Morning News and Stuff

County drops eight felony counts against Tracie Hunter; big startup convention coming to Cincy; battle in Ohio state house over unemployment benefits

Good morning all. It’s snowing. Did you notice? OK. I’ve done my apparent journalistic duty to point out to you that it is precipitating, but that the atmosphere above Cincinnati is cold enough that said precipitation is coming down as a solid, not a liquid. Thought experiment: Are there more snowflakes coming down or pictures of that snow on Twitter from news organizations?

Real news time. Suspended Hamilton County Court Judge Tracie Hunter found out yesterday that she won’t face retrial on eight felony counts. A previous jury couldn’t come to an agreement on those charges, but one in 2014 did convict Hunter of a ninth felony charge related to information she gave her brother, a Hamilton County Juvenile Court employee, as he faced his own charges for punching an inmate. Special prosecutor Scott Croswell III told Hamilton County Court Judge Patrick Dinkelacker that retrying Hunter on the other charges would cost too much and cause further unnecessary acrimony here. Croswell said the state is satisfied with the count Hunter was convicted on. Since her conviction, Hunter has lost her law license and been suspended from the bench. She was sentenced in Dec. 2014 to six months in jail and a year of probation for the charges.

• Cincinnati will host a big-name startup convention this October, organizers announced yesterday. Colorado-based TechStars and locals Cintrifuse will host FounderCon from Oct. 18-20. In the past, the conference has visited major cities like Austin and Chicago and is expected to draw more than 1,000 corporate leaders and tech startup founders. The event looks to be another boost for the city’s startup economy. Startups in the city have raised more than $170 million in funding in the past few years, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier.

• Another round of condos is coming to Over-the-Rhine. 3CDC has listed 36 new condos for sale ranging in price from $145,000 to $650,000 in the area around Race, Elm and Main streets and other locations. The new developments, three of which are already under contract to be purchased when they are completed, join another 54 3CDC has brought to the neighborhood in the past year and 347 it has developed in OTR since its founding in 2003. In addition to the condos, the developer plans 27 affordable units of apartment housing accompanying 23 condos and 11 townhomes at a new development on 15th and Race streets, though it’s unclear what level of affordability those units will have.

• A little further north, Findlay Market is nearing completion of its incubator kitchen. The kitchen features 8,000 square feet of shared-use space and is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs launch food-based ventures. The kitchen will be city-licensed, allowing businesses to produce food for sale there. Members will pay $75 a year for access to the kitchen. The space’s 10 kitchens will be accessible 24 hours a day and can be rented by the hour or by the month.

• Normally, going from city to city asking people about pot is the purview of touring musicians. But two Ohio lawmakers will go on a three-city tour soon to listen to residents’ opinions on medical marijuana ahead of possible legislative action on that subject. State Sens. David Burke, a Republican, and Kenny Yuko, a Democrat, will travel to Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati starting Jan. 30 to conduct the listening tour. Yuko has been a medicinal marijuana supporter for more than a decade, while Burke is “skeptical, but wants to listen.” This sounds like an amazing reality show. Yuko says the effort has been sparked by a new willingness among his colleagues in the state house to consider medicinal marijuana. Neither Yuko nor Burke say they support recreational use, however, so touring bands will need to be careful about their own traveling pot inquiries into the foreseeable future.

• Right now there’s a big fight going on in the Ohio legislature around a bill to reform the state’s unemployment benefits program. Lawmakers are working on changes that could reduce the number of weeks unemployed workers are eligible for the benefits from the current 26 weeks to somewhere between 12 and 20 weeks depending on the state’s unemployment rate. That, among many other measures in the bill, has advocates for workers and the poor up in arms.

They point out that unemployment rates vary drastically in different regions of the state, and that someone who lives in a high unemployment area could see their benefits unfairly reduced if the overall state unemployment rate is low. Labor leaders and Democrats in the state house have blasted the changes. The state House Democratic Caucus called the bill the biggest attack on workers since the infamous SB5 legislation enacted at the start of Gov. John Kasich’s first term. That bill sought to limit state employee collective bargaining rights.

Republican lawmakers and many business groups, however, stand by the proposed changes. Currently, Ohio’s unemployment trust fund is insolvent, and conservative lawmakers say their proposed changes are necessary to keep it going. Liberals, however, say the changes proposed by Republicans shield businesses from unemployment taxes at the expense of workers.

• Finally, your daily Kasich update. Ohio’s big queso has moved up a spot in at least one national poll. He’s now sixth in a USA Today poll. Is that sad or good news for Kasich? It’s hard to tell. He was seventh in the same poll last week. He’s ahead of former frontrunner Ben Carson, who has tanked of late. He’s also two spots ahead of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. Sadly, he’s still trailing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose campaign is widely seen as a disaster. Will Kasich keep climbing? Will he place high in the vital upcoming Iowa and New Hampshire primaries? I’m on the edge of my seat.

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