Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Secrecy about ballpark upsets council members

Public input absent on Reds' new home

BY Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        With taxpayers footing the bill for the new Reds stadium, Cincinnati City Council members questioned Monday why the public isn't allowed to see what it's paying for.

        Renderings and scale models of the $280 million ballpark were shown privately to a city-appointed review board two weeks ago — where design changes and a possible expansion into the public portion of the riverfront were discussed.

        “It's a problem. It's a big problem,” Councilman Todd Portune said. “There is no public scrutiny of a massive public project. We're already seeing decisions being made for the wrong reasons.”

        He said stadium planners should not be allowed to make decisions about expanding on the riverfront without public input.

Last design made public
        “They gave conditional approval to shutting the public out of public space,” Mr. Portune said, referring to minutes of an April 7 meeting of the City's Urban Design Review board. “What was presented to the (board) needs to be reviewed by the public.”

        The board — established in 1964 — reviews buildings planned in the Central Business District to determine if they mesh with city goals for the area. Although the stadium is a Hamilton County project, the board is contracted to review plans and make recommendations to the city manager.

        City Manager John Shirey did not respond Monday to repeated interview requests.

        “We don't make anything public,” board member Jay Chatterjee said in a telephone interview Monday.

        He said there are no documents for the public to review, that they belong to the Reds and the team's architects.

        “They come in with drawings, show drawings and then leave with drawings,” Mr. Chatterjee said. “They don't provide us with copies.”

        Mr. Chatterjee — dean of the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati — said he could not remember what was discussed at board meetings, which he called informal. Minutes from the last meeting show that 17 people attended: Mr. Chatterjee and three other board members, five stadium architects, a Reds representative, two Hamilton County employees, four city employees and the city manager.

        “The public has an absolute right to know what is going on with that stadium,” Mayor Charlie Luken said.

        After architects privately presented drawings at its March 1 meeting, the board criticized stadium plans as not fulfilling the civic promise of the project. At its April 7 meeting, the board recommended approval of the design with 13 conditions ranging from the stadium layout to light pole banners and facade treatments.

        “In my view, it should all be public,” Mr. Luken said. “Taxpayers are the ones footing the bill.”

Stadium design stinks Cliff Radel column (March 29)

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