CINCINNATI — You should be proud of yourself, Cincinnati: 2015 was a pretty memorable year.
But that doesn't mean there aren't some things we'd rather just leave behind (in no particular order):
“Buddie,” the Pot Mascot
Despite putting together one of the most highly-funded ballot initiative campaigns in Ohio history to legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use statewide, ResponsibleOhio-sponsored Issue 3 failed — by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
Most opponents said their biggest beef with the measure was that it would have created what they called a “monopoly” over the marijuana industry, but one thing’s for sure: "Buddie" the pot mascot — a spandex-laden, superhero-shaped man with a nugget of marijuana for a head — didn’t help. Not even a little bit. As an attempt to reach the “millennial voter,” the mascot was widely considered a flop and some say had the opposite effect. One University of Cincinnati student told WCPO it was “demeaning” and made the “Yes on 3” campaign look “juvenile in the eyes of other adult voters.”
In the wake of the measure's defeat, ResponsibleOhio director Ian James vowed to try a different approach to legalization in 2016.
Record Gun Violence
It wasn’t halfway into 2015 that city leaders realized this year would be one for the books when it came to gun violence in Cincinnati. A UC study conducted in May found that shootings in the city were at a nine-year high. By November, there had been 52 gun-related homicides in Cincinnati, according to police data. There were at least two more in the first two weeks of December alone.
The problem reached such a fever-pitch over the summer that City Manager Harry Black tasked then-police chief Jeffrey Blackwell with quickly drafting a 90-day violence-reduction plan, which included increased foot patrols, curfew enforcement and targeting "community guns." In recent weeks, community leaders have organized several grassroots gun buy-back programs to remove guns from the streets.
This year was a big one for Cincinnati’s newest transit option, set to open Sept. 2016, with an operations contract finalized and vehicles starting to roll into town for on-street testing (even if they were a little late).
But still, some community and political leaders continue to beat their chests, if not calling for another halt to the project, casting serious doubts over the city’s ability to pay for the streetcar.
The funding to operate the streetcar remains uncertain. Those on council who support project have not explained its operating budget. -$$
— C. Smitherman (@voteSmitherman) November 12, 2015
These worries over cost in particular are not without cause: as recently as early December, a memo from City Manager Harry Black stated the city’s capital budget is “constrained,” echoing recent questioning of the city’s ability to keep funding the project down the road.
As WCPO’s editorial board pointed out earlier this year, the streetcar is here and that's not going to change, and while it might not be immediately celebrated, “the sooner that acceptance and celebration happens, the better for our community. And city leadership, the mayor, council and businesses should show the way toward acceptance and success.”
As WCPO reporter and columnist Lucy May put it, “Our region has a shameful number of children living in poverty.”
About one in five Tri-State kids — that’s tens of thousands of children — live below the poverty line. And it’s not a problem that will just disappear over the course of a year.
WCPO committed this year to digging into the region’s childhood poverty problem and looking for solutions. Read more from our “Below the Line” series here.
Bullying in Schools
The Tri-State faced a number of demons in 2015, but the one that lingered in the public eye the longest might have been the mental health of its kids. It was technically 2014 when 13-year-old Fairfield Middle School student Emilie Olsen took her own life, but the conversation about bullying in schools that ensued after her death is still far from over. While the conversation itself should continue into the new year, the way that conversation has been conducted is something we can leave behind.
As a WCPO I-Team investigation uncovered and a newly-filed lawsuit claims, the Fairfield City School District knew Emilie's classmates were bullying her in the months leading up to her decision to end her own life.
Not directly related to bullying — at least as far as the public discourse goes — Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen from Kings Mill, also ended her life in late Dec. 2014. She cited in a suicide note struggles she had experienced with her gender and attempts at conversion therapy intended to "correct" her gender identity.
The 2015 Reds
Was anyone paying attention to the Reds after the All-Star Game? If they were, they were no doubt frustrated. The Reds finished last in the NL Central with a pitiful .395 percentage, which put them second-to-last in the race for a wildcard spot.
The woes didn’t stop with the regular season either. As the trade deadline approached earlier this month, prospects for a major deal surrounding power pitcher Aroldis Chapman were spoiled after domestic violence allegations surfaced against him out of his home in Florida.
Check out WCPO’s Fifth Mascot podcast series for a detailed look at the Reds' troubled 2015 season.
Andy Dalton Hate
These are the contradictory facts surrounding Cincinnati's relationship with Andy Dalton:
- He's led the Bengals to five winning seasons during his five years at the helm.
- He led the team to its winningest start in franchise history this season, taking the team to 8-0 before losing in week nine.
- Fans booed just a month before the pre-season started, when Dalton took the field at the All-Star Game Celebrity Softball game. They booed him.
There are probably more. But, another fact is that, despite breaking his thumb while playing against the Steelers on Dec. 13, he was still on the sidelines, in a cast, helping Marvin Lewis guide the team (albeit to a difficult loss).
If that loss goes to show anything, this team might need Dalton more than its famously demanding fans feel comfortable admitting.
Another fact: he's a favorite for the NFL MVP this season.
Stop the hate. Just stop it; it doesn't make any sense.
Bickering in City Hall
This might be an overly optimistic, borderline-deluded hope. Political bickering is nothing new, nor is it going anywhere anytime soon. But as WCPO government and politics reporter Paula Christian pointed out shortly after November's election, Cincinnati City Hall is experiencing an unprecedented, 3-year same-party political feud in council chambers.
Mayor John Cranley and Councilman Chris Seelbach, both Democrats, have been on the front, opposing lines of several issues throughout the 3 years they've held their respective offices together, including the streetcar, Over-the-Rhine parking, a parental leave policy for city employees, street bike lanes, human services funding, Syrian refugees and — most dramatically — a failed parks tax ballot measure.
And if all those issues have one thing in common, it's that they've progressed through the legislative process at an alarmingly slow rate, if they made it through at all.
Ms. Davis of Rowan County, Kentucky, might be the most difficult to include in a list like this without appearing politically slanted. That's because she has some powerful political allies and foes.
She's included here because, no matter what your opinion of the county clerk and her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the fact that she's remained a public figure for so long is troubling.
The problem isn't that, depending on your point of view, she either (a) violated the law and ignored the duties of her publicly elected post, or (b) stood up against what some call an overreaching government for what she believed to be right. Neither of these are reason to let go of Kim Davis.
We need to let go of Kim Davis because she represents a rift in the relationship between local and federal governments and the public's increasing indifference to — no, encouragement of — such a phenomenon. At best this means a breakdown in the credibility of the land's highest court and one of the most basic checks and balances written into the U.S. Constitution; at worst... well, I'm not sure what could be worse.