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by German Lopez 10.16.2013
Posted In: News, Homelessness, Courts at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
county courthouse

Homeless Sue County Over Courthouse Eviction Policy

Advocates say tactic focuses on the wrong problem

Homeless advocates gathered in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday to speak out against the county sheriff’s attempts to evict homeless people sleeping at the courthouse and Hamilton County Justice Center with the threat of jail time.

The press conference came on the same day that four local homeless filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil’s new policy is cruel and unusual because it punishes people for being homeless.

Major Charmaine McGuffey, head of the Hamilton County Justice Department, says the policy is necessary to address a public health issue. She explains that every morning county officials are forced to clean up urine and feces left by the homeless the night before, and often the county doesn’t have the resources to completely disinfect the areas.

Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, says county officials should stop using taxpayer money to address public defecation and focus on the state of the economy. Hes asking locals to tell county officials, “I want my government to invest in jobs and housing, not in pushing people to the margins.”

If the policy remains, Spring says the county could at least compromise and hold enforcement until the winter shelter opens, which would provide another housing opportunity for many of the homeless people who currently rely on county buildings for a safe spot to sleep.

McGuffey says the current timeline for the winter shelter opening — two months — is too much time to wait for what she describes as a public health issue. She says it’s also unclear whether local organizations, which are still gathering funds for the shelter, will have enough money to open it.

At the press conference, Spring was joined by several homeless people who shared their experiences. All the speakers echoed a similar theme: They’re not homeless by choice, and they only sleep on county property because it’s much safer than the alternatives, such as alleys and abandoned buildings.

McGuffey insists no one is trying to demonize homeless people. She says officers try to link homeless people with local human services when possible. Some of that outreach is already underway through trained officers and neighborhood liaisons, and starting next week the county will bring in a trained mental health professional to act as an advocate and outreach coordinator.

But if help can’t be found, McGuffey says officers have to threaten arrest to invoke a sense of immediacy” or homeless people might never leave the properties and the public health issue would go unaddressed.

So far, the sheriff’s office sees the program as successful. Over the past four weeks, it’s brought down the amount of homeless people camping out at the Hamilton County Courthouse and Justice Center each night from 40 to 12, according to McGuffey. She says the reductions exemplify people who were redirected to human services, but there’s no hard evidence showing those people actually got help or whether the reduction is temporary.

Spring says there aren’t enough human services to get all of the city’s homeless help. That, he claims, is the real problem that needs local officials attention.

Over the past decade, City Council fell far short of its funding goal for human services, which aid homeless and low-income Cincinnatians.

Several council candidates, including Chris Seelbach, Greg Landsman and Mike Moroski, say increasing human services funding to 1 percent of the operating budget will be a priority for them over the next few years. The increase would represent an improvement, but it would still fall short of the city’s 1.5 percent goal.

Meanwhile, Strategies to End Homelessness aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 to roughly 3,500 over the next five years through an initiative backed by the city and county.

As part of Homelessness Awareness Month, Spring and other advocates will march in support of homeless causes later this month. The march will begin at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26 at 1300 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine.

The lawsuit:


 
 
by German Lopez 09.04.2013
Posted In: News, Courts, Parking at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
coast_online

Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Parking Lease Challenge

Decision also keeps city’s emergency powers intact

The Ohio Supreme Court today rejected an appeal for a legal challenge that threatened Cincinnati’s parking plan and the city’s emergency powers.

The lawsuit, which was backed by the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), claimed the city could not bypass a referendum on its plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority by invoking an emergency clause.

City Council regularly uses emergency clauses on passed legislation to bypass a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws. The clauses also make legislation immune to a referendum.

COAST, which opposes the city’s parking lease, argued the City Charter doesn’t clearly define emergency clauses to deny a referendum.

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler sided with COAST in the first round, but the ruling was appealed and the Hamilton County Court of Appeals ultimately ruled in favor of the city.

With the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal, the appeal court’s ruling stands.

City Solicitor John Curp applauded the decision in an email to various media outlets.

