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Friday, April 28, 2006

Tsotsi: To See Or Not To See

Violent and valiant? Don’t believe it

by Jan Stetter
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Picture, Tsotsi has been hailed as an uplifting motion picture. Set in the backdrop of South Africa’s urban impoverished tenements, it tells the story of a young man’s life of abandonment, survival and the possibility of redemption.

“Tsotsi” is a slang term meaning “thug” and is the name of the main character. Tsotsi is the predator that leads a small band of three insouciant vagrants. Their days and nights are dictated by where Tsotsi leads them to meet their prey.

Through several violent scenes, one readily believes in the futility of Tsotsi’s existence and in the worthlessness of his aimless life. The story takes an immediate turn when Tsotsi hijacks a car and shoots the owner. Tsotsi races away to escape the woman’s pleading and crashes the car. As he begins to make a quick getaway, his plan is interrupted as there is an infant strapped in the back seat of the car.

While Tsotsi may pull at the heartstrings by accurately and effectively illustrating the absolute destitution of South Africa, the premise of the movie is not convincing. Tsotsi takes the baby and cares for it. The baby is the story’s vehicle for Tsotsi to see vulnerability in humanity. As a young child, he lost his mother who died from an AIDS-related illness. A life of brutal survival is all he has learned.

Director Gavin Hood did an excellent job of illustrating the destitute portrait of poverty in South Africa. The use of flashback memories helps develop Tsotsi’s austere transition from a poor, beloved son to a vicious street fighter. Hood, a South African, is pleased by the acclaim the film has been given. He also appreciates the opportunity to show the world the beauty and hardship of his native land.

Perhaps Hood did too good of a job demonstrating the brutal violence of Tsotsi’s life. That may be this film’s greatest failure. Newcomer Presley Chweneyagae, in a very purposeful and willful performance, illicits the raw anger and lack of conscience for his character. Tsotsi beats one of his underlings to a pulp and shoots a woman, leaving her a paraplegic. In the next breath, he takes a dependent infant and tries to care for it.

To honestly accept this premise reduces this movie to a contrived formula where sentimentality portrays struggle and redemption. The ending is ambiguous at best. The film failed to evoke the impact of an all-consuming infant actually transforming this young man.

It is exciting to watch Presley Chweneyagae play the angry Tsotsi; he grew up in South Africa in a tenement existence. As a youth, he invested his energy on education and drama rather than the more prevalent choice of violence and survival of the cruelest.

Presley Chweneyagae adds realism and sadness to Tsotsi’s life. Too bad the rest of the film’s credibility failed to match Chweneyagae’s passionate performance.
I’m not selling this movie, nor am I discounting it. However, I’m not buying it.

Having trouble making decisions about wheather a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday.
Contact: jans@queencityforum.com

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Search for Funding to Rehash Enviro Office of Management

Mayor Looks to Include Funding for Campaign Promise in Budget

by Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

City Hall--Mayor Mark Mallory and Councilman David Crowley are in the process of reestablishing an Office of Environmental Management in City Hall. This in the hope that Cincinnati may be better prepared next time the city faces an environmental emergency like the styrene leak or the Queen City Barrel fire.

The prior OEM was cut in 2002 by former Mayor Charlie Luken. The elimination of the program was supported by a majority on Council during a time when the city was facing a $17 million deficit.

“In the last few years, Cincinnati has faced several major environmental problems,” said Mallory in a press release. “It is clear that we need city experts to help us protect the health of our city.”

Mr. Crowley was on Council when the old OEM was disbanded and said that he was against it then.

“I didn’t want to dismantle the original one,” said Crowley. “So when the mayor said that he was going to recreate the office, I said I would help.”

Crowley said he will head the planning group which will consist of environmentalist civic and business leaders.

“My role is to get the concept together and get it back to the Council by June, and the administration will work on how to fund it,” said Crowley.

Mallory said recreating the OEM is a high priority of his. It was one of five campaign promises he made and his administration will find funding for the agency.

“We will figure out how to pay for it,” said Mallory. “It is a priority of mine so it will be in my version of the budget.”

The OEM responsibilities will include coordinating the city’s enforcement of environmental issues, air and water quality, maintain relationships with local experts in the field, and to provide the public with environmental information.

The program started in 1990 with discussions about creating a model program between the Cincinnati City officials and representatives from the University of Cincinnati, the Environmental Protection Agency Research Laboratory, and the American Institute of Pollution Prevention. In 1992 it resulted in an agency that was created with matching funds from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Pollution Prevention Incentives for States Program.

