Morning News: Metro approves plan to expand services; tiny homes are getting big in Cincy; local police chief condemns Tulsa police shooting

Yesterday, Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw wrote on Facebook that he is “sick and tired and mentally drained” from seeing incidents like the shooting death of unarmed black man Terrance Crutcher, who Tulsa police shot last Friday.

Good morning all. Here’s your news today.

Metro, Cincinnati’s bus service, yesterday approved a five-year plan to expand its services and provide 20 million rides a year by 2021. Currently, Metro provides about 16 million rides a year. The new plan, drawn up by Metro employees, union representatives and board members, has four main focuses: increasing efficiency and directing buses to where they’re needed most; maximizing partnerships with other organizations in the community; finding new ways to grow revenue; and increasing use of technology to improve service. Metro officials tout the organization’s current level of efficiency but acknowledge that the transit system doesn’t reach nearly as many jobs or serve as many people as it should. A study last year by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber found that only 23 percent of jobs in the area were easily reachable by public transit.

• Tiny houses are getting big in Cincinnati. Multiple groups in the Greater Cincinnati area are working on offering the small homes, which have become something of a national trend over the past decade. But like a lot of things, Cincinnati is doing the trend a bit differently. Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation, or NEST, will host a kick-off event Sept. 25 for its “Kinda Tiny Houses” program, which will offer 600- to 1,000-square-foot rehabbed houses in that neighborhood. And WheelLife Tiny Homes, which was founded earlier this year by three real estate industry veterans, will offer mobile tiny homes of varying, small sizes running from $40,000 to $70,000 apiece. The houses, which are built on custom trailers, need RV utility hookups. Those plans come just weeks after Peoples’ Liberty grantees Start Small announced final plans for two 700-square-foot houses in Over-the-Rhine for about $200,000 apiece.

• It’s already time for another update on former House Speaker John Boehner, surely one of the most active semi-retired politicians around. You might be seeing Boehner around downtown, as he just took a position with law firm Squire Patton Boggs and will spend some of his time working out of its 25-person Cincinnati office. He’ll spend the rest of his time at the firm’s office in Washington, D.C. Boehner won’t be tugging on the lapels of current politicians in lobbying efforts, the firm says, but will instead be an adviser for global business. Last time we talked about Boehner, he’d joined the board of cigarette giant Reynolds America.

• The region’s heroin crisis is touching every aspect of life in places like Northern Kentucky, where last night the issue of rampant addiction to the drug came up during the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual “State of Northern Kentucky” event. Business and law enforcement leaders there said that the continuing increase in people hooked on opiates, including heroin, is having a big negative impact on the region’s economy. Among the biggest problems posed by the addiction crisis: As NKY faces a skilled labor shortage, a number of potential workers can’t pass drug tests screening for heroin. Meanwhile, jails are overflowing and the dangers of increased HIV and hepatitis infection rates are worrying keeping officials. Authorities estimate as many as 8,000 people in Northern Kentucky are addicted to heroin.

• Finally, the issue of racially charged police shootings continues to be America’s seemingly endless nightmare. In the last week, we've seen the shooting of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma who had his hands in the air, the police killing of a black 13-year-old holding a bb gun in Columbus and the shooting death of a man in North Carolina who police say was armed, but who family insist was not. The incidents have made national headlines and sparked civil unrest.

One local police chief has taken to social media to express his disgust with some of those shootings. Yesterday, Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw wrote on Facebook that he is “sick and tired and mentally drained” from seeing incidents like the shooting death of Terrance Crutcher, who Tulsa police shot while he had his hands up outside his truck. Officers were dispatched to reports of a stalled vehicle in the road. They came upon Crutcher, who they say did not comply with commands and reached into his vehicle. Two videos of the incident show Crutcher with his hands up, however, just before being Tased and shot within seconds of each other. Authorities in Tulsa say they’re investigating the incident, and officer Betty Shelly, who fired the fatal shot, is on administrative leave. In his Facebook post, Middletown PD’s Muterspaw told officers who “can’t do the job or are scared of people different from you, then get out of the job. You’re making us all look bad.”

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