Questions linger around Cincinnati's emergency response systems; more news

A 49-page report released by the Cincinnati Police Department leaves as many questions as it answers, prompting Cincinnati City Council to seek an outside investigation into the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush

click to enlarge Mayor John Cranley and acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney outside the city's Emergency Communications Center - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Mayor John Cranley and acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney outside the city's Emergency Communications Center

Good morning, all. Here’s a quick rundown of the news today.

Following a presentation of a 49-page report by the Cincinnati Police Department, Cincinnati City Council wants an independent investigation into the events that led up to the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush last month. Plush suffocated April 10 after the third-row seat of his Honda Odyssey flipped over, pinning him. Plush called 911 twice using the voice activation feature on his phone, which was in his pocket. CPD’s report found that officers and dispatchers mostly followed procedure, but also that dispatchers didn’t hear or didn’t convey key information Plush told them, including him saying he was “going to die,” and that officers didn’t get out of their police cruiser when responding to Plush’s call, despite knowing they were looking for a van and being in the correct area.

"There were some failures, and we have to do better," CPD Chief Eliot Isaac told council.

Council members, and Plush’s family, however, say the report from CPD isn’t nearly good enough. Plush’s family has presented a list of 31 questions they say the report doesn’t answer, including why officers didn’t leave their police cruiser, why they didn’t have the approximate GPS coordinates for Plush’s cell phone the city’s call center may have had, why a second operator could not hear Plush’s second 911 call, and others. After yesterday’s presentation, Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman tweeted out a motion signed by all nine council members asking for an outside investigation into the emergency response to Plush’s call.

• Immigrants and refugees coming to Cincinnati who need help with the U.S. immigration system or other legal aid now have a new resource — the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center at Roberts Academy in Price Hill. You can read all about the center in our news feature here. It has already served more than 100 people, including a number of parents and students served by Cincinnati Public Schools.

• Questions have been swirling around Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor's relationship with Charles Shor and his private foundation, which was started to fund epilepsy research. But how did Pastor come to be director at that foundation, what's up with a mortgage Shor gave Pastor and why did Pastor hand out checks to local churches around election season last year? We took a deep dive and got some — though not all — the answers in our news feature here.

• It's no secret that Cincinnati has a distinct Appalachian flavor. Maybe you checked out the Appalachian Studies Association's annual conference here last month — one of the few times the conference has been held outside the official bounds of the region. Or maybe you went down to Coney Island last weekend to take in the annual Appalachian Festival. But there's more to the city's ties to Appalachia than Bluegrass and homespun crafts. In our cover story this week, we explore the persistent challenges and stereotypes that face some folks who were part of a massive migration of Appalachians into Cincinnati starting in the 1940s and their descendants, many of whom continue to live in the same enclaves they and their families settled in decades ago.

• Cincinnati saw the most Airbnb users ever for University of Cincinnati’s commencement ceremonies last month, according to the short-stay rental platform. More than 1,600 people stayed in an Airbnb site in Cincinnati during UC’s commencement weekend April 27-28, representing a nearly 20 percent increase from the week prior. The surge comes as Airbnb and similar sites get more popular in Cincinnati, leading some elected officials to call for new regulations on the service.

• The Cincinnati Zoo suffered a fire yesterday that did $75,000 in damage. The fire, which didn’t hurt any people or animals, required response from 40 Cincinnati fire fighters. The blaze started in a concession stand and took about 15 minutes to extinguish.

• As you already know, Cincinnati isn’t getting Amazon’s new HQ2. But Ohio is getting more jobs from the online retail giant, which announced it will build an enormous, 855,000-square-foot sorting warehouse outside of Columbus. The new site will create about 1,500 jobs and open in late 2019. The development will get a full, 15-year tax abatement and the state will chip in about $1.5 million in infrastructure around the new facility.

• The Ohio Board of Education may delay issuing report cards for the state’s schools because the system by which those grades are developed is in flux. The BOE will vote this week on whether to delay the grades, which are due in September. Those grades represent the first time the state has issued overall grades for schools based on a number of smaller performance metrics, including two new ones measuring absenteeism and retries at end of year exams.

“The state report card is kind of perceived as this house of cards,” said board member Kara Morgan, who introduced the delay motion. “There’s lots of things that are in it that are potentially valuable, but it seems a little fragile right now.  My concern is that by kind of placing this composite score on top of it, it’ll all just tumble down.”

• Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives will vote on a new house speaker to replace Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned last month. But the selection process isn’t exactly turning out to be an easy one. Rosenberger resigned after revelations he was the subject of an ethics investigation by the FBI involving his sometimes-cozy relationships with lobbyists for the payday loan industry and other powerful groups. That’s put fellow Republicans in the state house in an awkward position. It’s also complicated a big fight between Reps. Larry Householder and Ryan Smith, who both wanted to replace Rosenberger when he left after this year due to term limits. That was before Rosenberger’s resignation, however. Now it’s possible that GOP House members will tap a short-term replacement to serve out Rosenberger’s term, staving off the bitter fight between Smith and Householder until January.

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