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by Andy Brownfield 09.26.2012
Posted In: City Council, Economy, Government, Mayor, News, Streetcar at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Council Approves Measures Shifting $29 Million for Streetcar

Measures front Duke $15 million, add utility responsibility to move lines to city code

Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved a set of measures to alter funding of the $110 million streetcar project in order avoid further delaying its 2015 opening.

The three measures set up $15 million to front to Duke Energy to move utility lines out of the proposed path; changes the source of funding to repay some $25 million in bonds used to pay for the streetcar; sells $14 million in bonds for streetcar improvements; and changes the municipal code to clarify that it is the responsibility of a utility to relocate its structures.

The $15 million comes from the $37 million sale of city-owned land near the former Blue Ash Airport.

Council voted 6-3 to approve the front money, improvement bonds and bond repayment, a vote that largely mirrored a Monday Budget and Finance Committee vote. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole “no” vote on the ordinance to change the municipal code.

Councilmembers Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson voted to pass funding, while Councilmembers Smitherman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Charles Winburn voted against.

“My concern with all of these votes … in particular the Blue Ash Airport dollars, these were promises that you made to the neighborhoods and I don’t have the confidence that the legal battle against Duke Energy is going to yield a 100 percent win for the city of Cincinnati, so there’s no assurance that these dollars are going to come back,” said Councilman Chris Smitherman, one of the most vocal opponents of the streetcar. 

“I want to be clear that it’s something that I don’t support.”

The $15 million would be fronted to Duke to move its lines while the city and utility work out who is responsible for funding the move. 

Duke estimates the full cost at $18 million and argues that the lines would not have to be moved if the streetcar wasn’t being built. The city maintains that it has always been the responsibility of utilities to move or upgrade their structures — which the third measure clarified in the municipal code. If the city loses a legal battle against Duke, it will not recoup the $15 million.

The second proposal switches the source of funding for streetcar bonds from money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area to a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks. The measure wouldn't use any additional new money for the streetcar.

That downtown area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected but the city hopes to repay the other fund once the downtown district — which includes the Banks and the casino —  rebounds.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.20.2012
 
 
streetcar

Council to Move Funds to Avoid Further Streetcar Delays

Project would still open in 2015

Cincinnati City Council plans to move $29 million in funds to avoid further delays for the streetcar project, but the city is still looking at a 2015 opening date. City officials announced Wednesday that a council committee will vote Monday on three pieces of legislation to keep the $110 million project in line with the recently announced delayed opening.

One measure would front $15 million to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route. That money comes from the recent $37 million sale of land near the former Blue Ash Airport. 

The city thinks it will get this money back once a dispute with Duke is resolved. The city contends that Duke is responsible for moving the lines, which the utility estimates will cost $18.7 million. Duke counters that the lines only have to be moved because of the streetcar construction, so the city should foot the bill.

“We’re fronting money for the Duke work until we can work out who pays for it with Duke,” city spokeswoman Meg Oldberding said. “It’s to keep the project on time and on budget. Delays would escalate the cost.”

Another ordinance would change the municipal code to “confirm the city’s existing rights” and clarify that utilities pay for the cost of relocating facilities unless otherwise negotiated, according to a news release.

Oldberding said Cincinnati has always maintained that it is the utility’s responsibility to relocate their facilities, so it is not a change in the city’s position.

The final ordinance would change the funding source that is repaying $25 million in bonds sold as part of the original plan to fund the streetcar. 

Those bonds were originally being repaid with money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area. 

That area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected, so the ordinance would have $14 million of the bonds repaid from a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks.

Oldberding said once the downtown district rebounds — it includes the Banks and the casino — it would repay the other fund.

The ordinances would not add to the project’s cost. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.14.2012
 
 
pink-slime_0

Morning News and Stuff

UPDATED 11:20 a.m.: Here's a picture of Nick Nolte in a bumper car.

Fact-checkers at The Columbus Dispatch said a new TV ad by Ohio treasurer and Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Josh Mandel “might be the most audaciously over-the-top ad to run so far in the expensive and bitter race for the U.S. Senate.” The ad accuses Democratic Senate incumbent Sherrod Brown of missing more than 350 official votes and voting to raise his own pay six times. The Dispatch points out that Brown has a 97 percent voting record during his entire time in Congress, which started in 1993 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to GovTrack. According to the Dispatch, “Mandel … borrows a tactic from GOP campaign guru Karl Rove’s playbook: Identify your own weakness and find a way to assign it to your opponent to confuse voters.”

