Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CinWeekly Lineup For Taste

CinWeekly is back again sponsoring a music stage at the Taste of Cincinnati. Here is the line-up. Highlights include the Lions Rampant, Bad Veins, The Seedy Seeds, and The Chocolate Horse.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Maupin Service: Open Thread

I did not attend the Maupin memorial service today. (I've been in the office most of the day.) I drove by just before it started; apparently, the staging area for the Patriot Riders was Broadway just north of the ballpark, and Fifth between Broadway and the highway. It was really something to see all those motorcycles in one place.

The Enquirer has posted Peter Bronson's account of the ceremony. Ignore a couple of snide remarks about "places in America," and it's a really nice column.

If anyone was at GABP this afternoon and would like to share his or her thoughts, feel free to do so here.

Praise God, Pass The . . . Hotdogs?

First, let me be clear: I have nothing but the greatest respect for Keith and Carolyn Maupin. Losing any family member--particularly a child--to a sudden death is devastating. Doing so under the circumstances they've experienced--four years of uncertainty and in the public eye--would be unbearable for most. That they've channeled their grief into efforts to support our troops overseas is admirable. Beyond admirable, really, but I'm not sure I can come up with a better word.

And while I've thought our local media and leaders have been a little over-the-top in their coverage and predictions for how many would attend the memorial service (was there really much chance so many would attend an "overflow" area would be needed?), I thought it was a nice gesture by all involved (most notably, the Maupins, who could have very understandably demanded that their privacy at this difficult time be respected) to have the service at Great American Ballpark.

Accommodating the service came, I'm sure, at no small effort for the Reds organization. A stage had to be built. Advertisements along the walls were covered with bunting. I've heard Reds officials quoted over and over again as saying that on Sunday, GABP should be "church."

So I was bemused to find this line in the Enquirer's article covering the event:

The concession stands are open, and are selling hot dogs and soft drinks.

I'm a pastor's son, so I've been to church lots of times, for lots of different occasions (both happy and sad), in lots of places. And I don't remember ever seeing a hot dog stand at church. But I guess Bob Castellini and/or Sports Service had to find a way to make a few bucks during a weekend the Reds are out of town.

Often, I know, ballparks let volunteer groups work the concessions for a portion of the profits. Maybe that was the case today; I certainly hope so. But I haven't seen anything about that anywhere. And I'm wiling to say it: neither the Reds nor Sports Service should touch a dime of the proceeds from the sales. (You read correctly--proceeds, not profits.) Perhaps the most appropriate place for the funds to go would be the Yellow Ribbon Support Center.

If the Reds and Sports Service had already planned to donate all monies collected, either to the Maupins' organization or a similarly worthy charity, I apologize and I'll immediately post an update. If not, though, they should be ashamed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Something's Wrong Here

I have no problem with people debating the Street in a public forum. John Schneider is going to wipe the floor up with Chris Monzel. The only thing saving Chris is the fact that the Blue Chip Young Republicans are sponsoring the event and I am going to guess a large portion of that group is against Streetcars.

Here's what is wrong: This event about Streetcars in the City of Cincinnati is taking place in the City of Norwood. I understand how many non-city residents are concerned about this issue, but I am puzzled as to why and why there is so much opposition outside the City? Also, why is it so loud outside the City? Reading the comments on the Enquirer's site it was a surprise to realize that some many people from places like Harrison, Loveland, and Florence are so concerned about what happens in Cincinnati. I think they could show their concern a little more by coming down to the city for dinner once in a while.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Streetcar Plan Passes

Great news for Cincinnati came yesterday with the vote to support Streetcars. We have a long way to go before I start hearing the cars go by my OTR Condo, but we are closer to have a date when that will happen.

Local Bloggers shared the news:
5schw4r7z had the celebration.
Urban Cincy has analysis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Glass Bleg

I have to get my windshield replaced, and it's unlikely my insurance will cover it (long story). Any suggestions on who's good/reliable/reasonably priced?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Please Make Sure Your Trash Is Pre-Approved

I couldn't help but laugh at the following line from this article in the Enquirer:
Monzel wants a $100 fine for anyone caught by police putting inappropriate garbage in the cans.

