Sunday, January 29, 2012

Columbus Underground: New Bakery Cookie Cravings Open in Italian Village

The Cookie Cravings Team: Joan, Lindsey and Matt Tewanger


A new cookie shop has opened in Italian Village. Nestled at the southeast corner of Fourth Street and Third Ave, Cookie Cravings Bakery opened last month. Lindsey Tewanger and a close friend had been baking and decorating cookies for about a year for friends. When the orders kept coming, they became difficult to manage as they were both working full time.  More here

Columbus Dispatch: King Ave. Methodist Church Growing With Gays

Tracy Hahn and Virginia Sheffield pick and choose where they hold hands.
The Upper Arlington couple has been to plenty of churches where they don’t dare show affection toward each other because they are lesbians. At their church, however, they interlace fingers without thinking.
The two joined King Avenue United Methodist about a year and a half ago. They’ve rarely missed a Sunday. Chloe, the foster child they are adopting, is in the children’s choir. The family joins other members for brunch after Sunday service.
Today, gay Christians have choices of where to worship because several Columbus churches bill themselves as welcoming. There were far fewer in the late 1990s, when King Avenue was deciding to be open.
The years since have revealed an unexpected effect of that decision: The once-struggling church is thriving.
The process wasn’t easy. The former pastor, the Rev. Grayson Atha, was threatened with removal, and about 50 members left.
Many more came.
“It really wasn’t done to grow, but that was the outcome of it,” said Atha, 75, who retired in 2006.
Before the church openly welcomed gays, attendance on Sundays had dipped below 250 people. Now, average Sunday attendance is 560 worshippers. The church has been financially strong enough to pay for nearly $2 million in renovations and repairs to its kitchen and organ and the altar area.
And the congregation has raised $200,000 in donations and pledges to start a ministry in the Short North.
New families join regularly. The congregation is about 35 percent gay, said the Rev. John Keeny, pastor.
Keeny credits Atha with leading the charge. Atha said gay parishioners were tired of hiding, and something had to be done.
“That group did us a huge favor by bringing that issue to the forefront. A church does best when they respond to the people of the neighborhood,” said Atha, who now serves as a pastor of Summit on 16th United Methodist Church in the University District.
King Avenue fits the profile of the type of church that often struggles today: It’s old, mainline-Protestant and in an urban area.
When Atha started working there in 1994, a small group of gay members told him they wanted to be able to talk about their relationships and families freely at church. The effort started with a Bible study for gays.
Then, Atha preached about how families could include two men or two women. At the time, a member told the pastor that he had committed “ministerial suicide.”
Atha and his wife hosted members on both sides of the issue at their home — more than 1,000 people over six years — to eat dinner and get to know one another better. A church committee studying the issue in 1998 recommended that the church be inclusive to all.
Even before the study, the church’s personnel committee asked then-Bishop Judy Craig to remove Atha. She declined.
The issue of sexuality is far from settled in the Methodist church, and in many other denominations. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (USA) all have experienced turmoil after adopting more-inclusive positions.
The Methodist church’s Book of Discipline still maintains that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that people in same-sex relationships can’t be clergy members. Clergy members are prohibited from celebrating same-sex unions.
That language has been debated repeatedly in recent years and will be again when the denomination meets for its General Conference in late April and early May.
It upsets Keeny that he isn’t allowed to preside over same-sex unions for members of his church. Methodist pastors are circulating a statement that they intend to perform the ceremonies anyway. Keeny said he will sign it.
Last Sunday, he asked his members to pray for delegates, particularly those who probably would vote against inclusion. Don’t see them as “others,” he said, but as fellow Christians.
“We cannot afford to avoid God’s call. For it is the call to be fully human and to treat others as fully human.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Columbus Dispatch: Harrison West and Clintonville lose development fights

