Morning News: Camp Washington marijuana site clears more hurdles; DuBose family responds to mistrial, slams Judge Ghiz; Portman opposes Senate health care bill after GOP pulls it

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman made a brave move yesterday, expressing his opposition to a Senate GOP health care bill partially repealing Obamacare and costing 22 million Americans health insurance. The GOP had already pulled the bill for lack of votes.

click to enlarge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman - Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman

Good morning all. Here’s some quick news.

Cincinnati City Council's committees have moved through a slew of items in the past few days. Let’s run through a few of them really quickly, starting with an effort to bring a medicinal marijuana facility to Camp Washington. Council in committee yesterday gave approval to that plan, moving it toward final passage by full Council. Hamilton County Commissioners will also need to sign off on the idea, which they've indicated they're ready to do. Camp Washington’s Community Council has also given its stamp of approval, and city administration cleared the way earlier this week by approving a zoning change for the site. The owners of Rhinegeist Brewing cooked up the plan for the 15-acre plot formerly occupied by a Kahn’s meat processing facility. They’re also looking to put a beer production facility at the site. The two businesses would be separate. Council could give its final approval as soon as today for the site.

• Council will also vote today on an ordinance to buy the former King Records site in Evanston via eminent domain. A judge would need to side with the city and order Dynamic Industries, which currently owns the building, to sell it to the city. The land the building sits on currently appraises at roughly $200,000. The building needs another half a million dollars to bring it up to municipal code. Dynamic says it would like to tear the building down for a planned expansion, but has been barred from doing so by the city thus far. City officials, King Records boosters and Evanston community leaders would like to turn the space into a museum, educational center and functioning studio again.

An ordinance creating donation meters for local social service organizations working to address homelessness is also on Council’s plate today. That plan would raise funds for groups like Strategies to End Homelessness here. 3CDC and REDI are donating the five meters, which will be placed at various locations downtown.

Council members and city officials discussing the plan earlier this week in committee touted the idea because it might decrease the number of panhandlers downtown, making people more “comfortable” to come down and shop and eat at restaurants. Councilwoman Amy Murray chimed in to suggest that panhandlers are buying heroin with the money given to them. And City Manager Harry Black suggested the plan was part of an effort to separate panhandlers from other people.

“What we're trying to do is introduce a variety of strategies and tactics to provide as much of a buffer between panhandlers and the people who are trying to conduct business, or go to dinner, or enjoy a show," Black said.

Yikes. To editorialize for just a sec: I’m downtown every day. Occasionally, people ask me for money. It doesn’t bother me and no one doing so has ever done anything the least bit threatening toward me (unlike some drunk Over-the-Rhine bar patrons on Friday nights). But you know what very well could drive me, a tax-paying, moderately productive guy in the coveted Millennial demographic, to move out of this city? The ignorant rhetoric around poor people multiple city officials and news organizations continue to see fit to put out there. I want to live in a city that strives to address homelessness because it’s a moral outrage, not because someone trying to grab a $10 margarita was bothered for some change. I’m betting I’m not the only youngish person like this.

Moving on. What comes next after Ray Tensing's second mistrial? You can read more about that here. The family of Samuel DuBose held a news conference yesterday to react to a hung jury in the second trial for former University of Cincinnati police officer Tensing, who shot DuBose in Mount Auburn in 2015. Terina Allen, DuBose’s sister, said the family has three goals following the hung jury in Tensing’s latest trial. They’re calling on Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters for another retrial. They’re also asking the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the case, as it did for the Walter Scott police shooting in North Charleston, South Carolina. Finally, the family would like to see Cincinnati Police Department investigator Shannan Heine investigated. Prosecutors poked at Heine’s gentle questioning of Tensing following the shooting, and asked whether Heine treated Tensing with kid gloves as part of a “good old boys” network among law enforcement.

Allen also slammed Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz, who presided over the case, for refusing to allow into evidence at the retrial a confederate flag T-shirt Tensing was wearing under his uniform as well as statistics about the racial makeup of Tensing’s traffic stops. Black motorists made up 81 percent of Tensing’s stops. UCPD as a whole stopped blacks 64 percent of the time. Allen called Ghiz Tensing’s “second attorney” and said she was biased toward the former cop. Audrey DuBose, Sam’s mother, also spoke. She thanked protesters who have been pushing for another retrial, and asked that the city stay peaceful.

• Tensing’s attorney Stew Mathews has filed a request to dismiss the charges against his client, and Ghiz will have the final call on the matter. Should Ghiz grant that motion, the murder and manslaughter charges against Tensing would be dropped and no retrial would occur. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said he’ll make a decision the week of July 10 about whether to retry Tensing again. He has until July 24 at the latest to make that decision.

• All the money needed to renovate Union Terminal is present and accounted for, finally. The unique Art Deco Cincinnati landmark is undergoing a nearly $219 million renovation, and until yesterday it wasn’t clear where the last bits of that money was going to come from. But the final details of the project’s financing plan have fallen into place, with $5 million in state historic preservation tax credits now in the fold.

• U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, made a brave move yesterday, expressing his opposition to a very controversial Senate GOP health care bill partially repealing Obamacare and potentially costing 22 million Americans health insurance. Just one wrinkle — Portman, who had been on the fence about the bill, waited until after the GOP pulled the bill for lack of votes to make his opposition public.

• Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich has also slammed the Senate health care bill. But as he pushes against federal legislation that could take Medicaid coverage from nearly 700,000 Ohioans, he’s also having to weigh challenges to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion from state lawmakers in his party. A provision in the General Assembly’s state budget, released yesterday, would bar low-income Ohioans from enrolling in Medicaid after July 1, 2018. That’s significant because a number of enrollees with unstable incomes drop out and re-enroll in the program in any given year. Those residents wouldn’t be able to re-enroll if the lost eligibility during a particular month. Experts say it would effectively end the state’s Medicaid expansion over time. Conservative lawmakers are worried that the expansion, which was funded by the federal government but which calls for states to take on some of the costs of health care over time, will be too expensive. An earlier version of the legislation bars all new Medicaid enrollees, but the current version makes exceptions for those seeking drug addiction treatment. Kasich can veto the budget provision, a move Democratic lawmakers have urged the governor to make.

• Finally, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law today a bill that allows Kentucky public schools to teach classes on the Bible. Students wouldn't be required to take the classes, but the Kentucky ACLU says it's concerned and will be keeping an eye on the way the law is implemented.

“It really did set the foundation that our founding fathers used to develop documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights," Rep. D.J. Johnson, a Republican from Owensboro, said of the Christian text. "All of those came from principles from the Bible."

That's neat. This is totally fine.

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