Morning News: Cranley snags another major union endorsement; Ohio issues record number of concealed carry permits; Boehner and Reid team up

Interested in a buddy comedy involving Las Vegas, a bare-knuckle liberal from Nevada and a blue blood conservative from Southwest Ohio who were once sworn enemies? Former Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner are.

click to enlarge Former House Speaker John Boehner
Former House Speaker John Boehner

Hello all. Here’s some news this morning.

Mayor John Cranley has received another major labor endorsement. The AFL-CIO labor council, which represents 30,000 workers in Greater Cincinnati, voted to give Cranley the nod last night. The move isn’t surprising — Cranley’s a big favorite with local labor after he pushed an ordinance giving 6,000 city workers represented by major unions a raise — but it’s a blow for his opponent, labor attorney Rob Richardson Jr., who has deep roots with unions.

Cranley’s other mayoral race opponent, Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, voted for that raise but pushed back against the process by which it came about. Critics like Simpson say Cranley bypassed the usual collective bargaining practices led by the city manager, which had led to smaller raises. The wage boosts represent about $9 million of the city’s looming $25 million budget shortfall.

• The streetcar will be down for a few days in the near future, the city announced yesterday. The closure will come as crews work to fix problems with two slabs of concrete at Walnut and Ninth Streets and Walnut and Court Streets. Officials say they're looking into whether the work can happen at night, limiting the amount of time the streetcar will be shut down. It's not been determined if the entire system, or just the downtown portion, will cease service while the work progresses. The system is still under warranty, but the streetcar will lose fare revenue while it isn't operating.

Does Cincinnati have a problem with equity in its code compliance? A well-meaning and often helpful city service, the Neighborhood Enhancement Program, has had the unintended consequence of illustrating disparities in code enforcement in the city. After the NEP came through Mount Auburn last year, residents have become alarmed at the number of code orders they received and the potential consequences those orders could bring — including big fines, property seizure or even jail time in rare worst-case scenarios.

• As it looks to expand, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is seeking a zoning change from the city that would alter the face of a 6-acre slice of Avondale. The hospital’s plans would create a parking garage first, then a new 650,000-square-foot critical care facility with 276 beds, an emergency center and a rooftop heliport later. But to make the new facility directly north of the rest of Children’s Avondale campus happen, the hospital says it will need to eliminate a dozen houses there and redirect part of Erkenbrecher Avenue into an S-curve. Construction of the parking garage could begin as early as October, pending hearings on Children’s zoning change request.

• Weird thing number one: We live in a world where our president has a vast, palatial estate from which he sometimes conducts the nation’s business. Weird thing number two: That estate, Mar-a-Lago, has its own magazine, called The Jewel of Palm Beach. Weird thing number three: The company that publishes that magazine just bought Cincinnati Magazine. Weird thing number four: Trump doesn’t own The Jewel, but he pretends to sometimes.

• Two pieces of legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly have officials at Northern Kentucky University worried about firearms. One bill in the Kentucky House would keep colleges from being able to ban concealed weapons on campus, and another in the State Senate would make it legal for people to carry concealed weapons anywhere public without a permit. Currently, NKU does not allow weapons on campus, even if a person has a concealed carry permit. The body representing NKU’s faculty passed a resolution late last month urging lawmakers not to pass those bills. “We are concerned that parents would question the safety of a campus with unregulated firearms carriage and would choose to send their children elsewhere,” the resolution states.

Let’s stay on guns for a second, but head back up to Ohio, where the number of concealed carry permits the state issued hit record numbers last year. Ohio gave out 117,953 permits last year — a huge increase. In 2016, the state gave out about 72,000. Estimates suggest that 1 in 7 Ohioans 21 and over have a concealed carry license. Feel safer?

Here’s a quickie: The Ohio House yesterday passed a $7.8 billion transportation spending bill. That bill includes some $124 million for local transportation improvements as well as tweaks to the ways counties can raise money for transportation projects — including the ability to raise license taxes by $5 — which local officials hope will help with major projects like the Western Hills Viaduct.

• Can I pitch you a buddy comedy of sorts? Take a bare-knuckle liberal from Nevada and a blue blood conservative from Southwest Ohio who were once sworn enemies and have them start a tourism think tank together in Las Vegas. I think that movie would be solid gold, but it’ll have to be a documentary because it’s actually happening. Former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and former House Speaker John Boehner are teaming up to head a new policy research center on travel and tourism at the University of Las Vegas-Nevada. Just a couple years ago, these two were at each others’ throats over the Affordable Care Act, but now one assumes they’ll be bonding over all the hands-on research they’ll need to do at slot machines and black jack tables all over town.

• Finally, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is among Republicans calling for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from investigations into ties between the Trump administration and Russia. Calls for Sessions to step aside for a special prosecutor come after revelations that the former senator and occasional Trump surrogate himself had contact with Russian officials during the Trump campaign. During his confirmation hearing, Sessions denied having contact with Russian officials, an assertion that has since been revealed to be false.

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