Saturday, February 27, 2010

Candidates Out Number Tea Baggers

When you have 113 candidates and only 100 "TP" fans how is that much of a rally?

I guess the TP fanatics have lost the will to get out of their bunkers and support their candidates.

Also, who was the lone Democratic Candidate? I am guessing it was Dusty Rhodes. Anyone want to bet?

A Sign of the Future in the Q

I love signs.  I love signs in windows.  I love it when the sign in the window tells me that a new "Neighborhood Bar" is coming to my neighborhood and the group opening the bar operates some of the best run bars in town.  I should just put my name on the liver transplant list now and avoid the trouble later.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Neighborhood Squabbles

The fight over how the City of Cincinnati's Neighborhood Support Program is administered appears to be political and personal. Water is wet, as well, I know, I know.

I don't place much focus on a He-said-She-said type of argument, so what the article reports may just be hot air venting. It appears that the conservative majority on council is acting to structure the funding program with a lot of oversight. This is then causing at least one community council member to lash out at the structure's front man, Jeff Berding as both an angry football fan and angry Democrat pissed that Berding got an endorsement in the first place, even though it was pulled last year.

Boycott? Seriously, that's the plan Joe Gorman of the Camp Washington Community Council has come up with? Bad mouthing Berding (who often deserves it) wasn't enough. I guess Gorman got his limited press coverage of this, but he really stands a better chance of being heard if he attended the event he wants to boycott and lobby the rest of the community councils and City Council members to try and affect change to the Structure of the funding program. I guess a boycott is an easy way to stay home and watch the Winter Olympics.

The spat is highly entertaining, but bad governing all around.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tolliver vs. Burke

I just wanted to highlight Howard Wilkinson's post, noting that Darren Tolliver has announced that he will seek the chairmanship of the Hamilton County Democratic Party later this year.

Tolliver was the president of the student body at UC during my final year of law school. Law students, like most grad students, don't get involved in campus politics. While I'm not sure what, exactly, my exposure to Tolliver was, I remember thinking at the time that Tolliver was a really bright, ambitious kid. (He was a college student; it was OK to think of him as a "kid" back then.) More recently, Tolliver was a board member of CincyPAC. I'm not sure what Tolliver now does professionally (if he hasn't gone to law school yet, isn't a JD nonetheless inevitable?).

Tim Burke, of course, has been the chair of the HamCo Democratic Party forever. He is a partner at Manley Burke.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. The "central commiittee," comprised of the party's precinct executives (who are themselves elected, precinct by precinct, this May) elect the party chair. I don't know (and please comment if you do) if there has been an recent influx of new members of the central committee, or if the May 4 elections are likely to bring new members. I would think the current executives are loyal to Burke, but Tolliver is the party's treasurer, and no doubt has support of his own.

Springer vs. Springer

I really wanted to write a post making fun of the HamCo Republican Party for inviting Michele Bachmann to be the keynote speaker at its annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner tomorrow night.

I was particularly appalled by the choice because for the last couple years, every now and then I think about whether I should be a Republican instead of a Democrat. But then the GOP puts someone like Bachmann front-and-center and I realize that's not a real option. (Or I am reminded that the party's extreme right wing controls its stance on social issues.)

But there's a problem with writing that post. The HamCo Democratic Party--the party to which, for the time being, I belong--is having its own event tomorrow night. Its "guest of honor" is Jerry Springer.* I'm not thrilled that Democratic-endorsed judges are appearing at an event headlined by the king of trash TV.

So the question is: what's worse? That the HamCo Republicans can't find a better keynote speaker than the Jerry Springer of Congress, or that the HamCo Dems can't find a more suitable guest of honor than the real Jerry Springer?

* In 2003, when Springer was considering running for the Senate, I met him. He was at a Mt. Adams bar (much more sober than I was). He sat for hours talking to people about his ideas and plans and why he was considering getting into the race. He's a very intelligent, thoughtful man. I wish he hadn't spent the last quarter-century using his television show to pollute our culture and, frankly, to exploit people who aren't as smart or as rich as he is. But he has, and we shouldn't pretend that he's a serious individual when his actions are to the contrary.

Where's the "No Bunt" Pledge?

When ever I read about politicians signing pledges "not to raise taxes" I find myself thinking about Baseball. Why doesn't COAST or the Tea Baggers, as the good baseball fans they surely are, demand that Dusty Baker sign a "No Bunt" pledge?

They might even require an oath: "I, , do solemnly pledge never to use the bunt during a regular or post season game, including suicide squeezes, where the man on third has the speed of Jackie Robinson and we are down by 10 or more runs. If I should break this pledge, I promise to forfeit the game and never, ever, play baseball or any other sport, again, so long as I live. Amen"

Yes, that is ridiculous. It is meant to be ridiculous.

