What the city, county would have ponied up for Amazon HQ2; CPD captain alleges gender discrimination; more news

The city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's $3.1 billion Amazon pitch ranges from the mundane — office space on the Banks — to ambitious — caps over Fort Washington Way — to the really out there. We're talking water jet packs.

click to enlarge Cincinnati Police headquarters - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati Police headquarters

Hello Cincy. Here’s some quick news for you today.

How much did Cincinnati and Hamilton County want Amazon’s HQ2 in the Greater Cincinnati area? Oh, to the tune of about $3.1 billion in incentives, according to emails between city and county officials and business leaders released to the Cincinnati Business Courier yesterday. The effort was to be called “Project Conway” and would have centered Amazon’s 7 million-square-foot campus at The Banks, on caps constructed over Fort Washington Way, and in buildings on the other side of the highway along with other sites throughout downtown including the pending Fourth and Race site.

Another focus of the proposal was beefing up transit options, a big priority for Amazon. Ideas included establishing an “Amazon Prime Line” between downtown and Northern Kentucky using buses, shuttles or streetcars, as well as an express bus route between the campus and CVG International Airport. Earlier versions of the plan called for bus rapid transit lines, light rail like the proposed Oasis Rail Line, a $104 million extension of the streetcar into Newport and other major transit projects.

Alas, Cincinnati didn’t make it onto Amazon’s Top 20 list, meaning we may never see the “water jetpacks” discussed in one set of emails from city employees. 

• FC Cincinnati yesterday gave a report on potential impacts its proposed stadium could have on Oakley to a mostly-receptive audience convened by the neighborhood’s community council. While some residents were concerned about how the $200 million stadium would impact the neighborhood’s walkability and its traffic patterns, FCC GM Jeff Berding worked to allay those fears. A potential FCC facility could actually make the neighborhood more walkable, Berding claimed.

“I hope our stadium is an opportunity to change the suburban mall-like nature of Oakley Station and help transform it to what was committed in the first place, which was a walkable mixed-use commercial development that’s appropriate for an urban city neighborhood,” Berding told the crowd.

A study commissioned by FCC and completed by Bayer Becker found that several intersections would need to be expanded to make way for traffic associated with the stadium, but also that a couple key thoroughfares wouldn’t need expensive additions. Those needing work would include Madison Road and Vandercar Way, Vandercar Way and Marburg Avenue, Madison Road and Ridge Road and Marburg Avenue and Ibsen Avenue. That study assumed a 28,000-seat stadium hosting as many as 30 events a year. FCC’s planned stadium would start at 21,000 seats, but could be expanded. The city and county have pledged some $52 million in infrastructure to cover alterations to roads and to build a parking garage at the Oakley site. FCC is also still mulling the West End and Newport for its stadium.

• A Cincinnati police captain says she has been targeted by fellow officers as part of larger campaign to force CPD Chief Eliot Isaac from his leadership role, multiple news outlets have reported. Capt. Bridget Bardua heads CPD’s District 5. She alleges gender discrimination in a complaint filed recently with the city and with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Bardua’s complaint says that two assistant chiefs at CPD, Paul Neudigate and David Bailey, have zeroed in on Bardua’s leadership practices overseeing the district’s Neighborhood Liaison Unit, even though those practices are the same ones that have been used for over a decade, including when Neudigate and Bailey ran the department. There are other elements to Bardua’s complaint, including a claim that CPD inspections commander Jeff Butler showed up at Bardua’s house to talk about an overtime audit of her district. During that visit, Bardua claims, Butler threatened her job or Chief Isaac’s. Another officer, Melissa Cummins, filed a complaint supporting Bardua’s. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black found out about the EEOC complaint yesterday, a spokesman says. CPD Chief Isaac says the department welcomes input from the EEOC.

• Cincinnati City Council committees today are discussing a possible pause to the city’s responsible bidder ordinance until Sep. 5. That ordinance requires contractors working with efforts by Greater Cincinnati Water Works and other projects must have apprenticeship programs for workers, among other stipulations. Critics of that ordinance, including Mayor John Cranley, say it will hurt efforts to include more minority businesses in city contracting. Councilman Chris Seelbach today introduced some adjustments to the ordinance aimed at preserving the city’s inclusion efforts while still pushing for the apprenticeship programs. Responsible bidder has been a source of tension for years, though a federal court recently ruled that the city is allowed to go ahead with the stipulations.

• Another council tidbit: Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard today during council's Major Projects and Smart Governing Committee will introduce a motion seeking to move the first full council meeting of each month to 6:00 p.m. to give those who work during the day an opportunity to attend. Public comment for those meetings would take place at 5:30 p.m. Dennard says the time change she's seeking is part of a larger effort to make City Hall more accessible to Cincinnatians. That effort also includes holding office hours in various neighborhoods around the city, including Sayler Park, where Dennard recently set up shop.

"Regular people can't and shouldn't have to take an afternoon off of work to lobby their city officials," Dennard said in a news release about the proposal.

Council members Wendell Young, Greg Landsman, Chris Seelbach and Jeff Pastor are also supporting the motion.

• A Clifton minister who has undergone scrutiny by his church for his same-sex marriage will have to go through another hearing about that union. The United Methodist Church’s local church court dismissed two of three charges related to Rev. David Meredith’s marriage to his partner of 29 years. Those complaints, brought by fellow reverends from Anderson Township and Hillsboro, could have forced Meredith from the church. A regional Methodist court hearing cases from the upper Midwest region will hear Meredith’s case Friday and decide whether to uphold the lower court’s decision exonerating Meredith on the more serious charges leveled against him or whether to send them back to the lower court for reconsideration. Meredith calls the complaints against him “mean spirited” but says the battle between him and other ministers opposed to homosexuality isn’t personal.

• Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced yesterday that the state will sue agribusiness giant Monsanto and two affiliated companies for costs associated with cleaning up PCBs in rivers, soil and plants statewide. The suit claims that Monsanto marketed and sold PCBs for decades despite having knowledge that the chemical is a carcinogen. An attorney for Monsanto says the company will “defend ourselves aggressively.”

• In the wake of new efforts to curb addiction around the nation's opioid crisis, prescriptions of the addictive painkillers are falling in Ohio. The Ohio Pharmacy Board yesterday released its report on prescriptions in the state. The board found that, for the fifth straight year, doctors prescribed fewer opioids. Patients received 568 million opioid doses last year, according to the data. That's down from 631 million in 2016 and the state's peak of 793 million in 2012. Part of that reduction comes from stricter laws, improvements to the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System and other policy tweaks.

"Ohio has one of the most comprehensive and aggressive approaches in the country to tackling the opioid epidemic," Pharmacy Board Executive Director Steven W. Schierholt wrote in a statement. "Through improvements to OARRS, new prescribing rules and guidelines, shuttering pill mills and aggressive regulatory action against unscrupulous prescribers, the state is making considerable progress in reducing the supply of prescription opioids and other controlled substances that can be abused or diverted."

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich is set to give his final State of the State address tonight. The term-limited Republican’s time as the state’s top executive is nearing its end, but that doesn’t mean Kasich is putting on golf shoes to join fellow GOPer John Boehner on the links. Look for Kasich to use the speech from Westerville, a suburb of Columbus, to recap major accomplishments and refine a potential 2020 presidential pitch to voters. It won’t be an easy speech to give — Ohio’s economy still lags behind much of the rest of the U.S.; our unemployment rate is roughly 5 percent, compared to the nation’s 4.1 percent — and Kasich’s key pushes these days have come in the form of calling for “common sense” gun control laws that many in his party abhor.

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