Morning News: SORTA mulls fare increases, cuts routes; Kasich says he wouldn't let Spencer speak

University of Cincinnati announced last week that it will allow white nationalist Richard Spencer to rent space for an appearance there, something Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he wouldn't have allowed.

Oct 18, 2017 at 10:46 am

click to enlarge Morning News: SORTA mulls fare increases, cuts routes; Kasich says he wouldn't let Spencer speak
Nick Swartsell

Good morning all. Here’s some really quick news today.

As it turns out, mayoral candidates say a lot of stuff about a lot of things and — can you believe it? — sometimes they’re not exactly telling the whole truth. We narrowed in on three major issues and tried to dissect claims by Mayor John Cranley and his opponent, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, as they try to convince you to vote for them Nov. 7. Is crime going down? Do hospitals in other cities give more back to the community? What’s the truth about Cincinnati’s minority contracting efforts? Read on.

• Fares on Metro buses could go up as the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority struggles with funding issues. SORTA’s board yesterday continued conversations around a potential 15-cent fare increase, bringing the cost of riding the bus up to $1.90 a trip. That has caused consternation from bus riders and activists with the Better Bus Coalition. The potential fare hike would go into effect June 1. Council would have to sign off on it first, however. Those conversations came as SORTA approved changes and reductions to six Metro routes: No. 1, No.49, No. 28, No. 29X, No. 50 and No. 32. Those routes serve a variety of neighborhoods. The move comes as the transit agency looks to reduce costs ahead of a big budget crunch.

• In other SORTA news, the transit agency could apply for a federal grant that would fund improvements to its Metro bus service. Those could include new express bus routes that act more like light rail service, speeding up transit service at a time when improvements to Metro are sorely needed.

• The latest in the ongoing Earl Jones murder trial: the 24-year-old posted semi-nude photos on social media of his ex-girlfriend, Cyerra Prather, the day he came over to her house and shot her boyfriend, Kevin Neri. Jones drove half an hour to Prather’s house in Colerain, ostensibly to pick up the 4-year-old child he fathered with Prather, but also to fight Neri. Jones, who is white, had sent racially derogatory text messages about Neri, who was black, to both he and Prather. Controversy erupted around the case this spring when it was revealed that Hamilton County Prosecutors were considering offering Jones a plea deal. Jones’ attorney says he has rejected that offer and is pleading self-defense.

• The Cincinnati Enquirer has a new top editor. Beryl Love, a Cincinnati native, will helm the daily as its executive editor. He’s had that role for USA Today, the flagship paper of Enquirer parent company Gannett, and in the ’00s, he served time as the editor of The Enquirer's short-lived CIN Weekly. Love replaces Peter Bhatia at The Enquirer, who departed the paper for the Detroit Free Press after a two-year tenure.

• Residents will get their say about a proposed funding source for a replacement for the aging Western Hills Viaduct. The Hamilton County Commission is holding two public input sessions on a proposal that would charge a $5 license registration fee to raise the money for the county’s 20 percent portion of the bridge’s $335 million replacement. Those sessions will be held Nov. 2, 6:30  p.m. at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater and Nov. 8, 11:30 a.m. at the Hamilton County administration building downtown on Court Street.

• Could Major League Soccer franchise the Columbus Crew move to Austin? That’s what team ownership is threatening if the city doesn’t pitch in to build it a new stadium. That’s pertinent to Cincinnati, which is currently struggling with a similar ask from FC Cincinnati as it seeks admission to MLS. It’s also relevant because Columbus’ move could increase the chances that Cincinnati is granted one of three expansion franchises up for grabs from the nation’s premier soccer league.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich says that if he were running a major state university, he would have blocked a request by a white nationalist to speak on campus. As we know, that’s not what the University of Cincinnati did. UC announced last week that it will allow white nationalist Richard Spencer — one of the organizers of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. — to rent space for an appearance there and will foot most of the bill for security. Kasich made the remarks yesterday at a forum at the University of Delaware. Interestingly, the other guest at the forum — former Vice President Joe Biden — said the opposite. Biden said he’d allow a speaker like Spencer.

“You should be able to listen to another point of view, as virulent as it may be, and reject it or expose it,” Biden told the crowd.

• Finally, Kentucky's second-largest city has begun removing its monuments to confederate generals. Lexington yesterday evening started removing statues of John Hunt Morgan, a confederate general, and John C. Breckenridge, a U.S. vice president before he became the confederacy's secretary of war. The city did so without notice and has stored the monuments until they can be moved to cemeteries where those generals are buried. The move comes after city officials obtained a legal opinion that the state's Heritage Panel,which has opposed the removal, doesn't have jurisdiction over them. Officials with Lexington's combined city-county government voted to remove the statues in August. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin blasted the move, somehow comparing it to the destruction of monuments by the Islamic State.

"I think it is a very dangerous precedent to pretend that your history is not your history," he said.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has other views, however.

"This is a local decision, as it should be," he said. "This council has unanimously supported moving the statues to the Lexington Cemetery. The cemetery trustees have voiced their conditional approval. That's what we intend to do."