Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Top Local News Stories of 2009

I'm sure people will quibble with my list of the top local news stories of 2009, but that's why we are here. My list gives deference to stories that are more important. I know that's not what the masses want, but since when is this blog about pleasing the masses? Anyway, here's the top ten:
  1. City Budget Battles - The lack of civility on council is a disgrace.
  2. County Budget Battles - The lack of planning from the Stadium Tax architects is causing a critical reduction of services. We actually need a functioning court and corner's office.
  3. City Council Election - Loss of Harris, wins for Winburn and Quinlivan: The Obama voters stayed home and the GOP scared enough Republicans to vote for Winburn.
  4. City Lay offs: Workers did lose jobs, but the FOP doesn't seem to care about that, just their own raises.
  5. Issue 9 goes down in defeat. The citizenry actually listened on this issue and defeated anti-city forces. We must be vigilant and defend progress, the likes of COAST and Smitherman will not end their quest to destroy the city.
  6. CinWeekly dies. Yes, it was "replaced" with Metromix, but there is less content, which goes went along with laying off the entire staff.
  7. Decline of the Enquirer and CityBeat: The economic downturn has hurt print media across the board and these publications took hits this year. We have less news gathering. Fewer reporters are out looking for stories. The existing ones don't have time to work on stories that may not actually pan out. Local News is dying. I don't know how to prevent that.
  8. Bengals and Bearcats are successful: Pride actually does a city well and people are more positive about where they live when their sports teams does well. Yes, that says a lot about our Culture, when sports drive so much of our Psyche, but if the Bengals win the SuperBowl, even Westwood Concern would support the Streetcar.
  9. People are coming downtown: We just had an election last month and it touched on crime, but overall, people think downtown is safe. No one demagogued the CDB. Many still fear OTR irrationally, but that too is changing.
  10. Ups and Downs in the Arts: Many local arts organizations had layoffs over the last year or closed outright (I will miss New Stage), but actions like Mrs. Nippert's gift to the CSO, the Opera, and the Ballet gives hope that once traditional donors get their investments back to a more comfortable level, they will continue giving and maybe give more.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Cincinnati Area News Stories of 2009?

So, I'm taking nominations for the top news stories of 2009. This is for the Cincinnati area, so keep your Health Care and Obama stories to yourself for this purpose. I think I'm looking for two types of stories, those that actually mattered and those that got a ton of attention. The latter being included, I'll likely have a sports story. I won't have that many, and no I don't think any high school sport story would ever make it, even if your school won the state championship. I'll have my top picks later this week.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crappy Budget and Five Are to Blame

Only one of the five who voted for this bad budget deal are to blame. The four: Cole, Qualls, Quinlivan, and Thomas had no choice. Charlie Winburn pulled a Joe Liberman on them and was 'for' furloughs and then flipped in such a manner that The Flying Wallendas would be proud.

The FOP Election was going on yesterday and it appeared to me that Winburn and his staff may have been doing a little acting in the effort to make Kathy Harrell look like she won a victory. How real were those shouts in the hallway that Jane Prendergast reported? Kathy Ended up winning easily, 555-90, but just below half (49.4%) of the rank and file voted for her. What does it say that voter turnout for the FOP election was only 57%? Does the rest of the membership feel like their vote doesn't count? Or that there was no real choice?

The rest of the blame goes to those who put forth no ideas and no plan of their own, namely Berding, Bortz, Ghiz, and Monzel. Leslie Ghiz can call this plan 'garbage, but what did she offer up in its place? Bortz attacked it and I think he is most concerned about raiding the City's Working Capital Reserve Fund for 8.2 Million. He is right to call that irresponsible from a development and infrastructure perspective, but unless you get furloughs or layoff cops and fire fighters, there is no other way, or at least no other way on the table. If the silent four are going to govern, they have to play the game with Winburn too. No, you can't trust Charlie Winburn. He will double deal everyone, unless you pay him off. He agreed to the rules and he got himself a new committee to play with. Yesterday, he got to dance with the FOP and help Harrell raid the city's reserve to keep the seasoned cops sitting on their butts getting pay raises, while still having the younger pups out doing the work. The FOP now owes him, and he will collect.

If you are going to sit on your hands and not put forth ideas, you really have nothing to complain about. Hell, no one of the Gang of Five put any pressure on the unions to provide concessions. The only thing close in the budget is a cut of Overtime, which reportedly will come mostly from the CPD, and none of the silent four voted for that!

