Morning News: National clown hysteria comes to Cincy area; controversy slows city manager review process; 1 million in Ohio won't get absentee ballot applications

Cincinnati's city manager got a raise last year after a single, one-on-one meeting with Mayor John Cranley, who picked him. Council voted that raise through, but also questioned the oversight process for the city manager.

Good morning all. I hope your weekend was great. Some friends and I went camping somewhere in the Indiana hinterlands. Oh hey, here’s something terrifying — Friday night, we got lost in a small town where the roads didn’t match up with Google Maps. As fog rolled through the narrow streets and between the small, crumbling houses, we saw… someone dressed like a clown rolling down the street on a skateboard laughing his head off and dribbling a basketball. That would normally be just kind of weird, but the recent spate of news around clowns made it terrifying. Probably just some bored teen… probably.

The strange spread of clown-related threats and crime reached the Greater Cincinnati area last week, resulting in 911 calls in at least seven area municipalities. Five students from Sycamore High School were arrested Friday in connection with clown-related threats, and other arrests happened in Colerain and Miami townships for similar threats. Last week, Reading and Mount Notre Dame high schools closed down after a woman reported a man in a clown costume grabbed her by the neck. The man made vague threats against those schools before running off. Another report of a knife-wielding clown in Reading was revealed to be a hoax, however. Clown-related threats and crime have become a national phenomenon over the past few weeks. A 16-year-old was stabbed to death by a man in a clown mask in Reading, Pennsylvania, and a man wearing a clown costume was shot in Fort Wayne, Indiana after reports a clown was menacing students at bus stops.

• In non-clown related news, it’s been two years since Cincinnati welcomed its current city manager, Harry Black. How’s he doing? It’s hard to tell, because the process by which Cincinnati City Council is supposed to review Black is stuck in neutral. The city manager got a raise last year after a single, one-on-one meeting with Mayor John Cranley, who picked him. Council voted that raise through, but also questioned the oversight process for the city manager. That led to an ordinance outlining a Council-led process by which Black would be evaluated, which Council passed unanimously in February. The only problem: Some council members don’t want to be part of issuing a final report on Black’s performance. Councilman Christopher Smitherman says that’s because some others on Council want to play politics. He’s probably referring to Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who drew up the review process and who is challenging Mayor Cranley in next year’s mayoral primary. Simpson says that’s nonsense and that the only way the process could become political is if all council members don’t participate. As Council fights over the oversight process, Cranley has indicated he’ll assess Black the same way he did last year — with a one-on-one review.

• About two-dozen Black Lives Matter Cincinnati members showed support for Withrow High School football players at their Friday game against Glen Este.  More than 20 of Withrow’s players raised their fists or took a knee instead of participating in the singing of the national anthem, an ongoing protest against racial injustice inspired by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. BLM members said they attended the game to stand with (or, well, take a knee with) the players but were surprised by an earlier-than-usual performance of the anthem, which was not announced over the public address system. Withrow officials released a statement last week encouraging students to stand for the anthem, but also said the school would not punish students who didn’t. At least two Cincinnati Public Schools officials were at the game, but did not comment on the protest.

• An extensive, 30-meeting process around the continued expansion of enrollment at the University of Cincinnati and its effects on surrounding neighborhoods culminated in a presentation before the city’s planning commission Friday, but questions around ways to manage UC’s impact in nearby communities remain. The presentation contained 36 recommendations around zoning, parking, new development and other issues. Some of those proposals are controversial, however, including one that would create a mandatory rental inspection program for landlords in the neighborhoods. That’s led to concerns that those property owners would be treated differently than others around the city. A UC student died in a house fire in 2013 in a building that housed 10 other people.

• Finally, more than 1 million of Ohio’s nearly 8 million voters won’t get absentee ballot applications because Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office has culled the rolls of people eligible to receive the mailing. That includes more than 650,000 who changed addresses and another 385,000 who didn’t vote in 2012 or 2014. Those who also haven’t responded to requests for address confirmation won't receive an absentee ballot application. Democrats are howling over the omissions, accusing Husted of trying to suppress voters who would usually vote Democratic. But Husted and other Republicans say they’re working hard to get the word out about voting, and that those who weren’t mailed the applications weren’t eligible for them. More than 800,000 Ohioans have asked for an absentee ballot, a record for the state. Voters can apply until Oct. 11.

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