Morning News: Council to vote on Children's expansion; MLK interchange to open soon; Trump's DOJ backs Ohio's voter roll purges

City Council is poised to vote this morning on a zoning change Cincinnati Children’s Hospital needs to move forward with a massive, half-billion dollar expansion.

click to enlarge An expansion of Children's Hospital could mean demolitions and displacement of families on Erkenbrecher Avenue. The hospital has purchased more than 100 properties in the area. - Photo: Nick Swartsell
Photo: Nick Swartsell
An expansion of Children's Hospital could mean demolitions and displacement of families on Erkenbrecher Avenue. The hospital has purchased more than 100 properties in the area.

Good morning Cincy. Here’s what’s going on in the news today.

Cincinnati City Council is poised to vote this morning at its 9:30 meeting on a zoning change Cincinnati Children’s Hospital needs to move forward with a massive, half-billion dollar expansion. That project, which would build a 10-story patient tower with a helipad and expand a parking garage with an additional 1,100 spaces, has proven controversial with neighborhood residents and their representatives. Council members Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young recently proposed a motion that would require Children’s to devote 10 percent of the project’s $550-$650 million cost to housing and health measures in the neighborhood. Children’s CEO Michael Fisher slammed that suggestion in a letter to Council yesterday as “highly disappointing” and “not acceptable.”

We'll keep you updated on Council's decision. 

• A long-awaited new interchange between I-71 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard will open next week to promises of new development and better connectivity for Avondale, Walnut Hills and Corryville. That’s behind schedule, but the project has also come in at between $80-$90 million, which is well under its originally estimated roughly $110 million budget. Though the project really took off in 2011, officials have been pushing for an uptown I-71 exit for more than 15 years. You can read more about the process that brought about uptown’s first real interchange on I-71 here.

• Also opening next week and also in uptown: The Spencer Center for Gifted and Exceptional Students will welcome students in Walnut Hills Aug. 16 as Cincinnati Public Schools starts the school year. The school will serve 225 third through eighth grade students from 35 other CPS schools across the city. Supporters say the magnet school will allow students from around the city to meet each other and boost the neighborhood. But some critics ask why CPS couldn’t fold the magnet school aimed at attracting Cincinnati’s best and brightest into nearby Frederick Douglass School, a predominantly low-income CPS school nearby.

• As Hamilton County law enforcement officials arrest more than 120 people a week for heroin-related offenses, and as overdoses related to the drug and other opiates surge, those officials are calling for more treatment funding and the power to compel via the courts chronic drug arrestees and overdose victims to seek treatment. The county’s Heroin Task Force is collecting data on how many people struggling with drug addiction would be eligible for such “involuntary commitment.” The task force says it has reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union and other experts in order to avoid violating drug users’ rights with such a measure.

• It’s a bit of a case of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. As Hamilton County’s crime lab sends rape kits to the state of Ohio’s crime lab for DNA testing, it’s also taking on testing for drug cases from the state. Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco says the county is happy to take on the drug cases, which come from an explosion in drug abuse and overdoses across Ohio that have overwhelmed the state crime lab. The testing is very different from the DNA testing necessary for rape kits, and while the county’s crime lab is in over its head on the latter, it says it has the resources to help the state out on the former. Cuyahoga County is also stepping in to help the state, as well as possibly Franklin County.

• The U.S. Department of Justice has reversed itself under President Donald Trump on Ohio’s voter roll purges. Last year, the DOJ under then-president Barack Obama supported a challenge to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s practice of removing thousands of inactive voters from the state’s voter registration rolls. Husted, a Republican, is running for governor of Ohio. A federal court upheld a challenge to the voter purging practices, saying they could lead to voter suppression. However, the state has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of that decision. And now, the DOJ under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has Husted’s back.

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