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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Trump In Cincinnati: 'Time To Rebuild Our Country'

Bill Rinehart
President Trump addresses a crowd at Rivertowne Marina June 7, 2017.

Standing on the banks of the Ohio River, with a barge full of West Virginia coal in the background, President Donald Trump outlined a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

"I am here with a message for you and all the great businesses and their workers, together we will fix it," Trump said of what he called the nation's "crumbling" infrastructure. He spoke before a crowd at Rivertowne Marina.

Trump compared the scope of his plan to some of the biggest projects in the history of the country – the building of the transcontinental railroad, the Panama Canal, and the Interstate Highway System.

Several hundred people – some of them members of the marina, others business people and labor leaders – crowded into a small area along the river for a speech that was heavy on talk of fixing the locks, dams and levees of the country's 12,000 miles of inland waterways, including on the Ohio River.

"More than half of the American steel produced in this country is produced within 250 miles of where we are right now and they need an inland water system they can depend on to ship their goods," Trump said.

But what barges on the nation's major rivers are finding, Trump said, "is a dilapidated system of locks and dams that are over 50 years old and in serious decay."

Trump said his plan would involve $200 million in federal funds, which would be used to leverage private dollars and pass along responsibility for funding infrastructure projects to state and local governments.

Trump mentioned that people around the country are worried there are bridges "so dangerous they are afraid they are going to fall down."

He did not mention one antiquated and overworked bridge only a few miles away - the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati and Kentucky. During the campaign, Trump said he would replace the bridge, but he has indicated recently that states and local governments are going to have to deal with such problems themselves. 

After Trump's speech, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, a Republican candidate for governor, said she agreed with the goals of the president's infrastructure plan, but said she is "interested in hearing the details."

"I'm a can-do kind of person, not a can't-do person," Taylor said. "We have to figure out how to make it work."

Trump didn't stay strictly on script Wednesday when it came to pitching his infrastructure plan.

Before leaving the White House Wednesday morning, the president tweeted he would talk with "Obamacare victims" while in Cincinnati. Those private meetings were to take place at Lunken Airport.

At the riverfront rally, Trump said if the American economy is to completely recover "we must end Obamacare."

He made reference to the fact that Anthem insurance pulled out of the Obamacare health care exchange in Ohio this week.

"Obamacare is dead," Trump said. "One of the biggest broken promises ever."

Trump's decision to come to Cincinnati to talk about infrastructure and replacing old locks and dams may have been an attempt to draw attention away – at least for a few hours – from an issue consuming the White House's attention, not to mention the nation's, and has the presidency under siege. Former FBI director James Comey, whom Trump fired, prepares to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday about his conversations with the president.

Comey will be questioned in particular on his contention that Trump asked him to end the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, about Flynn's alleged ties to Russians, and possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

At 7:44 a.m. Wednesday, Trump tweeted out his choice to replace Comey as FBI director – Christopher A. Wray, a former assistant attorney general under former President George W. Bush.

The Wray appointment is likely to take even more national attention away from the Rivertowne Marina event.

The issue of replacing aging locks, dams and levees on the nation's inland waterways is no doubt important, given how much coal, gas and other materials are shipped on major rivers like the Ohio, but it is not an issue most Americans would be likely to list among their top priorities.

Per the orders of the White House press office, reporters were not allowed to interview guests at the outdoor event, and were barred from doing so by security people and Secret Service.

That order broke down very quickly after the president left to return to Lunken and a flight back to Washington.

Trump had a number of cabinet members with him, including Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Trump also acknowledged the presence of Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and his family.

It was Trump's first visit to Cincinnati as president. His last trip was in December, when he was president-elect, and held a "thank you" rally for supporters at US Bank Arena.

At Wednesday's rally, Trump reminded the crowd he won Ohio's 16 electoral votes in last year's election.

"We love Ohio," Trump said. The result in Ohio, he said, "was supposed to be close but it wasn't close."

At Rakestraw Memorial Park about a mile from the marina, dozens of people protested the Trump visit and his infrastructure plan.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.