Two city neighborhoods lose development fights

Harrison West apartments, Clintonville parking lot OK’d

 By  Doug Caruso

The Columbus Dispatch Monday January 23, 2012 11:31 PM

Columbus City Council members approved two construction projects tonight despite opposition from residents who urged them to uphold city-approved neighborhood plans.
About 100 people packed the council chambers, about half of them from the Harrison West neighborhood just south of Ohio State University and about half from Clintonville.
In the Harrison West case, the council unanimously approved allowing the Wagenbrenner Co. to build a 108-unit apartment building on a 1.9-acre parcel that was planned for no more than 75 units. In the second, council members voted 6-1 to allow the Wesley Glen Retirement Center to build a 120-space parking lot on residential land on Fenway Road to the north of its campus.
Councilwoman Priscilla R. Tyson cast the no vote.
Harrison West neighbors said that Wagenbrenner officials told them as recently as April that the site near their homes in the developer’s Harrison Park neighborhood would hold 42 condominiums. The plan for 108 apartments is too dense, and at four stories too tall, they said. They also said it will cause more traffic and attract single young adults instead of families.
“This proposal violates the entire spirit of the Harrison West plan,” Adam Deutsch, president of the Harrison Park Homeowners Association, told the council. “You’re setting a precedent that says to developers, ‘It’s open season on Harrison West.’”
Developer Mark Wagenbrenner defended the proposal, saying the entire Harrison Park development on former industrial land near the Olentangy River was planned for 345 units. This project won’t change that overall density, he said.
The project changed to apartments from condominiums, he said, because that’s where the market is. Eventually, he said, the company plans to sell the one- and two-bedroom units, but nobody wants to buy condominiums now.
Councilman A. Troy Miller, the council’s zoning chairman, said he was persuaded to vote yes because the 345-unit limit on the whole development won’t be exceeded, and by Wagenbrenner’s past record.
“His work has been very good,” Miller said. “We’re not talking about a question of an unknown developer making these changes.”
In the other case, both the Clintonville Area Commission and the city’s zoning office opposed the parking lot because it encroaches on a residential area designated in the neighborhood’s plan.
Apologetic officials from the retirement home said they got into a parking crunch when they built a new activity center for their residents on a former parking area. Despite several attempts to come up with a plan that would appease neighbors, they were unable to do so, said Michael Shannon, the attorney for the retirement home.
D Searcy, a member of the area commission, said the retirement home has other options, including a lot across N. High Street that’s already zoned for commercial use. She said the center’s operators should have known when they built the activity center that parking would be a problem.
But two other members of the area commission, Jennifer Kangas and John DeFourney, told the council that the plan to place the parking on Fenway near High Street is the best option for solving Wesley Glen’s problems. DeFourney, the area commission president, signed up to speak against the zoning change, then asked council members to approve it.
Miller said a zoning change was necessary to help the center’s employees: “We’re trying to take care of those who are taking care of elderly individuals.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Columbus Dispatch: The Clarmont restaurant [in German Village] closes after 65 years

The Clarmont, 884. S. High St.,  closed today after 65 years in business.
"It's been a tough couple of years, and I didn't want it to come to this, but there just comes a point where if you can't be successful you can't be in the business," said owner Thom Coffman, who has owned the landmark steakhouse since 1996. "I just want to thank all of the residents of Columbus who have supported us through the years. They were like family to us."
Coffman said the decision to close the restaurant was "one of the toughest decisions he's ever had to make," and that although nothing is set in stone, the restaurant will likely be offered for sale.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Columbus Dispatch: Vice President Biden samples local fare at North Market

By  Joe Vardon
The Columbus Dispatch Thursday January 12, 2012 4:57 PM

Vice President Joe Biden was in central Ohio today to speak to a crowd at Gahanna Lincoln High School. After the event, Biden was transported to the North Market, a warehouse near the Arena District of food and other vendors featuring different culinary tastes.

Biden was greeted at the market's A Touch of Earth coffee vendor counter by Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman. Coleman, who bought two 16-oz. coffees and led Biden on a tour the market, shaking hands with vendors' employees and patrons.

Perhaps the highlight of the vice president’s tour was a stop at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, where he ordered and munched on a waffle cone stuffed with dark chocolate and Ugandan Vanilla Bean. He shared a hug with a woman who identified herself as a former employee of Southwest Airlines, and was given a fruit basket by a woman identified as Ingrid Loesch.

