

• Hamilton County commissioners are set to approve the county’s upcoming budget this week. As they prepare to do that, though, there’s a hubub going on over the county sheriff’s office. The department, headed by Democrat Sheriff Jim Neil, makes up by far the largest single expenditure in the fiscal plan: $59 million of the county’s $200 million general fund expenditures go to the office. But the hard part has been that the department doesn’t stay within the lines on that budget and is expected to be about $5 million over the $54 million spending mark stipulated by the current budget. That has caused some pushback from county commissioners, who have said Neil needs to be more strategic about his spending. So what’s responsible for the overruns? Officials say lack of communication has played a role, but also needed staff increases and modernization efforts within the department have contributed to the cost overruns.

I'm out! Send me news tips.

by Nick Swartsell 11.24.2015 6 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Thanksgiving family argument fodder galore!

Hey Cincy. Hope you’re winding down your work week. It’s T-minus two days 'til turkey time, which also happens to be my birthday this year. I’m hyped for both. Oh, and if you want to get your favorite reporter a b-day gift, I’ll take a pair of these in size 8.5 thx. Huh. Now you know my shoe size, which is kind of creepy.

But here’s something awesome: There will be tons of political fodder for you to argue awkwardly about around the dinner table with your family this Thanksgiving. Consider this news update your guide to all the best terrible conversations you’ll be having soon.

• You can start with something mild, like debating whether or not Mayor John Cranley should have gotten off the hook for his election-day outburst at a polling location in Avondale. OK, “outburst” is a little harsh. The Cran-man just got a bit over-enthusiastic about Issue 22, the parks tax proposal, and shouted out that people should vote yes on it a couple times. Who doesn’t like to see enthusiasm for the democratic process? But uh, campaigning and telling people how to vote in a polling place is pretty firmly against the rules, especially when you’re a political figure. Despite that, the Hamilton County Board of Elections yesterday announced that it will not be seeking any penalties against the mayor for his breach of the rules. Pollworker Mary Siegel argued that the BOE should start cracking down on such electioneering infractions in the future, because the rules are rarely enforced now.

• If the ensuing argument about that doesn’t heat things up while you’re waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, try talking with your conservative Uncle Jeff about the University of Cincinnati white student union that was set up on Facebook a few days ago. The group’s posts feature prognosticating on how “European Americans” face special challenges on campus and in society in general and other nonsensical claptrap designed to draw people into useless race-related Internet debates. Anyway, the page is almost certainly fake, set up in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to a plan hatched on a national white supremacist message board. The UC-themed page uses language almost identical to similar sites across the country, many of the likes on the page’s posts come from out of town Facebook accounts and the whole thing comes across as a reminder not to feed the trolls. So, uh, don’t feed the trolls. Meanwhile, there are more serious and terrifying anti-Black Lives Matter incidents happening of late.

• Just a couple days after Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, dropped a bombshell by revealing he’s decided not to run for reelection, three Cincinnati City Council members are saying they’re considering running for his seat. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn have both expressed some interest, with Winburn saying he could switch from a planned run for county recorder to the commission race if the party wants him to. Murray has said she’ll take the Thanksgiving holiday to think it over before deciding, but is intrigued. Meanwhile, independent Christopher Smitherman has said he might run as a Republican for the seat. Whoever the Hamilton County GOP taps will face Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus of Clifton, who is leaving the state House due to term limits.

• The second Cincinnati streetcar arrives today and will soon be making test trips around the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This argument pretty much scripts itself, so just say "streetcar" to your public transit-hating dad and watch the holiday magic unfold.

• Black leaders from across the state met yesterday at The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati headquarters in Avondale to discuss the state of black Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which includes local politicians State Sen. Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Alicia Reece, held the public meeting in part to discuss the wide disparities facing the black community here and across the state. Ohio ranks second-to-last in the nation in infant mortality rates, according to the caucus. Closer to home, the group singled out continued issues at the University of Cincinnati, which has been the site of serious racial dialogue around disparities in higher education. The group also discussed efforts toward police reform, which have been slow in coming even after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black citizens here and a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich. You can read more about how activists are continuing to fight for those reforms in this week’s news feature.

• GOP presidential primary contender Donald Trump came to Ohio yesterday. He didn’t talk as much shit about Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he has in the past. Per usual, his speech was light on policy proposals and heavy on bombast. What else really needs to be said? His remarks to a crowd of 10,000 mostly focused on how the U.S. has become “soft and weak” (despite spending more on its military than all other countries combined) and about how he’s leading in all major polls (sadly, this claim is actually true). He also gave a shout out to waterboarding, the controversial torture technique once used by the U.S. to extract intelligence from terrorism suspects. Trump’s all for bringing it back. Another thing Trump likes, according to his hour-long remarks: lists. As in, lists of people who are Muslim, which Trump thinks should be compiled by the federal government. Thanksgiving family debate difficulty level: black diamond.

