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by German Lopez 11.06.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Streetcar at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar's Fate Still Unknown

New anti-streetcar majority faces unknown costs, hit to operating budget with cancellation

City officials on Wednesday reasserted that it remains unknown how much it would cost to cancel the $133 million streetcar project, and city spokesperson Meg Olberding and project executive John Deatrick agreed the unknown costs are a big concern.

Voters on Tuesday elected John Cranley to the mayor’s office and six council members — out of nine total — who oppose the streetcar project, giving streetcar opponents enough votes to cancel the project once the new government takes power on Dec. 1.

But, as first reported by CityBeat on Oct. 9, cancellation could carry all sorts of costs with $94 million tied to contractual obligations, including supply orders and other expenses from contractors and subcontractors, and $23 million already sunk on the project.

If the city were to cancel, it would also need to return nearly $41 million in grants to the federal government, according to a June 19 letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Canceling the project would cost jobs as well. About 150 laborers are currently working on the project, according to Deatrick. He says there’s also management positions involved, but he couldn’t offer an estimate for those jobs and whether they’re working on the project full- or part-time.

Deatrick says that it’s difficult to pin down how much cancellation would ultimately cost because the issue would likely be worked through litigation as the city tries to minimize cancellation costs and developers — such as Messer Construction, Prus Construction, Delta Railroad and CAF USA — attempt to maximize what they recoup from the project.

Another concern, according to Olberding, is cancellation’s impact on the operating budget. She says the roughly $2 million in federal grant money already spent on the project would have to come out of the operating budget, and litigation costs would come from the operating budget as well.

The capital budget, which is financed through bonds and other forms of debt, pays for capital projects like the streetcar. The operating budget typically goes toward day-to-day operations, including police, firefighters and human services.

The operating budget has been structurally imbalanced since 2001. If millions in litigation costs and repayments to the federal government are added to it, the city could be forced to cut services and jobs or raise taxes.

There are also concerns about how the federal government and Cincinnati’s business partners would react to the cancellation of such a major project. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Cranley’s opponent in the mayoral race, previously told CityBeat that pulling back on a commitment could break the faith developers and the feds placed in Cincinnati when they agreed to take on the streetcar project.

Cranley and other anti-streetcar elects argue the long-term costs — the $88 million in the capital budget for the current phase of the project, the cost of future expansion and $3-4 million that it would cost to operate the streetcar annually — outweigh even the costs of cancellation.

Cranley previously told CityBeat that he would help developers involved in the project find other work in the city to recoup the revenue lost from the project’s cancellation. He says Messer and Prus in particular are based in and already work heavily in Cincinnati, so it’s unlikely they would try to cut ties with the city.

Streetcar supporters aren’t convinced. If the city pulls out of such a big commitment, officials argue both the federal government and developers could be compelled to look for a more reliable source for future work.

Meanwhile, Deatrick says current construction work is progressing on time and within budget. He expects the track on Elm Street to be laid down between 12th and Henry streets by the end of the year.

As for the next phase of the project, Deatrick says there’s still no estimated cost. He attributes much of the project’s current political problems to construction bids coming in over budget earlier in the year — a turn of events that led City Council to put another $17.5 million to the streetcar project — so he says the city needs to be really careful with future estimates if it decides to expand the streetcar system.

Despite the fresh political threats, the city still intends to conduct meetings with businesses on Nov. 14 and 18 about the benefits of the streetcar. Deatrick says those meetings should show the economic benefits of the rail line that go beyond the streetcar’s use as a transit network.

Supporters of the streetcar often point to those benefits as their reasoning for backing the project. Citing a 2007 study from consulting firm HDR that was later evaluated and supported by the University of Cincinnati, supporters say the streetcar project would produce a three-to-one return on investment.

Deatrick acknowledges those projections are now outdated, given all the changes the project has gone through since 2007. He says the city has people working on updating the numbers and looking at other economic effects the HDR study may have missed.

But opponents of the streetcar project say it’s simply too expensive and the wrong priority for Cincinnati. Still, the potentially high cost of cancellation could prove a bigger fiscal concern.

Either way, Cincinnati should find out the full consequences to the project in December.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.21.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
jim+berns

Mayoral Candidate Plays Dead in Latest Campaign Stunt

Jim Berns blames local media for his campaign’s failure

Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns today pronounced his campaign dead and claimed local media, including CityBeat, is to blame.

