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by Andy Brownfield 11.15.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Council Approves Raise, Bonus for City Manager

Opponents argue unwise with looming deficit; Dohoney's last raise in 2007

City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus.

Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay increase.

Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job.

Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it.

Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager, saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them, but the manager exceeded all of them.

To do anything other than that (approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big enough raise.”

The raise came from a performance review conducted by Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council Republican Charlie Winburn.

Winburn said the city manager’s financial management system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for the previous five years.

Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise.

“For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service. This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.”

Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide.

Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the raise would not hurt the budget.

Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes. Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009.

Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations.

"Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.08.2012
 
 
levy

Commissioners Vote to Keep Senior, Mental Health Levies Flat

Tax levies will stay at 2008 levels, representing millions in reduced funding for services

Faced with the choice of raising property taxes or funding senior and mental health services at their current levels, the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners voted on Wednesday to approve a ballot measure that would effectively cut tens of millions of dollars from those services if passed by voters.

“It seems wrongheaded for us to ask citizens to pay more in taxes when their homes are worth less, when costs have gone up in their households and when in many cases their paychecks are down,” said Board President Greg Hartmann. “So we need to hold the line on those property taxes.”

The tax rate would be held at the levels passed by voters in 2008, which would be an effective reduction due to declining property values. If Hamilton County voters approve the levies in November, senior services would see a $7 million reduction in funding over the next five years — down to $97 million from $104 million — while funding for mental health services would fall $17 million from $187 million to $170 million, Hartmann said.

The money funds services such as meals on wheels, in-home care for seniors, counseling and drug and alcohol addiction and treatment services.

The board’s sole Democrat — Commissioner Todd Portune — made the symbolic gesture of submitting an alternate proposal which would have funded services at the levels providers had requested, but it failed without support from either of the board’s two Republican members.

Portune’s resolution would have increased property taxes by $5 for every $100,000 the property was worth. He said voters should be given the option to shoulder the additional tax burden. He later voted in favor of Hartmann’s resolution, saying the worst thing that could happen would be for voters to approve no levy.

Commissioners also approved a resolution to formally review all healthcare services provided by the county in hopes of saving money by eliminating any that were duplicated at the federal level under the healthcare overhaul.

Hartmann said he didn’t come to the decision to keep the levies at the current rate lightly and pledged to work with the recipients to manage the reduction.

Many of those providers appeared at three public hearings held in the last month and with near unanimity asked commissioners to approve the increased rates — which would have kept funding even by countering the money lost from decreased property values.

Patrick Tribbe, president and CEO of the Hamilton County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, didn’t outline specific cuts the agency would undertake, but told reporters after the commissioners’ vote that he would spend the next six months planning for the start of the next fiscal year, when the cuts would take effect.

The Tax Levy Review Committee had recommended that the property tax rate remain flat instead of increasing. It suggested that service providers reduce their administrative costs and find areas to increase efficiency. 

Many of the providers who spoke at the public hearings said they had already cut administrative costs about as deeply as they could and had very little room for to cut further.

 
 
by Danny Cross 06.07.2012
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

The Enquirer today broke out its Freedom of the Press Card, pressing the city to release details of the bids to build the streetcar's five vehicles. Enquirer Editor and Vice President Carolyn Washburn says the newspaper is being a good watchdog by investigating all the redacted parts of documents released by the city, which reportedly include typical streetcar parts, performance data and personal information of employees. A firm called CAF USA, which won the bid for more than $20 million, is trying to block the release of the data, along with two losing bidders who claim the information is trade secret.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear are considering a private-public partnership that includes tolls to fund renovations to the Brent Spence Bridge.

President Obama enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome from Los Angeles LGBT supporters at an event in Beverly Hills. Republicans are saying Obama is being all glitzy in California so he's out of touch with Americans' struggles.

Russia would like Iran to be involved in forcing a political transition in Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Syrian President Bashar Assad should quit and roll out.

The U.S. is losing patience with Pakistan, too.

George Zimmerman's bond hearing has been set for June 29. He returned to jail on Sunday after a judge revoked his bond for failing to disclose $135,000 in funds raised for his legal defense.

Thousands of homes in the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at high risk for hurricane damage, and New York City has the highest risk of losses.