The Ohio Ballot Board on Thursday approved new summary language for Issue 2, which would take the decennial redistricting out of the hands of politicians and task a nonpartisan commission with redrawing congressional lines. The Dispatch reports that the new summary removes factual inaccuracies and included previously omitted information about who would select members of the new citizens commission. Secretary of State and Ballot Board Chairman Jon Husted said the board tried to make the language as generic and concise as possible, but Democrats and voter advocates say the new language is too long and technical and would confuse voters.

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld became the first elected official in the nation to host an online town hall. The Enquirer reports that Sittenfeld is taking questions on the online tool CrowdHall and by next Friday will have answered them via text or video. He is also asking Cincinnatians to post suggestions as to how they would balance the budget or spend the new casino revenue.

Rush Limbaugh on Thursday theorized that Al Qaeda colluded with President Barack Obama to give up Osama bin Laden to help Obama look good and win reelection. 

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney defines “middle income” as $200,000 to $250,000 a year. The Associated Press reports that Romney made the comments during an interview broadcast Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The Census Bureau meanwhile reported this week that the median household income is just over $50,000. CityBeat’s reporting staff wishes management would promote us to middle income level.

Speaking of ABC, they’re being sued by Beef Products Inc. for $1.2 billion over a report of the beef filler “pink slime.” The beef company says the defaming report disparaged the safety of pink slime.

Obama again apologized for America called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and called on him and the Muslim Brotherhood to stand with Washington against protesters who are attacking the U.S. Embassy in what The New York Times called a “blunt phone call.”

Jimmy Kimmel took the iPhone 4S onto the streets, telling people it was the new iPhone 5, proving that Apple cultists enthusiasts will love anything the company puts out.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.31.2012
 
 
city hall

City Council Cancels First Half of September Meetings

DNC causes first week's cancellations, Council to resume Sept. 19

After taking a two-month summer break — with a week for some committee hearings and a council meeting — Cincinnati City Council has canceled its meetings for the first half of September.

The council meetings for Sept. 6 and 12 have been canceled, along with all committee meetings for the first week of September and the Job Growth Committee meeting for Sept. 10.

Jason Barron, spokesman for Mayor Mark Mallory, said the council meetings were canceled due to the Democratic National Convention, which is occurring in the first week of September. Barron said many of the Democratic officials in the city are delegates to the convention.

Asked why the City Council meeting was canceled for the second week of September, Barron said he didn’t know.

Council did meet once in August, where they approved a ballot measure to lengthen council terms from two to four years, as well as a plan to undo the sale of the Blue Ash airport.

All of the committee meetings for the week of the DNC were canceled as well. Strategic Growth Committee chairwoman Laure Quinlivan is not a delegate to the convention, but is attending, an aide said.

Council members Roxanne Qualls and Cecil Thomas, who chair the Budget and Finance and Public Safety Committees respectively, did not respond to CityBeat’s requests for comment as of Friday afternoon.

A special meeting of the Rules and Government Operations Committee is meeting on Sept. 10 — the first committee meeting after the summer break. An aide to committee chairman Wendell Young says the committee is meeting to receive a report from a task force charged with recommending ways to put grocery stores in so-called “food deserts” — neighborhoods where fresh food isn’t readily available.

The Livable Communities Committee and Major Transportation & Infrastructure Sub-committee are meeting during the second week of September, but the first full council meeting isn’t until the 19th.

Council still has a few big-ticket items it is expected to deal with this year, including proposed budget cuts from City Manager Milton Dohoney (expected to be laid out in November) and the approval of a new city plan, which shifts development emphasis from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to the city’s other 50 neighborhoods. More on that plan here

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.10.2012
Posted In: COAST, City Council, Spending, Streetcar at 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

COAST Threatens to Block $11M for Streetcar

Group threatens referendum of Blue Ash Airport resale

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) has threatened to block a move that would allow Cincinnati to use $37.5 million from the 2007 sale of the Blue Ash Airport for projects other than aviation, $11 million of which would go to the Cincinnati streetcar.

