The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”
Just two days before the general election, President Barack Obama made his case to 13,500 people packed into the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena and 2,000 in an overflow room.
Obama cast the race in comparisons to the previous two presidents, comparing his policies with those of Bill Clinton and equating Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s plans with those of George W. Bush.
“So stay with me then,” Obama said. “We’ve got ideas that work, and we’ve got ideas that don’t work, so the choice should be pretty clear.”
With less than 48 hours before polls open on Election Day, a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll had Obama and his Republican challenger locked in a statistical dead heat. However the same poll showed Obama with a slight edge in Ohio, up 48 percent to Romney’s 44 percent.
Obama touted his first-term accomplishments, including ending the war in Iraq; ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy preventing homosexuals from serving openly in the military; and overhauling the country’s health care system.
“It’s not just about policy, it’s about trust. Who do you trust?” the president asked, flanked by a sea of supporters waving blue “Forward” signs.
“Look, Ohio, you know me by now. You may not agree with every decision I’ve made, Michelle doesn’t always agree with me. You may be frustrated with the pace of change … but I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”
Nonpartisan political fact-checker PolitiFact on Nov. 3 took a look at Obama’s record on keeping his campaign promises from 2008. The group rated 38 percent as Kept, 16 percent Compromised and 17 percent Broken.
Twice during his speech the president was interrupted by audience members shouting from the stands.
The first was a man on the balcony level of the arena interrupted, shouting anti-abortion slogans and waving a sign showing mutilated fetuses before being dragged out by about five law enforcement officers. Both were drowned out by supporters.
Music legend Stevie Wonder opened the rally for Obama, playing a number of his hits, opening up “Superstition” with a refrain of “on the right track, can’t go back.”
Wonder discussed abortion policy between songs and urged Ohioans who had not already voted to do so either early on Monday or Election Day.
So far, 28 percent of Ohio voters have already cast their ballots. CNN reports that those votes favor Obama 63/35, according to public polling.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Romney campaigned before an estimated crowd of 25,000 in Pennsylvania, according to the Secret Service.
Political rallies always draw a number of the loyal opposition, and this late-evening appearance was no different. Only five people protested near the line to the arena, but what they lacked in number they attempted to make up for in message.
One large sign read “Obama: 666” and another “Obama is the Beast,” alluding to a character in the Christian Biblical book of Revelation.
A man who only identified himself as Brooks carried a large anti-abortion sign that showed pieces of a dismembered fetus.
“I’m here to stand up for the innocent blood that has been shed in this land to the tune of 56 million,” Brooks said. He said he was opposed to the politics of both major party presidential candidates.
“I pray for Barack Obama because his beliefs are of the Antichrist, just like Romney,” Brooks said.
Brooks said his message for those in line was for them to vote for Jesus — not on the ballot, but through their actions and through candidates that espoused Christian beliefs.
“Obama is not going to change things, Romney is not going to change things,” Brooks said. “In the last days there are many Christs, but not the Christ of the Bible. The Christ of the Bible is not for killing children, is not for homosexual marriage.”
The bloodletting in the newsroom at The Enquirer is over, at least for now.
Editor Carolyn Washburn sent an email to the newspaper’s editorial staff this morning, announcing the names of 12 people who have decided to accept a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal offered by The Enquirer’s parent firm, The Gannett Co.
CityBeat already has reported that political columnist Howard Wilkinson, longtime photographer Michael Keating and Editorial Page Editor Ray Cooklis were among those departing the media company.
Other editorial staffers who are taking the buyout are business reporter Mike Boyer; Features Editor Dave Caudill; news reporter Steve Kemme; Copy Desk Chief Sue Lancaster; Production Manager Greg Noble; Butler/Warren Editor Jim Rohrer; sports copy editor Bill Thompson; Copy Editor Pat Tolzmann; and Copy Editor Tim Vonderbrink.
They join Assistant Managing Editor/Sports Barry Forbis and Deputy Sports Editor Rory Glynn, who announced their resignations in March.