“From day one, the Cincinnati Print Media (especially the Enquirer) have thrown Libertarian candidate for mayor, Jim Berns, under the bus,” Berns wrote in an email, listing Carl Weiser, Jane Prendergast, Ryan Hoffman and Ben Goldschmidt of The Cincinnati Enquirer, Howard Wilkinson of WVXU, German Lopez of CityBeat and Chris Wetterich of The Business Courier as the main culprits.

In the email, Berns complains that the two frontrunners in the mayoral race — Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley — have nearly identical records. Those candidates’ biggest points of disagreement are the streetcar and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes.

The email claims the media should call Berns “courageous, innovative, a real choice” instead of a “perennial candidate.”

Berns then attached this picture:

The latest stunt is just one of many that have been part of Berns’ campaign.

On July 31, Berns declared he was quitting the mayoral race in protest of the city’s primary system, which Berns says favors Qualls and Cranley. A day later, he changed his mind and said he’s back in.

On June 4, Berns, who supports marijuana legalization, said he was going to hand out free marijuana plants at a campaign event. The gifts turned out to be tomato plants, not marijuana.

In general, the Libertarian’s campaign has focused a lot on giving stuff away. His campaign card proudly touts his intent to give out free ice cream, which he has repeatedly done at events.

As a Libertarian, Berns supports lower taxes and smaller government and opposes drug prohibition. He was endorsed by the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST).

Cincinnati is generally considered a Democratic stronghold, which has kept Berns’ chances of winning the mayoral race very low. The city hasn’t had a non-Democratic mayor since Charterite Arnold Bortz left office in 1984. Back then, the local Democratic Party and the Charter Committee were working together through a coalition.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.10.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, Mayor, News at 09:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Defeats Qualls as Both Advance to General Election

Voter turnout for first round of mayoral race historically low

Ex-Councilman John Cranley decisively defeated Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls today as both the Democratic mayoral candidates won the primary election and advanced to the general election.

With all precincts reporting, Cranley got 55.9 percent of the vote and Qualls picked up 37.2 percent, according to unofficial results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The other two candidates — Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra Queen Noble — each failed to break 5 percent of the vote.

The two victors come as little surprise to most election watchers, who have long been calling Cranley and Qualls the frontrunners. But Cranley’s strong lead has led to celebrations from Cranley’s supporters and downplaying from Qualls’ backers.

The city has held only two primaries since it enacted its “strong mayor” rules in 1999, which call for a primary when there’s more than two eligible candidates. The two winners then go on to the general election for the final decision. Previously, the City Council candidate with the most votes was designated mayor.

In both the primary elections held since 1999, the primary winner ended up losing the general election. In 2001, Courtis Fuller beat Charlie Luken in the primary in a 53.8-38.5 percent vote; Luken went on to win the general election 55.4-44.6 percent. In 2005, David Pepper narrowly beat Mark Mallory in the primary 31.2-30.7 percent; Mallory is currently mayor after winning the general election 51.8-48.2 percent in 2005 and getting re-elected in 2009.

The results’ significance is even murkier because voter turnout was a dismal 5.68 percent. In comparison, the mayoral primary held on Sept. 11, 2001 — the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon — had 15 percent voter turnout. In 2005, 21 percent of voters participated in the mayoral primary.

Still, Cranley’s victory is being heralded by his supporters tonight, particularly because it might show a shift from Qualls’ strong lead in early polls.

For the two camps, the contentious race is about which vision Cincinnati should embrace as the city’s downtown revitalization gains national recognition and momentum. Qualls supports the streetcar project and parking lease, while Cranley opposes both.

On other issues ranging from inclusion in city contracts to government transparency, the candidates are largely in agreement. Berns, who was officially removed from the mayoral race through todays vote, spent much of his time on the campaign trail criticizing Cranley and Qualls for sharing a remarkably similar voting record on City Council.

Cranley served on City Council from 2000 to 2009. Qualls has been on City Council since 2007 and previously served on City Council from 1991 to 1993 and as mayor from 1993 to 1999.

Voters will make the final decision between Cranley and Qualls on Nov. 5. 

This story was updated with clearer election results and to correct Cranley’s full time on City Council, which the story previously said was from 2001 to 2009 instead of the accurate timespan of 2000 to 2009.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.27.2013
 
 
downtown grocery

City Manager Lists Alternatives to Parking Plan

Plan B would lay off 344 city employees, eliminate Human Services Funding

If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, but critics argue there are better alternatives.