Do you use LinkedIn or eHarmony? Well, you shouldn't. Also, both sites were hacked and had user passwords breached.

A car called the Honda Fit EV has earned the highest ever miles-per-gallon equivalency rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — 118 mpg.

More than 80 lawsuits by former NFL players have been consolidated and filed in a Philadelphia federal court, accusing the league of hiding details that linked head trauma to permanent brain injuries. The NFL denies culpability.

The Reds are still in first place.

 


 


 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.20.2012
 
 
xavier

Morning News and Stuff

Today is Presidents' Day and even though it's a federal holiday, most readers probably don't have the day off from work. You can console yourself about this affront to George and Honest Abe by learning all about the holiday's quirky history. For example, it was the first holiday authorized to commemorate an American citizen (Mr. Washington) and was split among three different holidays until President Nixon decided to consolidate them in 1971. (Thanks for that, Dick.) And here's CityBeat contributer Ryan Carpe's account of interesting anecdotes involving several presidents from Ohio.

Xavier University is facing yet another federal investigation for possible civil rights violations. The probe, the third since December, again involves allegations that campus officials didn't appropriately investigate and punish complaints of sexual assaults filed by female students. In the latest incident, 2011 XU graduate Caitlin Pinciotti charges that she was sexually assaulted in late 2008. She says the university allowed the student found responsible in a March 2009 campus disciplinary hearing to flout terms of his one-semester suspension and frequently return to campus.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. looks back on his 41-year political career as he prepares to retire later this year. Leis, 77, was county prosecutor and a judge before being elected to his first term as sheriff in 1987. He is perhaps best known for his 1977 prosecution of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, which was later thrown out on a technicality, and his temporarily shutting down a photographic exhibit by Robert Mapplethorpe at the Contemporary Arts Center in 1990, both of which helped solidify Cincinnati's image as a backwards, culturally inept burg on the national scene.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is in town today, stumping before Ohio's March 6 primary. Romney will visit Meridian Bioscience in Newtown this afternoon, then hold a $2,500-a-plate fundraising dinner at downtown's Great American Tower at 5 p.m.

Do you plan on using the bridge that replaces the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River whenever it's finally built? Then you'd better have some change ready. Greater Cincinnati business leaders said tolls likely will be part of whatever financing plan eventually is cobbled together for the $2.3 billion project.

In news elsewhere, a Washington Post analysis of various speeches and documents from years past reveals that GOP presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich criticized President Reagan and often took moderate positions on some issues until it became more politically expedient to portray himself as a staunch conservative.

Nuclear inspectors from the United Nations are visiting Iran to verify that its uranium enrichment work is peaceful in purpose and isn't designed to make weapons. International tensions have risen due to speculation that Israel may soon carry out a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

It's not just the United States and Europe that's having problems with deficits. Japan is posting a record trade deficit in January as fuel imports rose sharply following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster. January's deficit totaled $18.5 billion, the highest since the nation began record-keeping in 1979, officials said.

Canada is threatening a trade war with the European Union over the bloc's plan to label oil from Alberta's vast tar sands as highly polluting in a key vote scheduled for Thursday. Canadian officials believe it would set a global precedent and derail its ability to exploit its tar sands, which are the biggest fossil fuel reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.03.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, President Obama at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cecil-thomas-1

Obama Ramps Up Ground Game in Cincinnati

Northern neighborhoods can prepare for calls, canvassers

President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign is upping its ground game in Cincinnati, opening its fourth field office in the city on Thursday evening.

The new College Hill office will be the source of phone calls and canvassers to the Mount Healthy, Northside, North College Hill and College Hill neighborhoods. The Obama campaign already has field offices in East Walnut Hills, Cheviot and Forest Park.

Obama’s Republican rival Mitt Romney’s campaign has three offices: in Kenwood, Westwood and Colerain. Staff contact Kelsey Romanchik said she didn’t know if there were plans to open more.

More than 150 people braved the sweltering Cincinnati humidity for the opening of the Obama College Hill field office. They were greeted by a drum line outside of the office, as well as inside a mainstay of any such campaign event — snacks.

