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by Hannah McCartney 09.16.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Homelessness at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_jf1.widea

City Committee Puts Commons at Alaska Project on Hold

Independent mediator will work with supporters and opposition

The controversial proposed supportive housing facility for Alaska Avenue in Avondale was the main subject of a heated session of City Council's Budget and Finance Committee today, which resulted in the committee's decision to put the project on hold for two weeks. The committee also announced its intent to allocate $5,000 for an independent mediator, which the city administration will be responsible for finding.

A slew of Avondale community members spoke out in opposition of the project, while representatives from National Church Residences (NCR), Josh Spring of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and Kevin Finn of Strategies to End Homelessness were some of those who publicly expressed support for the project. Many in opposition articulated concern that predominantly poor black neighborhoods such as Avondale are "targeted" for low-income housing projects like these, while supporters insist a spread of misinformation is largely responsible for the tension and that the complex is a necessary step in moving forward with the city's 2008 Homeless to Homes Plan, which explicitly cited NCR as the well-regarded nonprofit developer and manager of supportive housing facilities commissioned to bring a permanent supportive housing facility to the city. 

The proposed project, coined Commons at Alaska, would be a 99-unit facility providing residency and supportive services to the area homeless population, particularly those with with severe mental health issues, physical disabilities and histories of alcohol and substance abuse. The project, which gained City Council's official support in February, has recently come under scrutiny from community group Avondale 29, Alaska Avenue residents and other community stakeholders who are fervently expressing public distaste for the facility, which they worry will threaten the safety and revitalization efforts in the neighborhood. CityBeat covered the controversy here.

Councilman Smitherman, who originally voted against Council's support for the project in February, vocally expressed his opposition, and later, Councilman Winburn rescinded his support for the project.

"It appears that maximum citizen participation did not happen... you are having hundreds of people who are not ready yet for this project. So something went wrong somewhere," he said. 

Winburn was also the one to announce the motion that asked council to suspend the project for two weeks.

Both sides are expected to once again go in front of the Budget & Finance Committee on a Sept. 30 meeting


 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.14.2012
 
 
lizrogers

Morning News and Stuff

A recent vote by Cincinnati City Council to give nearly $1 million in grants and loans so a Hamilton restaurant could open a second location in The Banks district is again coming under scrutiny. Council's vote occurred after a week’s delay when members learned owner Liz Rogers owed more than $49,000 in back taxes to the federal government. As it turns out, Rogers turned herself in at the Butler County Sheriff's Office Tuesday on a warrant related to another debt. The warrant was issued after Rogers failed to appear at a December 2010 hearing on a $3,000 debt she owes to Queen City Computer Press of Blue Ash. Rogers was released on a $3,100 bond posted by her husband.

Although some City Council members expressed misgivings after the latest turn of events, Rogers told WCPO-TV (Channel 9) that City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. knew about all her outstanding debts before he recommended that she get city funding.

Meanwhile, Rogers' legal troubles are adding to the embarrassment over a recent feature in The Enquirer. When the newspaper published a high-profile, above-the-fold list of the “20 Professional Women to Watch in 2012” on Feb. 12, it was criticized in journalism circles for including its own editor, Carolyn Washburn, among the honorees. But the list also included Rogers as a person to keep an eye on. That sounds about right.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has dropped the case against a woman charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after viewing video from the dashboard camera of the Addyston police officer who stopped her vehicle. The video shows Officer Jeremie Keene pulling Tiffany Becker from her vehicle, pushing her to the ground and cuffing her on Feb. 10, after her van allegedly failed to come to a complete stop at an intersection. Keene's police report said Becker spat at him and refused to leave her vehicle, but the video footage tells a different story.

The Kroger Co. has hired Suzanne Lindsay as its director of sustainability, a new position responsible for reducing the firm's energy consumption and waste, and increasing its transportation efficiency. Lindsay previously held a similar position at PetSmart. Cincinnati-based Kroger is the nation’s largest grocery retailer with more than 2,400 stores in 31 states.

In news elsewhere, Tuesday night likely will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Newt Gingrich's presidential aspirations. Although the ex-House Speaker placed second in primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, outright victories in the two southern states near his native Georgia were considered crucial to proving the viability of his campaign.

Despite pouring massive amounts of cash into campaigning in the two states, Mitt Romney placed third in both primaries. Rick Santorum won both contests. He got 34.5 percent of the vote in Alabama, compared to Gingrich's 29.3 percent and Romney's 29 percent. In Mississippi, Santorum got 32.9 percent, compared to Gingrich's 31.3 percent and Romney's 30.3 percent.

