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by German Lopez 12.12.2012
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Turnpike could remain public, asbestos bill passes, $150 million bid for parking services

The Ohio Turnpike will remain a public asset, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Many Ohioans have been worried Gov. John Kasich would attempt to privatize the Turnpike in order to pay for transportation projects; instead, the governor will try to generate revenue for state infrastructure projects elsewhere, perhaps by using the Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich will unveil his full plans Thursday and Friday.

The asbestos lawsuit bill is heading to Kasich to be signed. The bill attempts to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure. Supporters of the bill say it will prevent double-dipping by victims, but opponents say the bill will impede legitimate cases. Ohio has one of the largest backlogs of on-the-job asbestos exposure cases.

City Manager Milton Dohoney has released some of the potential bids for the city’s parking services, and one bidder is offering $100 to $150 million. Dohoney says the budget can only be balanced if parking services are privatized or the city lays off 344 employees. But Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is speaking out against the privatization of the city’s parking services. In a statement, Sittenfeld said, “Outsourcing our parking system robs the city of future revenue, and also will mean higher parking rates, longer hours of enforcement, and more parking tickets.”

LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal,” but not for Western & Southern or American Financial Group. In the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign gave 252 companies a 100-percent score for LGBT rights. Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s got a 90 percent, Kroger got an 85 percent, Fifth Third Bank got an 85 percent, Omnicare got a 15 percent, American Financial Group got a 0 percent and Western & Southern got a 0 percent. The rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.

The Sierra Club says Cincinnati has some of the best and worst transportation projects. In its annual report, the environmental group praised the Cincinnati streetcar, claiming the transportation project will attract residents and business owners. But the organization slammed the Eastern Corridor Highway project because of its negative impact on the Little Miami River and the small village of Newtown. The Sierra Club says the purpose of the report is to shed light on the more than $200 billion spent on transportation projects every year.

University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono is getting a 10-year contract.

The disease-carrying Walnut Twig Beetle has been discovered in southwest Ohio. The beetle is known for carrying Thousand Cankers Disease, which threatens the health of walnut trees. So far, no trees have been determined to be infected.

Ohio Gov. Kasich, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet today to discuss funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the bridge project starts in 2014, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati could save $18 billion in fuel and congestion costs, according to the Build Our New Bridge Now Coalition.

Following the defeat of Issue 2, the Ohio Senate is taking on redistricting reform, but opponents in the House say there isn’t enough time to tackle the issue. The current redistricting system is widely abused by politicians on both sides of the aisle in a process called “gerrymandering,” which involves politicians redrawing district lines in politically beneficial ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County, heavily diluting the impact of Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote.

Ohio employers are more aware of wellness than employers in other states, a new survey found. Wellness programs are one way employers can bring down health-care expenditures as cost shifting feels the pinch of diminishing returns.

However, Ohio ranked No. 35 in a nationwide health survey.

Ohio district didn't win federal Race to the Top education funds in the latest competition.

Internet cafe legislation is dead for the year. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus announced the legislation, which essentially puts Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors out of business. State officials, including Attorney General Mike DeWine, have been pushing for regulations or a ban on the businesses because they see them as a breeding ground for criminal activity.

The final 2011-2012 school report cards will not be available until 2013. The report cards were originally delayed due to an investigation into fraudulent attendance reports.

Michigan may have approved its anti-union right-to-work law, but Ohio is not eager to follow. State Democrats are already preparing for a possible battle over the issue, but even Republican Gov. John Kasich says he’s not currently interested in a right-to-work law.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is loosening hazardous waste reporting requirements for companies. If the rules go into effect, regulated facilities will report on hazardous waste once every two years instead of once a year. The rule changes will get a public hearing on Dec. 19 in Columbus.

In a question-and-answer session Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” (Hint: The answer to both questions is yes.) The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle the same-sex marriage issue. CityBeat wrote about same-sex marriage in Ohio here.

Dogs are now capable of driving, and parrots now have vehicles too. But can our new animal overlords shoot magic foam into the body to stop major bleeding? Because we can.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.11.2012
Posted In: Energy, Economy, News, Budget, Governor, Privatization at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich lacks re-election support, budget faces scrutiny, city increasing green incentives

For the first time since inauguration, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a positive approval rating, but a plurality of registered voters say Kasich doesn’t deserve a second term. The Quinnipac University poll attributed the increase in Kasich’s approval rating to “high levels of satisfaction among Ohio voters with life in the Buckeye State.” About 42 percent of respondents approved of Kasich, while 35 percent disapproved. About 42 percent said Kasich doesn’t deserve a second term, while 36 percent said he does. The poll surveyed 1,165 registered voters with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

Last night, Cincinnati held its final public hearing on City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposed budget. About 40 people spoke during the meeting, with many voicing concern about Media Bridges funding, which CityBeat recently covered here. The budget has also come under scrutiny due to its privatization of parking services, but Dohoney says the choice is privatization or 344 layoffs.

