Morning News and Stuff

City, county more CeeLo Green than Al Green on MSD; Ohio has 51 more failing charter schools than recently reported; Kasich's security detail costing Ohio taxpayers

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Will Cincinnati and Hamilton County opt to stop working together on the Metropolitan Sewer District? Recent statements by Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel suggest that the two governments are more CeeLo Green than Al Green right now and that the idea is at least on the table. Since 2014, the two governments have cooperated on MSD, which is owned by the county but run by the city. But things between the city and county haven’t been all that cozy lately, and recent revelations that MSD may have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on contracts without competitive bids haven’t helped matters.

Now officials are at least floating the idea of splitting up — perhaps even dividing MSD’s assets and letting the two governments run separate systems. There are, of course, complications, not the least of which would be the enormous complexity of divvying up one of the county’s largest infrastructure systems serving 800,000 residents. The city says it should be the one solely in charge of MSD, while the county makes a similar claim. Meanwhile, the two governments will have to continue to cooperate on a federal court-ordered $3 billion renovation of the sewer district, no matter what they decide.

• While the above-mentioned $680 million sketchy procurement process was taking place at MSD under former director Tony Parrott, an oversight board that could have put checks on the potential improper spending was fading into the background, The Enquirer reports. That independent oversight board hasn’t operated since 2008, and no records exist of any audits of MSD’s activity from that group. Cincinnati City Councilman Kevin Flynn has been calling for funds and support to beef up that board over the past few months and has renewed his calls for increased oversight ahead of an audit of MSD by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. The city’s administrative code calls for such an oversight board, though cities aren’t required by law to maintain them. It’s unclear why Cincinnati abandoned its board in 2008 under Mayor Mark Mallory. City officials, including City Manager Harry Black, have said they’re in the process of reviving the board, but that it currently has five vacancies and can’t operate until they’re filled.

• Two neighborhood councils are pushing the city to keep, and expand, the controversial Central Parkway Bikeway, memos to the city reveal. Both Clifton Town Meeting and the Over-the-Rhine Community Council passed resolutions late last month and sent letters to the city administration and City Council asking that the lane be expanded for safety and economic development purposes. You can read more about that in our blog post here.

• Ohio has 10 times the number of failing charter schools as it has previously reported, according to a letter from the state to the federal government. The Department of Education says 57 Ohio charter schools are failing, not six, as the state originally stated. The state also has about half the number of high-performing charters it has recently touted, according to the letter, which was sent as Ohio works to regain access to a $71 million federal school choice grant that the DOE awarded last year and subsequently suspended last November following a charter school data rigging scandal here.

• It’s the big day for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. New Hampshire primary voters head out to the polls today for the country’s first primary (yes, candidates were vying for voter attention in Iowa last week, but that state has a caucus, which is a different system). Kasich has indicated he will drop out of the GOP presidential primary if he doesn’t do well in the state, so we could be talking about the last day of morning news updates on the big queso’s campaign. Heartbreaking.

Kasich is polling well in the state, however, and might finish as high as second place, especially after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, his main rival there, did pretty poorly in this weekend’s GOP debate. Kasich has spent a lot of time focusing on the Granite State, holding more than 100 town hall appearances there. He even beat Trump 3 votes to 2 in tiny Dixville, N.H. Side note: If you want to know how New Hampshire became the first voters in the primary process, this article has all the interesting political history you need.

• Finally, how much has all of Kasich’s traveling around the country with a security entourage cost Ohio taxpayers? Probably a lot. The Associated Press reports that non-highway security expenditures for the Ohio Highway Patrol have gone from $17,000 a year during Kasich’s first year in office to more than $350,000 in 2015. While that segment of highway patrol funding is primarily used for the governor’s security detail, officials with the patrol say other out of state costs are also involved in that number. They also point out that spending categories changed in 2011, so the two numbers might not be an apples to apples comparison. Still, it’s clear that expenditures have gone up during Kasich’s time in office and that taxpayers have footed some of the bill for the extensive traveling he’s done as he runs for the nation’s highest office.

I’m out. Tweet. Email. You know what’s up.

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