What can we say about 2021? Year two of the COVID-19 pandemic was slightly more interesting than 2020 was, since safe, effective vaccines emerged and we could finally leave our homes and hug relatives again (unless they remained unvaccinated).
But there were plenty of other interesting happenings in Cincinnati that had nothing to do with a virus that continues to wipe out the country's population at a pretty devastating clip. Below, read the Greater Cincinnati news stories that made 2021 memorable in both good and bad ways.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley Finally Enters Ohio Governor Race, with Legal Weed as a Platform Centerpiece
After months of teasing that he'd make a run for a higher office, Cranley announced in August that he would officially enter the race to become Ohio's next governor in 2022. Cranley's campaign largely is framed around Cincinnati's population and civic "comeback," as he calls it, with criminal justice reform, job creation and legal recreational marijuana as focuses. Read CityBeat's story about Cranley's platform.
Cincinnati Elects Aftab Pureval as Its First New Mayor in Eight Years
A changing of the guard is coming in 2022. By defeating opponent and longtime politician David Mann in November's election, the 39-year-old Pureval cemented two important firsts: the first new mayor since Cranley took office two terms ago, and Cincinnati's first Asian American mayor. City Council member and Cincinnati Herald publisher Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney will join Pureval’s administration as vice mayor. Read CityBeat's story about Pureval's big win.
Kentucky Sees Its Most Devastating Tornado Ever
More than 20 tornadoes descended upon the Midwest and mid-South on Dec. 10 and early Dec. 11, hitting Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee. At least four of them zipped through the Commonwealth during the multi-state blitz, including one that the National Weather Service says stayed on the ground for at 227 miles. The tornado cluster is considered to be one of the most devastating in history. At least 75 people were killed in Kentucky, ranging in ages from 2 months old to 97, and the death count still could rise as recovery efforts continue. U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.S. government will cover 100% of the disaster relief costs for the first 30 days. Read CityBeat's coverage of the tornado aftermath.
Cicadas Invaded Cincinnati — and We Were Ready
Following a 17-year residency underground, billions of cicadas emerged throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky this summer. Brood X, as this generation of insects is called, is the largest of all the cicada broods; we last saw them in 2004. Prior to their arrival, Gene Kritsky, the dean of behavioral and natural sciences at Mount St. Joseph University, and his team created the Cicada Safari app, which lets users search, photograph, record and map cicadas in their area. Users can submit their findings to scientists, who then study the info to learn more about the health and habits of the creatures. And if you wanted to totally avoid the swarm instead of photographing it? Local company Under the Weather had you covered, literally, with their wearable mesh pod. The screened-in box came with shoulder straps to slip over your body and keep the bugs off of you. Read CityBeat's story about the invention that generated a lot of buzz (and laughs), and then see our big feature package with everything you've ever wanted to know about cicadas. And we mean ever.
The Brent Spence Bridge Is Finally Fully Open
What a glorious day Nov. 8 was! After more than eight months of lane closures, delays and unholy traffic jams, the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati with Covington finally reopened to regular traffic. The nation's No. 2 bottleneck for freight trucks was whole again. Read CityBeat's story about the bridge's ongoing frustrations (but the BSB isn't the only local bridge with problems).
The Future of Roe v. Wade Actually Seems to Be in Jeopardy
Controversial — some might say ill-conceived — legislation in Mason was aborted in December. After months of attempting to become a "sanctuary city for the unborn," Mason finally gave up its mission to ban abortions when the city council voted 6-1 to repeal an anti-abortion ordinance that was supposed to have taken effect in November. Had the abortion ban stood, it would have outlawed abortion at all gestational stages within Mason's city limits and punished those who "aid and abet" abortions through funding, transportation and more. Violators could have been fined $2,500 and spent a year in prison. In May, nearby Lebanon council members unanimously passed a similar anti-abortion ordinance; the ACLU of Ohio said Lebanon's legislation was “blatantly unconstitutional” and ripe for legal challenge. These acts line up with recent Supreme Court decisions regarding controversial abortion bans in Texas and Mississippi that pose a threat to other precedent-setting abortion cases. Read CityBeat's story about Mason's many abortion-ban attempts.