Cincinnati plans to bolster its green building incentives. City officials are trying to amend the city’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards to encourage higher levels of investment in green projects. Since LEED standards were first approved in 2009, they have been criticized for only offering strong incentives for lower levels of certification. The amendment seeks to make the higher levels of certification more appealing.

University Hospital is being renamed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

An “anti-immigrant bill” proposed by Cincinnati’s Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is not being received well by Innovation Ohio. S.B. 323 seeks to limit workers’ compensation to illegal immigrants, but the Ohio policy research group is not sure that’s a legitimate problem. The organization is also worried the bill will impose a regulatory burden on the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and Ohio’s workers without providing extra funds and training to carry out the regulations.

Ohio is improving in its battle against human trafficking. The state earned a “C” and it was labeled “most improved” in a new report from the Polaris Project. But one state legislator wants to go further by placing tougher standards on “johns” participating in the sex trade. CityBeat previously wrote about the human trafficking problem in Ohio here.

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved enough credits to help create about 500 jobs in Greater Cincinnati.

Michigan may have recently passed its anti-union “right-to-work” law, but Gov. Kasich does not share a similar interest.

Kasich will announce his changes to the Ohio Turnpike Thursday and Friday. The governor says his proposed changes will unlock “greater wealth,” but critics are worried Kasich is about to sell off a major public asset.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is still defending his decisions during the lead-up the election. Husted has now become infamous nationwide due to his pre-election record, which CityBeat wrote about here.

Even Jesus would be jealous. Science can now turn human urine into brain cells.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2012
Posted In: Privatization, News, Budget, Courts, Economy, Casino at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops

The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However, the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?

The identity of the Miami University student who put up the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.

Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.

A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.

Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing. About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2 percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make the cut more progressive.

Gov. Kasich is ending the practice of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.

If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on fracking.

Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law, which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.

An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.

Ohio gas prices are still dropping.

The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.07.2012
Posted In: Privatization, Budget, Community at 03:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
annman_clifton_jf95

Clifton: Private Parking Bad for Business

Head of community group sends letter opposing parking privatization

One of Cincinnati’s largest neighborhoods and business districts is adamantly against a proposed plan to lease the city’s parking systems.

A Dec. 7 letter to the mayor from Clifton Town Meeting President Peter Schneider calls the plan “baffling,” “short sighted” and “counter-intuitive.”

The city administration wants to lease all Cincinnati parking meters, garages and surface lots for 30 years in exchange for an upfront payment of at least $40 million and a share of the profits.

The city wants to use $21 million of the upfront payment to help close a $34 million hole in the upcoming budget.

Schneider writes that the proposal is bad for business, making it harder for customers to find cheap or free parking near retail areas like Clifton’s Ludlow Avenue corridor.

He also worried that a private operator would ratchet up the price for parking, making the facilities “unidirectional ATM’s (sic) benefiting a third party that provides minimal or no value to the citizens.”

Schneider also complains that Cincinnatians have not been given details of the deal or the opportunity to weigh in on it.

“It is unconscionable that the City administration would allow a similar plan (to the citizen-defeated red-light cameras) affecting parking meters and services be railroaded through City Hall without the appropriate sunshine and input of the populace,” he wrote.

He also compares the proposal to Hamilton County’s mishandling of the stadium deals, claiming that a similar long-term lease is unwise.

Schneider ends the letter by admitting that there are some aspects of outsourcing that could be beneficial, such as private management of surface lots or garages or maintenance, but the idea of privatizing everything goes too far.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.06.2012
 
 
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Activists Urge Boehner to Make Pentagon Cuts

Statement of principles presented to staffer outside of West Chester office

Activists gathered on Thursday outside of the West Chester office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, asking the House’s top official to look at reducing military spending when coming up with a budget.

The group of nearly two dozen — which included nuns, a veteran, a retiree advocate, a small businessman and progressive activists — held signs reading, “It is time for Nation Building in the United States. Cut Massive Pentagon Budget Now!” and “End Tax Breaks for Richest 2%.”

