Morning News: FC Cincinnati unveils stadium plans; city, county meet behind closed doors on MSD; state lawmakers mull photo ID for food stamps

FC Cincinnati's proposal involves $250 million in private investment but seeks public dollars for a new stadium, possibly in Oakley, the West End or Newport, Ky.

click to enlarge Rendering of the proposed FC Cincinnati stadium
Rendering of the proposed FC Cincinnati stadium

Hello all. If you’re a basketball fan with any loyalty to Ohio, you’re probably in deep mourning today. But take solace! Because the Warriors won a random game several days ago, you can drown your sorrows with a free taco later today for some reason. While you wait for that window of opportunity, let’s talk news.

FC Cincinnati officials last night unveiled their plans for a dedicated soccer stadium for the team — part of a bid to land one of two Major League Soccer spots up for grabs. Currently, FC Cincinnati plays at University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, but officials say they want to have a plan in place so they can be considered for the MLS expansion that will begin in 2020. MLS officials have indicated that only teams with their own stadiums will be considered for those spots. The plans, which were presented to season ticket holders at the Woodward Theater, call for a 25,000-seat horseshoe shaped stadium with a street-level pub, a fan plaza and other “innovative” amenities, according to FC majority owner Carl Linder III. Private investment will pay for about $250 million of the project, Lindner said, but it’s unclear where the financing for the rest of the nearly half a billion dollar project will come from. One possibility is a public-private partnership, FC boosters say, though that will be a heavy lift. Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials have already signaled that they’re opposed to any taxpayer money going to a stadium. That, however, might not be the only option — the renderings showcased last night show the stadium in Newport. That’s not a done deal by any stretch, FC officials say — they’re also looking into the West End and Oakley — but it’s a possibility.

• City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials are meeting to decide the fate of the jointly-run Metropolitan Sewer District behind the veil of court-ordered non-disclosure agreements. The city and the county have both handled MSD operations since a 1968, but the agreement between them expires next year. They’ve been negotiating in U.S. District Court for a year, and recently, Cincinnati City Council members have been brought into the fold. But council members have had to sign the nondisclosure agreements, raising questions about government transparency — Council isn’t permitted to meet in private, per the city charter. At stake in the negotiations: hundreds of millions of dollars in fees from water users in Hamilton and parts of Butler, Warren and Clermont counties, as well as a $3 billion, court-ordered sewer upgrade.

• The Ray Tensing trial continues today, with the seconds around the shooting of unarmed motorist Sam DuBose expected to be the main focus. Yesterday, jurors heard testimony from video experts about the body camera footage showing the traffic stop that led to DuBose’s death, with video expert witness Grant Fredericks testifying that the footage does not match Tensing’s version of events that day. Today, Fredericks will likely break down the shooting video frame by frame. Meanwhile, activists are planning a protest outside the Hamilton County Courthouse calling for Tensing’s conviction.

• Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials yesterday asked Duke Energy to cease and desist sending its employees onto private property as the company works to build a controversial natural gas pipeline through some city neighborhood and East Side suburbs. At a news conference in Roselawn, near the proposed pipeline’s route. Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said that some homeowners have reported Duke employees entering their property and asking them to sign agreements giving up certain rights. Duke says its workers are just doing pre-pipeline inspections and haven’t asked residents to sign anything. The city and county oppose the pipeline as routed, as do a number of residents of the area it will pass through.

• Cincinnati missed out on an international conference of water industry leaders after the election of President Donald Trump, conference organizers say. The Water and Energy Exchange, a London-based water industry group, convenes a conference each year, drawing hundreds of experts in the field. This year, that conference was slated to be held in Cincinnati — the first location in the U.S. to host it. That would have brought in about $200,000 in direct spending for hotel rooms and the like, plus potential for other short-term spending and even long-term investment. Cincinnati was chosen because it’s the site of a major Environmental Protection Agency water research facility and because the city is known as a premier location for its water infrastructure. But Exchange cancelled the conference after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord earlier this month. That’s because some sponsors were squeamish about the gathering being held in the U.S., given changing environmental priorities here.

• A law that would require a photo ID for food assistance is on its way through the Ohio legislature. The bill, which would add recipients’ photos to EBT cards, passed through committee in the Ohio House yesterday, though a full vote in the House isn’t scheduled yet. Many Republican lawmakers support the idea, though some Democrats say the program doesn’t actually experience much fraud and that it could cause problems for people who need caretakers or family members to do their shopping for them.

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