Morning News: Council wrangles over human services funding ahead of budget vote; downtown Kroger will cost taxpayers millions; could FC Cincinnati stadium set off bidding war between cities?

Efforts to find an extra $350,000 for human services failed after Council members balked at multiple moves to slim down the amount of money received by development groups like the Port Authority and 3CDC.

click to enlarge Cincinnati City Hall
Cincinnati City Hall

Good morning all. Here’s your news today.

Jurors will continue deliberations in the Ray Tensing retrial starting at 8:30 a.m. this morning after prosecution and defense gave their closing statements yesterday. You can read about the tense, emotional trial in our weekly news feature. Stay with us for updates as we wait for the jury to announce a verdict.

• Remember that downtown Kroger we told you about? It will cost taxpayers at least $30 million through a series of state and federal tax credits, two tax increment financing districts worth $7 million for the Kroger store itself and 8.7 million for the 139-unit market-rate residential tower attached to it, a $6.5 million city grant for the development’s parking garage and another $2 million city grant for the residential tower. Phew. You can read more about all the deal-making here.

• Cincinnati City Council yesterday moved another step toward advancing its fiscal year 2017-2018 budget, but not without some controversy. Multiple moves to slim down the amount of money received by business groups like the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and public-private partnership 3CDC didn’t get through committee after some Council members balked at those cuts. Those proposals were part of an attempt by Councilwoman Yvette Simpson to boost human services funding by more than $350,000 — a goal she and other council members seem likely to take up again when Council meets about the budget tomorrow morning before a potential final vote. Council also added $500,000 for the pedestrian safety initiative sponsored by Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach. In addition, Council added $150,000 for a needle exchange program, gave minority business incubator MORTAR an additional $35,000 and axed a parking ticket penalty program expected to raise about $600,000. Council will need to find a replacement for that money before the budget is balanced. Stay tuned for more details about the budget tomorrow.

• A Greater Cincinnati college student who was imprisoned in North Korea for a year and a half has died. Otto Warmbier, who grew up in Wyoming, was flown back to Cincinnati last week after he was detained in North Korea in 2015 for allegedly stealing a state propaganda poster while on a tour of the country. Warmbier, who was in a coma when he arrived, had been detained before his flight out of the country following the tour and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. It’s unclear what led to Warmbier’s comatose state. Hamilton County Coroner Lakshmi Sammaraco will investigate his death.

• Will Newport or Cincinnati land the proposed home of FC Cincinnati? The soccer team is considering three sites — one on the Ohio River in Newport and in either the West End or Oakley in the Queen City. The deciding factor may well come down to which city is willing to pony up more money. FC is hoping to build the stadium so it can make a bid for one of two Major League Soccer franchises coming up for grabs soon. The team’s owners will put up half of the stadium’s $200 million construction cost, but want some public money for the rest. That could be a problem in Cincinnati — Hamilton County taxpayers are still paying on Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark as part of a stadium deal often derided as one of the worst in the country. But the potential bidding war for the stadium could work in the team’s favor, pushing both Cincinnati and Newport — and Ohio and Kentucky — to offer big deals to try and win the stadium location.

• The man who led the investigation that got Pete Rose barred from the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is now on President Donald Trump's legal team. John Dowd authored the 1989 report on Rose's gambling activities related to the MLB, including his betting on Reds' games, that got him barred from the league for life. Dowd will represent Trump regarding investigations that the president's campaign may have colluded with Russia during the 2016 elections.

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