“I believe that politics belong in the legislative branch of government and not in our courts. This decision reaffirms that politics should stay on the Council floor and short-term political interests not be dragged through the judiciary where the consequences can have a long-standing impact on the public safety and economic interests of the City,” Curp wrote. “Consistency in interpreting long-standing legal rules is important in promoting a vibrant business climate in the City. The Courts have reaffirmed that the City of Cincinnati is free to operate at the speed of business.”

COAST is now trying another legal challenge against the city’s parking lease. This time, the conservative group is claiming that the city manager made “significant and material” changes to the lease without City Council approval.

Curp declined to take up the second legal challenge after concluding that the changes made to the lease were ministerial and a result of delays caused by COAST’s first legal challenge. But by having its proposed challenge denied, COAST gained the legal rights to sue the city over the issue.

Supporters of the parking lease argue the plan is necessary to leverage the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to finance development projects that will grow the city’s tax base.

Opponents claim the lease gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets and will hurt businesses by causing parking rates and enforcement hours to rise.

CityBeat covered the controversy surrounding the parking lease in further detail here.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.27.2013
Posted In: News, Governor, Courts, Privacy at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
gilligan

Morning News and Stuff

Former governor dies, facial recognition program criticized, county prosecutor mocks court

Former Gov. John Gilligan, a Cincinnati Democrat best known for winning the creation of the state income tax, died at 92 yesterday. Gilligan’s most lasting accomplishment was also what doomed his career; the state income tax was unpopular when it passed, even though it allowed Gilligan to boost funding for education, mental health and law enforcement programs. Gilligan’s political career began in Cincinnati Council. From there, he rose to U.S. representative and then governor.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio yesterday asked Attorney General Mike DeWine to shut down a facial recognition program used by law enforcement until state officials verify and develop safety protocols that protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy. DeWine formally unveiled the program in a press conference yesterday. It allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases. The program has been live for more than two months and so far used for 2,677 searches, but until now it was kept hidden from the public and hasn’t been checked by outside groups for proper safety protocols.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stepped down as Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter’s attorney and called her handling of the court a “judicial circus.” Hunter has been mired in controversy ever since she took the bench: She was found in contempt by a higher court, and she’s been sued multiple times by media, including four times by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Deters, who under state law had to legally represent Hunter, said the legal troubles were too much, but his stepping down also complies with Hunter’s wishes to find her own hand-picked attorney.

The University of Cincinnati is one of the top colleges where students can get the most out of their money, according to PolicyMic. UC performs better than average in the graduation rate, debt at time of graduation, percentage of undergraduate students receiving Pell grants and starting salary after graduation, yet the school manages to stay only slightly above the national average for tuition and board and room costs.

Mayor Mark Mallory previously approved eliminating city parking requirements, which should allow residential development projects to greatly reduce or completely toss out parking space mandates downtown. “The goal of the ordinance is to encourage development in the urban core by permitting developers to determine their own parking needs for downtown developments,” said Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. “I firmly believe that the market will work to meet parking demands better than government minimum parking requirements.”

The tax changes passed in the state budget earlier this year, including an income tax cut and sales tax hike, will go into effect on Sept. 1. The changes have been criticized for favoring the wealthiest Ohioans, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Gov. John Kasich approved tax credits that are expected to create more than 591 jobs statewide, with at least 40 of the jobs being created at the Benjamin Steel Company in Cincinnati.

Nearly one in five workers at Ohio casinos has quit or been fired. High turnover isn’t unusual in the casino business, but the numbers give a clearer glimpse at the volatility.

Piloting a military drone can apparently take quite the psychological toll.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.14.2013
Posted In: News, Courts, Emery Theatre at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_emerytheater_mpmf2012_amydeaton

Requiem Could Be Evicted from Emery Theatre Following Ruling

Judge says case is too early to call either way but refuses to grant restraining order

Hamilton County Judge Carl Stitch today ruled against granting a temporary restraining order that would prevent the trio that owns and leases the Emery Theatre from evicting the nonprofit seeking to renovate the building.

The ruling comes as a minor victory to the University of Cincinnati, Emery Center Apartments Limited Partnership (ECALP) and the Emery Center Corporation (ECC), the groups that own and lease the Emery Theatre, and a loss to the Requiem Project, the nonprofit formed in 2008 to restore the theater to its former glory.