Sometimes you have to bunt. Everyone in baseball knows this. Sometimes, you have to bunt to get the runner into scoring position. When you get the sign, you, the batter, don't shake it off or point to the fans and say: "But they demand efficiency! They expect me to hit a home run every time I am at bat. Home Runs are the only way you win ball games!"

Sacrificing an at bat is part of the game. You don't bunt every time a man is at bat, but you should never rule it out because some insane sports fans obsessed with statistics hate how it ruins someone's batting average.

If I were a Republican thinking about appeasing the Tea Baggers or COASTers, I would think about Baseball and at least try and maintain some intellectual honesty, and not sign a pledge "to not raise taxes." Not all Republicans are void of intellectual honesty, but they don't seem to show often enough, for my taste.

Sometimes you have to bunt and sometimes you have to at least have the option to raise taxes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Respect Is Earned, Disdain is Free

I was wondering what happened to all of the crazy people who would disrupt City Council meetings. It appears they have shifted to the school board.

Why would any parent think that exhibiting this type of behavior is acceptable? When you act boorishly, you are going to be ignored. When you continue to act like jerks, you are going to be disdained. Quite a few parents deserve detention.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why Did Cecil Thomas Abstain?

It was good news for Downtown yesterday after the Finance Committee overwhelmingly approved a loan for the 21C Hotel project. It should pass in Council with ease. What made no sense to me was the voting:
"Supporting the request were councilmembers Berding, Leslie Ghiz, Chris Monzel, Roxanne Qualls, Charlie Winburn and Laketa Cole.

Cecil Thomas abstained."
When you abstain from a vote it is usually because you have a personal interest or connection to the project or the parties involved.

Does Thomas have some type of connection or interest in 21C Hotels company, the Metropole, or the residents being displaced?

Yalamanchili Picks Ups Endorsements of Past Candidates

Ohio 2nd Congressional District Democratic Candidate Surya Yalamanchili has picked up the endorsements of former nominees Dr. Victoria Wulsin and Attorney/Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett. Last month Yalamanchili go the endorsement of Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

Yalamanchili will face off against David Krikorian in the Democratic Primary.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Keep Council Night Meetings

Cole and Monzel are are both on the correct side of an issue. Cincinnati City Council should keep meeting at night, once a month. Additionally, the starting time should be 7 or 7:30, allowing people time to get there. I don't have the trite lifestyle Monzel points out, with the sit down dinner made by the wife waiting at 6PM, but I too can't make it to a meeting that starts at 6 PM without leaving work early.

A little bit of promotion by the city would go along way to get people to come to these meetings. Hell, make it a Facebook event, that may not get 1,000 people there, but 5 more is a start.

These night meetings surely eats into the life of the council members and the city workers who staff the meetings, but this is their job.

This effort does not have to be expensive or overly time consuming. City Council meetings need to be accessible to the general public. I hope Cole and Monzel can convince the rest of the Council to go along.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shoulder to the Wheel, Nose to the Grindstone, Eye on the Ball......

Last week was a strange week. And as the new week begins, I find that I'm reminding myself to put my head back down and focus on the things that really matter to me. I also find myself wondering why certain things get beyond our standard echo chambers, and others cannot.

Most of you know that Wednesday, the local blogosphere erupted over a Vanity Fair article that made a gratuitous, cheap shot at Cincinnati. As far as I knew, the hubbub began with this post from Kate the Great. (Apparently, other bloggers had seen and posted on this days earlier.) I did what I often do when I see an interesting blog item: I linked back to it and provided my own commentary. Within hours, Tom Callinan of the Enquirer did the same thing, linking back to KRM and here. Then Griff called me on the phone, telling me Fox 19 News was looking for me for comment. I got in touch, they asked if I'd speak on camera, and I agreed. So I ended up on TV for a few seconds. (Sadly, Kate the Great was apparently unavailable to defend the honor of the Queen City that afternoon, so I got pulled off the bench and into the lineup. I kind of wish I'd had 6 months to lose about a hundred pounds before the interview. Or that the camera man had taken a wider shot. We all should have been spared that close-up on my multiple chins. :-) )

But what (I suspect) only a few of you realize is that my commentary on VF was only the second time that week I was quoted in the traditional media. The first was last Sunday, when a front-page article in the Enquirer discussed recent changes in the practices of the HamCo clerk of courts in handling complaints filed by private citizens (i.e., criminal cases that are initiated by an affidavit that is not signed by a police officer). Deep in that article, which was written by Dan Horn, I'm quoted.

This weekend, I'm left reflecting on the two very different responses to the two articles. When Horn's article came out, I was pleased to read it and proud to be quoted. The private complaint issue is one that I'd spent time on in my day job. Horn didn't find me because of the blog or simply because I'm a criminal defense attorney; instead, this was something I'd worked on. I thought the article would foment some discussion. While I believe the law requires the change the clerk's office has now made, I also recognize there's another side to the issue: private complaint referrals were a way to preserve police resources. Eliminating them may make it more difficult--or impossible--for some victims of minor crimes to seek redress in the criminal justice system, as the gatekeeping function of a police officer's job will become even larger than it has been.

