Saturday, November 29, 2008

HamCo's Budget Woes

By now, we all know the story: the County faces a $31 million shortfall in 2009. The Board of Commissioners has determined, apparently, that the only way to fix this is to cut spending. But that seems to be looking at problem from only one of two possible angles. Why aren't we having a discussion about increasing revenue?

There are two ways to generate a significant amount of revenue for the County's general fund. First, the Board could raise the sales tax. Popular? No, of course not. But perhaps better than laying off hundreds of our neighbors. Second, the board could eliminate the "property tax rebate."

What is the property tax rebate? It's a commitment made to voters in 1996 that if a sales tax increase to build the new stadia were approved, 30% of the funds from the increase would be returned in the form of a property tax rebate. Commissioner Pepper has made it clear that we're not allowed even to discuss the rollback of the rebate. But other than to point out that the promise was made, he doesn't really say why. Presently, we redistribute about $19 million in sales tax revenue to property owners.

Let's look at the promise. It was made over 12 years ago. Bill Clinton was President. The economy was great. Local governments had tons of money to spend. No one on the Board then remains on the Board now (in fact, at least one was voted off because of the stadium deal). Many residents of HamCo now weren't residents then (like me). Many who were residents then have moved away. How long does a promise (one that was not written into the referendum and with no legal backing behind it) bind a county? All the way to fiscal insolvency?

We are no longer in a position to redistribute wealth through the "property tax rebate." It's time to seriously think through these issues, even if the solutions are politically unpopular in the short term.

What's the right answer?
  • A. Slash $31 million from the budget, closing Queensgate (leaving the Sheriff, rather than our judges, to decide which accused individuals remain in jail pending trial) and laying off hundreds of our friends, relatives, and neighbors?
  • B. Raise the sales tax rate?
  • C. Roll back the property tax rebate?
  • D. Secede from the Union. Start printing money like it's Mardi Gras!
I'm curious as to whether I'm the only person who thinks it's insane for our local leaders to bind themselves to a commitment made nearly a decade-and-a-half ago.

Friday, November 28, 2008

We Are The Champions

The UC Bearcats--that's right, the UC football Bearcats--are the champions of the Big East Conference.

Today's win by Pitt over WVU means that UC would win any tiebreaker, should it lose tomorrow's game with Syracuse at Nippert. Of course, Coach Kelly insists that his team will be ready to play tomorrow.

Who's going to Nippert tomorrow? And who will follow the Bearcats to their bowl game (probably Orange but perhaps Sugar) on January 1, 2009?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Support the Underdog--Give to the Freestore Foodbank!

Cincinnatians love underdogs. (And hot dogs. But that's another post.) Our favorite historical Reds and Bengals teams are teams that overachieved. Neither UC nor Xavier spend nearly as much on their athletics departments as do bigger schools, and that's why we get so excited when they're able to compete with the Big Dogs.

Our love of the underdog is another reason to support the Freestore Foodbank this season. I'm not sure if you've given this much thought, but when the Foodbank predicts "record need," it's not because the stereotypical homeless person is going back for seconds. It's because record numbers of people--the real underdogs of life, if only temporarily--need help.

Some of the people who need help this year are probably in your neighborhood. They're the couple with kids who was struggling to just get by, but is now in dire straits since one of the parents lost his or her job. It's the single mom or dad who lost one of his two or three part-time jobs. It's the senior citizen down the street who's desperately trying to avoid having to make a choice between buying groceries and filling prescriptions. Most of these people aren't chronically poor or low-income, but are caught in the harsh vice of these tough economic times. They'll go--reluctantly--to the Foodbank to get through the next few months, and then get back on their feet. These same folks, a year or two from now, will be generous donors to the Foodbank once they're able.

Your love of the underdog should also inspire you to help the Cincinnati Blog in its efforts to do well in the Battle of the Blogs. Hard to believe, given this stature Griff earned for this blog, but we really are the underdogs. Look at our competition, most of which has oodles of donors at its disposal: The Dean requires registration to comment on his ramblings, so he's got the email addresses of everyone who's ever commented at the Beacon, and he's using them. Alex Triantafilou, in addition to being of counsel to one of Cincinnati's largest firms, has the HamCo GOP email list at his disposal--and he's purportedly using it. David Pepper (besides receiving all those royalties from the sale of Dr Pepper*) is an associate at one of America's fifty largest law firms. And now we're in the hole--someone just added $5,000 to Pepper's tally! (Great work, Commissioner!!!) Here at the Cincinnati blog, we don't require registration for comments and we're decidedly middle class.

So click on this link to help two groups of underdogs: people who really, really need and deserve your help this season, and we humble Cincinnati bloggers.

And let me add this to my fellow lawyers: if you're at a firm where you're getting a bonus this year, you need to spend some of that money to reduce your tax liability. What's better than a charitable contribution to the Freestore Foodbank? If you're a solo practitioner or a small-firm attorney who's settling a case or collecting fees in these final six weeks of the year, same thing--got to burn some of that cash, or you're gonna get hosed on April 15th. So get yourself a deduction: you know you want to. (Check with your accountant, of course. I'm not a tax lawyer and don't pretend to be one.)

Once more: the Freestore Foodbank.

*Really. It's a law. Anyone with the last name "Pepper" automatically gets five cents for every can of Dr. Pepper sold.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Little Bluer: Coates Defeats Groppe

The Hamilton County Board of Elections has finally finished the official vote count. In the race for Recorder, the Election Day tally had Republican incumbent Rebecca Groppe ahead by about 3,000 votes. But no media outlet ever officially called the race, as over 20,000 ballots (provisionals and last minute absentees) were yet to be counted. That meant that Democratic challenger Wayne Coates was very much still in the race.

Tonight, we know the outcome: Wayne Coates has been elected County Recorder, winning 50.34% of the votes cast in that race (a margin of about 2,500 votes). The Clerk's race also tightened, with Republican Patricia Clancy winning with 50.51% of the votes over Democrat Martha Good (a margin of 3,800 votes). I don't know enough election law to know whether either of these results triggers recounts, or the ability of candidates to request such recounts.

By all accounts, Ms. Groppe served the residents of this County faithfully while in office, and we wish her well. Wayne Coates brings a great deal of experience as a public servant to the post, and will no doubt bring fresh ideas. He'll need to, given the County's budget troubles. Coates is currently bailiff to HamCo Municipal Court Judge Ted Berry.

Where's the Beef Fraud?

Turns out "voter fraud" wasn't much more than concern trolling. (Enquirer article here.) Over 400,000 ballots cast, and only four raise possible issues?

While we're on the topic: let's give the HamCo Board of Elections a round of applause for running a fairly problem-free election. Other than some confusion early on Election Day regarding the ID requirement (some poll workers thought a valid driver's had to have an address that matched the poll book--that's not true, and the BoE spent over an hour on this point alone in training, and then called all the polling places once it became evident that some folks still didn't get it), we had a really clean, error-free election.

Time to gear up for City Council 2009. Anyone want to declare his or her candidacy in the comments?

CEAs Kicked Ass!

Last night's Cincinnati Entertainment awards were one of funnest events I've ever attended in Cincinnati. As an avid local music fan it was invigorating to weave around a mob of Cincinnati's best musicians to get to the Por-O-Lets. The pre-show had a totally fun and dare I say really fucking cool vibe. I mean the Fairmont Girls doing live fashion commentary (the Trashies) that was beamed to the big screen inside the theater, you can't beat that. They added a charm that was part Cincy Charm, part New York snark, part Hollywood, part out right friendliness. They were having fun and treating the people coming inside as both real people and as something this city needs to understand better: as cool.

The performances were great. Bootsy's band rocked and the James Brown emulator did this move I almost can't describe. He went to a head stand, legs straight up in the air, and using his arms slid across stage ON HIS HEAD in what I could best describe as an upside-down moonwalk. The audience gasped in glee when he did that. I admit, I gasped in glee mostly, but I wasn't the only one!!

