Saturday, January 31, 2009

Broomball Has a New Meaning

I know politicians can hit below the belt on occasion, but I didn't figure they would do it literally. If there are rules men have when playing sports, not hitting another man in the balls with a stick is clearly one of them. I think that is a rule we all can live by, conservatives and liberals alike.

NOTE: He was wearing a cup at the time, so no balls were damaged beyond repair.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jury Duty: Just Do It

Kate the Great has a great post recounting her friend's story of a man who walked five miles through the snow to meet his jury duty obligation. Stories like this always make me angry about the middle- and upper-class professionals who would rather gnaw off their own limbs than be picked to sit on a jury.

I'm not implying that everyone--or even most people--tries to shirk their responsibility. But enough do that it's become a stereotype (you might hear someone quip, for instance, about the dubious prospect of trying a case to "twelve people too dumb to get out of jury duty"). A few years ago, I witnessed a fellow attorney candidly admit during voir dire that he had absolutely no desire to serve on a jury, and would very much like to be excused. (Two sidenotes: first, one of the attorneys exercised a peremptory challenge to be rid of him, fearful that his client would be the one on whom the lawyer might take out his frustration. Second, the guy wasn't a litigator: most trial attorneys I know would give anything to see a jury work from inside the jury room.)

So when you get that jury notice, instead of thinking about how much work will pile up for you if you have to be away from your job for a few days or how inconvenient it will be to have to go to the courthouse instead of work or wherever else you'd normally be, think about Kate's friend's companion--the one who walked to the courthouse because he didn't have a couple bucks for bus fare.

One of these days, you may need justice from a jury. Perhaps you'll be accused of a crime, or the victim of a crime. Maybe something bad will happen to you, and you'll need to sue the wrongdoer, or maybe someone will accuse you of being a wrongdoer and sue you. And when you do, you'll want to know that there are some people like you in the jury box. And the only way that happens is if people like you--like YOU--serve on juries.

Issue 5 Case Finally Over; Supreme Court "DIGs" the Appeal

In 2001, voters of the City of Cincinnati passed Issue 5. That referendum amended the Charter, so that the chief of police and assistant chiefs of police (there are five) would be appointed by the city manager. Prior to the amendment, those possitions were considered "classified civil service" jobs, and were filled as the result of a competitive civil service exam. One of the effects of Issue 5 is to permit the city manager to appoint a chief or an assistant from outside the department. (To be clear, the manager can appoint only to vacant positions. Chief Streicher, for instance, was the Chief prior to enactment of Issue 5; the manager has no ability to appoint a replacement until he retires or otherwise leaves office.)

When Assistant Chief Lt. Col. Twitty left CPD, then-City Manager Valerie Lemmie appointed a longtime CPD officer to replace him. The Fraternal Order of Police sued, alleging that the charter amendment conflicted with its collective bargaining agreement with the City; according to the FOP, absent a renegotiation of the contract, the CBA should trump the City Charter.

The FOP lost in every stage of litigation. The State Employment Relations Board, which first heard the case, ruled in favor of the City. The FOP lost its appeal in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and subsquently in the Court of Appeals. The FOP petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case. It did so, and oral argument was held back in November; today, though, that Court dismissed the appeal as improvidently granted (and provided no further explanation of its action).

Ultimately, Issue Five will prove to be a good thing for the City. The chief and his (or her) assistants are policymakers, and vacancies in those positions should not be filled in the same manner as rank-and-file police officers. And it's good that the legality of the charter amendment is finally laid to rest, once and for all.

(Not to beat a dead horse, but I continue to believe that such appointments should be made by the mayor, not the unelected manager.)

Link: Enquirer

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deters Full of Shit

Again, not a shock to anyone who pays attention, but there was only one case of voter fraud in Hamilton County, and in that case the person told on himself. Fighting Joe Deters made grand unfounded claims back during the 2008 election cycle. I'll be waiting for Deters full retraction. I'll be dead before I get it, but I'll still wait.

Why, Oh, Why?