An advocacy group that helps victims of pedophile priests said attorneys from the Roman Catholic Church are using legal tactics to harass it into silence. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn't a plaintiff or a defendant in the pending cases against priests, but it has been subpoenaed five times in recent months in Kansas City and St. Louis. Also, SNAP's national director, David Clohessy, was questioned by a battery of church attorneys for more than six hours in one case.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has cancelled a planned April trip to Toronto, stating that conditions in Canada are too dangerous. Cheney had planned on giving a speech about his time in office, but had second thoughts after a September incident in Vancouver. While speaking at a private club, protesters massed outside the front door and harassed ticket holders. Cheney reportedly was held inside the building for more than seven hours as police in riot gear dispersed the demonstrators. Maybe Dick should plan a trip to Baghdad instead?

A new medical study indicates the eyes and brains of astronauts who have spent long periods of time in orbit can develop abnormalities. Magnetic resonance imaging on 27 astronauts found effects similar to those of intracranial hypertension, which results in a build up of pressure within the skull, researchers said. I guess that explains why Capt. Kirk was always such a loose cannon.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.23.2012
 
 
enquirer

Morning News and Stuff

In a move that's been expected for months, the parent company of The Enquirer informed investors Wednesday that all of its websites will implement a paywall model by year's end. Under the switch, online users will be able to access a limited number of articles for free every month, then must subscribe if they want to see additional digital content. Gannett Co. executives said it would probably offer between five and 15 articles for free per month, and compared the change to a system implemented by The New York Times last year. That newspaper, however, offers 20 free articles per month.

Hamilton County will soon have its first female coroner. The local Democratic Party's central committee will meet tonight to vote on the appointment of Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, a radiologist who lives in Indian Hill. She will replace Dr. Anant Bhati, who died last week from injuries sustained in a fall.

In a sign that the economy might be improving, local home sales increased in January. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says sales last month rose almost 11 percent over January last year.

The city manager and his staffers at City Hall seem to be keeping pertinent facts from Cincinnati City Council. First, council members said they weren't aware that a Hamilton restaurant in line to get almost $1 million in grants and loans to open a location at The Banks just paid off a delinquent property tax bill that was almost two years old on their eatery in Butler County. Then, council members learned the city's recently hired human relations director had to resign from her previous position in Detroit over a controversy involving a severance payment. Although Georgetta Kelly said she had nothing to do with a $200,000 payout to a woman who voluntarily left a county job to become CEO of an airport, her signature appears on some of the documents.

In news elsewhere, a Georgia lawmaker who is disturbed by Republicans' increasing attempts to pass new legislation involving abortion and birth control has offered a proposal of her own. State Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Democrat, wants to begin regulating vasectomies. If approved, her bill would ban the practice of male sterilization except in cases where a man faces serious health risks without one. It was crafted as a response to a so-called “fetal pain bill” proposed by Republicans, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Even though he wants to end the Afghanistan war and impose a more isolationist foreign policy, Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has received more donations from members of the military than all of his GOP rivals and President Obama combined during 2011's fourth quarter. Paul raised more than $150,000 from active-duty military personnel.

As banks foreclose on an increasing number of properties nationwide, tenants are discovering many of those lending institutions are neglectful landlords, NPR reports.

The United Nations has a secret list of top Syrian officials who could face investigation for crimes against humanity for their violent crackdown against anti-government protestors, according to a U.N. report. The list includes Syrian President Bashar Assad, said London's The Independent. Sources tell the newspaper as many as 500 children have been killed in the violence.
 
 
by 04.08.2011
Posted In: Democrats, City Council, 2011 Election at 03:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Dems Endorse, Plot Strategy

Local Democrats are counting on a planned statewide referendum on Senate Bill No. 5 to boost Democratic voter turnout this fall, and help restore the party's majority on Cincinnati City Council.

That was the message preached Thursday night by party leaders — along with Mayor Mark Mallory and three of the four Democratic incumbents — during a meeting of the Cincinnati Democratic Committee (CDC).

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by German Lopez 12.18.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Mayor at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar Audit Finds High Costs to Cancel

Operating costs also lower than previously projected

Cincinnati would save just $7.8-$52.6 million in capital costs if it incurs tens of millions in additional expenditures to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar project, according to an audit from consulting firm KPMG released Wednesday.

By showing the potentially high costs of cancellation, the numbers could throw a lifeline to the streetcar project just one day before City Council decides whether to restart construction or permanently halt the project.

But Mayor John Cranley appears undeterred in his commitment to cancel the streetcar project. By accounting for the annual costs to operate the streetcar, Cranley estimates the city will actually save $102 million if it cancels the project.