Biden went behind the counter of Flavors of India and spoke with owner Raj Brar, apparently about the economy. "I said to him how everything has been having a tough time but we're all getting through it," Brar said. "He himself said it's a tough time, but that things were getting better."

Biden also visited Pam's Market Popcorn, where the owner there said she was hopeful Obama would visit.

"He'll be here," Biden said.

By the time Biden made it to Taste of Belgium, where he sampled a waffle, he said: "I would weigh 300 pounds if I were here on a regular basis."

Columbus Dispatch & CNN: Ohio panel sticks to 'White Only' pool sign ruling

Ohio panel sticks to 'White Only' pool sign ruling

A state civil rights commission won’t reconsider its decision that a Cincinnati landlord discriminated against a black girl by posting a “White Only” sign at a swimming pool. 

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission voted 4-0 today to uphold original finding. There was no discussion. 

The panel found on Sept. 29 that Jamie Hein violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act by posting the sign at a pool at the duplex where the teenage girl was visiting her parents. 

Hein, who is white, has repeatedly declined to comment and didn’t attend the hearing. She earlier told the commission’s housing enforcement director that she was trying to protect her assets. 

The girl’s father said in brief comments today that seeing the sign left him with feelings of “shock, disgust and outrage.”

CNN) -- A landlord wants the Ohio Civil Rights Commission on Thursday to reconsider its finding that she violated the law by posting a "white only" sign at her swimming pool.
Jamie Hein has asked the commission to reverse its initial ruling that found she violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act by putting up a sign that read "Public Swimming Pool, White Only" at her Cincinnati duplex.
The commission, meeting this week in Columbus, concluded last year that the sign "restricts the social contact between Caucasians and African Americans as well as reinforcing discrimination actions that are aimed at oppressing all 'people of color.'"
The case was brought by Michael Gunn, a white man who said had unrestricted access to the pool area for himself and his guests during the nearly two years he lived in the duplex, he said in a December interview.
Gunn, a software engineer, said he and his girlfriend, who is also white, lived upstairs; their 31-year-old landlord lived downstairs. However, he said their relationship soured in May 2011 when he invited his 10-year-old biracial daughter to visit and swim in the pool.
"Complainant states that the owner, Jamie Hein, accused his daughter of making the pool 'cloudy' because she used chemicals in her hair," the commission said in its summary. "Days later, the owner posted a sign on the gate to the pool which read, 'Public Swimming Pool, White Only.'"
Hein said she received the sign from a friend and posted it in early May, the summary says. Several people interviewed by the commission staff confirmed that they had seen the sign, it added.
Hein did not respond to a request for comment at the time. But she told ABC News in December that she collects antiques. She said the sign, which was dated 1931 and from Alabama, was a gift from a friend.
"I don't have any problem with race at all. It's a historical sign," she told ABC.
Gunn said he was outraged by the sign and made arrangements to find another place to live as soon as he could.
"We were extremely upset and moved out on June 21, 2011, in order to not expose my daughter to the sign and the humiliation of the message," Gunn wrote in his complaint.
He said he never confronted Hein about the matter, but has no doubt that the sign was intended for his daughter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Columbus Dispatch: Housing prices forecast to fall again

Report predicts 2% slip in central Ohio; local agents more optimistic

By  Jim Weiker 

The Columbus Dispatch Monday January 9, 2012 5:33 AM

After another mediocre year of central Ohio housing news, a report issued this morning says it will only get worse.

The report, by the California real-estate service Clear Capital, predicts that Columbus-area home prices will drop by 2 percent this year, the 28th largest drop among 50 cities studied.

The company based its forecast on 20 economic factors such as income, unemployment, mortgage rates and new construction permits.

Other observers agree that home prices in central Ohio and elsewhere won’t rise until employment picks up and foreclosures decline.

“Housing prices could continue to slip down in 2012,” said Teri Felix, executive vice president of Home Value Insurance Co., which last year began selling a policy in Ohio designed to protect homeowners against a decline in property value. “There’s still too much uncertainty in the economy, and foreclosures need to be worked through the system.”

Home prices dropped dramatically in the Columbus area and throughout the nation between 2006 and 2009, and have muddled along since. Clear Capital found that central Ohio home prices dropped an additional 3.5 percent in 2011, which is roughly consistent with Columbus Board of Realtors figures.