“We’re here today in front of Speaker of the House John Boehner’s West Chester office to drive home the fact that we believe that over 50 percent of the budget magically, this elephant in the House, has failed to be discussed as we discuss taking away services that provide human needs,” said David Little of Progress Ohio.

“Any discussion that fails to address excesses in that budget is failing the American people.”

Little added that it was possible to support the troops and veterans without spending billions on pointless wars.

Butler County attorney and Navy veteran Bruce Carter said the military can be more efficient in what he called the changing mission.

“When you refuse to have a discussion on over half of the budget, that’s like trying to tell the Bengals to win a game without going over the 50 yard line,” he said.

The group had a letter to deliver to Boehner, which contained what they called a statement of principles.

“We believe in a holistic approach to the budget crisis, and in order to protect the middle-class, cuts to the Pentagon need to be at the forefront,” the letter states. “We understand that Pentagon cuts are a controversial issue, however, Pentagon cuts in the sequester do not threaten our national security.”

The letter suggests that some of the money currently being spent on the Defense Department goes to providing services for veterans.

The military accounted for about 52 percent — or $600 billion — of discretionary spending in fiscal year 2011.

In contrast, education, training and social services collectively made up 9 percent of the budget.

The group of four activists weren’t allowed into Boehner’s office, but a young staffer met them outside. He said that the speaker thought everything should be on the table when it came to budget cuts.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.06.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, Redistricting, Education, Economy, Taxes at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
yesonissue2

Morning News and Stuff

Redistricting deal in works, pro-Obama group fights locally, commissioners raise taxes

Redistricting reform may have died in front of voters, but will the state legislature pick up the pieces? Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, a Republican, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, say a deal is close. The senators say the task force in charge of finding a way to reform the state’s redistricting system could release a report later this week, and a public hearing is scheduled for next week. The congressional redistricting process has scrutiny for decades as politicians have redrawn districts for political gain. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren County. The change was enough to dilute Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban core, shifting the district from politically mixed to safely Republican.

A group in favor of President Barack Obama is taking the federal fight over taxes to a local level. Ohio Action Now is planning a Friday rally in front of U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s office demanding that he accept tax hikes on individuals making more than $250,000. Chabot, who represents Cincinnati’s congressional district, and other Republicans oppose the plan because it taxes what they like to call “job creators.” However, research has shown taxing the wealthy is economically better than taxing the lower and middle classes. The International Monetary Fund also found in an extensive study that spending cuts hurt economies a lot, but tax hikes barely make a negative impact. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is also criticizing Republicans for not accepting Obama’s tax proposal.

Hamilton County commissioners did not agree to raise the sales tax; instead, they will reduce the property tax rollback. For residential property owners, the tax hike adds $35 per $100,000 of a home’s valuation. Commissioners say either a reduction in the rollback or a sales tax hike is necessary to balance the county stadium fund, which has undergone problems ever since the county made a bad deal with the Reds and Bengals. None of the current commissioners were in office when the original stadium deal was made.

The city of Cincinnati and a city union have reached a deal on privatizing parking services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) agreed not to oppose the plan after the city promised not to lay off union employees. As part of parking privatization, 25 union members will lose their current jobs, but they’ll be transitioned into other city jobs. City Manager Milton Dohoney insists parking privatization is necessary in his budget plan if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs. The public will be able to weigh in on the budget proposal today at 6 p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Corryville Recreation Center.

Cincinnati City Council approved a resolution asking the state government for local control of fracking operations. But the resolution has no legal weight, so the state will retain control. Fracking has been criticized by environmentalists who see it as a possible cause of air pollution and water contamination. Critics also want to know what’s in the chemicals used during the fracking process, but, under state law, companies are not forced to fully disclose such information.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will meet Dec. 12 in Covington to discuss a study funding the Brent Spence Bridge overhaul. Some, including Greater Cincinnati’s Port Authority, have pushed for tolls to help fund the bridge project, but northern Kentucky lawmakers are strongly against the idea. The bridge, which links downtown Cincinnati and Covington, has been under heavy scrutiny due to deteriorating conditions and over-capacity.

The city of Cincinnati and web-based SoMoLend are partnering to provide crowd funding to the city’s small businesses and startups. The partnership, which was approved by the Small Business Advisory Committee, is meant to encourage job and economic growth.

The Ohio Senate will rework a bill that revamps the school report card system. The bill seeks to enforce tougher standards on schools to put more pressure on improvement, but some Democrats have voiced concerns the new standards are too tough as the state replaces old standardized tests. A very early simulation from May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its top mark with an A.