I'm glad the Republican Party is working so hard to protect us from the evils of "big government." But wait: there's more:
He also wants a quarterly report from public services to council's neighborhoods committee, including the number of all can calls and how quickly the complaints were resolved.

Really? A big, new government program to keep the citizenry safe from "inappropriate garbage"? And a bureaucracy devoted to tracking complaints about trash cans?

It's heartening to see the GOP stepping forward to take on such a critical issue. In the post-9/11 world, we must be safe from inappropriate garbage!

How Loud Is Too Loud?

An interesting article in Sunday's NY Times explains that because of a new European Union worker protection law governing the amount of noise to which workers can lawfully be exposed without hearing protection, European orchestras have had to alter the way they rehearse and perform.

Our own Cincinnati Symphony is just returning from a twelve-concert European tour. I wonder if the law impacted their performances and rehearsals (or if the Europeans aren't all that concerned with the hearing loss of an American-based group of musicians).

I also wonder how Paavo managed to schedule 12 concerts without a single performance of anything by Mahler....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Northside Tavern Expanding

CinWeekly's Soundcheck is reporting that that Northside Tavern is expanding with the addition a new room, doubling the size of the bar. I can't picture where it is and what the new room will look like, but the story indicates the improvements should be complete by late May or early June, so I won't have to wait long to find out. Will there be a second bar as well? Most important to the expansion is that you should be able to see the band playing. Let's also hope they get a new sound system. I love the Tavern, but for rock bands, the sound usually sucks.

Sunday Morning In Downtown

Since moving to OTR last year I've been trying to go for walks weekend mornings when the weather is passable. Sunday's end up being the best bet. I brought along my camera today, so here a few shots.

The Banks and Section 8

Last Tuesday, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority voted to ask the county and city to set aside as much as ten percent of the housing to be built at the Banks for tenants with Section 8 vouchers (Enquirer coverage here). This looks like a political move by conservative West Siders to attempt to reduce subsidized housing on the West Side by moving it to the Banks. If we set that aside, though, I think there's two interesting questions that are raised:

First, is there a good argument for the inclusion of subsidized housing in Banks project? This is a public works project of enormous magnitude; isn't there a case to be made that everyone, including the region's poorest residents, should be able to be part of it? Or does the presence of subsidized housing depress a given housing market enough that financing for the Banks would disappear if developers were forced to include units that would include Section 8 tenants?

Second, Pete Witte is quoted as saying that the Banks "will become the 53rd neighborhood of the City of Cincinnati." Is this really true? Fifteen years from now, will we be discussing Downtown and The Banks as two separate neighborhoods, or will the Banks be considered part of "downtown"? (And will there be a streetcar to take me there?)

On The Docket: To Purge, Or Not To Purge

Recently, Judge Nadine Allen and former City Councilmember Charles Winburn have jointly proposed that misdemeanor warrants that are more than seven years-old be "purged," or deleted, from the Hamilton County court system. The Enquirer has posted the text of their proposal here. The basic idea is that warrants for misdemeanor offenses--except for domestic violence, TPO violation, menacing by stalking, assault, assault on police officers, sex offenses, OVI/DUI, aggravated menacing, and child endangering--that are seven years old or older would be purged and the cases dismissed. (I suspect that by "assault on police officers," Judge Allen and Mr. Winburn are referring to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest, which has as an element physical harm to the arresting officer.)

First, Judge Allen and Mr. Winburn are to be commended for the proposal. Their effort represents bipartisanship that we don't often experience here in Hamilton County. It's also a serious effort to address a problem the existence of which everyone involved in the criminal justice system recognizes, but for which, so far, no one has been willing to offer solutions. While the proposal may overestimate the amount of money that would be saved by the purge, the cases do extend the courts' dockets and force prosecutors to spend time that could better be spent on more serious (i.e. violent) offenses that are more likely to end in successful prosecutions. It also forces the Public Defender's Office to spend time on cases that likely aren't going anywhere, instead of cases that are much more likely to go to trial. So everyone loses when these ancient cases suddenly pop back up into the system.