We have a crappy budget. We have to live with it, for now. It is time that every member of council starts participating in the process. The first step would be to stand up to the Police Unions. Next, some reform of the police and fire departments might be in order. If you are not willing to do that, then no one is really serious about fiscal responsibility.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buyer's Remorse for the FOP?

FOP President (at least for now) Kathy Harrell may be a little bit pissed at herself for supporting Charlie Winburn for Council. Charlie appears to be playing word games in his reported support of the latest budget deal. Winburn pledged to not support any budget that included fire or police layoffs. The the current deal on the table doesn't directly call for police or fire layoffs, but instead calls for 10 day furloughs with layoffs coming if unions don't agree, so I guess in the world of a slimy politician, that's keeping your word.

Harrell may not have agreed with Greg Harris, but he was a council member who was honest. There are no exchange policyies in council races. She claimed to have help defeat Harris and win it for Winburn. Well, caveat emptor, Kathy.

Latest Budget Deal on the Ropes?

A new budget deal for the city was announced today, but late word from Jane Prendergast is that this deal may have stalled, with Charlie Winburn, the presumed 5th vote, calling for a recess.

The deal puts the plan for layoffs in the hands of the unions, either furloughs or layoffs. The police and fire departments would need to accept 10 days otherwise 34 from the Fire Department and 47 from the Police Department would be laid off. Additional cuts for AFSCME and CODE would be put to those unions as well.

For the FOP this couldn't come at a worse time, as they are holding union elections today.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Did COAST Help Cause an Increase in Crime?

The point of this article from Enquirer's Jessica Brown is that the lack of jail beds is turning criminals back on the streets.

The article goes on to say there are two causes for the lack of jail beds, the closing of Queensgate Jail in 2008 and the defeat of the Jail Tax plan in 2007.

So, 20,000 arrestees were turned away because we don't have enough jail space. COAST and its other allies were the main campaigners fighting to defeat the Jail Tax effort. They reveled in that defeat.

During the election, many (mostly the conservatives) said the crime rates were increasing this year in the city. If that is true, part of it can be laid at the feet of the recession. More people are poor, crime goes up. That's a general fact of life that no one can prevent or deny.

If any increase in crime can be traced to 20,000 people not being on bail before their trial and being free, then COAST should get a big fat share of the blame and be ridiculed for its efforts to defeat the jail tax. The problem with that notion is validating those released from jail are committing more crimes. The article uses as a source Sheriff Simon Leis, who is not shy of point out problems with solutions that would get more funding for his department.

The bias of the Sheriff aside, there is a lesson to learn. The anti-government stances put forth by COAST, like the 2007 anti-jail tax campaign, are examples of how bad ideas that are born out of shortsighted extremism come back to bite everyone in the ass. People are far to ignorant and groups like COAST prey upon that ignorance. Their strategy is to make complicated issues into yes/no questions. That is how charlatans work. They try to convince people the issues are simple, but they know that's a lie, but when your goal is destruction, lying is no vice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ghiz Blocks the Cincinnati Blog on Twitter

You have been blocked from following this account at the request of the user.

I've never held back my criticism of Council Member Leslie Ghiz, but I've never been offensive. Is that reason enough to block me on Twitter (@Leslie_Ghiz)? I had been a follower of her account for a while and replied to many of her tweets, with fair, but critical questions. I just realized she was tweeting or so I thought. I don't know when she blocked me, but I would guess its been a while, likely before the election. I guess she prefers to isolate herself from critics. Sounds like she's preparing to grow up to be a Republican.

Two questions arise from this: 1)Was I the only one blocked? Did anyone at the Enquirer or any other blog get blocked as well? 2)If she is twittering from a city owned computer does that fall under the public record statues?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Know Theatre Adds Shows!

The Know Theatre has added two additional performances of Sideways Stories From Wayside School on Sunday December 20th and 27th at 3PM. The family friendly show is fun for all ages (I'd say kids maybe 8 or older will have more fun, but matures younger ones might like it too).

For tickets, go to Tickets are only $12 in advance, and get them now, they are really starting to sell out, which is why they added more shows!

If you go on either day, be sure to come early and visit the neighborhood and shop! Check out for all of the shopping, eating, and drinking options.

The Phony Coney's Christmas Wish For COAST

There is only so much coal in the world, but The Phony Coney has a big pile of it ready for the members of COAST at their Christmas party. I'm sure the event will be filled with the anti-City, anti-urban, anti-government negative spirit we come to know and expect from COAST.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Again, Less News is Bad News

The average television news viewer will not notice this type of change at WCPO and WXIX. That has to do with the average television news viewer being as interested in real news as they are interested in which type of Novocaine their dentist uses.

