Hey Cincy! Here’s the news today.
Happy holidays. If you like political drama, then the city’s streetcar is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest dustup comes over Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black’s memo to Mayor John Cranley and City Council late last week that questions whether the $4.2 million operating plan Council passed earlier this year will provide sufficient funds to run the streetcar. According to an not-yet-complete independent audit cited by Black, that plan could fall as much as $1.5 million short of the money needed to keep the 3.6-mile loop transit project running. That shortfall counts a $9 million overall financial pledge from The Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation to help fund operations of the streetcar in its first few years. The alarm comes from new independent projections about the operating costs and income of the streetcar when it starts running next year. The results of that audit have yet to be revealed, but preliminary numbers suggest the project might run between $750,000 to $1.5 million over budget. Hopefully, city officials, council members and media will wait until the full audit comes in before they start more interminable bickering about this shit. Oh, wait, too late.
• Cincinnati yesterday became the first city in the country to pass a ban on so-called conversion therapy, an often religiously based practice that attempts to turn LGBT people, often minors, straight. The legislation comes a year after transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide following bullying. Alcorn's parents took her to conversion therapy for a time. You can read more about the new legislation in our story published yesterday.
• The city today swore in its new police chief following the firing of Chief Jeffrey Blackwell earlier this year. Their pick? Interim police chief Eliot Isaac, who has been the only named candidate in the search for a new permanent head to the police department. City officials promised a national search for a new CPD leader following Blackwell’s ouster, though some have questioned whether that search was thorough enough and whether Isaac was intended to be the city’s pick the whole time. Yesterday, City Council wrangled over raising the pay grade for the police chief to $180,000 a year, which proponents said was a key bargaining chip in keeping Isaac chief on a permanent basis. Council ultimately passed a pay raise for the position, but Democrat Council members Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach balked at the raise, saying the city needs to focus on better pay for its rank-and-file workers.
• According to personal finance website Wallethub.com, which regularly cranks out interesting factoids about cities, Cincinnati is the eighth-best place in the country to celebrate New Year's Eve. That’s kind of a strange ranking to me, since New Year's is all about the parties you go to, and parties are all about who you know at them. But Wallethub found other ways to quantify the quality of New Year's Eve festivities, including price of NYE party tickets, forecasted precipitation, legality of fireworks and other metrics. Cincy came out pretty well all things being equal — just behind Portland, Ore. and just ahead of Las Vegas somehow. So if you have great friends in every major American city (or the money to fly 100 of your nearest and dearest to any of them), or, hell, if you don’t have any friends at all, this ranking should give you a great idea of where to go.
• A week or so ago, we told you about a bill the Ohio General Assembly is considering that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into day care centers, college campuses and private airplanes, among other places. Now U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio, is making news with his reaction to that bill. The Democrat says Ohio lawmakers are “lunatics” for considering such a law, citing mass shootings as among the reasons he thinks the bill is a bad idea. One funny thing to emerge from the debate: Concealed weapons will still be forbidden at the State House. Republican lawmakers call that an oversight. They also say Brown should learn more about the 2nd Amendment before calling them crazy. And on and on the gun debate goes.
• Finally, here’s a bummer bit of information. For the first time in decades, Americans who are considered “middle class” are not a majority of the country’s population, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Pew’s data shows America’s middle class is receding quickly, now making up about 50 percent of the total population, a drop from 54 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, the ranks of the low-income and high-income are swelling, demonstrating the widening income gap in America. What’s more, an increasing amount of the earnings in America are heading toward that upper income group. In 1970, 62 percent of earnings went to the middle class. These days, it’s more like 43 percent. At the same time, high-income households are now taking home 49 percent of America’s aggregate income these days, up from 29 percent at the dawn of the 1970s. Pew considers “middle income” to be between 67 percent and 200 percent of America’s median household income, or between about $42,000 and $126,000 last year for a family of three.
I’m out. Later all.