That being said, there are actually two different types of outstanding warrants, and we might need to discuss each type separately. Broadly speaking, you could separate the warrants into two categories: those in which the defendant has been served and made aware of the charge, and those in which which he has not. For me, the second category is easy. If the police haven't bothered to serve a warrant within seven years of the time a charge was filed, the case should be dismissed. (And in fact, assuming the defendant hasn't been avoiding service, a defendant served seven years after a complaint was filed could probably successfully move to have the complaint dismissed on constitutional speedy trial grounds.)

Here's an example. A few years ago, I represented an individual who, in September of a particular year, got into a fight with his then-girlfriend's roommate over the phone. Unbeknownst to him, she went to the police and filed a telephone harassment charge. The police made no attempt to serve the warrant (not surprising--it's not exactly the crime of the decade!). In June of the following year, my client's apartment was robbed. He called the police. When they came over, they ran a standard check for warrants, and he was arrested on the outstanding warrant, now nine months old. The charge was, thankfully, dismissed. It would've been difficult to prepare a defense nine months after an offense allegedly occurred; think about trying to do it seven years later.

The other category of defendants, though, may be a tougher case. These individuals are people who were served with a warrant, who then may or may not have made an initial court appearance, and then disappeared. The warrant is actually a "capias warrant," issued by a judge at the time of the missed court appearance. Obviously, if a capias is outstanding for seven years or more, the person has lived pretty clean (since any contact with law enforcement would mean an arrest on the outstanding warrant). But some will still question whether such people should be "rewarded" for avoiding prosecution. On the other hand, I suspect that the vast majority of the warrants to be purged will be for traffic-related misdemeanors--driving without a license and driving under a suspended license.

This is the perfect time for the proposal to be tendered. Many of the municipal court judges just won fresh six-year terms in 2007, and HamCo Prosecutor Joe Deters is running unopposed, so no one faces immediate political pressure to look "tough on crime." (The City of Cincinnati prosecuting attorney is not an elected official, but instead serves at the pleasure of the City Solicitor, who is appointed by the City Manager.) It'll be interesting to see what the judges do with this at their "Joint Session" later this week (I've always envisioned the "joint session" to be a gathering at which the judges get together with some weed and rolling papers, but I'm told that's not what actually happens, despite the meeting's moniker). Hopefully, the judges will agree at least to study the proposal, getting formal input from the Clerk and the County and City prosecutors about its ramifications.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sweet Deal

Are there any investors out there looking to make money? Here is one opportunity worth the risk. Embrace Sweets is a local business making a great product that is looking to expand. This business is seeking to open up shop in the Gateway Quarter of OTR and they will make this into something special. Check out their website or better yet, check out their products at most of the indie coffeehouses around town and at most local theatres including New Stage Collective (See Bug now!).

Friday, April 18, 2008


For as far as it was away, I still felt the the Earthquake this morning. It felt like someone was rocking my bed and I got to see what was going on. I couldn't notice it standing up, but I could notice one of my window frames rattle. Reports indicated it lasted 30 seconds. I must have been awake only at the end of it, because it didn't appear to last that long to me.

Joe Wessels has the full coverage of the Quake in Cincinnati.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Market Wines Opens At Findlay Market

The Details:
Market Wines is located at 128 W. Elder St., directly across from the main Market build-ing. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9-5, Friday from 9-6, Saturday from 8-6 and closed Sunday and Monday. In addition to fine wines, Market Wines stocks a selection of micro-brewed and imported beers and wine acces-sories.
Market Wines is hosting a wine tasting, this Saturday, April 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Have a Belgian waffle and a glass of wine at THE place for Saturday Morning shopping.

The Jordan Moved?

According to this Enquirer article on the City fighting certain liquor licenses, the 12th and Main mini-mart/booze stop has been evicted and moved to a different Main Street location. Can anyone shed any light on this? Where on Main Street did the Jordan move?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

A few days ago, City Beat's Larry Gross announced that he's moved back to Cincinnati, taking up residence in an undisclosed location in Westwood. First, welcome back, Larry! Second, the post caused me to ponder one of Cincinnati's best--and sometimes its worst--feature.