In her email, Washburn wrote that the company will throw a party in its conference room for the departing staffers on April 12.
As one ex-Enquirer reporter said when hearing about the plans, “Some sendoff for those leaving. Washburn is throwing them a ‘proper party,’ whatever that is, for them on the 20th floor, no doubt in the sterile training room where staffers learn about inane new corporate initiatives. A ‘proper party’ for the loss of 350-plus years of experience and institutional knowledge would be an employee tavern of choice with an open bar, but what would Washburn know?”
Gannett announced the buyout offer Feb. 9 and gave employees 45 days to decide whether to apply for the deal.
At the close of the offer period, editors reviewed applications and made final decisions; some people who apply for the deal potentially could've been turned down if their position is deemed essential to the newspaper’s operation.
Under the deal, newspaper employees who are age 56 or older and have at least 20 years of service with Gannett as of March 31 are eligible. Although executives said 785 employees meet the criteria, the deal only is being offered to 665 employees “due to ongoing operational needs at the company.”
As part of reductions mandated by Gannett, The Enquirer has laid off about 150 workers during the past two years. Also, employees have had to take five unpaid furloughs during the past three years.
Gannett recently gave Craig Dubow, its CEO who allegedly left the company due to health reasons, a $37.1 million compensation package. The Columbia Journalism Review examined what Gannett could’ve bought with that money instead, including paying for the starting salaries of 1,474 staffers at The Indianapolis Star or 310,720 annual subscriptions to The Tallahassee Democrat's website.
Here is the full text of Washburn’s email:
From: Washburn, Carolyn
Sent: Wednesday, April 04, 2012 8:39 AM
To: CIN-News Users; ohiodaily
Subject: saying thank you to our new retirees
It's official now. In the next couple of weeks we will say thank you and best wishes to these colleagues who have decided to take the company's early retirement offer. The complete group is, in no particular order:
Dave Caudill, Greg Noble, Jim Rohrer, Sue Lancaster, Pat Tolzmann, Tim Vonderbrink, Bill Thompson, Michael Keating, Mike Boyer, Steve Kemme, Howard Wilkinson, Ray Cooklis
Ray will be here until April 27. Greg's last day in the office was a week or so ago, before a furlough and vacation. Everyone else will have their last day next Thursday, April 12.
We will have a proper party in the 20th floor conference room on April 12 at 4pm.
I'll meet with some small groups in the next few days and we'll have a full staff meeting the week of April 16 to talk about what's next, now that we are confirmed on who chose to retire. There is a plan. :)
We will be very sad to say goodbye. But I am happy for these folks who decided this was the right thing for them.
Thanks again to Dave, Greg, JR, Sue, Pat, Tim, Bill, Michael, Mike, Steve, Howard and Ray.
It’s a tumultuous time in Greater Cincinnati’s media scene. In addition to The Enquirer’s ongoing staff shakeups, troubles abound at Clear Channel Communications and at the firm that owns Cincinnati Magazine.
This all occurs just a month after the recent sale of CityBeat to Nashville-based SouthComm, Inc.
Clear Channel, which owns the most radio stations in the local market, laid off several employees last week.
Among the people who were let go were Tony Bender, the program director for WKRC (550 AM) and WCKY (1530 AM); Sherry Rowland, promotions director for WLW (700 AM); Mark Bianchi, digital sales manager; and traffic reporter Brian Pitts. The staffers reportedly were laid off due to budget cuts.
Based in San Antonio, Texas, Clear Channel owns 850 radio stations across the United States, making it the nation’s largest radio station group owner both by stations and revenue. Locally, the media giant owns the previously mentioned WKRC, WCKY and WLW, along with WEBN (102.7 FM), WKFS (107.1 FM) and WSAI (1360 AM).
If you're in the media and need a job, you might want to consider applying to become The Enquirer's new sports editor. The last editor, Barry Forbis, recently quit to work for Fox Sports in Los Angeles. Here are the requirements for the job.
