Hello all. Let’s do a brief end-of-week news rundown, shall we?
The board of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is considering putting a 1 percent sales tax increase before Hamilton County voters in November to shore up the region’s faltering Metro bus system, according to this scoop from the Cincinnati Business Courier. But there’s a sweetener for suburban voters hesitant about paying for transit: 30 percent of the tax proceeds — about $45 million in the first year — will go to road and infrastructure repairs. That would leave about $105 million in the first year for buses. That’s not quite enough for bus rapid transit, one of the biggest asks on transit activists’ wish lists, but it would allow for eight new bus routes, increased frequency on 29 existing routes and extended service hours on 18 routes. There are some big improvements in there, including six 24-hour routes and service every 15 minutes on some major routes. The SORTA board is reportedly split on the proposal, with the seven city-appointed board members in favor and the six county appointees following the lead of Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune, who opposes any sales tax for transit on November’s ballot. Portune wants to create an eight-county regional transit system, a move he says would open the region up to more federal funding.
• A camp under a Fort Washington Way overpass slated for removal by city officials will stay a little longer after a special Cincinnati City Council meeting yesterday. Those living in the camp near Third and Plum Streets were supposed to be out today, but will instead have until next Wednesday after they, along with social service groups and city council members, negotiated a compromise with City Manager Patrick Duhaney. You can read about the camp’s residents and how the battle over the tent city illustrates larger issues around homelessness in Cincinnati in our news feature here.
• A Hamilton County judge ruled yesterday that Cincinnati’s Citizen Complaint Authority cannot interview Cincinnati Police officers accused of misconduct if they are witnesses in a related criminal case until after that case is resolved. The CCA was created as part of the city’s Collaborative Agreement after the civil unrest around officer-involved shootings in 2001. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has requested delays for officers called before the CCA in the past, including in relation to a 2017 incident in which CPD officers Kenneth Grubbs and William Keuper responded to a domestic violence call in Walnut Hills and ended up exchanging fire with a man named Damion McRae. Both Grubbs and McRae were wounded in that gunfight. The CCA attempted to interview the officers, but Deters filed for a restraining order against the authority. Judge Tom Heekin ruled that order should be granted. Heekin’s decision extends beyond the particular case, however, and directs the CCA to wait to interview officers until after related criminal proceedings have wrapped up.
• Soccer fans are going to have to dig a little deeper if they want to grab primo seats for FC Cincinnati games in the future. As the team ascends into Major League Soccer next season, some season tickets will double in price, and others will increase by 70 percent. That’s not a big surprise given the team’s step up into the major leagues and the fact that it is going to need extra revenue to help pay for a $200 million stadium in the West End. The new season ticket prices, announced yesterday, also include four new levels for lower-priced tickets. Season tickets will start at $199 next year for general admissions seats — compared to $99 this year — and go all the way up to $1,350 for premium club seats, a jump from the $925 those seats cost this year. How does that stack up against other teams in the league? It can be hard to compare prices since different stadiums have different sections charging different prices, but generally, the lowest-cost tickets for MLS teams are in the $300-$400 range, though pricing goes as low as $180 for FC Dallas season tickets. FC Cincinnati has yet to announce single-game ticket prices, but general manager Jeff Berding has said that they will likely be about $20 a game on the low end.
• Did you know that $5 million worth of exotic cars are sitting in a Norwood warehouse, and that they were recently almost sent to a salvage yard? It’s the latest weird fallout from the case of Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesney, who a federal appeals court recently ruled defrauded former clients. Now, Chesney is faced with paying back a $42 million judgment to hundreds of victims of a diet drug called Fen Phen. Chesney is also accused of hiding millions in assets to avoid paying back that judgement, including a collection of 33 Bentleys, Maseratis, Aston Martins, Maybachs, Jaguars, Rolls-Royces and other luxury cars. Those cars have been stashed in a Norwood warehouse owned by the Ray Hamilton Company for the last 18 months, and recently Chesney’s representatives haven’t been paying the $7,000 a month storage bill, the company says. That almost led to the company hauling the cars off to free up space. However, Chesney’s attorneys just cut a check for $64,000 — enough money to keep the cars in place through August.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has commuted the death sentence of a man convicted of two murders in Cincinnati. Raymond Tibbetts will now serve life in prison without parole for killing Fred Hicks and Judith Crawford in 1997. Kasich’s decision comes after a juror for Tibbetts’ trial wrote the governor a plea back in January expressing misgivings about the death sentence because he had been unaware of Tibbetts’ brutal childhood and struggles with mental illness. Kasich’s commutation comes against the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, which earlier this year ruled 8-1 that he should not be spared the death penalty. You can read more about Tibbetts’ case in our story here.