In a memo dated to Feb. 26, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. wrote that the city will also have to close three community centers and six pools; eliminate Human Services Funding, which aids the city’s homeless and poor; and reduce funding for local business groups, parks, nature education for Cincinnati Public Schools and environmental regulations, among other changes. In total, the cuts would add up to $25.8 million — just enough to balance the deficit that would be left in place without the parking plan.

In addition to the cuts, failing to approve the parking plan, which leases the city’s parking meters for 30 years and lots and garages for 50 years to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, would displace plans to convert Tower Place Mall, construct a 30-floor tower with a grocery store downtown, accelerate the the I-71/MLK Interchange project, acquire the Wasson Line right-of-way for a bike trail and add $4 million to the next phase of Smale Riverfront Park (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).

Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor, has come out in favor of the parking plan, but John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, says he opposes the deal because it will hurt downtown businesses.

“It’s the boy who cried wolf,” Cranley says. “In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and firefighters, and it never happened.”

Cranley says he would rather take $10 million from projected casino revenue and $7 million from current parking revenues to help clear the deficit. For the remaining $8.8 million, he would cut non-essential programs, which would exclude police, fire, garbage collection, health, parks and recreation, street pavement and Human Services Funding, across the board by 10 to 15 percent. If that wasn’t enough, he would then move to the essential programs, which he says make up about $300 million in the $368.9 million budget, with a 1-percent across-the-board cut.

He says his solution would have the upside of fixing structural deficit problems in Cincinnati’s General Fund, whereas the one-time lease of the city’s parking assets will only take care of the deficit for the next two years.

Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says City Council could use the casino revenue to pay for the deficit, but $4 million of it is already set for the Focus 52 program, which funds neighborhood development projects.

“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” Olberding says. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another plan.”

Cranley says he would not do away with the Focus 52 program, but he would instead find funding for it in the Capital Budget, which is separate from the General Fund.

Olberding says City Council could approve the use of about $3 million in parking meter revenue for the General Fund, but the rest of the parking money, which comes from lots and garages, is tied to an enterprise fund, which, by state law, means the city would have to sell its parking lots and garages before it could obtain money for the General Fund.

Cranley, who also opposes the streetcar project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23), says it would be possible to pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange and other projects if the streetcar wasn’t taking up funds. If it was up to him, he says he would remove streetcar funding and use it on other development projects “without batting an eye.”

In the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said the Budget and Finance Committee will likely vote on the city manager’s parking plan on March 4 or March 11.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.17.2012
Posted In: Gun Violence, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Budget, Economy at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dawn hochsprung

Morning News and Stuff

More on Newtown massacre, City Council passes budget, Dillingham to run for council

By now, most of you have heard there was another horrible mass shooting, this time in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the death of 20 children and six adults. While everyone is hoping this is the last time the nation has to deal with an event of unspeakable horror, it is only a possibility if we agree to do something about it. That means remembering the heroes who risked their lives and, in some cases, died that day. That means not letting the media and public drop the issue, as has been the case in the past. That means looking at more than just gun control, including mental health services. The Washington Post analyzed what “meaningful” action on gun control would look like, and the newspaper also disproved the idea Switzerland and Israel are “gun-toting utopias.” President Barack Obama also spoke on the issue at a vigil Sunday, calling for the nation to do more to protect people, particularly children, from violence. The full speech can be watched here.

City Council approved its 2013 budget plan Friday. The budget relies on the privatization of city parking assets to help plug a $34 million deficit and avoid 344 layoffs. The budget also nixed the elimination of a tax reciprocity for people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both cities, and it continued funding the police department’s mounted unit. As a separate issue, City Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24 percent, reversing a move from conservatives in 2011. CityBeat wrote about budgets at all levels of government and how they affect jobs here.

Michelle Dillingham, who was an aide to former city councilman David Crowley, will seek Democratic support in a run for City Council. Dillingham promises to tackle “industry issues of mutual interest" to business and labor and “transportation funding, family-supporting wages and workforce development.”

At a recent public hearing, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed a “very easy” plan for the city budget. Only problem: His plan doesn’t work. In an email, Cranley said he stands by his ideas, but he added he was working with limited information and his statements were part of a two-minute speech, which “requires brevity.” He also claimed there are cost-cutting measures that can be sought out without privatizing the city’s parking assets and gave modified versions of his ideas regarding casino and parking meter revenue.

Judge Robert Lyons, the Butler County judge who sealed the Miami rape flyer case, is standing by his decision.

The Greater Cincinnati area is near the top for private-sector growth. 