Still, Stitch cautioned that both sides potentially have a case and the rejection shouldn’t be seen as indicative of who will ultimately win the legal battle.

Given the ruling, both sides agreed to come back to the judge in 30 days with a status report on what their legal intentions are going forward.

Requiem argued that it needs the temporary restraining order to continue with the momentum the organization has built to renovate the theater. The nonprofit says it needs a permanent lease to use and raise funds that would go toward restoring the theater, which is cited as one of the few “acoustically pure” complexes in the nation.

On the other side, the various groups that own and lease the Emery Theatre claimed Requiem has shown little progress in raising funds to renovate the building. They said they would still like to see the theater restored, but not under the management of Requiem.

UC also continued denying any direct involvement in the case, instead arguing that ECALP handles the Emery building in its entirety for the university.

Tina Manchise and Tara Gordon, the two women who founded Requiem, said after the hearing that the three organizations are trying to eschew responsibility by pointing fingers at each other. In particular, they pointed out that UC has consistently claimed a lack of culpability, yet it’s also getting involved by asking the city to take over the building.

Last week, emails revealed that UC is offering to give the Emery Theatre to the city. UC Vice President of Governmental Relations Greg Vehr wrote in a June 21 email to Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan that giving the building away would allow the university to avoid becoming “a lightning rod in the private dispute between (ECC and ECALP) and the Requiem Project.”

If the city takes over the building, the legal dispute would likely become unnecessary and Requiem would probably be allowed to carry on with its plans.

For an in-depth look at the situation and history between Requiem and UC, ECALP and ECC, check out CityBeat’s original coverage here.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.22.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT, Guns, Courts at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
peter beck

Morning News and Stuff

Local Republican indicted, gay couple sues state, Ohio PAC buying Zimmerman a gun

The speaker of the Ohio House is asking a local state representative to resign after he was indicted on 16 counts of fraud. State Rep. Peter Beck, a Mason Republican, already faces a maximum of 43 years in prison if he’s convicted on all the counts, but Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the ongoing investigation might produce more charges. The charges are a result of Beck’s alleged actions involving an Ohio software company called Christopher Technologies, which investors claim bilked them out of $200,000.

Claiming discrimination, a newlywed same-sex couple is suing the state of Ohio for failing to recognize their marriage. Jim Obergefell and John Arthur were married in Maryland, but the couple lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where same-sex marriage is banned by the state constitution. The couple’s attorney claims the state should be forced to recognize the marriage because of Fourteenth Amendment protections extended to gay couples by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Arthur was diagnosed in 2011 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease that causes muscles to rapidly deteriorate, and he’s currently bedridden as a result. Given Arthur’s health, the couple will argue for an expedited ruling at a hearing at 1:30 p.m. today in front of U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black.

The Buckeye Firearms Association is raising money to buy a gun for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the murder trial of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s gun is currently being held by the U.S. Department of Justice as it investigates further charges.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and 100 members of the Children’s Defense Fund will meet at Washington Park at 1 p.m. today to rally against gun violence in Cincinnati. The group plans to march to City Hall, where they will listen to students suggestions for making the city a safer place to visit and reside.

A state representative introduced a bill that would allow some public university students to forgo traditional tuition and instead pay for their college education through a percent of their income for 24 years after they graduate.

An Ohio health aide is being sent to prison for Medicaid fraud.

Ohio gas prices are down this week.

In a desperate bid to save the endangered Sumatran rhino, the Cincinnati Zoo is attempting to breed a brother and sister.

If you think the recent heat has been bad, Popular Science has a humbling list of the 10 worst places to live in the universe.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.18.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Streetcar, Courts at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking lease facing legal dispute, critical memo dismissed, mayor to attend streetcar social

In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager exceeded his authority when he made two “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after City Council approved the deal in March. If the city solicitor doesn’t take up the legal challenge, COAST could sue the city by itself. Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s necessary to fund development projects in the city and modernize the city’s parking services, but opponents say it gives up too much control over the city’s parking meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown.

