Morning News: What's wrong with Nippert, Portune asks; who dies from opiate overdoses?; last-minute drama as Obamacare repeal fails

FC Cincinnati says it needs a new stadium to grab a major league franchise for a number of reasons. But Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, whose support would be critical to securing tax payer money, calls those reasons “red herrings.”

Jul 28, 2017 at 11:35 am

Happy Friday Cincinnati. We’ve almost made it to the weekend. One thing standing in our way: lots of news. Let’s go ahead and overcome that obstacle, shall we?

There’s still a lot of contention around FC Cincinnati’s potential ask for $100 million in taxpayer money to fund a dedicated soccer stadium. The team says that the new digs are a necessary part of a bid for a Major League Soccer franchise. But some folks, including Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, are asking what’s wrong with University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, where FC is currently drawing big crowds. Is it feasible that the team could stay at Nippert and still land an MLS spot? Portune, who has shown little interest in another stadium tax deal, thinks so.

“They’re playing in a perfect stadium right now and we don’t need to build a new one,” Portune told WCPO in an interview last week. “That’s where I am on this, that’s where the university is on this.”

FC President Jeff Berding says there are a number of reasons Nippert won’t work. Some of those reasons seem small — lack of bathrooms, kitchens and entrances that are too small for swarming soccer fans. But others, like a new MLS requirement that teams own their stadiums to better control revenue, seem a lot bigger.

“We don’t make the rules,” Berding said. “If you want to apply and be selected into MLS, you have criteria to meet. If you want to apply to Harvard, you’ve got criteria to meet. They don’t have to select you.”

Portune, whose support would be critical to getting a sales tax increase that could support a stadium, is unmoved, calling those reasons “red herrings.”

• Meanwhile, that big deal between Cincinnati and Hamilton County over the Metropolitan Sewer District is still ruffling some feathers. In a special session of Cincinnati City Council yesterday, County Commissioner Chris Monzel, who opposes the deal, asked city elected officials to carefully consider whether a proposed five-member commission is the best way to run MSD. He cited ever-higher water rates, reading a letter from a ratepayer who said his MSD bills were getting unmanageable. Monzel, a Republican, is outgunned on the Commission — Democrats Portune and Denise Driehaus support the deal — but he’s not alone in his opposition. Council members Wendell Young, Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach have also called for further consideration of the agreement. Council must vote to approve the deal. Mayor John Cranley, Vice Mayor David Mann and others defended it yesterday in the Council meeting, but Cranley did announce that Council’s vote on the deal would be pushed back one week from Aug. 2 to Aug. 9. In the meantime, the city will hold three public meetings on the historic agreement, which would replace an expiring consent decree issued in 1968. You can weigh in Monday, July 31 at 6:30 p.m. at MSD headquarters (1081 Woodrow Street), Wednesday Aug. 2 at 11 a.m. at the county administration building or later that day at 2 p.m. at City Hall.

• It’s no secret that opiates are ravaging Ohio in general and the Greater Cincinnati area in particular. But some new data sheds light on who is dying from overdoses. According to this article from WCPO, 70 percent of people dying from overdoses in the region so far this year have been men. Ninety-three percent have been white, and more than half have been in their twenties or thirties. You can read more about the data — including where overdoses are happening — here.

• I don’t need to tell you this, but the mood in national American politics right now is… how shall I say it… nutty. Insane. Cray cray. Is all that tension and chaos trickling down to the local level? Some experts think so, and there are plenty of examples to support that hypothesis. Fiery battles in Loveland’s City Council have resulted in a rope that divides Council meeting attendees from Council members. Large crowds have turned out at those sometimes-contentious meetings and angry comments about city business there have become the norm on social media platforms. Residents at similar meetings in Colerain Township and Clermont County have been escorted out by security after angry exchanges with elected officials. It’s not that bad everywhere — officials in other local governments like Green Township and Evendale say discourse has remained very civil — but a particular strain of political anger has found its way into some municipal government settings.

"It seems absurd,” University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven told The Enquirer. “Why fight tooth and nail over tiny issues on a tiny stage? Because you can. And because there's no foundation of respect in politics anymore."

Things have gotten bad. But on the other hand, maybe local government meetings have always been pretty wild.

• Speaking of high political drama, check out this story in the Washington Post today about the last-second defeat of another Senate GOP attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is likely the last hurrah for now for Republicans’ attempts to dismantle former president Barack Obama’s legacy healthcare law, and boy did it get intense. Who scuttled the GOP’s seven-year dream of repealing Obamacare? Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, who lost his 2008 presidential bid to Obama. McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer, showed up late at the Capitol to cast the decisive "no" vote. You couldn’t script a more theatrical ending.