Fundraiser tonight at Cincinanti’s O’Malley’s

A photo of the sign outside of O'Malley's in the Alley in downtown Cincinnati
O'Malley's in the Alley is in downtown Cincinnati

Going back to school full-time these past seven months (with just one more to go!) has been a challenge at times. Luckily, I have had a friend (and family) or three or four who have helped me out in one way or another so that I could make ends meet and attend classes. I am truly grateful.

So, when one asked me yesterday if I could post something online about a fundraiser at O’Malley’s for another friend who is getting treatment for Stage 4 cancer it seemed the least I could do.

If you’ve been to O’Malley’s you’ve probably met Clay, a bartender there. He’s the one organizing tonight’s fundraiser and it is his friend who is going through, quite literally, the battle of his life.

Here’s Clay’s announcement for tonight’s event:

Support a good cause, make a difference, and help Jeff.
Help the Warrior battle cancer.

6 to 11 p.m. tonight, Friday April 16, 2010
O’malley’s in the Alley, 25 W. Ogden Place, Cincinnati 45202
Free Food, items for auction
$1:00 jello shots
Split the pot raffles.  All proceeds go to Jeff Bender, a father and friend.
On Jeff’s behalf, thank you for all kindness and support.

Questions, Contributions, 513 381-3114

I hope you can make it. It’s really all of us together that makes things work. And right now, as always, one of us needs us all – whether we know him or her personally or not.

Back to Las Vegas

Back in the summer of 2001 I worked as an intern at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. I remember at the time not feeling particularly happy about the experience, thinking the editors could have done more to make my experience more educational. It stung a bit at the time.

Yesterday I was looking through some archived e-mail looking for something for a friend and found this – an e-mail I sent to family and friends post-internship. After re-reading it I thought it was pretty interesting still today – especially the stuff about Las Vegas and Nevada. Keep in mind this was written in the fall of 2001. Some of the figures may not still apply (like Las Vegas’s population, which I know has grown substantially).

Me after interviewing Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher at The Mirage in Las Vegas.

Hello all!

I learned a couple things this summer. First of all, when gambling in a Nevada casino you have a much better chance of winning there than winning any prize in the lottery in another state. You just have to spend more to get a smaller payback. But no matter how much you play and win, odds are the casino will keep 95-98 percent of what you spend and maybe win, varying slightly depending on what game is played. The trick: Quit while you are ahead.

I think it’s Las Vegas. I don’t really blame the paper, though editors admitted on several occasions they never had the resources to spend the time helping an intern improve their work. Their constant apologies made me wonder why they even offered an internship. But the question answered itself in the editor’s initial remarks. I was a work horse.

But I think it’s the town: It uses people. Uses them up, then spits them out. That’s the way it was designed. Some people love it. The people who live there and have lived there for a long time love living there. And I guess I see why. No state income tax. No rain. Some heat, but that only lasts for three months, then the weather is great. Seemingly few laws and regulations. And loads of adult-style fun. Sounds like a blast, and a mirage.

The trick: Leave while you are ahead.

I learned a lot about the place so many people have been to or would like to go. Being at the newspaper gave me insight into the state and town, how it works and how it got where it is now.

