Morning News and Stuff

Council votes to halt off-campus UC police stops; Metro lets riders track buses in real time; advice to Kasich in song form

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up on this rainy Thursday.

Cincinnati City Council yesterday voted to temporarily suspend an agreement with the University of Cincinnati Police Department that allowed that agency to make traffic stops on streets beyond UC’s campus. The decision comes in the wake of the shooting by UC officer Ray Tensing of unarmed motorist Samuel Dubose a half-mile from campus in Mount Auburn. Council voted unanimously to pull back a memorandum of understanding between UC’s police force and the Cincinnati Police Department that allowed UC officers to do things like make traffic stops and other enforcement efforts off-campus. Now, officials from UC, CPD, and the city are working to hammer out a better protocol for campus police in light of Dubose’s death and revelations about the university department’s increasingly aggressive stance in the neighborhoods around the school.

Traffic tickets and use of force incidents have increased dramatically in the past few years as the school has added more than 30 new police officers. UC police have drawn guns 16 times this year, according to documents reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Officers with that force did so only twice in 2014 and twice in 2013. Traffic stops in that time have gone up a staggering amount — from 615 in 2012 to a projected 3,400 or more in 2015, according to numbers cited by City Councilman Kevin Flynn. That increase has disproportionately affected people of color. Some 63 percent of those ticketed in the past year were African American, documents show. Council members say until those issues are addressed, UC police should hold off on making off-campus traffic stops.

• Maybe this seems like a small bit of news to the car-owning readers, but for folks like me it’s huge: Metro is making real-time bus data available to riders. This is an awesome feature for days like today, when it’s pouring down rain and I can look out my window to see an uncovered bus stop tantalizingly close to my house but too far away to sprint to once I’ve seen the bus coming. The public transit organization today launched a bus-tracking system that allows riders to call a special phone line, check out a website or download new apps to follow the bus they’re waiting for in real time. Riders can call 513-621-4455, visit go-metro.com or download Metro’s new free Bus Detective and Transit Apps to get the information. Info is available in English and Spanish.

• Cincinnati City Council needs one more vote to take up suggested changes to the city’s charter that would limit the mayor’s power. Among those changes is a provision that would end the mayor’s ability to pocket veto legislation by not referring it to council committees and another that would allow council to initiate the firing of the city manager.

The city’s Charter Review Task Force has been working on its suggestions for more than a year and this week delivered its final report on what it sees as pressing changes needed to the city’s governing document. Some of those changes don’t sit well with Mayor John Cranley, which is to be expected, since they would limit his power considerably. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach and Kevin Flynn support the suggestions.

Flynn, who chairs Council’s Rules and Audit Committee, appointed the task force. Supporters on council yesterday said  the city’s current charter is vague and that it never intended to give the city’s mayor the sweeping powers that position now has. However, opponent Vice Mayor David Mann says the mayor can’t actually legally use the pocket veto and that a winnable legal battle could ensue should he try against the wrong council member. In the meantime, putting the pocket veto issue up for a vote could mean council would be stuck with it if voters decide to preserve that power. That leaves a few wildcards: Council member Amy Murray is mum about her stance on the proposed changes. Christopher Smitherman wants to give the mayor more power, not less. That leaves Republican Charlie Winburn, usually a staunch ally of Cranley. But Winburn vocally disapproved of former mayor Mark Mallory’s use of the pocket veto provision and has made noises about supporting council’s ability to hold the city manager accountable. Will he side against his ally Cranley? It’s a cliffhanger. Should council pass the recommendations, they’ll go on the November ballot.

• Should drivers be required to give bikers in the city more room on the road? Some groups think so. About half of states require a three foot passing distance between cars and bikers on the road. Ohio isn’t one of those states, but the city has passed similar rules requiring drivers to give bikes at least three feet when passing them. Now some bike activists say that distance isn’t far enough for safety, and some are pushing to get rules changed. The League of American Bicyclists, for instance, has issued a new set of safety recommendations it says improves upon the three-foot rule. Will the city take up these recommendations? Only time will tell.

• Finally, let me set a scene for you. Tonight is the night. Cleveland is the place. In a dim hotel room somewhere near the venue for the first official GOP 2016 presidential primary debate, Gov. John Kasich is staring into a mirror adjusting his tie, making tough faces and gestures and mouthing the words to this song as it blasts in the background. Well, if he's not listening to that classic Eminem joint, he should be.

Kasich, the underdog, number 10 out of 10 among invited debate contestants, must know this is a make or break moment for his quest to grab the Republican nomination for presidency. He’s been here before, back in 2000, and this is probably his last big shot. He’ll have to spar with the national names — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker and yes, of course, Donald Trump — and also answer for his record, which on first glance looks strong but has some big weak points, as this recent editorial from Cleveland.com points out. Data suggests that his much-touted Ohio miracle is at times illusory. The state's median household income — $46,000 — is still less than the nearly $50,000 it was in 1984 when adjusted for inflation. We’re also well below the national average of $51,000 a year. Kasich has also presided over a disastrous turn for the state’s charter school system. He supports Common Core and has expanded Medicaid in the state. Some of these points will make him more vulnerable to a potential Democratic challenger. Some are things that hardline conservatives will hate him for. But all are fair game in the coming rhetorical bloodbath in Cleveland tonight.

That's it for me. E-mail or tweet at me with your favorite debate drinking games.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles

Newsletters

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.