Luken told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2001 that he had no idea what the agency did and that, as a strong mayor, he would eliminate any unnecessary bureaucracy that wasted the city’s money.
However, in 1996 Cincinnati OEM was the recipient of the Governor’s Pollution Prevention Award.

Then Governor George V. Voinovich said, “[The] City of Cincinnati, has demonstrated strong pollution prevention programs which show that pollution prevention is good for businesses’ economic growth and well as for the environment.”

Some of the former activities of the agency include programs to promote waste managements among local industry promoting waste disposal, treatment recycling and reduction, a Peer Review Advisory Committee made up of a small group of experts who could be frequently consulted, as well as educational outreach programs for the general public.

The OEM was a leader in several successful environmental demonstration projects and received numerous inquiries from across the nation about its program to convert to environmentally friendly lead-free, waterborne paints on local roads and highways.

Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QueenCityForum.com Magazine.
contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com

Monday, April 24, 2006

Schmidt Touts Polling, Support From Majority Leader

Congresswoman Bears Down as Primary Campaign Comes Closer to Finish

Sharonville, OH--Ohio Dist 2 Rep. Jean Schmidt is touting a very special appearance with House Majority Leader John Boehner this Saturday.

A spokesman from the Schmidt re-election campaign has said that the two will appear together at the Sharonville Convention Center at 3:30 pm. Boehner replaced Tom Delay as U.S. House Majority Leader earlier this year.

The Schmidt campaign has further revealed that it has been polling district wide, though the results remain unconfirmed.

Rep. Schmidt is an incumbent vying for the Republican nomination in the primary election against former Congressman Bob McEwen. The election will be held Tuesday, May 2nd 2006.

In Ohio, primaries are closed, so each voter can only take a ballot from one political party.

More about polling results as they unfold...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

D2 Congressional Candidate Holds Court in Anderson

Unopposed Debate Allows Republican McEwen to Friendly Policy Display

By Tim Beechuk
QueenCityForum.com Magazine

Anderson Township--Generally a debate involves two or more people, but in this case one would have to be enough. Rep. Jean Schmidt (OH-R) chose not to enter into the debate with Bob McEwen held at The Mercy Healthplex Wednesday evening in Anderson Township. However, the presentation continued as it had been planned, minus one.

The candidates are vying for a May 2nd primary victory that would send them to the general election against the Democratic primary victor. Ohio’s District 2 is one of the most heavily Republican districts in the United States.

The moderator explained the rules as originally agreed to by both candidates, before a pro-McEwen audience.

McEwen’s opening speech focused on the importance of economic freedom in government to garner wealth in society vs. using tight governmental regulations which would stifle the economy. He also spoke of his background in politics which include three terms in the Ohio state legislature and six terms in the U.S. House.

Questions had been previously sent in and also accepted from the audience prior to the start of the debate. Some of the former representative’s answers were short and to point. In these he focused on the crafted Karl Rove-eque “stay on message” strategy, pleading for, “extension of the Voting Rights Act,” and maintaining that “outsourcing of delicate jobs to foreign soil” shouldn’t happen.

McEwen covered free trade, saying that it helps everyone but that there is a need for a level playing field to enable the U.S. economy to compete fairly in more detailed answers.

McEwen asked, “With manufacturing moving to other countries, how do we maintain & grow U.S. workforce?”

McEwen expressed the need to control the spiraling costs of higher education through an extended teaching approach that mirrors our other technological triumphs.

The current topic of immigration brought the lone candidate to propose reducing the problem by inducing immigrants to become Americans, rather than remaining immigrants in America.

McEwen stated that he was in favor of capital punishment in certain cases, emphasizing that a quicker process in the actual carrying out of the punishment.

Incumbent Congresswoman Jean Schmidt did join McEwen yesterday in a television debate filmed at the WLWT Channel 5 studios in Cincinnati.

Rep. Schmidt has hired well known class-action attorney Stan Chesley to represent her in a possible suit involving Mr. McEwen’s Ohio state residency

McEwen On...
National debt: Currently 60% of GDP, it’s been much higher and we got out of the problem
Bringing troops home from Iraq: The premiere question we will face for the rest of our lives.
… Drilling on Alaska National Wildlife Refuge: Nothing lives there, we need our own oil, let’s dig
… Admitting openly-gay Americans to the military: no one else does it; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

QueenCityForum.com Magazine writer Marc Beechuk contributed to this article
contact: editors@queencityforum.com

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Downtown Bar On the Brink

Seventh St. Bar Phoenix May Loose Liquor License

By Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine reporter

City Hall--Council voted Wednesday to pass a resolution which objects to the liquor license renewal of the Phoenix Café. They also voted to table objection of the renewal of the liquor license of R P McMurphy’s Pub and Coffee House, relinquishing the case to the Law and Public Safety Committee for further investigation.