My post on VF, on the other hand, was a knee jerk response. It was meant to be a brief diversion on a day I hadn't had time to grab lunch. There's nothing particularly controversial or even worthy of an extensive discussion in that post. Of course we all (or most of us) like or love Cincinnati. And is it really news to any of us that lots of people who live on one of the coasts or overseas don't view midwestern cities as desirable places to vacation? Shocking!

So what interest was generated by each? Last time I checked, the Enquirer article on the citizen complaint issue had about 45 comments. Callinan's piece on VF? 200.

No one outside the blogosphere cared much about my post on difficulty finding emergency shelter for a client. Personally, I think that's a much more important story than our mutual love (or lack thereof) for the Queen City. Jack is involved in an important lawsuit about how we help former inmates re-enter society after they've "paid their debt." While the media has covered it, the post here generated a total of zero comments. (Perhaps the post was poorly written. I'll certainly admit that's possible.) And the Enquirer's article (a well-written one by Dan Horn) garnered fewer than half the comments than Callinan's VF piece did.

What's my point? I'm not sure. It was nice, of course, to email my parents and tell them I was on TV, or to tell my friends over dinner Wednesday to watch the news that night. But nothing that happened that day or the next accomplished anything. No one's life was made better. No cause was advanced.

The past week reminds me of why I originally accepted Griff's invitation to blog: to write about things that matter. It's the same reason I became a lawyer: to do things that matter. This doesn't mean I'm not going to continue to post on some great place I had lunch or cheer on the Bearcats. But I want to make sure I'm spending the bulk of my time here and--more importantly--in my practice on things that really shape people's lives. I want to make a difference, not to simply be a cheerleader. Both my job and this blog leave me in a unique position to do that. I just need to make sure I focus on the important stuff.

Reports from Cincinnati Casino Charrette

Kareem Simpson at Ante-Up Cincinnati has a report from Cincinnati Casino Charrette held yesterday at the Art Academy.

It is excellent to see the community taking an interest in the direction of this project. For those of us living in OTR and the Downtown area, the Casino will have a large impact on our quality of life. Depending on how this project is designed, completed, and operated, that impact may be net-negative. Citizens obtain more information about the plan for the Casino will at least give us a chance to prepare for problems and may make Civic leaders aware of issues that may arise before they get out of hand.

Greg Korte of the Enquirer also has an article on this event.

For those not familiar with the term: Charrette.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Four Fewer Council Members?

I wish it were possible that all four Cincinnati City Council Members running for higher office could win. It's not that I want any of them to go on to arguably more important positions, its that them winning would guarantee better members of council. Yes, guarantee. Sure we could end up with four Charlie Winburn types, but I am happy to say only one exists, and no one is remotely similar in the current crop of possible replacements.

In the end, there are fair odds that one of the four could win in November. It all depends on the primary battles and the various November match-ups, which are very interesting. If Monzel wins, I think both Thomas and Tarbell could beat him. Ghiz likely would beat Thomas, but Tarbell vs Ghiz would be more of a barn burner. (Yes, at this point, Huber E. Brown is an also ran.)

Cole vs. Reece is really a fascinating primary. This will be a hardcore retail political effort where each candidate will have make the face to face personal connections to primary voters, in order to get the numbers to win. Advertisements and signs are not going to be as effective.

The only strategy out there could be for Cole/Reece to save some money and work with Thomas. There could be joint events, but otherwise the messages will be different. Reece/Thomas would logically be a better fit, based on overall ideology, but who knows. Each campaign may not have time to even bother working together, since the clock is ticking so fast.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shepard Fairey's Work at Arnold's

Check out artist Shepard Fairey and his team hard at work installing a mural on the East wall of Arnold's in Downtown.

Shepard and his team even stayed at Arnold's for lunch out in the courtyard. That's how you experience this city.

Don't forget to hit the CAC this Friday for the Free Opening starting at 8 PM. Shepard Fairey will be DJing. Do not miss this event, it will be memorable. Blogger(s) may be dancing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vanity Fair Trashes Cincinnati

The February 2010 issue of Vanity Fair contains an article belittling the Creation Museum. I'm all for being scornful of the strict creationist approach to history, as I believe carbon-dating is a much better method of determining the age of the earth than is the "begat method." So if someone wants to ridicule the Creation Museum, I'll not get in the way; I've done it myself.

But for some reason, a funny thing happened on the way to the museum: the article's author, A.A. Gill, developed (and now expresses) an intense dislike of Cincinnati. I was prepared to do a thorough fisking of Gill's little screed, but Kate the Great has done it better than I would have.

