Morning News: Judge denies Dennison demo pause; UC delays investigation into officers; OD deaths surge in suburbs

Authorities in Warren County report that 14 people died of overdoses there last month alone. In 2016, 59 people died in the suburban county — already a high number, but one that could almost triple this year at the current rate.

Feb 8, 2017 at 10:58 am

Hey Cincy. Let’s talk news for just a minute.

Preservationists won’t get a two-week restraining order against the demolition of the Dennison Hotel building downtown, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa Allen ruled yesterday. After about an hour of testimony from attorneys representing downtown property owner Matt Wood and Columbia’s attorneys Fran Barrett and Tim Burke, Allen quickly shot down the request for the delay. The building, designed by the firm of famous architect Samuel Hannaford 124 years ago, sits in the Main Street Historic District and has been the subject of a protracted legal battle. Columbia, the owners of the building, want to demolish it because they say it isn’t economically feasible to rehab. But historic preservationists say the building is significant and can be saved. Preparations to demolish the building began Monday as crews fenced off the Dennison and began removing asbestos from its interior. The demolition efforts are expected to continue this week.

• An internal investigation into the conduct of two University of Cincinnati police officers involved in a controversial shooting of an unarmed man is on hold. UC has announced that inquiries into the actions of officers Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, who initially backed up University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing’s story about his actions during a traffic stop in which he shot unarmed black motorists Samuel DuBose, have been suspended while Tensing stands trial for that incident. Tensing shot DuBose in the head moments after pulling him over for a missing front license plate. Kidd and Lindenschmidt initially corroborated Tensing’s story that he was dragged by the car before he shot DuBose, but later testified they didn’t see that happen. Body camera video shows that Tensing was not dragged by DuBose’s car.

• UC student groups will rally at 4 pm today in an effort to pressure university administration to declare the school a sanctuary campus, ensuring that school officials and law enforcement personnel wouldn’t work to enforce federal immigration laws. That move comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and ending refugee resettlement entirely for 120 days. The city of Cincinnati declared itself a sanctuary city last week in response to that executive order. UC would join about 30 campuses across the country designating themselves sanctuary campuses. Officials say they haven’t made a decision yet.

• Media has paid a lot of attention to the heroin crisis as it unfolds in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, but the region’s northern suburbs are also fighting a grim battle against the drug. Authorities in Warren County report that 14 people died of overdoses there last month alone. In 2016, 59 people died in the suburban county — already a high number, but one that could almost triple this year at the current rate.

• There was some serious fighting over President Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who the Senate confirmed with a razor-thin vote yesterday. But if U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie got his way, all of that fighting would have been unnecessary. The Republican from Northern Kentucky has introduced a bill that would totally get rid of the U.S. Department of Education. Massie says unelected authorities shouldn’t be in charge of educating children, and that total control of the education system should fall to state and local officials. Other Republicans don’t see eliminating the department as useful, especially now that the Trump administration has installed his pick to run it. Massie is a bit of an outsider — he’s also called for the U.S. to withdraw from the United Nations and was the only GOP representative to vote against Rep. Paul Ryan for House Speaker.

• Finally, while we’re talking fights over cabinet picks, a kind of unbelievable national story here: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, had her speech opposing Trump’s attorney general pick Sen. Jeff Sessions cut short after she read a letter opposing him from a Civil Rights icon. The letter, written in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, opposed Session’s unsuccessful bid to become a U.S. district court judge on the grounds that he supported voter suppression based on race. After Warren read the letter, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky invoked a decades-dormant Senate rule to stop her speech, saying that Warren was “impugning the motives” of a fellow senator. This move came despite the fact that other, more harsh critiques between senators have been allowed in the past — including an incident in 2015 when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz called McConnell “a liar” on the Senate floor. Cruz was not slapped with the rule violation used against Warren or any other censure for those remarks.