Meanwhile, Emmis Communications Corp. — which owns Cincinnati Magazine — is struggling to keep its stock listed on the NASDAQ exchange while the firm’s owner is being roundly criticized for asking an Indiana court to approve a plan to vote so-called “dead shares” of the company.
Indianapolis-based Emmis is seeking to vote the shares of preferred stock that the company had bought from shareholders at a sizeable discount. Typically, such shares are considered “extinguished” and no longer viable under tax and accounting rules. But Emmis executives said the shares weren’t actually bought, they merely were part of a “total return swap.”
If a judge agrees, Emmis will be able to vote those shares and convert its remaining preferred stock into common stock, so it doesn’t have to ante up the cash for unpaid dividends.
To deal with its financial problems, Emmis has borrowed a total of $31.9 million from controversial businessman Sam Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, to help keep the firm afloat.
Besides Cincinnati Magazine, Emmis owns similar publications in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas and elsewhere. Also, it owns radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Terre Haute, Ind., as well as in Bulgaria and Slovakia.
There is an old saying that goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." It’s alternately been credited to writer Mark Twain and British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
No matter where it originated, though, the quote applies well to unemployment figures released by the U.S. Labor Department.
Earlier this month the Labor Department reported the nation’s unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month in January to 8.3 percent, its lowest level in three years. That is good news, but not quite as good as it first appears.
Using that measure, 12.3 million people are unemployed, which is a decline of 0.2 percent from December.
The number of long-term unemployed — those jobless for six months or more — was 5.5 million people, accounting for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.
Critics of how the government calculates the unemployment rate, however, say it’s misleading because it doesn’t count so-called “discouraged workers.” Those are people who are jobless and have looked for work sometime in the past year but aren’t currently looking because of real or perceived poor employment prospects. In other words, they’ve given up.
Federal data shows a disproportionate number of young people, African-Americans, Hispanics and men comprise the discouraged-worker segment.
Including those workers, the unemployment rate was 16.2 percent in January. Some analysts, however, believe that grossly understates the numbers. (The highest the rate got during the Great Depression was 25 percent in 1933.)
Here’s some context. In the modern era (1948-present), the U.S. unemployment rate averaged 5.7 percent — reaching a record high of 10.8 percent in November 1982 and a record low of 2.5 percent in May 1953.
As economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has noted, “we started 2012 with fewer workers employed than in January 2001 — zero growth after 11 years, even as the population, and therefore the number of jobs we needed, grew steadily.”
Krugman added, “at January’s pace of job creation it would take us until 2019 to return to full employment.”
In a little noticed report, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated last week that the rate of unemployment in the United States has exceeded 8 percent since February 2009, making the past three years the longest stretch of high unemployment in this nation since the Great Depression.
Additionally, the CBO — which is the official, objective analyst for the federal government — estimates that the unemployment rate will remain above 8 percent until 2014.
If that’s not depressing enough, consider this: The share of unemployed people who have been looking for work for more than a year — referred to as marginally-attached workers— topped 40 percent in December 2009 and has remained above that level ever since.
The CBO stated the high unemployment rate’s primary cause is weak demand for goods and services as a result of the recession and its aftermath, which results in weak demand for workers.
To produce the largest increases in employment per dollar of budgetary cost, the agency recommended reducing the marginal cost to businesses of adding employees; and targeting people most likely to spend the additional income — generally, people with lower income.
“Policies primarily affecting businesses’ cash flow would have little impact on their marginal incentives to hire or invest and, therefore, would have only small effects on employment per dollar of budgetary cost,” the CBO’s report stated.
“Despite the near-term economic benefits, such actions would add to the already large projected budget deficits that would exist under current policies, either immediately or over time,” it added. “Achieving both short-term stimulus and long-term sustainability would require a combination of policies: changes in taxes and spending that would widen the deficit now but reduce it later in the decade.”
Let’s make that clear — economic stimulus for poor people who would actually spend the money is most effective, and to have an impact the federal deficit needs to increase in the short-term.
Republicans, are you listening?
