Hello all. Here’s a quick news rundown to round out your week.
President Donald Trump will speak this evening in Lebanon to rally support for fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, who faces a tough reelection battle against his challenger Aftab Pureval, a Democrat. Chabot and Pureval are locked in a pitched battle over the 1st Congressional District, which encompasses a large swath of Hamilton and Warren Counties.
• If you haven’t been keeping up with news out of City Hall, we’re here for you. It’s been a busy week — Mayor John Cranley yesterday stamped his veto onto two pieces of legislation council passed Wednesday. Check out our story on council’s $5.3 million budget closeout, which Cranley called “reckless” and blasted for giving money to the Center for Closing the Health Gap, a nonprofit run by his former ally and former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery.
• Cranley also gave the ole' no-go to a council ordinance that would have funded the Liberty Street road-calming project, which has been in the works for more than six years and seemed primed for groundbreaking until just recently. Cranley says the city shouldn’t spend money moving a relatively new water main, and that the city administration has come up with a less-intensive plan that would help pedestrian safety. Cranley’s critics, however, say he’s pushing off the road diet over concerns about how it would affect traffic to FC Cincinnati’s coming stadium — something city administration cited in moving to pause the project earlier this year. You can read our story on that here.
• Should Cincinnati City Council serve two-year terms? Four year terms? Four year staggered terms? Cincinnati voters will get to decide in November when city charter amendments Issue 10 (two-year terms) and Issue 11 (staggered four-year terms) hit the ballot. Cincinnati’s Fortune 55 CEOs — and former City Council member and FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding — are wading in, putting their weight (and money) behind the push to return the city to the shorter terms. The pro-two-year term contingent will drop about $175,000 on mailers and radio ads, according to this Cincinnati Enquirer opinion column (which, we should stress, is an opinion column supporting that effort and not a neutral news piece). The piece states that big business leaders in town are upset with the level of “dysfunction” at City Hall and that Berding in particular was not happy with council’s handling of the FC Cincinnati stadium deal, a process in which the city pledged to spend $35 million on infrastructure around the facility.
City government has had an intense year, though much of the wrangling came due to a rift between the mayor and former Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black. Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, a conservative independent, introduced the two-year-term charter amendment because he says it will make council more responsive to voters. Council Democrats introduced Issue 11, arguing that staggered four-year terms are more productive and that two-year terms will simply create an endless cycle of campaigning. Many council members receive campaign contributions from the same corporate leaders pushing for the two-year terms, and, in theory, those shorter terms would give the council members more incentive to listen to those donors as well as voters.
• Some bad news for local cyclists: Cincinnati has fallen out of the rankings of the “Best Bike Cities” in the U.S. compiled every two years by Bicycling magazine. Cincinnati scored 35th on the list in 2014 and 36th in 2016. Read more about the rankings — and why Cincinnati may have slipped — in our story here.
• But hey, here's some good news: The Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Regional Council of Governments yesterday announced $41 million in federal grants, millions of which will go to local transit, bike and pedestrian projects. Find out all about the big local winners in our story here.
• A bit more on local transit: Should Cincinnati's Better Bus Coalition be fined by the city for putting out bus benches at stops that don't have them? The city says it supports the coalition's efforts to provide places to sit for bus riders, but is also bound by ongoing litigation around its long-running efforts to hold for-profit bus bench advertisers accountable for their often-neglected benches. The city wants the Better Bus Coalition to get permits for its benches, something the group says could be onerous. You can read our story here about the push and pull around the coalition's benches. The group works closely with City Hall — it helped push for the city's coming bus-only lane on Main Street and recently pitched an "adopt a stop" program. Some Cincinnati City Council members have pledged to help the group get laws changed to allow them to continue providing the benches.
• A West End business owner says she could go out of business when she has to move to make way for FC Cincinnati's coming stadium. The team has offered $20,000 to three businesses that will be displaced by coming construction, but Monica Williams of Just Cookin' says that alone won't be enough for her to continue operating at a new location that may require build-out. You can read more about the situation facing Williams and other businesses along Central Avenue and West 15th Street in our story here.
• Going back to Chabot: the Republican congressman attracted some heat this week for handing out his signature “Chabot for Congress” plastic cups at a Cincinnati Public School. But he didn’t break any rules, including a settlement between CPS and conservative activists COAST, according to the district. Video footage shows Chabot walking into James A. Gamble Montessori High School wearing his congressional campaign T-shirt and carrying a stack of the famous cups. CPS Board of Education member and Democrat Mike Moroski called Chabot out on Twitter for the move, saying it may have violated a settlement CPS made with COAST over campaigning on school property. Chabot dropped the cups off, stayed about 20 minutes and left. CPS attorneys say the injunction with COAST only requires that the school allow all political candidates and supporters to campaign on school property equally — meaning Chabot opponent Aftab Pureval would be allowed to do what Chabot did.
• Let’s stay on that contest for a minute: the Ohio Elections Commission will continue to investigate a campaign finance complaint against Pureval, it ruled yesterday. Pureval is accused of spending money from his Hamilton County Clerk of Courts campaign fund on his congressional campaign, a violation of federal elections rules. Pureval’s attorneys argued that the Federal Elections Commission, not Ohio’s, should consider the complaint at a hearing yesterday, but the OEC rejected that. COAST activist Mark Miller filed that complaint, which alleges that Pureval spent $30,000 from his clerk of courts campaign on the congressional race, including money for polling and a $360 payment to a photographer who captured his congressional candidacy announcement.