Cincinnati is, more than anything else, a city of neighborhoods. No doubt this blog focuses too much on Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. That's to be expected: three of us (Julie, Griff, and I) live downtown or in OTR, and the fourth works downtown (I've no idea where Jack lives--perhaps up in Indian Hill down the street from Stan C.? :-) ). But Cincinnati has dozens of terrific neighborhoods. In all of these neighborhoods, many residents identify strongly with their neighborhood. It tends to create a real sense of community and feeling of familiarity. Years after "natives" have moved from their neighborhood, they can return to have conversations with people who have gone to the same schools and know the same people as they do. Julie described the phenomenon in a recent post.

That strength, though, can also be a weakness. With so many neighborhoods, there are lots of groups fighting for pieces of a limited pie. When City Council spends substantial time talking about downtown and OTR development, folks in other neighborhoods (often rightly) wonder when their neighborhood's "turn" will be.

Sometimes, though, "community" and "familiarity" can turn into provincialism and xenophobia. We all need to be on guard--whether we live in the "urban core," where we're more likely to get the attention of our political leaders, or in areas that aren't presently on a majority of Council's radar screens--that a healthy sense of community and feeling of belonging doesn't turn into unhealthy division that rends our city.

I think we all should make an effort to get out of our own neighborhoods regularly to see what's going on elsewhere. I can't remember, for instance, the last time I've been up to Northside, and I should remedy that promptly. What's on your list of places to get to soon (and what should be on mine)?

Good Eats: Tom's Pot Pies

I know that culinary critique is Julie's bailiwick, but I'm hoping she won't mind an intrusion today.

I have no idea how many times I've passed (and ignored) Tom's Chicken Pot Pies, on Vine Street between Ninth and Court, on my way from the courthouse to my office. But yesterday, it was just chilly enough that upon seeing the sign out front, I thought, "Hmm, a pot pie might hit the spot today."

It was the best pot pie I've ever had. It was perfect. Really tasty. Big, tender chunks of chicken. Just a few veggies in the mix (the requisite peas and corn--anything more just gets in the way). A really good sauce (see the website for the list of ingredients; my palate isn't sophisticated enough to guess at them without help). And the crust was delicious. And best of all? $5.50.

Usually when I pick up lunch on my way to the office, I call ahead and see if I can get anything for my office-mates. I was in a hurry this time, so I didn't. (Besides, I didn't know if the pot pies would be any good, and didn't want to be responsible for my colleagues having a bad lunch.) Imagine my guilt when, as I dined on my scrumptious pie from Tom's, my friend microwaved his sad, store-bought, frozen pot pie.

It may be the best "comfort food" in Cincinnati.

From The "I Am Not A Racist" Category Or What Does This Say About Our Region?

Sometimes no comment is even necessary:

"I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button. He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country."

Northern Kentucky's own Republican Representative Geoff Davis discussing Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. Since Davis is only three years older than Obama, one can only assume that the "that boy" comment was not a reference to age.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Does It Matter?

By now, you've all read or heard about the possibility that the HamCo Democratic Party may endorse Chris Dole in his bid for the Dewine seat on the HamCo Commission (the Republican candidate and presumptive winner of the "contest" is Greg Hartman). Of course, that would break a deal made between HamCo Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke and then-Republican Chair George Vincent. So current Republican Chair Alex Triantafilou is indicating the likely Republican response would be to endorse Ed Rothenberg, who is running against Todd Portune.

First, my own belief: the Dems should not endorse Dole. Whatever people think of the deal, it was made by the party chairman. If people think Burke was out of line for doing that, then there's a remedy: replace him. Of course, so far as I know, there's no one willing to step up to the plate to lead the HamCo Democratic Party other than Tim Burke. But so long as Burke is our chair, we should abide by the decisions he makes.

