Morning News: Cranley, Simpson debate minority contracting at NAACP forum; P&G beats back activist investor in proxy vote

Nelson Peltz's appointment to the board might have had big implications for 10,000 Greater Cincinnati area P&G jobs.

Good morning all. Lots happening this morning, so let’s get right to it.

Mayor John Cranley and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson… you guessed it… had another forum last night, this one hosted by the Cincinnati NAACP and Prince Hall Masons. I was unable to make it to or tune in, but The Cincinnati Business Courier has a good recap here. In a nutshell: Cranley highlighted the city’s increase in contracts it awards to minority-owned and women-owned businesses, while Simpson pointed out that the fine print on those numbers is somewhat fuzzy.

Cranley’s office says the city has awarded $19.6 million in contracts to those businesses, about 17 percent of total contracts awarded. That’s up big from years prior, when minority- and women-owned businesses got about 3 percent of the city’s contracts. But that’s the dollar value of contracts signed, not actual spending by the city. The city spent about $8.7 million with minority- and women-owned businesses in 2016, a number Simpson says suggests that the ratio of city spending with minority- and women-owned businesses isn’t as high as the mayor claims it is. The two also tangled over their past records — or lack thereof — on minority contracting. Simpson hit  Cranley on the fact that he had been chair of council’s Budget and Finance Committee in the previous decade, while Cranley pointed out that Simpson’s tenure on council predates Cranley’s tenure as mayor. whether Cranley’s development ventures before he was mayor in the East Price Hill Incline District were inclusive in their contracting and whether or not Simpson supported the commission of the city contracting study that led to the creation of the Office of Economic Inclusion.

Simpson and Cranley also tangled over their whereabouts during the aftermath of the Ray Tensing verdict earlier this year. Simpson jabbed Cranley for conducting a press conference in his office while activists — and Simpson — were out in the streets during a rainstorm. Cranley said that the situation was about Cincinnatians expressing themselves, not about him, and that he was trying to stay out of the way on the advice of Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac.

Oh yeah. The two also argued about Metro buses and the streetcar.

• Cincinnati’s Department of Community and Economic Development today will announce funding for projects in 12 city neighborhoods that will create 528 units of housing. More than 400 of those housing units will be affordable housing, according to the department. The city’s Notice of Funding Availability program, or NOFA, will leverage more than $95 million for those projects. Vice Mayor David Mann, City Manager Harry Black and DCED officials will hold a news conference today to announce the 16 projects receiving funding. That announcement will take place in Walnut Hills at former city-owned property that will soon become affordable housing for single parents pursuing higher education.

• Earl Jones’ murder trial begins today in Hamilton County Courts. Jones is charged with shooting and killing Kevin Neri last year in front of a dozen witnesses. The case has been controversial because Jones, who is white, sent racially charged text messages to Neri and Neri’s live-in girlfriend, who had a child with Jones, prior to the shooting. The case gained more attention, spurring protests from Cincinnati Black Lives Matter and other groups, after Hamilton County prosecutors said they were mulling offering Jones a plea deal that could significantly reduce his sentence.

• Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County trustees will meet this morning in Mount Healthy, where they’ll be greeted by activists asking questions about plans for the north building of the library’s downtown campus. Activists say they haven’t gotten satisfactory answers about a larger facilities plan that includes decommissioning and perhaps selling that building for millions less than it cost to build it. The library has hired 3CDC to look into a sale to developers. Library trustees say they haven’t committed to any specific plan yet, but also point out that the building is underutilized and that the library has pressing budget needs. Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune last month chided trustees for failing to solicit public input on the plan.

• Cincinnati’s first startup week kicked off yesterday, drawing thousands of people from across the region to more than 100 events. Speakers at the Techstars Startup Week Cincinnati include Rodney Williams, Cincinnati-based founder of startup LISNR, as well as Crossroads Church pastor Brian Tome. The church also runs a startup accelerator. Among other events, the conference will feature StartupCincy Community Pitch Night tonight, an effort to draw those outside the city’s startup community that gives Cincinnati residents or anyone else the opportunity to pitch a business idea. The best idea will win $10,000 to get it off the ground.

• Cincinnati-based retail giant Procter & Gamble has beaten back an attempt by activist investor Nelson Peltz to gain a seat on the company’s board. Shareholders in a proxy vote today declined Peltz’s drive to join the 11-member board. Peltz’s Trian Fund Management owns about $3.5 billion in P&G stock, and he was seeking big changes that would downsize research and development efforts and corporate leadership at the company. Those moves could have had big implications for Greater Cincinnati area, which has about 10,000 P&G employees. The results of the proxy vote are preliminary and final numbers may take several weeks to be released.

• The push for public dollars for a soccer arena continues, but the pitch has changed somewhat. FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding yesterday told Hamilton County commissioners that the soccer team isn’t asking for sales tax dollars or for the county be on the hook for future cost overruns in its quest to get a $100 million match from the public for a stadium. FC says it needs the $200 million dedicated facility to grab a Major League Soccer franchise and that private investors will pay the other $100 million. Berding said schemes like a Tax Increment Finance district as well as bonds paid for with admissions receipts could be the public funding vehicles needed to make the project feasible. That’s a shift from past discussions, which have centered around using money from a .5 percent sales tax currently tied to paying for Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park. Berding said any agreement about that funding would need to come before Dec. 1, when FC Cincinnati hopes to have its plan for a facility to MLS.

• Seven months before party members cast their votes, the GOP primary for governor continues to be a weird circus. One Trump-inspired candidate, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, is running ads featuring actors playing cat versions of his opponents, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Renacci accuses the three of being… ah, God, why do I even have to type this…  “Columbus fat cats.” Meanwhile, one of Renacci’s campaign leaders in Hamilton County, Linda Caudill, recently posted a meme on Facebook depicting Husted in a chair with tape over his mouth. The caption reads, “a silencer is a good thing when used properly.” Yikes. Earlier, Caudill commented demeaning memes about Husted on a Facebook post a former Husted staffer made remembering the latter’s dead grandmother.

Caudill was also present as Renacci’s wife berated Husted following a GOP gubernatorial primary debate last night at a church outside Columbus. Tina Renacci approached Husted as he was talking to members of Ohio University’s College Republicans and scolded him for running a dirty campaign, witnesses said. Through a  spokesperson, Renacci claims Husted then threatened her, though witnesses in attendance dispute that. Weird stuff.

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