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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Downtown Cincinnati Inc.'s Chair Gets Plum Gig: Coordinates Strategy For State Spending Spree

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- With DCI in the driver's seat, do the suburbs and neighborhoods have a chance? Officially, the state spending spree is called the Capital Improvements Bill. Unofficially, it is known as the Pork Bill. In 2008, Hamilton County got $18 million. In 2006, it was $20 million. Things like the Undergound Railroad Museum, football stadiums, or a theater for plays about Johnny Appleseed (near Mansfield) tend to get funded. Every two years, the Ohio General Assembly approves a capital budget with earmarks for building, replacing or improving countless assets and facilities. For the Cincinnati area region, the capital budget bill is a jackpot of money for renovation or construction of community projects. Competition is brisk. Lawmakers will fashion the Pork Bill later this year, and already local wish lists are being prepared.

DCI Chair Patricia Ann Smitson is in charge of Hamilton's County's efforts to win state money from the Pork Bill this year. DCI's job is to promote the downtown business district. Smitson is partner-in-charge of Thompson Hine LLP's, Cincinnati office. The law firm is based in Cleveland. She got the Pork Bill gig through the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has set up a task force to prioritize requests for state Pork Bill funds. In other words, the Chamber is putting together the wish list that will help determine how public funds are spent. Here's what the Chamber has told its members:

"Every two yeas the State of Ohio produces a capital spending bill that sets aside limited funds for community projects. Given the competition for limited resources, our region will not receive funding for all our local projects. In an effort to maximize our local return, representatives of the City, County, and the regional business community are working through Patricia Mann Smitson . . . to coordinate a regional winning Capital Bill strategy for 2010 and future years."

A preliminary version of the wish list already exists, and it is heavy on city projects like the streetcar, improvements at Union Terminal, the Central Riverfront Park project. But there are also requests from the suburbs. Lockland wants money to tear down the 14-acre Stearns and Foster mattress plant, an eyesore that could be redeveloped as an industrial tract along I-75. Blue Ash is seeking funds for a 40,000 square for conference center and 1,200 seat performing arts center. Green Township is looking for state financial aid for landscape improvements around a historic home that it uses for community civic meetings. Wyoming needs money to remodel its recreation center. The Mayerson Jewish Community Center in Amberley Village has requested state money to remodel its restrooms and changing areas -- they would accommodate handicap accessible facilities. Bottom line: All of these projects are unlikely to get a cent.


  1. Bill,
    She has an impossible job. Big debts on Paul Brown stadium need to be covered by capital improvements bill. Union Terminal needs capital improvement money to pay for repairs for the Strickland/Obama high speed choo-choo coming down the tracks. Mallory and the street car crowd want millions from capital improvement funding. So there you have it, Bill. We are in hock for the stadium, we need money right now for the train, and we want to go into more debt for the streetcars. I would pay off the stadium first. The DCI/downtown crowd created the stadium mess in the first place. Her guiding principle must be: Be careful what you wish for.

  2. Cincinnati streetcars = waste of money. KILL the street cars. They will suck up a fortune. Next to the streetcars, the stadium deal will look great. The Freedom Center Underground Railroad Museam deal will look great.

  3. I am hopeful that the Cincinnati street car project might kick off some economic development activity. I think it could actually be a project that brings people into the the city who will buy or rent apartments and townhomes near the proposed line. On its face, it appears to be a wiser investment than a football stadium for a professional franchise. I wish more people would comment with ideas about how capital improvement bill money should be used in Cincinnati. It is a big deal, and the money should be used wisely. A few years ago, some was earmarked for the Classical Music Hall of Fame in Cincinnati. Whatever happened to that?

  4. Question? Is it 'streetcars' or 'street car?" One word or two. I have seen it both ways in Cincinnati. Is there a proper spelling?