The Blue Ash City Council voted Thursday to re-do the sale of 130 acres at the Blue Ash Airport to the City of Cincinnati.  COAST says it wants to put the matter before voters in a 2013 referendum, which would halt the sale and re-instate the original agreement made in 2007 when Cincinnati made the sale.

The two cities decided to re-work the $37.5 million sale because a federal rule requires proceeds from the sale of an operating airport to be used for other aviation projects. The money would be returned, airport shut down and then the property re-sold to Blue Ash for the original amount.

“When they originally sold it they were stupid, which is typical of the City of Cincinnati, and did not realize that the proceeds on the sale of the airport have to go to other aviation-type things,” says COAST Chairman Tom Brinkman. “Now that they want to get the streetcar, they want to crack that money.”

Brinkman openly admits he doesn’t want the money to go to the streetcar (“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that boondoggle doesn’t occur”) but says COAST is working with a group of local pilots who want money from the sale to go to Cincinnati’s Lunken Airport.

Blue Ash is confident that the ordinance they passed approving the re-sale isn’t subject to referendum.

“Blue Ash believes everything enacted was lawful and would survive any challenge,” says City Solicitor Brian Pachenco. He declined to discuss specifics

The city wants the airport land to build a park.

Pachenco said the ordinance wasn’t written specifically to exempt it from referendum attempts, but nevertheless it falls under a section of the city’s charter that makes voters unable to recall it.

COAST isn’t so sure.

Chris Finney, legal counsel for COAST, said the buying and selling of land under the Blue Ash charter is subject to referendum. He said the ordinance was written to avoid using that language, but what was happening was in reality a sale.

For its part, Cincinnati doesn’t seem too concerned with the threatened referendum.

“We’re not going to talk 'what ifs' at this point,” city spokeswoman Meg Olberding said. “The streetcar has had two previous referendums that have been shot down.”

She pointed out that only $11 million of the sale was going toward the streetcar, and the remaining money would be available for other projects.

Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach was also unconcerned.

“COAST and groups like COAST have tried to put up every obstacle possible to prevent the streetcar from happening and we have overcome all of them,” Seelbach said. “I am 100 percent positive if this comes to a vote we will overcome it again and the streetcar will be built.”

 
 
by German Lopez 08.06.2012
Posted In: News, Education, City Council at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
stanheffner

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner announced Saturday that he will be resigning. An Inspector General report released Thursday found Heffner abused his position when he testified in front of the Ohio legislature in favor of legislation that benefited his employer. Heffner also allegedly misused state resources by using his state-issued cell phone and office email to get in contact with his employer. Heffner will officially step down on Aug. 10, and Deputy Superintendent Michael Sawyers will take Heffner’s position until the Board names a new state superintendent.

Greg Landsman is running for City Council. Landsman has previously worked for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi. He promises to focus on “jobs and growth.”

A report from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio revealed some Ohio schools — including some local schools in the Greater Cincinnati area — use seclusion rooms to punish children with disabilities. Most research has shown seclusion rooms do not benefit children and, in fact, hurt them. The report claims the rooms are often used as a “convenience for frustrated employees.” Critics are calling the practice “primitive and traumatic.” However, some educators say seclusion rooms can be good for dealing with violent tantrums.

Ohio gas prices are up sharply this week. Apparently, problems at Great Lakes refineries have increased prices for the region.

Cincinnati officials are looking into a plan to make trains quieter. The plan could help residents in neighborhoods with a lot of train traffic get better sleep.

Gov. John Kasich will be speaking at the Republican convention this month. He’s expected to talk about Ohio’s relatively low unemployment rate and stronger economic growth.

Mitt Romney has been caught lying again. On Friday and Saturday, Romney and aides said President Barack Obama’s lawsuit to restore all early voting in Ohio is trying to take away in-person early voting from military personnel. The lawsuit is actually trying to make it possible for everyone, including military personnel, to vote early.

Obama’s team released a tax calculator that calculates a person’s taxes under Obama’s plan and under Romney’s plan. Obviously, the calculator might be biased in Obama’s favor, but the important takeaway is that Romney’s plan would cut taxes for the wealthy, while Obama’s plan would cut taxes for the middle class. Romney’s tax plan has been criticized by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center for being “mathematically impossible.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was attacked by bees Monday.