Second, I'm not sure how likely it is that Dole will, in fact, be endorsed. I'm not sure that there's really a huge portion of the Central Committee that would favor the endorsement. And I suspect the possibility is only getting the hype that it is because some members of our local media can't resist the urge to reprint anything that Tom Luken says as though it's a proclamation handed down from God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

Finally, though: how much does the endorsement matter? Even if Dole is an endorsed candidate, he still won't be on the ballot as a "Democrat" (although I suppose he could at least then use the label in his campaign ads). Rothenberg, on the other hand, regardless of the endorsement, will appear on the ballot as a Republican. Does the no-endorsement deal preclude the parties from funneling money or support to the candidates? If not, then does any voter really care about the endorsement? I suspect that many will go to the polls not even knowing that Rothenberg wasn't "endorsed" by his party, even though he's its candidate. Those who pay enough attention to know the difference will also know that neither Dole nor Rothenberg would have been on the ballot had the deal not been struck (in all likelihood, the Dem would have been Greg Harris, and the GOP would have gone with Tracy Winkler).

So other than the negative publicity the Dems would generate by backtracking on the deal, is there any real benefit to an endorsement? And will anyone pay attention to the Commission race, or will it get lost amongst the hoopla that accompanies a presidential election?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Economics for the Simple Minded

Let's see, we are in the midst of one of the great economic meltdowns in recent history, and what do John McCain and dear irrelevant President Bush think about all this.

Well, as you may recall, a week or so ago, John McCain rolled out to great fanfare, his assessment of the mortgage crisis and how it should be fixed:

"A sustained period of rising home prices made many home lenders complacent, giving them a false sense of security and causing them to lower their lending standards. They stopped asking basic questions of their borrowers like "can you afford this home? Can you put a reasonable amount of money down?" Lenders ended up violating the basic rule of banking: don't lend people money who can't pay it back. Some Americans bought homes they couldn't afford, betting that rising prices would make it easier to refinance later at more affordable rates. There are 80 million family homes in America and those homeowners are now facing the reality that the bubble has burst and prices go down as well as up.

Of those 80 million homeowners, only 55 million have a mortgage at all, and 51 million are doing what is necessary -- working a second job, skipping a vacation, and managing their budgets -- to make their payments on time. That leaves us with a puzzling situation: how could 4 million mortgages cause this much trouble for us all?"

So the problem was simply that overall Americans had been irresponsible in buying homes they could not afford and that we needed to do something about these pesky 4 million mortgages that were in trouble because the people holding them were out on vacation and not working hard enough. As McCain said, "Let’s start with some straight talk: it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers."

Having now decided a week later that his "straight talk" was just idiotic, naive, and more bamboozlement, McCain is running far away from his speech and proposals. Mr. Straight Talk has apparently decided that perhaps Americans who are losing their homes do not like to be told it is because they are not working hard enough and are lazy. Perhaps those who are in danger of losing their homes should follow Mr. Straight Talk and just marry an heiress.

Speaking of straight talk, our increasingly irrelevant President tried to explain yesterday how being the first president ever to cut taxes in a time of war made economic sense. As Salon points out: "Lincoln raised taxes to pay for the Civil War. McKinley raised taxes to finance the Spanish-American War. Wilson raised the top income tax rate to 77 percent to afford WWI. Taxes were raised, multiple times, to help the nation pay for WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Even the first President Bush raised taxes after the first war with Iraq to, you guessed it, keep the deficit from spiraling out of control."

President Bush yesterday defended this insane financing of an unpopular war by trying to place it in historical context. Basically he argued that his idiocy and irresponsibility are not as bad as those that came before him in spending on defense and war. Yet, speaking of straight talk, "today's defense spending is 14% above the height of the Korean War, 33% above the height of the Vietnam War, 25% above the height of the 'Reagan Era' buildup and is 76% above the Cold War average. In fact, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the annual defense budget -- not including the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- has gone up 34%. Including war costs, defense spending has gone up 86% since 2001."

So John McCain says you are on your own if you are losing your house and doesn't care if we have troops in Iraq for a hundred years, while President Bush keeps passing the cost of this war on to those generations to come.

Seems like a winning formula for the fall election, don't you think?