“The average selling price has steadily decreased since the end of 2005, but I believe we’ll see a flattening of prices in 2012,” said Milt Lustnauer, a RE/MAX Premier Choice agent in Upper Arlington and this year’s treasurer of the Columbus Board of Realtors.

Lustnauer and Chris Pedon, the board’s president-elect, say a decline in homes for sale will help balance supply and demand and, they hope, lead to a rise in prices.

“I’m hoping, now that the inventory’s starting to shrink, that we’ll see some of that pricing go back up,” said Pedon, a Bexley Real Living HER agent.

Central Ohio agents are also encouraged by the volume of Columbus-area home sales in 2011, which could show the first year-over-year gain since 2005 when final figures are released in a few weeks.

The Columbus Board of Realtors and other area organizations will present their own real-estate forecast Tuesday.

One big drag on prices continues to be foreclosures. Clear Capital estimates that 34 percent of homes sold in central Ohio are bank repossessions, which pull down prices of nearby homes.

Nationwide, Clear Capital forecasts a stabilizing of home prices in 2012, but estimates vary widely by community.

The company predicts Orlando, Fla., will show the biggest price gain, 11.7 percent. At the bottom is Atlanta, where Clear Capital predicts prices will slide 14.4 percent.

The firm estimates that Cincinnati prices will drop 2.2 percent while Cleveland prices rise 4.2 percent and Dayton prices gain 1.4 percent.

Columbus Dispatch: Near East Side starts renewal with $10 million from OSU

 Mayor Michael B. Coleman, center, and Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee laugh during the Partners Achieving Community Transformation community celebration at East High School. Ohio State is committing $10 million to rejuvenate the area around University Hospital East.

The Columbus Dispatch Monday January 9, 2012 7:55 AM

 East High School hosted a pep rally yesterday, but instead of boosting an athletic team, the good wishes for things to come were for the neighborhood.

The event launched a revitalization effort on the Near East Side that is funded by a $10 million investment from Ohio State University, which hopes to fix up the depressed area surrounding University Hospital East.

While details are few, the coalition behind the project will choose a development firm by next month to craft the blueprint, said Dawn Tyler Lee, executive director of Partners Achieving Community Transformation, or PACT.

Along with Mayor Michael B. Coleman and Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee, Lee promised an enthusiastic crowd that improving the neighborhood’s housing will make it a safer and healthier place to live.
She also said that the project should begin in 2014 and eventually will need more funding.

Ohio State, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and the city form the coalition behind PACT. Dozens of representatives from neighborhood groups, churches and advocacy organizations serve on an advisory committee.

Of Ohio State’s $10 million commitment, $9 million will go to housing and $1 million to health-care initiatives.

The goal is to improve the quality of housing, eliminate vacant properties and diversify the type of housing. Low-income and market-rate housing both will have a place, said Bryan Brown, senior vice president of the housing authority.

The first two targets are the Taylor Avenue corridor and Poindexter Village, which consists of more than two dozen acres of public housing that is being emptied now before demolition next year.

“What people can expect is a mixed-income, diverse community that is sustainable over time,” Brown said, because concentrations of poverty have not made for successful neighborhoods.

Some residents are anxious about the plans.

Marceia Robinson, 46, who lives on 17th Street, said she needs more answers.

“Will I be relocated?” she asked. “They relocated all the blacks in Poindexter Village.”

PACT leaders say there are no plans to relocate anyone on the Near East Side beyond the Poindexter site, which they say is no longer safe to inhabit. Ohio State leaders said they don’t have their eyes on buying the Poindexter property.

Beverly McCaskill, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 60 years, is supportive. She said she hears gunshots almost nightly from her home, which is north of the hospital and close to Poindexter Village.
“Whatever they put in place of Poindexter Village would be an improvement,” she said.

Coleman acknowledged concerns about gentrification in his speech. “Change and transformation does not mean we lose our identity,” he said.

The event at East High School was heavy on pride, with homegrown success stories such as Ohio Supreme Court Justice Yvette McGee Brown talking about their personal history in the neighborhood. A senior at the high school, Ronny Chhun, spoke about his work with robotics and engineering groups and his expectation of graduating with honors in June.