In a perfect world, I would wish this would allow Channel 9 and Channel 19 to devote more time an resources to actual news gathering, but no, it will not. News gathering (aka News Reporting, aka Journalism) is a dying profession. It is nearly dead in television, and is on life support in print.

More and more I am scared of that ability of the public will actually get reasonably unbiased and relevant information will be gone. Trust is the most important skill in journalism, and as talk radio and advocacy media are becoming the only way people hear about things, we as a society lose. I really wish people were not apathetic sheep, running toward the cheap mindless media traps being set all around.

New Commenting System

I'm in the processing of changing commenting systems, so comments may be sporadic. Please bear with me over the next few days. I will be playing with the method of commenting once I am fully up and running, so they functionality may very. Let me know if there are opinions on things that work or don't work and I will take it under advisement.

For those wondering, Haloscan, the system I was using, is ceasing operations and being absorbed by a system called Echo, which I the system I am converting to.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Monzel is Void of Honor

Once upon a time there lived a City Council Member who I in no way agree with politically, but who I respected and felt had a high level of integrity. That Council Member's name was Chris Monzel. At this point, Monzel has transformed himself into a political hack approaching Steve Chabot territory. Monzel lacks honor. I am saying he lacks honor because he's not crazy. He also is not stupid. He lacks honor because he is not being honest. In his press released issued today responding to a call for ideas on what to cut in the budget Monzel continued the campaign dogma.Therefore any budget that I will consider voting for will not, under any circumstances, include the laying off or dismissal of police officers or fire fighters (and related essential personnel) as well as severe cuts to the resources that these fine men & women need on a day to day basis to keep us safe.Monzel needs to stop pandering. The election is over. He is not going to win any more votes. He needs to start actually BEING a Council Member. That involves facing the facts that there is a 51 million dollar project budget shortfall. We can't cut all 51 million from non-public safety departments. We can not and more importantly, we SHOULD NOT! The CPD is bloated. The Enqurier article on CPD overtime is on big area that if address would provide meaningful cuts. But, not in Chris Monzel's eyes. The FOP is his Holy Grail and he will do what ever they want, no matter how low they stoop. No matter how many times they create false panic. No matter how many police slow downs they organize to punish citizens for daring to question their divinity.

I look at the other Four of the Gang of Five and I really hope they do not play Monzel's game. I'm pointing at Ghiz mostly, since she's been the worst, even though Berding has given her a run for the City's most prolific Grandstander. Since they seem to be playing a game of chicken with the Mayor, I expect the fireworks to erupt soon. It makes for good blog fodder, but as is obvious is makes for horrible governance.

Milton's Robber Dead

The man 'allegedly' responsible for robbing Milton's Tavern last summer died after a police chase in Anderson Township.

Yeah, the 'allegedly' is in my opinion not allegedly in the slightest, but the guy never stood trial for the crime, and who knows what his family might do, I don't need the grief. Anyway, he did get punished. Now I hope the staff and patrons of Milton's can have more peace and enjoy the holidays with a beer. If you are good, maybe an elf will make gumbo.

An Amazing Gift for Cincinnati Arts

Louise Nippert has made history with her incredible gift to the CSO, Opera, and Ballet. Classical music is the base of fine arts and this gift will go far to ensure that the CSO can continue as a world class orchestra and in turn provide first class live music to the Opera and Ballet for many years to come. This donation will also help all of the local arts organizations in the city, if by no other way then opening up opportunities for other donors to focus on an expanded list of Arts groups (like local live Theatre!). Mrs. Nippert played the role of Mrs. Claus in a big way yesterday, so turn on WGUC right now and think of the culture this city will be able to continue to remain famous for throughout the world.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who's Next?

If the media reports are correct, Brian Kelly will tell his soon-to-be-former players tonight that he is leaving for South Bend. At least we'll get a million dollars of Notre Dame's money (at least, I assume his contract with that school will force it to pay his buyout from his UC contract).

Thanks to Brian Kelly for three great years. As someone who went to Nippert to watch games during the early part of this decade, it was terrific to see the excitement (and success) he brought to the program. I've previously written that coaches should not be permitted to leave before their season is done. But until the NCAA creates some more rational rules, the system is what it is. I don't blame Notre Dame, Brian Kelly, or UC for Kelly's early departure.

