Tuesday, September 12, 2000

Port authority has go-ahead


City-county deal provides leadership for Banks project

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Specific questions about Cincinnati's riverfront can be answered later, city and county officials decided Monday, with details worked out down the road — or down the river.

        City and county officials agreed to create an expanded port authority to lead development of the $250 million Banks project.

        Despite several objections last week — including a report by the Hamilton County administrator and criticisms by City Council members challenging the body's authority — only minor concerns were raised in separate meetings Monday.

WHAT'S NEXT
  • Wednesday: Hamilton County commissioners scheduled to vote on setting up an agency to lead riverfront development. County Commission chambers.
  • Thursday: 7 p.m. public hearing on the port authority in City Council chambers, City Hall, 801 Plum St.
  • Monday: 1 p.m. hearing of the City Council's Community Development Committee in council chambers.
  • Sept. 20: 2 p.m.; City Council scheduled to vote on the port authority, in council chambers.
        “The port authority does not have the authority to do anything the city and county can't do,” County Administrator David Krings told county commissioners. “However, the level of distrust, or lack of faith, in the city's development speaks in favor of the port authority.”

        The only protest came from County Commissioner John Dow lin, who said he did not want to “jump too fast” in creating a separate government agency.

        Referring to Mr. Krings' report, he said several issues have been raised about how much authority the port should be given. Because the port will assume control of the riverfront, Mr. Dowlin asked if it would assume the county's responsibility to provide parking at the two riverfront stadiums.

        But Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus said the questions were secondary to agreeing on the concept.

        “When the city and county try to negotiate something, and get something done, it's a bloody, ugly process,” he said. “The port authority is the best vehicle available to us now to get something done.”

        Commissioner Tom Neyer agreed, saying “every week we let this slide, The Banks is (jeopardized).”

        While the county is scheduled to vote on an agreement this week, City Council members said they will wait until Sept. 20. Sev eral members said Monday they want a special hearing to give the public a chance to review a concept agreement that includes:

        • Specific boundaries for the Port Authority.

        • The port authority board, with nine members appointed by the county and nine by the city, with staggered terms.

        • At least two 18-member committees appointed by the county and city for riverfront development and for brownfields development, which involves the port's long-time charge of cleaning up contaminated industrial sites.

        • A statement that the authority comply with the state's open meetings law, which require meetings to be scheduled in advance and be open to the public.

        • Commitments from the city and county of $350,000 each for the next three years for port authority operations.

        What the port authority will not have is taxing authority.

        The Riverfront Advisers, a private group that drew up the riverfront development proposal last year, said last week that taxing authority was needed in order to attract world-class private developers, even though the project did not rely on new taxes.

        But several council members opposed it, saying the ability to put tax questions on a ballot should rest with elected officials. They threatened to vote against the plan.

        During the weekend, Riverfront Advisers backed off the tax issue.

        The advisers also agreed Monday that the council would not hurt the proposal by waiting to vote. Originally, they said a vote was needed by Aug. 1, then moved that to Sept. 15.

        The reason for the deadline is to ensure the port authority has time to choose a developer before the end of the year.

        “I'd rather do it right than do it by deadline,” said Riverfront Advisers Chairman Jack Rouse. “The world doesn't end next Monday.”

       



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