Peter Bronson has a blog.

I just don't know what to say. There are so many things that come to mind, but I'm just not going to do it. Must put down the poison pen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Meteorological Pontification

Based on my analysis of the breathlessness of our local weatherpeople; the number of tickers, crawls, and weather bugs superimposed on my television screen; and the font size of online Enquirer headlines, I am prepared to make a prediction regarding the alleged coming snowfall.

By tomorrow morning at 7:00, we'll have received about three-quarters of an inch of snow. Sometime tomorrow, we'll receive some freezing rain just in time for rush hour. Two trucks will have problems going up the "Cut in the Hill," forcing the immediate closure of all interstate highways in a 150-mile radius.

Disclaimer: The Cincinnati Blog makes no warranties about the accuracy of its prediction. Readers are not encouraged to rely on this post. We have no access to information that is even marginally useful in predicting the weather. But we're not sure we're any less qualified than the combined efforts of Derek Beasley, Steve Raleigh, and Tim Hendrick to really screw up your day tomorrow. (Randi Rico was intentionally left off this list. Don't mess with Randi. I'm thinking of starting a fan club for her on Facebook.)

UPDATE (1/27/09 at 7:30 am): Oops.

Ohio Attorney Avoids Prison By Snitching

In 2006, federal law enforcement officials became suspicious that Frank Pignatelli of Akron, Ohio, was involved in drug trafficking. When confronted by agents and threatened with prosecution, Pignatelli did what many before have done: he agreed to be a snitch confidential informant.

What sets Pignatelli apart, though, is that Pignatelli is a criminal defense attorney, and he agreed to provide testimony against people who thought or would come to think that he was their attorney. One of his "clients" was sentenced last week to serve 15 years in prison.

Pignatelli could snitch on "clients" because when a client and his attorney conspire to commit an unlawful act, their communications are not privileged. So if Pignatelli was helping someone to set up drug transactions or to launder the monetary proceeds of such transactions, his conversations with his clients weren't protected by privilege.

Even though his conduct in revealing client confidences is technically permissible, as a defense attorney, I get an uneasy, nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach when thinking about what Pignatelli did. He sold out his clients to the government in order to help himself. He put his own interests above that of his clients: the opposite of what an attorney is supposed to do. That our government is rewarding him for doing so makes my unease grow even more.

Becoming a lawyer means being willing to protect someone else, even when doing so makes us uncomfortable. And as defense attorneys, our job is to be a check against the unrestrained exercise of government power. I know I've just described criminal defense as a more noble calling than it is generally portrayed or perceived, but often, our actions are the only things that will shield a citizen from the loss of his liberty (or his life). Pignatelli went from a restraint on the government's power to incarcerate people to an instrument of it.

Pignatelli's drug clients no doubt placed him in a "high-end" criminal defense practice--in other words, he was making a lot of money from his clients, many of whom he would ultimately sell out. But at the first sign of trouble, he handed them over to the government. His story stands in stark contrast to that of Beth Lewis, a Montgomery County public defender who just a few years ago risked a contempt conviction and jail to protect the confidences of a deceased client.

And the ultimate irony? Pignatelli, no doubt unable to find new get-of-jail-free cards clients in Ohio, has pulled up stakes and opened a criminal defense practice in Colorado, where he defends accused drug dealers.

Link: Beacon Journal (via Talkleft).

MusicNow 2009

Mike Breen of CityBeat has more great local music news with the Announcement of this year's MusicNow festival on March 11th and 12th. Only thing different this year is that the festival is two days on a Wednesday and Thursday, something a little different. It helps thought with other local events on that Friday and Saturday. I hope people come to town for the show, and then stay for the weekend. Like the Pomegranates CD Release event at the Southgate House on March 13th.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cincinnati is King

King Records and Cincinnati were featured in this great NY Times article from Friday. I feel sometimes like a broken record (ouch), but King Records was so much one of the several birth places of Rock and Roll and has for too long been overlooked. Last year's CEAs at the Emery Theatre were a great start to remembering and building upon Cincinnati Music history and our really happening current music scene.

