Morning News: Chabot gets a challenger who could make history; will Spencer get to decide who covers his UC speaking event?

If Rabbi Robert Barr receives the Democratic Party’s nomination and is elected, he would be the first rabbi to serve in Congress.

click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot

Good morning all. Let’s talk about news for a minute.

Today’s the deadline for cities to bid on Amazon’s much-hyped second headquarters. The Seattle-based company has said it will spend $5 billion on a new facility in the city it selects and bring 50,000 jobs to the region. Officials in the Greater Cincinnati area want that action, which would ironically come from the biggest threat to some major Cincinnati companies like Kroger and Macy’s.

What’s their pitch to win the deal? Cincinnati, Dayton, points in between and various Northern Kentucky municipalities have banded together to sell the whole region as the best site for Amazon to land. Mayor John Cranley has said that the proposals submitted to Amazon have at least two riverfront locations — The Banks in Cincinnati and a location called Ovation in Newport — as possible sites for the new HQ2. Meanwhile, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has suggested building caps over Fort Washington Way between The Banks and downtown to lure Amazon here. Cranley indicated during a segment on CNBC recently that his administration will be “very aggressive” when it comes to tax breaks for Amazon. The city might have to come up with a pretty sweet deal, however, when it comes to tax giveaways. The city of Newark, New Jersey has offered $7 billion in tax incentives should Amazon locate its second headquarters there.

• Speaking of corporate site selection, a magazine dedicated to that subject recently called Cincinnati the most sustainable city in America. Site Selection magazine put Cincy at the top of a ranking of U.S. cities when it comes to green initiatives. The Queen City beat out Boston, last year’s number one pick, as well as Seattle, Cleveland and Chicago, all of which ranked in the top five. The magazine’s rankings took into account the number of LEED building projects in each city, brownfield cleanups, resident well-being measurements, corporate responsibility initiatives and other metrics.

• OK. Enough corporate stuff. A local Methodist pastor is breathing a little easier after the national United Methodist Church decided not to pursue two disciplinary charges involving his same-sex marriage. Rev. David Meredith of Clifton United Methodist Church faced three charges before the church’s national body related to his marriage to his long-time partner last year. The church’s disciplinary body decided this week it won’t pursue two of those charges — one related to Meredith being a self-avowed homosexual and another simply charging him with immorality. Those charges could have cost Meredith his position at his church, where he is much beloved by his congregation. A third charge alleging that Meredith was disobedient to the church is still in the mix, but it the pastor says it’s a relief that his sexuality is no longer under the microscope. The reverend who performed Meredith’s wedding and his church in Columbus were both charged with similar disobedience violations, and Meredith says the penalties were minor. He’s hoping the same for himself.

• Last week we told you about the effort by the Cincinnati Public School Board to replace one of its members who passed away in September. After a crowded field of 26 put in applications for the spot, the board this week selected former teacher Lannis J. Timmons to the position vacated by the death of Chris Nelms. The appointment comes as CPS adjusts to a new superintendent, Laura Mitchell, and as 13 candidates battle for four open spots on the school board ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

• Is the shortage of Metro bus drivers causing driver fatigue and leading to safety risks? Some drivers and their union think so, but Metro disputes that. The debate comes as Metro struggles with funding shortfalls and as some riders — including this reporter — have noticed late or missing buses on routes. Both Metro and the union representing drivers agree the bus system needs 25 more drivers. In the meantime, drivers are working overtime — something that some drivers say increases the risks of accidents.

• Cincinnati’s U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot has a Democratic Party opponent, and he could make history. If Rabbi Robert Barr receives the party’s nomination and is elected, he would be the first rabbi to serve in Congress. Heck, he’s only the third rabbi in history to run for the U.S. House. It’s a long road to winning Ohio’s 1st District — which has been redrawn with more Republican friendly territory in Warren County — but Chabot was toppled once before, in the epic 2008 battle of the Steves, when he was beaten by Democrat Steve Driehaus. That was part of the big wave of Democrats coming into the House with President Barack Obama’s election. House races tend to swing against the party in the White House. Maybe Barr has a shot.

• Let’s head south of the river for a fun little jaunt into the world of municipal building code enforcement. A new report by a former Kentucky state attorney says that Covington’s code enforcement department is “abysmally managed,” though former Deputy Attorney General Scott White says he found no evidence of law breaking by department leadership. Covington City Commission hired White after three department employees resigned this spring, citing a hostile work environment. One of those employees made allegations that code enforcement leadership was going after people based on personal dislike. White didn’t find any evidence of that, but did say the department was grossly mismanaged and that he couldn’t corroborate the employee’s allegations due to a lack of internal controls within the department.

• White supremacist Richard Spencer will be allowed to decide which journalists cover his speaking engagement at the University of Florida, according to this report by The Guardian that quotes university officials. Those officials cite the fact that Spencer, who used 1st Amendment claims to push schools Like UF and University of Cincinnati into renting space to him, is in fact renting that space and has say over who is and isn’t allowed in. So, wrap your mind around this — the racist guy who claimed he has a free-speech right to speak on campus could now restrict reporters from entering his speaking engagement. Spencer says he won’t do that — but he also hasn’t made any decisions on who will get press credentials yet. Could he be given similar say over UC’s event? We’ll find out.

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