The city already spent roughly $34 million on the project, according to the audit. Cancellation would add $16.3-$46.1 million in close-out costs, bringing the total costs of cancellation and money spent so far to $50.3-$80.1 million.

Completing the project would add $68.9 million in costs, after deducting $40.9 million in remaining federal grants, the audit found.

But the completion estimate assumes the city will need to pay $15 million in utility work — a cost that is currently being debated in court. If the city wins its case against Duke Energy, the utility company would be required to pay the $15 million and bring down the total completion costs to $53.9 million.

The audit also put the costs of operating the streetcar at $3.13-$3.54 million a year, lower than the previous $3.4-$4.5 million estimate. After revenues from fares, sponsorships and other sources, the city would need to pay $1.88-$2.44 million to operate the streetcar, according to the audit.

The reduced estimate for operating costs could become particularly important in deciding the project's fate as private contributors attempt to get the cost off the city's operating budget.

Delaying the streetcar project while KPMG conducted its audit also added $1.7-$2.8 million in costs, according to the audit. The city allocated another $250,000 to pay KPMG for its work.

The audit did not account for the potential costs of litigation if contractors and investors along the planned streetcar line sue the city to recoup costs.

City Council paused the streetcar project on Dec. 4 to obtain the cost estimates of completion, cancellation and annual operations. The full body of council will decide whether to restart the project on Thursday, before a Friday deadline set by the Federal Transit Administration for federal grants.

Read the full audit:


This post was updated at 12:59 p.m. with more information and details.

 
 
by 10.16.2009
Posted In: 2009 Election, City Council, Government at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 

Candidates On: Recalling Mayor and Council

As CityBeat did in the 2007 election cycle, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to various non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Seven of the 12 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

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by Hannah McCartney 10.04.2013
Posted In: News, COAST, City Council, Equality, LGBT, LGBT Issues, Taxes at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pride_seelbach_jf

Seelbach: I'll Pay $1,200 to Dismiss COAST Lawsuit

Defending suit would cost the city $30,000, says councilman

Today's an expensive day for Councilman Chris Seelbach.

That's because Seelbach is writing a check today for  $1,218.59 to the city of Cincinnati to get local hyper-conservative "watchdog" group COAST to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., to accept an award for instigating positive change was an unlawful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

As a refresher, we're talking about the trip when Seelbach was one of 10 community leaders around the nation selected to receive the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award for his accomplishments in protecting the city's LGBT community — particularly through his efforts to extend equal partner health insurance to all city employees, create an LGBT liaison in the city's fire and police departments and requiring anyone accepting city funding to follow a non-discrimination policy a national recognition of championing Cincinnati's progression toward social justice in the past few years.

In an email from his campaign, he says that the city's law department wants to move forward with the lawsuit because the allegations are so frivolous, but Seelbach decided to just use his own personal money to prevent the city from having to spend close to $30,000 of the same taxpayer money COAST is complaining about to prove that they're wrong.

On Aug. 28, Chris Finney, chief crusader at COAST, sent a letter to the office of the city solicitor alleging that the city had committed a "misapplication of corporate funds" by sponsoring Chris Seelbach's May trip to Washington, D.C., complaining that Seelbach and his staffers "upgraded" their hotel rooms.

Curp says that the rooms weren't only never upgraded — Seelbach and his staffers shared rooms — but that the councilman didn't even request reimbursement for several other eligible expense, like parking, meals and taxi fares — and flew out of Louisville, Ky., to take advantage of cheaper airfare.

In City Solicitor John Curp's five-page response to Finney, he refutes every claim made by COAST and ends the letter by citing an Ohio Supreme Court case that effectively ruled that private citizens (like Chris Finney and all the other COASTers) constantly contesting official acts and expenditures doesn't benefit the city and should only be allowed when it could cause serious public injury if ignored. Here's Curp's full response:

Solicitor Response - Champion of Change by chrisseelbach1



In Seelbach's campaign email, he chocks the lawsuit up to another one of COAST's attacks to continue their thinly veiled bigotry-fueled crusade against Seelbach and Cincinnati's LGBT community as a whole. "You can bet they never would have asked a City Councilmember to pay for a trip to the White House to celebrate Cincinnati if it weren't for the connection to Harvey Milk and the LGBT community."

 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2013
Posted In: News, Homelessness, City Council at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
avondale housing

Committee Votes to Pull Support for Supportive Housing Facility

Commons at Alaska in Avondale snared by controversy

A City Council committee on Tuesday voted to rescind council’s support for state tax credits going to a 99-unit supportive housing facility in Avondale that would aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income individuals.