The Opportunity for OTR

Friday's Enquirer ran a pretty good article about the efforts to remake OTR from a rundown neighborhood into a thriving area which would be a model for urban revitalization in the country.

The article discusses some of the opposition, mostly those who fear displacement of the poor. When I write "poor" I don't mean those living in the DIC or squatting in an abandoned building. I mean people who legally have their own residence. The displacement of this group is the issue where criticism bears the most merit. Efforts need to be made to help anyone forced to move because of a building being rehabbed and turned into market rate living space. Those efforts should include relocation expenses up front to help people find a new place well ahead of their move. Efforts need to be made also to provide affordable apartments as well. The problem that remains is looking long term. So far most of the buildings that were in use for housing and remodeled were run down to nearly an uninhabitable state. Progress needs to be made and thorns (anti-development zealots) should not hold us back, but accommodations need to be made.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pigall's Retains Four Star Status and Closes

Julie and the Enquirer report that Jean-Robert at Pigall's will close next month. It's somewhat ironic that the announcement comes on the same day Mobil announced that Jean Robert's would again receive four stars, the only restaurant in the state to achieve that honor. There had buzz for several months (including at Wine Me Dine Me, I believe) that something was amiss in the partnership that comprises the Jean-Robert Restaurant Group.

I will always be grateful that I was able to enjoy a meal at Pigall's (at someone else's expense, no less). I've eaten at good restaurants before, but there's something quite special about "fine dining." It's as if, for your entire life, the only music you heard was performed by high school bands and orchestras (and sure, some can be quite good, for high school kids). And then one day you're transported into a performance by the New York Philharmonic. Jean-Robert at Pigall's is simply a different league of cuisine. There's no point in comparing it to 99% of the other restaurants on the planet.

It appears that for the time being, M. de Cavel will remain in Cincinnati. One hopes that he'll try for another fine-dining restaurant in the future.

One also hopes a use will be found for the Pigall's building quite soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Zero Tolerance Makes Zero Sense

It turns out that in my post on Mason's school closings, I was right about two things: first, that the culprits were Mason students, and second, that law enforcement officials would over-react when they found someone they thought was responsible.

I was wrong, though, about the charges that could be brought: three Mason juveniles have been charged with disrupting public services, a fourth-degree felony. (The charge fits; this link will take you to the relevant statute.)

There was a time, not so long ago, when something like this would have been handled entirely by school officials. But not anymore. Zero tolerance means that we have to criminalize every act that bothers us, all the time. We also see this phenomenon in adult court all the time: sit in a municipal courtroom on any day and you're likely to see at least one person charged with "telephone harassment" because he or she said something (or texted something) to a significant other that the significant other didn't like. Is that really how we want to use the criminal courts' time?

So for a prank that caused a snow day but no permanent damage, three teenagers might be labeled convicted felons. (And for those who think juvenile crimes don't matter after you turn 18, you're sadly mistaken.)

And just to preempt any crazy commenters: I don't care that these kids are (probably) white and (obviously) suburban. If these were three kids from Hughes High School, I'd be advocating the same thing: let the school system handle it.

If I were in charge of the universe, I'd order these kids to serve a long school suspension--one day shy of whatever would cause them to fail every class for attendance reasons. I'd make them do a massive amount of community service, and then write some heinously long essay afterward on what they'd done and what they'd learned. And I'd probably ban them from any non-academic extracurricular activity for the rest of this year and all of next.

School discipline will impact the kids' ability to get into college. But a felony record? That will hamper them for years to come. It's unfortunate that our society has decided to handle so many situations by resorting to the criminal justice system. And I hope that at some point prior to the resolution of these cases, cooler heads will prevail.

Fries Cafe Willl Open Tonight

The Enquirer is reporting that Fries Cafe in Clifton will re-open tonight as scheduled after a fire caused $20,000 worth of damage.

