Morning News: Winburn gets an FBI visit at City Hall; Trump involved in Ohio GOP leadership fight; Sen. Brown will vote against Trump AG pick

Councilman Charlie Winburn’s office got the kind of visit you never want to get last week when the Federal Bureau of Investigation came and seized some boxes of material that a member of his staff moved from his office to City Hall’s basement.

click to enlarge Ohio GOP Chair Matt Borges
Ohio GOP Chair Matt Borges

Good morning all. Yesterday was an eventful day at City Hall. Let’s dive right into the news.

Councilman Charlie Winburn’s office got the kind of visit you never want to get last week when the Federal Bureau of Investigation came and seized some boxes of material that a member of his staff moved from his office to City Hall’s basement. Winburn Public Affairs Director Rosalind Fultz says the boxes were full of old newspaper articles and other clutter that she was taking home to organize. Local law enforcement is being tight-lipped about the seizure, saying only that the FBI now has the material. Winburn has said he has no idea why the FBI stopped by and floated the idea that the seizure might be a tactic by an opponent to hobble a potential mayoral run he’s been weighing.

• Winburn’s potential entry into the 2017 mayoral fray would make him the first Republican to take that plunge. But with Democrat Mayor John Cranley carrying a lot of support from local GOPers, is a Republican mayoral candidate really a good idea for the party? Some prominent Republicans seem to think not, according to this story.

“As far as Cincinnati goes, for a conservative like me, (Cranley) is about as good as we’re going to get,” former Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, said recently. In a county skewing more Democratic (the commission is now controlled by Democrats for the first time in half a decade, and Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton outperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 showing here), Hartmann downplayed rumors that he himself might jump into the race. “I don’t see a legitimate reason to run,” he said. That doesn’t mean other GOPers won’t throw their hats into the ring, but many, including Hartmann and Winburn, believe it will be a tough sell.

• Cincinnati City Council yesterday moved forward with a study of downtown traffic patterns that could ease congestion and wait time for the streetcar, autos, buses and pretty much anyone else caught up in our concrete grid every day. The study came about in response to traffic signal timing snags with the streetcar, but the city says it’s long overdue anyway (the last study was completed two decades ago) and should improve traffic for everyone. Money for the study, which could cost up to $300,000, will come out of the streetcar’s contingency fund.

• Council also passed a resolution condemning Islamophobia and expressing support for the city’s Muslim community. The measure, which was written by Councilman Chris Seelbach, reaffirmed the city’s commitment to inclusivity, openness to all faiths and enforcing its hate crime laws. It passed 8-0, with Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unable to vote due to a trip to Washington, D.C. for an anti-sexual assault conference.

• There was also a little drama in City Hall yesterday, if you can imagine that. As Council was about to adjourn, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson inquired about a series of resolutions her office filed Dec. 21 and Jan. 3 seeking secondary names for three streets in Evanston in honor of legendary King Records figures. Mayor John Cranley told Simpson that he held those ordinances because he’s planning to introduce in a few weeks an ordinance that would prevent King’s former headquarters in Evanston from being demolished by its owner. Cranley said he approached the artists involved with his idea and that they wanted to see all the ordinances passed at the same time. Some close to those artists, however, dispute that.

Simpson, working with the musicians and Evanston Community Council, sought to get Lincoln Avenue named Otis Williams Place, Potter Place named Philip Paul Place and a portion of Hackberry Street named Bootsy Collins Way. Collins is the legendary funk bass player who got his start at King, Paul is a prolific drummer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Williams is a vocalist whose group The Charms scored one of King’s first pop hits in 1952. Simpson says time is of the essence for the honorary names due to the poor health of one of the artists.The items are now on Council's calendar for next week.

• Let’s zoom out to some state news, where the Ohio Republican Party is caught up in a leadership fight involving president-elect Donald Trump. The statewide party is voting now on who will lead it. So far, it's voted 33-32 in two rounds to oust its chair, Matt Borges, who was backed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, replacing him with Trump-backed Jane Timken, an attorney and vice chair of the Stark County Republican Party. However, the winner needs 34 votes to take the chair, and so far, there's been deadlock in making a final decision. Trump has been vocal recently in supporting Timken's bid. The fight could be read as a bit of a proxy war for revenge on Trump’s part. Presidents and presidents-elect generally don’t get involved in state party elections, but it’s easy to see Trump’s move as a way to lash out at Kasich, who ran against him in the GOP presidential primary and continued to oppose him throughout the general election and beyond.

• Finally, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is the first senator to pledge a vote against a Trump cabinet nominee. Brown became the first senator to pledge opposition to Trump’s Attorney General pick Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Brown cited Sessions’ record as a federal judge in the 1980s, when he opposed the NAACP and ACLU for “trying to force civil rights down peoples’ throats” and said that he thought the KKK was “OK” until he found out some of its members smoked pot.

“I have serious concerns that Sen. Session’s record on civil rights is at direct odds with the task of promoting justice and equality for all, and I cannot support his nomination,” Brown said in a statement released today.

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