  • Nearly all casinos people visit along the Las Vegas Strip are not actually in Las Vegas. They’re in unincorporated portions of Clark County. Heading north, the first large resort casino on the Strip actually within the city limits is the Stratosphere. It’s also the last major resort on the strip heading north.
  • Clark County receives 35 million visitors annually, each with an average gambling budget of $665 helping the county’s $31.5 billion annual tourism industry. Forty-six percent arrive by airplane at McCarran, most of the others (26 percent) drive from southern California.
  • Clark County, with Las Vegas as its county seat, can easily fit the entire state of New Jersey within its borders. Nevada, which ironically means “snow-capped,”  has only 17 counties, though it ranks seventh in land size and 35th in population compared to other states (Ohio has 88 counties, 35th in land size, seventh in population). The federal government controls 87 percent of Nevada’s land through the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.
  • There are 124,270 hotel rooms in Las Vegas. It would take one person more than 325 years to stay in each room if they stayed in a different room each night.
  • Everyone knows it’s easy to get married in Nevada. But it’s also easy to get divorced. Nevada has one of, if not the shortest, wait times to get a divorce. State law says six weeks after marriage residents may legally be divorced.
  • Nevada is the only state in the U.S. that legally licenses brothels – but they are not legal in Las Vegas and Reno. And street solicitation is illegal everywhere. Here’s how it goes: Counties with populations under 250,000 (ruling out Las Vegas and Reno) may have brothels, but it’s a county-by-county decision. Even if they are legal, legally a brothel cannot advertise. The closest brothel to Las Vegas is 60 miles away in Pahrump.
  • Of Nevada’s 2 million residents, more than 1.4 million live in southern Nevada with an average 6,800 more arriving monthly! Another large faction lives near Reno and Carson City. Other than that, the state is wide-open.
  • Las Vegas’ mayor, Oscar Goodman, is a former mob lawyer who also played Robert DeNiro’s mob lawyer in the movie “Casino” – essentially playing himself.
  • There’s a town in Nevada called Jackass Flats or just “Jackass” and it’s ZIP code is 89023. It’s near the Nevada Test Site.
  • Hoover Dam is made from a lot of concrete, is only half in Nevada and is the only reason a Las Vegan or visitor can take a shower.

So, there you have it: My summer education in the Silver State. I met and interviewed Siegfried & Roy while I was there (see for a photograph), also interviewed a 107-year-old veteran, got ignored by William Shatner at a Star Trek convention and was snubbed by Bill Clinton. I was able to interview the governor, a couple U.S. Senators, LaVar Burton (the “Reading Rainbow” guy) and was routinely harassed by one Congresswoman and her staff but could not get the Nevada Department of Transportation to call me back if I begged.

My last week was extended into two weeks after the terrorist attacks, giving me an experience in journalism I will never forget. Sadly, I saw my first murder victim and got called lots of names (generally on my voice mail) – but no death threats this time. And through published articles I got to make a visible change for the better at least twice during the summer.  I also visited a lot of touristy stuff initially to get a better feel for the town and developed a relationship with John L. Smith, the Review-Journal’s longtime columnist and Las Vegas native. He’s a great writer and knows the town very well and is willing to share. I also met some amazing reporters. Otherwise I generally visited the mountains, biked and hiked and was bored. I do not feel I left a much better journalist than when I came, and that is very disappointing.

But, that’s yesterday’s news.

Nowadays, I live in Sacramento, California – my fourth city and state this year. My stuff arrived yesterday (and is strewn throughout my apartment). I decided to go ahead with plans to open tax offices in California. Even as I write this, plans are still being finalized with a national company, but it appears the tax company I have been associated with for five years will now merge with another financial company. Therefore, I now will be able to broaden my scope and open tax offices easily in cities ranging from Las Vegas to the San Francisco Bay area, including Fresno, Reno and lots of other places. Once the deal is done I will be able to discuss more about it. For now, though, it’s work – and lots of it. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge but it does mean I will have many long days and even longer nights ahead. Hopefully in the end it will pay off handsomely. That’s the plan, anyway. I still want to write and hope to do this through continuing my freelance endeavors and creating new ones.

I miss home already, but I’m prepared to conquer the place I’m in now. It’s a great town from all outward appearances, and if it’s not, well, the Bay Area is just a couple hours away, as is Tahoe’s snowy peaks and Reno’s ringing slot machines (if I’m really desperate). It’s going to be fun. To begin with, I live right in the downtown, the perfect place to get started. There’s even a Starbucks in my building. I have friends here who have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and I have made new ones. But I have thought many times about what I left behind.

Here’s how to contact me:


For now, there’s only 83 days until the first tax return can be e-filed.

Best always,


NOTE: There is a funny story around my meeting with Siegfriend and Roy which has a direct Cincinnati tie. I will share that at another time.

I just touched an iPad

I just touched my first Apple iPad – and I feel fine.

