Morning News and Stuff

Chamber hosts discussions on transit; workers rally for minimum wage increase; streetcar zipping around OTR

Hey Cincy. There’s a ton of interesting stuff going on today. Let’s talk about some of it.

• The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning is hosting a series of discussions about transit in the region, and the event has drawn a packed house. The event comes on the heels of a less-than-stellar report about Greater Cincinnati’s transit options. According to that report, only 22 percent of jobs in the city are easily accessible by public transit, and only 58 percent across the region are within a 90-minute transit ride.

The Chamber’s event today features a panel discussion involving local transit officials and experts and a keynote address from former Zipcar head and transit expert Gabe Klein. Among the highlights: Republican Cincinnati City Councilwoman and chair of the Council’s transportation and regional cooperation subcommittee Amy Murray advocating for an expansion of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metro system via a county-wide tax increase. That ask may appear on the ballot next November. Democrat Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, also speaking on the panel, pointed to the fact that the region is dead last among peer cities in terms of transit connectivity, and that this weakness could hamper economic growth.

Klein’s talk focused on the way transit can increase a city’s economic competitiveness, and how high emphasis on highways and lack of transit options can hamper a city’s walkability and its ability to attract young people. Klein also argued in favor of a return to density in city centers, especially density focused on eliminating the need to rely on cars to get to necessities.

“Making cities dense again, a place where people want to be, just makes sense,” Klein told attendees, arguing that increased density with less reliance on cars (and need for parking, for example) changes the equation for developers and residents when it comes to making decisions about where to build and live.

• Speaking of transit, the streetcar is taking its first trips under its own power today around Over-the-Rhine. You may see the shiny new orange and white vehicles, which look a little like space trains or something, making a 1.6 mile loop between the southern edge of Washington Park and Henry Street just north of Findlay Market. There won’t be any street closures along the route as officials seek to test how motorists and pedestrians interact with the new addition to traffic. The cars will travel very slowly most of the time — about three miles an hour — though at times the cars will be bumped up to 10 mph and occasionally all the way up to a top speed of 25 mph. The tests could take up to three days.

• About 20 local fast food, homecare and childcare workers gathered at City Hall this morning to advocate for a boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The demonstration was part of a larger group of events happening across the country today advocating for the wage boost with an eye toward the 2016 elections. According to organizers, walkouts, city hall rallies and other events are planned in more than 270 cities nationwide today. The group gathered at Cincinnati City Hall this morning will also rally in Norwood at noon. In addition to wage increases, the groups, part of the Fight for 15 movement, are also protesting for increased union rights in industries that aren’t friendly to collective bargaining. Organizers say today’s rallies are just the start of a year-long effort to put pressure on candidates and officials to take steps to expand collective bargaining rights and wages for low-income workers. More than 2 million Ohioans make less than $15 an hour.

• What’s the difference between jail and a cozy stay in a place you found on Air B&B? Here’s a hint: it’s not the price. Jail stays in some parts of the state can cost you an average of more than $70 a day, a report from the American Civil Liberties Union found recently. Those fees can add up. One man who has been booked multiple times on non-violent drug charges now owes the state more than $21,000 for his time in county jails. Not all jails charge booking or daily fees, but at least 16 in the state do. Generally, county commissioners decide whether or not to charge the one-time booking fees (which Hamilton and Butler Counties do) and the recurring daily fees (which they do not). The ACLU is asking the state legislature to create rules against those charges.

• Finally, is a dynamic duo of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the cards for the 2016 presidential election? Pundits have been opining on the possible dream team (or nightmare scenario/comedic and bumbling buddy movie in the making, depending on your political leanings) after noticing the two contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have been notably less than hostile to each other during debates and in the press. Kasich brings experience and well, one of the nation’s biggest swing states. Rubio brings youth and… one of the other big swing states. Of course, neither one wants to play Robin to the other’s Batman just yet and take the VP spot, but time could change that, especially if Kasich doesn’t take a big upswing in the polls in places like New Hampshire, the early primary state where the Ohio gov has said he must do well to continue his campaign. 

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