City Council could partly or totally undo the latest budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas by using higher-than-expected revenues from the previous budget cycle, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced today.
When City Council passed the budget in May, it was unclear how much revenue would be left over from fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30. Now, revenues are expected to come in higher than originally projected.
The full revenue numbers should be released next week, allowing City Council to evaluate its options for what and how much can be restored.
Human services was cut by about $500,000 in the last budget, putting the program at $1.1 million. Funding to parks was also reduced by $1 million down to $7 million.
But the funding could be restored, at least in part, within a month, Qualls said.
Qualls and other city officials previously told CityBeat they intended to restore human services funding and other cut programs with higher-than-expected revenues and perhaps the parking lease, but Qualls' announcement today was the clearest indication that it's actually happening.
The vice mayor made the announcement at a mayoral forum hosted by the Human Services Chamber of Hamilton County, which consists of various local social service groups. Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, was speaking at the event with John Cranley, who's also running for mayor.
Human services funding flows through several local agencies that focus on providing aid to the homeless and poor. Programs include sheltering, job training and drug rehabilitation.
Cincinnati has historically set a goal of dedicating 1.5 percent of its operating budget to human services, but only 0.3 percent of the latest budget went to the program.
That's the number of Cincinnatians cited in a 2012 report from Strategies to End Homelessness that are either staying in shelters or in places not meant for human habitation.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition will coalesce to recognize the plight of those 7,000 when it
holds its annual Homeless Awareness March on Saturday, Oct. 26 starting
at 3 p.m. at Buddy’s Place, a permanent housing facility
for the homeless located at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.
Josh Spring, executive director at GRHC, says the march will explore areas in Over-the-Rhine and the Central Business District particularly plagued by homelessness. There will be about 10 stops, each of which will be marked by a speech from representatives of several advocacy groups, including the Interfaith Workers' Center, OTR Community Housing, Streetvibes, People's Coalition for Equality and Justice and the Drop Inn Center.
The march comes at a particularly auspicious time for GRHC, which recently helped four homeless plaintiffs file a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office for depriving homeless people of their constitutional rights by threatening to arrest people who sleep or inhabit the common areas around the Hamilton County Courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center downtown.
Those areas have recently become the center of a public
health debate between groups like GRHC and county officials, who have been forced to clean up urine
and feces left behind the homeless and argue they
just don’t have the resources to keep up.
The GHRC held a protest on Oct. 16 in front of the courthouse asking Sheriff Neil to rescind the policy, the same day the lawsuit was filed.
In an effort to compromise, Spring and other supporters have asked the county to at least wait to stick to the policy until the winter shelter opens in December, but county officials are hesitant to ignore the cleanliness problem for that long.
Advocates such as Spring, however, argue the city should take a “prevention first” approach instead by figuring out what will keep Cincinnatians from becoming homeless in the first place.
Spring says he hopes the march will draw both people who have come specifically to protest displacement and others who come to learn about the nature of homelessness in Cincinnati. "We really hope people walk away with some passion to go and do something about this," he says.
Last year's march was centered around protesting Western & Southern's manipulative legal disputes with the Anna Louise Inn, which provides safe and affordable housing to low-income women. The battle came to an end in May when Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, signed an agreement with Western & Southern to move from Lytle Park to Mount Auburn.
The controversial permanent supportive housing facility proposed for a residential area of Avondale that caused outrage amongst Avondale community members took a small blow today when Cincinnati City Council members Pam Thomas and Charlie Winburn introduced a motion at a City Council meeting to rescind council's original support for the facility.
The proposed facility, Commons at Alaska, would be a 99-unit housing facility providing residency and supportive services to the area homeless population, particularly those with severe mental health issues, physical disabilities and histories of alcohol and substance abuse. CityBeat covered extensively the Avondale community's concerns about the location of the facility and how the project's developers felt the facility was misunderstood ("Home Invasion," issue of Sept. 4).
