Community groups ask for responsible bidder pause; Mill Creek environmental groups merge; middle class shrinking fast in Ohio; more news

Two groups who have long played a role in cleaning up one of the country's most endangered waterways are joining forces to become the Mill Creek Alliance.

Mar 2, 2018 at 11:46 am
click to enlarge The Mill Creek - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
The Mill Creek

Hello, Cincy. Are you Bockin’ out tonight or sometime this weekend? I will be, as the core idea of Bock Fest — seas of malty, beery goodness with few hopped-up IPAs in sight —sounds like paradise to me. Read our guide here, then go forth and get your goat on. You should also take a break from all that beer to see beloved erstwhile CityBeat columnist Kathy Y. Wilson and a collective of Cincinnati’s best poets read in Northside Saturday night.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we weekend, we must news. So let's do it.

A former University of Cincinnati professor accused of sexual misconduct by multiple students over the course of decades is “a pig,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says, but he won’t be charged with any crimes. Deters says his office spent three weeks investigating complaints to UC administration made by nine women against well-known flautist Bradley Garner and didn’t find anything the prosecutor could take to a grand jury. Garner has denied the accusations that he inappropriately touched and kissed some students and engaged in sexual activities with two others.

• Yesterday, a number of community groups released a statement expressing concern over the city’s pending Responsible Bidder program, which requires contractors working with Greater Cincinnati Water Works and other departments to have apprenticeship programs. The Urban League of Southwestern Ohio, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action League, The Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce and other business groups say they’re worried the legislation. which was put on hold until a recent court decision gave the city the green light to implement it, will adversely affect minority contractors seeking city contracts.

“While we fully support programs that increase training and local employment opportunities for African Americans, we believe that these chapters, as currently written, will reverse progress that the city has made in the area of economic inclusion,” a statement from the groups reads.

The group has asked Cincinnati City Council to temporarily suspend the implementation of parts of the ordinance for six months, conduct an analysis of potential downsides for inclusion efforts and find solutions that will work with efforts to expand the value of city contracts won by minority and women-owned businesses.

Supporters of the ordinance, including Councilman Chris Seelbach, say the requirements will expand opportunities for workers to gain on-the-job training that will help develop the region’s workforce. Mayor John Cranley and conservatives on council oppose the ordinance. At this week’s council meeting, Seelbach and other supporters promised efforts to make sure the measure wouldn’t impact efforts to expand minority contracting.

• A number of cancer cases that have stricken current and former employees who worked at Cincinnati Police Department’s District 5 headquarters is unrelated to that building, a new report commissioned by the city from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health says. All employees except patrol officers, who visit the building only briefly, were moved to other sites last year after deep concerns about its safety and demands from the Fraternal Order of Police. The city is currently considering where to build a permanent replacement for the facility on Ludlow Ave., which is more than 50 years old.

But despite concerns, the cancer cases couldn’t be linked to chemicals in the building and don’t appear to be more frequent than average.

"The number of employees with cancer and the distribution of cancers do not appear to be unusual, and that chemicals or physical agents likely to cause the types of cancers reported were not identified," NIOSH’s report states.

• After more than a decade on the job, City of Cincinnati Transportation Director Michael Moore today is moving on to a similar position with the city of Raleigh, North Carolina. In a memo released last month, City Manager Harry Black praised Moore’s work on the streetcar, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. highway interchange and other projects. Moore got his start in the department in 1994. His last day is technically March 24, but he'll be using the last of his vacation time with the city starting today. City Engineer Don Girding, who has been with the city since 1987, will be Moore’s temporary replacement at DOTE. Whoever takes the job permanently will have some big challenges to address, including ongoing struggles with the streetcar, funding woes at Metro, the city’s ever-increasing infrastructure needs and renewed calls for street safety from pedestrians and cyclists.

  Two groups instrumental in local environmental protection efforts are merging today. Groundwork Cincinnati — Mill Creek and the Mill Creek Watershed Council of Communities are joining forces to become the Mill Creek Alliance. The two groups have long played a role in helping clean up the waterway that runs through the center of Cincinnati, which was recently removed from a registry of the nation’s most endangered rivers thanks to cleanup efforts. The river had been on that list, drawn up by conservation group American Rivers, since 1997. The Mill Creek Alliance says it will continue to focus its efforts on restoring ecological balance lost to flood control measures in the Mill Creek and surrounding areas. Leaders from the both groups will hold an event today at Salway Park on the Mill Creek to celebrate the merger.

• Be careful who you mess with out there. The number of Ohioans with concealed carry permits jumped 10 percent last year, according to this Cincinnati Enquirer story. That means about one in every 20 Ohioans is legally licensed to carry a concealed firearm. More than 77,000 people received new CCW licenses in 2017 — fewer than the 117,000 who did in 2016. But a record 54,000 people also renewed their licenses. Licenses are good for five years, though there aren’t exact records about how many licenses are floating around out there. Still, that’s a lot of folks with a lot of guns you may not be able to see. Feel safer?

• A national gun control group is pushing for a ban on open carry — legal in Ohio — in Kroger stores across the country. New York-based Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America says the group is asking Kroger to prohibit open carry in their stores because the practice in most states isn’t governed by regulations and doesn’t require any kind of license. The group says that  other companies like Safeway ban open carry in their stores and cites an October incident in which a man pulled a gun in a Kroger and killed another person. Kroger’s policy is to follow state and local laws when it comes to guns, the company says — a similar position it took to another campaign by MDAGSA and Everytown, USA in 2015.

• A couple more brief gun control bits: Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that allows EMTs assigned to SWAT units to carry firearms. More on that here. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie is blasting President Donald Trump over statements Trump made recently that are supportive of some gun control efforts, including banning bump stocks, raising to 21 the minimum age for purchasing assault rifles and expanding background checks. Massie, a staunch conservative, is not too happy about those suggestions.

• Finally, the middle class in Ohio is shrinking, and the states's income inequality overall is growing at a faster rate than average in America. Ohio had the sixth-largest decline in middle class income over the last decade, according to a report by financial news site 24/7 Wall Street. Is that accurate? Peruse more on the study and its methodology yourself in this story here.