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Officers acquitted on DUI coverup charges; Central Parkway Bikeway safety study planned; Kasich and Trump head to Cincy this weekend

click to enlarge This guy has a YUGE... check to give you.
This guy has a YUGE... check to give you.

Hey all. Here’s your morning updates real quick-like.

A Hamilton County Courts judge yesterday acquitted two Cincinnati police officers on charges they covered up a fellow officer’s drunk driving crash. Officer Jason Cotterman and Sgt. Richard Sulfsted were charged with obstructing justice and dereliction of duty for their alleged involvement in hiding a car accident by fellow CPD officer Sgt. Andrew Mitchell. A witness to that accident who called 911 claimed Mitchell seemed “drunk as hell” when he ran two stop signs on West McMicken Avenue and crashed into a utility pole in the early morning hours. However, Cotterman ignored that witness even after another officer told him about those statements. Subsequently, Sulfsted helped Cotterman get Mitchell back to a police station. Mitchell was never given a sobriety test. He eventually pled guilty to two traffic violations and paid $315 in fines. Hamilton County Courts Judge Josh Berkowitz, who decided the verdict in the bench trial against the two officers, said when handing down the acquittal that the case amounted to “a lot of second guessing of their judgment." Any penalties for the officers for failing to follow police procedures should come internally within the department, Berkowitz said.

• How safe is the city’s Central Parkway Bikeway? We’ll find out. The city of Cincinnati will undertake a safety study of the controversial lane. Cincinnati Police say 62 accidents happened on the stretch of the thoroughfare containing the bike lane in 2015, though no baseline number has been given for years before the lane was introduced. Councilman Christopher Smitherman has called for removal of part of the lane, though community councils in Clifton and Over-the-Rhine have called for it to be expanded, not removed.

• City administration has worked out a new plan that would shore up projected deficits in the streetcar’s operating budget, but that plan is likely to cause controversy. City Manager Harry Black negotiated a deal with philanthropic group the Haile Foundation, which has pledged $900,000 toward the streetcar’s operating budget, to ensure that the money is available to the city when it needs it to fill gaps in the transit project’s finances. However, Cincinnati City Council may also have to pull money from the general fund under the plan in order to fully fund the streetcar’s operations. The general fund money would come from increased parking revenues from longer hours and higher rates downtown and in OTR, increases which were passed to help fund the project.

That’s likely going to stir the ire of anti-streetcar members of Council as well as Mayor John Cranley, who campaigned against the transit project. One option for Council under the plan would be to reduce the frequency of streetcar service should other revenue sources — fares, advertising and the like — fall short. That’s been unpopular with pro-streetcar council members, however, who say it may violate the terms of a federal grant given to the city to set up the project.

• A local preservation advocacy organization is looking at how it could get a fund running to save some of Cincinnati’s historic architecture. The Cincinnati Preservation Association recently won a $15,000 grant to work on ways it could manage a larger fund for loans or grants related to historic preservation. That could help the CPA save buildings like the one at 313 W. Fifth St. downtown and others that have been subject to recent struggles around the difficulties in making historic preservation financially viable.

• As Ohio Gov. John Kasich runs for president, courting GOP primary voters across the country, grassroots conservatives here in Ohio aren’t necessarily lining up behind him or the state Republican party. The state GOP is struggling with the same populist fire that has swept across the nation, and now a number of contested primaries are popping up in Ohio’s GOP-dominated state legislative districts. Many hardline conservative candidates are gaining ground in these districts, running against what they call Kasich’s lack of conservative values. Those unhappy with the Republican governor cite his decision to expand Medicaid in the state, his support for Common Core educational standards and other heresies against conservative orthodoxy. Ohio GOP party leaders acknowledge this grass roots, tea party-fueled rebellion, but have said only a handful of the primary races tea party challengers have entered are actually competitive.

• If you just can’t get enough of the GOP presidential primary, well, you’re in luck. Both Republican front runner Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich will be visiting the Cincinnati area over the weekend. Trump will be at the Duke Energy Convention Center Sunday from noon to 1:30 p.m., while Kasich will make an appearance Saturday at the Sharonville Convention Center. The visits are part of a large blitz by both candidates in Ohio ahead of our March 15 primary. Kasich needs to win Ohio to stay in the race, though it's unclear what he'll do after that even if he does win.

An Ohio win for Trump could put him one step closer to clinching the Republican nomination outright. If he also wins Florida, which votes the same day, it would be a crushing blow for other candidates still in the race. Hilariously, Trump will end his Ohio fling with a campaign stop Monday night in Westerville, the suburb outside Columbus where Kasich lives. Troll level epic.

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