Now, UC has a decision to make: will it continue to grow UC's football program, or will it view the team's recent success as a byproduct of Brian Kelly that is unreproducable by another coach and therefore back off? I hope it chooses the former path. UC made a mistake by permitting the basketball program to be too strongly identified with a single head coach. It should continue with its plans to provide Division I-quality practice facilities and expand Nippert.

Who should UC look to hire as its next head coach? There's a lot of talent (not the least of which is Zach Callaros) ready to play next year. After 12 wins and 2 consecutive BCS appearances, UC will have more options than it did after Mark Dantonio left. A short list of candidates (in no particular order):

  • Kerry Coombs, UC (a terrible choice, but this is who UC chooses if it decides it's not interested in continuing to grow the program)
  • Jeff Quinn, UC
  • Turner Gill, Buffalo (if Kansas doesn't sign him first)
  • Skip Holtz, ECU
  • Butch Jones, Central Michigan University (two CMU coaches in a row?)

Any other names we should discuss?

Wussy Packs Them In, From Canada

If you've been living under a rock, then you may not know that Wussy is one of the best bands in Cincinnati. They have attracted a nationally following amongst indie music experts which has attracted Stuart Laidlaw from the Toronto Star to fly to Ohio to see wussy. He loves Wussy, and one might say put the fanatic in fan. He likely was a little giddy when he got to met the band after a recent Show at the Northside Tavern, but we can forgive that. It is great attention for a band that continues to grow and continues to be a standard barer for the Cincinnati Music Scene. Help out the band and give a gift of Wussy this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Attention I71 Drivers!

This is a public service announcement to all I71 drivers. If you were white-knuckle driving your way home tonight, then be open to some advice. If there ever is a weather forecast that includes a chance for snow, any chance of snow...fluries...a light dusting...or even just few flakes, then stay home. If you can not handle driving in the rain, then you should never drive in the snow, ever. Also, you must vote for all forms of public transit if you ever plan on going anywhere: trains, buses, or pack mule.

This ends this friendly public service announcement.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Yes, It Snowed This Morning

In case anyone missed it, there was a slight snow fall this morning.

I hope you have plenty of canned food to survive the day.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Jean-Ro v. Wade

Sorry. I just couldn't resist getting to use the title.

As first reported by Polly Campbell, Jean Robert de Cavel has filed suit against his former business partner, Martin Wade. (The defendants are actually several limited liability corporations, each of which operated a separate de Cavel/Wade restaurant.)

De Cavel is represented by Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease. I believe that Wade is represented by Taft, Stettinius & Hollister. The case, filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas court, has been transferred to the recently-created commercial docket.

Jean-Robert seeks an injunction prohibiting Wade from taking any action (including public statements) seeking to use a non-compete agreement to keep Jean-Robert from opening his new restaurant. It appears from the filings that Jean-Robert agrees that there was a non-compete agreement, but that it has expired. According to his attorneys, the non-compete was in force while Jean-Robert was providing services as a manager to Wade's restaurant group and for one year following the termination of those services. They claim that Wade restructured the group in September 2008 and removed de Cavel as a manager at that time. Wade, of course, has publicly claimed that the non-compete is in force for one year after de Cavel leaves the partnership, which he hasn't done yet.

The language from the non-compete agreement quoted in de Cavel's brief seems to support the chef's legal interpretation. It's not entirely clear the facts are with him though; at least as I read the court documents, there may be an argument that he remained the manager of Pigall's until it closed at the end of February 2008. His attorneys must be planning to argue that "services as a manager" refers to managing the entire group, not just one restaurant in the group. I don't know whether that argument is sustainable. I also don't know whether, apart from the non-compete, de Cavel would have a fiduciary obligation not to compete with an entity in which he is a partner. (For the sake of my own culinary delight, though, I hope that de Cavel's attorneys have the upper hand in both arguments.)

A couple of interesting tidbits from the motion for injunctive relief:

  • Jean-Robert says that Wade only began rattling the non-compete sabre when Jean-Robert refused to transfer his 20% interest in the restaurants (and--perhaps most importantly--a liquor license) to the Relish Group.
  • In his letter to de Cavel informing him of the then-impending closure of Pigall's, Wade claims to have lost money every year Pigall's was open. Wade wrote, "Fine dining as you know and love, no longer is a profitable business."
  • Jean-Robert testifies (via affidavit) that the reason he delayed the opening of his new restaurant at Seventh and Vine is the uncertainty created by Wade's litigation threats. This seems to contradict what Jean-Robert reportedly told Polly Campbell about the delayed opening.