The Ohio House passed a bill banning Internet sweepstakes cafes, but it’s unsure whether the Ohio Senate will follow suit. State officials say the cafes are ripe for criminal activity.

More Ohioans are seeking help for gambling problems.

A bill seeking to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure has cleared the Ohio Senate. Proponents say the bill stops double-dipping from victims, but opponents say it will make legitimate claims all the more difficult.

The Ohio Supreme Court declared the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to be in contempt for not following a court order requiring the state agency to compensate 87 landowners in Mercer County for flood damage. As a result, ODNR must complete appraisals within 90 days and file all appropriation cases within 120 days.

We’re all going to die... eventually. Someday, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, and scientists want help in finding out more about the galaxy.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.05.2012
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Energy, Mayor, Budget, Fracking at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Qualls to run for mayor, city budget proposal raises taxes, local fracking control demanded

It will soon be official. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will announce her mayoral campaign on Thursday at 10 a.m. Qualls has already announced her candidacy and platform on her website. Qualls will be joined by term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, which could indicate support from the popular mayor. Right now, Qualls’ only known opponent is former Democratic city councilman John Cranley, who has spoken out against the streetcar project Qualls supports.

As part of City Manager Milton Dohoney’s budget proposal, anyone who lives in Cincinnati but works elsewhere could lose a tax credit. The budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rollback and moves to privatize the city’s parking services, which Dohoney says is necessary if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs. The mayor and City Council must approve Dohoney’s budget before it becomes law. City Council is set to vote on the budget on Dec. 14. Public hearings for the budget proposal will be held in City Hall Thursday at 6 p.m. and in the Corryville Recreation Center Dec. 10 at 6 p.m.

Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan are pushing a resolution that demands local control over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activity. But the resolution will have no legal weight, so the state will retain full control over fracking operations even if the resolution is passed. Qualls and Quinlivan will also hold a press conference today at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall to discuss problems with fracking, which has come under fire by environmentalist groups due to concerns about air pollution and water contamination caused during the drilling-and-disposal process.

Greater Cincinnati hospitals had mixed results in a new round of scores from Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog Group.

In an effort to comply with cost cutting, the Hamilton County recorder is eliminating Friday office hours.

The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for feedback for the Tristate’s transportation and economic plans.

This year’s drought is coming to an end in a lot of places, but not southwest Ohio.

The Ohio Senate passed a concussion bill that forces student athletes to be taken off the field as soon as symptoms of a concussion are detected.

As the state government pushes regulations or even an outright ban on Internet cafes, one state legislator is suggesting putting the issue on the ballot. State officials argue unregulated Internet cafes are “ripe for organized crime” and money laundering. An Ohio House committee is set to vote on the issue today. If passed, the bill will likely put Internet cafes that use sweepstakes machines out of business.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich could be preparing for a 2016 campaign. Kasich was caught privately courting Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who spent millions on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney’s failed campaigns for the presidency. The early meetup shows how valued super PAC funders are to modern political campaigns. State Democrats criticized the meeting, saying it was Kasich “actively positioning to be the next Ohio darling of the special interests.”

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had a bit of trouble giving a speech on the federal debt yesterday. Hecklers repeatedly interrupted Portman, a Republican, as he tried to speak. The final protesters were escorted out of the room as they chanted, “We’re going to grow, not slow, the economy.” Portman says his plan is to promote growth. But both Democrats and Republicans will raise taxes on the lower and middle classes, according to a calculator from The Washington Post. Tax hikes and spending cuts are typically bad ideas during a slow economy.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is facing the wrath of his tea party comrades. The far right wing of the Republican Party is apparently furious Boehner purged rebellious conservative legislators out of House committees and proposed $800 billion in new revenue in his “fiscal cliff” plan to President Barack Obama.

To help combat fatigue at space stations, NASA is changing a few light bulbs.

Does this dog really love or really hate baths? You decide:


 
 
by German Lopez 12.04.2012
 
 
josh_mandel headshot

Morning News and Stuff

Mandel hires political workers, county will raise taxes, city faces privatization or layoffs

Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is hiring political workers and friends at his job again. His latest hires are Joe Aquilino, former campaign political director to Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign, and Jared Borg, former campaign political coordinator. During the 2010 campaign for the state treasurer’s office, Mandel said, “Unlike the current officeholder, I will ensure that my staff is comprised of qualified financial professionals — rather than political cronies and friends — and that investment decisions are based on what is best for Ohioans.” Mandel’s spokesperson defended the hires by touting the treasurer’s accomplishments in office.