On Feb. 13, City Council offered its official support for the Commons at Alaska project in a resolution, a decision members of Avondale 29, the group formed to oppose the project, say was made without proper community outreach and neglect for proper considerations of the facility's effects on the already-blighted surrounding neighborhood. At that time, Christopher Smitherman and Cecil Thomas (before he resigned his position) were the only two members of council who did not vote to pass the resolution.
The motion reads: "When the resolution was heard by City Council, a small minority of the 18,000 members of the Avondale Community expressed their support for the development. Further, the North Avondale Community Council has voiced their opposition to the development. With this resolution, the majority of the community who are opposed to the development are being heard."
The developer, National Church Residences, is a well-respected developer and manager of housing facilities for the homeless nationwide. In June, the project received more than $1 million in tax credit financing from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which would allow NCR to move forward with building plans and eventually begin construction in summer 2014.
City Council's official support was originally cited in NCR's application to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which may have factored in to OHFA's decision to award the tax credits. The motion will be voted on in council's Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m.
Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help — a sign that homelessness may be trending up. Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate was 7.4 percent.
More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating development deals.
Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was elected.
Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation.
No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the investments through an independent board. City officials and unions claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs, including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates.
Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving permitting services to one location, according to a statement from Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more efficiently and bring down costs.
The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus. A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that, while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped in the past year.
The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall.
Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters.
A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.
Although this year’s cuts are being undone, City Hall has been cutting resources to the homeless, long-term unemployed, crime victims and casualties of domestic abuse since 2004. Aid to those groups is part of human services funding, which is supposed to receive 1.5 percent of the operating budget but currently gets a quarter of that at 0.4 percent. To explain the decade of cuts, the city administration typically points to citizen surveys and meetings conducted as part of the priority-driven budgeting process. But a CityBeat analysis of the demographics of the process found they were skewed in favor of the wealthiest Cincinnatians and against low-income people, who benefit the most from human services. For the agencies that receive funding, the history of cuts is even more worrying as Cincinnati prepares for more budget gaps in the next few years.
The state of Ohio will execute Billy Slagle on Aug. 7, even though the prosecutor’s office behind the charges asked the Ohio Parole Board to grant him clemency. The parole board denied the request, and Gov. John Kasich last week declined to commute the sentence to life in prison. Slagle was convicted in 1988 of murdering a 40-year-old woman in a gruesome stabbing. His family says he was in an alcohol- and drug-fueled haze at the time and has a history of problems at home, including domestic abuse, that presents extenuating circumstances.
Two longshot mayoral candidates are really upset about Cincinnati’s primary system: Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble sent an F-bomb-laden email to debate organizers, and Libertarian Jim Berns quit the race. Under the current primary system, multiple mayoral candidates are allowed to run. But come Sept. 10, voters will select the top two contenders in a primary. Those frontrunners will then face off in a final election on Nov. 5 to pick who will take over City Hall on Dec. 1. Noble and Berns claim the current system favors the two frontrunners — Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley — by helping them get the most exposure through televised debates after the primary election.
Cranley has raised more money than Qualls in the mayoral race, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday. Cranley has raised about $472,000, compared to $348,000 for Qualls. Cranley also has about $264,000 in the bank, while the Qualls campaign has about $192,000 in hand.
Undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children will be eligible for in-state tuition at Ohio public colleges, following a decision from the Ohio Board of Regents. The change will save the students thousands of dollars at the state’s public schools, which were charging exorbitant out-of-state and international rates before. The undocumented immigrants qualify for legal benefits because of an executive order signed by President Barack Obama earlier in the year that prevents the federal government from prosecuting them. The order falls short of actual legalization on the books, but it grants many benefits under state and federal law.
In quite possibly the worst news ever, Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones announced they’re leaving “Parks and Recreation” after the 13th episode of the upcoming season.
German scientists have proposed a new strategy for combating climate change: turn coastal deserts into forests.
By science, ostriches can now fly: