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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Freedom Center update

UPDATE: Cincinnati Councilman Chris Monzel is now weighing in on the issue. He sent this press release today saying council should not give the money to the Freedom Center.

"They were granted the opportunity, for free, to use the land," he said in the press release. "They have not done so in 7 years. Now, after asking the city and county for public dollars from our budgets, they are going to try to charge us for use of that land. The Freedom Center has repeatedly asked for taxpayer monies and they seem to have found another way to try to reach into the public’s pocket. "

Commissioner Todd Portune said Wednesday that talks are progressing with the Underground Railroad Freedom Center and "I think this is going to get resolved in a way everyone can feel good about."

What exactly that means is yet to be seen, but chances are it will involve less county money.

Portune was speaking about the controversy involving the Freedom Center's $1 million asking price for a 1.6-acre lawn directly south of the museum. The county and city gave the land to the Freedom Center in 2002 for a park. The Freedom Center hasn't had the funds to develop the park, but now wants the city and county, who plan to use it for Banks project restaurants, to pay $500,000 each to get the land back.

Commissioners were outraged. Pat DeWine called the request "extortion." Portune took a less-confrontational tone, but said he, too, doesn't think the Freedom Center should charge. (Commissioner David Pepper can't comment because his father is on the Freedom Center board). Several people (Mostly COAST members or their supporters) came to a public hearing Monday night about capital project funding to bash the Center. They told commissioners to make sure it doesn't get any state money. (The Freedom Center, by the way, hadn't even asked for any project money yet.)

"The public doesn’t want funding for the Freedom Center," said Chris Finney. "The organization has repeatedly lied to voters"

Sycamore Township Trustee Tom Weidman presented resolutions filed in 2006 by the township stating it opposed funding for the center.

"It is time for them to wean themselves form public funds," he said. Anderson Township passed a similar resolution.

So it's clear the Freedom Center hasn't earned any friends during this ordeal. But did they really try to hoodwink the taxpayers?

The Freedom Center says it had been negotiating the $1 million price tag with the Banks Working Group since last summer. It had two assessments done that actually placed the land at a much higher value. It says the negotiations were in good faith and everyone seemed to think the request was reasonable.

The Working Group includes representatives from both the city and the county, so none of the elected officials should have been surprised at the request, which was reduced to writing Dec. 31, said Freedom Center's Paul Bernish.

City council wasn't surprised. Some council members even said they thought the Center would ask for more. But somehow commissioners were caught off guard.

Tom Gableman, the lawyer who represents the commission on the BWG, said "My understanding is commissioners were aware that there were discussions about the release of the land."

Portune said Tuesday: "They (Freedom Center) were in contact with various members of the city including the mayor but they neglected to talk to me and Pat. I don't think it was intentional. They may have thought Tom was relaying that information but that didn't happen."

Plus, he noted, "everyone knows the BWG is advisory anyway and until groups sign off there can be no deal."

So at least now, everyone is talking. They have several options: create a city/county/Freedom Center contract that asks for a different price (which would require the city to call a special meeting to vote by the deadline), the developer could buy the rights directly, or the Freedom Center could give the land up for nothing. The last two options would not require a vote.

The parties could also extend the contract as long as the city, county and Banks developer agree to do so.


at 2:29 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many prisoners could the NURFC hold? Kill two birds with one stone: unload this albatross and give the jailbirds a place to call home.

at 2:57 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

What boob gave the land to the museum anyway? You mention it was given to them in 2002, so that would place it on DeWine & Hiemlich's watch. Typical.

Give them the money for the land, since they were given the land by the bumbling government. But then make sure that they never get another dime of the taxpayers money. Never, ever again.

at 4:03 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...


The coast racist are PATHETIC !

The Freedom Center is a museum !

There is not one museum in the county that does not receive assistance !

The coast racists just want to project their hate on society, PERIOD !

Don't be surprised when the coast hate crowd has a civil rights complaint against them. After all, they call it the slave center !

We are no longer going to kiss 'finny's fanny' !

The Freedom Center, in an arms length transaction, acquired the rights to the land. They should be compensated fair market value, PERIOD !

As the racists coast would claim: Indian Giver !



at 4:33 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the thing -
We have been supporting the Zoo, the Natural History Museum, the Taft Museum (for Christ's sake)and a number of other cultural projects - what is it that COAST and others see is so different about supporting a museum dedicated to this integral and evolving part of our history?

