Morning News: Streetcar to run at full strength for Oktoberfest; did city get hacked?; Owens departs Health Department

The drama over how many streetcars will run during Oktoberfest weekend is over, with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority saying it will run four cars instead of two at an additional $20,000 cost.

click to enlarge Music Hall, which opened in 1878
Music Hall, which opened in 1878

Hello all. We’ll get to the news in a minute, but first I just have to share this: I visited Terry’s Turf Club for the first time in forever last night, and it was, as always, fantastic. We even got the elevated booth in the corner of the neon-lit restaurant, which is the best seat in the house. No, they didn’t pay me to write this, I’m just that happy about it. But if Terry’s wanted to hook me up with a burger, I wouldn’t complain… extra Foghorn Leghorn sauce, please.

• Ok, ok. Enough about burgers. Let’s talk news. The drama over how many streetcars will run during Oktoberfest weekend is over, with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority saying it will run four cars instead of two. The additional $20,000 cost to run extra cars will be covered by $7,000 left over from the Cincinnati Bell Connector’s opening weekend plus expected increased fare revenue, city officials say. If that revenue doesn’t cover the full amount, Advertising Vehicles, the marketing company that handled selling streetcar marketing opportunities, will cover the rest. The solution temporarily puts off a larger disagreement: stipulations in the contract between the city and SORTA that say two cars run on the weekends but that riders should have to wait no more than15 minutes to catch a ride.

• More City Hall stuff. Did the city of Cincinnati get hacked? Sort of, but not really. A person or group has posted what it has said is a list of passwords for the email accounts of various city officials, including Mayor John Cranley and members of City Council. Those passwords apparently came from a hack of a social media site, possibly LinkedIn. Officials say the city’s site was not compromised and that the passwords released are outdated. The person or people claiming responsibility for the hack also say they’ve perpetrated recent bomb threats against the streetcar and local schools. Fun guys, right? Just kidding. I’m all for leaking government documents but these dudes seem like dicks.

• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden will retire next spring, he said in a letter to the Cincinnati Park Board. The Park Board, and Carden, have faced a rough patch of late after revelations about board spending and furor over ethics questions related to the nonprofit Parks Foundation that is closely tied to the board. But Carden has also been well-liked for much of his three-decade tenure with the city. He was floated for the role of city manager by Mayor John Cranley following Cranley’s election in 2013 but later declined the offer. Carden stressed in the letter that the timing of his retirement has been set for years.

• Speaking of city bigwigs, Cincinnati Interim Health Commissioner O’dell Owens will step down from his role following a drawn-out six month process that might have made him the Health Department’s permanent head. Owens, who will now lead health education group Interact for Health, says the process has been frustrating and, with no end in sight, that it’s time for him to move on. The nine-member Cincinnati Board of Health has been debating between Owens and Swannie Jett, who heads health initiatives for Seminole County, Florida.

• Quick hit: Renovations of Cincinnati’s Music Hall are about a quarter of the way finished and are on track to be completed in October of next year. The $130 million rehab to the landmark’s interior has been funded by the city, state historic preservation tax credits and $64 million private donations. Fundraisers are hoping to gather another $4 million in donations before the project is finished.

• The Internal Revenue Service is shutting down a local processing facility due to the rise of online tax filing, meaning the federal agency will cut 1,800 jobs in Covington. That’s about half of the IRS’s Covington employees. The other half will be moved to another, as-yet-unannounced location, but won’t lose their jobs. The news is a big blow for the city: The IRS is its second-largest employer.

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