Hello all. It’s time for the weekly Friday news roundup. Let’s jump right in.
• After a high-profile two-year battle with cancer, Pamela Smitherman died Tuesday. An educator and mother, Smitherman was also an advisor and campaign treasurer for her husband, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman. Funeral services will be held Jan. 26 at Allen Temple AME Church, 7030 Reading Road. Visitation starts at 9 a.m. and the service starts at 11 a.m.
"We would like to extend our gratitude to all of those who have assisted (our) family, extended their condolences and shared kind words in the memory of Pamela," Vice Mayor Smitherman said in a statement this week. "This has been an extremely difficult time, however, we find solace in the love our community has shown and the continued effort to lift us up in prayer."
• Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is Monday. Here’s a (non-exhaustive) breakdown of what is planned in Cincinnati.
• If you were disappointed about last week’s cancellation of Cincinnati’s Women’s March, you’re in luck. Three socialist groups will hold an event tomorrow at Sawyer Point starting at 11 a.m. Meanwhile, organizers for the Women’s March Ohio chapter say they’ll be back bigger and better in 2020. More in our story here.
• Transit activists the Better Bus Coalition introduced a ballot referendum this week that would increase bus funding by upping the city’s earnings tax. Their ballot petition, aimed for November this year, needs 6,000 valid signatures. The proposal would raise the city’s earnings tax earmarked for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority from .3 percent to .5 percent, potentially upping SORTA’s funding via the tax from $55 million to roughly $90 million. The group estimates the tax increase would cost someone working in Cincinnati making $40,000 a year roughly $6.67 a month.
• Cincinnati City Council was busy again this week. Let’s go through what they did really quickly. First, Citicable fans and reporters like yours truly will be heartened (or perhaps dismayed) to know that council voted to once again televise council’s public comment sessions. Those sessions were taken off the air in the heady days after the city’s civil unrest in 2001. Mayor John Cranley, who served on council during that era, says it was because the forum became a venue for racial invective and grandstanding by a few repeat commentators. But the five council members who voted to restore broadcasting public comment — Tamaya Dennard, Greg Landsman, Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young — say doing so will increase transparency.
• Council also passed a big change to the way it will divvy up human services funding, approving a proposal by Sittenfeld to direct the United Way, which oversees the funding, to consider social service organizations that cater to seniors. That move comes after the near-closure of the Over-the-Rhine Senior Services Center on Race Street, which lost city funding in 2015. Previously, the city told United Way to consider initiatives that dealt with people without housing, violence prevention and job training as the nonprofit decided which organizations would get city funding. More in our story here.
• Council member David Mann this week announced he’s pushing for local historic landmark status for the Terrace Plaza Hotel. The downtown modernist landmark, planned by a ground-breaking female architect and completed in 1948, is historically significant nationally, Mann and many local preservationists argue. Mann’s plan comes as the building’s ownership is in legal limbo, and as one potential buyer has discussed changes that critics say would significantly alter the building’s character. More in our story here.
• The owner of a restaurant that was displaced from the West End to make way for FC Cincinnati’s stadium addressed council this week, saying she still hasn’t found a replacement location and that she and her seven employees are still mostly unemployed. Monica Williams closed her Just Cookin’ restaurant late last year when she had to leave the State Theater on West 15th Street, which sits in the footprint of the coming soccer facility. Williams received $20,000 from FC Cincinnati, but faces hundreds of thousands of dollars in build-out costs for a new location. She says she’d like to stay in the West End and has turned down a small location on Court Street downtown. FC Cincinnati Community Engagement Director Mark Mallory says the team is working hard to find a new location and has looked at “five or six” potential spots. Mallory also says the team will pay two years’ rent when a new location is locked down. In the meantime, some council members say they could hold their votes for two vital pieces of the coming stadium construction — the transfer of city-owned land to the team and some zoning variance approvals — until Williams is made whole. We’ll see how those votes fall soon.
• More stadium news: Cincinnati Public Schools says it will have its replacement for Stargel Stadium done before next year’s high school football season starts in August. Stargel formerly stood across the street from the State Theater and next to CPS’ Taft High School before being demolished to make way for FCC’s facility. The new location will be across Ezzard Charles Drive from Taft High School and will be constructed by CPS with $10 million from FCC. Some have doubts, however, that the district can get the stadium done before the season starts next year, citing the fact that the current groundbreaking date of Jan. 23 is two months later than originally planned and the fact that CPS has not chosen construction contractors for the job. Originally, the stadium was supposed to be done before high school track season starts in the spring, but now the teams that use the stadium for that purpose — Taft, Gamble, Riverview East and Sayler Park — will compete elsewhere next year. More from The Cincinnati Enquirer here.
• Local philanthropic group People’s Liberty is winding up its five years of grant-giving from its headquarters across the street from the historic Findlay Market with three six-month fellowships aimed at preserving the beloved market and neighboring community’s spirit. What does that mean? It’s pretty open and subject to interpretation by those who receive the fellowship, People’s Liberty says. So if you have feelings about the rapidly-changing neighborhood, it could be a chance to help steer that change and advocate for the market and those who live nearby. An online application for the fellowship is due Jan. 25 and is up now on Peoples Liberty’s website, and there is a question and answer session for prospective applicants at Peoples Liberty HQ at 1805 Elm St. on Jan. 23 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
What's going on outside our little corner of the world:
• The faculty union at Wright State University will go on strike Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 8 a.m. unless an agreement with the university’s administration is reached. The two sides have been negotiating for two years around a new contract. Faculty is pushing back against the university’s merit pay system and workload expectations as well as changes to policies that could furlough some professors, changes to promotion and tenure policies and changes to faculty health care provisions.
• Four of Ohio’s medicinal marijuana dispensaries opened Wednesday, selling about $75,000 in marijuana products. Ohio’s more than 3,500 card-holding medicinal marijuana shoppers had to make do without edibles, which aren’t available yet, but could still buy other products. You can read more about Ohio’s first four dispensaries and the big demand for medicinal marijuana in this story.
• The record-setting federal government shutdown grinds on into its fourth week with no end in sight for the impasse over President Donald Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for a border wall with Mexico. As it continues, the impacts on the Cincinnati area are increasing. Local food bank managers say the shutdown has caused an increase in demand as furloughed federal workers and SNAP recipients look for food assistance. Local small business leaders say the shutdown has also hamstrung some $112 million in local business expansion loans. The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, which relies on money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, says it has received the federal money it needs for January, but would not comment on what would happen if the shutdown extends into next month. And of course, Internal Revenue Service workers in Northern Kentucky are furloughed, as are other local federal workers. Stay tuned for more coverage of the shutdown’s local impacts.
That’s it for the roundup. See y’all next week.