CNN Crowns Cincinnati as Ohio's New State Capital
We weren't expecting to become the most important city in Ohio, but we'll take it. During CNN's liveblog session about the snowstorms that befuddled the Midwest in February, the cable news channel inadvertently declared Cincinnati to be the Buckeye State's capital city instead of Columbus. Read CityBeat's story about Cincinnati's coronation that lasted for about a day.
Cincinnati's architectural elements always shine through. The former Chong Inc. building downtown was built in the late 1800s and several department and furniture stores inhabited the space, as well as a Kroger store from 1960-1969. In 1951, the building went through a massive renovation, removing the 5th and 6th floors and covering the exterior with a new brick façade. While 3CDC was renovating the structure at the start of this year, the Midcentury brick was removed, uncovering the original beauty underneath. Read CityBeat's story about how construction crews discovered the gem.
Former Bengal Chad Johnson Leaves $1,000 Tip at Cincinnati Restaurant
The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off with diners leaving massive surprise tips in bars and restaurants throughout the city. But then "Ochocinco" went and upped the game — dramatically. He left a $1,000 tip for a server at Redlands Grill. In a post on Twitter later, Johnson took a photo of the receipt and captioned it, “Proverbs 11:25 (Cincinnati edition).” The bible verse reads, "A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." Read CityBeat's story about Johnson's act of generosity.
This summer, members of Cincinnati's LGBTQ+ community and their allies asked Crossroads to support everyone — or to stop pretending. In addition to welcoming a controversial speaker who denigrated transgender folks during a sermon, the megachurch has policies that prevent LGBTQ+ individuals from holding leadership positions. Community members protested outside Crossroads, pressing senior pastor Brian Tome to claim no prior knowledge of the contents of the speaker’s sermon and to profess supporting LGBTQ+ people despite Crossroads’ homophobic and transphobic policies. Read CityBeat's story about the whole incident.
Cincinnati Designates The Banks as an 85-Acre DORA
There's a new DORA in, and she's a beauty. In March, an 85-acre DORA (designated outdoor refreshment area) opened downtown at The Banks, ready for all the walking and drinking Cincinnati's can handle. The district spans from Paul Brown Stadium to Heritage Bank Center and to the south sidewalk of Second Street and north sidewalk of Mehring Way (Smale Riverfront Park isn't included). Read CityBeat's story about the DORA's development.
Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach to Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes: "Fuck Off"
Rhodes is well known for his controversial takes. But when Rhodes — who supposedly is a Democrat — tweeted out anti-trans remarks, Seelbach wasn't having it. "You are such a bigoted piece of trash. Fuck off, Dusty Ass Rhodes," Seelbach tweeted back, igniting a spectacle that had Cincinnati's full attention. Rhodes has since said that he will not seek reelection when his term is up. Read CityBeat's story about the fiery Twitter exchange.
A West Chester Rep Makes the Magnetic Vaccine Lady Famous
Republican State Rep. Jennifer Gross of West Chester helped launch the claims of Dr. Sherri Tenpenny — a state-licensed doctor of osteopathic medicine — onto the late-night-comedy TV circuit when she invited the doctor to testify before the Ohio House Health Committee in support of the “Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act.” Tenpenny spouted her claims that COVID-19 vaccines turn people magnetic and “interface” with 5G cell towers. This prompted a slew of videos across social media of vaccinated — and clearly not magnetized — humans trying to get spoons to stick to their noses. The Center for Countering Digital Hate said Tenpenny was one of the top 12 most prolific disseminators of COVID misinformation on social media. Read CityBeat's story about Gross advocating for Tenpenny.
Ousted Greater Cincinnati attorney Eric Deters didn’t think there were enough pro-Donald Trump events this year, so he planned one himself. Deters, who has been suspended from practicing law in Kentucky due to ethical violations, organized Freedom Fest, a "kid-friendly" event in Morning View, Kentucky, about 30 miles south of Cincinnati. The date? Sept. 11, the day nearly 3,000 people died in 2001 due to four al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in the United States and a day that conservatives typically hold sacred. Freedom Fest was described by Deters as being for those “who are frustrated with the masks and the mandates and the vaxx and the lousy president,” “people who support Trump, people who support the Constitution, the Bill of Rights” and those who “believe in God.” Read CityBeat's story about the, uh, special event.