There's only one answer - our community is STILL suffering from the very elements that make this museum sooooo important.

So why do they keep "re-upping" on public funds? Because they are the only museum that isn't a line item in a continuing budget plan due to the racial tensions so pervasive in this community, the very community hosting the Museum.

Do I think they should ask for money for something gifted to them and not being used - no, it's plain rude and could've been a piece of the Museum "giving back" when needed. Bad PR move.

But until we commit to supporting the Museum long term as the valued and unique project it is - they will continue to have to beg for money publicly.

Cut all the other Museums, and then we can talk about greed - right now, it's just a fight for their fair share.

I propose that we combine all cultural programs under one tax and devise a formula to devvy up the money fairly and equitably.

at 4:52 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

at 5:42 PM, January 16, 2008 Blogger Haystacks Calhoun said...

I, for one, have no problem with giving the museum the money for the land.....with the caveat that the Million is IT. No more public money for anything, not a red cent...

That would be a far cheaper solution to the museum problem, and a cheaper solution for taxpayers in the long run.

at 7:24 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

So COAST has a comment on this issue. COAST has lost all relevance. DeWine punked, Brinkman termed-out and Finney is just a blow-hard with no guts to run for office. Boyd....who? I bet if Blitherman could find a connection, the NAACP would be somewhere in the mix.

at 8:34 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

The land was originally intended to be a water park, a metaphor for the river crossing to the (eternal) light of freedom. Cost problems put the kabosh upon that notion.

I agree: $1 million in walking away money and that's that. No levies, no votes by City Council or the County or the General Assembly (how long before Kearney and/or Yates start throwing good money after bad?).

at 9:04 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Free us from the Freedom Center said...

The "leaders" already said- We'll pay you off this time, but no more.
How many no mores can there be?
Q- What part of NO more don't those wackos get?
A- The NO part.
(They get the MORE part.)

at 9:55 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...


at 10:44 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the ill-will toward the freedom center has root in the fact that it was built under the promise of no "new taxes." Most of the public didnt believe that was possible, and we were right. So whenever we hear about the freedom center asking for money (in any form) there is outrage from ordinary people who feel they were lied to and feel that we are being nickeled and dimed to death with taxes and other government fees. Racial tension plays a part, but not as much as a lot of folks think.

at 11:05 PM, January 16, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, Chris Monzel, Master of the Meaningless, chimes in with a completely and totally unimportant pitifully lame mockery of a press release stating his opposition to something he has no say in.

Monzel is either the dumbest member of Council or he is too dumb to realize he has the most inept, ineffective, and incompetent staff in the history of City Hall.

at 12:25 AM, January 17, 2008 Blogger The Great Stephen Dapper said...

Why is the Freedom Center considered the bad guy in any of this? Should they be forced to give away their assets? Local Governments deeded property in question to them, no disputing it is theirs. Let us put aside all ill will towards the Freedom Center asking if it is fair and just for government taking property from one to give another?

Government, through eminent domain, can take property, but only with just compensation. Ask Ed Rothenberg about property values, it’s all about location. One and half acres of prime river front property is worth over a million bucks, Freedom Center board of directors knows the value of their assets, they are merely asking for just compensation.

Banks developers Carter Real Estate and Dawson Company are the bad guys. They are the ones that submitted plans to develop the area, they were given precise meets and bounds of the project, if now, for whatever reason, they require additional property they should purchase it, the government has a contract, they should enforce it, not steal another citizens property. Our commissioners should tell Carter Real Estate and Dawson Company if they want additional property they will have to purchase it, perhaps Ed Rothenberg can broker the deal.

at 6:42 AM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Slave Center's behavior is an outrage. After securing tens of millions of taxpayer funds to build the museum by promising to be self-sufficient once open, they have broken their word by continuing to seek more taxpayer funds. This latest effort, charging us money to develop land that was given to them for free to develop themselves, just shows how desperate they are to take more and more of our money.

Why aren't more politicians standing up for the taxpayer here? Whenever taxpayers are being defended it's the same few who are defending us. No more taxpayer funds for them. If the Creation Museum can thrive without taxpayer funds, the Slave Museum should as well.

at 7:53 AM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Use the $1 Million for a wrecking ball and use the land for Banks development.

at 8:37 AM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monzel is such a pathetic politician, he even grandstands too late. What a tool!

at 9:59 AM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like how Pepper hides behind his daddy not commenting. Just because he shouldn't vote on the matter as a conflict of interest doesn't mean he cannot comment on the matter.

