Cincinnati council members and community leaders today explained and defended plans to use the parking lease to fund a disparity study that would gauge whether the city should change its contracting policies to favorably target minority- and women-owned businesses.
But before City Council unanimously passed the motion at today's meeting, it was amended to allow the city administration to find alternate sources of funding.
Since the city dismantled its last minority- and women-owned business program in 1999, contract participation rates for minority-owned businesses have plummeted, while rates for women-owned businesses have remained relatively flat.
But because of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, governments must conduct a study to prove there's a race- or gender-based disparity before policies can be adjusted to favor such groups.
Cincinnati has not taken up a disparity study since 2002. That study found evidence of disparities but ultimately recommended race- and gender-neutral policies to avoid legal uncertainty that surrounded the issue at the time.
"This is an opportunity to respond to a complaint and concern that has been around for as long as I can remember," Councilman Wendell Young said.
City officials claim they couldn't conduct another study until the administration finished implementing recommendations from OPEN Cincinnati, a task force established in 2009 after Mayor Mark Mallory and his administration were criticized for neglecting the city's small business program.
But the holdup has also been brought on by the study's cost, which city officials currently estimate between $500,000 and $1.5 million. Some critics argue the money would be better spent elsewhere.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who's running for mayor this year, defended the cost by explaining a disparity study can potentially lead to economic development by lifting minority groups, who currently face unemployment rates higher than white Cincinnati residents. She said it's on the city to ensure everyone, including women and minorities, benefit from Cincinnati's economic growth.
Other critics, particularly mayoral candidate John Cranley, have criticized the motion's suggestion for funding. The motion asks the city administration to fund the study with part of the upfront money that will come from leasing the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but it does allow the city administration to find other funding options if possible.
Cranley, who supports conducting a disparity study but opposes the parking lease, says the money should come from other, unnamed sources because parking funds are currently being held up while the city hashes out legal uncertainty surrounding the lease and the Port Authority works out contracts with private operators that will manage Cincinnati's parking assets.
In response to those concerns, Qualls said that "money doesn't grow on trees" and Council has to make do with what it has.
Councilman Chris Seelbach voted against the parking lease, but he supports using parking funds for the disparity study. He says that, while he may have voted against the lease, the vote is done and the money is there.
The amended motion was unanimously passed by City Council today. It asks the city administration to present a budget and timetable for the study at the Budget and Finance Committee's first October meeting.
Updated at 3:18 p.m. with results of City Council meeting.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is suffering from a poor economy and continuing financial trouble.
The center announced today that they will be laying off 17 full-time employees, by the end of the year, leaving a staff of 47.
The museum will also no longer be open on Sundays.
Last year, the Freedom Center was caught up in a battle at City Hall when Councilman Chris Monzel attempted to redirect a proposal to give the center $800,000 to pay for speed humps.
At the time this sum was delivered, a $25 million debt remained for the $110 million construction of the center.
The museum has been criticized by state and local officials for requesting public funds after Freedom Center President Ed Rigaud said the center wouldn’t ask for additional public money to balance its books, even after projected and actual attendance numbers dropped dramatically.
Attendance at the center peaked in its first full year open in 2005 at just over 200,000. The numbers have been falling ever since.
For Christmas, the Freedom Center might want to ask for financial independence.
Developers of the casino planned at Broadway Commons downtown will hold a session Thursday aimed at increasing the use of subcontractors and suppliers on the project from businesses owned by women or African-Americans.
The session will be held from 5-7 p.m. at the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, located at 1740 Langdon Farm Road in Bond Hill's Jordan Crossing complex. That's the site formerly known as the Swifton Commons shopping center.
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.
Duke Energy announced Thursday night that it will help fund a campaign to raise private and government money to replace the outdated Brent Spence Bridge. It will cost about $2.3 billion to replace the span, which carries traffic from I-75 and I-71 over the Ohio River.
Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig said an audit to determine methods for improving the Police Department’s efficiency is continuing. Among the latest recommendations, the department will no longer seek accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and that response of a recent shift to 10-hour workdays has been positive.
Three development groups have submitted proposals to Covington officials, each vying to be selected to reshape that city’s riverfront area. One of the proposals, drafted by Corporex Realty & Investment and Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, involves refurbishing the Waterfront Restaurant and creating a floating boardwalk, marina and wharf.
A Cincinnati police officer assigned to the Drug Abuse and Resistance Education (DARE) program was suspended without pay this week after she was charged with tampering with records, securing writings by deception and forgery. Sandra Johnson, 38, allegedly said she taught DARE classes and got paid for them when she didn’t. DARE is among the programs being ended by Chief Craig; he has called it ineffective.
In news elsewhere, German President Christian Wulff resigned from his position today as head of state amid mounting criticism over a home loan scandal. Wulff has been plagued by allegations since mid-December over his connections to wealthy businessmen, initially over an advantageous home loan from a friend's wife. He then faced claims he tried to hush up the story, as well as reports of free vacations accepted from friends.