The Heartless Bastards on Letterman Feb 10th

Mike Breen of CityBeat is reporting that the Heartless Bastards will be playing the David Letterman Show on February 10th! Huge news for them! I haven't been watching Letterman for years now, but I am very glad he show has found a great band to showcase. This may be the break the Bastards need.

New Blogs

There are several new blogs I am adding to the side bar:

1st is cincinnati imports which includes very interesting insight from two ladies who like Cincinnati, but don't get why it's difficult to meet people here. I for one blame the natives!

2nd is Cincinnati Oddities a very new blog which highlights stuff you may not know about Cincinnati.

3rd is CincyStreetcar Blog which is of course the new blog from the group supporting the Streetcars in Cincinnati.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Numbers Problem

Rick Warren is being criticized in some circles for his overtly Christian invocation. I'm more concerned with his mathematical deficiencies.

At some point during his prayer, he references "America's peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time." (Leave aside for a moment the awkwardness of this phrase.)

While President Obama is indeed the 44th person to be inaugurated, there have been just 43 peaceful transfers of power: I'm sure neither the British nor our own Continental Army would have described the first transfer of power, culminating in George Washington's inauguration, as "peaceful."

An Amazing Day . . . . . .

As a child of the segregated South in his 50s, I have to say that this is a day I never thought I would witness. There are many difficult days ahead and much repentance to be done by a nation that has ignored its Constitution and founding principles on its road over the past eight years to becoming a torture nation ---- but today, let us celebrate and offer a smile to the cosmos . . . . . .

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end -- In the end -- In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?

I’m not talking about blind optimism here -- the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t think about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

Hope -- Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!

In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.

History, Joy, & Pride

I will be taking my lunch early today to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as President of the United States of America. Today is monumental for our country. We have taken a great step forward. I feel pride in what we have done. I am joyous for change. I will be celebrating the greatest thing about America - the rule of law. We shall witness the peaceful transfer of power today and you don't see that happen in any country with the might and power we possess.

The road ahead for the new President is very difficult, but I am optimistic we shall be better off under his leadership.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Blue Ball - Final Reminder

The Blue Ball is an inauguration celebration featuring a dance party with DJ Apryl Reign, food catered by Melt and The Hideaway, games, prizes, special guests and drinks. Guests are encouraged – but not required – to wear formal attire.

The Blue Ball has no cover charge, but we will be accepting donations of non-perishable food items and cash to benefit the Freestore Food Bank.

The Blue Ball is a nonpartisan event celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime historical milestone. Whether your politics are red, blue, green or somewhere in between, you are all invited to celebrate this historic moment with great music, among good friends.

“We hope that everyone feels welcome at this party, regardless of political affiliation,” says Eric Appleby, co-host of The Blue Ball. “Ultimately, the inauguration isn’t about winning or losing. When you consider the recent coups and ongoing chaos in other countries, you realize that the peaceful transfer of power is a pretty remarkable part of our democracy.”

“In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?” – Barack Obama

Event Details
What: The Blue Ball
Who: Cincy Rocks Obama and you!
Where: Northside Tavern, 4163 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio.
When: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 8 pm.
Why: To celebrate the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States and the
historical mandate for change
More info:

Cincy Rocks Obama unites local musicians, fans & friends to REGISTER, EDUCATE, & MOTIVATE voters for Obama.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kennedy Case Continues On Alternate Trajectory

Last month, I suggested that the criminal assault case against Andy Kennedy is proceeding differently than it would if Kennedy were an indigent defendant. That trend seems to be continuing.

The case against Kennedy has been scheduled for a jury trial in April. At Kennedy's request, the court granted a three-month continuance so that the case would not be heard before the conclusion of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. (That is, perhaps, awfully optimistic on Kennnedy's part. His Rebels haven't made the tournament since 2002. Assuming the SEC gets 6 teams into the tourney this year, Mississippi, at 10-6 overall and 1-1 in the conference, won't be one of them without significant improvement.)