Keynote speaker City Councilman Cecil Thomas sounded off many of the Obama campaign’s talking points, attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, his refusal to release further tax returns and Romney’s tax plan, which a recent study by the Tax Policy Center says will raise taxes on the middle class by eliminating popular tax credits.

“Why in the world would I vote for someone like that?” asked Thomas.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.22.2012
 
 
471

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati officials approved a deal Wednesday that offers up to $12 million in tax incentives to a local firm in return for it agreeing to build its new headquarters at the long vacant site at Fifth and Race streets downtown and maintaining certain employment levels. City Council said it was important to keep Dunnhumby USA, a retail branding company, located here. Dunnhumby will build a $36 million complex that includes 250,000 square feet of office space and create 550 new jobs by 2014, along with retaining its 450 current employees. Under the deal, the city would pay Dunnhumby up to 75 percent of the new income tax generated each year as the company adds jobs.

A plan to reconfigure I-471 in Northern Kentucky is delaying a road project across the Ohio River in Cincinnati's East End neighborhood. The city's project would make Riverside Drive more like a neighborhood street, instead of a major thoroughfare, and add bicycle lanes. But the I-471 project means motorists who need to reach the East Side during rush hour will likely be using Riverside Drive, so city engineers don't want to restrict traffic there until the highway construction is done. The change means the Riverside Drive work will be delayed between one and two years.

Partially based on local complaints, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed an antitrust lawsuit against Cargill Inc. and Morton Salt Inc. for allegedly being involved in a price-fixing scheme. The lawsuit alleges the two companies divided up the Ohio rock salt market between themselves, agreeing not to compete with each other and driving up rock salt prices over the past decade. In 2008, Hamilton County said it saw signs that collusion was occurring when it was getting only one bid for salt at triple the usual price.

A man who rescued a child from a burning house in Northside is among a group of people recognized for their heroism. Ryan Phillips, 43 of Cincinnati, saved a 3-year-old child from a fire in February 2011. He is among the 21 winners of Carnegie Medals for heroism. Carnegie medalists receive a financial reward from a fund. More than $33.9 million has been awarded to 9,516 honorees since its 1904 inception.

Boosted by expansion at hospitals and colleges, the number of construction jobs in Ohio is slowly increasing. The state’s construction industry employed 177,300 workers in January, an increase of 4,500 — or 2.6 percent — from January 2011, according to a new analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Almost half of the gains came from the Columbus area. (For the record, the mayor of Columbus and a majority of its City Council are Democrats. Just saying.)

In news elsewhere, after a long standoff and a gun battle, French police today stormed into the apartment of a young Islamic radical suspected of killing seven people. The suspect, Mohammed Merah, was shot and killed in the confrontation. He is believed to be the person that murdered three off-duty soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi in an eight-day terrorism spree.

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea bargain negotiations, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. In a pair of 5-to-4 decisions, the high court vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers. About 97 percent of convictions in federal courts were the result of guilty pleas. In 2006, the last year for which data was available, 94 percent of convictions in state courts were the result of such deals.

Even though he came in fourth, behind Ron Paul, in the Illinois primary this week, Newt Gingrich isn't giving up hope about his struggling presidential bid. The ex-House Speaker told NPR that he sees no reason to exit the Republican presidential race and that there's a chance of a new contender emerging at the party's convention in August. "I'm not so sure you wouldn't get a series of brand new players" stepping forward during a brokered convention, he said. Dream on, Newt.

Soldiers in Mali have taken over state-operated television and announced they have seized control of the government. The soldiers said the coup was necessary because of the mishandling of an insurgency in the north. For those of you scratching your heads, Mali is in western Africa, near Algiers, and has a population of 14.5 million people. (It's not to be confused with Malawi, where Madonna likes to adopt children.)

Federal prosecutors in Brazil have filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean executives over an oil leak in the Atlantic Ocean in November 2011. Prosecutors on Wednesday accused the executives of environmental crimes, of misleading Brazil's oil regulator about their safety plans and not providing accurate information in the wake of the spill. At least 416,000 liters of oil seeped through cracks on the ocean floor near a Chevron well off the Rio de Janeiro coast.
 
 
by Danny Cross 06.04.2012
 
 
death-chamber-lucasville-123009jpg-86e918e4a3560490_large

Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County has been killing people more often than Ohio counties of similar size, despite actually asking for the death penalty less often. Today's Enquirer takes a look at the growing opposition to the death penalty in other states and recent legislation and task forces aimed at either studying its effectiveness or stopping the practice altogether. Prosecutor Joe Deters says he's going to kill all the people who deserve it because the law is still the law.