Charlie Sheen gave $50,000 to a Cincinnati Reds charity fund after seeing Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman shave his head on Friday as part of a fundraising campaign that also raised $50,000.

The Curiosity rover has touched down on Mars. The Curiosity’s mission is NASA’s most ambitious Mars mission yet.

Soon, we could all be like Wolverine. Scientists have come up with experimental spray-on skin that could promote wound healing.
 
 
by German Lopez 08.02.2012
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

The audio for the 911 call Councilmember Chris Seelbach made to report being assaulted has been released to the public. During the call, Seelbach admits to drinking alcohol that night. Apparently, people are shocked that Seelbach is a human being that drinks alcohol.

City Council voted yesterday to put a ballot initiative before voters that, if approved, would let councilmembers remain in power for four years, up from two years under current law. The initiative would let local policymakers worry more about passing good policy and less about getting reelected every other year.

City Council also approved an ordinance that bans wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater produced during fracking, within city limits. But the ordinance is little more than politics at this point, considering the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no permit requests for injection wells in southwestern Ohio, and ODNR spokesperson Heidi Hetzel-Evans says southwestern Ohio’s geology makes injection wells unfeasible.

There are more benefits to legalizing same-sex marriage than just giving a bunch of people basic rights without hurting anyone. A new study found that Ohio could gain $100-126 million in economic growth from same-sex marriage legalization. The study is being used by Freedom to Marry Ohio to promote the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, which the organization hopes will be on the November 2013 ballot.

Comair Inc. disclosed that 1,194 employees will be losing their jobs when the airline halts operations on Sept. 29. The airline, which is owned by Delta, is headquartered at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Mayor Mark Mallory and local attorney Stan Chesley announced yesterday that 10 Cincinnati pools will remain open for one whole extra week — keeping them open until the beginning of the school year. Since the city can’t pay for the entire extra week, Chesley raised $25,000, which the Cincinnati Recreation Foundation matched with another $25,000, to keep the pools open. All pools but one will also have free admission for the rest of the year. The one exception is Otto Armleader Pool at Dunham, which will have $2 admission, down from $5.

In a surprising show of bipartisanship, the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich passed the “second chance” law. The law will make it easier for convicted criminals to continue on with their lives after their time is served.

More good news for Ohio Democrats: A new poll says Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is leading challenger Josh Mandel, Ohio’s state treasurer, by 12 points. Mandel is known for excessively lying in campaign attacks.

President Barack Obama was in Akron yesterday.

Glenn Beck says he is planning a big event in Ohio for the week of Sept. 12. Beck is known for literally crying on national television and disapproving of most of what Obama does.

In completely unsurprising news, temperatures in July broke heat records.

But worries about excessive heat may be a thing of the past. Scientists have invented a shirt that can lower a person's body temperature.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.01.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, City Council, Government at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Cincinnati Voters to Decide on Four-Year Terms

City Council approves ballot measure for non-staggered option

Cincinnati voters will decide in November whether to double the length of their council members' terms.

City Council voted 6-3 on Wednesday to put the ballot initiative before voters. The measure would have all nine members run at the same time, instead of a competing ballot initiative that would have staggered their terms.

“We are the only major city in Ohio that still has two-year terms for its leaders, and the cities that we compete with are also moving to four-year terms, including Louisville and as far as St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver and Atlanta,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who spearheaded the effort.

If approved by voters, the change wouldn’t affect council members serving currently and would go into effect in 2013.

Not every council member was thrilled with the idea.

“I think accountability is paramount, and I don’t see going from two-year terms to four-year terms as increasing the accountability citizens want,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who was one of three new faces to join council in last year's election, which saw four Republican incumbents booted from City Hall.

“I’m sure it’s not lost on my colleagues that last November the electorate was craving change and wanted change, and if we had been in the middle of a four-year cycle they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make that change and a substantial portion of this council … wouldn’t be sitting up here today.”

Sittenfeld equated an election to a job evaluation. He, along with councilmembers Chris Smitherman and Charles Winburn, voted against the ordinance.

Quinlivan has said her rationale for pushing four-year terms would be to eliminate the cycle that currently has sitting council members spending half of their terms campaigning.

Councilman Cecil Thomas said four-year terms would allow council members to focus on longer-term projects as well.

