Morning News: More streetcars will run at peak hours; Tracie Hunter can vote, fed judge rules; Duke must hold another pipeline meeting

Since former Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter’s not in jail yet, her attorneys argued, she should be allowed to cast a ballot. A federal judge agreed. Hunter is awaiting the results of an appeal of her felony conviction in federal court

Hey all. Let’s get this Friday morning news jam out of the way so we can be just a little closer to the weekend.

You’ll see more streetcars zipping around downtown during peak demand times soon. Transdev, the private company that operates the Cincinnati Bell Connector under the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, has been directed by the transit authority to press as many of the five cars it operates as necessary into service to meet demand, per a news release by the city. On weekends, when only two cars have been running, enough riders have crammed in to make it necessary to bypass passengers waiting at the streetcar stations. SORTA’s contract with the city stipulates that riders should wait no more than 15 minutes for a ride, a goal that has been hard to hit with the big demand for the Connector. That caused City Manager Harry Black to fire off a letter to SORTA telling the transit authority to get more cars in service.

• Next time you hit up Whole Foods for your weekly $40 juice cleanse, you may be shopping local. Rumor has it that hometown grocery giant Kroger is considering buying the Austin-based organic specialty grocer. Whole Foods has become a huge name in that realm, though its growth has slowed significantly in the past few years and it’s struggled to keep up with bigger mainstream grocers like Kroger busting into its territory and offering organic and prepared foods. Whole Foods operates more than 400 stores in the U.S., including one in Norwood and another in Mason. Its recent slow growth could make it a bargain for a large chain like Kroger in a takeover scenario. Stocks for both companies were up yesterday as the rumor circulated.

• Former Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter will be allowed to vote as a federal review of her conviction on a felony count proceeds, a federal judge ruled yesterday. Last year, Hunter was convicted on one of several felony counts for allegedly mishandling court documents during her time as a juvenile court judge. She’s appealed that conviction, and as she waits for that appeal to go through, there’s a stay on her six-month jail sentence. The Hamilton County Board of Elections at first accepted, then declined, her voter registration earlier this year, which Hunter appealed. The deadline to register is Oct. 11, meaning federal judge Michael R. Barrett had to decide quickly whether Hunter would be allowed to vote or not. Since Hunter’s not in jail yet, her attorneys argued, she should be allowed to cast a ballot. Barrett agreed. The Hamilton County BOE may take further action or abide by Barrett’s decision pending an Oct. 14 hearing on the matter.

• Hamilton County Commission candidates held another debate yesterday organized by The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. The main topics: heroin, the metropolitan sewer district, regional transit and economic development. In this age of all-out political bomb-throwing, the debates between Democrat State Rep. Denise Driehaus and Republican interim County Commissioner Dennis Deters and Democrat Commissioner Todd Portune and Republican small businessman Andrew Pappas were downright friendly, with both pairs respectfully outlining areas of agreement and disagreement on policy issues.

• The state of Ohio has ordered Duke Energy to hold another meeting over its proposed pipeline through a number of Greater Cincinnati communities. Originally, the energy company sought to run a 30-inch diameter pipeline through places like Pleasant Ridge, Bond Hill, Blue Ash, Deer Park and a number of other neighborhoods. The pipeline, which would run gas at 600 pounds per square inch of pressure, would have been the largest in the region. But Duke scaled back its plans after pushback from local group Neighbors Opposed to Pipeline Expansion, or NOPE, as well as from the City of Cincinnati. Duke subsequently changed the routing of the pipeline and decreased the pipeline’s diameter to 20 inches and pressure to 400 psi. Not all neighbors involved in the protest against the pipeline are content with those changes, though, citing concerns about recent pipeline leaks and explosions in other parts of the country. Duke subsequently applied for a waiver from further public comment with the Ohio Power Siting Board, pointing to its three public meetings, a panel discussion and review of almost 3,000 public comments. The Siting Board, however, told Duke yesterday it must have at least one more public meeting on the changes. The company has indicated it will work to organize that meeting as quickly as possible.

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