CINCINNATI — The New Year can bring with it a sense of things coming to an end, and new beginnings. And there's a place for that, sure.
But there are also a number of stories we’ve been following at WCPO that we know are far from over.
Here are nine of them that you'll want to watch as we enter 2016:
1) Ray Tensing
It didn’t take long for Ray Tensing to become a nationally recognized name.
On July 19, the former University of Cincinnati police officer shot and killed an unarmed motorist, 43-year-old Sam DuBose, during what Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said should have been a routine traffic stop near the college campus. The conversation that ensued put the Queen City squarely at the center of the national debates surrounding police officers’ use of force, race relations and body camera technology, among other things.
After several delays, a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge scheduled a new pretrial hearing for Feb. 11. This case will continue to make national news, no doubt about it… if it ever goes to trial (it will).
2) Public Transit’s Picking Up Speed
Mirroring the growing national demand for alternative transportation options, 2015 was a big year for public transit in Cincinnati. Set to open in September 2016, construction on the first phase of the city’s new streetcar system was completed in October, and the new vehicles arrived for on-street testing soon after. Now, leaders are looking at how to make sure the new transit system remains viable, and how it could expand.
Cincinnati’s Metro bus system also stands to take some big steps in 2016, including more new buses, mobile ticketing and a new transit center in Northside.
And if its first year was any indicator, keep an eye on Cincinnati’s public bike share system, Red Bike: It reached 100,000 rides in roughly 13 months and nearly doubled in size and scope in the first year alone, including a major expansion into Northern Kentucky.
3) Bike Trails
OK, I'll talk about bikes some more.
With one of the biggest jumps in bike commuting the city's ever seen this past year, Cincinnati is waking up to the two-wheeled trend in a big way. And that will only keep accelerating as several major mixed-use trail projects keep moving forward — and do so despite voters soundly rejecting a proposed property tax to fund city parks projects.
The Wasson Way, Ohio River West Trail, the Mill Creek Greenway and the Oasis trail projects aren’t just spearheading multimillion-dollar initiatives — some of which have already broken ground — but project leaders from all four came together in December to unveil a plan that would connect the trails and create a 42-mile "off-road super highway." The Riverfront Commons project in Northern Kentucky's river cities is also underway.
4) Matt Bevin and Kentucky Politics
Matt Bevin’s election to Kentucky's top executive seat was remarkable for a few reasons, not the least of which being that he's a political outsider who just became only the second Republican governor the state has elected in four decades.
As the Kentucky General Assembly remains split, expect Bevin — if not sooner, then later — to flex some executive muscle in Frankfort. The tea party favorite has already rolled back executive orders by former Gov. Steve Beshear to restore voting rights to felons and raise the minimum wage for state employees. He also promised on the campaign trail to shake things up in Frankfort when it comes to education, state pensions, right-to-work policy and health care.
With Ohio likely to be wrapped up in national-scale campaign issues (at least until Kasich likely falls in the presidential primary in May), Kentucky is the state — er, commonwealth — to watch this year as far as state-level politics go. That is, with the exception of...
5) Legal Weed Isn’t Going Away
If anything, pro-weed advocates might feel more motivated than ever after Issue 3’s decisive, nearly 2-to-1 defeat at the Ohio polls in November.
In the wake of that defeat, ResponsibleOhio director Ian James vowed to collaborate more with industry leaders next time around, stopping short at saying the issue would appear again as soon as 2016. But, given the speed and aggressiveness with which James and his crew campaigned for the ballot measure, do not be surprised if we hear from them again very soon, even if it's in the form of campaigning for a legislative measure.
6) Gun Violence
This past year, the city of Cincinnati saw some record numbers when it comes to gun violence, and the problem hasn’t gone away as it gained more and more attention throughout 2015.
City leaders have been relatively silent when it comes to the effectiveness of a 90-day violence-reduction plan implemented by then-police chief Jeffrey Blackwell and taken up, in part, by current Chief Eliot Isaac. This might be because the impact of such a plan needs to be measured on a larger scale than just a few months. Nonetheless, coming off the heels of 2015, the fight to curb this violent trend won't be going away. If anything, it will accelerate throughout 2016.
Or at least we hope.
7) Problem Properties
Cincinnati has a bad landlord problem, and — as WCPO has previously reported — the city plans on doing more about it.
Across Cincinnati, renters are reporting bed bugs, drug activity, crime and neglect, all problems they say their landlords ignore for months, sometimes years. WCPO discovered that one property on Reading Road in Avondale had more than 2,700 calls to police in just two years.
And while a number of programs to combat the problem are already in place, inspectors said more can be done — including the city solicitor assembling a team of seven lawyers and two paralegals to follow up with legal action against property owners who have repeated code violations and won’t fix their buildings.
Watch for the crackdown on problem properties to ramp up in 2016.
8) 2016 Reds
After an abysmal finish to the 2015 season, December saw a significant shake-up to the Reds’ dugout, including several high-profile trades (and some still-shifting rumors, too).
Maybe most disappointing to fans was the three-way deal between the Reds, the Dodgers and the White Sox that resulted in sending beloved third baseman and Home Run Derby champion Todd Frazier to Chicago.
In the weeks that followed, trade talks surrounding Aroldis Chapman cooled amidst domestic violence allegations that were still under investigation when the Reds ultimately announced a trade deal with the New York Yankees.
As if that weren’t enough to give Reds loyalists vertigo, second baseman Brandon Phillips — also a fan favorite — was reportedly this close to taking a trade that would have sent him to the Washington Nationals, but he ultimately rejected the deal. His future with the franchise remains uncertain.
Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 18.
9) 2016 Election (a.k.a. Alllll the Elections)
If you haven't heard, voters will have a lot on their plates this year — from facing a possible Trump-Clinton battle for the Oval Office to states fighting for control over their general assemblies, all the way down to ballot measures that will undoubtedly try to take advantage of the presidential cycle voter turnout.
Considering the presidency, with such an embattled field of contenders for the parties' respective nominations, the level of controversy in this race alone is sure to electrify voters everywhere (while simultaneously poised to make them hate themselves and the political system in which they take part, if they don't already). In Hamilton County, we're already seeing some political theater out of county commission chambers in anticipation of a heated race.
It's bound to be a doozy all around.