• Finally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence faces a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union over his refusal to take in Syrian refugees. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Exodus Refugee Immigration, the Indianapolis nonprofit that handles refugee resettlement for the state. Pence pressured that organization to turn away Syrian refugees earlier this month. The ACLU says in doing so, he violated both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. This would be a great topic to discuss with your cousin Tami, who has that Gadsen flag bumper sticker on her Hummer.

That’s it for me. Later!

by Natalie Krebs 11.23.2015 7 days ago
at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
to do_kitten knittin_gertie adoptable kitten_photo oar and spayneuter clinic

Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann won't run for re-election; unlikely winner P.G. Sittenfeld holds in Senate race; Belgium responds to citywide police sweep with Internet cats

Good morning, Cincinnati! Hope y'all are ready for a short work week followed by some binge eating! 

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann is officially not running for re-election next year. Hartmann, who has served as commissioner for the last seven years, announced his decision in an email Saturday. He stated his main motivation was to allow new leadership in the position in what he calls "a self-imposed term limit." Hartmann's decision came as a surprise, as the conservative Republican was already raising money to run against State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Clifton), who chose to run for commissioner upon hitting a real term limit after serving in the state House for eight years. Hartmann told the Enquirer he had been thinking about not running for the past year. Republicans have yet to present another candidate for the position.  

• Another federal housing project might be coming to Cincinnati that would give government housing agencies flexibility to test local projects using federal dollars. The arrival of the 19-year-old federal program Moving to Work is pending the U.S. Senate's approval of appropriations bill that would extend the program to 39 different agencies. The program targets programs that reduce the costs of other programs and incentivize families to prepare for work. Some local activists and experts aren't so thrilled with program's possible arrival. Critics of the program say that the local agencies' programs that receive the flexible federal dollars aren't subjected to enough evaluations to prove their effectiveness, therefore letting ineffective, and even damaging programs, slide by. 

• A new program looking to get guns off the streets of Cincinnati will launch its second round today. The program, run by the nonprofit Street Rescue, will set up in Brown Chapel AME Church on Alms Place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. allowing community members to trade their unwanted guns for $50 and $100 grocery gift cards, no questions asked. The program was developed by local residents who aim to get illegal guns off the street following the city's recent spike in violent crime. They collected seven guns during their first drive in October. 

• Cincinnati City Councilman and Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is still in the race, much to the dismay of political experts. Sittenfeld's campaign against Republican Rob Portman has been largely overshadowed since former Democratic Ohio governor Ted Strickland jumped in the race. The Ohio Democratic Party gave Strickland its endorsement last April. But Sittenfeld held on and has launched recent attacks against both candidates for issues like gun control. Strickland is much better known around the state than Sittenfeld, who isn't recognized much outside of Cincinnati.

• Finally, Brussels is lockdown as authorities sweep the city for terrorism suspects. Authorities have even requested residents refrain from posting messages that expose the whereabouts of police on social media. So rather than give up social media for the extent of the operations, Belgians have banded together by posting pictures of cats, the Internet's favorite animal. Cat memes have popped up all over Belgian's social media accounts poking fun of the tense operation.  

by Nick Swartsell 11.20.2015 10 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

National Transgender Remembrance Day; why Owens left Cincy State; Kasich and Trump trolling hard on Twitter

Good morning all. Hope you’re hyped for the weekend. I’m going to see Jens Lekman at the Woodward tonight, so I totally am. Music isn’t my beat and you should probably just read our article on the show after we talk about news. But for now, let’s get to it.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT rights organization, has established today as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day designed to draw attention to the often-forgotten violence faced by transgender people in America. At least 98 hate crimes against people based on their gender identity were reported in 2014, according to FBI hate crimes statistics. This year, trans people have been victims of nearly two dozen murders. Trans people in Cincinnati are no exception and face harsh violence, even murder.

• Why did former Cincinnati State President O’dell Owens leave so suddenly back in September? Turns out the answer is partly about money and partly about interpersonal politics, as so many answers are. Owens, who was once Hamilton County coroner and now serves as the director of the Cincinnati Health Department, was being asked to undertake 10 in-person fundraising meetings a week on behalf of the college. That fundraising schedule is unusual, education experts say. Other duties generally given to a college president were in the process of being assigned to a newly hired chief operating officer.

