Good morning all. I heard it’s some holiday or another, but I’m not sure which one. Probably not that important. Anyway, here’s some news today.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown yesterday paid a visit to the Queen City to talk about the Brent Spence Bridge, a major shipping route that carries I-75 across the Ohio River. The bridge, which is structurally sound but operationally obsolete, needs a $2.6 billion replacement, and soon. President Donald Trump has put the project on a shortlist of trillions of dollars in federal investments in the nation’s infrastructure — but will those projects happen? Brown says he thinks a federal fix for the Brent Spence is possible, and that Senate Democrats are willing to work with Trump on the idea. But that cooperation requires that the Trump administration commit to paying prevailing wages and use American materials and services and that Trump ditch the idea of giving tax breaks to private companies to do most of the work, Brown said yesterday. That approach, favored by Trump, would require that projects like the Brent Spence run on tolls, something that’s been a political non-starter for the bridge.
• Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a Republican who represents Cincinnati’s eastern suburbs, is getting lots of valentines today. (Oh yeah, that’s the holiday going on today.) Not necessarily because he’s a handsome guy, but more as a protest from constituents who oppose House Republicans’ efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act and other actions aligning with the agenda of President Donald Trump. Protesters dropped off the cards at Wenstrup’s office in Anderson Township at 10 a.m.
• Hey, so neighborhood identity in Cincinnati is a serious, serious thing. If you didn’t know and don’t believe me, check out this story in which certain neighborhoods (and island-like municipalities within Cincinnati, but not OF Cincinnati) pitch a fit about businesses that market themselves as being in adjacent neighborhoods. Norwood Mayor Thomas Williams, for one, has had enough of that practice and is pretty steamed about Norwood businesses saying they’re in, like, some Cincinnati neighborhood. This seems like a very important issue. A simple and admittedly rhetorical question though: Do any municipal taxes earned by a business marketing itself as being in a nearby hot Cincinnati neighborhood still go to the city in which the business is actually located? Yes, they do.
• Fans of a local college radio station are very bummed this morning. The Northern Kentucky University Board of Regents voted to sell beloved radio station WNKU for $1.9 million to the Bible Broadcasting Corporation at their meeting today. The school will keep the call letters for the station and studio equipment, but will give the transmitter equipment as part of the sale. That move comes as budget cuts to Kentucky’s state universities force NKU to belt-tighten. Music website cincymusic.com organized a rally outside the regent’s meeting, which entered executive session earlier this morning to discuss outside offers to purchase the station. The website has collected more than 3,400 signatures on an online petition from people supporting the station staying at NKU.
• Conservative Ohio lawmakers yesterday once again introduced legislation that would make Ohio a “right to work” state, limiting the ability of public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees from employees in unionized workplaces. Such a law would likely cripple many unions as employees choose to opt out of paying for representation while still enjoying the benefits of union negotiations. Twenty eight states have some form of right-to-work laws on their books. The proposed legislation in Ohio would allow unions to opt out of representing workers who don’t pay dues. Republicans tried to pass similar legislation in 2011, but a ballot initiative repealing it passed overwhelmingly after Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the union restrictions into law.
• Finally, the big national news today is that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned last night following revelations that he spoke with Russian officials about U.S. sanctions on behalf of the Trump administration before he was in office — a serious violation of federal law. In his resignation letter, Flynn said he accidentally gave “incomplete information” regarding the phone calls between himself and Russian ambassadors. Flynn says he told Vice President Mike Pence that he didn’t discuss sanctions put in place by the Obama administration on those calls. He later admitted that he did so. The timeline of Flynn’s revelations and the Trump administration’s response to them may pose political problems for the new president and his team — many questions remain unanswered about when Trump, Pence and other top officials knew about Flynn’s discussions about sanctions with the Russian government.