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Cranley defends park tax in debate; tiny apartments coming to downtown; Paul Ryan to run to replace Boehner as House speaker

Smale Riverfront Park
Smale Riverfront Park

Hey all. Thanks for wading through the sea of Back to the Future Day-themed blog garbage to hang out and talk about news!

Last night, there was another debate Uptown about Issue 22, the proposed amendment to Cincinnati’s charter that would fund big changes to the city’s parks as well as much-needed maintenance for them. The big difference between this debate and the last one, which was held downtown last week, was that Mayor John Cranley himself argued for his proposal. Cincinnati attorney Don Mooney once again represented the opposition to the parks plan.

Most of the debate was a retread of points the two sides have already made, and little new was revealed, with one major exception. Cranley revealed for the first time that a joint city-county tax proposal was considered at the beginning of this year when Issue 22 was first being drawn up. That potential levy would have been a 2-mill property tax increase that would have funded upkeep to Great Parks of Hamilton County as well as at least some of the 16 projects Cranley has proposed for Issue 22. But Cranley says the deal “just didn’t make sense” because all of the proposed new park projects he wanted funded are within the city proper. Both the county and the Cranley administration agreed that a joint city-county levy didn’t make sense, according to the mayor.

• Do you want to live in a really swanky downtown apartment, but can’t afford penthouse prices? Do you love the feeling of sleeping standing up nestled cozily next to the soothing hum of your refrigerator? Then I’ve got good news for you. Really tiny luxury apartments, or, if you prefer the glass is half full outlook, really big luxury closets, will soon be part of the downtown rental landscape here in Cincinnati.

Michigan-based developer Village Green has announced that it will add sub-400-square-feet micro apartments to the plans for the 294 luxury units slated for the 1920s-vintage Beaux Arts building at 309 Vine St. The ultra-small apartment concept has been a hit in bigger cities like New York and San Francisco, where they basically give young professionals a place to hang their snazzy grown-up shirts and pass out for a few hours when they’re not freelance coding at a co-working space or drinking microbrews at a post-happy hour semi-business-casual networking dinner. Now, Cincinnatians, this lifestyle can be yours as well.

• A retrial date has been set for suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge Tracie Hunter. A jury could not agree on eight of nine felony counts Hunter was tried for last year. Those charges include misuse of a court credit card, forgery and tampering with evidence. Hunter was convicted on a ninth count involving charges she gave her brother, a juvenile court employee, confidential records to use at his own disciplinary hearing. She was sentenced to six months in prison for that conviction, but is free as her case works its way through the appeals process.

Hunter’s supporters say the accusations against her are political in nature and point to the fact she’s the first female African American judge in the juvenile court system. Many, including State Senator Cecil Thomas, also point to what they say are defamatory statements made by Hamilton County prosecutors about Hunter. Hunter ran on a promise to greatly reform Hamilton County’s juvenile justice system, which some say treats juveniles of color inequitably. Those charges of inequitable treatment are the subject of a pending lawsuit filed last year against the county. Hunter was elected in 2012 after a hotly contested recount showed she narrowly defeated her Republican opponent.

Where’s Gov. John Kasich? There’s nothing novel about accusations of absenteeism for governors who are running for president, so it’s no surprise that people are asking if Ohio’s very own 2016 GOP presidential primary contender is putting in enough time at his day job as the state’s top exec. But it’s a worthwhile question to ask as the Big Queso racks up the frequent flyer miles between New Hampshire, home and other big primary states.

Kasich's spokesman says his “cell phone works just as well in Cincinnati, Iowa as it does in Cincinnati, Ohio,” but if I tried that line on my boss I don’t think it would go so well. The questions come as other candidates in the race — including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and governors like Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie — take heat for being away from the home base stirring up support for their presidential ambitions. Kasich’s camp says technology allows the guv to stay on top of things here while he’s out schmoozing with donors elsewhere, and so far his packed travel itinerary hasn’t put a dent in his 62-percent job approval rating among Ohioans. But others who would know cast doubt on the efficacy of splitting your time between the big gig on the state level and auditioning for the top spot in the country. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out of the GOP primary earlier this month, said it’s been really hard running a state and running a campaign at the same time. Keeping that in mind, Kasich’s answer that “cell phones are a thing” doesn’t seem quite as compelling.

• Finally, the GOP in the House of Representatives may have finally sorted out their big dilemma when it comes to finding a House speaker. Maybe. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last night announced he would run for the speakership, which is being vacated by Ohio’s own Rep. John Boehner. But there’s a big catch: The entire House GOP has to unite behind him, and all must agree to a set of conditions Ryan has stipulated. That’s a tall order, considering a group of a few dozen hardline conservative representatives drove Boehner out of the top spot last month and show few signs of being willing to bend on their demands for ideological purity from a new leader. A few have already signaled they may not support Ryan as he runs for speaker. That could scuttle chances for a Ryan speakership and put Boehner, who has promised to stay on until a new speaker is elected, in an indefinite state of purgatory as not-quite-outgoing speaker. Sounds like a fun job, right?

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