Jedson Engineering is moving from Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, thanks in part to an incentive package from City Council that includes a 45 percent tax credit based on employees earnings taxes over the next five years and a $300,000 grant for capital improvements. The company was a Business Courier Fast 55 finalist in 2008 and 2009 due to its high revenue growth.

Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan is getting some support from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, but others are weary. They fear the plan, which leverages the turnpike through bonds for state infrastructure projects, will move turnpike revenues out of northern Ohio. But Kasich vows to keep more than 90 percent of projects in northern Ohio.

Gas prices are still falling in Ohio.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is making some concessions in fiscal talks. In his latest budget, he proposed raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year.

One beagle can diagnose diseases by sniffing stool samples.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.19.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, 2013 Election at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
evolution of equality

Ohio's Support for Same-Sex Marriage Continues to Grow

Senator loses support following shift in favor of same-sex marriage

An April 19 Quinnipiac University poll found a plurality of Ohioans now support same-sex marriage, continuing a trend first noted by a Washington Post poll in September.

With a margin of error of 2.9 percent, the Quinnipiac poll found 48 percent of Ohio voters now support gay marriage, with 44 percent still in opposition. That's an improvement from a Dec. 12 poll, which found 47 percent of Ohio voters were against same-sex marriage and 45 percent favored it.

The latest results varied greatly depending on the respondent's sex. Women supported same-sex marriage 52-40, while men opposed it 49-43.

The poll also found Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, lost support after coming out in favor of same-sex marriage, but Quinnipiac's statement says the drop was likely attributable to a drop in overall Republican support. Portman's approval rating dropped to 40 percent, down from 44 percent in Feb. 28. Respondents had mixed feelings about Portman's same-sex marriage shift: 20 percent said they think more favorably of him, 25 percent said they think less favorably of him and 53 percent said it made no difference.

Even if the small drop is attributable to Portman's new views on same-sex marriage, the shift could be a net gain for the senator through increased campaign funds. After President Barack Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage last year, his campaign raised $1.5 million in just 90 minutes even as some political pundits criticized the president's move as politically dangerous.

The legalization of same-sex marriage could be on the ballot this year following Freedom Ohio's efforts ("Evolution of Equality," issue of Nov. 28). If approved by voters, Freedom Ohio's proposed amendment would repeal Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage and legalize it while retaining some protections for religious institutions.

A Washington Post poll conducted in September found Ohioans were supportive of same-sex marriage for the very first time, with 52 percent in favor and 37 percent against.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.11.2012
 
 
solidarity with michigan photo 121112  01

Ohio in No Hurry to Pass Right-to-Work

Ohio Dems wear carnations in solidarity with Michigan workers

In light of Michigan’s progress in passing a so-called “right-to-work” law, Ohioans are both worried about and pushing for a similar law allowing workers to opt-out of paying union dues at businesses where workers are represented by a union.

Tea party activists are working to gather the 380,000 signatures needed to get the Ohio Workplace Freedom Act on the ballot. They have until July 3.

The Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the first of two right-to-work bills, both of which were passed by the state Senate last week. Gov. Rick Snyder has told multiple media outlets that he could sign the bills as early as Wednesday.

Michigan would be the 24th right-to-work state in the nation and the second in the Midwest. Indiana passed a similar law earlier this year.

Members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus wore red carnations — Ohio’s state flower and a symbol of the labor movement — at the Statehouse Tuesday to show support for Michigan workers.

“Put simply, so called ‘right to work’ is wrong. Statistics show states with this anti-working family legislation have lower wages and higher poverty rates,” Ohio state Rep. Connie Pillich, D-Montgomery, wrote in an emailed statement. 

“We will continue to stand together and fight against these unfair attacks on workers in Ohio, Michigan and across the country.”

Despite the effort to put a right-to-work law on the ballot next year — a similar effort was unsuccessful in 2012 — it doesn’t seem like Ohio is in any rush to join Michigan and Indiana.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has higher priorities than passing a right-to-work law. The newspaper reports that Ohio added 127,000 jobs in the past two years and ranks fourth nationally and first in the Midwest in terms of job creation. 

Kasich said the agenda for the last two years of his first term include tax cuts, an education overhaul and infrastructure improvement to keep the state competitive.

“I have an agenda that I think is going to benefit the state of Ohio,” Kasich told the newspaper. “We’re doing very well vis-a-vis the rest of the country now, and I think if we continue to pursue the agenda I have and the legislature has, I think we’ll continue to be successful.”