The Business Courier reports that a critical parking memo was supposed to provide a “strike point” for negotiations between the Port Authority and Xerox, which will manage the city’s parking meters under a lease agreement. But the city administration didn’t begin sharing the June 20 memo with anyone else, including the Port Authority, until July 12, after council members and media outlets began asking the city administration about it. The memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the parking lease agreement and overpaying Xerox. Port and city officials argue the memo relied on outdated information and made technical errors.

Mayor Mark Mallory will today join fellow streetcar supporters at Rhinegeist Brewery to discuss the streetcar project’s latest news and future. The city on July 15 set an opening date of Sept. 15, 2016 after finalizing a construction contract with Messer Construction, Prus Construction and Delta Railroad, which was made possible after City Council closed a $17.4 million budget gap in June. CityBeat recently debunked some of the misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project here.

Commentary: “Zimmerman Reactions Overlook Broader Racial Issues in America.”

Public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down following city and state funding cuts. The organization’s demise is a great loss to producers like Rufus Johnson, who used its resources for years. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the state eliminated a fund that was provided by Time Warner Cable, but even the local funding was fully cut in the budget passed in May. City officials have justified the cuts by pointing to citizen surveys that ranked Media Bridges poorly in terms of budgetary importance, but a CityBeat analysis found the surveys were skewed against the low-income Cincinnatians that benefit the most from public access programs like Media Bridges.

State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing multiple felony charges related to securities fraud. A lawsuit filed in Hamilton County by investors alleges that money invested at the request of Beck and others was used for personal gain — specifically, Beck’s campaign — instead of a business investment as originally intended. Beck has been in power since 2009, and his current term is set to expire in 2014.

A former poll worker was sentenced to five years for voter fraud after she voted twice for herself and three times for her sister, who’s been in a coma since 2003.

The driver who last August accidentally hit and killed a local cyclist is awaiting his sentence. Local bike advocacy groups are asking courts to give the maximum penalty to the driver, who’s facing at most six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The local housing market is rapidly recovering in a continuing good sign for the economy, with single-family home permits up 48 percent in June compared to the year before, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reds games are No. 3 for local TV ratings in all of Major League Baseball, behind only the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.

Xavier University is laying off 31 employees and cutting 20 currently vacant positions.

A Miami University student is getting an astronaut scholarship, making him one of 28 students nationwide to receive the honor.

Entrepreneur says Cincinnati is an “unexpected hub for tech startups.”

A new self-aiming rifle would outshoot human snipers.

Popular Science has a guide for arguing against anti-vaccine crazies here.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.17.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Courts at 08:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
coast_online

Parking Lease Facing Another Legal Challenge

Conservative group claims city manager exceeded authority with changes

In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager made “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after City Council approved the deal in March. That, the letter states, exceeds the city manager’s authority.

The two changes in question: First, the city changed the original June 30 deadline for issuing bonds that will finance the deal to a less specific 90-day period that will kick in once the agreement is in full effect. Second, the city added sections that allow the Port to review and potentially terminate the lease within 75 days.

The changes were made after another legal challenge delayed the leases implementation.

The letter asks City Solicitor John Curp to review the allegations and sue the city. If he doesn’t, COAST would gain the legal standing necessary under Ohio law to sue the city by itself.

“The law requires that before a lawyer can sue the city and ask taxpayers to pay his fees he must send a letter of this type,” Curp explained in an email.

Curp also wrote that the city will review the allegations and respond within a month.

“Today’s letter is an attempt to comply with part of the legal process that would allow the authors to claim attorneys fees from taxpayers,” he wrote. “The Law Department will review the issues raised, attempt to engage the authors constructively and respond appropriately. The policy of the Law Department is to defend aggressively against claims from lawyers that seek taxpayers dollars to fund their litigation against the City of Cincinnati.”

COAST is pursuing the legal challenge as a longtime critic of the parking lease. The organization supported the previous lawsuit against the lease, which an appeals court struck down.

The letter comes in the middle of another controversy over a June 20 memo that the city administration kept from the public, Port Authority and City Council for three-plus weeks, until council members and media outlets enquired about it. The memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the lease agreement. Port and city officials argue the memo made technical errors and used outdated information.

Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates.

Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s needed to raise funds for development projects and modernize the city’s parking services.

Opponents say the lease gives up too much control over the city’s parking meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown by causing meter rates and operation hours to go up.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.26.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Courts at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
pride_seelbach_jf

Local, State Leaders React to LGBT Rulings

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down federal ban on same-sex marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a ruling that effectively requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages for couples who reside in states where same-sex marriage is legal.

The DOMA ruling also sets a powerful historical precedent by extending equal protection rights to gay and lesbian individuals.

In another ruling, the Supreme Court vacated a case on California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in that state, and effectively sent the case back down to a lower court that deemed Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The ruling means California will likely begin giving marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the ruling’s effects will not go beyond California’s borders.

For gay and lesbian Ohioans, the DOMA ruling adds yet another incentive to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. If FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014 are successful, Ohio’s gay couples will have their marriages recognized at all levels of government. (The group previously aimed for 2013, but it now says it needs more time.)

So far, it remains unclear whether the ruling will extend to same-sex couples who get married in other states but live in Ohio. If so, Ohio gay couples could get married in Massachusetts, return to Ohio and be eligible for federal marriage benefits — but not state marriage benefits. Legal experts and federal officials will surely debate the issue in the coming months to develop a clearer answer.

Still, there’s been a lot of cheering and jubilation about the historical rulings, which are widely seen as victories for LGBT rights. Below are some of those reactions from local and state leaders, gathered through interviews and statements.

Also, make sure to check out CityBeat's Pride Issue for more coverage on LGBT issues.

Councilman Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member:

“It’s pretty amazing. Just as President Obama when he announced his support for marriage equality, this feels like just as much of a milestone, if not more because of the legal significance of the rulings. This is proof that the tides have turned and the laws are changing. We are realizing full equality for LGBT people across this entire country.”

“The fact that they used the equal protection clause means this case will be used across the country for every type of law that has an impact on LGBT people. The Supreme Court just set a new precedent for the rights of any government to discriminate against gays and lesbians. It’s far broader than just the repeal of DOMA, which in itself is an incredible feat. But the precedent that it’s setting for scrutiny on the basis of sexual orientation will have an effect on laws throughout this country for decades to come.”

Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio:

“We are elated that the Supreme Court has repealed DOMA and in effect rejected Proposition 8. These decisions are proof that the tide of acceptance for all couples is turning in this country, and we have taken two more important steps toward true equality.

“This important moment, however, does not change the reality that Ohio still has a constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage. Ohio voters can address the civil rights issue of our generation by voting for the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment. We are elated and our resolve has been doubled to collect signatures. The journey continues. We will bring marriage equality to Ohio in November, 2014.”

Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party:

“I’m deeply thankful that the Defense of Marriage Act has finally been struck from our country’s books, and that millions across the nation and Ohio are one step closer to equal and fair treatment under the law. DOMA implemented discrimination into the highest law of the land, and it’s a great day that this ugly reminder of a different time is finally gone.

“Ohio Democrats are honored to stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters in the fight to earn marriage equality for all, and continue our march to overcome the prejudice of the past. But despite our victories across the nation, Ohio Republicans in the Statehouse and Governor’s office remain committed to keeping prejudice enshrined in law.”

John Boehner, U.S. Speaker of the House and Republican from West Chester, Ohio:

“Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis and President (Bill) Clinton signed it into law. The House intervened in this case because the constitutionality of a law should be judged by the Court, not by the president unilaterally. While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances. A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”

German Lopez, gay staff writer at CityBeat:

“Cool.”

Danny Cross, CityBeat editor:

DOMA was a real horseshit piece of legislation, and we're happy those old bastards in the Supreme Court did the right thing.

Update (1:47 p.m.): Added more reactions.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.12.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Budget, Courts at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Court Sides with City on Parking Plan

City plans to move forward as some council members suggest a repeal

In a 2-1 ruling today, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling and said the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets is not subject to a referendum and may move forward.

But opponents are pushing for a stay on the ruling as they work on an appeal, which could put the case in front of the Ohio Supreme Court.

