Morning News: Cranley grabs state Dem endorsement; city budget shortfall looms; GOP chips away at ACA

Cranley got the nod 73-3 at the state party’s meeting in Columbus, even as his opponent Councilwoman Yvette Simpson asked the party’s executive committee for an interview with them before they made their choice.

click to enlarge Mayor John Cranley - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Mayor John Cranley

Good morning all. Here’s a few news bits for you on this balmy Thursday. It’s like, 60 degrees out there right now, so make sure you take a smoke break or something and soak it up while you can.

Mayor John Cranley last night grabbed the Ohio Democratic Party’s endorsement as he seeks re-election this year, but not without a fight from his opponent, Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. Cranley got the nod 73-3 at the state party’s meeting in Columbus, even as Simpson asked the party’s executive committee for an interview with them before they made their choice. Cranley said the endorsement “means a lot” and highlighted his commitment to the party. Simpson, who also sits on the committee, was one of the three no votes. The endorsement comes as  no surprise; the Ohio Democratic Party has been endorsing incumbent mayors more or less automatically in recent years. Among those voting for the endorsement were Hamilton County Democratic Party chair Tim Burke, who opposed a motion to separate Cranley out from a vote on all incumbents up for re-election.

Simpson and Rob Richardson Jr., Cranley’s other Democratic primary opponent, say they’re more focused on what Cincinnati residents have to say. Richardson did not attend the meeting. 

"Cincinnati should speak, and Cincinnati will speak," Simpson said after the vote, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. "I believe there are a lot of Democrats in Cincinnati who want change and they see me as that change.”

• Amid an increasingly attention-grabbing mayoral primary race, some nuts-and-bolts financial news out of City Hall: Cincinnati faces a big budget shortfall thanks in part to $2.5 million less than expected in tax revenue collection and raises promised to city employees. More on that here. Expect this situation to become even more political fodder for the fight for the mayor’s seat and City Council spots.

• Now that Democrats found some love from Hamilton County voters, what are they going to do? Well, lots of things, if you listen to County Commission Chair Todd Portune, who spent a number of lonely years as the only Democrat on the three-member commission. He’s in the majority there now that he’s been joined by former State Rep. Denise Driehaus, and the two want to make some changes. On Portune and Driehaus’ list: creating a regional transportation board, sharing more services between the city and the county, quarterly spending oversight in addition to yearly budgets, a new shot at the budget outgoing Republican commissioners passed in December and cracking down on sewer odors in neighborhoods where the Metropolitan Sewer District has treatment plants. Some of those goals may be easier than others: city-county cooperation has been bandied about for years, and taking the stink out of sewers seems like a herculean task (though Portune has some very concrete action steps and finite goals there). 

• In other Hamilton County news, this is the last day you can visit the county board of elections headquarters downtown before it closes and shuffles on up to Norwood. BOE officials say the move is designed to make the office more accessible to county residents, citing the new location’s orientation in the middle of the county, its 60 parking spots, free parking garage, accessibility for disabled visitors, location on multiple buslines and quick access to I-71. (That last bit is funny, considering I could probably throw a football from the highway and hit the downtown location if my spiral was tight enough). There has been some controversy about the move, with detractors saying it will make access more difficult for low-income voters in the city’s core neighborhoods. Those voters overwhelmingly vote Democrat. The Norwood location is a compromise, as Republicans on the BOE originally wanted the office moved to Mount Airy, which Democrats said was too far removed from the center of the city. The bi-partisan BOE made the decision in a 4-0 vote last February.

• Well, it’s starting to happen. Late last night, the Senate passed non-binding provisions making it easier to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which were tucked into a budget measure. The vote came after more than seven hours of debate over the measure, and broke down 51-48 along party lines. Democrats, of course, decried the steps making it easier to peel back President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare act, while some Republicans in the House expressed doubts about removing Obamacare before a plan for replacing it is drawn up. The House is expected to vote on the provisions tomorrow. Meanwhile, Democrats across the country are mobilizing opposition to the move. Locally, a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. in Oakley will bring together faith leaders, doctors and politicians calling for Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman to oppose rolling back the ACA.  Polling shows only about 14 percent of Americans support removing the ACA without a viable replacement.

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