Hello Cincy. It’s news time again.
White nationalist Richard Spencer has requested to speak at the University of Cincinnati March 14, according to his lawyer. Spencer, an organizer of the deadly Unite the Right rally over the summer where an anti-racist protester was killed, threatened to sue UC, Ohio State University and other public universities on free speech grounds if they didn’t grant him a venue in which to discuss his white supremacist views. UC says it hasn’t confirmed that date, which falls during the school’s spring break, with Spencer. Local activists have begun gearing up for his arrival, planning protests and counter-events on campus.
• FC Cincinnati officials are headed to New York City today to make their bid for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise. FCC GM Jeff Berding says the hard work of putting together the application — including plans for a $200 million stadium, which will get more than $50 million in taxpayer help for infrastructure — is already done. Cincinnati is on the shortlist for to win a franchise, vying mostly with Nashville for the chance to take one of two open slots. If MLS rebuffs FCC this time around, they’ll have another shot at two more expansion franchises in the next year or two.
• Yesterday we reported on a public input meeting held by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the potential sale of its north building. That meeting was facilitated not by library officials, but by a professional facilitator with a company called Burges and Burges Strategies. How much are that company’s services costing taxpayers? It could be up to $40,000, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. So far, the library has paid the firm more than $12,000 to help the library facilitate meetings at library branches about its new physical facilities plan.
• Hamilton County Commissioners have approved a $5 fee for licensing automobiles in an effort to raise local money for a needed $335 million replacement for the Western Hills Viaduct. That’s going to supply about $33 million for the project. So… how will officials pay for the rest? It turns out that’s a really good question. Mayor John Cranley has pledged that the replacement will be fully funded by the time he leaves office, but the funding gap is wider than the Mill Creek Valley the viaduct spans. And city officials say they haven’t identified any sources for the city’s portion of the money. County officials want at least $33 million from city coffers to help shore up the project. Another $22 million in state and local funds is allocated to pay for the design and right-of-way for the new bridge. There is a potential $40 million in federal grants the county applied for that could speed up the project, which officials hope to have finished by 2027. But short those dollars, it’s unclear how the project gets done.
• State Rep. Bill Seitz of Green Township cosponsored a bill just passed by the state House of Representatives that would prohibit undocumented workers from claiming workers’ compensation benefits. Seitz and bill cosponsor state Rep. Larry Householder say the legislation, now being mulled by the state Senate, sends a message opposing undocumented immigration. Seitz used some colorful language recently to describe his stance.
“The undocumented immigrant — I love that phrase,” Seitz said on the House floor debating the bill. “Sort of like calling drug dealers undocumented pharmacists.”
The bill would mean that employers who hire undocumented workers wouldn’t have to pay benefits if those workers were hurt on the job.
• Former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray announced yesterday that he’s running for governor of Ohio in the 2018 election. That’s not a surprise — Cordray’s name has been tossed around for months and his resignation from the CFPB last month more or less sealed the deal. He’s considered a strong contender in the race — his record winning billions for taxpayers from corporations who violated financial regulations and his high name recognition in Ohio are big selling points, some election watchers say. But Cordray will need to contend with other strong candidates in the race, including Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, former state Rep. Connie Pillich, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni. Republicans — and Cordray’s primary opponents — have already launched attacks against the Democrat. Some state GOPers have taken to calling him “crooked Cordray,” while Pillich and other Democratic candidates have lit into Cordray for jumping ship at the CFPB. They say he should have stayed to fight for consumer rights as the Trump administration looks to weaken the bureau. Should Cordray win the primary, he could face a rematch against Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is also seeking his party’s nomination. Cordray narrowly lost to DeWine in the 2010 attorney general race.
• Speaking of DeWine, the state attorney general is siding with efforts to unseal testimony of IRS employees in the lawsuit brought by tea party activists against the tax agency. The suit alleged that the IRS held tax exemption applications by conservative groups to higher scrutiny. A federal judge sealed testimony in that case because two IRS employees involved were receiving threats. The level of scrutiny given to conservative groups was later found to be improper and several high-level IRS employees later resigned, though some liberal groups also received that same treatment. The sealed depositions could reveal information about the motives behind the IRS employees’ actions. DeWine’s move asking the courts to unseal the records comes as his campaign for governor ramps up — timing that has sparked criticism from Democrats.