By the time you read this, I will be in Italy. But I don’t need to be stateside to know what’s going on in Cincinnati. And I don’t own a crystal ball. The same thing happens on the final Friday before City Council recesses for the summer every year. Year after year after year.
Sometime late this afternoon, the city manager will add a long list of Emergency Ordinances to the agenda for Monday morning’s last Budget & Finance Committee meeting at 1 pm. These emergency ordinances will involve hundreds of pages of supporting documentation related to the biggest real estate deals in the city’s development pipeline. Most of them will be CRA (Community Reinvestment Area) property tax abatement of 7-15 years. But there will almost certainly be at least a couple of Tax Increment Financing projects thrown into the mix as well, extremely complicated deals that give away the store for over thirty years and often include air rights and transfer of valuable city-owned land to the developer for $1. We call these deals public-private partnerships, but that’s a misnomer as the public-part of the equation is completely and intentionally excluded from the decision-making process.
Over the last year, I’ve made some friends in the City’s economic development department. One of them explained to me that there is nothing sinister about the last-minute packing of the agenda. “You know how people are,” he said. “They wait until right before the deadline to get things done.” I trust this guy. He’s a hard-worker and honest. Smart. But even if he’s right, this is not an unsolvable problem. All we need to do is discontinue the use of Emergency Ordinances on the bigger Tax Increment Financing projects, force these decisions through the normal process.
For those of you who accepted deputy badges at the Cincyopolis celebration earlier this month, here’s a link to the Budget & Finance agenda. Check it around 4 pm. If these Emergency Ordinances pass without changes, they will go before Council for final vote on Wednesday and become law.
Synchronize your watches, Citizens. Let’s try to make a little noise.