Morning News: Health Gap trims budget request; city manager won't get raise; Kasich promotes new book

Former mayor Dwight Tillery, who heads the Center for Closing the Health Gap, says his organization has dialed back spending this year and will submit a budget request for $750,000 — much lower than it was originally asking for in next year's budget.

click to enlarge The Center for Closing the Health Gap has come under scrutiny for some of its programs, including one promoting fresh fruits and vegetables at corner stores.
The Center for Closing the Health Gap has come under scrutiny for some of its programs, including one promoting fresh fruits and vegetables at corner stores.

Hello all. It’s news time again.

The CEO of controversial nonprofit the Center for Closing the Health Gap says his organization is trimming its spending and its budgetary requests for next year. Former mayor Dwight Tillery, who heads the Health Gap, says his organization has dialed back spending this year and will submit a budget request that is $250,000 lighter than the $1 million it was asking for earlier this year. That comes after revelations that the city is facing a $25 million budget deficit, and after a big fight over the Health Gap erupted earlier this year. The nonprofit, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in budget increases every year Cranley has been mayor, was simultaneously investigated by WCPO and The Cincinnati Enquirer for its spending practices. The news organizations questioned some of those practices, including money spent on a faltering program promoting fresh fruits and vegetables at neighborhood corner stores and $8,000 for a civil rights lecture series featuring Tillery’s brother. Tillery, who was Cranley's 2013 campaign co-chair, and his allies have pushed back against what they call “attacks” on the Health Gap. But the Health Gap also announced that it would no longer be seeking the $5 million in the city budget it originally asked for after the controversy, and has since trimmed spending by $300,000.

• It seems everyone is belt-tightening this year. In light of the above-mentioned budget deficit, City Manager Harry Black won’t be getting a proposed 3 percent raise that would have pushed his salary to $266,457. While Cincinnati City Council has praised Black’s performance during a lengthy and contentious review process, not enough councilmembers would vote yes to move the raise forward. Black recently indicated to Council that he isn’t seeking the raise due to the city’s budget situation.

• The long-awaited I-71/Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. interchange opens sometime around 9 a.m. today. Well, at least the ramp from MLK to I-71 north will be open. The interchange, which cost $80 million and connects Walnut Hills, Avondale and Corryville to the highway, was originally supposed to be open in October 2016 after decades without access to the highway in those low-income neighborhoods. A big flood of development is expected to happen around the interchange — some of which is already underway. Communities around the highway project have been conflicted about it — hoping it will bring much-needed jobs and prosperity to the neighborhoods, but also concerned about gentrification and the major changes coming.

• If you’re looking forward to the time when you only have to pay attention to two mayoral candidates instead of three, well, your wait is almost over. But in the meantime, don’t you wonder how much cash Mayor John Cranley, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson and Rob Richardson Jr. have raised, and who gave it to them? Here are some spoilers: Richardson came up big, raising more money than incumbent Cranley — but a lot of his money came from folks outside the city. You can check out the full campaign finance rundown here.

• Greater Cincinnati businesses and individuals gave more than $1 million to help pay for Trump’s inauguration events. Downtown’s American Financial Group, led by Craig Lindner and Carl Lindner III, gave $500,000 and Mason’s Cintas Corporation gave $25,000. Check out more local big spenders here.

• The city of Blue Ash mulled outlawing medicinal marijuana within municipal limits after Ohio voters opted to legalize it last year. But that drive to block marijuana production and sale, started by Mayor Lee Czerwonka, fell short by one vote in Blue Ash City Council Friday. Councilmembers opposed to blocking medical weed cited the fact that it’s not for recreational use and that surrounding communities would have it whether Blue Ash did or not. Czerwonka argued that it would lower property values in Blue Ash. The legislation goes into effect in September across the state.

• One year ago today, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was withdrawing his bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Today, he’s on the road promoting his book about Trump’s rise and his own continued calls for bipartisanship. Kasich argues that a “cultural erosion” has drained everyday Americans of hope and led to Trump’s unprecedented election. I wonder if Kasich talks about his own highly divisive drive to dismantle public unions in Ohio, his continued work with the state’s ultra-conservative state legislature to shut down Ohio’s abortion providers or other hard-right stances he’s taken during his tenure as governor in the book. Anyway, in interviews about the book, Kasich has argued that voters need to “give Trump a chance” because he hasn’t held office before. Kasich, who has been one of Trump’s staunchest critics thus far, seems to be softening his tone of late. The question, of course, is whether Kasich’s consensus-seeking and feel-good book tour is another step toward putting together a future run for office. He’s term-limited from another go at the governor’s mansion in Ohio, leaving him free to pursue other offices. We shall see.

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