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Todd Portune Retiring Soon But Still Fighting For Banks Music Venue

Tana Weingartner
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune with Commissioner Denise Driehaus at a meeting in 2017.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune announced Thursday he'll be leaving the board by the end of the year.
Portune said in September that he would not seek re-election next year because of his battle with cancer. He said at the time he might not be able to serve out the remainder of his term.

"It is important for people to know what's going on relative to my ongoing service here," Portune said. "I'll have a lot more to say about that when the time comes but it will be no later than Dec. 31."

Even as he gets ready to leave office, he's still critical of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and city officials for trying to delay construction of a music venue at The Banks.

"There's no logical explanation for what the city is doing," Portune said. "And the steps that the mayor is taking, no logical explanation whatsoever and it's got to stop. It has to stop. This declaration of war by the city against the county at The Banks has got to stop."

The latest controversy came Wednesday night when city officials announced proposed zoning changes for the remaining lots at The Banks, which would not allow for entertainment on the site where the music venue is supposed to be built just east of Paul Brown Stadium.

A statement to WVXU from Mayor John Cranley says he remains committed to bringing a music venue to The Banks "and making sure the whole Banks is developed rather than remain surface parking, which is what the public was promised. The (city) manager has outlined his position for many months, and we hope that the County will work as a partner with the City to address the manager's important concerns. I hope the County takes the necessary steps to allow the music venue and future development at The Banks."

Timing of a zoning change for the music venue is critical so construction can begin in November with the facility opening in the Fall 2020.

The city's planning commission must approve the zoning change and The Banks issue will not be on the agenda until at least Nov. 15 unless the commission holds a special meeting.

If that commission approves the change, then it has to go to City Council for approval. That decision likely wouldn't come until the end of November.

The commission approved a plan in October that will allow a music venue to be built at The Banks without moving a riverfront concrete company.

The county will eventually purchase the 17-acre Hilltop Basic Resources site west of Paul Brown Stadium for about $30 million. The company will temporarily consolidate its operations on half of the site and the county will use the other half for greenspace that will accommodate Bengals parking and tailgating during games.

Hamilton County needs to replace surface parking for the Bengals in order to build the music venue on parking lots just east of the stadium.

The county wanted to relocate Hilltop to Queensgate or Lower Price Hill but Cincinnati officials objected and City Council voted in October for a motion opposing the company's move to those two neighborhoods.

County officials said the music venue is needed to support businesses located at The Banks. They also said the agreement reached with the Bengals last year to allow its construction and relocate parking will save the county money.

City officials have said if the deal will save taxpayers money, the county should release details of how it will do that and how much.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.