Two Cincinnati City Council members will unveil a proposal Wednesday to require banks to take better care of foreclosed properties.
Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Cecil Thomas want city administrators to gauge the feasibility of launching a pilot program to improve vacant and blighted properties, which they said would help stabilize neighborhoods.
If ultimately deemed feasible and approved, the proposal would create a mandatory registry for vacant foreclosed properties and enact stiffer civil offense charges for properties that aren’t properly maintained. Also, it would require point of sale inspections prior to sheriff's sales, and assess the costs for code violation corrections to lenders.
The program would be tried on a one-year trial basis in Westwood, Price Hill, College Hill, Madisonville and Mount Airy. If successful, it could be expanded to other neighborhoods.
When foreclosed properties are left vacant, they often become targets of crime and sources of blight, and can ultimately end up in the hands of absentee landlords, Sittenfeld said.
"Our efforts are all about demanding accountability," Sittenfeld said. "Banks and lenders must maintain the properties they own, just like the rest of us."
He added, “We must all care about this issue because all of us are affected by it. If you live next to a vacant foreclosed house, your property values go down and your quality of life deteriorates. This pilot program provides an important step toward stabilizing our neighborhoods."
Sittenfeld and Thomas will formally announce the plan at a press conference Wednesday morning at a foreclosed home at 1540 Ambrose Ave. in College Hill. The property is owned by mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has had 188 building code enforcement cases in Cincinnati during the past five years.
The proposal also has the support of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmembers Chris Seelbach, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young. That gives it enough votes for passage, which means administrators will report back to council on the costs for such a program and whether it would be effective.
Community activists and advocates from Working In Neighborhoods and the Legal Aid Society also support the proposal.
As Mitt Romney gets ready to attend a $2,500 a plate fundraiser at downtown’s Great American Tower, the local Democratic Party chairman says the presidential hopeful’s economic plan “would do nothing to create jobs now.”
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke released a statement this afternoon describing why he believes a Romney presidency would be disastrous for middle-class Americans.
Meanwhile, a group of community leaders led a protest outside of the East Fourth Street office building as attendees arrived for the fundraiser. The protest was organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199, which represents more than 30,000 health-care and social service workers across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.
“Mitt Romney holding $2,500 per person fundraiser at the Great American Tower is a perfect example of exactly who he is and who he represents,” said Becky Williams, SEIU’s district president, in a prepared statement. “While Romney is hobnobbing on the rooftop with his wealthy donors hosted by American Financial Group, ordinary Ohioans are struggling to find work and provide for their families.”
The co-host for the fundraiser is S. Craig Lindner, co-president and director of American Financial Group Inc., whose total compensation in 2010 totaled $8.3 million, according to Forbes magazine.
“Nothing Mitt Romney says can change the fact that he spent his career as a corporate buyout specialist who put profits over people and lined his pockets by outsourcing jobs, closing down plants and laying off workers,” Burke said.
“His 59-point economic plan would do nothing to create jobs now, fix America’s economy or help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. His tax plan would benefit the ultra-wealthy and do nothing to help middle-class families in Greater Cincinnati,” Burke added.
In preparation for Romney’s visit today, the Democratic National Committee pointed out that the investment firm once led by the candidate, Bain Capital, rejected a government offer to invest in General Motors (GM) during the 2008 financial crisis.
Romney has said on the campaign trail that he opposed the government bailout of U.S. automakers because the private market would have provided loans so GM and Chrysler Corp. could go through managed bankruptcy. But sources told The New York Times that Bain turned down an offer to help GM at the time.
“To go through the bankruptcy process, both companies needed billions of dollars in financing, money that auto executives and government officials who were involved with Mr. Obama’s auto task force say was not available at a time when the credit markets had dried up,” the article stated.
It added, “The only entity that could provide the $80 billion needed, they say, was the federal government. No private companies would come to the industry’s aid, and the only path through bankruptcy would have been Chapter 7 liquidation, not the more orderly Chapter 11 reorganization, these people said.”