Morning News: Tensing verdict nears; what to expect from county commission shake-up; local activists, Ohio State troopers at Standing Rock

After the closing arguments, the jury deliberated for about four hours before being sequestered for the night at a local hotel. They’re back this morning at 8 a.m.

Good morning all. I hope you aren’t too hungover from whatever you did to mark the end of election season 2016. You can catch our full coverage of races from the presidency on down to county offices here. Give it a read if you can handle it.

A verdict could come any day in the murder and manslaughter trial of former University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing. As if there wasn’t enough going on, both prosecution and defense gave their closing statements yesterday. Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier argued that Tensing didn't have any cause to fear for his life when he shot unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose in Mount Auburn in July 2015. Meanwhile, defense attorney Stew Mathews tried to rebut that line of argument, saying that Tensing was justified in the shooting. After the closing arguments, the jury deliberated for about four hours before being sequestered for the night at a local hotel. They’re back this morning at 8 a.m. Activists with Black Lives Matter Cincinnati have planned a rally for 6 p.m. the day the verdict is announced. We’ll keep you updated on the trial.

• The city, county and local schools are taking security steps ahead of the verdict announcement. St. Francis Seraph School is closed today, and DePaul Christo Rey High School, which is near UC, is dismissing at 2:30 p.m. Elder High School may also dismiss early. Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies have reportedly been visiting businesses in Over-the-Rhine, asking workers to identify easy ways out of their buildings in case of unrest. The Sheriff’s office, the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency, Cincinnati’s police and fire departments and the Ohio State Highway Patrol have all jointly established an emergency management center near downtown to coordinate potential responses to protests. All demonstrations around the courthouse and elsewhere since the trial began have been peaceful. City Manager Harry Black has said the city doesn’t anticipate any issues with response to the verdict, but is taking precautions due to the case’s national visibility and high stakes.

• The dust still hasn’t settled on the election, but it’s safe to say county Democrats had a good run this time around, in contrast to their dismal fortunes on the state and national levels. Democrats Todd Portune and (more than likely) Denise Driehaus are at the helm of the Hamilton County Commission. Driehaus'win isn't official - provisional ballots still need counting in her race against Republican Dennis Deters - but her margin of victory will be hard to overcome with those uncounted ballots. So, assuming she wins, what will we see? More cooperation between the city and the county, they say, especially on issues surrounding the troubled and jointly-run Metropolitan Sewer District. But details about how that will look specifically are harder to get — mostly because arbitration between the two bodies means current commissioner Portune can’t say much more. Outside MSD, expect a more robust focus on things the county can do to increase economic development, including boosting the number of sites in the county that can host advanced manufacturing through increased funding to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. Read more about the commission’s new chapter in this Business Courier story.

• Speaking of Democrats: can the Ohio Democratic Party emerge from the ashes of resounding defeats this year? And what will become of an Ohio Republican Party that resisted our now president-elect as much as it aided him? It’s going to be a long, long haul for Democrats, who face a big realignment of the political map here. And some established Republicans won’t have a much easier time of it in the coming years, either, as this Enquirer story points out. Both will have the daunting task of connecting with an angry voter base that is distrustful of political establishment figures of all stripes.

• Ohio continues to have 37 members of the state Highway Patrol in Standing Rock, N.D. to respond to peaceful demonstrations there against the Dakota Access Pipeline. But local indigenous groups, racial justice advocates and some Cincinnati politicians have decried that presence as law enforcement actions there have come under scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union and even the United Nations, which has sent human rights observers to the frontlines. You can read more about Ohio’s involvement in law enforcement efforts and local activists’ own involvement in Standing Rock in our weekly feature story here.

• In the aftermath of Wednesday’s election, what kind of shakeups can we expect? First, don’t expect the results to go down easy. Tens of thousands of people in at least 10 cities across the country joined protests over the election of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump last night. In New York City, thousands converged on Trump Tower on 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, shouting for his impeachment. Trump will be inaugurated Jan. 20, after which, many believe big policy changes will come quickly. He’s promised to repeal Obamacare, something that may actually be possible given Republican control of the House and Senate. He’s also vowed to initiate mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. He wants to loosen regulations on the oil and gas industry, as well as the banking and finance industries, which have faced moderately tougher restrictions since the Great Recession and mortgage crisis. He’ll also try to boost infrastructure spending, renegotiate or repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement and a number of other trade-related moves. Sometimes, like with his Obamacare pledge, Congress will likely be cooperative. But for other initiatives — his promise to fix America’s infrastructure, for instance, or his pledge to term-limit congressmen — he’ll face a much heavier lift. 

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