I thought, though, that maybe we could all debunk Gill's swipe at Cincinnati--that the city has "meager pickings to boast about." (He goes on to suggest that if cities had highlight reels, ours would be dominated by the Creation Museum.) So, dear, readers, what do you think Cincinnati has to brag about?

Kate got us started with a list (of course, she's brewing for a fight when she picks Cincinnati's "best" restaurant). To her suggestions, I'd add:

That's just a quick list I compiled in about 30 seconds. Gill should come back: I'll show him around, if he's not too busy looking down his nose at me.

Feel free to suggest your own places for Gill to visit on his return trip in the comments, or in a letter to the editor, which can be sent to or via facsimile transmission to 212-286-4324.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Veterans Courts?

As long as I'm blogging about efforts at criminal justice reform today, I thought I'd mention this piece at Slate by Dahlia Lithwick. The article discusses the advent of "veterans courts," a specialized docket carved from the regular criminal docket for veterans whose offenses can be linked to mental illness as a result of military service.

As Hamilton County (along with the rest of the nation) struggles with how to best rehabilitate individuals who commit crimes, we'll no doubt be talking more and more about solutions like these.

The Deen of Food Network Coming to Music Hall

As Polly Campbell reported last week, the Food Network's Paula Deen will do a cooking demonstration in Music Hall on March 7, 2010. Tickets are now available.

The cooking demonstration is at 7:00. For $175.00, you can have a seat onstage. (Prices go as low as $40 for rear balcony.) For $200, you can skip the demonstration, but have a three-course meal and "one-on-one" interaction with Paula at 5:30.

I really like Paula Deen and would love to see her in-person. (Yes, this will subject me to some ridicule in the comments. So be it.) But I have a tough time justifying spending 175 bucks for an onstage seat, even though I know it would be a great experience. I enjoy going to baseball games, too, but can't bring myself to buy a diamond seat at GABP, either.

Have any of you found a rationale (and the willpower) to pony up that much cash to rub elbows with cooking greatness? If so, let me know what you told yourself that made you feel OK about writing that check; maybe it'll work for me, too.

Suit Seeks to Reform Prison System's Transitional and Post-Release Policies

This past Wednesday, the Enquirer reported that a group of former inmates have filed a class action lawsuit in federal court, alleging that Ohio's system for providing for the re-entry of inmates into society violates the Americans with Disabilities Act with respect to the provision of post-release mental health services. The core of the plaintiffs' claims can be found in paragraphs 98 and 99 of their complaint:

98. Defendants’ failure to engage in necessary pre-release planning for these inmates results in a “revolving door” phenomenon in which inmates with psychiatric disabilities are released without adequate support and accommodations, and are then reincarcerated for manifestations of their psychiatric disabilities.
99. Defendants fail to provide Plaintiffs and the class they represent with requisite pre-release accommodations, including but not limited to facilitating the submission of pre-release applications for assistance that would enable eligible Plaintiffs and the class they represent to obtain SSI, SSDI, Food Stamps and Medicaid immediately upon or shortly after their release from prison, connecting the offender with mental health services in the community in which they will be discharged, and insuring that the offender is discharged with appropriate medications. These accommodations could allow Plaintiffs and the class they represent to make a successful transition from the prison and into a community. Defendants could make important improvements in pre-release planning by taking a series of easy steps at little or no additional cost, yet they have failed to do so.

This is an extremely important issue. Every criminal defense attorney in town can talk about representing individuals who are accused of committing new offenses within months of release from an Ohio prison. It happens because there are simply too few resources to help ease the transition between incarceration and freedom. That transition can be difficult for anyone, but can be a nightmare for a former offender with significant mental health issues. The lawsuit seeks to force the State of Ohio to implement more transitional programs. These programs would constitute a "reasonable accommodation" of a disability, a mandate of the ADA.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, and--oh, yeah, our own Jack Harrison of Frost Brown Todd.

Interestingly, a possible solution--though one that has to be implemented locally rather than state-wide--may be discussed in a piece posted yesterday by USA Today. It talks about the success of the Richland County Reentry Court, a specialized docket (much like Hamilton County's drug or mental health courts) designed to put recently-released inmates in touch with the resources they need to survive outside the institution.

OJPC has been extremely successful in achieving statewide reforms with past lawsuits. Over the last five years, OJPC reached agreements with the state regarding the medical care of inmates and (separately) regarding Ohio's juvenile justice system and DYS. It'll be interesting to see what comes of the present litigation.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Winter Shelter Remains Open

The City of Cincinnati has announced that its emergency winter shelter at 1715 Republic Street will remain open for the next four nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday), beginning at 10:00 pm each night.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fair and Classy, a Lesson for COAST

The members of COAST should look to Kevin Osborne for how to act in the on-line and real life worlds. Kevin wrote about a public aspect of the personal life of a member of COAST. There are no mean words. There is no jumping for joy at another person's misfortune. Kevin puts forth a poignant opinion and shows where real life hopefully can be a learning experience for COAST. If nothing else, I will be hopeful that COAST will not repeat their classless behavior.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter Shelter Emergency Continues

This afternoon, the City of Cincinnati announced that it will extend the winter shelter emergency through tonight and tomorrow night. So on Wednesday, February 10, and Thursday, February 11, the OTR Community Center at 1715 Republic Street will be open beginning at 10:00 pm.