The local bands were exceptionally good: Sundresses (I final got to see them live!), Eclipse, and the Seedy Seeds. All three won an award by the way.

The show ended with Ralph Stanley. When he did O' Death there wasn't a sound other than his voice audible in the entire Emery Theater. Even the people at the bars in the back went quiet. I don't know of a more haunting and thrilling sound I've heard in a very long time. Ralph is getting old and it showed, but the crowd really had fun. People really did Banjo. I can't explain why, but they just do. I think Steve Martin did a bit on the Banjo. You just can't do much that is depress on the Banjo, it is either happy or a pickin' fire.

Also, great job by the video team. With the combination of the pre-show and the affects during the show, it was really classy, in an MTV Video Music Awards type of way circa 1994.

The pizza at the after-party at the Know Theatre from Dewey's really hit the spot. I didn't make it upstairs for the Trashies, so I don't know who won, although the lead singer for the Lions Rampant pulled up next to me at the bar with a small toy doll, so I think he might have one a runner-up prize. He is definitely going for the Kurt Cobain strain of rock-persona/style

Here is more from CityBeat, which included the list of winners:
Bluegrass - Rumpke Mountain Boys
Blues - Sonny Moorman Group
Country - The Turkeys
Experimental/Electronic - Chick Pimp, Coke Dealer at a Bar
Folk/Americana - Jake Speed and the Freddies
Hard Rock/Metal - Foxy Shazam
Hip Hop - Eclipse
Indie/Alternative - The Seedy Seeds
Jazz - Faux Frenchmen
Punk/Post Punk/Hardcore - Knife the Symphony
R&B/Funk - Daughters and Sons
Rock - 500 Miles to Memphis
World Music/Reggae - Super Massive
Singer/Songwriter - Kim Taylor
Best Live Act - Foxy Shazam
Best Musical Ambassador for the City - Bootsy Collins

New Artist of the Year - Daniel Martin Moore
Album of the Year - The Sundresses
Artist of the Year - Seabird

Here's more from Mike Breen.

Also, here's a video by Cameron Knight of CityBeat with an audio/photo montage that if you listen carefully, you will here me speak, with my trademark stutter (ugh!).


UPDATE: More from Anna Mae at theconveyor.com

UPDATE #2: For full Fairmont Girl Trashies coverage, hit their blog.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Random Aside

A few months ago, I decided I was grown up enough to discard my Xbox. (I'll admit, I considered, for more than a brief time, upgrading to Xbox 360.) It wasn't an easy decision, as I credit beer video games for the retention of my sanity during law school. But I thought that giving up the last vestiges of adolescence was the right thing to do, even if it took until my mid-30's to do it.

And then last night, I saw the ad for Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Are you kidding me? I can have Scorpion fight Superman? Raiden against Batman?

Dude.

I. Need. This. Game. (And, of course, a system to play it on.)

If you see an overweight thirty-something-year-old on Santa's lap when you're out doing your holiday shopping this year, please stop by and say hello. (And call the paramedics for poor old Saint Nick.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cincinnati 28, Pitt 21

Everything's coming up oranges. (Except the winner of next week's game.)

O Cincinnati, magic name
I proudly to the world proclaim
No sweeter word e'er charmed my ear
None to my heart was e'er so dear;
A fountain of eternal youth,
A tower of strength, a rock of truth.

Varsity, dear Varsity
Thy loyal children we will be.
Thy loyal, loyal children we will be!

Coach Kelly has got to teach his guys (and our fans!) how to finish games, but another great win for the program!

At least one Cincinnati team has a shot at playing in January! (And if you watched ESPN-2's coverage, you learned that Bootsy Collins has apparently jumped on the Bearcats bandwagon. I just hope he doesn't write them a song that we have to listen to....)

Battle of the Blogs Sweeping the County!!!

I was honored when Griff first agreed to let me blog here. By then, for some time, the Cincinnati Blog had been--well, the Cincinnati blog. And the chance to join up with Jack (who I already knew of) and Julie (who's become one heck of a blogger) was too good an opportunity to pass up.

This week, though, my honor has turned to pride. I'm proud to be part of this blog in particular, and the Cincinnati blogosphere in general. What started out as just a simple post hoping to raise money for the Freestore Foodbank has (with no small amount of help from the Beacon) swept across the blogosphere like a California wildfire.


The Bearman is contributing based on blogs that link to his archives. Kate the Great has a terrific post on why you should give. Julie, who just became an affiliate to Greater Cincinnati Independents (a coalition of local restaurants) is donating her referral fees to the Freestore through the end of the year. Local politicians have gotten into the Battle, with HamCo Commissioner David Pepper and GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou joining the fray. The media is even starting to pay attention: see CityBeat (attempting to compete and cover the story at once) and WCPO.

The Freestore Foodbank seems excited by the competition, and has even created a way to help track the winner. The Freestore has created special url's (don't ask me how they work, I just know they do) that will tell them where their incoming hits are coming from. I've updated our links. So you can click on this link, or any other Freestore Foodbank link in the last few posts, and the Cincinnati Blog will get "credit" for the contribution in the Battle.

Too often, the blogosphere is just a consortium of echo chambers. We here at the Cincinnati Blog tend to talk to the center-left; Julie talks to food afficionados; Alex T. talks to GOP members; the Dean talks to the hopelessly confused; you get the picture. The Battle of the Blogs showcases the real power of the internet in the twenty-first century: the power to pull people together from across political, economic, and demographic boundaries to work for a common cause.

It's kind of humbling to be a part of.

And...if you need one more, selfish reason to donate to the Freestore: charitable donations are a great way to reduce your 2008 tax liability.

Local bloggers who haven't posted yet: I'm gonna call more of you out on Monday. (5chw4r7z, where are you?)

Cincinnati Santacon 2008

I don't think this is the first time a pack of wild Santas have descended on Cincinnati, but if you are looking an interesting day,, keep December 13th open and get yourself a Santa suit. The only think missing from the site is reference to Mrs. Claus. Frankly, women dressed as Santa are not appealing, unless, they alter the suit. Mrs. Claus, however, can be, shall we say, wow! if done right. I'm not making fashion pronouncements here, just thinking out loud. Maybe dreaming a little.

Cincinnati Unchained Today!

Get out and support Local Retail in Cincinnati!!!

This is a great effort by the team over at Buycincy.com. If you see the guys out and about, give them a pat on the back for doing a true service to their community. Cincinnati needs small businesses and the easiest way an individual can help out the small businesses of Cincinnati is by giving them your patronage!

I plan on shopping at some of the stores in the Gateway Quarter (Metronation, Park+Vine, etc) so join me there or hit Shake It! Records in Northside.

Friday, November 21, 2008

CEAs Sold Out

For the first time ever, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards have sold out. Awesome news for Music fans. Glad to know there is strong support for local music!!! There is still an option to get the Ralph Stanley only tickets, but you may not get them, check out the link about for your possible chance!

If you can't make it out, be sure to still support the effort to bring the Emery back to its glory! More Here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Great Way To Give Thanks

Last week, I challenged Cincinnati bloggers to raise money for the Freestore Foodbank, which expects record demands through the end of the year (right after the massive power outage taxed its resources to the limit).

I'm really happy to say that local bloggers have picked up the gauntlet, and are flinging it back in our faces!!!

So again, here's the link to the Freestore's virtual food drive. The Dean came up with a simple way for bloggers to tally their results. If you give in response to the Cincinnati Blog's imnpassioned pleas, then please either note your donation in the comments (feel free to be anonymous) or email us (you can email either the blog or me) and we'll post your donation (anonymously, if you wish).

This is going to be a tough, tough year for a lot of people. Folks are losing their jobs, both in the private and public sectors. If you're in a position to give, there's never been a better time to do so. And with the virtual food drive, it's never been easier. For about twenty bucks, you can buy a family of four a meal.

And besides, there's no way Griff can permit the Dean of Cincinnati to win this contest!

The Dean is already starting to call out local bloggers who haven't joined the cause; I guess I'll do the same. Kate: your greatness is on the line here!!!! Randy: there's nothing more UrbanCincy-ish than the Freestore!!!

We Need Charter Reform. Now.

Early this year, we had here what I thought was an excellent conversation on what Cincinnati government should look like. I suggested the City Manager is too powerful, and we need to amend the Charter to create a truly "strong mayor" form of government--one in which the mayor appoints department heads and proposes a budget.

And this week, Milton Dohoney proved me right.

Can anyone imagine an elected official telling his or her constituents that their choices are either (a) a new fee, or (b) reduction in police and fire services? Really, those are the only two choices? There aren't other places (apart from the City's principal responsibility to its citizens) that can be cut? I know that my world is upside down when I find myself in agreement with Chris Monzel.

But now, of course, the Kabuki dance will begin. Now that Dohoney has set forth an unpopular (untenable, frankly) budget proposal, Mayor Mallory will swoop in with a "better idea." It's all so disgustingly predictable.

It's time for a strong mayor. The Charter could be amended so the mayor's position would be altered as of the start of the next mayoral term. But it's time to start running City government as if both City leaders and City residents are grown-ups.

An aside: I love that fact that HamCo Commissioner David Pepper, while clearly busy with the nuts and bolts of trying to run a local government in the recession our Republican friends brought upon us, is thinking about what the overall structure of county government should look like. The Cuyahoga County proposal to create a Commission president (what some states would call a "county executive") with real authority is intriguing, to say the least. (It would resolve my complaints about leaving the budget to an unelected Administrator.) I'm no expert on local government structure, so I'm not sure what it takes--action by the state legislature? The County could, apparently, also adopt (through a plebiscite) a charter form of government. What if we did? Can we have charter governments (cities) within charter governments (the county)? It's the kind of thing I'm glad we have our leaders thinking about and discussing, and I hope to see more of this.

License Suspensions: A Possible Solution

Earlier this week, I blogged on license suspensions, in response to an Enquirer piece on the topic. I suspect that most people don't realize the portion of the municipal court docket devoted to traffic offenses. (If you're curious, go to the Clerk's website and pull up any particular judge's docket for any given day. Any case that has "TRD" in the case number is a non-OVI traffic offense.)

Here's my suggestion: create an expanded "traffic diversion" program for license suspension cases. Not every defendant would be eligible: for starters, I would toss out any OVI suspension, 12-point suspension, or any case involving either an accident or failing to comply with a police officer.

But for those cases (the vast majority) still eligible, we could, if the judges and the prosecutors agreed, do the following. Tell any offender who is on his/her third or lower suspension charge in the past five years that his/her case will be reset in 45-60 days. If the driver is able to come back with a valid license and proof of insurance, then the prosecution will agree to reduce the charges to a single, non-moving violation. If not, then the matter will be set for trial, and--absent a showing of good cause--no continuances will be granted on the trial date. Once you've been through the diversion program, though, you will be ineligible for subsequent diversion for some period of time (five years, perhaps?).

Why is DUS such a problem in municipal court? Judges are reluctant (understandably) to lock people up for DUS offenses. After all, typically, the people who get caught driving under a suspension are poor and are suspended because they couldn't afford insurance. Most of the time, no one was harmed as a result of their offense. Often, courts will grant continuances in order to give someone time to "get valid," setting the case "for plea"--which means while the case is on the docket, the arresting officer isn't required to appear. Usually, if a person's record isn't bad, the prosecution will amend a DUS charge to "failure to display a valid license"--still a first-degree misdemeanor, but one that carries no points. And it's understood that judges usually won't incarcerate individuals who come back with a valid license.

The trouble with amending to an arguably lesser, but still non-moving violation is this: if the person cannot show proof of insurance from the date of the ticket (not the date of conviction), s/he gets suspended by the BMV all over again. And we're back in the cycle. Cases are set for trial not because a defendant actually intends to try the case, but because s/he wants to see if the officer will show up. But that means an officers spends anywhere from part to all of a morning sitting in a courtroom waiting for a case to be called. (And if the officer doesn't show up, the case is either continued or dismissed outright.)

An expanded diversion program could reduce drag on the courts' dockets. People with defenses (stolen identity, for instance) could still opt out and take their cases to trial. But most will want to get valid. And by reducing to a non-moving violation, two things happen: first the individual isn't subject to an FRA noncompliance suspension; and second, the court is able to recover costs. What's more, for those people who entered the program, their cases could be handled entirely in the arraignment rooms--meaning they never get to the regular docket. It'd save the time of judges, prosecutors, police officers, and public defenders.

Such a program would require a great deal of cooperation. The prosecutors (both city and county) would have to agree to it. The judges would have to agree to play hardball with cases that reached their dockets (i.e., no continuances "to get valid"--only for valid, trial related purposes, such as the unavailability of a witness). But it may be possible to work out some system where we can keep reduce the stakes to such an extent defendants will be willing to resolve them at arraignment, before a magistrate.

This proposal is just that: a proposal. There are probably problems I haven't thought of. But I hope it's a starting point for discussion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Do You Want at the Emery?

I've been very excites about this year Music CEAs taking place at the historic Emery Theater (Get your tickets NOW!). Efforts are underway way by the Emery Center Corporation to restore the grand theater to the greatness and huge relevance it held for most of the 20th Century. For a taste, check out this photo gallery from CityBeat showing just a little of the storied past of this great venue. Estimates are that the restoration will take at least 3 million dollars to complete. See below for a press release on the efforts.

The key element I want to find out is what do you want to see take place at a restored Emery? Give me your ideas in comments. Here are some of mine:
  1. Where better to see the headliners for Midpoint?
  2. Music Now! needs a bigger venue!
  3. Why Can't the Oxford Film festival move again?
What else comes to mine? Post your thoughts and get your ticket to the CEAs today!

If you want to help out raising some of the money needed to make this happen, send me your contact information (email: cincyblog@aol.com) and I'll pass it along to Emery team and get your efforts moving in the right direction. If you have limited time, at least spread the word about this effort to bring more hands on culture to OTR and Downtown. This is a chance to have a world class venue be the home for great music, theatre, film and events that will augment the growing arts community in Cincinnati.

Here are the details on Saving the Emery from the ECC:
$3 Million Projected to Reopen the Emery Theatre

The board of the Emery Center Corporation (ECC) has been working on plans to reopen the Emery Theatre. After lying dormant for about a decade, this historic concert hall/auditorium will host 650 guests for the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards on Sunday evening, November 23. The ECC hopes that this event will demonstrate the potential of the hall to fill a niche in Cincinnati’s varied array of performing arts facilities and that other events will follow.

Vision

A restored Emery Theatre is envisioned as a mid-sized performance venue and an educational, community-based arts facility with world-class acoustics. The concept is to operate the Emery as a presenting hall for performances aimed at a young urban audience. The Emery can accommodate local and touring musicians, choral groups, lectures, movies and multi-media presentations, festivals, corporate meetings and conventions.

Current Activities

In January 2008, the University of Cincinnati (UC) charged the ECC to identify a viable manager and program for the Emery Theatre by the end of this year. After several years of dormancy, the ECC’s board of trustees has been meeting regularly and working intensively on this challenge. Numerous professionals and volunteers have participated in preliminary construction work and planning.

  • Urban Sites carried out $15,000 of interior demolition and debris removal.
  • Over 100 Give Back Cincinnati volunteers participated in a major cleanup, painting and cleaning of the lobby and orchestra level.
  • GBBN Architects have produced a code analysis and scope of work to establish the minimum work required to reopen the hall.
  • Al Neyer, Inc., has prepared a cost estimate.
  • Property Advisors has produced a valuation study establishing the market value and equity in the building.
  • A new preliminary operating plan projects a $500,000 annual operating budget.

Phased Revitalization

The ECC believes the revival of the Emery Theatre can be accomplished in a two-phased restoration. The first phase could open the orchestra and first balcony (1100 seats total) by the end of 2011, in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the hall in January 2012. The second phase could open the second balcony for a total of 1600 seats at some future date.

Projected at just $3 million, Phase I could open the Emery’s doors at relatively low cost and capitalize on this currently underutilized resource. The viability of the project is enhanced by potential income from the apartments, either through rent or condominium sales, which could yield $1 to 2 million in equity toward the theatre’s renovation.

History

Completed in 1911, the Emery Theatre/former Ohio Mechanic’s Institute-College of Applied Science (OMI-CAS) Building has a distinguished heritage, having been endowed by philanthropist Mary Emery and designed by architects Samuel Hannaford & Sons. The Emery Theatre has the highest quality acoustics and was compared to Carnegie Hall by the renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski. This nearly flawless concert hall was the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 1912 to 1936.

Many Broadway stars and world-renowned performing artists have appeared on the Emery stage, including Russian ballet dancers Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova, actresses Bette Davis and Katherine Cornell, and composers John Philip Sousa and George Gershwin, who played his famous "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra here shortly after premiering it at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Recent Redevelopment

The Emery Theatre/former OMI-CAS Building came under the ownership of the University of Cincinnati in 1969. When OMI-CAS moved to its new Edgecliff Campus in 1988, the building sat vacant, and the theatre was operated for a decade by the American Theatre Organ Society. The Emery Center Corporation (ECC) was created in 1988 to promote the restoration and sustainable operation of the Emery Theatre.

While restoration of the theatre was delayed, the rest of the complex was redeveloped in 1999-2001, with 59 units of market-rate housing, interior parking, and commercial office and retail space. The $9.7 million project included exterior renovation and interior stabilization of the theatre. The complex is leased long-term (40 + 40 years) to the Emery Center Apartments LP (ECALP), and the ECC holds a sublease for the theatre.

Need

Cincinnati has pent-up demand for a mid-sized theater. The Emery will have 1600 seats, as compared with 3400 in Music Hall, 2700 in the Aronoff, 2400 at the Taft, and 900 at CCM’s Corbett Auditorium. Cincinnati needs a hall for mid-sized audiences to complement our other performing venues. Cincinnatians drive to other cities in our region such as Louisville, Columbus, Indianapolis, Lexington, and Dayton to enjoy entertainers who skip Cincinnati for lack of a suitable venue for their touring shows.

Key characteristics

* Proscenium: 54 feet wide, 45 feet high at the top of the arch
* Stage depth: 35 feet deep, could be expanded to 60 feet
* Stage loft: 72 feet high
* Wing space: 15 feet wide (both sides)
* Rigging: New counterweight system needed
* Gym: 54 X 80 feet (for rehearsals and events)


Open to the Public

The Emery is scheduled to be open to the public one night only this year. On November 23, the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards will be held in the Emery and all bar proceeds will be given to Save the Emery. Tickets are required and can be purchased at cea.citybeat.com This event is happening with a temporary certificate of occupancy. Stop in to enjoy the award show and take a look around. Then buy a drink and tip heavily! There is more work to be done.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

License Suspensions: A Primer

I'm always amazed: every time the Enquirer has the opportunity to educate the public about a criminal justice issue, it fails. Today's article on license suspensions is an excellent example. The article notes the number of individuals who drive despite having a suspended license, and quotes HamCo Municipal Court Judge Nadine Allen regarding the drag this becomes on the court system.

Judge Allen is right: we don't do a good job, either in Ohio or in Hamilton County, on dealing with the enormous number of individuals who are caught driving with a license in a non-valid status. In this post, I'll describe the problem in greater detail. In my next post, I'll lay out my suggestion to fix this.

Driving without a license or with a suspended license in Ohio is a first-degree misdemeanor, which means that it's an offense punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. (The exceptions are driving on a license expired for fewer than 6 months, which is punishable only by a $150 fine and no jail time, and repeat driving under OVI-suspension, which is punishable by up to a year.)

It's important to understand the types of license suspensions. I suspect the most common is an "FRA suspension." "FRA" stands for Financial Responsibility Act, the Ohio law that requires all motorists to carry car insurance. The easiest way to get such a suspension is to be cited for a simple traffic violation during a time when you don't have car insurance. The BMV suspends a motorist's license in this situtation. (The BMV also conducts random checks on motorists' insurance; if you fail to respond to a BMV notice requring proof of insurance, your license is suspended.)

Closely related to the FRA suspension is a "judgment suspension." This generally occurs when a person is an automobile accident and doesn't have insurance, and the other driver sues and gets a judgment. In those cases, your license becomes suspended until you've paid off the judgment or entered into some sort of payment arrangement.

Falling too far into arrears on child support can cause a suspension. This can be fixed only by paying a certain percentage of the arrearage and making other arrangements with CSEA.

All felony drug offenses in Ohio carry a mandatory driver's license suspension.

The above suspensions don't carry mandatory jail time. But there are two that do:

First, a twelve-point suspension occurs when you accumulate 12 points on your driver's license. It's done automatically by the BMV. If you're caught and convicted of driving under a 12-point suspension, you'll face a mandatory three days of jail time.

Second, driving under an OVI (formerly DUI) suspension carries mandatory time that increases with each offense (first three days, then ten days, then thirty days). If you're convicted of OVI, the court will suspend your license (your license is also suspended automatically upon testing at or above .08). Ignoring either the automatic (or "administrative") suspension (even prior to conviction) or the court-ordered suspension are treated the same under Ohio law.

Finally, there are a broad category of people who, if caught driving, would be charged with "failure to reinstate." These are people whose license was suspended by either the BMV or a court and whose suspension has expired, but who failed to go to the BMV and pay their reinstatement fee (and perhaps satisfy some other requirements). These folks don't have a valid license, but aren't technically suspended. Nonetheless, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Now that we now what the various license suspensions, if we're worried about the impact these motorists are having on the court system, what do we do?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Speaking of Food

It shouldn't be suprising that the Freestore Foodbank will be in high demand over the next two months. The Enquirer reports that they're predicting record demand.

For what it's worth, you don't have to donate actual food items; the Foodbank has a virtual food drive where you can donate cash based on what items you'd give had you actually gone to the store.

It seems there ought to be a way for all of the local blogs to have some sort of contest to see who can raise the most money and food for the Foodbank. I'm still thinking about how that would work and what the prize would be (other than bragging rights). For the time being, I'll be satisfied by challenging every other Cincinnati blogger to link to the Foodbank's virtual food drive on their blogs.

And if you're stuck deciding between an "Obama Victory" T-shirt and a donation to the Foodbank, go for the Foodbank. Barack will understand.

Whoops (Top Chef Spoiler Ahead)

Julie pointed out that this season of Top Chef would feature a Cincinnati contestant, Lauren Starling Hope of Jag's Steak and Seafood.

Unfortunately, she didn't even make it into the kitchen, being eliminated during the first episode's "quickfire" challenge.

The LA Times offers an episode recap and critique here.

Aside: Bravo's bio of Lauren says that Jag's is the "most luxurious and contemporary steakhouse in Cincinnati." Is this really true? Is it more luxurious than Ruby's or the Precinct?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Voted For Obama, And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

I donated both time (all day Election Day) and money (twice, both in small amounts) to the Obama campaign. It's no surprise that I was happy when he won. But after a two-year long campaign, I was looking forward to the end of emails and calls soliciting support.