Despite exceeding his fundraising goals — Owens says he raised $1.73 million last  year, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than he was expected to raise — and gaining praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Owens says he continued to receive pushback from some of the college’s board members. The tension culminated in an angry phone call from board chair Cathy Crain. Owens says Crain raised her voice to him in a call about a statement he made to the Cincinnati Enquirer on a possible tax levy for the school. After that incident, he began to consider leaving Cincinnati State. More money, more problems, or something.

• So, Cincinnati is definitely living in the age of re-urbanization, with more folks flocking back to the city. But while the general stereotype is that young professionals drive the demand for urban living spaces, it looks like baby boomers hitting retirement age are pushing a condo boom in Cincinnati as well. Older folks are interested in living in the city after their kids (finally) move out and they don’t need quite so much space, some developers say. Increased demand from empty nesters has informed new condo projects in places like Hyde Park. Side note: When I first saw the headline of that WCPO article, I read it as “condor demand picks up” and thought owning a bird of prey was some new hipster, Royal Tenenbaums-throwback thing I missed.

• As a journalist I’m supposed to be cold and dead inside without preference or favoritism for anything. I generally do OK with that, but if I have two weak spots, they are bicycles and beer. So I might not be qualified to report on this next thing objectively, but here goes: Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Co. is expanding and, in the process, folding in the Oakley Cycles shop, a high-end bicycle retailer that will move from Observatory Avenue to Fifty West’s campus in Columbia Township. Fifty West and Oakley Cycles representatives both say they’re looking to provide a new, community-oriented experience for visitors while taking advantage of the Fifty West facility’s proximity to local bike trails. Fifty West will also be expanding capacity to brew four times as much beer as it does now. This is all pretty great.

• What else is happening? GOP presidential primary contender and perennially red-faced and slightly sweaty verbal combatant Donald Trump has set his sights on equally red-faced and sweaty fellow Republican candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The two have been having a war of words via Twitter, which… well, that’s where we’re at as a country these days and I’m really just too depressed to continue typing about this. Check it out if you want.

Kasich has also drawn some attention for his suggestion that the United States create a federal government agency charged with spreading Judeo-Christian values across the globe. That sounds like a great plan that has absolutely zero constitutional or moral problems, right? Once again, I’m just going to let you read the story.

• Finally, a small group of Syrian refugees resettled in Kentucky this week despite political furor over such resettlements after the attacks on Paris last week by ISIS. Most of the eight attackers were French or Belgian, but at least one Syrian passport was found at the scene of one of the attacks, fueling apprehensions that some of the four million refugees fleeing Syria are allied with ISIS, the militant Islamic group that has claimed control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that would add extra levels of scrutiny to Iraqi and Syrian refugees before they can resettle in the United States on top of the U.S. State Department’s already months- or years-long vetting process. Those new requirements would effectively halt refugee resettlement of those groups in the U.S. The bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it should it pass there. The House’s version of the bill passed with a veto-proof two-thirds majority. The Senate would need to pass it with a similar margin to override Obama’s veto ability.

If you’re interested in learning more about the refugee resettlement process from the perspective of an Iraqi family that settled in Cincinnati, check out our cover story earlier this year on refugees here.

I’m out. Enjoy your weekend!

by Nick Swartsell 11.19.2015 11 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Ben Carson visits Cincy, says gov't makes people poor; FBI investigates sewer district; Issue 3 organizer: weird weed-headed mascot was a mistake

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

You might’ve missed it entirely, but GOP presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was in Cincinnati last night. He was speaking at a private event at Music Hall and didn’t really hit the town much or give public stump speeches. But he did chat with press outside the Cincinnatian Hotel downtown for a moment after his speech, where he told reporters that the answer to struggles with poverty in cities like ours is less government regulation. Carson said regulations on businesses and the finance industry keep prices high and interest rates low, meaning the poor pay more for everyday goods and don’t get returns on interest collected from things like savings accounts.

“It doesn’t hurt rich people when they go into a store and a bar of soap costs 10 cents more. It hurts poor people,” he said. Carson also talked about why he opposes Syrian refugees coming into the United States and concerns about his lack of foreign policy knowledge, which have been floated by his own advisers recently. Carson scoffed at the suggestion that his lack of world knowledge makes him unprepared to be president, saying he’s visited 57 countries and that he has “common sense and a brain.”