It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Council Committees Revamped

The Mayor wasted no time changing Council's power structure by renaming and eliminating committees. The line up is as follows:

Committee: Chair
Budget & Finance: Cole
Public Safety: Thomas
Job Creation: Winburn
Strategic Growth: Bortz
Livable Communities: Qualls
Quality of Life: Quinlivan
Government Operations: Berding
Rules Committee: Qualls

Monzel and Ghiz were shut out. Ghiz reportedly wasn't pleased. I find that shocking, oh so shocking. Having Cole at Budget & Finance really sucks for everyone.

More from WVXU

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

New Role for Vice-Mayor?

Since Cincinnati's move to an executive mayor, the role of vice-mayor has been largely symbolic. When Jim Tarbell was vice-mayor, I seem to recall Mayor Mallory describing him as a cheerleader for the city. David Crowley, while certainly active on Council, seemed to continue the Tarbell tradition of vice-mayor as cheerleader-in-chief.

The appointment of Roxanne Qualls, I suspect, signals a shift in what is expected of the vice-mayor. I can't imagine Qualls signing up for a gig that is merely ceremonial. Instead, it's likely that she has an agreement with Mallory similar to the one Biden had with Obama: that she'll be "in the room" when important decisions are made.

I don't have anything to substantiate my speculation beyond Qualls's history of strong leadership in the city and her penchant for the nuts and bolts of urban policy and planning. If I'm right, though, I think her appointment will be good for both the mayor and the City: her experience and strong voice will be extraordinarily useful to the administration during the difficult months ahead.

Marking the 30th Anniversary of the Coliseum Tragedy

This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of The Who's concert at Riverfront Coliseum (now U.S. Bank Arena), where 11 people died in a stampede into the venue.

The Enquirer has a terrific article by Lauren Bishop on the tragedy and its aftermath. Lauren does a great job of blending a history of the incident with individual narratives from people who were there.

I've known that something happened at a Who concert back in the '70's (I think I first heard of it when Cincinnati re-legalized festival seating five years ago), but didn't really know what happened or why. This article is a good read for anyone who is either a non-native or too young to remember 1979.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Brian Kelly Watch

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops says he has no interest in a Notre Dame job.

TCU's Gary Patterson just finished a contract renegotiation, which mean's he is staying put.

Brian Kelly? He simply won't address the rumors until after the Pitt game on Saturday. Not exactly the unequivocal statement of commitment UC fans would like to hear right about now.

Dear Notre Dame: Haven't you learned anything? You need a defense-oriented coach. Coach Kelly is great, but defense doesn't seem to be his strong suit. Leave him alone.

Dear UC Alumni Association: Shouldn't someone rent a plane to buzz the campus towing a sign saying, "Let's Keep Kelly" or some similarly catchy phrase?

Dear NCAA: Isn't it time you adopted an anti-tampering policy similar to the NFL's? What kind of joke do you turn into if one of your major bowl games (in particular, the Sugar Bowl) involves a team led by an interim head coach? Better yet, what if UC beats the Panthers (thereby vaulting TCU in the BCS standings), Texas loses to Nebraska (moving UC to #2 after Alabama loses in the SEC championship), and Notre Dame hires Coach Kelly before the bowl games? Do you want the national championship played by a team that just lost the coach who took it through an undefeated season? Just make teams wait until after a coach's job is done to hire a coach away. It works in the pros; it can work at the college level, too.

Qualls is the New Vice Mayor

There was little choice for Mayor Mark but to name Roxanne Qualls as Vice Mayor. The big questions still out there, who will fill the rest of the committee chairs? Here is a list of the committees and the prior chairs:

Committee: Chair
Arts, Culture, Tourism and Marketing & Technology: Monzel
Economic Development: Bortz
Finance: Cole
Health, Environment and Education: Crowley
Law & Public Safety: Thomas
Rules and Government Operations: Berding
Transportation and Infrastructure: Qualls
Vibrant Neighborhood, Recreation, & Public Services: Qualls

Obvioulsy Crowley's chair at HEE is open, but will there be other changes? I think everyone except Laketa Cole would like to see someone other than Cole chair the Finance Committee. With her placing 9th in the race, she may have to settle for something else. I would like to also see Monzel removed from Arts & Culture. I don't see Chris liking much of anything on that committee, so his judgment is not going to help push arts, culture, tourism, or marketing. His only interest seems to be technology, which doesn't really fit with that committee anyway.