How FC Cincinnati, Jeff Berding and Carl Lindner III got everything they wanted

Raise your hand if you ever believed for a second that Cincinnati FC really wanted to build a football stadium in the cramped neighborhoods of Oakley.

OK, now raise your hand if you believed in the fairy tale of stuck a Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in the middle of Newport. Kentucky FC, anyone?

One more question: Did you ever believe that the general manager of FC Cincinnati, Jeff Berding, a masterful political strategist if there was one, and the chief owner, Carl Lindner III, would not get exactly that from this long and excruciating process, what they wanted? that ended late Tuesday? Both men granted their wish when the MLS franchised FC Cincinnati to eventually play in a brand new football stadium with 21,000 spectators in the West End of Cincinnati.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you better go back to school for the exam and Political Theory 101.

This was predetermined from day one.

And according to David Niven, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, it was Berding’s masterful political maneuver.

“That was the triumph of herding cats,” said Niven. “(Berding) has to deal with the Cincinnati local council, school board, county, and city council.

“There were so many veto points and Berding was able to overcome them all,” said Niven.

Oakley was just a sleight of hand from Cincinnati FC; Newport, a distraction aimed at cranking the often slow moving machines at Cincinnati City Hall.

One question Cincinnatians, whether excited or not excited about joining the MLS, should be asking themselves is the role that the Cincinnati City Council elections last fall in Cincinnati’s success in landing the West End location might have played.

Jeff Pastor was a total stranger – a teacher at a charter school – when he was endorsed by the Republican Party as one of their three city council candidates.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Jeff Pastor, member of the Cincinnati City Council.

Nobody – not even his own party – gave him a great opportunity. But suddenly, during the campaign, he began listing his position as executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of former Duro Bag owner Charlie Shors.

Shor is a very wealthy man. This became evident when Pastor started showing up in African American churches handing out five-digit checks to pastors, usually in front of the congregation. This is not normal behavior during a city council campaign. We have been part of city council campaigns since 1983 and have never seen anything like it.

And in the end, Pastor won the ninth and final seat on the city council, ousting Democrat Michelle Dillingham with just under 223 votes.

Have all of those checks flying around bought Pastor enough votes to win? (These controls are now also being scrutinized.)

If so, it made a big difference in Cincinnati FC’s plan to turn what is now Taft IT High School’s Stargel Stadium into a brand new football stadium.

Cincinnati FC needed the city council to approve spending of $ 35 million on infrastructure improvements in and around the West End locations.

In the end it was 5-4, with Pastor voting for it. Dillingham has made it clear that she would have voted against.

Berding, a former Cincinnati city council member, had yet to finalize a “community service agreement” with stakeholders in the West End – an agreement the city council would be willing to sign.

The Council signed the agreement with a 7-0 vote. That came after Cincinnati FC, The Port of Greater Cincinnati, six members of the West End Community Council and their attorney met for nine hours to work behind closed doors on the deal. The councilors sat around and twisted their thumbs as this happened.

Here’s what they came up with:

  • The port will commission a housing study in the West End, with Cincinnati FC paying up to $ 100,000 in costs.
  • Cincinnati FC will start and support a youth soccer program in the West End with an annual commitment of $ 100,000.
  • Cincinnati FC will support The Port’s efforts to stabilize and revitalize the Regal Theater on Linn Street.
  • Cincinnati FC will ask the general contractor to hold two job fairs in the West End – one for stadium construction and another after construction.
  • The community will influence the design elements of the football stadium and the new Stargel Stadium, which is being built nearby for the Cincinnati public schools.
  • There will be a 17-member community coalition that will help implement the Community Benefits Agreement. The last piece could be very important – one of the criticisms of the collaborative services arrangement is that it may not be enforceable.

The deal that has been worked out has been politics in its most basic form – two sides sit across from each other at a table and stay there until a deal is made.
Congress and the White House may learn something from this.

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