A fellow student in the e-media class I am taking at the University of Cincinnati has a cousin who works at Apple in California. He got himself a 64GB iPad for $300 and brought it to class today. And let me play with it.

I had it my hands for less than five minutes, but my initial reaction is very positive. Quick, light, bright and a perfect size. Also, easy to type on. I can’t wait to get one.

A Wedding and A Fire

A Wedding and A Fire

Originally uploaded by hjoew

I took this photo nearly a month ago but at the time my blog wasn’t working property – thanks to some nasty hosting issues (the worst I have ever experienced… and should blog about to help others avoid). So, I’m getting around to this a little later than I would like. I did Tweet about this a bit at the time.

Here’s what happened: I was sitting in my office and hearing sirens on a sunny Saturday afternoon. After about five minutes of hearing siren after siren, I figured something was going on, so I grabbed my camera, a notebook and headed out to see what was causing the commotion.

What I found was Saint Xavier Church in downtown Cincinnati had a little fire in it that caused the fire alarm to go off – during a wedding. Father Eric Knapp, pastor at St. X, told me that firefighters told him that there was some smoke in the upper floor of the church, but it didn’t appear serious.

The couple was a little shaken up (specifically the bride), but she was able to tell me that the wedding ceremony finished before the church was evacuated. So she and her husband were able to get hitched before the wedding party and the wedding’s attendees were forced out into the street.

Here Firefighter Will Jones from Squad 14 talks with the father of the bride, the bride, Elizabeth, and the groom, Sean. The bride also got to sit inside the firetruck, thanks to Jones’ generosity.

Shortly afterward, the wedding party got into a limousine, headed for the reception. And the church didn’t burn down.

Parking enforcement officer writes ticket for after 8 – before 8

Just watched as a neighbor of mine got a ticket for parking in an after-8 a.m. truck loading zone along Perry Street in downtown Cincinnati (even though this alley hasn’t been used for loading trucks in probably 30 years). Only problem was it wasn’t after 8 a.m. – even when the officer handed the neighbor her ticket.

I watched out my bedroom window as she showed the officer her cell phone (which carries a signal from her wireless service that maintains the exact real time, lapse a 10-30 seconds). She was rather upset – the ticket costs $50 – but the officer would not even budge.

So, I went out and said I looked on the two computers I had open and on, both with automatically updated Internet time (also very accurate) and my cell phone and said she was right and he was wrong. His response? Look at the ticket.

She showed me the ticket. “8:00 a.m., April 2, 2010.” No Day-After April Fool’s Day joke here. I told him that even right then, as we “discussed” the ticket, it was only 8:01 a.m. so there is no way it was after 8 a.m. when he wrote the ticket.

I encouraged the woman to go to the ” parking court.” Court, in this case, is a closet with a hearing officer (“judge”), an appointee who also works as a lawyer someplace else, who almost always lets parking violaters off the first time they appear before him (or sit next to him, as is the case in Hamilton County) and usually halves fines if you take the time to go on subsequent visits. I know this from personal experience – I had a few “surprise” tickets when I lived in Over-the-Rhine. The surprise was I never got them, likely removed from the windshield by some board passer-by (and we had more than our share of those types). The excuse took with the judge  because I had actually paid, on time, other tickets over the years.

But this all comes at a cost: The experience for those living in downtown Cincinnati. It is one we cannot afford right now. And this is a stupid way for the city to make up expenses in a gigantic budget hole.

In an effort to beef up parking enforcement, officers (the parking kind, not police) have been armed with electronic ticket-writing devices that dramatically speed up the process. There apparently also have been several new hires in the past 18 months or so, making the force larger than it has been in recent years (this is an observation). Couple that with a more than doubling of the original $14 fine (as it was until 2005, late, as I recall) to the now $35 fine for parking at an expired meter, and I think we have ourselves a grand way for the city to make money for itself.

Good. No new taxes, right? But it comes at the expense of creating massive discontent about living downtown. Parking spaces – like on Perry Street – still reflect an industrial alleyway where trucks needed to park throughout the day. Now, it’s low-hanging fruit for parking enforcement folks and the bane of people who live in the former warehouses and manufacturing facilities now converted into townhomes, condos and apartments – the people who are making downtown work again.

Should parking on the street be made legal for anyone? No, but there are best practices from other cities of similar size that allow for residents to park on the street near their residence.

Cincinnati has a similar ordinance. Why haven’t you heard of it? It’s pretty fascinating, actually. Passed in the early 1980s, but it has never been used once, because the burden for residents to enact is nearly insurmountable. Why? Who knows for sure. It was either an extremely poor piece of legislation or doing exactly what it was intended to do. I have (or had) a copy of the ordinance, and some accompanying complaints by current and former Council members, and will track that down and discuss that in a future post.

The rhetoric has consequences

“Shockingly unfortunate” is how I see how the fervor over healthcare reform devolved into calls for protests at Congressman Driehaus’s, uh, “haus.” I am happy that conservative leaders, including leaders of whatever the Tea Party is (populist), did the right thing and asked their troops to stand-down.

The consequences of leading protest chants off of the Speaker’s Balcony, as happened in the hours leading up to the historic healthcare reform vote.  That goes along with other less-civil methods of handling disagreement and how they can lead down a road that causes some folks to act in a way that most of us would never act no matter how awful we thought a particular law was or could be for our township, village, city, state or country.

That’s why I like this particular quote by Driehaus, embeded in a particularly good column by the Collegian’s Emily Jacobs:

Politicians need to take some responsibility for this increase in threats and decline in civility. Wilson essentially received a slap on the wrist for his outburst, and Republicans argued that it wasn’t worth the House’s time to address it. Additionally, when Sarah Palin tweeted to followers “… Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD,” regarding the health care bill, she was fanning the flames. As Rep. Steve Driehaus D-Ohio explains, “It doesn’t really matter the way you meant it, nor the way I accept it. It’s how the least sane person in my district accepts it.” Politicians have great influence, which they must exercise with caution. Dangerous rhetoric has got to stop.

via Government cannot function at its best without civilized discussion | The Daily Collegian.

Sarah Palin should be in jail for that Tweet. It is my opinion that she is not smart enough to know that. I’m allowed to say she’s stupid; she can say the same about me.

What is not acceptable – and should be illegal (and is, unquestionably, when it comes to the life of the President) – is to threaten elected leaders, which Palin collectively did with that message, egging on her many angry, upset, seemingly disenfranchised followers.

Lord knows I have hated the decisions some of the politicans that represented me made. But that’s our Republic and how it operates, like it or not. Why don’t people understand that anymore? Don’t like what Driehaus is doing? Vote him out next time. He was only elected to two stinkin’ years. Others that did like how he has served will vote for him. If more people like how he voted than not, he stays. If not, the other guy wins. Pretty simple concept. And pretty damn fair (without getting into the debate about the fairness of a two-party system).

All elected officials have to govern. Some people like what you do some of the time and just the opposite is true, so said Abraham Lincoln. Elections have consequences. Politicians make choices that are unpopular. They also makes ones that are popular. Regardless, violence and unreasonable protests is way over the line and needs to end immediately.

Finally. Ross’s Web site is done

Ross Self Storage Extravaganza
During the wedding ceremony I performed at Ross Self Storage last June, the groom gives me a high-five.

I’ll give you this: Me owning a self-storage facility is not exactly what I envisioned as a child when I thought of professions I might like to pursue.

Might seem my destiny was already somewhat sealed when Mom and Dad bought the nearly one-acre sized property in Butler County on the site of the former Meadowbrook Inn (now the Meadowbrook Banquet Center, owned by Hilvers Catering). In reality, though, I think the thought of owning a storage facility appealed to me more originally than running one. That being said, I feel that over the past 12 months or so I have begun to really grow into the role of “self storage facility manager” and the enthusiasm that got me here in the first place (i.e. taking this over from my parents who started it in 1981) has returned. I can see again where this is all going and see its potential is pretty amazing. A turnaround in the economy, a little bit of a housing boom in southwestern Butler County (as was expected in pre-recession) and I can see big things in the future.