For the city, the ruling means it can potentially move forward with leasing parking meters and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority for a one-time payment of $92 million and an estimated $3 million in annual increments. The city originally planned to use the funds for development projects, including a downtown grocery store and the uptown interchange, and to help balance the city’s budget for the next two years.

But critics, including those who led the referendum efforts, are calling on the city to hold off on the lease. They argue the plan, which raises parking meter rates and expands meters’ operation hours, will hurt downtown business.

In a statement, City Manager Milton Dohoney praised the ruling, but he clarified that the city will not be able to allocate parking plan funds until potential appeals of todays ruling are exhausted or called off.

“The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan until there is legal certainty around the funds. Once there is legal certainty, the Administration will look at the budget to determine if there are items that may need to be revisited and bring those before Members of City Council, as appropriate,” he said.

Jason Barron, spokesperson for Democratic Mayor Mark Mallory, says the city will now be able to re-evaluate current plans for the budget and other projects.

“Council will get a chance to look at the budget again and undo some of the stuff that they’ve done, but some of the cuts will definitely stay — that way we continue to move towards balance,” he says.

But first, the city must follow through with legal processes to get Judge Robert Winkler’s original order on the parking plan lifted, which will then allow the city and Port Authority to sign the lease.

Already, some council members are pushing back. Following the ruling, Democratic council members Chris Seelbach and Laure Quinlivan announced that they plan to introduce a motion that would repeal the parking plan.

But Barron says City Council would need six out of nine votes to overrule Mallory and other supporters of the parking plan, which he says is unlikely.

At today’s City Council meeting, Quinlivan and Seelbach were unable to introduce the motion, which has five signatures, because the motion requires six votes for immediate consideration and to overrule the mayor, who opposes a repeal. The motion also needs to be turned into an ordinance to actually repeal the parking plan.

In a statement, Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley criticized the ruling and city. He said the plan should be subject to referendum: “This decision affects an entire generation and shouldn’t be made by people who are trying to spend a bunch of money right before an election, while leaving the bill for our kids to pay.”

Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who is also running for mayor, praised the ruling in a statement.

My goal is that proceeds from the parking proposal are used to put the city on a path to a structurally balanced budget by 2017,” she said.

Qualls said she will introduce a motion that calls on the city administration to draw up a plan that would use parking funds on long-term investments that support long-term fiscal sustainability,” including neighborhood development, other capital projects, the city’s reserves and the city’s pension fund.

The ruling also allows the city to once again use emergency clauses, which the city claims eliminate a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and make laws insusceptible to referendum.

Judges Penelope Cunningham and Patrick DeWine cited legal precedent and the context of the City Charter to rule the city may use emergency clauses to expedite the implementation of laws, including the parking plan.

“Importantly, charter provisions, like statutes and constitutions, must be read as a whole and in context,” the majority opinion read. “We are not permitted — as the common pleas court did, and Judge Dinkelacker’s dissent does — to look at the first sentence and disassociate it from the context of the entire section.”

Judge Patrick Dinkelacker dissented, claiming the other judges are applying the wrong Ohio Supreme Court cases to the ruling.

“In my view, the charter language is ambiguous and, therefore, we must liberally construe it in favor of permitting the people of Cincinnati to exercise their power of referendum,” Dinkelacker wrote in his dissent.

The parking plan leases the city’s parking meters and garages to the Port Authority, which will use a team of private operators from around the country — AEW Capital, Xerox, Denison Parking and Guggenheim — for operations, technology upgrades and enforcement.

The city originally argued the parking plan was necessary to help balance the budget without laying off cops and firefighters and pursue major development projects downtown.

Since then, the city used higher-than-expected revenues and cuts elsewhere, particularly to parks and human services funding, to balance the fiscal year 2014 budget without laying off public safety personnel.

City Council is also expected to vote today on an alternative funding plan to build a grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage on Fourth and Race streets downtown. The project was originally attached to the parking plan.

Dohoney asked City Council in a statement to pursue the alternative plan today.