Hey Ben. I’ve been to Canada a few times and also possess a human brain of sorts. Make me an ambassador to our neighbors up north after you get elected, eh? Carson is polling second in Ohio in the GOP presidential primary race behind Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is polling third in his own dang state. Ohio's primary is in March.

• Speaking of the sad plight of Syrian refugees, a group of about 15 protesters gathered outside Cincinnati City Hall to protest statements made by Mayor John Cranley earlier this week asking the federal government to pause resettlement efforts for those refugees in the U.S. Cranley has since apologized for upsetting people with that statement, but has also defended his point — that federal officials should place a moratorium on Syrian refugee resettlement in Cincinnati and elsewhere in the country until they can guarantee safety for citizens. Cranley, like Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a number of other mostly Republican governors, is concerned that terrorists from ISIS could slip into refugee populations making their way into the United States.

• A group of about 30 students representing University of Cincinnati’s activist group the Irate8 held a silent protest yesterday on UC’s campus to advocate for racial equity there. The demonstration came in the wake of UC’s response to the group’s list of 10 demands. The Irate8 came together after the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose by UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing is currently awaiting trial on murder charges. The Irate8 has issued a list of 10 demands and timelines for UC administrators. That list includes substantive reforms to UC’s policing practices, including removal of officers at the scene of the DuBose shooting from active patrols, and efforts to double UC’s enrollment of black students. Currently, black students make up 8 percent of UC’s student body, even though Cincinnati as a city is 45 percent black. The university responded earlier this week to that list of demands, but activists say the response is too general and doesn’t set forth concrete action steps or deadlines.

• The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metropolitan Sewer District made improper payments of taxpayer money to outside contractors. Those contracts, handled by the city, are worth up to $35 million a year. That’s caused Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel and other county officials to question whether the city is running the MSD properly. Cincinnati operates the MSD, but it’s owned by the county. Memos from City Manager Harry Black to Cincinnati City Council detail what Black believed to be inefficiencies in the contracting process, including jobs that might have been awarded without proper competitive bidding. However, those memos don’t say anything about legal improprieties. It’s unclear which specific contracts the FBI is investigating. The city and county’s sewer district has faced a lot of scrutiny in recent years, mostly thanks to a $3.2 billion, federal court-ordered restructuring project MSD is currently undertaking.

• Two Cincinnati-based state representatives are working on an effort to increase accountability for the state’s law enforcement officers in the wake of controversy around police-involved shootings in this city and around the country. State Reps. Alicia Reece, a Democrat, and Jonathan Dever, a Republican, are pushing a new bill that would create a written, publicly available statewide standard for investigating police-involved shootings across Ohio. That standard would require a report from investigators no more than 30 days after a police shooting happens, and if no indictment is handed down for the officer, that report would be immediately made public. The bill is one of many expected to come from a task force convened by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year in response to controversial police shootings throughout the state. Lawmakers say they hope to have preliminary hearings on the bill before the end of the year.

• Finally, we all make mistakes. Some of us lock ourselves out of the house without our keys and wallet because we’re so excited to get a bagel and some coffee. (Yes, I did that this morning.) But some among us take bigger risks, so the mistake possibilities are much higher and more interesting. The group pushing ballot initiative Issue 3, for instance, created a creepy, weed-headed pitchman for their multi-million-dollar effort. Ian James, one of the heads of marijuana legalization effort ResponsibleOhio, admitted that Buddie, the caped crusader of weed legalization and ResponsibleOhio’s mascot, was probably not a great idea. Seriously. Dude’s head was a giant, dank bud. I had nightmares. James also said the idea of limiting growth of marijuana to 10 grow sites owned by ResponsibleOhio investors in the group’s ballot proposal was also a mistake. In the letter, James promised that pro-pot organizers with the group would be back with an improved ballot initiative next year to again try and get weed legalized in Ohio.

That’s it for me. I have to go get coffee and a bagel now or I’m probably going to pass out.

by Nick Swartsell 11.18.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley stands behind refugee resettlement comments; SORTA strike looking more likely; Kasich sinking in New Hampshire, poll shows

Morning all. Here’s the news today.

Mayor John Cranley has said he “feels horrible” about any unintended harm he may have caused in calling for a moratorium on Syrian refugees coming to Cincinnati, but is standing by the substance of his comments. Cranley also told The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday that he merely meant to suggest a “pause” on refugee resettlement here until safety concerns brought up by attacks in Lebanon, Egypt and France could be addressed. Cranley has joined Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other, mostly conservative, politicians across the country in calling for an at-least-temporary halt to Syrian refugee resettlement in the wake of those attacks. The U.S. has an extensive vetting process for refugees that can take anywhere from 18 months to multiple years, as CityBeat explored in this cover story about an Iraqi refugee family earlier this year. Meanwhile, a local Muslim group today decried statements by Cranley and Kasich, calling them “disturbing,” knee-jerk reactions that punish terror victims instead of preventing terrorism.