Even without an amazing economic bounce-back, I think things are going to be pretty good for a while in the self storage industry for a variety of reasons. Seems that storage is one of those things that people need when times are good and when times are bad. It’s a viable alternative for all sorts of situations all sorts of people find themselves in all the time. Helps that I have the latitude to be very competitively priced and have a location in an area that is still growing.

The short-term good news is small, but good. Every tenant is paid up for the first time in a long time, expectations have been clearly defined, I have only a couple empty bays (and a third giant one where my father kept his stuff that needs some finishing touches before it can be rented) and a growing group of outdoor parking space renters (with plenty of room for more). And it’s Spring – a time when people start deciding it’s time to get storage. Phone lines are open.

With all that in mind, I am happy to report I finished a complete re-design of the Ross Self Storage Web site just a few minutes ago. I did it myself (‘cuz I like doing these things) and am kinda happy with what I accomplished (though I realized I really need to get out there and shoot some better art for the site – those photos are awful).

Tomorrow begins another first for me: a Google AdWords campaign. I am using a $100 coupon I was sent from Google and thought I would give it a spin. The set-up was pretty interesting, a partial look under the advertising hood at Google. Those bite-sized ads provide the means for all the applications that Google provides – and I happily consume in mass quantities (I’m a bit of a Google fan boy). Though typically I would tell any consulting client a Google AdWords campaign is wholly unnecessary in most instances, I say this without actually ever having tried one. The coupon gives me a great opportunity to try the service without spending any cash. And I will get the added benefit of being able to speak from experience next time I tell someone it’s a waste of money.

Plus, the $100 is roughly equivalent to the amount I was going to spend in April on a newspaper ad in the Venice Cornerstone, the monthly local newspaper in Ross. This saves me from that – possibly – and also helps me bolster my argument that newspapers (and their Web sites) continue to miss the boat on a viable revenue model. I built a very un-savvy landing page, which, I think might be too overdone. My friend Krista Neher gave me one teensy bit of advice when I was thinking about my ad campaign earlier in the week: “Have a call to action.” I think I managed that OK. Call me, dammit, is my call to action. We’ll see.

I plan to report back here later on how the experience goes with Google. It should be interesting, to say the least. This is, after all and by many accounts, the future of advertising and the savior for us all (i.e. journalists who care about the content). Stay tuned…

Little Stevie Driehaus puppet has Facebook page

A Marionette puppet that looks like Congressman Steve Driehaus

The NBC News Chief White House Correspondent and Political Director, Chuck Todd, was on Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT-TV this evening with local anchor Todd Dykes. During his short interview he said he is watching Ohio’s First Congressional District contest very closely. He said it will be a bellwether for the entire country, not only on yesterday’s health care reform bill, but for many other issues.

The race – between freshman incumbent Steve Driehaus and his former opponent Steve Chabot (who held the seat for 14 years prior) – is going to be hot, no question. And the rhetoric and nastiness has begun and will likely continue to be high throughout the campaign. In fact, it’s gonna get worse.

In that vein, it was just suggested via Facebook’s automatic “friend finder” that I befriend a puppet that bears a resemblance to the Congressman. It is called “Little Stevie Driehaus” and it appears to be a Marionette puppet. The Web page depicts Driehaus has being a puppet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Facebook | Little Stevie Driehaus

It is worth noting that Chabot had an over 90 percent record of voting on issues supported by former President George W. Bush when he was in Congress.

Ah, politics…

Note: I was Driehaus’s communications director on his Congressional campaign. I no longer work for him and am not affiliated with him in any way, other than thinking he is a nice guy. Same goes for Chabot, who, notably, told me that I betrayed him in the waning weeks of the 2008 campaign. Still not sure what that meant. I assume he still doesn’t like me, though he did shake my hand and say hello at the 2010 Saint Patrick’s Parade. Chabot and I had a nice working relationship when I was a full-time political reporter. Plus, he went to the same high school as my father, which Dad thinks is pretty cool.