A week later, and not so much. I'm still getting emails. Apparently, the DNC went into debt for the Obama campaign. So President-Elect Obama is still fund-raising. But I can get a T-shirt if I give $30 or more.
Woo hoo.

Pulse Ends Print Edition

In a surprise move last week Cincinnati Pulse (Formerly known as the Downtowner) haulted the printing of their weekly newspaper and launched a web only edition at www.cincipulse.com.

Web only news sites, as I can tell you personally, are difficult to profitable when you have reporters to pay. As a new source, the paper has greatly improved under the new owners. I hope they are able to make this model work, but without the print copy, they are losing a downtown niche that I think drove readership: available in local establishments. When you could pick up a copy inside Skyline and read it while you ate lunch, that provided a solid niche that will disappear with an online edition.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Silver Lining

Over at PepTalk, Commissioner Pepper notes an 8% increase in third-quarter revenue from the HamCo hotel tax over the same period last year. That's good news.

My guess is that a large portion of this increase is from the NAACP and National Baptist conventions downtown. Are there any indicators that can sort out convention traffic versus what I'd call "pure tourism" (someone saying, "Hey, let's go to Cincinnati for a weekend!")? Nonetheless, it's definitely a positive sign.

Of course, maybe HamCo just found a way to start taxing bedbugs.

(Sorry for the bedbug snark...as a downtown resident, I check my bed and body for signs of the critters daily, given the recent outbreak. They're been spotted everywhere, as has been widely reported, including 800 Broadway--the county building that houses juvenile court--and the courthouse.)

Is There Leadership In Local Government These Days?

Local government does a lot more than it did 150 years ago--or even 50 years ago. Thus, it's much more complicated and difficult to manage on a day-to-day basis. That means that our elected officials need the help of professional managers (some would call them bureacrats, which I think is fair apart from the pejorative sense the term has acquired). We want to elect ordinary citizens (Joe the Plumbers) to lead us. But they don't always have the necessary expertise to keep government functioning, and turn to professionals for assistance.

The City of Cincinnati, like many others, has a "City Manager." Previously, I've been critical of Cincinnati's mayor/manager government, and suggested revising the charter to give more power to the mayor.

Hamilton County has an "Administrator." Presently, Patrick Thompson fills that role. Like the City Manager, he proposes a budget (that's what we saw on Monday). After public comment and tinkering by our elected executives, some version of that is then codified.

Here's my problem: creating budgets is governing. It's policy-making. Non-elected government administrators like Thompson (or the City's Milton Dohoney) should stick with management, non-policymaking tasks. When we permit the professional bureaucracy to create budgets, we let our elected officials off the hook; we relieve them of the responsibility of the office we elected them to assume.

Over the last few years, we've seen a pattern with the City budget process. Dohoney announces a budget with draconian cuts, the public is outraged, and then Mayor Mallory swoops in with a plan to save some of the services axed by the Manager's budget. Presently, I'm cynical enough to believe we'll see some form of this with the County budget: now that Thompson has announced a scary budget, Todd Portune, David Pepper, or both will announce a plan that's less harsh--or at least less unpopular.

Why have we allowed our local elected leaders to delegate policymaking decisions to professional administrators? This isn't criticism of Patrick Thompson. (For those who don't realize it, he and his staff spent countless hours on this budget, and produced it only after soliciting and reviewing feedback from every county department head.) But when the President proposes a budget to Congress, it has the President's name on it. He doesn't have his chief of staff sign it, and then publicly review and revise it. Shouldn't we expect the same of our local leaders?

Our county, like local governments across the nation, is facing a dire financial picture. Frankly, if we had a majority Republican Commission, we'd see a sales tax increase this year. (It's an only-Nixon-can-go-to-China thing. Local Democrats won't raise taxes for fear that they'll be labelled "tax and spend liberals." Republicans in this mess would look at the budget and do what needs to be done.) Commissioners Portune and Pepper won't do that, though, so we're faced with the drastically reduced budget presented this week.

So how do we restore real leadership to local government? I'll renew my call to change the city charter, and add to it the suggestion that we look at the way power is delegated in County government.

UPDATE: Having re-read the post, I wanted to make sure I'm not giving the impression that I'm singling our county commissioners out for criticism. I think all three are good public servants working to do the best by the people of this county (albeit from three different perspectives); I think the same will be true of our incoming commissioner. (Of course, all of this could just be my fondness for lawyers.) The trend towards "managers" encroaching on governance is not unique to HamCo; I just want to raise the issue and discuss whether it's a good thing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Protest for Equal Marriage in Cincinnati, 11/15/08

From the wonderful Barry at QueerCincinnati...

A protest in favor of equal marriage will occur at Cincinnati's City Hall on Saturday, November 15 at 1:30p.m. Local students, activists, and community members lead this event as part of a day of national protests in reaction to the passage of Proposition 8 in California, re-banning equal marriage in that state.

The local movement is being organized by Cameron Tolle, a junior at Xavier University and Vice President of the Xavier LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, queer/questioning) Alliance, with the assistance of students from the University of Cincinnati and Miami University, along with several community members. Organizers state that the goal is not to overturn Proposition 8, but to create a national movement and create awareness for the effects that anti-gay legislation has on the local community. The protest will occur in conjunction with other groups from around the country at the same time as part of an initiative launched by JoinTheImpact.com; local organizers are in contact with many of these other coalitions as a way of building unity. In the first two days of organization, almost 300 people have stated they will be in attendance; 500 people are expected to attend the event.

"Last week, voters in California, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas allowed hate to infiltrate into our political system and classified the LGBTQ community as second-class citizens," Tolle says. "We cannot sit back and watch this happen. We have to let our communities know that we oppose hatred under the law in all forms. In Ohio, we live in a state that has already declared inequality by banning equal marriage and failing to include crimes against LGBTQ individuals under state hate crime laws. We cannot let this hatred under the law perpetuate any further."

JoinTheImpact.com is a national initiative that was created in reaction to the anger felt by many who believe in equal marriage rights after the passage of California's Proposition 8. It is a loose coalition of activists and organizations who seek to bring positive change in the fight for equality. The movement, less than a week old, is drawing hundreds of thousands of hits a day to its websites. Almost 40 localities have announced protests in correlation with the initiative. More are expected to join in the coming week.

According to the website, the goal is to "come together for debate, for public recognition, and for LOVE! ... [to] move as one full unit, on the same day, at the same hour, and...show the United States of America that we too are UNITED CITIZENS EQUAL [sic] IN MIND, BODY, SPIRIT AND DESERVING OF FULL EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW."

Local organizers are hopeful that the protest will spur discussion and movement towards positive change in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana region. Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana all currently have laws banning equal marriage rights; Ohio and Kentucky have constitutional amendments, passed by voters in 2004, to the same effect.

Suggestion Box

HamCo Commissioner David Pepper is soliciting comments and suggestions on the proposed budget that was released today. While I hope we have a conversation about this issue in the comments here, I doubt that Commissioner Pepper reads our little ol' blog, so be sure to make your point there, too.