While a court will generally do what it can to accommodate a defendant's work schedule, a three-month continuance is relatively rare and would have had to be specifically approved by the court. Generally, municipal court dates are set by the Office of the Assignment Commissioner. Currently, someone who goes there to set a court date can get a date in January, February, or March; April is not yet "open" by the AC. The municipal court judge handling Kennedy's case had to instruct the AC to set the case in April, or it would not have done so. Perhaps the trial should have been set in March, with an understanding it would be continued if Kennedy's team made the tournament.

The civil attorneys who have jumped into the fray, both on behalf of Kennedy and on behalf of the two people he's sued for defamation (the cab driver Kennedy allegedly assaulted and a valet who claims to have seen the alleged assault). On December 22 (just four days after the alleged assault and alleged defamation), Kennedy amended his complaint, adding as a plaintiff his wife, who claims to have suffered a loss of consortium as a result of the alleged defamation.

Really? Loss of consortium in four days? Kennedy will need an expert to explain to the civil jury why the deterioration of his marriage is a result of the assault allegation, rather than Kennedy's professional frustration with his team's mediocre performance (including his team's December 18 loss to Louisville). If I were a more irresponsible blogger, I might suggest that folks send Kennedy self-help books on marriage and relationships to his office at Ole Miss. You just hate to see anyone lose consortium, after all. But that would be a bad idea, so I won't.

Kennedy's accusers have decided not to be left out, either. The Enquirer reports that the cab driver has countersued Kennedy for the alleged assault, and the valet has countersued for damages pertaining to Kennedy's purportedly frivolous defamation suit.

It's good to see that at least we lawyers aren't suffering in the weak economy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Clever Mischief Closes Mason Schools

The Enquirer reports that Mason schools were forced to close today because last night, someone snuck into the bus garage and unplugged the school buses. The diesel-fueled engines use engine block heaters overnight to keep the engines warm enough to start in the morning.

When the culprits are caught, there's no doubt we'll be treated to a chorus of hand-wringing by school officials (and, perhaps, the Warren County Prosecutor) over what a terrible offense was committed. I can't help thinking, though, about how clever it is.

The Enquirer refers to the act as one of "vandalism." While that may be true in a colloquial sense, I'm not sure that what happened could be prosecuted as vandalism. That crime requires a showing of physical harm to property. Assuming the engines weren't damaged (and I think they weren't--they should be fine once they warm up again), there's no physical harm.

Of course, the miscreants committed a trespass (a fourth degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to thirty days in jail). Perhaps unauthorized use of property (also a fourth degree misdemeanor) or criminal mischief (a third degree misdemeanor, which carries up to sixty days) would fit the circumstances. But there don't seem to be any other, more serious charges available.

When I heard what happened, I immediately thought of the scene in Bull Durham when Kevin Costner's character turns on the sprinklers at a ballpark overnight to force a rainout. While we can't condone the conduct of the kids that pulled the plugs, we can admire their ingenuity.

UPDATE: The Enquirer now reports "Mason school officials here [sic] say they suspect students were behind" the unplugging of the engine block heaters. My response: Wow....that's a stunningly brilliant piece of detective work. Kids: Lawyer up, quick!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Cold, Bundle Up!

In case you are living in a cave, please take notice it is very cold out today and will be very cold again tomorrow. If you are indeed living in a cave, you must be really freaking cold right now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brian!!!!

I thought we needed a thread so that people could wish Griff a happy 37th birthday.

Happy birthday, Brian!

Harris Appointed to City Council

Greg Harris has been appointed to fill out the term of John Cranley, who stepped down from Cincinnati City Council last week. This is an excellent pick for the City. Greg will bring a fresh perspective that is honest, fair, and progressive.

More from UrbanCincy.

The Blue Ball - Jan 20th 8PM Northside Tavern

Join Cincy Rocks Obama for a special Presidential Inauguration celebration on January 20th at 8PM at the Northside Tavern. Here are the details from the press release:
Cincy Rocks Obama Presents The Blue Ball
Dance Party Celebrates the Presidential Inauguration

CINCINNATI—Celebrate the country’s most exciting and historic election at an inaugural ball at the Northside Tavern.

