Hello all! Here’s a quick news rundown to take you into the weekend and all the festivities happening downtown.
The Cincinnati Planning Commission today voted down a proposal from a city administration task force to eliminate parking space requirements for developers building in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The proposal came packaged earlier this week with another idea: a residential parking permit program in OTR that would sell 250 passes at $150 a year and another 250 to low-income residents at $25 a year. You can read more about both proposals in our story here.
Critics of the plan to eliminate the parking requirements via a zoning overlay who showed up at the planning commission meeting said it will make parking in Over-the-Rhine harder. Supporters of the move, however, argue it will allow developers to build housing cheaper, find creative solutions for creating more parking and incentivize more residents in those neighborhoods to go car-free. That last point would make much more sense if Cincinnati’s transit system functioned better, which brings us to our next bit of news.
• The board of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority on Wednesday officially announced it would not seek a Hamilton County sales tax levy on the November ballot, citing an unfavorable political atmosphere and lack of consensus on the 13-member body appointed by the city and the county. However, SORTA board chair Kreg Keesee said the transit authority will likely go for a levy ask next May similar to a .7 percent sales tax increase it was mulling recently. In the meantime, transit activists say they’re fed up with the board’s inaction in the face of an aging bus fleet, insufficient coverage that leaves the majority of the region’s jobs unreachable by transit and other problems. Cincinnati’s Better Bus Coalition says it will lobby city leaders to push for a more robust, city-centered transit system, perhaps funded by an increase in the city’s earnings tax. The Metro bus system currently receives most of its funding from a .3 percent earnings tax, with no funding from county sources. You can read our story about why you won't be able to vote on a sales tax boost for SORTA — and what comes next — here.
• Speaking of getting around in Cincinnati, California-based Bird Rides yesterday dropped its first batch of electric rental scooters in downtown, Over-the-Rhine and The Banks. That came by surprise for residents and city officials. So. How do they work? Can you take them up Cincy’s hills? Are there regulatory issues? What’s happened in other cities where Bird has landed? You can find it all in our story here.
• City crews this week cleared out an encampment under the Fort Washington Way overpass off of Third Street where more than 40 people had been staying after complaints from downtown residents and businesses and two weeks of wrangling around whether the camps posed safety and health risks. But the struggle over how to address people experiencing homelessness in very visible spaces downtown is likely far from over. Those living in another camp on Third Street between Walnut and Plum Streets, including some who moved from the now-cleared underpass camp, say they are bracing for a confrontation with the city over their encampment. You can read more about the camps, as well as wider concerns about affordable housing and other issues that they illustrate, in our story here.
• There were 1,565 fatal overdoses in Kentucky last year, the state’s Office of Drug Policy reported this week — an increase of 11.5 percent. More of those deaths were attributable to fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opiate sweeping across the region. The drug has been added to heroin and other street narcotics, but addicts have increasingly sought it out on its own, officials say. Fentanyl was a factor in 52 percent of the 1,468 deaths for which toxicology reports were available — up from 47 percent the previous year. Heroin, on the other hand, was a factor in about 22 percent of those deaths, down from 34 percent the year prior. Northern Kentucky's Kenton and Campbell Counties had the most drug overdoses per capita in the state last year, the report found.
• Is a chance to meet a former attorney general related to a Cincinnati fundraising event for Democrat candidate for Ohio attorney general Steve Dettelbach an illegal raffle? That’s what an election complaint from conservative Cincinnati attorney Mark Miller alleges. Dettelbach’s campaign offered those giving a donation of $5 or more the chance to meet Obama-era U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was the keynote speaker at an event at the Queen City Club. Miller says that’s a violation of an Ohio law against unregulated raffles — an assertion Republican Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters agrees with. But Dettelbach says the promotion is a way to get small-time donors the opportunity to meet Holder. Tickets to the fundraiser ran between $250 and $2,500. Running an unauthorized raffle is a misdemeanor. Dettelbach is running against Republican Ohio State Auditor David Yost in November.