The weather temperatures are frigid: tonight's low is expected to be 21 degrees, with lots of wind. Tomorrow night, the temperature will drop to 8 degrees.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Cecil Thomas Is Running For Commissioner

First he was in, then he was out, now he is back in the race for Hamilton County Commissioner. I really don't like the Godfather III plot parallels.

Thomas' hemming and hawing does not bode well for him as a candidate. Thomas is not known as a big retail campaigner. Tarbell knows how to campaign face to face well and appears to like doing it, that edge goes to Tarbell. Thomas is an elected Democratic official, while Tarbell ran and won as a Charterite, edge to Thomas. Tarbell may need to get some party allies lined up. I would look see who Roxanne Qualls backs. She is the most popular political official in the city. If Jim can get her supporters along with the suburbanite Dems, he will go along way.

This will be a difficult primary race to analyze. We've not had Dems face off against each other for county wide races since I've been in town, so, almost 20 years.

Winter Shelter Emergency Tonight

The emergency cold shelter in the Over-the-Rhine Community Center at 1715 Republic will be open tonight beginning at 10:00 pm. The City has issued a press release announcing that it has declared a winter shelter emergency. Excerpts from the release:

Cincinnati—Mayor Mark Mallory and Dr. Noble Maseru, Commissioner of Health, today jointly declared that a Winter Shelter Emergency will be in effect tonight and will end on the morning of Wednesday February 10, 2010. This means the emergency Winter Shelter located at the Over-the-Rhine Community Center, 1715 Republic Street, will be open tonight from 10:00PM until 8:00AM. Social service agencies and community organizations should refer persons who are not accepted by existing shelters to the OTR Center.
A Winter Shelter Emergency is declared when temperatures are in the single digits and/or wind chill is in the single digits for sustained periods of time; when it is determined that regular shelters are expected to be filled to capacity; and life threatening conditions could result from lack of temporary housing. In addition the Winter Shelter Emergency communication system remains activated.

The release also offers instructions for anyone wishing to donate time, money or supplies:

Though very much appreciated and valued the OTR Emergency Weather Shelter
is not equipped or staffed to handle unexpected donations. Please advise individuals interested in making food or clothing donations, or volunteering their time, they should first coordinate with Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless at 421-7803 ext 13 or 716-7455 (cell).

Snow Day

The Snow continues to fall Downtown, and doesn't seem to be letting up. Any ideas for what to do on a Snow Day?

Monday, February 08, 2010

The White Death, Part Deux

So, with the sun shunning brightly over Cincinnati today, it is time to fret over the massive blizzard to hit over night.

1) I will lose my voice screaming at the cars going 10mph on I-71 as I drive into work tomorrow morning.
2) I will step in a total of six piles of slushy snow during the next 48 hours.
3) Some will want to throw a snow ball at my head, but will hold back, intuition telling them not to get into a snowball fight with a man who grew up near Buffalo.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Metropole Moving Day

On my walk this morning I happened upon movers setting up shop for a move from the Metropole. I don't know know who was moving out or where they were moving to, but they had a professional crew there to do the move.  A couple of questions arise:
  1. Did 3CDC pay for the mover?  I hope they did.
  2. How many people holding out for more attention/money are left?
The redevelopment of the Metropole building was a controversial act in the minds of a select few activists, but I think in the long run the displaced tenets will find better and bigger apartments that do not have the history of crime that plagued the Metropole. I think the efforts of those trying to block this redevelopment are very misplaced.  Where was the class action efforts when the building was literally controlled by criminals?  I hope everyone still living at the Metropole quickly finds a new place to live.  I hope they are not being lead to hold out because of the political agenda of anti-development interests, but those who seek to block the efforts of 3CDC will exploit the poor.  The "ends justify the means" isn't just a belief practiced by Neo-Cons, the far left will stoop to that level too.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Leveraging the Lockout?

We all know by now about Hamilton County's stadium fund problem. I'm not even going to link to an article; anyone who cares is familiar with the issue. I'd love to write a post demanding that Leslie Ghiz, Chris Monzel, and Jim Tarbell offer their stadium fund solutions, but it'd be a waste of time: the current commission is going to have to find a fix before the November election. (Of course, should any of the candidates criticize the solution the commission adopts, that candidate should be prepared to offer his or her own specific alternative.)

I've been thinking that there ought to be a way for the county to use the possibility of a lockout in 2011 to its advantage. My first thought was that a lockout could mean low revenues for the Brown family, so maybe there'd be a way to defer some HamCo payments until 2011. But it turns out that the teams will make a killing on TV revenue regardless of whether games are played. So that's not the answer.

