Hello, all. I’ve been dug in working on a couple long projects, one of which comes out in our print issue tomorrow. Now that I’m back, here’s a quick rundown of the crazy amount of news that has happened over the past few days.
We'll get to see the results Wednesday of an internal investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department into the factors that contributed to the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush. Cincinnati City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee met yesterday to hear progress reports on efforts to shore up the city's Emergency Communications Center, which Plush called twice while he was trapped in a van. He later suffocated under the third-row bench seat of the vehicle. At the meeting, acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney laid out the city administration's upcoming efforts to improve the center, which include hiring 30 more people to bring the call center up to full staffing, hiring more supervisors — currently, 11 oversee a staff of 100 — touring high-performing call center facilities around the country for best practices, a possible external review of Cincinnati's ECC and other fixes. Council last week approved almost $500,000 to hire 11 new staffers and to make immediate technology upgrades to the call center.
• A high-ranking Cincinnati city official will return to her job after leaving in March, city officials announced yesterday. Assistant City Manager Sheila Hill-Christian will return to her post on a temporary basis starting mid-May to assist acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney in the aftermath of City Manager Harry Black’s resignation. Black resigned just before a Cincinnati City Council vote to remove him from his position after a long-running rift with Mayor John Cranley. Hill-Christian first started with the city in 2015 after having worked with Black previously in Richmond, Va.
• Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost is looking into charges by Cincinnati Police Capt. Jeff Butler that Chief of Police Eliot Isaac knew about allegedly illegal overtime practices that gave some CPD employees thousands in overtime pay. Butler filed a lawsuit against the city last year, which he recently amended to include Isaac. Butler has had his own brushes with controversy around overtime — and other issues — in the past. He was caught up in controversy around overtime pay related to non-duty patrols of Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority projects in the late 1990s. While he was being interviewed during that internal investigation, he allegedly uttered a racial slur that was caught on audio tape. Butler is also named in a gender discrimination lawsuit by CPD Capt. Bridget Bardua, who says Butler is looking to undermine Isaac. She’s one of the officers Butler claims unfairly benefited from overtime to the tune of more than $90,000 because Bardua had a close personal relationship with Isaac. The chief in the past has said that an overtime audit led by Butler isn’t complete and hasn’t been vetted by city financial officials. He’s also taken issue with an assertion that the city went millions over budget on overtime and the amount that Bardua allegedly made on overtime pay last year. Isaac says he welcomes Yost’s audit.
• Cincinnati’s 45202 ZIP code — which encompasses downtown, Pendleton, Over-the-Rhine, Mount Adams and parts of the East End and Mount Auburn — lost a bit of population last year, according to Downtown Cincinnati Inc.’s annual report released late last week. That slight dip comes after a decade of population growth in the city’s downtown ZIP code. According to DCI’s report, which pulls data from real estate giant CBRE, the number of housing units in the 45202 ZIP also dropped slightly, despite a number of new apartment projects coming online. That number should rise again as a number of under-construction projects wrap up soon.
• A few hundred people showed up last night at a school district meeting around changing the name of Anderson High School’s sports teams, which is currently a racial slur for Native Americans: the Redskins. Prior to that meeting — at which the district’s board arrived at no conclusions about changing the name — representatives from the Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition held a news conference to ask the district to change the name, which they say is racist.
“As long as there's an ongoing conversation, then we are better for it," Coalition member Guy Jones said. "We have to learn one thing, and that is to listen to each other."
Racist Native American mascots have been a hot-button topic for years. Some professional teams, most recently the Cleveland Indians, have backed down from images and/or names depicting America’s first peoples, while others, like the owners of Washington, D.C.’s professional football team, have held fast. The school board has convened a Mascots and Branding Committee to explore whether the district should change the name and mascots of Anderson’s teams.
• Hamilton County faces a big budget deficit, the county commission heard at its meeting yesterday, and must consider either a sales tax or deep cuts — or a combination of both — to balance its budget. The county faces a $28 million shortfall, and without a proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase, it would need to bridge that gap with cuts as deep as 17 percent to all county departments. County officials say much of the gap comes from a reduction in money sent back to municipalities from the state after lawmakers tweaked the way the state’s local government fund works. Hamilton County has seen a $15 million reduction in funds from the state over the past 20 years. It’s also losing out on another roughly $9 million from changes that prohibit municipalities from collecting sales tax on certain Medicaid transactions. The news comes as Cincinnati also faces a big deficit — in part due to the state’s continued reductions in funding — and a delay in its budget process. The city’s first budget draft was supposed to drop in the next few days, but is on hold until May 28 as city officials go back to the drawing board to try and address a deficit that could be as high as $34 million.
• Do you ever get the feeling you’re keeping everything going by your damnself? This guy can relate. Turns out Duke Energy was charging a Covington resident to power all the lights on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky. Marty Boyer bought a business along the Ohio River back in November, and the energy company was charging him about $200 a month for the electricity used by the lights on the bridge because it thought he was responsible for some utility poles across the street from his business. In actuality, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet should have been footing those bills. Boyer has been wrangling with Duke for months to extricate himself from the high charges, and in March, he asked that the energy company turn off power to the extra meters it was billing him for. Lo and behold — the bridge lights went off and Duke began to look into his complaints a little bit more thoroughly. The energy company has apologized for the billing mistake and Boyer is no longer keeping the lights on for the span.