Morning News: Richardson touts political outsider status; Cranley announces labor endorsements; Ohio Supreme Court justice mulls run for governor's seat

Last night at his campaign kickoff, Robert Richardson Jr. cast himself in a popular political mold of late: the outside reformer whose lack of elected experience is a plus, not a minus.

Good morning. Time for some news that isn’t related to the snow we might be getting tomorrow that everyone on Twitter is freaking out about.

Mayor John Cranley (right) and City Manager Harry Black - NICK SWARTSELL
Nick Swartsell
Mayor John Cranley (right) and City Manager Harry Black

As we told you yesterday, Cincinnati now has a third entrant into its 2017 mayor’s race: former University of Cincinnati Board Chair Robert Richardson Jr. Last night at his campaign kickoff, Richardson cast himself in a popular political mold of late: the outside reformer whose lack of elected experience is a plus, not a minus. Richardson criticized the in-fighting that often takes place at City Hall, where Democratic Council members and Mayor John Cranley are often at odds.

Politics didn’t bring me to the community, the community brought me to politics,” he said at his announcement event last night. “I haven’t served in political office. I actually think that’s a benefit right now.”

At the same time, he highlighted his tenure on UC’s board and his previous career as a labor leader as signs he can get things done. About 200 people turned out for Richardson’s announcement at UC’s Niehoff Studios, and he’s garnered a number of endorsements, mostly from CU-affiliated officials. Those include Republican Margaret Valentine, a UC trustee, Eric Abercrumbie, the school’s diversity director, and Mitchell Phelps, president of the university’s student body. 

Richardson criticized Cranley somewhat for ordinances he pushed last year that gave raises to unionized city employees outside the city’s usual process, saying the move undermined collective bargaining. Richardson said of labor groups supporting Cranley: “He essentially earned it, and, in some ways, purchased it.”  

While Cranley’s campaign spokesman Jay Kincaid pushed back lightly against Richardson’s statement, he mostly used the response to bash Cranley’s other Democratic opponent, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. She was a vocal opponent of subverting the collective bargaining process, something the mayor has used to drive a wedge between her and organized labor. Simpson has maintained she supports the raises but wants to see them go through the proper channels.

• Cranley held his own news conference earlier in the day to announce endorsements from four area labor groups, perhaps a move designed to rain on Richardson’s parade. The mayor’s campaign announced endorsements from the local chapters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Plumbers and Pipefitters union and the union for asbestos workers at an afternoon event downtown. AFSCME and IBEW, the largest of the four unions, represent about 3,000 local workers.

Cranley touted worker-friendly legislation City Hall has passed in recent years, including a minimum wage boost to $15 an hour for city employees, anti-wage theft initiatives and measures requiring developers receiving city subsidies to pay prevailing wages. Cranley’s opponent Simpson also voted for those measures.

• After controversy around the secret $255,000 settlement the city of Cincinnati reached with former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, future settlements will be disclosed to City Council, City Manager Harry Black announced yesterday. Black sent Mayor Cranley a memo stipulating that all settlements made by the city over $5,000 will be listed at least monthly and sent to Council. Blackwell’s settlement is part of a larger dustup over the chief’s Sept. 2015 dismissal, after which he threatened to sue the city.

• Vandals yesterday spray-painted a swastika on a large sign outside Clifton’s Hebrew Union College. Though the graffiti was quickly removed, the incident made is way around social media and drew rebuke from many.

“We will not let this act of hate alter our important work.,” HUC President Rabbi Aaron Panken said in a statement. “We are indebted to the people of Cincinnati who have stood by us for generations and who have offered their support again today. Tomorrow, a new day will dawn and the values we hold dear will continue to light the way."

Police say they’re investigating the incident but don’t know who the perpetrator or perpetrators are.

• Yesterday we told you about an effort by Republican lawmakers in the House to gut an independent ethics panel designed to watchdog lawmaker conduct. The GOP scuttled that effort after negative media, public uproar and reproach from Republican president-elect Donald Trump. GOP lawmakers representing the Cincinnati area say they weren’t involved in the effort to bring the Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of the House. Reps. Steve Chabot, Warren Davidson and Brad Wenstrup all say they voted no on the proposal, but did leave the door open for future reforms if they’re done in a transparent way. The meeting on the effort to kneecap the OCE, which would have forbidden it from taking whistleblower tips or releasing information to the public, was private, and it’s not possible to verify who stood where on the 119-74 vote.

• Will an Ohio Supreme Court Justice seek the governor’s seat as a Democrat in 2018? Justice William O’Neill says he’s considering it. O’Neill said he is mulling a run, but will wait until the end of 2017 to decide. The sometimes-maverick Democrat has said he would run on a liberal platform around marijuana legalization, high-speed rail between Cleveland and Cincinnati, the elimination of for-profit charter schools and cutting higher education tuition at state schools in half. But he wants to see if the Ohio Democratic Party has “learned anything in 2016” and is waiting to glean who else might jump into the race before making a decision. Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Shiavoni and former State Rep. Connie Pillich are also rumored to be running. Should he jump in the race, O’Neill would have to resign early from his term on the Supreme Court, which runs until 2019. At 69 years old, he wouldn’t be eligible to serve again on the court due to age limits.