Morning News: What will become of downtown's Macy's location?; Sessions to rescind federal no-interference policy on legal weed

It's against federal law to grow or possess marijuana, but the federal government has looked the other way when it comes to weed grown legally under state laws. That could change with the attorney general's directives.

click to enlarge U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions - U.S. Congress
U.S. Congress
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Good morning all. Here’s some quick news for you today.

Yesterday the news dropped that Cincinnati-based retail giant Macy’s will soon be closing its downtown location at Fountain Place. That’s a big deal for several reasons. Macy’s splits its headquarters between Cincinnati and New York City. The company has its flagship store in the Big Apple. Most of its top executives live there. I think you can see where I’m heading with this. Though Macy’s leadership says the closure doesn’t mean the company is skipping town, it does bring Cincy a step closer to possibly losing a major employer.

There’s another angle that makes the closure significant. The location occupied by the downtown Macy's store is one of the most important spots in the city, officials say, being just west of downtown focal point Fountain Square. While local leaders like Mayor John Cranley expressed optimism yesterday that another tenant or series of tenants will come along to fill the location, history suggests that’s a tall order. Maybe we can revisit this idea to build an urban conservatory with a waterfall at the spot. Or not. Can I pitch something? Let’s make it really amazing affordable housing. Or how about a three-story skatepark/cycling track? With a waterfall? No? OK.

• Yesterday we told you about the various leadership roles incoming Cincinnati City Council members have been handed by the mayor and some of the political drama around that. Here’s another interesting tidbit around the new council, courtesy this Cincinnati Business Courier story. Council members also picked who will chose their successors in the event they can’t fulfill their duties, and those picks give some indication of where each member’s alliances lie. Some aren’t big surprises — Councilmen Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young picked each other and fellow Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld, for instance. Others are more interesting, however, and could give hints of possible voting blocs in upcoming council meetings.

• Cincinnati Public Schools says it has made major changes to its policy on bullying. Those changes came in the year following the suicide of student Gabriel Taye — but don’t expect CPS to acknowledge that the two are related. Video footage at Carson Elementary School last January showed the eight-year-old lying unconscious on a bathroom floor as other students kicked him. He took his life days later, though the district wouldn't release the footage until March last year. CPS Superintendent Laura Mitchell highlights changes the district has made since — the CPS website has a prominent place for reporting bullying. Teachers get increased training around addressing those problems, and the district now has a social worker with expertise in the subject. But Taye’s family and their attorneys say those changes aren’t enough and that the district, which has never acknowledged that bullying played a role in Taye’s death, still lacks transparency. CPS says Taye fainted in the bathroom and that he wasn’t bullied that day. The family is locked in a wrongful death lawsuit against the district over Taye’s death and the district’s response.

• Officials are submitting a smaller-than-originally-planned request for taxpayer money from the state to support a potential soccer stadium for FC Cincinnati. A new list asks Ohio lawmakers for $4 million to help support infrastructure for the stadium, down from an earlier document that sought $10 million for the $75 million in infrastructure needs. Even in its reduced form, FCC’s ask is the largest on Hamilton County’s 32-project, $22 million wish list. The City of Cincinnati has pledged to pitch in more than $50 million toward the roads and other infrastructure needed for the stadium, and Hamilton County has agreed to pay for a $15 million parking garage for the project. All that, of course, is contingent on FCC getting an expansion franchise from Major League Soccer, which is still up in the air. Officials say they have an alternate list of uses for the $4 million if the team doesn’t get the bid.

• Whoops. As we reported yesterday, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis will stay on with the team for at least two more years. So how did a tweet from an ESPN reporter posted last month citing an anonymous source set off a firestorm of local reporting that Lewis was on the way out? Basically, ESPN reporting an anonymous source saying something is news itself, according to WCPO. That's a tough call. You can read their whole mea culpa here.

• Unfinished business in Congress could affect low-income folks in Cincinnati who rely on community health clinics. Facilities like Crossroad Health Center in Over-the-Rhine rely on federal funding to provide care. The clinic expects more than 40,000 visits from patients this year, up from 37,000 last year. But in the flurry of passing tax reform and narrowly avoiding a government shutdown, Congress’ makeshift appropriations legislation means just $150,000 in grants for the clinic instead of the $900,000 it normally gets. That’s only enough for two months of operation, Crossroad leaders say.

• The Associated Press reports that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce today that he's rescinding three Obama-era executive orders that effectively set a policy of non-interference when it comes to states' laws on legal marijuana. It's against federal law to grow or possess marijuana, but the federal government has looked the other way under those orders when it comes to weed grown legally under state laws in states that have legalized the drug one way or another. It's unclear if Sessions will replace those orders with other guidance or not. This is ironic because Sessions is just the kind of politician who has gone on and on about "states' rights" in other arenas.

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