West End land in potential stadia deal currently generates no property taxes; Kasich reverses course on gun control; more news

Following last week's mass shooting in Florida, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has called on the Trump administration to push "commonsense gun laws," since the NRA-endorsed Republican has "no confidence" that Congress will. That's a change of tone for Kasich.

click to enlarge Stargel Stadium in the West End - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Stargel Stadium in the West End

Good morning, all. Hope you had a good weekend. Let’s talk news real quick.

A big question floating around about FC Cincinnati’s bid to potentially build a soccer stadium in the West End is whether Cincinnati Public Schools will receive full payment from any proposed development via property taxes. Team officials say the district won't receive any less than it currently does for lands associated with two potential stadia — which is zero.

"Every single aspect of a deal with CPS, they would be held harmless," FCC General Manager Jeff Berding told the West End Community Council Feb. 13. "Any tax dollars where the stadium would be, they would get that much or more. They will not get less."

It would be impossible for CPS to get less money than they are getting now from the land. According to correspondence from the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development obtained by CityBeat, neither the land currently under consideration for FC Cincinnati’s potential soccer stadium — the current site of Stargel Stadium owned by CPS — nor land south of Ezzard Charles Drive where the team wants to move Stargel generates any property taxes for the city or the district.

There are still questions about how much tax liability a completed stadium would bring to the team. There have been some suggestions that the Hamilton County Port Authority could end up owning the stadium and leasing it to the team, making it tax exempt.

• Tough financial times for the city’s bus service have caused big tensions among leadership there. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s board of trustees has asked that the president of the city’s chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Troy Miller, and the general manager of the city’s Metro bus service, Dwight Ferrell, enter into mediation over ongoing issues. Miller says that a shortage of drivers and aging buses are causing low morale and driver fatigue, and that Metro leadership is wasting money via high employee turnover. Ferrell disputes that the bus service is wasting funds and cites Metro’s looming budget deficits, which he says are caused by increasing costs and lack of state and other funding. The tension comes as Metro looks to convince voters to approve a tax levy on the November ballot that would fund service improvements.

• A transgender teen is one step closer to getting hormone therapy barred by his parents after Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Sylvia Hendon granted legal custody of the teen to his grandparents. Before the teen can get the hormone treatment he’s seeking from Children’s Hospital, however, he must undergo psychological evaluation by a professional not associated with the hospital. The teen says in court documents that his parents have refused to allow the gender conversion therapy, and have forced him to listen to Bible tracts. The parents have been paying for traditional therapy for anxiety and depression at Children’s Hospital as well. 

• United Way will drop a $200,000 administrative fee related to its oversight of Cincinnati’s Preschool Promise, the nonprofit says. Officials with United Way say they want that money to go toward the program’s goal of providing quality preschool for as many Cincinnati students as possible. The initiative has missed some of its goals in terms of enrollment and teacher pay, but has registered more than 1,100 students for preschool in Cincinnati Public School and other preschools.

• Oops. Are you aware that this month is the month that it is? A day after a video of a white Mason City Schools student using a racial slur circulated around the internet and caused big controversy at the suburban district, a teacher there handed out an extra credit assignment for Black History Month. Only that assignment went out of its way to avoid mentioning black history, calling the occasion designed to commemorate the contributions of black citizens “February Awareness Month.” That, as you might guess, caused consternation from some of those present, and even district spokesperson Tracey Carson called the worksheet “a total miss.”

• Here’s a quick hit (no pun intended (OK, maybe a small pun intended)): If you’re eligible for legal use of medicinal marijuana in Ohio and are looking forward to sparking up, maybe hold off for now. It seems a number of employers in the state are looking to prohibit medical marijuana use among employees. Buzzkill.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office on Friday released details about a plan that would add work requirements for Ohio’s 700,000 Medicaid expansion recipients. That move, which needs to be OK’d by federal regulators, would affect about one in 20 recipients of the federally subsidized medical benefits, or about 36,000 residents. The rest of the state’s recipients either already work the required 20 hours a week or would be exempt from the requirements due to age or medical conditions. Indiana and Kentucky have received federal approval for similar stipulations and nine other states are awaiting the go-ahead from the feds.

• In the fallout of Ohio online charter Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s closure last month, some students are still having a hard time getting transcripts from the internet-based school. That’s hamstrung efforts to get some students enrolled in other schools, according to students’ parents. ECOT was shuttered by its sponsoring organization after it was revealed it owed the state of Ohio millions of dollars in funding due to botched attendance records. ECOT was billing the state for thousands of students who never logged in or did assignments. The millions of dollars the school must pay back forced it to go out of business, officials from its sponsoring organization have said. The charter is currently fighting an uphill court battle to change the terms of its repayment on those funds so it can reopen.

• Finally, the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 people dead is causing political waves here in Ohio. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a staunch conservative who has in the past signed legislation making it easier to obtain guns here, has called on the Trump administration to help pass “commonsense gun laws” because he has “no confidence” that Congress will make the first move. Kasich is — for now, at least — endorsed by the National Rifle Association, whose powerful lobbying arm has swayed many conservative politicians to oppose any restrictions on guns. Meanwhile, statewide gun advocacy group the Buckeye Firearms Association is pushing back on calls for restrictions, saying that firearm owners in Ohio are responsible and that more work needs to be done on mental illness, emergency response and training teachers to use firearms.

“We are going to implement things that work rather than offer political soundbites," BFA president Jim Irvine said.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones has weighed in with similar solutions, offering to give free concealed carry license classes to Butler County teachers, because of course the answer to violence in schools is more teachers with guns.

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