Would you like to pay tolls or higher gas taxes in order to have a new Brent Spence Bridge? No? Then you're like a majority of people who take the time to respond to Enquirer polls.

City Manager Milton Dohoney plans to ask City Council to raise the property tax rate in response to a projected $33 million 2013 deficit that everyone knows was coming.

The Community Press on the East Side says Norfolk Southern is willing to consider selling the Wasson Way right of way that some would like to see turned into a bike trail. CityBeat in March found the proposed trail to have support among cycling enthusiasts but some resistance from light rail supporters.

President Obama hooked up an 11-year-old kid with a note excusing him from class on Friday.

“He says, ‘Do you want me to write an excuse note? What’s your teacher’s name?” Sullivan told ABC. “And I say, Mr. Ackerman. And he writes, ‘Please excuse Tyler. He was with me. Barack Obama, the president.'"

Fortune magazine has taken exception to Mitt Romney's recent criticism of Solyndra, the solar panel company that went out of business despite a $500 million Department of Energy loan.

So last Thursday Romney held a surprise press conference at Solyndra's shuttered headquarters. During his prepared statement, Romney said:

"An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the Administration had steered money to friends and family and campaign contributors."

Romney then repeated the claim later in the press conference.

Small problem: No inspector general ever "concluded" such a thing, at least not based on any written reports or public statements.

Wisconsin Gov./Union Crusher Scott Walker holds a slight lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to a recent poll.

George Zimmerman is back in jail after what his attorney is calling a misunderstanding over telling a judge that he had limited money even though a website set up to fund his legal defense raised more than $135,000.

Legal issues will be involved in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban giant sodas.

Jason Alexander has released a lengthy and quite thoughtful apology for referring to the sport of cricket as "a bit gay" during a recent appearance on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

Why do people on the West Coast get to see all the cool stuff that happens in space? First the eclipse and now the Transit of Venus, when Venus will cross paths between the sun and earth. Next time it will happen is 2117. And Australia got to see a partial lunar eclipse the other day, too.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.10.2013
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Voting, Economy, Education at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jon_husted_518045c

Morning News and Stuff

Husted moves to middle, Republicans love early voting, loos coming to Cincinnati

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is pushing local election officials to begin investigating legitimate cases of voter fraud or suppression. He also vowed to continue pushing for uniform voting hours and redistricting. During election season, Husted developed a bad reputation around the nation for suppressive tactics, which CityBeat covered here, but it seems he’s now taking a more moderate tone.

It looks like in-person early voting didn’t rev up the “African-American … voter turnout machine,” as Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse claimed, after all. New numbers show in-person early voting was

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 08.22.2012
Posted In: News, 2012 Election, Development, Government at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dougpreisse

Morning News and Stuff

The Ohio Republican Party has given an excuse for Franklin County Republican Party Chairman Doug Preisse’s racist comment: Preisse thought he was off the record. The defense solidifies that Preisse, who is also a top adviser to Gov. John Kasich, was being honest — just not public — when he wrote in an email to The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” The comment was supposed to defend the Ohio Republican Party’s position against expanding in-person early voting, but it only revealed that racial politics play a pivotal role in the Republican Party’s opposition to expanded voting.

Cincinnati has revealed the first master plan for the city since 1980. The plan seeks to put back an emphasis on urban living with policies that are friendlier to the environment and non-automotive transportation.

President Barack Obama’s campaign will host an open house at the campaign’s new offices at Over-the-Rhine tomorrow. John Legend will be there.

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank is facing a class action lawsuit for what the plaintiff calls “payday loans.” The plaintiff alleges that the bank was charging illegally high interest rates.

University of Cincinnati President Greg Williams is stepping down, citing personal reasons. Santa Onos, who previously served as provost, will take over temporarily as interim president.

Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate, which is not adjusted for seasonal factors, remained at 7.2 percent in July. The number is lower than the state’s unadjusted rate of 7.4 percent and the federal unadjusted rate of 8.6 percent. Governments typically give numbers that are seasonally adjusted, which is why in July a 7.2 percent unemployment rate was reported for Ohio and an 8.3 percent unemployment rate was reported for the United States.

The Ohio Hospital Association is backing the Medicaid expansion. The expansion is an optional part of Obamacare. The Dispatch blog calls the expansion “costly,” but Medicaid expansions can actually save the state money by eliminating uncompensated hospital visits — on top of possibly saving lives.

The Ohio Board of Education will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow. The meeting will set the “process and criteria” for the Board’s search for a new superintendent of public instruction.

The Horseshoe Casino will begin hiring today. The casino is looking to fill more than 750 positions.

Forty-one Greater Cincinnati companies made it on the latest Inc. 5000 list.

Obama was in Columbus yesterday. During the trip, the president talked mostly about young people and education in an attempt to rally the youth vote.

U.S. spending on health care is set to rise by 50 percent by 2020, a new report says. As part of Obamacare and other programs, the federal government is trying to bring health-care costs down, which have risen faster than the rate of inflation in recent history.

Scientists have caught a glimpse of a red giant — an expanding star in its final stages — devouring one of its own planets. The same will happen to our galaxy someday, painting a fairly grim future for Earth. Fortunately, humanity has a few billion years to find a solution.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.04.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Media at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
reporter notebook

Reporter's Notebook: Mitt Romney Comes to Town

Amusements and things that didn't make it into our story

There are a lot of things that don’t make it into any given news story. When you attend an event as a reporter, such as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Union Terminal last Saturday (as I did), you wait in line for about an hour, then wait inside for another hour while security checks every visitor.

During that time, you’re talking to people who are attending, taking notes to provide color for the story (things such as what songs are playing, slogans on shirts or signs, the general mood or atmosphere) and getting information from the event staff, such as how many tickets were given out, how many people are estimated to attend, etc.

Then there are the speakers — about an hour of politicians talking. After that, there’s the counter press conference with local Democratic officials. Then you make phone calls to fill in any gaps.

With all of that material and the average reader attention span on 800 words, a lot of information gets left out of any given piece. So here are some things I found interesting from Romney’s visit that didn’t make it into my story that day.

  • The most popular attire seemed to be Reds items. Many event-goers wore Reds T-shirts or caps, and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who spoke at the event, wore a Reds ballcap and opened his speech with “So Cincinnati, how about these Redlegs?” and talked about Jay Bruce’s homer the previous night.
  • U.S. House Speaker John Boehner attended the rally. I remember seeing him on TV at the Republican National Convention and commenting that he didn’t look as tan anymore. Must have been the cameras. In person, he was at least five shades darker than the pasty Portman.
  • U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot also spoke at the rally. While most speakers stuck to short speeches meant to pump up attendees and introduce Romney, Chabot got local. He encouraged attendees to vote against Issue 2, a ballot measure appearing in November that would change the way redistricting is done in Ohio. Currently congressional redistricting is done by the Legislature, which can give one party an advantage if they control both houses and the governor’s mansion. Chabot said Issue 2, which would set up an independent commission to redraw congressional districts, would allow special interest groups to take voters out of the equation and have the lines drawn by “unelected, unaccountable” people. (CityBeat covered this year's redistricting issue here and here.)
  • As politicians do, speakers from both Republican and Democratic camps tried to spin the message. Portman told rally attendees that we were in the midst of the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, a statement independent fact checkers determined to be false. UPDATE 9/5/12: According to Republicans in the Joint Economic Committee and a report by The Associated Press economic growth and consumer spending have recovered more slowly from this recession than any time since The Great Depression. A PolitiFact check of Romney's claim that it was the slowest jobs recovery was deemed to be false.
  • Meanwhile, in their press conference after the rally, Democrats had maybe a dozen local Cincinnatians in a small public area near Music Hall. Obama’s campaign provided signs and had them all crowd behind a podium where local politicians spoke. For the TV cameras, it probably looked like a sizeable crowd, which is an old trick.
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