CityBeat Announced MidPoint Changes

John Fox, CityBeat editor published an update on the changes for the 2008 Midpoint. Included as a venue this year is the Southgate House, which will house three stages for the event. The rest of venues were not annoucned, but organizers plan on stretching the festival from OTR through Downtown to Newport. I am going to put my thinking cap to figure the possibilities and figure how transportation will work. That sounds like a bit of a challenge. The history of walking to all of the venues is clearly not being carried forward this year.

The other big change will be to include signed acts, like opening party headliner Cursive. Where these acts will perform was not announced, but Southgate's Ballroom would be one logical choice. Additionally, there will be a themed showcase each year highlighting part of Cincinnati's musical history. This year it will be the Shake It Records Soul Spectacular Review. The venue for this was not announced. Classic local artists will perform with Pearlene as the backing band. An interesting mix.

This year's sponsors include Scion, Dewey's Pizza, and Bud Select.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

MidPoint Changes Hint

John Fox hints at changes being announced tonight for Midpoint 2008. Changes hinted include new sponsorship, an expansion outside of OTR/Downtown, and away from the only unsigned bands philosophy.

Head down to Below Zero tonight at 5 PM to hear the announcement for yourself.

West Side Bingo

My boyfriend, who is not from Cincinnati, but who works in Western Hills, is constantly amused when I run into people who grew up on the West Side, and we engage in a game of West Side Bingo:

"Oh, you went to Seton? I went to Seton!"
"Did you know so-and-so?"
"Well, I knew her second cousin twice removed, she..."

You get the idea. At a recent dinner party, one of my guests and I went about three degrees of separation, down to "lived across the street from my best friend" level. Pretty impressive.

Say what you will about the West Side, and I often make fun of it (I grew up in Delhi, I'm allowed), but it is a very tightly knit, middle class community. You can generally rely on your neighbors in times of trouble, and the community never fails to lend a helping hand to those in need. West Siders, as a whole, are fiercely loyal and incredibly respectful of those in law enforcement, fire fighting, EMS and the military.

Watching the WLWT aerial feed of the procession, seeing neighborhoods that are incredibly familiar to me lined with people pausing in respect of Robin Broxterman and Brian Schira, I can't help but be incredibly moved. These were born and bred West Siders-- one an Oak Hills grad, the other a La Salle grad-- who were motivated to help out the communities that raised them. That's admirable and heroic.

On Monday night, I had to call the CFD because of some smoke near my apartment. I couldn't help but think about their roles as firefighters-- sure, they're told it's just a smell of smoke, but every run could be so much more-- and I made sure to thank them and tell them to be safe. In the same, selfless manner of every firefighter I ever met, one said, "No, you be safe. We know what kind of crime goes on around here. Don't ever hesitate to call us."

I won't dwell on the cause of the fire-- rumors abound of the homeowners delaying because of some illegal activities in the basement, plus the construction issues many new homes have-- but instead think about the selflessness of firefighters, who go to every run, no matter where it is or who called or what the circumstances are, with the sole purpose of helping someone, and with little regard to their own safety.

And thank you to the citizens of Colerain, Green Township, Delhi for being so stereotypically close knit. It's times like these that this is appreciated.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Downtown Movie Discussion

Many folks on various different blog posts and comments have named a Movie Theater as one of the top businesses they would like to see added to Downtown Cincinnati. I love the idea of it, but I am unsure of what people are thinking about when they say movie theater. Do they want a 20 screen megaplex or do they want an art house like the Esquire. The effort and resources it takes to run the Esquire and the Mariemont are not something easily found in a entrepreneur. Finding a big corporation to put in the megaplex would be much more feasible, but would it be what is desired? Would it also work? From a supply stand point, is the supply and capacity of the AMC theaters in Newport enough to feed the demand from Downtown and OTR? How big of an increase in population would it take to justify a new megaplex atop of Macy's? Is that a factor?