HamCo Administrator Patrick Thompson's recommendation (pdf) is available here. The Enquirer's coverage is here. I've read the recommendation; here's what I found notable:

  • Huge cuts to the Sheriff's Office. Patrols in Green, Anderson, and Colerain townships would end. Queensgate would close.
  • The Board of Elections gets a 24% budget decrease, but this is mainly because 2009 is an "off-year," in that no national or state-wide offices are at stake in elections.
  • The County Commissioners and Administration budget is slashed 35%. The County will no longer make any payment to SORTA.
  • The Recorder's Office's budget is reduced by 18%, the Treasurer's by 19%.
  • The Clerk of Courts would lay off one-quarter of its workforce.
  • Administrative functions of the Common Pleas, Municipal, DR, Probate, and Juvenile courts would be consolidated, resulting in 15 layoffs and $1 million in savings.
  • In all likelihood, Hillcrest Training School closes. This leaves juvenile judges with one institutional option: DYS.
  • For Municipal Court, a 20% decrease in funding to pretrial services and private complaint mediation and elimination of mental health funding (making ironic Commissioner Pepper's recent posts on the success of pretrial services and Mental Health Court).
  • The elimination of 22 positions in the Probation Department, including all MDO (mental health-related) probation officers.
  • In the Prosecutor's Office, the elimination of Project Disarm and the Witness Protection program.
  • In addition to the county budget cuts, DJFS is apparently facing a 300-employee layoff because of state cuts.
Let's be civil and polite in the comments. I know, lots of people will get excited about the prospect of making government smaller. But right now, hundreds of our neighbors are facing the loss of their jobs. The county's severance package is pretty lousy, as you'd expect: one week's pay per year of employment, with a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of eight.

Air Travel Bleg

I'm starting to think about making the trek to visit my parents for Christmas. (The really nice thing about having parents who live in Florida is that when you visit them, well, you're in Florida. Awesome in December. Not so great in July.)

Since we all know that CVG is the most expensive airport in the United States, I've been thinking about flying on a lower-cost carrier from Dayton or Lexington. And that leads to my question: does anyone have any recent experience flying on AirTran they could share in the comments?

All I know about AirTran is that they're the successor company to ValuJet. Valujet, of course, went out of business in the mid-90's after one of their planes practically exploded. I had travelled on that airline--on the same route as the flight that went down--about a week before that tragedy, and vowed I'd never travel ValuJet again (my own experience had been horrific, involving a delayed flight and a broken cabin door), and have thus far imputed that pledge to AirTran. I'm wondering if it's time to rethink that, given the really low rates you can get from Dayton.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cincinnati 26, West Virginia 23

O Cincinnati, magic name
I proudly to the world proclaim
No sweeter word e'er charmed my ear
None to my heart was e'er so dear;
A fountain of eternal youth,
A tower of strength, a rock of truth.

Varsity, dear Varsity
Thy loyal children we will be.
Thy loyal, loyal children we will be!

A big win for the Bearcats against a Big East, Top 25 opponent.

I understand the folks in Knoxville are already talking about hiring Brian Kelly to replace Phil Fulmer, who announced that he will resign at the conclusion of the season. Let's hope Coach Kelly can resist Tennessee's siren song. Coach Kelly: do you really want to listen to "Rocky Top" a million times each season? And no one looks good in orange. Remember this: black is slimming. Orange makes you look like the Great Pumpkin.

And to my Vol friends: Wyoming? Really? You don't deserve Brian Kelly.

The Last Acceptable Bigotry

People from all parts of the political spectrum joined in lauding the election of our first African-American president this week. But casting a pall over our celebration is America's ongoing blind-spot with regards to civil rights.

Three states--California, Arizona, and Florida--passed anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives on Tuesday. Arkansas went one step further, banning unmarried couples (which would, of course, include committed gay couples) from becoming adoptive or foster parents.

Markos Moulitsas, an important voice for progressives (though sometimes not as important as he thinks he is), argues that this is "the flashpoint in the culture wars." But this is precisely the wrong way to frame the issue. Permitting gay couples the right to marry does not wage a culture war: it does not threaten to change, in any way, the lives of those who have no desire to participate in a gay marriage. Protection of gay marriage would not mean that one's local priest would have to perform a wedding mass for a gay couple. Instead, it simply means that gay Americans would enjoy the same rights as all other Americans.

Particularly disconcerting is the tension between the African-American and gay communities. (We saw that locally when Rev. Shuttlesworth took part in the "Equal Rights Not Special Rights" nonsense.) Several reports suggest that California's Proposition 8 passed largely due to its support among African Americans. (See this column, though, for a contrary viewpoint.) I've never understood why such a high propotion of African Americans harbor anti-gay sentiments.

So while we should celebrate how far we've come, we must not lose sight of how much farther we still must travel if we are to uphold the rights and dignity of all Americans.

An Open Letter On Election Reform In Ohio

Dear Representative Mallory and Senator Kearney:

After the 2004 election, the Ohio legislature undertook significant reforms of its electoral process. While the 2008 election passed without the controversy of four years ago, there is still much fine-tuning to be done. With a Democratic majority in the State House and a Democratic governor, the time for further reform is sooner rather than later. Here are my respectful suggestions:

  • In implementing the requirements of the Help America Vote Act, remember that Congress's intent was that the statute be a shield to protect the right of citizens to vote. This year, the GOP sought to use it as a bludgeon to disenfranchise certain voters, and those efforts must be rebuffed.

  • The new system of "no-fault" absentee voting was a step in the right direction. Now is the time to complete the tranformation, and adopt what others states refer to as "early voting." A true early-voting sytem should require that counties open additional polling places in the fortnight (or longer) prior to Election Day. Moreover, early voting would entail the same identification verification required on Election Day. It is incongruous and incomprehensible that a voter walking into a precinct on Election Day is required to produce valid ID, while a voter who goes to the Board of Elections one day earlier need not do so. Such a compromise (easier access to the ballot prior to Election Day, but with greater safeguards) would likely be met with bipartisan support.

  • Eliminate Ohio's antiquated precinct-based voting system. In other states (Florida is one example), during the early-voting period, voters were permitted to visit any polling place throughout the state to cast a ballot. Once they reached the polling place, their driver's licenses were swiped through a magnetic card reader (our current licenses have this feature available should the legislature choose to make it useful), and their ballot was printed from laser printers in the polling place (since local issues would still vary even, in some cases, precinct-by-precinct). As you know, under current Ohio law, a voter could cast a ballot at the proper polling place but at the wrong precinct (in other words, the right building, but the wrong table), and his or her ballot would be discarded. In our technologically-driven era, there is no justification for such a requirement.

  • Standardize Ohio's voting mechanism. Ohio made a mistake in permitting each county to determine whether to adopt optical-scan ballots or direct-recording electronic machines (DRE's). Instead, all counties should be required to use optical-scan ballots (paper ballots that are filled out by voters and then scanned into a computer in the polling place). The advantages of optical-scan ballots are two-fold. First, voters have more confidence in a paper ballot. Given Secretary Brunner's report on DRE's, this sentiment may have some justification. (Regardless of whether such confidence is justified, the importance of the public's confidence in a clean election cannot be overstated.) Second, voting by optical-scan ballots is more conducive to high-turnout elections. With paper ballots, the number of voters who can vote at once is limited only by the space and number of pens in a polling place. The old-fashioned stand-up "booths" are not even required, as tables with privacy screens can be set up, or clipboards can be handed to voters. Because of the cost of DRE equipment, most precincts will have just a few machines. While alternative paper ballots are available, they are brought out only if a particular voter asks for them or if poll workers decide, in their own judgment, to bring them out. And voters may be wary about casting a ballot in a different manner than the standard method for the precinct. Thus, optical-scan ballots provide the most secure, most time-efficient manner of voting and should be mandated state-wide.
The new composition of the Ohio House provides an excellent opportunity for progressive legislation. There can be no more important issue for progressives than safeguarding the right of every citizen's voice to be heard and vote to count. I hope that you will act on these measures early in the next legislative session.

Sincerely,

Donald R. Caster
A constituent with too much time on his hands on a Saturday afternoon

The New (Old) NAACP

This month's Streetvibes has an excellent article (written by Lew Moores) about the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP (so give a buck to the next vendor you see and get a copy!). Moores argues that the NAACP has experienced a "renaissance" under the leadership of Chris Smitherman, much as it did under the leadership of Marian Spencer several years ago.

Certainly, Smitherman (with whom I sometimes disagree, but for whom I have a great deal of respect) has revitalized the local chapter of our nation's foremost civil rights organization. Its membership is up dramatically, and over the last couple years, it has helped to shape our local political discourse in ways that it did not during the first part of this decade.

