Hello, all. Here is a quick news update for you today.
The coming FC Cincinnati stadium project could go forward with $17 million less in infrastructure help from the city if opponents get their way. Former Cincinnati City Council candidates Michelle Dillingham and Brian Garry, along with several West End residents, have filed a petition for a ballot referendum challenging the city’s use of its portion of the Hamilton County hotel tax to pay for some of its $34 million infrastructure commitment. The city will use its yearly revenue from the hotel tax to borrow the $17 million, paying $1.5 million over 30 years to do so. An earlier ballot initiative challenging the city’s entire infrastructure spending package for the stadium is likely dead because the city’s charter prohibits referendums on legislation that council passes under emergency clauses. However, council fell one vote short of such a clause for the hotel tax spending plan, leaving it open to challenge. Opponents will need to get 6,000 signatures to put the referendum on the November ballot.
• Meanwhile, several West End businesses and organizations are wondering when they’ll need to move to make way for FC Cincinnati’s coming stadium. Just Cookin’, another carryout spot and a neighboring barbershop all occupy locations near Central Avenue where the stadium is slated to go. The owners of those businesses say they haven’t identified where they’ll go next, but hope to remain in the neighborhood. It’s unclear when, exactly, they’ll have to move, but FCC GM Jeff Berding says construction on the stadium is slated to begin this year so that the team can begin playing in its new home by 2021.
• U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown was in Cincinnati earlier this week to pledge his help in securing federal funds for the literally crumbling Western Hills Viaduct. Brown is introducing a bill that would set aside $75 billion in federal money for bridges across the country, but it hinges on Congress passing an overall transportation budget. Both the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County have identified the sources necessary for a roughly $88 million local match for federal funding on the $335 million project. That just leaves, ya know, about $247 million to make the project a reality. Easy. Chunks of concrete have fallen from the viaduct in recent months, drawing attention from the public, but the Ohio Department of Transportation says it is safe to drive on. It’s not the only local bridge in need of some attention: The Brent Spence Bridge, technically owned by Kentucky, likely needs a multi-billion replacement in the coming years.
• The viaduct isn’t the only thing in Cincinnati getting attention from Ohio’s senators. Brown, a Democrat, and his Republican counterpart U.S. Sen. Rob Portman are pretty much on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but they both want Amtrak to continue to staff the city’s train station. The rail company wants to cut two ticket clerk positions at the station, eliminate the ticket window service and replace them with a “caretaker” contractor who will open and close the terminal for rail passengers. Brown and Portman wrote a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson asking him to take another look at that decision, saying Cincinnati needs a fully-staffed station.
• Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune says it's crunch time for a music venue at riverfront development The Banks. The commission and Cincinnati City Council will have the final say over which of the three hopefuls for the site — the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Live Nation and Promowest. Both need to make their decision this month so progress can start on a fall 2019 opening date for the venue. The Joint Banks Steering Committee recommended CSO, while some elected leaders including Mayor John Cranley want PromoWest to build the facility. Why the urgency? Foot traffic is flagging at the site, which includes a number of bars and restaurants near the city's two professional sports stadiums. Business owners hope the venue will increase activity at the development.