• Bus drivers for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority have taken another step closer to striking over a new bus proposal. A group of drivers yesterday attended a SORTA board meeting to protest higher health insurance payments as well as a plan that calls for smaller Metro buses operated by lower-paid drivers. Drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union say decisions about that plan are being made without current SORTA drivers’ input. Those drivers say they should operate the smaller buses, instead of lower-paid drivers who can operate the smaller buses without a commercial driver’s license. Current Metro drivers top out at about $25 an hour; drivers of the smaller buses would start at $15 and top out just under $20 an hour. ATU members will vote on whether to strike over the new proposal at their Dec. 3 meeting. There are no bargaining meetings between the ATU and SORTA scheduled before that date.

• While that public transportation fight rages, some transit advocates will be partying tonight to celebrate the city’s first streetcar in 65 years. Streetcar advocates with All Aboard Ohio are throwing a free public party at Over-the-Rhine’s The Transept, a newly renovated church along the streetcar route, tonight starting at 6 p.m. The group has been one of the biggest voices in boosting the 3.6-mile loop through Over-the-Rhine and downtown as well as other rail projects in Cincinnati. The event will feature free appetizers and a cash bar.

• Have you ever felt like this state needs more guns in daycare centers? If so, you're in luck, because that could become a reality with a new bill the Ohio House of Representatives just passed. The bill would allow concealed carry permit holders to have their guns in the aforementioned child care facilities, on college campuses and on private aircraft. Because nothing is more American than shooting a bald eagle out of the sky from the cockpit of your Leer Jet. The bill passed the house 63-25. Now it’s off to the Senate.

• As we’ve talked about before, GOP presidential primary hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has pinned his campaign’s continued viability on his performance in early primary state New Hampshire. Annnnnd… it’s not looking so great there right now, according to a poll conducted by a National Public Radio affiliate. In September, Kasich was polling at 45 percent favorability among GOP voters in the state. These days, however, just 33 percent of GOPers view him favorably. Meanwhile, his unfavorable percentage has gone up to 39 percent in the most recent Nov. 15 poll, a huge swell from the 21 percent who found him unfavorable in the September round of polling. He has stayed steady with voters who identify him as their first preference, however. In September, 7 percent of New Hampshire GOP voters said he was their first choice. The most recent poll found that number unchanged. Kasich lost a couple points with undecided voters in that same time period, however.

* Finally, GOP presidential frontrunner and manly mane mentor Donald Trump will stump in Columbus Monday. Grab your tickets now and maybe find a good book to read.

I’m out. Twitter. Email. You know how to reach me.

by Nick Swartsell 11.17.2015 13 days ago
Posted In: News, Immigration at 12:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cranley Calls for U.S. Moratorium on Syrian Refugees

Cincinnati mayor joins Ohio Gov. John Kasich, other politicians in calls to halt resettlement in wake of ISIS attacks

Following attacks in Egypt, Beirut and Paris that killed hundreds, the United States should place a moratorium on Syrian refugees, Mayor John Cranley said in a Nov. 16 statement.

“I understand the dire circumstances Syrian refugees face because I personally visited a refugee camp in Jordan last summer,” Cranley said in that statement. “However, the federal government should halt its actions until the American people can be assured that exhaustive vetting has occurred.”

Cranley’s statement comes just two weeks after the roll-out of a program he says is designed to make Cincinnati the most welcoming city in the country for immigrants. At least one Syrian refugee family of nine has already settled in Cincinnati. But recent terrorist attacks have radically shifted the conversation around refugees in the U.S.

Bombings and shootings carried out by followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Beirut and Egypt last week claimed hundreds of lives, and a subsequent attack in Paris killing 129 on Nov. 13 garnered new levels of attention for the terrorist group. Those attacks have led some politicians, including Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, to oppose accepting Syrians into the country.

“I wouldn’t let them in unless we have a positive affirmation that they don’t have evil intent or that they’re associated with any group that would endanger the country,” Kasich said at a GOP presidential candidate summit in Florida the day after the Paris attacks. “We’re not bringing ISIS into this country.”