For Smitherman and the NAACP to advance their agenda any further, however, they must develop and put into action a solid get-out-the-vote strategy. Yes, of the three ballot initiatives identified with the NAACP (the "jail tax" opposition, red-light camera opposition, and PR), two passed. But (without diminishing the effort it took to place these on the ballot), these were layups. It's not hard to convince people to vote against the increase of a fundamentally regressive tax or the onerous red-light cameras, which no one seems to like.

This year's election results bear out the NAACP's GOTV failures. In the City of Cincinnati, turnout was just 58%, lagging well behind county-wide turnout of 66%. What's more, of the 134,000 ballots cast, 20,000 (or 15%) recorded no vote (meaning no vote at all, not a "no" vote) on Issue 8, which would have brought a return to proportional representation in City Council elections. Local races and issues always receive a significant undervote, but Issue 8's undervote is extraordinarily high: Issue 7 had just under 13,000 undervotes (about 9 percent).

Of the two NAACP-backed initiatives on this year's ballot, certainly Issue 8 would have had a greater overall impact on Cincinnati than on Issue 7, making it the more important of the two. (In fairness: Issue 8's undervote is likely due in part to extremely poor ballot placement, as it was the only contest on the last page of a four-page ballot. Some voters may not have even realized it was there.) With Issue 8 failing by just 8,000 votes and 20,000 voters participating in the election but sitting out the Issue 8 contest, the NAACP failed to either a) educate the public about the issue, or b) get its supporters to the polls.

While the Cincinnati NAACP still has some work to do, it's terrific to see the re-emergence of this important voice in our community, and it will be exciting to see the continued growth of both the organization and its president.

(Current vote tallies available here.)

Setback for Downtown

While we were busy talking about the election and Halloween last weekend, the Terrace Hotel (on Sixth between Vine and Race) suddenly closed its doors. This is a pretty prominent spot right in the middle of the primary business and entertainment district, so its disheartening to know that the building will likely be vacant for some time.

Anyone have any inside scoop on plans for the building?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Peter Bronson, Constitutional Law Scholar

With the election over, we can turn our attention to this blog's favorite pastime: exposing the foolishness of Peter Bronson.

Yesterday, Mr. Bronson published an essay on his most recent trip to Gettysburg. I'm not sure what his point was (civil war is bad?). This little nugget, though, caught my attention (emphasis mine):
The South's cause was tainted by the slavery they relied on to produce 60 percent of America's exports and 75 percent of the world's cotton. But their reading of the Constitution was correct: The states delegated powers to the federal government, and they had a right to file for divorce if the domestic abuse was intolerable.

So, Peter Bronson believes that the Constitution gives states the right to secede? Wow. Maybe the Alaskan Independence Party will invite him to introduce Sarah Palin at its next convention.

I pulled open my Constitution, looking for a Secession Clause. I didn't find one. And guys like Bronson believe that the only rights guaranteed by the Constitution are those specifically enumerated therein. So why does he believe in such a right?

What's more, Bronson's position--that there is a right of secession--was squarely repudiated by the Supreme Court. In Texas v. White, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase (near and dear to the hearts of Cincinnatians) held that Texas--which was once a sovereign republic--had no right to secede. Chase wrote:
The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to "be perpetual." And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained "to form a more perfect Union." It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?

I'm not sure what prompted Bronson's miniature states' rights tirade. Perhaps he was thinking that if Obama won, he could lead Ohio to secede from the United States. But it'd be nice if someone at the Enquirer would "fact-check" Bronson once in a while before going to print.

Roses Are Red . . .

And Hamilton County is blue.

I hope to post some actual analysis later today, once I've recovered from a long day yesterday and had enough time to process what happened yesterday.

But one thing seems undeniable: Hamilton County has shifted, whether demographically, politically, or both. The Democratic candidate for President carried the county with just over 52% of the vote.

Steve Driehaus defeated Congressman Chabot.

And perhaps most surprising (and the biggest departure from recent tradition), Democratic-endorsed judges won two of three contested elections in the Court of Common Pleas.

Hamilton County saw relatively low voter turnout: less than 67%, according to the preliminary numbers from the BOE. Of course, this does not include provisional ballots. But this is lower than early state-wide estimates, and lower than the 2004 election.

There's much thinking to do about yesterday's election.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Know Hope --- President-Elect Barack Obama

I can only join with Satchmo --- as a child of the old South, as a descendant of slave owners, I have gone from seeing "Colored" restrooms and "Whites Only" restaurants all around me to this moment. It is an amazing moment.

More on the Campain Trail

Some more scenes from the Obama get out the vote efforts:

Early morning at the polls in Mt. Washington.



No language barriers for Obama supporters!

The After-Parties

In what I am sure will be victory parties, here's the list I've got on where to go to party an Obama/Democrat win:

1. Cadillac Ranch - Main Cincinnati Obama Party
2. Northside Tavern - Cincy Rocks Obama
3. Tickets in Covington - NKY Dems.
4. Sulley's - Driehaus Party
5. The Comet - America Votes
6. Below Zero - Human Rights Campaign

Any other locations?

UPDATE#1: Added the HRC's event at Below Zero.

UPDATE#2: While not a party per see, the big screen at Fountain Square will have on CNN starting at 6:30 PM with the election returns. No actual events are going on since they are putting in the ice rink.

Voting Machine Errors in Covington

Good for voting officials taking action quickly with a specific voting machine counting error on certain voting machines. I do hope they still are able to provide additional assistance to disabled voters without much disruption.

Reports on Voting

Chime in with reports on how your voting went, what it was like at the polling station or other campaign sightings out there.

Democracy Is Coming --- Pray We Embrace Our Constitution And Reject Torture As Being Permissible

All of our hands are bloodied after the last eight years. Following the vicious attacks on September 11, 2001, something fundamental was broken in our national character. Values we cherished were shoved aside as weak and feminine and lines we never thought we would cross were crossed as our President and his co-President flexed their muscles, hiding behind the skirts of cowardly lawyers drafting memos that eviscerated our constitutional history and beliefs. Like small children afraid of the dark, this mighty nation cowered and did unspeakable things in the dark. The time has now come for light in those dark places.



Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

L. Cohen

Election Day - Go Vote!

If you have not voted already, today is it. Every registered voter should cast the vote by today. I believe today will be a day of history, so get out there and be part of it.

Say No To Taking Rights Away And To Discrimination: Tell All Your California Friends To Go Out And Vote No On Prop 8


Tyler Oakley, Winner Of Human Rights Campaign Foundation's National Coming Out Day Video Contest

Monday, November 03, 2008

What Is Jones Up To Now?

The Enquirer reports that Governor Strickland has declined to order that schools be closed tomorrow. Closing schools may be a sensible thing to do, given that many schools are polling places. But Strickland is probably also right that it's a decision best left to local school boards.

That's not the most intriguing part of the article, though. Instead, it's this gem:
The elections board also asked the sheriff's office for extra help controlling traffic. Up to 40 deputies will remain on duty at polling places Tuesday night, and all other staffers will be on standby, said Sheriff Rick Jones."The eyes are going to be on the state of Oho. We need to make this as smooth of an operation as we can," said Jones, who is also up for re-election this year. "We're preparing in case there is trouble."

What does that mean? What kind of "trouble" is expected at polling places in Butler County? It sounds like Jones is talking about more than just traffic control. And does Jones actually intend to station uniformed, gun-carrying deputies outside of polling places? Will they be in rural Butler County polling places, or just in Hamilton, where there may actually be some Democratic ballots cast?

Jones ought to think twice before he engages in efforts to meddle in this election. I know he thinks he's a big fish, but these waters may be a little deep for him.

One More Time With Feeling ---- Go Vote!!



