Morning News: Group pushes Cranley on forum attendance; Chabot wants Japan, South Korea to consider nukes; Ohio private schools get $400 million in public money

U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot blogged Wednesday urging President Donald Trump to encourage the Asian U.S. allies to consider starting up nuclear weapons programs. That admonition follows up on talking points Trump himself highlighted during his campaign.

click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot

click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot
Good morning all… it’s all hands on deck at CityBeat HQ today as we ramp up for this year’s Best of Cincinnati launch, which culminates in a huge party March 29 at the Phoenix downtown. It’s going to be an amazing issue this year and we’ve all been hustling on it. I tell you that so you’ll understand why I’m keeping the news update short today.

Mayor John Cranley is taking some heat from his opponents and a prominent African-American group over his absence at a recent mayoral candidate forum, as well as the fact he won't be able to make it to the next round later this month. Cranley had to cancel his appearance at Tuesday night's mayoral forum in Walnut Hills.

Today, Cranley's campaign announced in a news release that he will be able to make another forum March 28 in Bond Hill at Cincinnati's Community Action Agency hosted by the Greater Cincinnati NAACP. The campaign initially said that his job as mayor and his busy campaign schedule would keep him from that event.

One of Cranley's primary opponents, Rob Richardson Jr., issued a news release this morning criticizing the mayor for his absence and asking him to reconsider attending the March 28 event. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, also challenging Cranley in the primary, noted his absence at the forum earlier this week, telling the crowd that "you have to show up" to events like that debate. And the Black Agenda Cincinnati, led by Cranley donor and ally Dwight Tillery, scheduled a news conference tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Woodward High School to discuss the mayor's absence from those forums.

"Community leaders are concerned about the noticeable absence of Mayor Cranley at debates coordinated by black organizations," the group said in a news release put out yesterday. "The public has a right to have as many opportunities to listen to all the candidates as they discuss the issues that are important to all citizens of our city."

• When one door closes, another one opens, but sometimes it’s a bigger door in another neighborhood. The Walnut Hills Kroger closed last night after decades in the neighborhood, leaving concerns about how residents there who don’t drive will get their groceries. The move leaves Walnut Hills a food desert — a neighborhood without easy access to fresh foods. That’s an issue neighborhood groups like the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation, as well as activist groups like Cincinnati Black Lives Matter, are attempting to address from various angles. The store’s closing coincides with the grand opening of the new Corryville Kroger, which has two stories, the tallest living plant wall in Ohio, and 90,000 square feet of space —well over double the square footage of the previous store at that location, which was demolished in 2015. Kroger is offering a shuttle service for the rest of the month to seniors who shopped at the Walnut Hills location, as well as a limited run of bus passes for those who registered at the old store.

• One of downtown’s most distinctive historic buildings is about to change hands, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports. The 135-year-old Cincinnatian Hotel will be sold very soon — perhaps by the end of the day, the hotel’s director says. Owners American Financial Group won’t reveal the buyers just yet, but the projected selling price of the hotel could be as high as $30 million. The hotel’s high-end restaurant The Palace closed for dinner late last month, though it’s still serving lunch and the hotel’s more casual lounge eatery, the Cricket, also remains open. No details have been released about the potential new owners’ plans for the 146-room hotel or its restaurant facilities.

• Cincinnati’s U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot wants Japan and South Korea to get themselves some nukes. Or, well… he wants them to think about it. Chabot blogged Wednesday urging President Donald Trump to encourage the Asian U.S. allies to consider starting up nuclear weapons programs. That admonition follows up on talking points Trump himself highlighted during his campaign about encouraging those countries to do so. This is great because A. a casual public blog is definitely the preferred forum for high-level elected U.S. officials to discuss international nuclear weapons proliferation and B. the more the merrier when it comes to nukes, I always say and C. I’m sure China and North Korea will love this idea very much. This is all perfectly fine. Everything is great.

• A mosque in Butler County got a bomb threat, and now a local group wants the feds to investigate it as a hate crime. Greater Cincinnati’s Council on American-Islamic Relations has asked the FBI to look into a threat phoned into the West Chester mosque and left on the worship center’s voicemail. That threat mirrors dozens that have popped up around the country in the past month in New York, New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland and other states. A number of threats against Jewish places of worship and desecration of Jewish cemeteries have also been reported around the country, including in Columbus.

• Ohio gives about $1 billion in taxpayer money to privately run charter schools every year. That’s been super contentious of late, given some controversy around those schools’ performance and record keeping practices. But did you know that the state also gives $400 million in public money earmarked for public schools to private schools? Some of which are religious? That number includes almost $84 million going to 136 private schools in Greater Cincinnati, many of them affiliated with a faith tradition. Eight of the 10 private schools receiving the most public money in Hamilton County are religiously based. Critics of that state spending say it violates separation of church and state principles laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

• As we reported in our print issue yesterday, the House GOP is having some trouble getting support from its own party for its Obamacare replacement. Four senators, including U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, have panned the plan for not protecting Medicaid expansion recipients. Ohio Gov. John Kasich Tuesday evening blasted the plan along the same lines. Meanwhile, staunch conservatives like Ohio’s U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan and Kentucky’s U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie are pushing back against the bill from the opposite direction, saying it doesn’t do enough to end the Medicaid expansion and other key tenets of Obamacare. Other local congressional members, including U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, are more measured, saying they're giving the bill a chance or have yet to read it fully.

“I think it’s a nonstarter for conservatives,” Massie said. “It creates a new entitlement program that’s euphemistically called refundable advanced monthly tax credits. And those credits are actually paid directly to the insurance company, so it’s a subsidy by another name."

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