Council member Laketa Cole said that she wanted to make sure that businesses who are working with the police and the public are not shut down. She felt that there are still some issues left to be resolved.

“I just want to make sure that businesses that are trying to do the right thing are not penalized for it,” said Cole about the Phoenix, a downtown bar.

Concerned members of the respective communities and the police department attended hearings for both businesses in favor of and apposed to the renewals. Representatives from both of the establishment’s message to council were that they were doing everything within their power to work out the business’s problems with police and neighbors.

Representatives from McMurphy’s spoke at Tuesday’s hearing and Wednesday’s Council meeting in an attempt to resolve this issue. The Phoenix Café only spoke at Tuesday’s committee hearing.

At the hearing, Phoenix representatives told Council that they had not been informed of the April 4th hearing against the establishment.

Moreover, they said that many of the phone calls of concern to police that had been reported at the last liquor hearing had been made by the business’s employees for occurrences outside the bar.

Ms. Cole asked if the police were able to tell Council how many times the establishments in question had called the police themselves about problems on or near their property.

The Cincinnati Police Department representative said that the department does not keep a separate record for each establishment of who makes the calls to the police. In order to find out, the department would have to go back to the date and time of the dispatch to determine the callers’ identities.

The Phoenix’s lawyer, James Nickels said “the tavern has started calling last call at 9 p.m., giving up five hours of business to keep its license.” Nickels said that the Phoenix is the “only tavern downtown that is interrogated” that an average person can go and have an affordable drink.

Several long-time patrons and nearby residents of the Phoenix Café agreed with Nickels and spoke at the committee hearing in support of the renewal of its liquor license.

Charles Herd said that he lives a few doors up from the Phoenix and that the charges against the tavern are unwarranted.

“I go this establishment every day,” said Herd. “I have never seen anything going on in there.”

The Phoenix must now prepare for a hearing before the Ohio Department of Liquor Control.

Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QueenCityForum.com Magazine.
contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com

Monday, April 17, 2006

Editorial: Immigration

The immigration debate rolls on. Political opportunists see this issue as the chance to demonize the other side. But there is a deeper issue here beyond politics, beyond xenophobia, beyond human rights or even the law.

It’s an issue about people.

Let’s put aside homeland security. Let’s put aside the 2006 mid-term elections. Let’s put aside the staggering number of “11 million illegal immigrants” or that this represents five percent of our population.

Instead, let’s take a good look at Hispanic immigrants (admittedly, through a wide generalization). There are several things about Hispanics that the news doesn’t cover, that the politicians do not debate, that natural-born Americans do not realize. These people have principles that we aspire to ourselves. Imagine that! While we look down our noses at them, these people may actually have traits that are admirable.

Click here to

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More From Witness, Council On Kabaka Oba Shooting

by Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine City Hall reporter

Local political activist Kabaka Oba was shot four or five times in front of City Hall while entering his car. He was leaving the Cincinnati City Council meeting at approximately 3:00 this afternoon.

Witness to the shooting Latonia Meadows, whose sister Jataun Meadows is a daily visitor to City Hall, said that Oba was shot at close range by a man who pulled up beside him in a car.

"I could hear [Kabaka Oba] screaming," said Meadows clearly shaken over the incident. "He stood there and looked at [Oba] after he shot the man before getting into his car and leaving."

Police Chief Streicher said that Oba was in critical condition at the University Hospital and was scheduled for surgery. Streicher also said that he did not know how the confrontation started and that the police had no confirmed threats against Oba.

"It's never good for a shooting to take place especially when the person is specifically targeted," said Streicher. He continued that it is not surprising that when someone frequents a place a suspect will take advantage of this knowledge.

Councilman Cecil Thomas said that a shooting can happen anywhere.

"We know that we have a serious problem with drugs and guns," said Thomas. "We will just have to continue to work on the problem."

According to the witness, the perpetrator traveled alone. He was an approximately five foot eleven to six feet tall, fair-skinned black man. The car was thought to be "a maroon Cutlass" with rust on the passenger side door.