Kasich’s office has said the governor is looking into ways to refuse refugees coming to Ohio. Other Republican governors, including presidential primary contender Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, have also protested refugees arriving in their states. These protests are largely symbolic, however. Acceptance of refugees is a federal matter; governors and mayors have no formal say in resettlement policies.
At least eight people carried out the Paris attacks. Most were French, according to investigators, but at least two were from Syria.

After stepping into the chaos of an ongoing civil war in Syria initially sparked by dictator Bashar-al Assad, ISIS gained control of a swath of Syria and Iraq populated by about 8 million people. Last year, the group claimed it has caliphate status — that is, an Islamic state charged with upholding Islamic law. The group has murdered thousands as it seeks to consolidate power over portions of Syria and Iraq, driving an estimated 4 million Syrians out of the country as refugees.

Most of those refugees have taken shelter in nearby European states such as France and Germany. However, the United States has agreed to take on 10,000 of the fleeing Syrians.

Not all politicians have called for rejection of the refugees. Cincinnati City Council Democrats Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson decried Cranley’s move, calling for the city to welcome Syrians. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley asked that the Department of Homeland Security ensure the safety of U.S. citizens, but said the city would welcome immigrants.

“Should the decision be made to place refugees from any country in the city of Dayton, we will continue to be a leader in the welcoming movement and will champion inclusive communities that enable all residents to thrive," Whaley said in a Nov. 16 statement.

by Natalie Krebs 11.17.2015 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
metro plus bus

Morning News and Stuff

Cranley calls on Feds to stop accepting Syrian refugees; Ohio legislature to vote on defunding Planned Parenthood; Metro looks at smaller buses to improve service

Good morning! Here are your morning headlines. 

Mayor John Cranley yesterday joined a growing number of politicians across the U.S., including Ohio Governor John Kasich, in calling for the federal government to stop admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. The push comes in the aftermath of recent terrorist attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and Paris, where one dead attacker was found with a Syrian passport. The U.S. pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in September amid the growing crisis overseas, which is just a tiny percentage of the more than 3 million Syrians have fled the country under the strain of the country's ongoing civil war. Cranley's announcement spurred immediate backlash from council members Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson, who released a joint statement saying refugees should be welcomed into the community and not vilified. Refugees are processed at the federal level and go through extensive criminal background and health checks before they are admitted into the U.S. The average waiting period is between 18 and 24 months. Just last month, Cranley announced a plan to make Cincinnati more immigrant-friendly, stating that immigrants can help boost the local economy and create jobs.  

• Things aren't looking good for Planned Parenthood at the Ohio State House. The GOP-majority legislature looks ready to vote to strip the health organization of $1.3 million dollars in state funding. The push against Planned Parenthood across the U.S. comes from unproven claims from anti-abortion groups that the Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue for profit. But the money that the state will likely vote to strip from Planned Parenthood doesn't go to abortion services, but to programs that do things like fund tests for sexually transmitted infections and find prenatal care for mothers. The decision will come just days after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to look at Texas laws, which have required that the state's abortion clinics adhere to new strict requirements like having admitting privileges to local hospitals. Ohio legislature has also passed tighter restrictions  on abortion clinics in the state modeled after laws in Texas' law forcing nearly half of the state's clinics to close.  

• The park levy may have lost on the ballot, but controversy around it lives on. The City of Cincinnati denied a taxpayer's lawsuit against the city's Parks Board because of private endowment money it spent on a pro-levy website. The lawsuit was filed by State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Mt. Lookout), who stated that the Parks Board violated the city charter when Director Willie Carden authorized $2,575 from the Parks Foundation last June to be spent on a website for the levy. The city charter states that no funds from the city can be used towards advocating for or against a candidate or proposal. The city denied the lawsuit on the grounds that all the money has been returned to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.  

• Metro has a plan to bring bus service to some Cincinnati neighborhoods by using smaller buses, but that plan involves paying drivers of those buses less. That's ignited talks of a strike among SORTA's union. Metro's proposal comes shortly after the release of a University of Cincinnati Economics Center study that found that Metro's services were insufficient to connect commuters to 75,000 Cincinnati jobs. The proposed buses will go down routes where it services are needed, but the ridership is low. The mini-bus proposal is opposed by the union as it would permit the hiring of drivers without commercial licenses for lower wages. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has proposed up to 31 percent of its route be served by mini-buses with a $15.47 an hour starting wage. 

