Good morning all. Here’s the news today.
Remember back in November when all those accusations were flying about the way the Cincinnati Park Board operates? There are more questions now. As it turns out, the construction of Smale Riverfront Park downtown was carried out without contracts ever going out for bid on the $97 million construction project. Instead, construction work was tucked into pre-existing contracts for maintenance, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer investigation. That likely violated city ordinances around proper bonding and insurance, and may have also violated other city and state laws. The funds for that work included $40 million in public dollars. Park officials say they played by the book, however, and didn’t break any rules in building the park on a short timeframe.
• There are new developments in the most tiresome and irritating local politics story in the country! Are you hyped? We all paid Cincinnati City Council to fight for two and a half hours yesterday about the streetcar again. This time, the wheel-spinning debate was over which downtown events the streetcar should close for. Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation committee eventually voted to pass an ordinance closing the transit project for seven events, including the Opening Day Parade, the Thanksgiving Day Race, the Flying Pig Marathon, Oktoberfest and others. Those first two will be able to close down the streetcar into the foreseeable future, while the ordinance allowing other events to do so will expire in 2018. Puzzlingly, some of the events able to shut down operations up to that time, including the Health Expo in Washington Park, don’t coincide with the streetcar route. Leaders from the events in question have indicated they’re willing to work with the city and aren’t trying to impede the streetcar. Previously, the city manager had the power to close the streetcar for up to four events a year.
• Across the river, the city of Covington has approved a syringe exchange program. Though the program hasn’t been created yet, city commissioners voted unanimously to allow a program that would allow drug users to turn in used needles for clean ones, reducing both the spread of blood-borne diseases and needles littering public spaces. Cases of Hepatitis C, for example, have soared in Northern Kentucky, rising to rates 20 times higher than the national average. The approval comes as the Northern Kentucky Health Department works to establish four exchanges in Covington, Florence, Newport and Williamstown. The Williamstown location opened last week, though none of the other sites have exchanges just yet.
• Staying south of the state line, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, who represents Northern Kentucky, is calling for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to drop out of the GOP presidential primary. Massie, a Tea Party conservative, says Kasich has no chance to win at this point and should clear the way for leaders Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Massie didn’t go so far as to endorse either of those candidates, however. He originally supported U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, a fellow Kentuckian, before Paul dropped out early in the race.
• So let’s talk about the primary a little more. Yesterday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders took primary contests in Utah and Idaho by large margins while his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton won Arizona. Those states were proportional, and Sanders took more delegates than Clinton, narrowing Clinton’s imposing delegate lead slightly. Meanwhile, Republican front runner Donald Trump took Arizona easily, gaining 58 delegates, while second-place contender Cruz took all 40 of Utah’s delegates. You’ll notice that Kasich’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in those results. He got crushed in the most recent round of primary voting — humiliatingly, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has already dropped out, got more of the vote in Arizona. And despite being the traditionally establishment GOP candidate in the field, Kasich hasn’t really curried continued support from the party’s bigwigs. Former primary contender Jeb Bush, for example, has backed Cruz, not Kasich.