Police are in the process of confirming witness information and will announce new information as it becomes available.

Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QueenCityForum.com Magazine.contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com

Kabaka Oba Shot

The man known as General Kabaka Oba was shot four or five times today. Jennifer Greenup, QCF Mag City Hall reporter, reports that he was shot 4-5 times in front of the CityHall.

Police are currently not releasing the extent of Aba's injury.

Details to follow.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Council Crackdown on Liquor License Renewals

Two at-risk businesses are no-shows to hearings

by Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine reporter

City Hall--Cincinnati City Council Neighborhood and Public Service Committee held its first liquor license renewals hearing this week. They are predicted to be a process used as a wakeup call for negligent business, according Councilwomen Laketa Cole.

“For these businesses, their liquor license is their bread and butter,” Cole explained. “These businesses will do what they can to make sure their businesses are safe when they realize they are going to lose their license.”

However, two of the five worst businesses that have their liquor license renewal pending failed to show up.

One of the no-shows was the Swifton Shell station on Seymour Avenue where two teens were shot on March 11, 2005. District Four Violent Crimes Squad Specialist Leonard LaBrecque said gangs are known to hang out there.

“The business is in a bad location with an elementary school right behind it,” said LaBrecque. “You have young kids watching people drinking and using drugs.”

In 2005 there were 63 calls for disorderly conduct, 12 drug arrests, two people shot, one person robbed and one person arrested for gun possession. Then, on March 9, the business was found selling drug paraphernalia.

The police department has reinforced its patrol of the business and this has helped to reduce some of the problems. However, the department feels that disallowing the sale of alcohol on the property will help even more since the owners have failed to respond to problems.

No one representing the Phoenix Café, located on 600 block of Walnut St., attended the Council meeting to answer the charges against them either. The police department and local residents did, however, attend the meeting in support of revoking its license.

Cincinnati District One Police Department reported that they made 86 runs to the Phoenix Café in 2005 and 22 runs already this year.

Betina Bartels, of the Downtown Residents Council said, “We are very concerned about her property value.”

Bartels said her building has 29 residents who have paid form $200,000 - $750,000 for their residence. The worse part, she said, is that the Phoenix Café is stopping her friends and family from coming downtown to see her.

“We are turning this into a wonderful neighborhood with the exception of this business,” said Bartels.

The third business, R P McMurphy’s Irish Pub and Coffeehouse, drew the most attention.
The Oakley-Hyde Park residents that came to object to the pub’s liquor license being renewed had nothing positive to say about the business.

Objections to the Pub’s license renewal were first made in 2004 after the police made 107 runs to the business.

“It’s a nightclub with outdoor setting,” said Debbie Gannaway, “Which means there is very loud noise and I can’t open my windows at night.”

All complained about the loud noise and the patrons parking in and throwing trash on their lawns. One resident said that mediation is not working because a nightclub does not belong in the middle of a residential area.

“We have tried mediation two times,” said Jim Tenaunfeld. “Their idea was to expand their deck to increase business.”

McMurphy's owner claimed that he has complied with the agreement made in mediation.

Public Hearings continue on April 18 at 3p.m. when committee members will vote on the renewals.

Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QueenCityForum.com Magazine.

contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com

Griffey Passes DiMaggio, Mantle

"The Kid", as he was once accurately known, isn't young anymore. However, toiling since coming home to the Reds for the 2000 season, Griffey has managed to hit his 500th homerun as a Red and remained a feared bat in baseball.

Now a revamped "Kid" donning the number 3, he is working on, first, keeping his legs healthy. Along the way he hopes to set a few new marks.

Today, with a sinking line drive over the left center field barrier, he passed Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle for 12th place on the all time homerun list. He also passed Mantle's fellow Bronx Bomber "Joltin'" Joe DiMaggio on the all time RBI list.

In 2006, Griffey has been swinging the bat well, beginning in the World Baseball Classic with the 2nd highest batting average and on-base pct. (.524, .583) in the whole tournament. He also had the 3rd highest slugging pct at 1.048.

Notes: The Reds claimed their first victory of the season 8-6 over the Chicago Cubs. In his Reds Pitching debut, Bronson Arroyo homered and was awarded the victory.

Slugging pct in baseball is the total amount of bases touched divided by at-bats.