But here's another thought: if the owners lock the players out--that is, if the NFL decides not to have games (and it's not the result of a strike, but instead unilateral owner action)--would the county have an argument that the Bengals were in breach of the stadium lease? If that argument exists, then perhaps the county could agree to waive the right to declare a breach in 2011 in exchange for more meaningful concessions from the Bengals now.

I haven't read the lease (I can't find a copy online), so I'm not sure if this is viable. And since all of the commissioners are lawyers, and they have some really good lawyers working for them in the civil division of the prosecutor's office (in addition to outside counsel), I'm not sure anyone needs my input; it's just a random thought on a dreary Friday afternoon.

My Snow Prediction

Less than an inch in the city. More north.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Left Out in the Cold

Last week, I had an experience I knew I'd write about. I wanted to gather my thoughts, first, though. I also was pondering the right venue for my tale; I wasn't sure whether I should write here, or submit an essay for print publication elsewhere. Yesterday's story by WLWT on the "misunderstanding" at the OTR cold shelter has made me dBoldecide to write now. The following is a bit longer than the typical Cincinnati Blog post, and for those of you who read it, I offer my thanks.

My criminal defense practice includes representation of the indigent. This past Friday, I met with a client we'll call Mary to discuss an upcoming case. She's charged with a relatively minor offense. As we neared the end of our meeting, I sought to confirm the address in my file, so that I could send her notification of new court dates. She confided that she was presently homeless. I asked where she'd been sleeping, assuming that the answer would be the Drop-Inn Center. (Residents of the Drop-Inn Center can receive mail there.) She told me that she'd spent the last two nights sleeping in doorways or on park benches, because she'd not gotten to the DIC in time to get a bed.

As Mary, obviously exhausted, began to cry, I thought back to that morning. I remembered leaving my apartment at 7:00 that morning and how cold it was. I remembered that I'd parked my car near my residence the night before (I usually leave the car at my office, about six blocks away, and walk) because I'd decided it would be too cold to walk all the way to the Justice Center, where that day would begin for me. I also remembered grumbling because my car never warmed up on its 11-block, cross-downtown trip. The low temperature Friday was 12 degrees. I couldn't imagine having spent a night on the street in those conditions, much less two.

So I asked Mary to wait while I went to another room to see if I could figure out how to get her off the streets, at least for the night. I started out by calling the two women's shelters I know of in Cincinnati. The Anna Louise Inn is a terrific place but, as the woman who answered the phone explained, emergency shelter--particularly for women who don't have children in tow or a history of prostitution offenses--isn't really its mission. My next call was to Bethany House, another great organization. But it only has a few beds, none of which were available that night.

I was starting to get frustrated. I had really thought that I could pick up the phone, make a couple calls, and solve a problem. So I tried to reach out to a couple of social-worker type folks who have been helpful in the past. Unfortunately, neither of them were at their desks that afternoon. Someone else I talked to gave me the name of someone else who should have plenty of contact information at his fingertips. Unfortunately, his suggestion was Bethany House, with whom I'd already struck out.

Then I decided to call the Drop-Inn Center. I knew before calling that I wouldn't be able to "reserve" a bed for Mary, but I thought they might have other suggestions, or at least a tip on how Mary could assure herself of a bed. The woman who answered the phone explained that the DIC opens its doors at 8:00 pm and takes residents on a first-come, first-serve basis. She recommended that my client get to the DIC by 6:00. As we were talking, I realized that the "city cold shelters" I'd vaguely heard about must be open. I asked the woman if she knew whether they were. She didn't. I asked her if she knew where the Downtown/Over-the-Rhine cold shelter was. She didn't. She referred me to a website that didn't contain this information, either.

At that time, I had no idea where the "cold shelters" where. The only times I'd heard of them had been when a newscast would announce that the city had opened them. Nonetheless, at least that gave me a starting point. My next call was to the City Manager's office. I assumed someone there could give me the information I needed. Wrong again. The cold shelters aren't a function of the City Manager, I was told. Instead, they're run by the City Health Department. The woman gave me the department's number and transferred my call. After hearing the phone ring a few times, I got the voicemail of the Health Department's Public Information Officer. I hung up and dialed the number I'd been given, which of course was answered by the PIO's voicemail.

My frustration had moved towards seething anger. I'm a lawyer. Sometimes, accomplishing goals for clients requires that I work the phone. So I've gotten pretty good at that task over the last few years. But I was hitting roadblock after roadblock. No one, it seemed, had the information I needed. Or if they did have the information, they weren't answering their phones. I was particularly upset with the Drop-Inn Center. Why wouldn't they have information on the cold shelters readily available given that they know that (a) the DIC is over-capacity, and (b) it's really, really cold? Besides having the information near the phone, shouldn't they have that information posted at the front door, for anyone who was turned away?

