Morning News and Stuff

Hartmann to step down early 2016; Sittenfeld slams Strickland on gun control; prez debates on a Saturday?

click to enlarge Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann

Good morning all. Let’s talk about news.

The announcement last week that a number of cycling advocacy groups and bike trail initiatives are going all-in on a 42-mile loop around the city was exciting for the city’s cyclists, to be sure. But how feasible is that plan, and what’s the time frame for it? As the Business Courier reports, that’s still somewhat up in the air. Boosters of the project say it will take money from the city, state and federal governments, as well as private giving, to fund the multi-million dollar loop. The proposal would link four independent proposals — the Wasson Way, Ohio River West, Mill Creek Greenway and Oasis trail — in a bid to maximize impact and extend bike trails into 32 Cincinnati neighborhoods. Boosters of the plan say 18 miles of the loop, including stretches along the Mill Creek, are already complete. Another 10 miles could be done by 2020, they say, stressing the proposal is a long-term effort.

• Here’s some big news that could change the dynamic of next year’s Hamilton County Commissioners race. The current head of that commission, Greg Hartmann, is expected to resign early in 2016, and Republicans intend to name Colerain Township Trustee Dennis Deters as his temporary replacement. Hartmann’s term ends next year, and he recently announced he would not seek reelection. That seemed to leave the door wide open for Democrat Denise Driehaus, who recently filed to run for the seat. But now the race will be a more heated contest as Driehaus runs against Deters, who will have the advantages of nearly a year in office by election time. The Republican’s brother is Joe Deters, current Hamilton County prosecutor, which will further boost his prospects come November. Driehaus also has strong name recognition, however, thanks to her stints in the State House and her brother, Steve Driehaus, who represented the Cincinnati area in Congress. It’s not uncommon for outgoing commissioners to bow out early, and as long as they do so 40 days before the election, state law dictates that their party gets to choose a temporary successor. Partisan control of the three-member county commission hangs in the balance. Currently, Republicans control the county’s governing body 2-1.

• Tomorrow, residents of Grant County in Kentucky will go to the polls to decide whether or not to formally end its status as a dry county where alcohol sales are prohibited. Supporters of the change say it’s about economic development and allowing establishments like hotels to offer services visitors want. Opponents, however, worry about increases in drunk drivers, alcoholism and whether the measure will change the general character of the community there. Grant County is a generally pretty conservative place — it’s home to the upcoming Ark Encounter Noah’s Ark theme park, for example. Currently, because of the laws in the county, only five establishments there serve alcohol. They’re all restaurants that seat more than 100 people and get 70 percent or more of their revenue from food. Supporters of the ballot initiative would like to extend alcohol sales to the county’s five cities while allowing the rest of the area to stay dry — making Grant a so-called “moist” county. Currently, 31 counties in Kentucky are dry, and another 53 are “moist.” 36, including Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties making up Northern Kentucky, allow full alcohol sales.

• The upcoming 2016 Senate race is getting tough in Ohio, with Democrat candidate and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland getting slammed for his past opposition to gun control legislation. Primary challenger and current Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s campaign is hitting Strickland on ads the elder Democrat made while he was running for governor in 2010 touting his record on gun rights. That ad had Strickland holding a hunting rifle and slamming Kasich for voting for gun control legislation that Strickland opposed. In subsequent years, however, Strickland changed his tune and now says he supports gun control, especially in the wake of mass shootings like the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. But Sittenfeld, a staunch supporter of gun control efforts, says that his primary opponent’s record against gun control is long and clear.

As we’ve told you before, the 2016 race looks to be a pivotal one for both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are scratching to regain control of that chamber after they lost it last year. Meanwhile, Republicans are looking to shore up their gains in what will likely be a challenging presidential election year when more Democratic voters turn out. Whoever wins between Sittenfeld and Strickland will go on to face incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who has raised millions for his reelection bid but remains vulnerable, according to some polls.

• Finally, I guess we should talk about Saturday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate, eh? First, a bit of commentary: It seems supremely unwise to hold said debate on a Saturday night right before the holidays, as people are scrambling to get to various pubs and restaurants to catch up with out-of-town friends and relatives home for the holidays. It’d be super-interesting to read more about why the Democratic National Committee made that decision, but I digress.

The debate seems to have merely solidified the three candidates’ statuses, as there were neither major flubs nor breakthrough moments for any of them. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton came across as the moderate and competent expert politician. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders continued to sound the notes of the populist rabble-rouser with a skeptical outlook on financial institutions and foreign wars. And former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley once again made a few good points and then promptly disappeared back into the woodwork. In that way, the debate sort of functioned the way these things are supposed to on paper: It gave interested voters a chance to see what the candidates say they’re all about, how they handle themselves under pressure, and which one most aligns with any particular person’s views on the issues. What it didn’t do was drum up much excitement or hype for the party’s candidates, something that seems to be the main point of these things in our rabid, vapid 24-hour-news-cycle world these days. That, coupled with recent Democratic Party infighting about campaign data, could well hobble Dems come election time. Though, admittedly, that’s still a fairly long way away.

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