Mickey Mantle's autobiography, The Mick was the first book I ever read.

contact: michaelda@queencityforum.com

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day! A Look Into The Season

This season of baseball, which many observe as the All-American game, will be overshadowed by Bonds, and the steroid scandal. Even more sadly, this is a problem that Major League Baseball could have dealt with--or begun to--long ago by seriously looking into it.

It did not and the disease has festered, potentially ripping apart the game eminently.

So enjoy it while its here. For like the abusive colleague who is missed in its absence, MLB's refusal to deal with an all too real matter, will make it nearly unbearable in the foreseeable future. Selig and Bonds aren't crafty enough to keep it under the rug any longer.

Marijuana Malcontent-tion

Council members spar over issue of efficiency, jail space

by Jennifer Greenup
QueenCityForum.com Magazine Reporter

City Hall--Cincinnati City Council efforts to reduce drugs and crime in the city could be hindered by lack of Hamilton County jail space.

"We all know that we have a jail capacity problem," said Councilman Jeff Berding at the March 28 Law and Public Safety Committee meeting, noting that only the extremely violent people are in jail. "For ever person admitted someone has to be released, so we are not arresting first-time offenders," he said.

Yet this situation is likely to increase with the passage of the city's new marijuana ordinance.

The new law makes possession of 100 grams of marijuana an offense that carries up to a 30-day jail sentence. Possession of 200 grams carries a maximum sentence of a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

"There were 4,100 tickets written last year, which means that potentially 4,100 people could be in the court system," said Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz at the March 29 city council meeting. She noted that police officers would also have to go to court more often.

According to the Cincinnati Police Department crime analysis report, there were 42,063 service calls in the first two months of 2006. 869 of these calls were Part 1 charges -- activities from auto theft to murders; 221 were violent crime charges and 2,237 were drug arrests. The new law will add time to the processing of offenders taking more of their time away from the streets.

"Most importantly, there is no jail space," Ghiz said. "I have talked to judges, sheriffs, bailiffs and prosecutors and, in reality, because of the jail space problem, this [law] will not be effective. However, in order to fight crime, we need to do whatever we possibly can to solve this problem."
Ghiz then echoed the sentiments of many other council members: If the new law has not had a positive effect in reducing the cities drug and violence crime problems in one year, she will not vote to renew the law when it is set to expire next year.

Councilman Cecil Thomas, who was a police officer for 27 years, introduced the ordinance saying that marijuana is very prevalent in the community, and officers on the streets need this tool to win the war on drugs.

"I don't expect the community to understand why this is critical as we begin to fight this war on drugs," Thomas said. "But I know this will be a very effective law."

"We want to have some control over the drug dealers who keep coming back to the same corner after getting caught with drugs," he said.

City Manager David Rager said, "The drug dealers know what quantity gets a ticket. So what they have been doing is putting on their person the quantity that will get them a ticket, and they hid the bulk of the marijuana somewhere in the neighborhood."

"We have drug activity going on at an alarming rate," said Rager. This law could have a tremendous impact on the drug trade in the city.

Some council members think that the ordinance will be bad for the city and many of its residents because it treats people with small amounts of marijuana the same as drug dealers.

"The risk of paying a high price socially is tremendous," said Vice Mayor James Tarbell. "A lot of folks who would be affected by simple possession are people who have no criminal record." He said that these otherwise law abiding residents could have a hard time finding a job in the future.
Councilman David Crowley said, "I think that criminalizing small amounts of marijuana is a step in the wrong direction when we have so many homicides and violent crimes. If we pass this resolution ... we are taking the focus off the major problems we have to face."

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis recently told the Cincinnati Post that the new law should not cause any major crowding issues for the county jail because police could process and release most offenders giving them a court date. But individuals with second offenses are to spend time in jail under this law.

In 2004 Leis told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the Hamilton County jails were "exploding at the seams," and that within the past three months they had to release around 3,000 people because the jails were too full. "We don't release violent offenders," said Leis. But, for many others, he said it's a "get out of jail free" card.

Right now Hamilton County is looking into how to pay for building a $225-million replacement jail near Broadway Commons.

In the mean time the council is discussing the possibility of looking to other counties to house the city's prisoners with long term jail sentences.

"Butler County has about 330 spaces that we could use, and Sheriff Jones is probably willing to work with us," said Berding. He continued, "Whatever type of lease arrangements we make, it is only a short term fix."

In the mean time this ordinance may do little to keep drug dealers off the streets of Cincinnati neighborhoods unless the whole system is able to follow through with its punishments.

contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com