What's Western & Southern Putting into the Lytle Park Public-Private Partnership?

Excuse me.  I’m a little confused.

At the end of June Mayor Cranley announced his plan to put an initiative on the ballot to increase property taxes for dedicated parks’ funding.  The list of projects he picked raised lots of questions, but one entry was especially troubling.

The reason I am confused is because I just recently submitted a public records request for the estimated costs of the renovation of the park in front of my home.  My friend, Steve Schuckman of the Park Department, was very helpful and got them for me right away.

2015-02-11-HN-MP Update_Cost Estimate (2)-page-001 2015-02-11-HN-MP Update_Cost Estimate (2)-page-002As you can see, total estimated costs for renovation are slightly under $6,000,000.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is paying $1,000,000 to reconstruct the portion of the park being torn up to install new ventilation fans in the I-71 tunnel.  Mayor Cranley’s property tax increase is intended to contribute another $5,000,000.

What I’m missing in this Mayor-branded public-private partnership is the private part of the equation.  Where the heck is Western & Southern’s contribution and why are we are giving them naming rights like it’s a tennis tournament?  I understand very clearly that John Barrett met regularly with Park Department design staff to cover such details as what shape of the sidewalk he would prefer.  But I don’t understand what this city is getting in return and why Western & Southern gets such preferential treatment in private meetings that the public cannot attend.

Cincinnati’s negotiating skills with the corporate community could stand a little improvement, don’t you think?  It’s like we’re the 90 lb. weakling at the beach with Charles Atlas kicking sand in our face.

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9 thoughts on “What's Western & Southern Putting into the Lytle Park Public-Private Partnership?

  1. Craig Hochscheid

    Western & Southern’s contribution will come in the form of checks being made payable to John Cranley’s campaign fund.

    Reply
  2. Marcia Hartsock

    What naming rights are being given? Will the park now be named Barrett Park instead of Lytle Park?
    And is any consideration being given to objections by the community at the June community meeting to some of the changes from the prior, community approved plan? For example, there was not overwhelming support for the newly added ‘exercise loop’ since the entire downtown area including the entire riverfront park system is regularly used by joggers and walkers. Is this intended to keep the hotel visitors from having to mix with the ‘rest of us’? There was also vocal support by several attendees to reinstate a child oriented play area, now eliminated from the design.
    Personally, I would be happy if the Park Board took the ODOT money, put the park back the way it was, and just kept the grass cut. Given the preferential treatment given to W&S in this newest redesign, I’m inclined not to vote in favor of the parks tax levy – that’s a negotiation tool that might be understood.

    Reply
    1. executivedreamer Post author

      I’m going to do a post next week on how the design for the park changed between 2009 (the design first based on your public input, Marcia) and the current proposal. Steve Schuckman is considering reintroducing a play area because of comments at the most recent public meeting/luxury hotel announcement. – As far as permanent naming rights, the corporate name will probably be dropped after City Council has approved the subsidies for all Western & Southern’s development in the Historic District. This is a marketing tool W&S uses prior to votes to remind everybody how much they do for Cincinnati and what great corporate citizens they are.

      Reply
  3. Dan Zavon

    Out of respect for the dead, I’d like to adjust your Charles Atlas metaphor slightly. Angelo Siciliano, weighing in at 97 pounds before he built his body and changed his name to Charles Atlas, had sand kicked in his face by a bully. That’s what supposedly motivated him to get stronger, at which point he did become the aggressor, beating up the bully, but he never picked on 97 pound weaklings, except as the target market for his body building exercise programs.

    Now for the important point: Where is the analogue to the Charles Atlas body building program? How can we toughen up our city negotiators so they get results that make sense in the PUBLIC interest?

    Reply
    1. executivedreamer Post author

      Oh, Dan, you Zavons are so delightfully, weirdly well-informed. Thanks for correcting my factual errors regarding Charles Atlas. And btw – very smooth transition into the issue that concerns us both: tilting negotiations in the direction of the public interest.

      Reply
      1. Blue Ash Mom

        This may seem off-topic, and I have the general impression that this blog shies away from politics, but I think the public interest was better served and defended back when there were no term limits. I think the fact that we had long-term incumbents gave City government a sort of weight and presence that could push back against other um, “interests.”

        When I moved to Cincinnati back in the late 1970s, there was a group of Council members that you knew were always going to be re-elected. I think that might have given the big business interests pause, because they knew they were going to have to deal with those Council members. Nowadays if they don’t get the level of cooperation they want, they just have to wait a few years and it’s a whole new Council and Mayor combo.

        It’s hard for me to imagine that Cincinnati could go back to those days of no term limits though. So sadly, no ideas here on how to tilt the balance.

      2. executivedreamer Post author

        Blue Ash Mom, you know I love to read your comments. You always sound so level-headed. –From what I can see corporations have been pulling the strings in Cincinnati for the last 30 years. But it’s getting worse. These days they are more brazen, more bold – their lobbying arm of 5 organizations (2 formed in 2012) now in an official building at 3 E. 4th. — We can change this. Poverty is hard to solve – but a lot of this policy stuff just needs to be dragged out into the light of day. If enough citizens stand up together and hold our elected officials accountable.(whoever they are) – we will get better results.

    2. executivedreamer Post author

      Oh – one more thing, Blue Ash Mom. This blog does not shy away from politics. This is what politics looks like in Cincinnati. The only thing I write about is politics and how we go about changing public policy.

      Reply
  4. Marc Raab

    John Cranley’s park plan is very, very scary. I don’t mind paying extra taxes, especially for things me and my family enjoy, but I have reservations about anything John Cranley supports/proposes. This post just makes me even more skeptical that this park plan is nothing more than a slush fund for John Cranley and Harry Black to drink from as they dish out scooby snacks to their developer friends. Purposely cutting out city council from the decision making is a BAD DEAL.

    Reply

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