• Miami University outside Cincinnati is second in the U.S. for the rate of students who study abroad. According to the Institute of International Education, Miami University sends 42 percent of its students packing at some point with its Luxembourg campus as the most popular place to go with the UK, Australia, Italy, Spain, Mexico and China ranking up there as well. The federal government also reports that the number students studying abroad is up by 2.1 percent across the nation. However, that number, at just 5.2 percent, still falls far behind Miami's impressive rate. The feds also reported a 10 percent increase in foreign students studying abroad in the U.S.    

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by Nick Swartsell 11.16.2015 14 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Real estate deals heating up around I-71 interchange; still no trial date in DuBose shooting; Paris attacks already coloring 2016 presidential race

Hey Cincy. Good morning. Hope your weekend was chill. I got to eat some rad kimchi and embarrass myself via karaoke at a Korean restaurant. Fun times. Anyway. Here’s what’s going on around town and beyond today.

Things are getting hot around the new I-71 interchange being constructed in Walnut Hills and Avondale, with property and cash changing hands rapidly as the urban core’s first highway on- and off-ramp since the 1970s nears its spring 2016 completion date. Developer and controversial Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board member Shree Kulkarmi has cashed in on property around the forthcoming highway interchange, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. Two companies controlled by Kulkarmi, Uptown Partners LLC and Beecher Investments LLC, sold 16 properties around the new interchange to another limited liability corporation listed at the same address as Neyer Properties, Inc., one of the city’s largest property developers. In doing so, Kulkarmi doubled his money. Property records show the developer paid about $636,000 for the properties; they sold for more than $1.3 million. Since 2013, Kulkarmi has spent $865,000 purchasing 22 properties around the interchange. Other developers have also been rushing for properties in the area. Nonprofit development corporation Uptown Consortium Inc. has spent nearly $12 million on 100 properties in the area, the first step in constructing what it envisions as an “innovation corridor” along Reading Road.

• Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing still doesn’t have a trial date related to murder charges he faces for the July 19 shooting of unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose. Tensing had a pretrial hearing this morning, but a county judge said the discovery, or evidence-gathering, phase of prosecution is still ongoing, delaying the actual trial. His next pretrial hearing will be Dec. 15.

• Oops. The medical records of more than 1,000 UC Health patients were accidentally emailed to an unauthorized email address nine times since August 2014, the health provider says. The compromised information includes patient names, medical record numbers and diagnosis records. UC Health has said it has fixed the problem, which it has attributed to an email glitch.

• Before he peaced out on his ultra-powerful perch as speaker of the House of Representatives last month, John Boehner had been in office longer than I’ve been alive. So what’s a former powerbroker once only a couple heartbeats away from the presidency to do in his retirement? Golf? A few extra rounds in the tanning bed? A few glasses of red wine followed by a good cry? Probably all of the above for Boehner, but also, some soul-searching about what state he should buy a car in, the fact he hasn’t driven in nine years and figuring out how he’s going to get by with “hardly any” staff members to help him out. Oh, and also stacking tons of cash making speeches about all that stuff and about how nothing was ever good enough for those radical Republicans he had to deal with in the House. Where do I sign up for that retirement package?

• Finally, we’ve all heard about the attacks that rocked Paris Friday night, killing more than 100 and wounding hundreds more. For better or worse (definitely worse), expect that tragedy to be a huge factor in the coming 2016 elections, especially in the immediate aftermath as candidates on the Republican and Democratic side alike wrangle with each other over their party’s nomination. The events in Paris cast a long shadow over Saturday’s Democratic primary debate, for instance, tilting the conversation heavily toward foreign policy and U.S. military intervention. That, some pundits argue, gave Dem frontrunner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton a big debate boost over her upstart challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist running mostly on a domestic policy platform promising to tackle income inequality.

Meanwhile, renewed threats from the Islamic State, which has taken credit for the Paris attacks, promise similar terror in the U.S., specifically in Washington, D.C. That’s set of a further fervor on the right in regard to U.S. military strength and the need to close the country’s borders to immigrants and refugees. The fear induced by the attacks gives Republican candidate Donald Trump an especially strong hand, as draconian measures sealing off the nation’s borders have been one of the few concrete policy stands the real estate magnate has taken thus far in his campaign.

by Nick Swartsell 11.13.2015 17 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Complaint: Cranley violated election rules; announcement about CPD chief search coming today; Kasich meets a rowdy crowd of seniors in New Hampshire

It’s Friday. It’s early. I haven’t had coffee yet. For all those reasons, I’m going to hit you with a briefer version of the morning news today. Think of it as fewer words between you and your weekend. You’re welcome.

