Good morning all. Here are some quick news bits for you.
The Cincinnati Bell Connector has exceeded a quarter-million rides since it opened in September. But ridership is slowing, newly-released numbers show. Excluding the streetcar’s opening weekend, when thousands piled on for free rides, the transit project’s average daily ridership is hovering at about 3,163. That’s above the projected 3,000 riders a day the city has hoped for. But there haven’t been more than 3,000 riders on any given day since late October, and three days this month have seen less than 1,000 riders. Temporary lull or a sign of bad news? A spokesperson for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority says ridership fluctuation isn’t unusual, and that usage of the streetcar is expected to pick up as the holidays approach. Officials say that in October, ridership was 11 percent above projections. You can read more about the latest streetcar data in this Business Courier piece.
• Local activists and faith leaders are calling on Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to retry former University Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing following Saturday’s announcement of a hung jury in Tensing’s murder and manslaughter trial. Tensing shot and killed unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose during a routine traffic stop in Mount Auburn on July 19, 2015. Ministers, Black Lives Matter activists and other groups gathered outside Deters’ office yesterday to demand the prosecutor’s office move forward with a retrial immediately. Deters has said he believes Tensing is guilty of murder, but needs to weigh whether a retrial is in the county’s best interest. I’m going to editorialize here: It is. Eight of the jurors in Tensing’s trial agreed on manslaughter chargers for the UCPD officer, who said he was dragged by DuBose’s car despite body camera footage that shows that wasn’t the case. Three of those jurors initially wanted to convict Tensing on murder charges. Deters says he’s speaking with the jury to find out more details about their inability to come to a consensus. Four jurors did not want to convict Tensing.
• Meanwhile, at the University of Cincinnati, some students are calling for the dismissal of two other officers involved in the incident that took DuBose’s life. Last night at a forum held on campus, students pushed UC officials to demand a retrial for Tensing, and also for the dismissal of UC officers Philip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, who initially corroborated Tensing’s story to other officers. Both later amended their stories after seeing video of the incident. Lindenschmidt initially said he saw Tensing being dragged by DuBose’s car, then, when under oath, said he didn’t witness that. Kidd said he heard tires squealing before the gunshot that killed DuBose — an assertion that is contradicted by video evidence. UC officials say an independent investigation found that Kidd and Lindenschmidt did not break any laws or UC policies. They’re still on the school’s police force, a fact that some students say is deeply upsetting and may lead to protests.
Some UC officials have acknowledged the tension around Kidd and Lindenschmidt’s statements. This spring, at a forum about UC’s police reform, UC Police Department Director of Community Relations S. Gregory Baker fielded questions by CityBeat about the officers, but did not comment about whether they should remain on the force.
“They corrected their testimony to be consistent with the video tape,” Baker said at the time. “They knew what was on the tape because they saw it themselves. That’s a very unsettled piece of this. They’re currently still working on the force.”
• So, any chance some local members of the electoral college won’t cast their votes for president-elect Donald Trump, who has continued to stir deep controversy and apprehension around his racially-charged, often misogynistic rhetoric and campaign promises? Not likely, electors say. For one thing, Ohio is one of 29 states that “binds” its electors, meaning fines or other penalties if an elector votes for someone other than who voters selected. Those penalties aren’t spelled out under Ohio law, however, and in the roughly 100 cases where electors have been “unfaithful” in the country’s history, rarely have they faced punishment. But Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou, who is one of 18 electors casting Ohio’s electoral college votes, says he’ll be sticking with Trump. He’s gotten more than 50 emails imploring him to cast his vote for Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote in the presidential race by more than a million ballots. But Triantafilou says the appeals to cast a ballot against Trump is “preposterous,” and that Trump is the legitimate next president because he won the electoral college vote.
• Finally, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Northern Kentucky is saying he won’t support current House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Republican, in his bid to remain in the top spot in the House. Massie has cited concerns that Ryan will be overly deferential to president-elect Trump, who has called for massive tax cuts and military spending spikes. Massie, a fiscal hawk, won’t go along with that, he says, though he’s open to hearing Ryan’s plan for opposing additional spending. Massie, who rode the Tea Party wave into office, has been vocal about cutting federal spending to the bone. He says he voted for Trump and likes his proposal to build a wall between the United States and Mexico and his pledge to gut Obamacare, but opposes Trump on other issues. Opposition from tea partiers like Massie could signal further schisms within the party as Trump takes office.