FCC makes one more offer to CPS; could downtown get a dedicated bus lane?; students stage walkouts over gun laws; more news

FC Cincinnati has offered to pay Cincinnati Public Schools $750,000 a year for 10 years if the district will trade land in the West End so the team can build a stadium there — but the Board of Education must decide today.

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click to enlarge Should we give this bus its own lane? - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Should we give this bus its own lane?

Good morning all. News has been… weird… the past couple days, so let’s dive in right away.

It’s going to be an interesting Cincinnati City Council meeting today. Mayor John Cranley yesterday released a statement saying that City Manager Harry Black would exit his position. But minutes later, Black released his own statement saying that he was still having “productive” conversations with the mayor and intended to stay as long as Cranley and council would have him. That last part is crucial, as council must vote to approve Black’s firing and his severance package. Right now, it seems as if the votes for Black’s ouster aren’t there. For more on the situation, you can read our story here.

The deal Cranley is rumored to have offered Black is said to be in the neighborhood of $400,000. If that’s true and Black eventually accepts it, it would put city expenditures on severance packages at over $1.2 million for high-profile departures in recent years, including city manager Milton Dohoney in 2013, CPD Chief Jeffrey Blackwell in 2015 and CPD Assistant Chief David Bailey earlier this month.

• FCC has made what seems to be a final offer to CPS for a proposed land swap in the West End. The team would pay the district $750,000 a year for 10 years, according to a letter released this morning.

“If we are to proceed in the West End, FC Cincinnati must spend nearly $1,000,000 beginning at 5 p.m. today on real estate acquisition options for necessary site properties,” the letter reads. “This proposal provides CPS more tax revenues than a stadium site Oakley or in Newport, Ky. — which would be zero.”

If FCC builds in Oakley, it has considered placing ownership of its $200 million stadium in the hands of the Greater Cincinnati Redevelopment Authority, which would make it property tax exempt. However, Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune has indicated he is interested in working with the city and county to make sure CPS is made whole should FCC build in Oakley.

The team has set a March 31 deadline for identifying a site to build the stadium should it receive a bid to join Major League Soccer.

The Cincinnati Board of Education balked at an earlier offer by FC Cincinnati to pay $4 million in property taxes to the school over the next 12 years if it builds a stadium on land currently owned by the school district in the West End. The school board quickly fired back a letter rejecting that offer Monday night, pointing out that a $250 million development like FCC’s proposed stadium would generate $2 million a year under the city’s current abatement practices, which have generally been given to every commercial development since 1999. Unabated, FCC’s planned development would bring in $2.8 million a year. You can read all the details from the deal — as well as response from neighborhood groups and CPS — here.

School board members said they’re willing to stay at the negotiating table, but that it will take something much closer to full tax payments from the team before they’ll consider a land swap.

• Imagine, my fellow bus riders, an entire, glorious lane in which buses are free to bus during rush hour. No more waiting while the driver in front of your Route 17 stares down at Snapchat while a green light turns yellow. No more being late to work because some guy in a Dodge Durango accidentally rear-ended someone’s precious Camaro. Freedom.

That’s the vision — at least for one downtown street — transit activists the Better Bus Coalition presented to Cincinnati City Council’s Education, Innovation and Growth Committee. The coalition is asking city council to consider a pilot program that would turn Main Street’s far right lane through the Central Business District into a bus-only lane from 7-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. in order to speed up service. That corridor serves 20 different Metro routes and, according to the coalition, sees more than 60 buses an hour. It can take a bus 15 minutes to get through the CBD under current conditions. BBC members say their plan would cut that travel time down to three minutes. Council members on the committee seemed receptive to the idea, but it’s unclear what next steps will be.

Should the pilot be implemented and give good results, the coalition would eventually like to see four longer bus rapid transit routes that run to downtown.

BBC also recommended increasing the number of bus stops with shelters, a tap card system to replace Metro’s current onboard payment system (which is cash or fare card only right now) and boosting the number of stops accessible to people with disabilities. Long-term, the group is advocating for better bus funding via a Hamilton County sales tax levy as Metro faces looming deficits.

• Let’s stay with City Hall for just a little longer, where Councilman David Mann is proposing an ordinance that would limit folks who rent out entire houses and apartment buildings on Airbnb. The ordinance, which you can read about in our story here, doesn’t prohibit you from renting out your extra bedroom to those German tourists who are midway through their disappointing vacation in America’s heartland. Instead, it’s aimed at limiting speculators from chipping away at the city’s housing stock when they convert permanent apartment housing into $100-a-night e-hostels.

• Want to know where you’ll be able to get medicinal marijuana in Greater Cincinnati when it finally becomes available? Well, it’s not certain yet, but here’s a map of folks who have applied. The state will award 60 dispensary licenses soon ahead of a Sept. 8 deadline to have Ohio’s medicinal marijuana program up and running. Hamilton County could get up to three dispensaries. Among the applicants: owners of Rhinegeist Brewing, who want to put a dispensary in Camp Washington, and Damon Lynch III, who wants to open one in a former pharmacy in Hartwell.

• Finally, students across the country and in Greater Cincinnati walked out of classes today for 17 minutes to advocate for tighter restrictions on guns and honor the memory of the 17 people who died at a high school mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Students at Walnut Hills High School, the School of Creative and Performing Arts and other Cincinnati public schools participated in that walkout, as did those at Mason and Newport High Schools. At some walkouts across the country, students used the opportunity to register 17- and 18-year-olds to vote. 

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