Dealing with businesses that are not unique and don't draw from the entire Metro area is the bane of Downtown. Too much of society is focused on the corporate one size fits all big-box business model. How do we get companies who can sustain a business like a movie theater to accept the new Urban business model?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

NewsFlash: Smitherman Still a Loon

The Enquirer's political blog reports on a statement issued by local NAACP Chapter President Chris Smitherman yesterday on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On a day that the vast majority of people in the country remembered the horrible tragedy that day and remembered the courage and leadership MLK's life entailed, we instead get a statement from a local "leader" that had only one intention: get attention for Chris Smitherman by attempting to increase racial tensions. To make a statement that the U.S. Government "had a great deal to do with the assassination" is a clear sign that Smitherman cares nothing but building up his own power by trying to get people to hate white people and the US government, no matter how much that harms society. I won't even discuss the fact that he has the foolishness to reference a conspiracy theory as fact. I'm waiting for him to start his own new line of tinfoil hats and accessories.

I saw this post yesterday and I wanted to post on it right away, but I wasn't going to do that on anniversary. I waited a day, let myself cool off a bit and have posted on it this morning. Smitherman is a total embarrassment to the NAACP, to MLK's family, to Cincinnati, to the entire country.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tracking Judges' Bond Decisions: Another Bad Idea

It really annoys me when an elected Democrat publicly floats an idea so dumb that it forces me to agree with the HamCo Republican Party. But that's what Todd Portune has managed to do this week.

By this time, we all know about the judge who "set" a million-dollar bond in a theft case late last week. Of course, he didn't really "set" the bond; he just refused to reduce a bond set by now-retired Judge Rosen. Most who practice criminal law understood immediately why the judge made that decision, regardless of whether they agreed with it. I suspect that HamCo Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou correctly captured the judge's rationale in his blog post on the topic. (The judge himself has chosen not to comment to the media. His decision not to do so is one that I respect immensely, and is a model that should likely be followed by more of our judges.)

Nonetheless, in rides Todd Portune to rescue us from million-dollar bonds, with a proposal to "track" the bonds set by our municipal court judges. Triantafilou doesn't like it because it's a new "government program." (Whatever.) The real reason that it's a bad idea is because it trashes the notion of separation of powers and an independent judiciary. Our judges need to be free to make decisions free of political pressure from the executive or legislative branches of our government. And Portune is smart enough to know that.

Portune is also smart enough to know (or at least he ought to be) that "tracking" judges' bond decisions would inevitably be a double-edged sword. If it turns out that any of the four Democratic municipal court judges set lower bonds than any any of their counterparts, is there any doubt that this fact would be plastered on every campaign ad run by a Republican challenger the next time that judge's seat is up for election? Judges who set "low" bonds would be accused of not protecting the community from dangerous criminals. And when a judge is sitting in Courtroom A of the Justice Center trying to decide what bond will satisfy a defendant's constitutional right to be free of excessive bail, s/he shouldn't be thinking about his or her next campaign.

And even though this post was initially written to criticize Portune for pandering on this issue, I can't help but point out the utter hypocrisy of Republicans when it comes to "government programs" to "track" judges' decisions in criminal cases. As you may recall, a few years ago it was the Republicans who drafted, passed, and signed into law the Feeney Amendment to the PROTECT Act. That law, which has since been found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, required federal judges' sentencing decisions to be monitored and reported to Congress, with the aim of eliminating "below-Guidelines" (i.e., "shorter") sentences. So Republicans are all-too-eager to embrace big, new "government programs" if they think it will help them score political points (in the case of the Feeney amendment, by making them look "tough on crime").

Alex Triantafilou was a judge, and a pretty good one. He shouldn't rely on transparently silly rhetoric about the evil of government, but should simply tell it like it is: a good judge isn't a politician who decides cases based on public sentiment, and elected officials from other branches of government shouldn't pressure them to do so.

Sometimes Fastest Isn't Best

Today is a sad day in Colerain Township and the rest of Hamilton County. For me, firefighters have always been the epitome of heroes (in a world and at a time when we use that word far too freely): their job is to keep us safe from situations that most of us would run screaming from. Losing two of our local heroes is tragic.

But I was furious this morning as I watched the local news media cover the story. As I was getting ready to leave, between 7 and 9 this morning, reports started coming in that two firefighters were "missing" at a fire in Colerain. Then word came that the firefighters had perished. This was before any confirmation from Colerain's Public Information Officer; Channel 5 and Channel 9 (I don't know about Channel 12) freely admitted that they were reporting information based on radio communications they heard over their scanners.