The Obama administration’s newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to begin monitoring and regulating debt collectors and credit bureaus for the first time. Richard Cordray, the agency’s director, said he wants to ensure people aren’t subjected to abusive practices.
An influential group of scientists issued a report this week pressing U.S. officials to tighten regulations of so-called “fracking” operations to reduce environmental and health risks. The independent review of fracking by professors at the University of Texas in Austin said that the development of shale gas was "essential to the energy security of the U.S. and the world,” but added the process needs more oversight.
The recent brouhaha over a new federal rule that requires insurance coverage of birth control for women reveals that the Roman Catholic Church has lost its influence in U.S. politics, some observers said. An AlterNet article noted that even though the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to a compromise rule pushed by President Obama, many other Catholic groups — including the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the Catholic Health Association — are ignoring the conference and accepting it.
Police in Fort Worth, Texas, have arrested 16 students in a major drug bust at Texas Christian University, a conservative evangelical institution. The drugs involved included marijuana, ecstasy pills, a powdered form of ecstasy commonly called “molly” and prescription drugs such as Xanax, hydrocodone and Oxycontin. Four football players were among those arrested.
Confirming rumors that swirled for two days through media circles, The Enquirer’s top editor has written a memo outlining how some editions of Sunday’s newspaper included a photograph with the word “fuck” in it.
Once editors learned about the photo, several thousand copies of the newspaper that hadn’t yet been distributed were trashed. The edition was reprinted without the offending photo.
Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn confirmed the gaffe in an email to staffers sent at 4:10 p.m Monday, which CityBeat received today.
“I learned about this after midnight Saturday when someone in our operation saw this photo and alerted us,” Washburn wrote. “We stopped the presses to change the photo and threw out thousands of papers still sitting at our dock.”
Reportedly, Washburn has been fielding complaints from readers who received the paper for the past two days.
The page in question was laid out by a “design hub” in Louisville, which is part of a push by The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s owner, to centralize some functions like many copy-editing duties into regional locations.
The same design hub was responsible for a similar incident in December when a Gannett paper in South Carolina, The Greenville News, published an article with the word “fuck” randomly inserted into it. The gaffe caught the attention of several websites including The Huffington Post and Romenesko.com.
Sunday’s incident occurred just two days after four veteran copy editors at The Enquirer left after taking an “early retirement” severance deal to reduce the newspaper’s expenses.
Here is the full text of Washburn’s email:
Sent: Mon 4/16/2012 4:10 PM
From: Carolyn Washburn
To: Cin-News Users
Subject: in case you are getting calls about a photo in Sunday's paper
A photo ran on the state government page of a protestor holding up a sign that used the word f#*&. It was caught on the press and replated but it still went out to several thousand homes.
Here is how I am responding.
Yes, the photo was completely inappropriate, on many levels.
I learned about this after midnight Saturday when someone in our operation saw this photo and alerted us. We stopped the presses to change the photo and threw out thousands of papers still sitting at our dock. Unfortunately a few thousand papers had already gone out to carriers.
I deeply apologize and am working this morning to understand why this photo was chosen in the first place and why it was not caught sooner. I take this very seriously.
Again, I apologize.
An institutional shareholder at Cintas Corp. will make a motion at the company’s annual meeting later this month seeking to have an independent chairman appointed to its board of directors to improve oversight and increase company performance.
Representatives for the North Carolina Retirement Systems (NCRS), which represents the pension investments of retired North Carolina state employees, said objective oversight is needed at Cintas to represent shareholders and “reverse a five-year trend of underperformance.”
At the company’s annual meeting on Oct. 14th, the pension fund will also support a proposal seeking an advisory shareholder vote on executive pay and will oppose appointing nominee David Phillips to the firm’s board of directors.
The various proposals are supported by Risk Metrics/ISS Governance Services and Glass Lewis, which offer proxy services to institutional shareholders.
Although Cintas is the largest uniform rental company in North America, its stock has underperformed the S&P 500 and its peers for the past five years, according to pension fund representatives. Cintas’s share price is down 18 percent during that period, while shares of its largest publicly-traded competitors are up 83 percent and 4 percent respectively.
Also, Cintas has lost market share in recent years, a trend that accelerated in 2008.
“These proposals offer an opportunity to make real change at a company that is underperforming and failing to address the concerns of shareholders,” said State Treasurer Richard Moore, who manages NCRS, in a prepared statement. “I encourage other institutional investors and shareholders to vote for these proposals and for improved governance at Cintas.”
Some shareholders contend that current Board Chairman Richard T. Farmer and his son, Cintas CEO Scott Farmer, have stacked the 11-member board of directors with friends and close associates that too closely follow the Farmer family’s directives. Cintas began as a private company started by Richard Farmer’s grandfather in 1929, before it was taken public in 1983.
Another institutional shareholder, CtW Investment Group, first proposed blocking Phillips’ appointment to the board due to what it described as an undisclosed conflict of interest and weak leadership in his role as the company’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee chairman.
“As lead director and chairman of the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, Mr. Phillips bears responsibility for many of the company’s questionable governance practices, which include … inadequate response to legitimate governance concerns,” Michael Garland, a CtW executive, wrote in an Oct. 1 letter to other shareholders.
