Morning News: surprises as new council clocks in; Macy's to close downtown location; library board trustee resigns

Mayor John Cranley tapped all three first-time council members to lead committees while passing over fellow Democrats Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young.

click to enlarge Cincinnati City Hall - Jesse Fox
Jesse Fox
Cincinnati City Hall

Good morning all, and welcome to the first morning news update of 2018. Let’s get to it.

Cincinnati inaugurated its new city council yesterday, and Mayor John Cranley dealt some surprises in picking folks to lead its committees. All three newcomers — Democrats Tamaya Dennard and Greg Landsman and Republican Jeff Pastor — will lead council committees. Meanwhile, the mayor passed over veteran Democrats Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young for leadership positions. Seelbach and Young have often tangled with Cranley and vocally supported his 2017 mayoral opponent Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. Cranley says he assigned the three newcomers leadership positions because they’ll need the experience when the rest of council is term-limited in 2021. That assumes the freshmen are elected again, of course. Here’s a full rundown of who is running what on council this term:

• Cranley appointed conservative-leaning independent Christopher Smitherman as Vice Mayor.

• Council members voted Dennard president pro tempore of council. That’s third in line under vice mayor. She will also chair the Equity, Inclusion, Youth and Arts committee, which was called the Human Services committee last term.

- Democrat David Mann, who was vice mayor last term, will chair the powerful Budget and Finance Committee.

- Pastor will take over Mann’s chairmanship on the Neighborhoods Committee.

- Landsman will chair a newly created committee called Major Projects and Smart Government.

- Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld will chair the Education, Innovation and Growth Committee.

- Republican Amy Murray will lead the Economic Growth and Zoning Committee.

- Smitherman will retain his chairmanship of the Law and Public Safety Committee.

• Over the next two weeks, CityBeat will run a series of Q&As with incoming first -me council members. This week, we’re featuring an interview with Tamaya Dennard. A brief tidbit about Dennard, who has pledged to focus on equity and inclusion during her time on council: She brought a folding chair to the swearing-in ceremony yesterday, a tribute to a quote by Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm, a Democrat, was the first black woman in Congress and the first to run for president as a major party primary candidate.

• Cincinnati-based department store behemoth Macy's will close its downtown location, the company announced today. That's part of a plan to eliminate 100 stores across the country where business isn't up to snuff as Macy's faces stiff competition from online retail outlets like Amazon. The company says the store closure at Fountain Place doesn't affect its commitment to Cincinnati and that most of the 54 employees of the downtown store will be placed at other nearby locations.

• I saw this next piece on my phone as I was standing in the 5-degree weather this morning and was, shall we say, less than surprised. More folks have left Ohio and Kentucky than have moved here, according to research by United Van Lines, which publishes a list of the states who have the most people moving out. Ohio placed seventh on that list this year and Kentucky placed eighth. Fifty-six percent of moves happening in Ohio were outbound, according to the company’s research. So everyone is moving to warmer climes, right? Sort of, but also no. While sunbelt states and west coast destinations are popular on the ranking, the number one spot for incoming movers is sunny, balmy… Vermont. Huh.

• One person who won’t be moving out of Cincinnati any time soon? Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. Despite a rather brutal year, the team announced this week it has extended Lewis’ contract another two years. I refrain from comment.

• A Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County board of trustees member resigned yesterday. Trustee Ross Wright, who had served on the board since 2007, is no longer listed on the library’s website and reportedly resigned to pursue other personal and professional interests. Wright’s resignation comes after a months-long fight between the board and activists who pushed back against a proposed sale of the downtown library’s north building. The board recently announced it wouldn’t sell the building after all. At a meeting last week, some of those activists asked board members to step down following the controversy. Wright did not indicate he would resign at that time.

• Another business at riverfront development The Banks has gone to that great balance sheet in the sky. Developers announced yesterday the closure of the Cincinnati location of Howl at the Moon, a 16,000-square-foot bar and bowling alley that also had dueling pianos and a dance floor. The bar’s closure 18 months after opening marks the eighth business at The Banks to shut its doors — in fact, it occupied the same spot as the now-shuttered Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. Howl, which started in Northern Kentucky in 1990, has 17 locations across the country. The decade-old Banks project has generally underperformed when it comes to development, lagging behind initial promises for businesses and residential space.

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