Why does a story like this warrant breaking news coverage? From the moment the local media recounted reports of missing firefighters, every family-member of every on-duty Colerain firefighter had to have been a wreck. There was no public need-to-know involved. The burning house was at the end of a dead-end street, so there were no traffic issues. The fire didn't pose any apparent threat to surrounding houses, and the smoke didn't even come close to giving rise to the need to evacuate anyone.

There's a good possibility that the families of the two firefighters who passed away this morning first learned that their loved one might be in peril on the morning news. Is that really the decent thing to do? When there's no public emergency, wouldn't it be better to let family notifications take place in the most dignified manner possible?

Several years ago, I met a woman whose teenage grandson had died in a fire. Her grandson was living with her at the time of the fire. She learned of the fire and rushed back to her house. The police wouldn't let her down the street, and instead had her wait with a friendly neighbor. As they waited for the police to come and give them some information, they had the television on. Imagine the woman's horror when a news chopper showed a live shot of what was obviously a body covered by a tarp in the front lawn of her smouldering home.

CNN and its progeny have conditioned us to expect to learn of "events" as they unfold. But at some point, producers have to start making responsible decisions about which stories warrant immediate coverage and which can wait until a decent interval has passed. Was our community better-served by the nearly live coverage of firefighters hugging each other in grief and sorrow, or were these truly private moments that could have stayed private? Was there some compelling reason to immediately report the death of two firefighters before their identities were confirmed and their families notified, or could we have waited until the noon news for that information?

Anyone who has experienced the sudden, unexpected loss of a family member knows that there is no "easy" way to learn of a loved one's passing. But I can't imagine how much more difficult it must be for it to be disclosed via a crawling ticker during Good Morning America. At some point in the last couple decades, "news" has become synonymous with voyeurism. Maybe it's time to for the media to address that.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Birrrrrrrd Maaaan!

Rick Bird has a great feature in this week's Soapbox Cincinnati on the hard core truth that Cincinnati has a lot of cutting edge events in this town. Rick listed:
  1. MusicNow
  2. CincyFringe
  3. 48 Hour Film Festival
  4. Scribble Jam
  5. Lite Brite
  6. Midpoint
Now, who says we don't have ground breaking events in this town? Who says there is nothing to do? Oh, yea, the people who aren't doing anything because they are either too afraid or are just too stupid to tell the difference between original ideas and those you see on TV.

Let me also say I like seeing Rick Bird in print again!


MusicNow starts tomorrow.

What is MusicNow, you ask? Here's a summary of this year's event:
MusicNOW is a contemporary music event that brings artists that take risks and do not fit neatly into categories. Performances have included festival-only collaborations, world premieres and sold out audiences. Music now is curated by Cincinnati native Bryce Dessner, of the indie-rock band THE NATIONAL.

The MusicNOW concert series was created as a way for Bryce to pay back Cincinnati for helping hone his musical talents. By bringing together some of the best artists in the world in an intimate, beautiful venue (Memorial Hall), Bryce hopes to help establish his home-town as a nationally significant musical city, without the anonymity of a larger metropolis.

Before heading out to tour with REM this summer, Bryce has once again assembled some of the greatest musicians alive for MusicNOW, who will collaborate with other supremely talented musicians, introduce world-premiere material, and of course, sell-out audiences!

Here’s a list of the world-famous artists that you will never see perform together except for here in CINCINNATI:
· Richard Reed Parry- Arcade Fire
· Bryce Dessner- The National
· Glenn Kotche- WILCO
· Andrew Bird
· Aaron Dessner- The National
· Bang on a Can All-Stars
· Bill Frisell
· Grizzly Bear
· Ben Verdery
· The Dirty Projectors
· Padma Newsome- accompanies The National
· Thomas Bartlett- accompanies The National
· Nico Muhly

Tickets are still available as of right now (Tuesday morning) for Wednesday through Friday. Head online to purchase them. Get them now! Saturday's show is already sold out, so you can't count on walking up and getting tickets.