So, did Mayor John Cranley violate election rules by literally giving a shout out to his park tax plan in a polling place on election day? That’s what a complaint filed yesterday by poll worker Mary Siegel alleges. Siegel says Cranley shouted “vote yes on Issue 22” inside the Urban League building in Avondale as voters cast ballots. That violates Ohio law, which stipulates campaigning must be done outside a 100 foot perimeter of polling places. Cranley has acknowledged that he made a mistake by discussing Issue 22 while he was in the polling place “for a few minutes.” Now it’s up to the four-member, bipartisan Hamilton County Board of Elections to decide whether to hold hearings to further investigate the incident. Board member and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke says these infractions happen all the time, and that the mayor’s apology should be sufficient. Hamilton County GOP chair and BOE member Alex Triantafilou has called the allegations “disturbing,” however, and said he’d like to hear more from the mayor.

• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is set to announce news about the city’s search for a new police chief today at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. It’s unclear exactly what the news will be, but a notice from the manager’s office mentions the “next phase” of the hiring process, perhaps meaning candidates have been identified for the job. The top cop spot is open after Black dismissed former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell in September after months of friction between Blackwell and city administration. Blackwell’s supporters say his firing was political — the former chief was brought on by Cranley predecessor Mark Mallory — but the administration says many in the department had trouble working with the former chief because he was disconnected from officers and could be intimidating to other staff members. Interim Chief Elliot Isaac replaced Blackwell. We'll update this post after the news conference later this morning.

UPDATE: City Manager Harry Black has announced Interim Chief Eliot Isaac as the only candidate for Cincinnati Police Chief. Black said the next step in the process will require Issac to go through a series of private panels starting Monday that will include members of the community, Cincinnati Police Department, clergy, business community and sentinels. Isaac has worked for the CPD for 26 years and has served as Interim Chief since September.

• Let's be real: Black Friday is brutal and depressing. But some retailers are stepping up to offer an alternative, including a local spot. Environmentally minded general store Park + Vine, on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, has announced that it will be closed on Black Friday and will instead partner with local environmental group Imago to offer a six-mile urban hike from its store into Clifton. Part of the proceeds from that hike — which includes lunch from Park + Vine and other goodies — will go to OTR’s Holidays in the Bag, which supports local nonprofits. This year’s beneficiary is Future Leaders OTR, an entrepreneurship program run by OTR startup resource hub Mortar for low-income folks looking to start their own businesses. Park + Vine founder Danny Korman says he’s modeling his opt-out of the year’s biggest shopping day on outdoor equipment retailer REI’s recent pledge to close all of its stores on Black Friday this year. REI will give all employees a paid day off as a way to encourage folks to go out and enjoy nature.

Here are some short state news thangs:

• One of the Ohio Democratic Party’s top officials has officially switched her endorsement in the party’s presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Former secretary of state candidate Nina Turner announced yesterday she’s backing Sanders in his bid for the big office next year. That’s something of a blow for Clinton’s juggernaut campaign: Ohio is a must-win state in next year’s presidential contest, and Turner has been one of Clinton’s biggest boosters here. Turner says she’s interested in Sanders’ strong commitment to voting rights and income and wage equity, and will play an active role in his campaign.

• Another day, another report commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office claiming the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was reasonable. This time, the report comes from a retired police officer in Florida named W. Ken Katsaris, who said that Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann had “no choice” but to shoot Rice on the playground where he had been reported playing with a gun that a caller said “was probably fake.” A dispatcher didn’t relay that last part, though, and video footage shows the cruiser Loehmann was riding in speed up within feet of Rice. Loehmann then jumps out and shoots Rice almost immediately. 

Advocates for Rice’s family criticized the release of Katsaris’ report by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who has released two other sympathetic reports written by former law enforcement officials calling the shooting justified. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence from McGinty’s office about the case to decide whether Loehmann should be charged in the shooting. Report author Katsaris also testified for the prosecutor’s office during a trial over the controversial shooting death of two unarmed black motorists in 2013. One-hundred-thirty-seven rounds were fired during that confrontation, which came after the two led police on a high-speed chase. The officer on trial during that case, Michael Brelo, was acquitted.

• Finally, Gov. John Kasich, one of the about 10,000 GOP candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, has had a rough stretch of late. He was booed at the last Republican debate. His low poll numbers aren't budging. And yesterday, he got heckled in a room full of senior citizens in New Hampshire for talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. To be fair, though, it was a mixed bag in terms of partisan issues. He also got pushback from some audience members when he discussed a modest minimum wage increase in Ohio. Yeesh. Tough crowd.