Morning News: Downtown property owner sues to block Dennison demo; large pool of Council candidates makes fundraising difficult; DeVos, Sessions could be confirmed this week

Woods Real Estate Investments filed in court Friday, asking for a two-week stay on the demolition permit the city issued Columbia REI, which owns the Dennison Hotel, until courts can schedule a hearing on permanently blocking the demolition.

The Dennison Hotel - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
The Dennison Hotel

Good morning all. I heard there was some kind of sports game on yesterday. Did you enjoy it? Good, good. Now let’s talk about the greatest sport of all: the news.

A property owner near the embattled Dennison Hotel is suing to avoid demolition of the 125-year-old building. Woods Real Estate Investments filed in court Friday, asking for a two-week stay on the demolition permit the city issued Columbia REI, which owns the Dennison, until courts can schedule a hearing on permanently blocking the demolition. Woods also appealed a ruling by the Zoning Board of Appeals that allowed the city to issue the demolition permit. That decision overturned an earlier call by the city’s Historic Conservation Board, which denied Columbia’s permit request.

Matt Woods, who owns two properties nearby, says the value of his properties hinges on the Dennison staying intact. Preservationists say the building was designed by the firm of noted Cincinnati architect Samuel Hannaford and contributes significantly to the Main Street Historic District where it is located. Columbia, controlled by auto dealer family the Josephs, say they’d like to demolish the building to make room for the headquarters of an as-yet unidentified Fortune 500 company.

• Will Democrats running for Cincinnati City Council find the fundraising well has run dry this year? After a very expensive 2016 for the Democratic Party, and as not one, not two, but three Democrats duke it out in the mayoral primary, getting money for a Council run could be a difficult proposition. Some candidates like Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld staffer Tamaya Dennhard are going the grassroots route, holding lots of small gatherings to net smaller donations. Others are parlaying name recognition from other campaigns into donations from establishment figures.

Greg Landsman, whose name you might know from his time leading the Preschool Promise levy initiative, has raised more than $76,000 from prominent business leaders and even some Republicans. Other candidates, like community organizer Ozie Davis III, are hoping their networks and long-standing stature in the community will rally supporters and help them grab the votes they need. Republican candidates Jeff Pastor and Councilwoman Amy Murray, meanwhile, are benefiting from a smaller field on their side. Murray already has $120,000 on hand and hopes to raise $300,000. Money isn’t everything, though — past Council races have seen small spenders with big name recognition jet past some candidates with much deeper pockets.

• Last week we told you about rumors that another company might try to purchase Cincinnati-based Macy’s Department Stores. Now we have the name of at least one of Macy’s suitors: Hudson Bay Co., which also owns Saks and other retail brands, reportedly made a takeover bid for Macy’s Friday. The Toronto-based company is said to be in talks with Macy’s that could result in a sale. Macy’s employs about 3,000 people in the Greater Cincinnati area. I for one welcome our new Canadian overlords.

• Is Ohio Gov. John Kasich jumping onto the alternative facts craze popularized by the administration of President Donald Trump? At a panel put on by the Associated Press last week, Kasich took issue with the fact that Ohio has had slower job growth than the national rate. That’s been true throughout Kasich’s time as governor, but Kasich tried to correct a reporter who prefaced a question with that fact, saying it wasn’t true.

The problem is that every piece of evidence suggests that it is, in fact, the case. Ohio has gained jobs at a rate of 7.5 percent since 2009. That’s below the national average of 10.4 percent and earns the state a rank of 28th out of 50. Kasich told another whopper during the discussion, saying that he vetoed the so-called “heartbeat” abortion restrictions passed by the state legislature earlier this year in part because it didn’t have exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Kasich said he wouldn’t sign anything that didn’t have those exceptions. But he actually did when he signed another 20-week ban on abortions, which doesn’t have exceptions for rape or incest and only very narrow medical exceptions for when the mother’s life is in danger.

• Finally, two controversial Trump appointees are poised to gain confirmation in the Senate this week. Secretary of Education pick Betsy DeVos looks likely to skate through on the thinnest of margins tomorrow — the last vote tally was 50-50 in the Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote to confirm her. Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has indicated he’ll vote for DeVos, despite numerous protests in the Greater Cincinnati area and across the state. Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney general pick, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, also looks likely to get through the Senate. Sessions has raised ire among Democrats and progressives because he’s been followed by accusations of racist statements and behavior through his career and has opposed some Civil Rights moves. Republicans say he’s a supporter of Civil Rights, pointing to his time as Alabama’s attorney general, but even that is complicated. Republicans in the Senate will vote on Sessions after DeVos because his vote is needed to confirm her in the Senate.

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