Morning News: Next Dennison hearing set; feds make first carfentanil indictments in Cincy; Ohio Trump campaign chair: "racism didn't exist before Obama."

An appeal from Columbia REI, LLC around its application to tear down the historic Dennison building will be heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals Oct. 17 at 9 a.m.

Sep 22, 2016 at 11:19 am

click to enlarge The Dennison building on Main Street downtown - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
The Dennison building on Main Street downtown

Good morning all. Here’s a quick news rundown for ya today.

The next chapter in the saga of the Dennison Hotel has begun. The City of Cincinnati’s Zoning Board of Appeals today held a preliminary meeting to hash out the details of a hearing that will determine the fate of the historic downtown building. That hearing, now scheduled for Oct. 17 at 9 a.m., will include arguments from attorneys for Columbia REI, LLC, the real estate company controlled by the powerful Joseph family that owns the Dennison and would like to tear it down, as well as attorneys for the Cincinnati Preservation Collective, who wants the building preserved. The ZBA will also hear witnesses from Columbia who didn’t speak before the Historic Conservation Board, which earlier this summer ruled against Columbia’s request to demolish the Dennison. Columbia will also get an opportunity to cross-examine Cincinnati Urban Conservator Beth Johnson, whose staff issued a report coming out strongly against demolition of the Dennison. Stay tuned for more about the dramatic demolition debate.

• The federal government has made its first indictments against drug dealers for trafficking carfentanil, the powerful synthetic opiate being added to heroin that caused a recent spike in overdoses, and those charges are leveled against two here in Cincinnati. The dealers, who were caught distributing fentanyl- and carfentanil-laced heroin in Elmwood Place, could face between 20 years and life in prison for dealing the drugs, which have been tied to at least one overdose in Springfield Township. Carfentanil, which was originally designed to be a tranquilizer for large animals, has become a big focus of attention for law enforcement and media after the recent overdose crisis and ongoing struggles to contain the heroin epidemic.

• Get ready for the 2017 Cincinnati City Council elections! We’re already getting some new entrants into the race, including Avondale community activist Ozie Davis III. Davis, an ally of mayoral candidate and current Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, has been very active in his neighborhood’s resurgence, helping win millions in federal redevelopment funds for Avondale. He’s also been involved in local and statewide political operations, serving as former U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus’ community liaison. Other additions to the race — Laure Quinlivan and Michelle Dillingham, both Democrats — are familiar faces. Quinlivan served on Council from 2009 to 2013, and Dillingham was the first runner-up in the last round of Council elections.

• What should we do about income inequality in America? Let’s ask an executive from one of the country’s biggest banks. JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was in town yesterday, and he had a chat with one of Cincinnati’s own corporate bigwigs, Western & Southern CEO John Barrett, about how to end poverty. The two talked for 30 minutes or so at a luncheon raising money for local anti-poverty program Cincinnati Works, which helps low-income people with employment barriers find jobs. Dimon insists that the solutions for the rampant income inequality in America are “obvious,” naturally, and that we’re all just too partisan to do them. Some of Dimon’s suggestions do seem to be no-brainers that could work across the aisle — expanding the federal Earned Income Tax Credit for low income people, for example — but others, including lowering corporate tax rates and reducing government regulations on business seem to be… well… controversial and highly arguable.

• Meanwhile, Ohio is one of 22 states pushing back against a new federal rule that extends overtime eligibility to many salaried employees. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced yesterday that the state would join Nevada, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and a number of others in a lawsuit claiming that the federal Department of Labor is overstepping its constitutional bounds with the new law. The rule, which stipulates that salaried workers be compensated for work they do above a 40-hour work week, could affect more than 4 million workers across the country, including more than 133,000 in Ohio. But conservatives say the law puts an unfair and unconstitutional burden on employers, thus the lawsuit filed in a federal court in Texas. Ohio Democrats have blasted DeWine for joining that suit, saying the effort is a waste of taxpayer money and will rob low-salary managers of deserved extra pay.

• Finally, I leave you with this: Kathy Miller, the Mahoning County, Ohio campaign chair for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, told reporters the following yesterday: "I don't think there was any racism until Obama got elected. Now, with the people with the guns shooting up neighborhoods not being responsible citizens, that's a big change and that's the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America. If you're black and you haven't been successful in the last 50 years, that's your own fault. When do they take responsibility for how they live? I think it's due time and I think it's good that Mr. Trump is pointing that out." Wow. Miller further told the reporter that she's in the real estate industry, and that there's no racism there. Indeed.