Morning News: BLINK brings largest downtown crowd in city's history; activists gear up for white nationalist speech at UC

More than a million people came out over the festival’s four days to check out the 20 city blocks of light shows, murals and musical performances in Over-the-Rhine and downtown.

Oct 16, 2017 at 11:03 am

click to enlarge Morning News: BLINK brings largest downtown crowd in city's history; activists gear up for white nationalist speech at UC
Hailey Bollinger

Good morning all. I hope you had a very fun, very full weekend. Lady Fest took over Northside, the Fade2Black film festival was at University of Cincinnati and of course, BLINK was all over downtown. It was a great few days to be in Cincy. Here’s some news that happened while you were out partaking in the greatness.

Officials with the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber say more than a million people came out to see BLINK. The festival’s four days included 20 city blocks of light shows, murals and musical performances downtown and in Over-the-Rhine. That makes it the largest event in city history, surpassing Oktoberfest, Taste of Cincinnati and other huge events. The huge crowds caused big traffic snarls and long waits for the streetcar, but otherwise, city officials say there weren’t any incidents. Organizers say they’re already set to bring the light show back next year.

• University of Cincinnati officials announced Friday afternoon they would allow high-profile white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak on campus. Spencer, an organizer for the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. over the summer, threatened to sue on 1st Amendment grounds public universities like UC that did not allow him to speak. Attorneys associated with Spencer said they would file a lawsuit by Friday if schools did not signal their willingness to host him. So far, five universities have declined to have Spencer speak on campus, citing safety concerns. That includes Ohio State University — which rejected a request by a Georgia college student to have Spencer visit the school Nov. 15. School officials say they’re working to arrange an off-campus venue where Spencer can speak. Meanwhile, local anti-racist groups are organizing for Spencer’s as-yet unscheduled Cincinnati visit. Black Lives Matter Cincinnati, faith leaders and other groups will hold an organizing meeting Thursday at 6 pm at New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn to plan for Spencer’s appearance here.

• A man who once faced jail time over city code compliance has fixed his house up, but he’s still in wrangling with the city over court fees. CityBeat in May wrote about Earl Starr’s struggle to keep his house — and avoid jail — because of ongoing problems with city code violations. His plight is an illustration of problems some low-income homeowners have with city code compliance efforts, especially in redeveloping neighborhoods, that CityBeat highlighted earlier this year. Starr had already addressed some of the issues with his property in the spring and was working hard on the others at the house where he lives with his son. Despite that, he says he went around multiple times with the city and was on house arrest when CityBeat spoke to him. Now, he says he’s finished with repairs — but is still on the hook for almost $900 in court fees. Starr says he can’t afford those fees. City officials say the fees won’t cause Starr to lose his house or get thrown in jail, but he may end up having to do community service to pay them off.

• Cincinnati Public Schools has responded to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Gabriel Taye, the 8-year-old CPS student who killed himself two days after he was bullied at Carson Elementary. CPS’s 40-page response expresses sorrow for Taye’s death but also asserts that school isn’t responsible for the tragedy. The wrongful death suit says CPS teachers and other officials didn’t respond properly to the bullying Taye experienced, including an incident caught on video in which another student pulled Taye down at school. Taye laid on the floor unconscious and undiscovered for a number of minutes. He hung himself at his mother’s home two days later. CPS says there’s no evidence staff at Carson or with the district sought to dismiss Taye’s treatment or minimize bullying happening at the school.

• Activist investor Nelson Peltz is asking for a recount of last week’s Procter & Gamble proxy vote that denied him a seat on the Cincinnati-based consumer goods giant’s board of directors. Peltz believes the results were too close to call in that vote. Now, the firm overseeing the voting will recount some 200,000 paper ballots while both P&G officials and representatives from Peltz’ Trian Fund Management observe.

• Right now, if Ohioans want to light up the serious stuff when it comes to fireworks, we have to drive across the border to Indiana. But that could change. Fireworks would become fully legal in Ohio if legislation by State Rep. Bill Seitz that recently passed in the Ohio House of Representatives is approved by the Senate and Gov. John Kasich. That bill would legalize setting off fireworks in the state by July of 2020. Under the law, local officials could still set limits on when fireworks could be used or ban them entirely. Confusingly, you can currently buy fireworks in Ohio, but you can’t set them off here and you have to take them out of the state within 48 hours.