Maybe he's like the scarecrow - no brain.

Oh, and the "Free"dom center isn't free!! LOL

at 10:03 AM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the bold faced typist is a racist. "jew everybody down" she wrote.

Looks like bold faced typist has the same liberal fascist tendencies that Adolf Hitler had.

at 11:42 AM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

looks like the bold-faced typist doesn't know the difference between Monzel and Bortz

at 12:39 PM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 11:42,

I think the bold poster who wrote about Monzel is not the same bold italics poster. Either that, or he/she/it forgot the italics AND their "PATHETIC/HAD ENOUGH" et al stuff, too.

No, I think the poster criticizing Monzel is the same one who has taken potshots at Monzel on this blog he returned to Council.

Personally, the only negative things I have ever heard about Monzel have come from the mouths of Leslie Ghiz' former staffer.

You do the math.

at 5:35 PM, January 17, 2008 Anonymous Lifelong Cincinnatian-Linda Franke-Shelton said...

A comparable example of the current law suit in the Nevada Democratic Caucus situation of accommodating the Culinary Union by placing voting facilities on the job site to encourage caucus goers. The Dems agreed with full knowledge to the arrangement before it became a negative for the front runner opponent Clinton via the Culinary Union endorsement of Obama.
The City "gave" the land to the NURFC museum, apparently no strings attached. Now the developers, etc. see the opportunity to expand their horizons by developing the 1.6 acre parcel with the development of The Banks. The City must donate $1,000,000. of the taxpayers money or find a way to rescind the gift. Why not entertain the idea of leasing the property from the NURFC.
The decision makers for the location of the new SCPA did so with full knowledge of all the facilities, including the Drop Inn Center, within spitting distance of the new school. Now they are citing the risks and appealing to the public after their decision.

at 1:14 AM, January 18, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Once again, Chris Monzel, Master of the Meaningless, chimes in with a completely and totally unimportant pitifully lame mockery of a press release stating his opposition to something he has no say in."

Actually, he's one of the 9 Councilman who will be VOTING on this issue. As usual, the Monzel haters demonstrate their lack of intellect.

As a middle class taxpayer I thank Chris Monzel for once again being the only member of City Council who actually looks out for us. The rest of them cater to their rich donors. Monzel sticks up for the taxpayer first.

at 5:19 AM, January 18, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

First where are all of the people crying about the conflict of interest with Pepper and the family involved in the running of the Freedom Center. If that is not a conflict of interest I don't know what is. I am sure if the Peppers were republicans we would be hearing all about it from the left.

People here is what you are not hearing. Those that planned and were going to run the Freedom Center made a promise. They promissed that they would run the Center once it was built with no taz payer dollars. The have failied and failed badly. They have time and time again asked for more and more money. There does come a point when enough is enough. They are so poorly managed that the land in questioned was never developed because of the Museums Mismanagement. The Freedom Center should say to the city, the county, and the tax payers thank you for all of the help and all of the money. Here is the piece of land that is not being used. Please develope it and make the most out of it. I bet that would get some people on their side. Also everyone is very short sided in their thinking. Freedom Center gives the land to the banks. It is developed and guess what happens. The Banks along with that one-acre of land will lead to thousands of people being in the area everyday. Some of those people will walk through the doors of the museum and pay the admissions fee. Freedom Center give the land back for free, and then reap the rewards of good publicity and the developement at the door steps of the Center. Don't be short-sighted and piss us off more.

at 9:43 AM, January 18, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give them the money they pay Gableman, and let the prosecutor do his job...represent the county.

at 2:20 PM, January 18, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon: 5:19 am.

Appropriately, Pepper recused himself from the outset, as he always has with the Freedom Center (and as he said he would whenever Heimlich desperately raised it as a desperate campaign).

at 8:55 PM, January 18, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Had Enough" apparently had enough and either gone underground or died. A major improvement in blogosphere!

at 1:02 PM, January 20, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no problem reacquiring the property. It however should be sold to the developer at market price.

On top of that action, go after Mike Brown in the same way. His pot of public money is much bigger than the paltry amounts the UGM has received. And this is to the better good, without uneven lease agreements, banks veto power etc...

at 3:26 PM, January 21, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monzel is a clueless hack politician. Nothing more.

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