Could the federal government foot the bill for part of a massive project covering Fort Washington Way downtown? Hamilton County Commissioners hope so. For a long time, officials and urban planning folks have speculated about covering the span of highway between downtown and The Banks and connecting the two for pedestrians. Now Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune says the commission is considering applying for a federal TIGER funding to cover a one-block portion of the highway. Pittsburgh scored TIGER funds for a similar project last year. After federal funds kickstarted the first portion of the highway cap, tax increment financing could be used to capture revenue from the increased value of the area and fund future portions of the project. Each of the four sections to be covered would cost about $25 million. County and state funds could also be used for part of the project.
• Ohio Gov. John Kasich just tapped one of Cincinnati's highest-profile entrepreneurs for a powerful perch. Lisnr CEO Rodney Williams on March 10 began a stint on the University of Cincinnati’s Board of Trustees. Williams helped start Lisnr in 2012 and has been instrumental in the company’s rise from a music-specific app to one that has big data-sharing uses across multiple applications. UC President Neville Pinto touted Williams’ corporate experience and his close ties to the Cincinnati startup community as reasons he’ll be a good fit on UC’s 14-member board. Williams’ tenure will run until 2026.
• A police officer and a local man are in the hospital after exchanging gunfire Sunday, and Mayor John Cranley yesterday in a news conference called that incident an “ambush.” Police were responding to a domestic violence call in Walnut Hills when Damion McRae, the suspect, began firing at them. Cincinnati Police officer Kenneth Grubs was struck once in the abdomen. Police returned fire, striking McRae several times. Both are still hospitalized. Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac didn’t call the incident a trap for police but did say McRae "was very willing" to fire on officers.
• A new $19 million shelter for homeless youth under construction in Walnut Hills will increase the number of beds available for those who have no other place to stay. The Lighthouse Youth Services Sheakley Center complex, which is being built after a $10 million fundraising push by the nonprofit, plus state and federal tax credits, will occupy a 65,000-square-foot former industrial facility near Reading Road and will house 39 short-term apartments, 36 bedrooms, a health care center, laundry room, day shelter and other facilities. Addiction and mental health workers will be on site as well. Lighthouse’s current youth shelter, on Highland Avenue, is currently at capacity most nights, making an expansion necessary. The shelter will open next year.
• A local family has gotten national coverage for its tragic connections to the heroin crisis. Blanchester’s Winemiller family has lost two of their three children to overdoses in the past year, and a third is currently in rehab. The family, which runs a farm about an hour outside of Cincinnati, last Sunday was featured in a New York Times story about heroin in Ohio. The piece follows a familiar, somewhat tired pattern of recent national news stories — that economic hardships and isolation from community have driven many in places like rural Ohio to addiction — but it’s worth a read as a reminder of the devastating personal toll the heroin crisis is taking on people.
• Is an Ohio think tank that has been investigating charter schools funded by the Turkish government? It’s… way more complicated. Horizon Science Academy charter schools operate across Ohio, including one in Cincinnati, and ProgressOhio, a progressive research group, has been pushing for greater accountability for those schools and other charters here. The think tank was hired last year by Amsterdam & Partners to help investigate and publicize problems with Horizon schools, which might have ties to exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gullen. The Turkish government hired Amsterdam to execute that research, believing Gullen was part of a failed coup last year.
Critics of Horizon say the schools operate as a kind of closed system in which Gullen associates run the schools and the buildings the schools lease, charging themselves very high rents paid by state funding and keeping the money. Horizon denies this and any connection to Gullen. They’ve fired back at ProgressOhio, saying the $37,000 they’ve received from Amsterdam puts them in league with Turkey’s repressive government. The think tank says it’s just trying to publicize problems with the school’s financial structure and performance. Horizon schools have underperformed on state metrics, earning straight Fs on Ohio Department of Education report cards. Charters, however, don’t have to meet the same standards as Ohio’s public schools, meaning Horizon has continued to operate despite the low performance.
• Teachers are pushing back against a proposal by Ohio Gov. John Kasich that would require educators to undergo 40 hours of internship work with local businesses in order to be re-licensed. A number of teachers’ groups have been up in arms about the proposal, with some suggesting Kasich needs to spend more time in Ohio classrooms instead of teachers spending time in local businesses. Critics of Kasich’s plan say it fundamentally misunderstands the work teachers do and will add a big burden to teachers’ already jam-packed schedules. Kasich’s proposal is included in his state budget, which lawmakers in the General Assembly are mulling now.
• Fresh off a visit from Vice President Mike Pence in Louisville Saturday to talk about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump will also appear in the Bluegrass State next week to talk about health care. The push by the Trump administration comes as Kentucky emerges as a key battleground state over health policy. As congressional Republicans push their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — which could cost 24 million Americans their health insurance over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office — the Trump team has devoted a good deal of time to promoting the effort. At his Louisville appearance Saturday, Pence blasted Obamacare before an invitation-only crowd of about 100 as hundreds of protesters gathered outside. Trump is expected to deliver similar talking points at his Louisville appearance Monday.