Morning News: UCPD has named first female chief; DOJ weighs legal action against sanctuary cities

Does the Department of Justice have the power to bring criminal charges against state and local officials who have declared sanctuary policies for undocumented immigrants? The Trump administration is considering trying it.

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click to enlarge President Donald Trump at a West Chester campaign rally in 2016. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
President Donald Trump at a West Chester campaign rally in 2016.

Hello, Cincy. I’ll spare you the short rant I just typed and deleted about how it’s still snowing so we can get straight to the news.

Former Cincinnati Police Department Captain Maris Herold will become University of Cincinnati's new police chief, stepping up from her current role as UCPD assistant chief. Herold is the first woman to hold the top cop role at UC, according to a news release the school sent out this morning. Her promotion follows the departure of former UCPD chief Anthony Carter over revelations he sent inappropriate texts to a witness in an investigation.

• The board of the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority has new leadership today. After Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau exec Jason Dunn resigned late last year, the board has tapped Kreg Keesee for the board’s top spot. Keesee has served on the board since 2014. City employee union president Maurice Brown is now vice chair, taking over after the resignation Ken Reed late last year. Keesee is an exec at coatings manufacturer Michelman Inc., while Reed is president of Cincinnati branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers union.

• Cincinnati-based national media company E.W. Scripps Co. has announced a novel new offering for a media company: an analytics and prediction service for political campaigns. That service, called Market Predict, will model how things like ad buys and other marketing efforts by campaigns sway voters. Maybe they’ve got some new insights gleaned in the past couple years? Political prediction is a dicey field lately, given the shellacking polling pundits like Nate Silver took in predicting the 2016 election.

• A majority of Cincinnati City Council yesterday held a news conference asking city administration to fund a study examining racial inequities in city policies and practices. That effort, similar to the city’s 2014 Croson study on disparities in municipal contracting, would examine the city’s internal policies and procedures as well as the way it provides services to residents with an eye toward finding and eliminating systemic bias and racial disparities. You can read more about the proposal here.

• Construction of a local bike trail will roll forward after all, despite nearly being cancelled over funding issues. A 2.2 mile segment of the Ohio River Trail connecting Cincinnati’s California neighborhood to an existing trail in Anderson Township was in limbo last year after the city announced it couldn’t afford a $935,000 local match needed to construct the project. That put a nearly $4 million federal award for the project in jeopardy — to the ire of bike advocates who had worked for years to push the trail as part of a larger network that will eventually connect a 50-mile stretch along the Ohio River. But local groups stepped up and now the money is there to make it happen. The city of Cincinnati ended up chipping in $435,000, Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District threw down $300,000 and Anderson Township and nonprofit Interact for Health both gave $100,000 each.

• Ohio’s U.S. Senate campaign has become a trove of political drama. The latest: GOP primary hopeful U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci’s team has filed a police report claiming that a former campaign staffer stole documents from the campaign before absconding to rival Mike Gibbons’ campaign. Gibbons, a Cleveland-area businessman, is the underdog in the race. He denies any theft of documents occurred. That supposed breach happened in October, but Renacci’s campaign said they just discovered it Jan. 11.

• Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is proposing the elimination of 70 state programs and 6 percent cuts to most state agencies to shore up budget deficits and the state's pension program. Bevin hasn't listed which programs will see those cuts just yet, but they won't involve the state's main public education initiative, SEEK, or efforts to fight the heroin epidemic.

• Finally, does the Department of Justice have the power to bring state and local officials up on criminal charges related to declaring sanctuary policies for undocumented immigrants? The Trump administration is considering trying it. Though there is no set definition of what constitutes “sanctuary” from a city or other government, sanctuary policies generally say local law enforcement and other agencies don’t have to cooperate with federal agents looking to enforce immigration crackdowns.

Cincinnati officials declared the Queen City a sanctuary city last January.

“We got to take them to court, and we got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes," Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan said on Fox News recently, adding that elected officials involved in sanctuary policies should be made "personally accountable.”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said yesterday that the DOJ is “reviewing what avenues might be available” when it comes to enforcing immigration crackdowns in sanctuary cities.

Immigration advocates say any such move bringing criminal charges against elected officials would be political bullying and illegal.

“The Constitution doesn’t let the federal government force state and local officials to do the president’s bidding in this way," an ACLU official said in response to those threats.

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