If I were having so much trouble, how must it be for someone who actually needed the information for him- or herself? Someone with limited education, without regular access to a phone, and who was sleep-deprived? Would they have any chance of doing better than a park bench if there were no room at the Drop Inn?

Turning back to the web, I checked to see if the number I had was the main number for the Health Department. It was. I tried another number that should have been useful. Voicemail again. (It was not, by the way, past 3:00 yet.) I finally tried a randomly selected extension, and got a human being. She was kind enough to check whether the shelters were open (they were supposed to be), and where the nearest one was located (the recreation center on Republic, just north of Liberty). She told me when the shelters open (10:00 at night).

I went back to Mary and apologized for keeping her waiting so long. We worked out a plan: she would get to the Drop-Inn Center by 6:00 and wait there. If she didn't get a bed, then she'd walk the few blocks to the cold shelter on Republic. I wished her luck.

Mary's court date isn't for a few more weeks, and I don't have a way to contact her in the meantime. So I don't know whether she got off the street that night or the next. Now I know that on Saturday night, the City closed the cold shelter, apparently because it was too warm. (The city's standard for opening the shelters is single-digit wind-chills. The low temperature Saturday was 16 degrees. The low temperature Sunday was 9 degrees. The city was really so confident that from Saturday night to Sunday morning, the windchill would remain above 10 degrees?) I hope that next time I see Mary, I'll learn out she found shelter through the weekend, and has found a stable housing solution. But until then, I'll wonder.

There were lots of failures last week. There's clearly a dearth of options for homeless, single women in Cincinnati right now. There's seemingly no good clearinghouse of information for people who need emergency shelter. The Drop-Inn Center, which should have a lot of knowledge about places to which the homeless can turn, either doesn't have it or isn't sharing it. And the City isn't doing a good enough job of publicizing, on a daily basis, whether the cold shelters are open and where they are.

WLWT quotes Pat Clifford, Drop-Inn's manager:

Clifford stressed that while most people hear about them on the cold days, the
Drop Inn Center is serving and acting as the community's open door all year

As far as I could tell, the door wasn't all that open last week. And no one else seemed terribly interested in answering other doors, either.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dear Cecil Thomas, It's Time to Get Off, Love: the Pot

The Daily Bellwether is reporting that Cincinnati City Council member Cecil Thomas is reconsidering a run for county commissioner after he told the Enquirer last week he was not running. I thought P&G canceled all of their Soap Operas?

Maybe The Trash Police Really Are Coming....

You may remember that one of the mini-dramas during City Council's budget fight concerned the purchase of new, bigger, better recycling bins for city residents. While I continue to consider myself a Democrat, I've not hid my lack of passion regarding environmental issues. Keep a rec center open or do something "environmentally conscious"? Save a job but kill a spotted owl? I'll choose rec centers and jobs every time.

Nonetheless, I recognize that Mt. Rumpke cannot continue to grow ad infinitum. So increased recycling--assuming it doesn't come at the expense of social services or other core government functions--is probably a good thing. But I was disturbed by the following from the Enquirer's article on the new bins:

Each cart will have a tag that can be read from a collection truck. That tag will tell the city who's recycling and how much. Those who recycle most will earn points to redeem through a system called RecycleBank, which offers rewards from stores including Whole Foods, CVS and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Really? The city is now monitoring how much individual households recycle? It makes me glad I'm an apartment-dweller.

Does anyone remember two years ago, when Chris Monzel proposed a fine for people who put "inappropriate garbage" in city-owned trash cans? At the time, I ridiculed the suggestion, as did most of our commenters.

But is it paranoia to think that the city's new recycling program is the first step towards punishing people who don't recycle enough? Now that the cans are being distributed, what would stop the city from calculating how much a typical household should recycle, and punishing (i.e., taxing) anyone who falls below some threshhold level? Some, no doubt, would think that to be a terrific idea. I'm concerned, though, any time we find new ways for the government to know more about our daily lives. (Yes, I realize I have no right to privacy in trash--or recycling--I leave at the curb; however, constant government monitoring of each citizen's trash/recycling habits is far removed from the possiblity that a police officer, looking for evidence of a crime, might snoop in an individual's abandoned trash.)

On the bright side, one of RecycleBank's partners is Cold Stone Creamery. So at least there will be ice cream.

Some Downtown Food Blurbs

My blogging has been a bit sporadic lately, as my day job has been keeping me quite busy. The cancellation of a jury trial set for today leaves me a bit of time, though, and I wanted to quickly blog three items.