Josh Mandel Does a Lot of Bad Things
What did U.S. Senate hopeful and Trumpy Ohio Republican Mandel accomplish this year? He was kicked off of Twitter for a poll with options for "Mexican gangbangers" and "Muslim terrorists." He likened COVID-19 vaccine credentials to "Nazi Germany." He set his face mask on fire, because "freedom." He reportedly had staffers quit due to his toxic relationship with his campaign finance director. He got his ass handed to him after praising a waitress for going to work sick. Honestly, the better question is "What asinine thing has Mandel not done?"
Jim Jordan Also Does Bad Things
What's with Ohio Republicans? Jordan, a House Representative for a ridiculously gerrymandered district, is another Trump supporter who has lambasted COVID-19 safety protocols, ignored science from virus experts, wanted to use anti-Asian language freely and falsely and repeatedly claimed that Trump would have another term as U.S. President if it weren't for those conniving Democrats. But a reckoning may be coming, as actor/director/science believer George Clooney reportedly is working on a docuseries about the Ohio State sex abuse scandal, and Jordan's alleged involvement in covering up those activities will surely get its due. Read CityBeat's story about Clooney's yet-untitled series.
Ohio Sees Multiple Lawsuits Around New Congressional Redistricting Maps
Some voters aren’t thrilled with the Ohio Redistricting Commission and the recently passed legislative district maps. The Ohio Supreme Court has heard arguments from the League of Women Voters, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and a cohort of state residents claiming the new maps are unconstitutional for violating anti-gerrymandering requirements. The maps were approved 5-2 along party lines, and Republicans have said there is no evidence they’re unconstitutional. Plaintiffs have also accused the maps of “packing and cracking,” which denies fair representation to immigrant communities and communities of color by compressing minority votes into the fewest number of districts (packing) or diluting them across districts (cracking). Read CityBeat's story about the map debacle.
Ohio Can't Kick COVID-19
In year one of the pandemic, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine spurned his Republican colleagues and ordered a number of public safety protocols — mandatory masks, resident curfews, limited business hours, industry closures — to slow the spread of the coronavirus. For a while, it worked, and Ohio's cases dropped in January after a horrible fall and winter spike. But once DeWine took all of those measures away this spring — even before hitting expert-recommended benchmarks — the virus came roaring back in the form of much more deadly variants, including ones that harm kids more than ever before. Doctors and scientists continue to warn that the state's — and the region's — case numbers are rising toward last year's numbers and are begging for relief, and the CDC labels every county in Ohio as having the highest level of community transmission. In mid-December, DeWine finally assigned 1,000 National Guard members to hospitals to relieve exhausted medical staff. Read CityBeat's latest story about what local health experts anticipate in the coming weeks from COVID-19.
According to a report from NPR, scientists say white-tailed deer are increasingly carrying SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The deer are picking up the virus and carrying it with them across the country, spreading it to other deer possibly "indefinitely." But that's not all — scientists say that the deer could pass the virus back to humans and create newer, more resistant strains. This is not good news for Ohio, where white-tailed deer are plentiful and serve as the state mammal. This means that COVID-19 could be here to stay for longer than we'd like, due both to humans' refusal to mask up and get vaccinated and from deer being deer. Read CityBeat's story about the virus-ridden deer that are partying in your backyard.
Cincinnati Becomes a Flashpoint for the Conversation Around Ivermectin
Controversy was raised earlier this year when some doctors began prescribing ivermectin — an antiparasitic and livestock dewormer — to COVID-19 patients. While conservative commentators and politicians touted it as a treatment and preventative, the CDC, FDA, American Medical Association and even the drug’s manufacturer warned against its use in COVID cases. The national drama played out on a local stage when a woman sued West Chester Hospital for refusing to honor a prescription of ivermectin written for her husband, who was on a ventilator. The woman initially won an emergency judgement that in essence would force the hospital to give her husband the drug, but a Butler County judge reversed that ruling, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove ivermectin’s efficacy. Her husband later died. Read CityBeat's story about the FDA reminding people to not use ivermectin.
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