“Four years gives us plenty of time to gel together, to work together,” Thomas said.

Councilman Chris Seelbach attended all four public hearings council held throughout the city and called the number of people who support four-year terms “unbelievable.” Seelbach said he himself was “semi-conflicted” over the proposed changes, but was not conflicted over whether voters should have that choice: He voted in favor.

Mayor Mark Mallory was sure to remind councilmembers before their vote that they are forbidden from using city resources to campaign for a ballot initiative.

 
 
by Danny Cross 06.27.2012
 
 
music hall

Morning News and Stuff

City Council is expected to vote this morning to divert the $4 million for the City Hall atrium project to jumpstart the Music Hall renovation, which has brought the city and arts supporters interested in owning and operating the historic venue closer to a compromise. Council could vote on the renegotiated deal later Wednesday, though details of the lease agreement have yet to be released. 

Council is also expected to approve a property tax increase of $10 per $100,000 in valuation to fund capital projects such as a new West Side police station and additional road paving. 

Today’s Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District meeting will include a presentation about the Brent Spence Bridge that will probably include polls.

Gov. John Kasich today will sign a human trafficking bill that makes the crime a first-degree felony rather than second-degree and includes funding to help victims.   

The ACLU will represent the Ku Klux Klan in a legal fight involving Georgia’s highway cleanup program and a pending First Amendment lawsuit.  

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday will rule on President Obama’s health care law. 

Obama and Biden are still jamming Romney up on his outsourcing history. 

A Walgreens store and other pharmacies in Washington, D.C. are offering free HIV tests to make diagnosing the disease more convenient and to increase awareness. 

College football has approved a four-team playoff to determine its national championship rather than the computer-human two-team plan that has faced scrutiny over the years. The new format will start in the 2014-15 season. 

 
 
by Danny Cross 06.26.2012
 
 
californiacondorso

Morning News and Stuff

It was “Rich People Voice Their Concerns Night” at city councils across town last night, as proponents of the $1 sale of Music Hall packed Cincinnati City Council chambers even though the proposed lease deal wasn’t on the agenda. Mayor Mark Mallory insisted that any middle ground that will allow the nonprofit Music Hall Revitalization Co. to renovate the building will require that the city retain ownership.

Across town (and about 10 miles northeast toward the area with mass trees), Madeira City Council shot down a plan to develop a luxury apartment complex on Camargo Road. Council voted 6-1 to scrap the plan for a 184-unit complex after residents who voiced concern said the complex would be “too dense” and take away from the city’s single-family character. Word on the street is that the Council majority didn’t want scumbag renters like this guy to be able to move into the neighborhood and start playing music really loud out of their car stereos. 

Cincinnati City Council yesterday pretty much canceled its plans to build an atrium at City Hall. Six council members approved a motion asking administrators to shut it down, and City Manager Milton Dohoney says he’ll abide by it even though he technically doesn’t have to because the funding was approved in a spending ordinance. 

Council also voted yesterday to keep the property tax rate pretty much the same next year despite a projected deficit. 

Now that the Supreme Court has temporarily upheld part of Arizona’s racist controversial immigration law, no-name state legislators in Ohio and Kentucky plan to break out the laws they couldn’t previously get passed. According to The Enquirer’s Mark Curnutte (who apparently won a national book award for his work covering poverty in Haiti — big ups, Curnutte!), some dudes named Courtney Combs (R-Ross Township, Ohio) and John Schickel (R-Union, Ky.) have some great ways to rid of their states' illegal immigrants, at least until the court strikes down the rest of Arizona’s law.

New York Times: "Arizona Ruling Only a Narrow Opening for Other States"

Housing prices are going up in most cities due to low interest rates and cheap prices. 

A new Obama campaign ad refers to Mitt Romney as “outsourcer in chief.” Ouch!

The War on Drugs is making the AIDS epidemic worse by driving people away from treatment, according to a report released today by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

California condors are being threatened by lead poisoning from bullets left behind in dead carcasses shot by hunters, which the birds eat. 

Facebook changed users' listed email accounts, and people on the Internet are mad. Gizmodo explains how to fix it. 

The Spice Girls are reuniting to create a musical called Viva Forever! at London's Piccadilly Theatre.

 
 

 

 

 
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