1. Mayberry's Beer and Cheese Tasting
You may remember that a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Mayberry was having a beer and cheese tasting. It was, frankly, a terrific event. For $20 bucks, you got five beers and five cheeses, which were served on two different cheese plates. The first plate held mozzarella, goat cheese, and camembert. Those were joined by a candied fig (mmm!) and whiskey-infused strawberries. The second plate yielded gorgonzola and a three-year old cheddar, accompanied by dried cranberries and truffled honey. (Yes, I said truffled honey. Amazing!) I hadn't ever thought of pairing beers with cheese, but Mayberry clearly had. It's fully a week later, and I still want some more gorgonzola. Of the five beers, there was one I'd had before, and the other four were revelations (delicious revelations).

So it's official: I have a man-crush on Josh Campbell, Mayberry's chef. If I ever When* I get married, I'm going to insist he cater the reception. If you're not a fan of the World Food Bar Restaurant Group on Facebook (and thus receiving updates on upcoming events), you're a fool.

2. Mr. Sushi is Open!!!
Whoopie! (Typed without sarcasm.) We have sushi downtown! Mr. Sushi opened in the 580 building, on 6th Street next to the defunct Oceanaire. I went for lunch today (I thought I might be the first to blog on the restaurant, but Polly Campbell, who actually knows something about food, beat me to it.) My friend and I ordered take-out (we had fooled ourselves into believing we'd eat at our desks and actually work this afternoon). The sushi rolls run between five and seven dollars. I had a tuna roll, a salmon roll, and another one whose name I forget--basically a spicy tuna roll with lettuce leaf. (Yes, a lot for lunch, but I was worried a partner back at the office might try to swipe some.) They were all quite good and the restaurant was quite busy, even by 11:30.

3. Abby Girl Sweets is Downtown.
Josh may be the subject of my man-crush, but I've got a full-on infatuation with whoever Abby Girl is. Her cupcakes are divine.

Abby Girl Sweets is on 5th next to the Havana Martini Club. The flavor of the week is tangerine. I ordered one, worried it could be too sweet, but it was perfect. I can also report that the chocolate, the carrot cake, and the "neapolitan" (strawberry cupcakes with half vanilla, half chocolate frosting) are all delightful. (For anyone who knows I'm supposed to be dieting: of course, I wouldn't have tried these myself. I must have heard about how good they are from others. Yeah, that's the ticket.)

* Edited for the sake of my patient though long suffering parents (who just marked their 40th anniversary!), whose hopes for grandchildren have dwindled so low they're buying a puppy.

Hey Downtown Nightclub Staff and Regulars!

Do you know who the man known as 'Madness' is? If you do know, police want to talk to him about allegedly seriously beating a man up. The man is now in a coma. The man was found on January 24th in the 600 block of Walnut, just outside Bootsy's Restaurant, around 3:45 a.m. Don't protect anyone; there were three women seen with 'Madness' and watched the attack. If you know who any of the people are, please contact police: Crime Stoppers (513) 352-3040, or District One Police at (513) 352-3505.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A MMA Blog, Really? has started a mixed martial arts blog called MMA Nati and I honestly don't know why. I'm way out of touch with this sport, in the sense that my knowledge of it comes from the Jon Favreau story arc on Friends, so when I wonder how this warrants any more attention then say NASCAR or Professional Wrestling, my ignorance may be in the way. I really wonder about that, though, I'm not totally out beyond niche culture to miss the local appeal. Maybe I am just getting a bit old.

Monday, February 01, 2010

More on SCPA and 'Taking the Stage'

Classicgrrl from Cincyvoices goes into detail on problems with the auditioning of the new cast members for entrance into SCPA.

2010 Bockfest Sausage Queen Competition Dates Set

Few events capture the history of drinking in Cincinnati better than Bockfest and once again you can get your fill of frivolity with Bockfest early with the prilimiary rounds of the Sausage Queen contest. Think of these events as warm-ups, giving you a chance to get your Bockfest tolerance a bit of a Spring-Training.

The Sausage Queen has few qualifications other than being 21 and likeing Bock beer and Sausage.  Additionally, there is more innuendo at these events than can fill your mouth. (You know, fill it with ground up meat inside a casing.  What else were you thinking?)

Anyway, this year's event branches out to Northside and Covington, so be sure to get your friends to enter the contest.  I think if you pretend there is a prize, like say a year's worth of bock beer, you might get your really cute next door neighbor to take part.  Seriously, costumes earn more points.  And I can tell you that points matter in a really serious event such as this.  The bribes have been known to go way beyond free beer.  People bring baked goods!  Yes, a clear violation of all things that are holy, but hell, all's fair in love and war and the Sausage Queen competition. 

The preliminary events are:

Friday, February 12, 9PM, The Comet, 4579 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati

Thursday, February 18, 9PM, at Arnold's, 210 East 8th Street, Cincinnati

Friday, February 26, 9PM, at the Blue Bar, 266 Pike Street, Covington

Saturday, February 27, 9PM, at Milton’s, 301 Milton Street, Cincinnati

The Finals will be during Bockfest on Saturday March 6th, 8PM at Bockfest Hall.

For more information, check out