Afterward, attendees were invited to offer written suggestions to the coalition, which is planning a second round of “community conversations” with residents in March.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

USA Today: Know when you can do home repairs yourself

In times of economic hardship, "do-it-yourself" is a tempting mantra for many homeowners with dripping faucets, running toilets, leaky windows or sticky locks.

The savings can add up when you don't have to call a repairman, especially for things like painting, plumbing and appliance repair, said Ken Collier, editor-in-chief of The Family Handyman. "Parts are a small part of the cost. Labor is huge," he said.

And if things go wrong? With a small job, Collier said, "Worst case, you have to hire a pro and eat some crow."

There are some home repairs, of course, that an unskilled homeowner should avoid, among them "situations where having heavy equipment makes the job go much better, especially outdoors," Collier said.
Avoid jobs where you could injure yourself or damage property.

Chris Long, a member of the Home Depot do-it-yourself team, recommends calling an expert to replace a tub or shower valve, or do more involved electrical work. And while "any reasonably careful person can hang drywall," Collier said, taping it to cover the seams and joints is "very much an art where a practiced hand makes a huge difference."

But many other household repairs and projects can be tackled by a do-it-yourselfer who takes the time to learn what's required.

David Frank of Libertyville, Ill., does just about all his own home repairs and remodeling — "from electric to plumbing to concrete. Any of it can be done." He started working on his first house, a fixer-upper he bought in college, to save money. "I had to learn to do it, or it wasn't going to get done," he said. Over the years, he has taught himself by reading books, watching home-improvement TV shows and talking to experts.

Besides the money saved, there's "definitely a sense of accomplishment" in doing the work himself, he said.
His advice to beginners: Use common sense, take your time and read as much as you can. "The Internet is unbelievable," he said.

When taking on a project, begin by finding out where in your home you turn off the water and gas, and how the circuit breakers work. If you need a professional to show you, hire one.

You'll also need a good set of tools. Collier recommends such things as a 20-ounce straight claw hammer, a utility knife, linesman's pliers, a flexible putty knife, a four-in-one screwdriver, a cordless drill-screwdriver, a 25-foot measuring tape and an adjustable crescent wrench. Add to that a plunger, groove-joint pliers and duct tape.

If you're going to do any electrical work, be sure to have a voltage sniffer. "Electricity is scary stuff, and a voltage sniffer is a really safe way to know everything is off," Collier says.

There's a wealth of material online, including videos for the do-it-yourselfer.

Even unskilled homeowners should be able to do some basic appliance repairs, Collier said, such as changing a dryer belt.

And as winter approaches, homeowners can do a lot of weatherizing themselves, including adding insulation, and applying adhesive-backed, foam weather stripping to prevent cold air from seeping in around doors and windows.

Other jobs that a do-it-yourselfer can learn include repairing drywall, replacing a deadbolt, or installing a new light fixture or ceiling fan.

Here's where that voltage sniffer comes in. "If you know how to confidently turn that breaker off and you can test it to verify it, you can change that fixture," said Danny Lipford, who hosts nationally syndicated TV and radio shows and is a contributing design editor for Better Homes and Gardens.

Plumbing repairs also can be accessible even to the novice.

"A toilet is really a very simple mechanism and the parts are readily available to change out," Lipford said.
First, the cause of the problem has to be diagnosed. Find information online, in books, or talk to a worker at your hardware store.

If the toilet is running, for example, one way to figure out what's going on is to add a little food dye to the water in the tank, said Long, of Home Depot. If the water in the bowl turns the same color, the flapper valve is likely the problem. The flapper seals the tank, then lifts to allow water to flow into the bowl when the toilet is flushed. If the seal isn't tight, water will leak into the bowl.

It could be that the chain connecting the flapper to the handle is too long or too short. Adjusting that could fix the problem. Or, it could be the flapper itself. In most cases, the flapper snaps out and you can easily replace it with a new one. But first remember to turn off the water to the toilet. It's also a good idea to bring the old part to your hardware store to make sure you're purchasing a compatible new one.