With a vote set for tomorrow, it’s still unsure how the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will solve the stadium fund deficit, but it seems like both options require tax increases. Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, proposed increasing the sales tax by 0.25 percent. Board President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, presented an alternative plan that reduces the property tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he also said he’s not sure how he’ll vote. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, says he wants to find a plan that doesn’t raise taxes.

Either parking services are privatized or 344 city employees are laid off. That’s how City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. framed budget talks to City Council yesterday. The city has already made drastic cuts since 2000, laying off 802 employees. Dohoney also pushed for repealing the property tax rollback promised as part of the stadium deal in 1996, but City Council does not want to raise taxes in the middle of a slow economy. The fact is any form of austerity will be painful, so City Council should be as cautious of spending cuts as tax hikes. A public hearing on the budget will be held Thursday at 6 p.m.

The city of Cincinnati’s plan to buy Tower Place Mall and the adjacent Pogue’s Garage in downtown is moving forward. The city offered to buy the mall and garage for $8.5 million in order to spur economic development in the area. The parking garage and half-empty mall are currently in foreclosure.

Cincinnati State is looking to expand.

The Horseshoe Casino has begun its final round of hiring. The casino is set to open in spring 2013. A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and suicide.

One year later, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources hasn’t followed up on a court order to compensate flooded landowners.

The State Controlling Board approved three programs that will provide transitional housing and other services to the homeless. As part of the initiative, Habitat for Humanity of Ohio will receive $200,000, the Homeless Crisis Response Program will receive $12,680,700 and the Supportive Housing Program will receive $9,807,600 from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.

Great numbers from November from auto companies could mean more hires.

The U.S. Supreme Court is delaying action on same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered gay marriage in Ohio and whether Ohioans are ready to embrace it in a Nov. 28 cover story.

A dissolving nanofabric could soon replace condoms for protecting against pregnancy and HIV.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.03.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Budget Hearing Raises Questions About Parking Privatization

City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs

Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday committee presentation on the 2013 budget.

It was the first opportunity council members had to publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal year starting in July.

Many council members expressed concern over the plan to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.

“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about $210 million over 30 years.

Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit, for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.

Other council members expressed concern that whoever leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas dismissed.

“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.

Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue, projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34 million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.

A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.

Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.

The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts Grants.

It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of 50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse patrol would bring that closer to 40.

Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.

He said the police department would also look for ways to save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is shrinking.

The proposed budget also includes investments in business groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority, Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American Chamber of Commerce.

Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.

“There is a focus on helping people make more money that are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”

Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.03.2012
Posted In: News, Budget, County Commission, Stadiums at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
greg hartmann

Hartmann Considers Reducing Property Tax Rollback

Board president still unsure of how he'll vote; Portune's sales tax increase still on the table

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting today to discuss options for balancing the stadium fund. Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, on Nov. 28 proposed a 0.25-percent sales tax hike. At the meeting, Board President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, suggested reducing the property tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he said he was unsure which way he would vote.

Portune also gave ideas for possible adjustments to his sales tax proposal. He said commissioners could “sunset” the sales tax hike, essentially putting an expiration date on the tax increase. He also would like to see the sales tax hike reviewed on a regular basis to ensure taxpayers aren't being burdened longer than necessary. The idea behind possible time limits for both proposals is new revenues, perhaps from an improving economy or Cincinnati's new casino, could make changes unnecessary in the long term.

If anything came from the meeting, it’s that none of the commissioners like the position they’re in. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, said he had been placed “between a rock and a hard place.” Hartmann echoed Monzel, saying it was an “unenviable position.” Despite being the one to propose the hike, Portune said, “We’re left with two options that none of us like at all.”

Commissioners mostly repeated previous arguments during most of the meeting. Hartmann continued saying he was unsure how he would vote, but he said the two options presented are the only options left. He called Portune's plan “bold.

Portune claimed the sales tax hike was more equitable because it spreads out the tax burden to anyone who spends money in Hamilton County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. In contrast, eliminating or reducing the property tax rollback would place the burden of the stadium fund exclusively on residential property owners in Hamilton County.

The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes that disproportionate burden even larger.

One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found the wealthy made more money from the property tax rebate than they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was originally meant to support the stadium fund. For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause, a journalist who chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book Field of Schemes, told CityBeat the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a “terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals.

Monzel said he will continue to try to find alternatives to raising taxes. On Nov. 28, Monzel told CityBeat he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks development, before raising taxes. In the long term, Monzel says commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund.

The commissioners will vote on the proposals on Dec. 5.

 
 

 

 

 
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