The letter continues, “As discussed above, nominee Phillips serves as trustee of Cincinnati Works, which received over $200,000 in charitable contributions from foundations controlled by insiders and affiliates of the Company. We question the need for the Company to engage in such significant charitable contributions with one of its directors, especially considering the amount of such contributions as a percentage of Cincinnati Works’ annual revenue.”
In July, yet another institutional shareholder — the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust — filed a lawsuit alleging the firm’s board of directors isn’t fulfilling its fiduciary duties and fosters a corporate culture that ignores safety regulations.
At least 10 Cintas facilities nationwide have been cited for safety violations by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in just over the past year.
OSHA imposed a $2.78 million fine against Cintas last year for violations that led to the death of Eleazar Torres-Gomez at the company’s laundry facility near Tulsa, Okla., in March 2007. Gomez died after he jumped onto a conveyor belt to dislodge clothes and was dragged into an industrial dryer, where he burned to death.
Federal and state inspectors have issued citations against Cintas facilities in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Texas and Washington.
Since 2003 Cintas has been cited for more than 170 OSHA violations in its facilities, including more than 70 citations that OSHA deemed could cause “death or serious physical harm.”
Cintas representatives say the company has adequate safety procedures and blame the accidents on workers who don't follow their training on how to handle machinery.
Based in Mason, Ohio, Cintas is the largest uniform supplier in the United States. Cintas reported $531 million in profits for the 2008 fiscal year, which ended in May.— Kevin Osborne
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan weighed in on the controversy over replacement National Football League referees in a Tuesday town hall-style meeting in Cincinnati, comparing the Obama administration to the substitute officials who cost his home-state Green Bay Packers a victory with their botched call Monday night.
“Give me a break. It is time to get the real refs,” Ryan said.
“And you know what, it reminds me of President Obama and the economy — if you can’t get it right, it’s time to get out. I half think that these refs work part time for the Obama administration in the budget office.”
Ryan was referencing a play that should have been called an interception for the Packers but instead allowed the Seattle Seahawks to score a game-winning touchdown on Monday Night Foodball. Replacement referees — some of whom may have been fired by the Lingerie Football League for incompetence — are filling in for unionized officials who are locked out.
The vice presidential candidate spoke inside a Byer Steel warehouse surrounded by piles of I-beams and rebar. A self-proclaimed Southern gospel rock band played before the event, occasionally pausing to talk up GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials.
Much of Ryan’s prepared speech, as well as questions from participants in the town hall, focused on the economy, the deficit and the need for changes to entitlement programs.
Asked by an audience member how he would limit government and eliminate programs, Ryan said he and Romney would spur economic growth by lessening the tax burdens on small businesses, cut discretionary spending on government agencies and overhaul entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Outside before the rally, protesters called for Ryan — whose House-passed budget made deeps cuts to many welfare and safety-net programs — to have more compassion for the poor.
Meanwhile an airplane sponsored by MoveOn.org carried a banner reading, “Romney: Believe in 55% of America?” referencing comments revealed in a recent video where Romney claimed 47 percent of Americans didn’t pay any income tax and viewed themselves as victims reliant on government so it wasn’t his job to worry about their votes.
“We’re here with several messages, including the immorality of the Ryan budget and how it will impact the vast majority of Americans negatively," said David Little with the liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio. “When a budget protects those with the most and negatively impacts those with the least, I would suggest that is immoral.”
Bentley Davis with the Alliance for Retired Americans said she was concerned about what Romney and Ryan’s plans for Medicare and Social Security would do to retirement security.
Ryan had proposed to keep Medicare the same for anybody already 55 and over, but give younger Americans the choice to get money to spend toward private insurance or stay in a Medicare-like program.
Inside the warehouse was a digital sign that ticked up the national debt, which was at $16 trillion and rising.
“Here is what our government, our Congressional Budget Office, is telling us our debt is in the future if we stay on the path that President Obama has kept us on, has put us on … the debt goes as high as two and a half times the size of our economy by the time my three kids are my age,” Ryan said.
The Obama campaign fired back in an email response, saying Ryan used misleading rhetoric to hide his own record and Republican plans to raise taxes on the middle class to fund tax cuts for wealthier Americans.
“The Romney-Ryan ticket has plenty of questions to answer about a failed record on manufacturing and job creation and their support for policies that will devastate middle class families by raising their taxes and shipping jobs overseas,” Obama for America – Ohio Press Secretary Jessica Kershaw wrote.
“These policies would take the growing manufacturing industry backward, not forward.”
For some in the audience, the economy was also on the forefront.
Steve Teal, 56, of West Chester, said he doesn't like the direction the country is going in.
"Just get the country back to work," Teal said. "I don't trust him (Obama). He doesn't stand up for America. He doesn't stand up for Americans."
CityBeat writer Stefane Kremer contributed to this report.
Ryan went from Cincinnati to an event with Romney in Dayton later on Tuesday.