FUN FACT: Michigan's right-to-work bill will be signed into law in the Romney Building. George Romney, former Michigan governor and father of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was an opponent of right-to-work laws.

 
 
by German Lopez 12.18.2012
 
 
tedstrickland

Morning News and Stuff

Strickland calls for gun control, Kasich to loosen gun rules, Mallory rebuts streetcar claims

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who rose to the governorship with the help of the National Rifle Association, says gun rights and gun control can co-exist. The claim is in light of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 children and six adults. Many have called for stricter gun control in light of the past year’s bouts of gun violence, but Republicans are typically opposed to such proposals. A recent poll from The Washington Post and ABC News found 59 percent of Americans support banning high-capacity ammunition clips, much like the ones used in the Newtown shooting. Another 52 percent back the ban of semi-automatic handguns. 

Still, Gov. John Kasich isn’t changing his mind on the Second Amendment. He says he will sign a bill that allows guns in the Ohio Statehouse parking garage. The bill will also change the definition of an unloaded gun, allowing gun owners to carry loaded clips in their vehicles as long as they are in a separate compartment from the gun, and make concealed carry permits from other states easier to validate in Ohio.

Despite denials from city officials, mayoral candidate John Cranley and Councilman Chris Smitherman insist city government is trying to use the transit fund to fund the streetcar. But Mayor Mark Mallory in an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer said it will not happen. Mallory said the dispute dates back to a lawsuit filed by Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which runs the Metro bus system. The lawsuit demands transit funds be solely dedicated to SORTA.

Cincinnati’s U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot has vowed to continue trying to kill the streetcar. Even though voters have approved of the streetcar twice, Chabot, who also represents Warren County in district boundaries that were redrawn by Republicans, says he would rather focus federal funding on other projects, like the Brent Spence Bridge.

A conservative northern Kentucky lawmaker is supporting a bill that expands prisoners’ rights to DNA testing. The bill would allow a Cincinnati man to push for DNA testing that he claims will exonerate him of a 1987 rape and murder in Newport. Ky. Sen. John Schickel argued, “If DNA testing is good enough to send you to prison it should be good enough to get you out of prison.”

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank bought another $100 million in stock from Credit Suisse International. The deal is part of a larger program to buy back 100 million shares.

Cincinnati State is in line to obtain $123,000 from the state government. The funding could create 51 new or expanded co-op jobs.

The United Way of Greater Cincinnati announced $50.7 million in investments for 2013, a slight increase from 2012. The increase will help boost funding to prepare children for kindergarten by 5 percent. It will also fund 288 programs at 146 agencies, with seven becoming new United Way agency partners.

The Prince Hall Shriners, which describes itself as “the world’s oldest African-American fraternal organization,” is returning to Cincinnati in 2015. The convention was in Cincinnati in 2011.

Duke Energy’s local management is being shaken up. Jim Henning will take over as president for Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky.

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro is retiring.

Did you know our solar system is sort of like a phoenix? It apparently rose from the cumulative ashes of countless stars, not one supernova.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.17.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Qualls, Cranley Face Off in First Post-Primary Mayoral Debate

Candidates agree on much, disagree on streetcar and parking lease

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley today channeled much of their disagreement on the streetcar project and parking lease when they met for the first post-primary mayoral debate.

For both the candidates, the issues are about where they want to see the city going. Cranley says the city government lacks transparency and openness as it prioritizes controversial ideas to support downtown over Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. Qualls says the investments are continuing Cincinnati’s nationally recognized momentum and bringing growth to both downtown and the neighborhoods.

Whether the subject was the Metro bus system or bringing more flights to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Cranley repeatedly referenced his opposition to the streetcar project and his belief that it is siphoning city funds away from more important projects and forcing the city to raise property taxes to pay for debt.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” Cranley said. “We have to re-prioritize.”

Qualls argued the streetcar project will produce economic growth and grow the city’s tax base, which the city could then leverage for more development projects. That claim has been backed by studies from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which put the streetcar’s return on investment at three-to-one.

Cranley argued Hop On Cincinnati, a trackless trolley system, is a better option. He said the project would cost considerably less and come with more flexibility since it wouldn’t run on set tracks.

But in a 2007 letter citing swathes of data from cities around the nation, Charlie Hales, now mayor of Portland, Ore., found trackless trolleys consistently underperformed rail projects in terms of economic development and ridership.

At this point, cancelling the streetcar project would also carry its own costs. As of May, city officials estimated they had already spent $20 million on the project and cancelling it would cost another $45 million in federal funding and $14 million in close-out costs.