The folks who brought you Cincy Rocks Obama and 2008’s legendary election-night party invite you to celebrate the 2009 Presidential Inauguration at The Blue Ball, January 20, 2009, 8 pm at Northside Tavern, 4163 Hamilton Avenue.

The Blue Ball is an inauguration celebration featuring a dance party with DJ Apryl Reign, food catered by Melt and The Hideaway, games, prizes, special guests and drinks. Guests are encouraged – but not required – to wear formal attire. The Blue Ball has no cover charge, but we will be accepting donations of non-perishable food items and cash to benefit the Freestore Food Bank.

The Blue Ball is a nonpartisan event celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime historical milestone. Whether your politics are red, blue, green or somewhere in between, you are all invited to celebrate this historic moment with great music, among good friends.

“We hope that everyone feels welcome at this party, regardless of political affiliation,” says Eric Appleby, co-host of The Blue Ball. “Ultimately, the inauguration isn’t about winning or losing. When you consider the recent coups and ongoing chaos in other countries, you realize that the peaceful transfer of power is a pretty remarkable part of our democracy.”

“In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?” – Barack Obama

Event Details
What: The Blue Ball
Who: Cincy Rocks Obama and you!
Where: Northside Tavern, 4163 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio.
When: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 8 pm.
Why: To celebrate the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States and the historical mandate for change
More info:

Cincy Rocks Obama unites local musicians, fans & friends to REGISTER, EDUCATE, & MOTIVATE voters for Obama.
CONTACT: Cincy Rocks Obama Press Contact,

Done Got Old!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Half-Staff Flag Bleg

Hamilton County flags are at half-staff today. Does anyone know why?

(Someone, please tell me it's not because of the damned cow.)

UPDATE (1/10/09): I believe the flags were lowered in honor of Captain Warren A. Frank, who was killed in Iraq on November 25 and buried at Arlington National Cemetary yesterday. Thanks to the commenters who pointed this out.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cranley's Out, Who's In?

Councilmember John Cranley is resigning his council seat after being elected to the office 4 times.

Speculation turns now to the pick for his replacement. Three names have been floated:Tony Fischer, Greg Harris, and Brian Garry. I'm not familiar with Fischer, so have no impression. Garry in my opinion has never been a qualified candidate for office. Harris is by far the best person to fill the slot and stands a great chance of being elected in the fall. He has already announced his candidacy and fits the city Democratic vision well. Are there other possible selections for the Democrats?

Additional speculation will be about Cranley running for Mayor. In the article it states Cranley is not done with politics. What other office would he run for? Will he wait it out and run for County Commission?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Stage Opening: Dying City

Thursday night is the opening for New Stage Collective's production of Dying City. Be sure to get your tickets now! Also, join the cast, crew, audience, and NSC Board at Arnold's for an opening night party after the show on Thursday.

Here's a great video with a behind the scene look at Julianna Bloodgood, playing Kelly.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Pepper Seeks Input On Bike-Friendliness

Over at PepTalk, Commissioner David Pepper is seeking your input on how Hamilton County can be a more bicycle-friendly community.

I've always thought a community is bicycle-friendly enough when drivers are ticketed for running bicyclists off the road, but what do I know? Head over to the Commish's blog and take the survey.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Local Politicians Move Into New Offices

Today marked some changes in Hamilton County offices. Wayne Coates was sworn in as County Recorder. Greg Hartmann began his term as County Commissioner. Judge Pat Dewine began his term as Common Pleas Court judge (occupying the seat formerly held by now-retired Judge Davis). (The term of Judge-Elect Jerry Metz, who defeated incumbent Judge Fred Nelson, does not begin until February 10.) And Patricia Clancy began her term as Clerk of Courts.