Vote Like Your Life Depends On It! Vote Like The Constitution Depends On It! Vote To End Torture Being Carried Out In The Darkness In Your Name! Vote Because Now Is The Acceptable Time.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends - so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father's died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi - from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring - when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Report On Early Voting

A reader, Katie, emails in this front line report on early voting today:
Hey Brian,

I just waited nearly 3 and a half hours to early vote at 824 Broadway in Cincinnati, Ohio,

What was amazing was that the vast majority (I would say 80-90%) of the people in that line were either: A..under 30 or B. African American. The line was practically an Obama rally. Obama volunteers handed out candy, apples, water and even cheeseburgers from McDonalds and Burger King. They had megaphones and at points during the wait the almost everyone in line was either cheering or chanting for Obama. Volunteers handed out Obama stickers, fliers and window decals. I didn't see a single McCain volunteer or receive a single McCain flier.

Katie
It would appear that the McCain team is limiting where they are sending volunteers in Hamilton County. One would think they might want to have a presence at the only polling place open in the entire county. Based on this report, they may have been wise in doing something else.

The Only Surprise Is That It Took This Long

David Krikorian (or as I like to call him, "that other guy") has jumped the shark.

A little more background, with quotes from the Schmidt campaign and Alex Triantafilou, is available from the Enquirer's Politics Extra blog.

Obama Rally Thoughts?

So for those of you that made the trip to Clifton to see Senator Barack Obama last night, what did you think? I was impressed. He seemed a little tired, but he was right on message and the crowd I believe felt the history they were witnessing. I know I did.

It was also a very positive crowd. The best repeated line Obama used was "Don't boo, just vote!" He used that when boos arouse when ever John McCain's name was mentioned. That exemplifies the quality I like most about him, his honor. He does a great job at being a true uniter. He is about being President to everyone, not just the Blue States or the Democrats. That at the core is the most important thing a President must do. That is leadership.

I am please to be voting for a man that I not only agree with on a vast majority of political issues, but whom I respect.

Also, more from James making his final lit drop:

Update #1 From the Campaign Trail


A really good friend of mine, James Czar, is out working for the Obama Campaign's GOTV effort on the Eastside of the City. He'll be out today and tomorrow and will send me some updates as he can. Here's his first. His thought on this photo is the the GOP must be nervous.

One Day More Robo-Call

Again courtesy of Jason Silverstein at McSweeney's:

"Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has not accepted Joe the Plumber's friend request on Facebook. We know he's logged on, because we saw he changed his status on Monday. On Tuesday, he joined the group Art Historians Are Saucy. But he still won't accept Joe the Plumber's friend request. He knows it's Joe. Joe uses the screen shot of the two of them together as his profile picture. That's not a uniter. That's the same old liberal-elite politics as usual."
GO VOTE!

I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.


Whitman

Bite Me Ball at CAC Best Costume Winner


The suit is entirely covered by Obama stickers. Great fun at a great event!

Gangs in the Burbs?

Check out this report from WLWT. I am actually not sure what I think about it, so view it for yourself.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Election Predictions Thread

Well, we've certainly talked this election to death. Time to to put up or shut up: what are your predictions for Tuesday? Here are mine (please remember, these are predictions, not endorsements):

National:
  • Obama wins, garnering more than 50% of the popular vote and a total of 282 electoral votes. He wins Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, and the Kerry states. McCain takes the remainder of the "battleground" states, including Ohio and Florida.
  • The Democrats pick up 5 Senate seats and 15-20 House seats.
  • Steve Driehaus beats Steve Chabot.
  • Jean Schmidt beats Wulsin and that other guy.
Ohio:
  • Cordray wins the AG race.
  • Issue 5 (essentially eliminating payday lending) fails.
  • Issue 6 (permitting a casino) fails.
  • Justices Stratton and O'Connor hold on to their seats on the Supreme Court, probably by 10 or more points each.
Hamilton County:
  • Greg Hartmann is elected county commissioner. Todd Portune also wins, although in a very close contest (probably no more than a 4-point victory).
  • Bob Goering is re-elected treasurer and Rebecca Groppe is re-elected recorder.
  • Martha Good is elected Clerk of Courts.
  • Pat Dewine is elected judge. Judge Nelson is re-elected. The race between Judge Luebbers and Judge Mock is too close to call (that race alone may force the counting of provisional ballots).
City of Cincinnati:
  • Issue 7 (banning red-light cameras) passes.
  • Issue 8 (re-instituting Council elections through proportional representation elections) fails, thanks to late radio spots and direct mail efforts.
What do y'all think?

Make Your Vote Count

Hopefully, everything will go smoothly in the polling places on Election Day. But if you run into trouble, here's some advice: do everything you can (firmly and politely) to make sure you're permitted to cast a regular ballot. Provisional ballots are second-class ballots, and may never get counted.

Provisional ballots are not counted on Election Day. Instead, they're counted afterwards, and are subject to debate and challenge by the members of the Board of Elections. Moreover, they'll only be counted if the number of provisional ballots exceeds the margin of victory for any given race.

So if you find yourself being offered a provisional ballot for some reason, try to talk the precinct judges into giving you a regular ballot. If you're not successful, then before you cast a ballot, go outside and find someone from a Voter Protection group. Seek out someone from a campaign you're partial to (both the McCain and Obama campaigns will have multiple observers and GOTV personnel in place at most polling places). If all else fails, call the Board of Elections for clarification.

Finally, be prepared for a lengthy wait on Tuesday. But remember, so long as you're in line before 7:30 pm, you will be permitted to vote a regular ballot, no matter how long it takes to get through the line. (If a court orders precincts held open longer and you get in line after 7:30, you will cast a provisional ballot that is kept separate from other ballots (even other provisional ballots), so they can be thrown out if the court's decision is subsequently overturned.) So even if you can't get there until after work and the lines are long, don't fear: your vote will count, so long as you're in line at the right precinct by 7:30.

Obama Rally Details

Here is the link to the offical announcement from the Obama campaign and includes a couple of details that will make things easier for people going:
Change We Need Rally
with Barack Obama

Nippert Stadium
University of Cincinnati
2700 Bearcats Way
Cincinnati, OH 45221

Sunday, November 2nd
Doors Open: 6:00 p.m.
Program Begins: 9:00 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required but an RSVP is encouraged. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For security reasons do not bring bags or umbrellas. Please limit personal items. No signs or banners allowed.

Public parking is extremely limited. Car-pooling is strongly encouraged. Normal rates will apply at University of Cincinnati parking facilities. For more information click here.


I would advise everyone to pay attention to the no bags, umbrellas, signs or banners rule. It will make it much easier for you and everyone else to get in.

OH-1 Debate

For those who haven't heard, Sunday's Newsmakers program on Channel 12 (11:00 AM) will feature a debate between Steve Driehaus (D) and Steve Chabot (R). Since I just received a mass email from the Driehaus campaign promoting the show, they must think their candidate did pretty well.

And (as Jack reminds us via his robo-call), don't forget to turn your clocks back, or when you turn your TV on to watch Dan Hurley, you'll end up with Dan Marino....

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Your Saturday Night Set The Clocks Back Robo-Call

Courtesy of Jason Silverstein at McSweeney's:

"Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama doesn't use his turn signal when he merges onto a freeway. I mean, seriously, who the hell does this guy think he is? He just goes. It's not even like he attempts to fit in. And I'm not talking lone-wolf maverick style, either. I mean, this is the kind of driving that gets people killed. Much like the bombs of Bill Ayers that could have killed countless Americans. That's not change, my friends. That's the same old Washington politics as usual."


Saturday comes and goes and John and Sarah still haven't closed the gap. Need lots of prayer work tomorrow to stop the socialist onslaught of That One. Of course, James Dobson is otherwise occupied in San Diego praying for the smiting of The Gay.