Morning News: U.S. Bank Arena owners propose tax to fund rebuild; activists demand Tensing retrial; Pence bends truth in Kasich diss

Nederlander would receive $35 to $40 million under a proposed deal to turn the new arena over to the public via the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, but would continue to get a paycheck from Hamilton County to run the arena.

Jul 17, 2017 at 10:37 am

click to enlarge U.S. Bank Arena
U.S. Bank Arena

Good morning all. I hope your weekend was as grand as mine. Let’s talk news.

How are you feeling about continuing to pay a sales tax increase tied to Union Terminal in order to fund a rebuilt US Bank Arena? That’s the proposal from arena owner Nederlander Entertainment. Voters would have to approve the extension of the quarter-cent sales tax increase — if the proposal even made it to them. Hamilton County Commissioners have expressed serious doubts about the plan. Check out some of the terms of this deal: Nederlander would receive $35 to $40 million under the deal to turn the new arena over to the public via the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, but would continue to get a paycheck from Hamilton County to run the arena for Cincinnati Cyclones games and big events like first-round NCAA basketball tournament games slated for 2022.

Port Authority head Charlie Luken, like county commissioners, says he’s highly skeptical. The seven-year extension of the 2014 quarter-cent sales tax increase would generate about $313 million toward the estimated $370 million needed for the new arena. Nederlander says the region is missing out on a number of big events due to the outdated current arena — last renovated 20 years ago — and that snagging some of those events could bring in $34 million over six years. It also says increased parking revenues would bring in another $14 million over that time, as well as $9 million in admissions taxes. But getting officials on board will be difficult for Nederlander. Taxpayers are still paying a half-cent sales tax for Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park as part of a 1996 stadium deal considered to be among the worst of all time. And US Bank isn’t the only large project that could be vying for public money — FC Cincinnati could ask taxpayers for a similar tax boost as it seeks a soccer stadium, though officials are also skeptical about that proposal.

• A group of faith leaders, police accountability activists and others Friday held a news conference outside Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters’ office to demand a retrial for former University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing. The group, which included representatives from the NAACP, the Urban League, the Amos Project and others, slammed Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz for her handling of the case and also announced it had filed a complaint against Cincinnati Police Sgt. Shannon Heine, the lead investigator in Tensing’s shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose in 2015, with the Citizens Complaint Authority. That complaint says that Heine improperly “undermined” the prosecution’s case against Tensing by testifying that the shooting may have been justified — something prosecutors didn’t see coming. Two juries have been unable to reach a verdict in the case.

• Meanwhile, a resident of Hamilton started a petition last month asking Deters to drop the case against Tensing. That petition has nearly 5,000 signatures. Signers had a variety of perspectives on the case — some thought prosecutors should try for lesser charges, while others believe Tensing is not guilty of a crime in shooting DuBose. Advocates for a third trial have also submitted their own petition in support of trying Tensing again. Deters has until July 24 to decide whether his office will seek a third trial.

• After an early surge in shootings in Cincinnati, including the devastating mass shooting at Cameo Nightclub, things have calmed down slightly as we enter the second half of the year. Counting the mass shooting, which killed one person and injured 15, Cincinnati has had 205 shootings so far this year, two more than last year. Not counting Cameo, the city has had 188 shootings, the lowest number year-to-date since 2014, which saw the same number of shootings by this date. Shootings have fluctuated in the city from year to year, and the early months of this year were especially violent. However, shootings are down in the five neighborhoods where they’re usually the worst. The city’s relatively peaceful summer months so far have bucked a trend — summer has historically been when gun violence reaches its peak in Cincinnati.

 Vice President Mike Pence on Friday threw some shade toward Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the National Governors Association conference. At the event in Rhode Island, Pence said that 60,000 disabled Ohioans are on wait lists for care during comments about Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Most Republican governors declined the federally funded expansion, but Kasich circumvented state lawmakers in his party to bring the expansion to Ohio. Pence implied that the Medicaid expansion — the topic of his remarks and something he mentioned just a sentence before jabbing at Kasich — was the reason for those wait lists. But that simply isn’t true, health care experts have asserted. Those wait lists preexist the expansion, and Pence’s statements are factually inaccurate. Pence later backtracked, saying he didn’t mean to tie the two together. You be the judge. Here’s the portion of Pence’s comments with the jab toward Kasich.

“Obamacare has put far too many able-bodied adults on the Medicaid rolls, leaving many disabled and vulnerable Americans at the back of the line,” Pence said. “It’s true, and it’s heartbreaking. I know Gov. Kasich isn’t with us, but I suspect that he’s very troubled to know that in Ohio alone, nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck on waiting lists, leaving them without the care they need for months or even years.”