The most visible change of the switches (for now) is the new banner on the Clerk of Courts website. Here is the old Hartmann banner:And here is the new Clancy banner:This is far from a substantive criticism, and I'm sure Ms. Clancy will do an excellent job as Clerk, but the new, yellow-highlighted banner is a little grating on the eyes. My very non-scientific survey ("Do you like the new banner?") yielded a unanimous preference for Hartmann's red-and-blue color scheme. (If I remember correctly, the yellow-and-blue matches the colors Clancy used during her campaign. And perhaps the red-and-blue preference is just a sense of familiarity with Hartmann's banner.)

Nevertheless, as much as this is a difficult time for HamCo government, it should also be an exciting time, as the County sees some new faces (or at least some old faces in new places), and with it, hopefully, new ideas and energy. So welcome to the new office holders!!!

Saturday, January 03, 2009 Redo 3.0

Well it appears the Enquirer has changed its page design yet again. The background color has gone back to white, thankfully. It again appears to be loading faster, but that may just be me. I am getting dizzy from all of the changes.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Government by Referenda: What's On Your Wish List?

There been much discussion in the local blogosphere about the NAACP's petition drive to place a measure on the ballot that would amend the City Charter to require a plebiscite prior to the expenditure of funds for light rail in Cincinnati. (Links: Us, the Beacon, UrbanCincy.) I will not support this measure--not because I'm a big fan of streetcars, but because I don't believe this type of issue belongs in the charter. I would cautiously support charter reform (and changing Ohio Revised Code, if necessary) to permit this sort of issue to be placed on the ballot to become a City ordinance, if passed. More democracy is good, generally speaking, but we should be careful when we alter the document that is the foundation of our governmental structure.

The whole thing has gotten me thinking, though: if I had the organizational (and financial) power of the NAACP/Green/COAST coalition, what would I place on the ballot? For me, the answer is simple: I would propose a charter amendment stripping the City of its power to enact criminal ordinances that create offenses more serious than minor misdemeanors (which do not carry the possibility of jail time) and simultaneously reclassifying all existing misdemeanors under the Cincinnati Municipal Code (CMC) as minor misdemeanors.

Such a proposal would not mean the absence of criminal law in Cincinnati. Instead, it would mean simply that all of our crimes would be defined by Ohio Revised Code (and the state has defined plenty of crimes). If the City wanted to prohibit conduct not included in ORC, it could punish such conduct only by a $150 fine (or lobby the Assembly to enact a state-wide statute).

Why shouldn't the City be in the business of drafting criminal laws? First, I doubt it's cost-effective. The City now has (and pays for) its own public defenders. It is now being billed by the County for the bed space occupied by individuals charged only under CMC. Because of the increased penalties created, more court time and (therefore) police time is used. Second, the effect of such laws on crime is highly disputable: no one has ever pointed to hard statistics that show that in the absence of the City's own criminal code, more crime would flourish in the City. Third, Council has consistently demonstrated itself to be fairly bad at drafting criminal ordinances. And finally, one set of ordinances alone--namely, the criminalization of the City's administrative building code (which gives rise to the municipal "Housing Docket")--is reason enough to strip the City of its power to create criminal offenses (but that's a whole separate post).

So if I were King For A Day, the elimination of Cincinnati's criminal ordinances is what I'd take up. If you were able to place anything you wanted on the ballot for consideration, what would it be?

1/3/09 Update: Post modified to correct typographical errors.

Shout Out: Smith Mufflers

We regularly highlight restaurants and bands we like here at the Cincinnati Blog. Today, I thought I'd point out something that can be harder to find than good food or good music: a good mechanic.

Just before Christmas, my aging Infiniti started behaving badly: the heater wouldn't work, and (somewhat ironically, I thought) the engine threatened to overheat. I took it to Smith Mufflers and Brakes in Covington, who I'd used for work on my previous car (an aging Neon). Their initial diagnosis: broken water pump and blown head gasket.

The head gasket is a significant repair on a Nissan engine (I know, that's what I get for buying a non-American brand). While I wasn't thrilled that the cost of the repair was much closer to the value of the car than I preferred, I authorized the work, as I'm not really interested in replacing the car right now.

