Morning News and Stuff

Downtown buildings named historic landmarks; online charter attendance debated; which local GOPers will stump for Trump?

Music Hall
Music Hall

Good morning all. Here’s what’s happening today.

Critics of U.S. Senator Rob Portman are getting louder in their opposition as the Republican faces a tough re-election campaign this year. A group will gather outside his Cincinnati headquarters today for a news conference around Portman’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Merick Garland.

The presser, organized by Progress Ohio, will feature voting rights advocate Samuel Gresham, immigration law expert Jorge Martinez and Sandy Theis, director of Why Courts Matter Ohio, according to a news release from the group. SCOTUS, which currently has eight members instead of the usual nine after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year, has seen big cases around immigration and voting rights recently. Portman is neck and neck with Democrat challenger Ohio governor Ted Strickland in Ohio’s Senate race. He's fallen in line with other GOP Senators and said he thinks the next president should pick Scalia’s replacement. Portman has indicated he does not support extending a Senate hearing for any Obama nominee.

• Are you a skywalker or a street crosser? There’s a big fight brewing over the skywalk that links Music Hall to a parking garage west of the historic Cincinnati landmark, and as the building is renovated, the bridge over Central Parkway could be removed. City parking officials say the skywalk is well beyond its lifespan, could present a hazard to the public and could be removed in June as part of Music Hall’s $135 million renovation. But Mayor John Cranley is insisting the skywalk be saved. Replacing the bridge could cost up to $4 million. Tearing it down would cost about $700,000.

• Three Cincinnati buildings downtown designed by famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham are getting a $100 million redevelopment, and they’ve been named historic landmarks in the process. The Cincinnati Planning Committee voted Friday to bestow that status on the Fourth and Walnut Centre, built in 1904, which Texas-based owners Newcrestimage, LLC will soon turn into multiple hotels.

• Last year, Ohio’s charter school system was rocked by revelations that data about those schools was rigged by an employee within the Ohio Department of Education to make certain charter school sponsors appear better, mostly by omitting data about low-performing online schools. Now, a former employee of one of those online schools has revealed how attendance data there was fudged to make the school look more successful than it actually was.

Brianne Kramer worked at the Ohio Virtual Academy last year, where she says 487 students had failed to log into classes 11 weeks into the school year. Yet only 89 were reported as truant. That was part of bigger attendance reporting problems the school faces, according to critics of the online schools. You can read all about those problems in this Columbus Dispatch story. Charter officials and supporters say the school works students who miss hours to get them back on track and that the attendance stats don't tell the whole story.

• The GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump has been a polarizing figure within the party, to say the least. So it’s interesting to take note of which Republican politicians in the region are lining up behind him and which are still expressing reticence about the real estate mogul and reality TV star.

Among bigwigs pledging support: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Cincinnati-area U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup, Hamilton County Commissioners Dennis Deters and Chris Monzel, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou and others. Meanwhile, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have yet to weigh in on Trump. Bevin has said he won’t endorse in the primary. Kasich took a full-tilt run against Trump in the GOP battle and was Trump’s last opponent before he dropped out last week.

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