But since National Church Residences already obtained tax credits for the project from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency in June, it’s possible the project could continue even if council stands in opposition, according to Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness.

Still, the decision from the Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee comes in the middle of a months-long controversy that has placed neighborhood activists and homeless advocates in a heated dispute. (CityBeat first covered the issue in greater detail here.)

Independent Christopher Smitherman and Republican Amy Murray, the two present members of the committee, both voted to pull support from the project. The issue will now go to a nine-member City Council, which consists of five Democrats, and Democratic Mayor John Cranley.

Smitherman, chair of the committee, claimed the project’s issues spawned from a lack of community engagement.

“I want everybody to take a pause,” Smitherman said. “Respecting our city, in my opinion, means that you do the community engagement at the level that reflects the magnitude of what you want to do.”

Smitherman’s comments followed testimony from neighborhood activists who oppose the facility and homeless advocates who support it.

Opponents insist they support policies addressing homelessness. But they argue the “massive” facility would alter the neighborhood, worsen Avondale’s problems with poverty and damage revitalization efforts.

Supporters claim the dispute stems from a not-in-my-backyard attitude that predominates so many supportive housing facilities.

“In our society, we have a tendency to say we don't want ‘those people’ in our neighborhoods. And history dictates to us that conversations that start with ‘we don't want those people here’ don't typically end well,” said Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

Finn of Strategies to End Homelessness said the facility is part of his organization’s Homeless to Homes plan, which council previously approved to address Cincinnati’s struggles with homelessness.

Finn’s organization aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 in 2012 to roughly 3,500 in 2017.

The Avondale facility could also help reduce Cincinnati’s high levels of poverty. More than half of Cincinnati’s children and more than one-third of the city’s general population live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey.

The full body of City Council could take up the issue as early as Wednesday. Smitherman advised both sides to attend the council meeting and state their cases.

Updated with additional information from Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness.

 
 
by Danny Cross 05.03.2012
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

City Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a measure that will offer benefits to domestic partners of city employees. The measure was introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach and passed 8-1, the lone “no” vote coming from Charlie Winburn. Seelbach told The Enquirer that domestic partner benefits not only affect same-sex couples, but are also applicable to non-married partners, which is an added attraction to lure talented employees to the city. Covington officials passed a similar measure Tuesday.

If you owe the city of Cincinnati any parking fines, now would be a good time to pay them. Cincinnati police are going to start hearing descriptions of vehicles with multiple outstanding tickets during roll call and then head out to find them during patrols.

Eric Deters wants to be a real lawyer again. The attorney/radio personality/cage fighter says his current predicament — Kentucky law license suspension — is mostly because someone making the rulings “hates him” and is not due to the “ethical lapses” that caused his original 61-day suspension. If Deters can't get the Kentucky Supreme Court to help him out he'll have to go in front of a Character and Fitness Committee and explain all the crazy stuff he's done.

Gov. John Kasich is making changes to the state's Medicaid program, which he and its officials say will save money, though it will cause disruptions in the form of some recipients needing to find new providers, many of which have less access to medical advice and financial help. A similar program implemented in Kentucky last year resulted in complaints that patients couldn't get services authorized and providers didn't get paid on time, according to The Enquirer.

New Osama bin Laden documents published online by the U.S. Government show concern over Muslim distrust of his organization before he was killed last May, and much of which was due to the high numbers of civilians it was responsible for killing.

It's not very fun to be John Edwards these days. Already charged with using $1 million in campaign money to hide a pregnant mistress, testimony in his case for violating campaign finance laws has revealed that his mistress had a better idea in response to the National Enquirer's report on the affair: She wanted to say she was abducted by aliens.

Jobless-benefits claims were down last week, and the reduction was the greatest in three months. And U.S. stock futures rose in accordance.

Target is done selling Kindles, and although it didn't give a reason analysts suspect it is in response to Amazon's attempts to get retailers who see the products in a store to then purchase them online. Amazone last holiday season indroduced a Price Check app that offered in-store price comparisons and up to a $15 discount online.

Retired NFL linebacker Junior Seau was found dead at his home yesterday in an apparent suicide. Seau, who played in the NFL for parts of 20 seasons, was found shot to death. He was 43.

 
 
by 04.14.2011
 
 

Qualls Opposes S.B. 5, But...

This week's issue of CityBeat features a lengthy letter to the editor by Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls explaining why she opposes Ohio Senate Bill No. 5, which limited collective bargaining rights for public-sector labor unions including police and firefighters.

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