A few days later, I talked again to the folks at Smith to get an update. Understanding the significance of the work they were about to do, they ran some additional tests. It turns out it wasn't the head gasket, but a different, minor problem that can lead to false results in the test they use to diagnose the head gasket. Figuring this out saved me about two grand.

So: three cheers for Smith Muffler. They didn't have to take the extra step in re-examining their initial assessment; after all, I'd authorized the work. But they did so, leaving me with a considerably reduced bill (and them with considerably less money). I've never heard anyone say a bad word about Smith, and this kind of honesty and diligence is exactly the reason why.

So if you're looking for a non-dealer mechanic for your car, check 'em out.

Moerlein Buys Little Kings

Christian Moerlein is continuing to bring home Cincinnati's Beers with its purchase this week of Little Kings. While the brewery will not be located in Cincinnati, this is another step for the Cincinnati based Christian Moerlein in its goal of brewing its beers here in Cincinnati.

It has been a long time since I've had a Little Kings Cream Ale. I have two memories of them from College. One is using plasti-tac to spell words on the dorm room wall with Little Kings' bottle caps. The other memory is seeing how fast and in how few gulps we could guzzle the 7 ouncers. Oh the memories that brings back, and the realization that I can't to that any more!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Large Banks Ignoring Foreclosed Properties

Below, Griff notes the Enquirer's growing tendency to shift local news coverage from its newspaper (both print and online editions) to its blog. Symptomatic of that tendency is this post on the Politics Extra Blog by Jane Pendergrast, which reports that last week, the City of Cincinnati filed suit against Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo for failing to properly maintain properties upon which they have foreclosed.

The conduct of banks that have foreclosed on properties is a real problem in Cincinnati. The banks just let the property sit until they can find someone to buy the property. Generally, banks entirely ignore Cincinnati ordinances, including requirements to properly maintain the structures and to obtain vacant building maintenance licenses. In its 22-page verified complaint, the City does an excellent job describing the situation and the reason it filed suit:

This is an action by the City of Cincinnati against two lenders that
regularly appear in Hamilton County Courts to prosecute foreclosure actions but have consistently refused to appear when summoned by the City of Cincinnati for the basic maintenance of abandoned and vacated properties titled in the names of Defendants. The City of Cincinnati seeks to hold these entities accountable in the same manner that individual property owners are held accountable for abandoned and vacated properties and seeks injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and money damages. Over the past three years, the City of Cincinnati and its departments have made several attempts to communicate with Defendants regarding the numerous properties and buildings throughout the City that were and are in violation of City health and housing codes. Defendants have consistently failed to take responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of such properties; in fact, Defendants have gone so far as to deny ownership of these properties.

Defendants have consistently refused service of process and ignored summonses pertaining to criminal complaints filed by the Property Maintenance Division . . . as well as notices sent . . . regarding civil fines for failure to comply with the Cincinnati Municipal Code.

(Verified Complaint, paras. 1 & 16.) As Pendergrast notes, the defendants have removed the case to federal court, where it is now pending before Chief Judge Beckwith. Part of what the City sought in Common Pleas court was an injunction preventing the banks from transferring the property (the City claims they have a history of transferring nuisance properties once legal action is filed in order to avoid liability). While the defendants claim they have already divested themselves of some of the property at issue in the new suit, they and the City have agreed that no further transfers (of property named in the litigation) until the case is concluded or the federal court orders otherwise.

The City, joined by the County (which is also named as a defendant, in that it has an interest in the properties as holder of various tax liens against them) has asked Judge Beckwith to remand the case back to state court. The banks have been ordered to file their response by January 22. Given the surge of foreclosures in Hamilton County, this is an extremely important issue--and one that merited more attention from the Enquirer than relegation to its blog.

The Dropping of the Pig

NYC can drop all the balls it wants. Nothing, NOTHING can top the dropping of the pig last night at Grammer's. Fireworks also flew high above the OTR bar as the crowd shifted outside to ring in the new year. In what I hopes becomes a tradition, I think we capture the irreverence that lives strong in Cincinnati. We drink, we cheer, we drink some more.