But expanding the streetcar project into a second phase, as Qualls advocated, would also carry its own set of unknown costs.

On other issues, Qualls touted the city’s plans to lease its parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority as a potential avenue for economic development.

Qualls and the current city administration originally supported leveraging the city’s parking meters, lots and garages through the lease to pay for budget gaps and economic development projects. But as the city managed to balance its budget without the lease, the focus has moved toward using the lump-sum and annual payments from the lease to only pay for more development projects.

Cranley claimed, as he long has, that the deal will have a negative impact on a generation by shifting control of the city’s parking assets from the local government to the unelected Port Authority and private companies. He also criticized Qualls and the city administration for withholding a memo that criticized the lease’s financial details and hastily pursuing the lease with limited public input.

Cranley also implied that the deal will actually lower long-term revenues by capping the city’s parking revenues at $3 million a year.

“It’s almost hard to respond to such misinformation, quite frankly,” Qualls responded.

On top of an estimated $92 million lump sum, the city projects that annual payments will start at $3 million a year but eventually grow much larger. Qualls claimed the yearly installments would reach $20 million by the end of the 30-year lease.

Qualls also took issue with Cranley’s assertion that the Port Authority is withholding contract documents for the private companies it will hire to operate Cincinnati’s parking assets. She reminded Cranley that Port board members explicitly told him at a public meeting that those documents will be made public two weeks before they’re signed.

The candidates also sparred on a number of issues typical of political campaigns: government transparency, negative campaign ads and rhetoric vs. facts.

But the debate also highlighted the large amount of agreement between Qualls and Cranley. Both agree the city shouldn’t increase the earnings tax. Both claim Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget and stop using one-time sources for budget fixes. Both echoed the need to leverage federal support for the Brent Spence Bridge project. Both criticized the state for refusing to grant tax credits to Pure Romance, a local company that is now considering moving to Covington, Ky., because of the state’s refusal.

Cranley and Qualls got the most votes in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, allowing both to advance to the general election. Cranley received 55.9 percent of the vote, while Qualls obtained 37.2 percent. Their opponents each failed to break 5 percent.

Voter turnout for the mayoral primary was only 5.68 percent. That was lower than the 15-percent turnout for the mayoral primary held on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the 21-percent turnout for the 2005 mayoral primary.

In the past two mayoral races with primaries, the primary winner went on to lose the general election.

Voters will get to decide between Qualls and Cranley, along with City Council candidates and other ballot issues, on Nov. 5.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.19.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
roxanne qualls

Qualls Unveils Platforms in Plan to Grow Cincinnati

Mayoral candidate promises busy first 100 days

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls on Thursday unveiled “The Qualls Plan to Grow Cincinnati,” an outline of her platforms and what she would do during her first 100 days as mayor if she’s selected by voters on Nov. 5.

The plan proposes three major changes that Qualls would pursue within 100 days of taking office: She would reinstitute the Shared Services Commission to see which city services can be managed in conjunction with Hamilton County or other political jurisdictions; she would propose a job tax credit for businesses that create jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits; and she would “renew business districts” by making unused city property available at a “nominal fee” to local startups and small businesses.

Qualls also outlines seven other proposals for the first 100 days, including a review of city services to find efficiencies and cost savings and a “Mayor’s Night In” event that would be held monthly to directly hear residents’ concerns.

The rest of the plan promises more city-provided opportunities for businesses, expanded transportation options, investments in public safety and neighborhoods, employment and apprenticeship programs for struggling youth, new education programs and government reforms. It also includes plans to combat human trafficking, increase the city’s use of renewable energy sources and make Cincinnati more inclusive for women, minorities, the LGBT community and immigrants.

Many of the changes would be made through partnerships and regulatory changes, which means they could come at no cost.

But some of the proposals would involve tax breaks, new city agencies and more spending directed at certain projects. The extra costs could be tricky for a city that has been mired in budget problems for years, especially since Qualls has proposed structurally balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget for the first time since 2000.

Still, Qualls’ proposals are made with the understanding that economic growth can expand the city’s tax base and increase revenues. Cincinnati’s shrinking population since the 1960s is often cited by city officials as a cause for the city’s budget problems.

Qualls is running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley. The biggest issues dividing the two Democratic candidates are the streetcar project and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The two issues took up most of the discussion during the first post-primary mayoral debate.

Read Qualls full plan here:


 
 

 

 

 
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