We are asking Council to pass the development deal today so that the developers have the city’s commitment and can move ahead with their financing,” he said. If we wait any longer on the parking deal, we put this deal at risk. With the housing capacity issue downtown and decade-long cry for a grocery store, we must move forward.

CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.

Updated at 1:39 p.m.: Added comments from the city manager’s statement.

Updated at 2:00 p.m.: Added comments from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls statement.

Updated at 3:23 p.m.: Added results of City Council meeting.

Updated at 10:35 a.m. on June 13: Added latest news about appeal.

 
 
by German Lopez 04.18.2013
Posted In: News, Courts, Streetcar at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_fines

Morning News and Stuff

Ohio courts hurt poor, Qualls calls for streetcar hearing, House to vote on budget today

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) found Ohio's poor are regularly victimized by illegal practices in courts that jail the state's poor for failing to pay fines they can't afford. The problem particularly afflicts the state's rural counties, which sometimes openly admit to jailing people even when they can't afford to pay fines. The ACLU says courts need to be more transparent in communicating defendants' rights, provide retroactive credits to those wrongfully incarcerated based on circumstances of poverty and consistently hold hearings to assess defendants' financial viability and willfulness to pay fines.

The streetcar is being threatened by a $22.7 million budget gap, and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who is running for mayor and has long supported the streetcar, is calling a meeting to get all the details on how the project got here and whether it's still economically viable. Qualls says it's too soon to jump to conclusions about the project's fate, and she says she would like to see the options and details laid out by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. at the hearing. But Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, a longtime opponent of the streetcar, is already using the news to call for the project's demise. The streetcar is one of few issues dividing the Democratic candidates in the mayoral race, which the latest poll has Qualls leading by 14 points.

The Ohio House is expected to vote on a budget today that would defund Planned Parenthood, ban comprehensive sex education and fund crisis pregnancy centers that promote abstinence-only, anti-abortion education. This week, the budget has been regularly mocked by Democrats for potentially opening teachers to lawsuits if they explain condoms, other forms of birth control and other basic sex facts to students in a way that could lead to "gateway sexual activity."

The Ohio House budget bill also fails to expand Medicaid — a failing that Moody's is warning could put hospitals at risk for budgetary shortfalls. The report points out that hospitals were supposed to get more patients through a Medicaid expansion, which would be funded almost entirely by the federal government through Obamacare, to make up for a reduction of federal reimbursements for uncompensated care. The Medicaid expansion would have insured 456,000 Ohioans and saved the state money, according to a report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in greater detail here.

For student voters, the Ohio House budget bill would also make it more difficult to vote by forcing public universities to withhold essential documents that can be used as voter identification. The rule would make it so universities have to declare students in-state for tuition purposes when issuing them a letter or utility bill to vote, effectively costing universities extra revenue from out-of-state students if they choose to issue the documents. Democratic State Rep. Kathleen Clyde says the move will likely make it so universities never hand over the documents.

This week's CityBeat commentary: "Bad Budget Ideas Confound Public Discourse."

As the city wrestles with laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig is considering a potential job offer in Detroit "very carefully." Craig interviewed for the top cop position in Detroit last week. "I'm humbled they would consider me a top candidate," Craig told The Cincinnati Enquirer.

A new poll found Republican Gov. John Kasich in "reasonably good shape" for re-election, beating potential challenger Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald 46-37.

Disbarred attorney Stan Chesley resigned from the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to by fellow board members.

Metro announced new direct, crosstown routes yesterday. The routes will make it easier to travel from the east to west side and vice versa.

The Business Courier has a look at the top 10 worst-paying Cincinnati jobs.

Five to 15 were killed and more than 150 were injured in a Texas fertilizer plant explosion yesterday.

Even though a majority of 54 voted in favor and only 46 voted against it, the background checks bill for gun buyers failed in the U.S. Senate yesterday, failing to overcome what was essentially a filibuster. Ohio's senators were split on the issue, with Sen. Rob Portman voting against the bill and Sen. Sherrod Brown voting in favor. Universal background checks are supported by more than 90 percent of Americans, according to a poll from The New York Times and CBS.

Scientists have found magnetic brain stimulation could remove cravings for cigarettes.

 
 

 

 

 
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