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by German Lopez 11.12.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Mayor at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_parkingmeters

Parking Plan Called Off

Port Authority and newly elected mayor and council agree to end deal

Mayor-elect John Cranley, the newly elected City Council and the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Tuesday agreed to eliminate the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority once newly elected officials take office in December.

But it remains unclear how much it will cost to terminate the plan, default on the lease agreement with the Port Authority and allow the Port to break its contracts with private companies that would have operated the assets under the deal.

The announcement follows the Nov. 5 election of Cranley and a City Council supermajority opposed to the parking plan.

“It is a tremendously positive announcement for the city and its citizens that the current parking deal is now dead, Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. I was glad to help sound the alarm on this deal from the beginning, but this victory ultimately belongs to the public, who were instrumental in providing sustained public pressure. This has shown us that the public values its public assets and wants long-term solutions to our financial challenges, not short-term fixes.

Cranley and Sittenfeld were joined by Councilman Christopher Smitherman, incoming council members Amy Murray and David Mann and Port Authority CEO Laura Brunner for the announcement. They discussed continuing the city’s partnership with the Port Authority, including the possibility of establishing a development fund for the agency.

Cranley also reiterated his intention to pursue some of the development projects originally tied to the deal, particularly the interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive. He also said the city will try to find other ways to leverage the city’s parking assets, including the possibility of stricter enforcement and better technologies.

From the start, opponents of the parking plan claimed it gave up too much local control over the city’s parking assets. The plan would have leased the assets to the Port Authority — a local, city- and county-funded development agency — but the Port planned to sign off operations to private companies from around the country.

The plan grew particularly controversial in July, after a previously concealed memo critical of the plan was leaked to media outlets and council members.

The city administration originally claimed the parking plan — and the lump-sum payment it would produce — was necessary to balance the city’s operating budget without laying off cops and firefighters.

But when the plan was held up in court following the current City Council’s approval on March 6, council managed to balance the operating budget without layoffs by making cuts elsewhere, including council members’ salaries, and tapping into higher-than-expected revenues.

City Council also managed to use alternative funding sources to finance the development of a downtown grocery store and luxury apartment tower at Fourth and Race streets, which city administration officials originally touted as a major selling point of the parking plan.

Still, city administration officials claimed the plan was necessary to fund other development projects around the city, help balance the budget for the next two years and modernize the city’s parking assets so, for example, all parking meters would have the ability to accept credit card payments.

City Manager Milton Dohoney, a proponent of the parking plan, also proposed using the lump-sum payment to pay for a parking garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets. Under the original parking plan, the Port Authority was supposed to pay for the garage; after the Port Authority completed its review of the deal on Oct. 9, it backed down from the commitment.

The Port Authority’s review also reduced the lump-sum payment to $85 million from $92 million. Cranley and other critics said the reduction and the new $14-$15 million cost brought on by the parking garage effectively reduced the upfront payment to $70-$71 million.

Without the parking plan, the planned projects will require new sources of funding if they are to proceed. But to critics, the plan’s dissolution is an intangible victory that has been months in the making.

Updated with more details.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.17.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, Fracking at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City debt outlook worsens, Port apologizes for email about parking memo, fracking tax fails

It may become more expensive for the city to issue debt after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond rating. The credit rating agency pinned the blame on the city’s exposure to local and state retirement systems, as well as the city’s reliance since 2001 on one-time sources to balance the operating budget. Still, Moody’s does give the city some credit for its economically diverse population and recently stabilized earnings tax, despite docking the city for bad socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner is apologizing to the public and council members following the exposure of an email that implied she was trying to keep a critical parking memo away from public sight. Brunner says she was just trying to buy time so she could directly show the memo to the Port Authority’s board before it was reported by news outlets, but she acknowledges that her email was ill-conceived and came off as an attempt to stifle transparency. The memo suggests Cincinnati is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Port Authority and several private operators, but the Port Authority and city officials argue the memo is outdated and full of technical errors.

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report detailing political contributions from oil and gas companies that may have helped bring down a state “fracking tax,” which was supposed to raise state revenue from Ohio’s ongoing oil and gas boom. Apparently, many of the Republican legislators who staunchly opposed the oil and gas severance tax also took in a lot of money from the same companies who would have to pay up. The tax proposal was effectively dead on arrival, even with the hyperbolic support of Republican Gov. John Kasich. Fracking is an extraction technique that pumps millions of gallons of water underground to free up oil and gas. CityBeat covered its effects on Ohio in further detail here.

Water utility leaders are meeting in Cincinnati this week to discuss sustainable business models. In Cincinnati, water usage has dropped while expenses to treat water and waste water have escalated, causing the Metropolitan Sewer District to take in less money. The conference will discuss models that can adjust around this trend while keeping rates low for customers.

The owners of The Hanke Exchange, a collection of buildings in Over-the-Rhine, say occupancy is going up as a result of the promise of the Cincinnati streetcar. The property is now at 84 percent occupancy rate, up from 28 percent three years ago.

Dayton and Cincinnati will hold rallies Saturday showing support for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black 17-year-old who was killed by George Zimmerman last year. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury last Saturday.

Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general, was confirmed to direct the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the top agency that will regulate the financial institutions that played a role in causing the Great Recession.

The Hamilton County Young Democrats are hosting a free event today to meet Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner, who’s also running for secretary of state next year against Republican incumbent Jon Husted.

If the sun suddenly went out, humanity could take a few weeks to die out and perhaps live in Iceland.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.17.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Development at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Court Refuses Stay on Parking Ruling

City now waits on lower court to sign lease

The Hamilton County Court of Appeals today refused to delay enforcement of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court rescinds its original injunction on the plan.

On June 12, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling and sided with the city over critics of the parking plan, deciding that the city can use emergency clauses to avert referendum efforts on passed legislation, including the parking plan. Emergency clauses also allow the city to avoid a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws.

For Cincinnati, the plan will first produce a $92 million one-time payment. Following that, the city will get an estimated $3 million a year, which the city says will eventually increase to $7 million and continue climbing afterward.

Still, the city says it won’t spend any funds until there is legal certainty, meaning until potential appeals are exhausted.

“The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan until there is legal certainty around the funds,” City Manager Milton Dohoney said in a statement on June 12. “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.”

Opponents are planning to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Opponents gathered more than 12,000 signatures supporting a referendum on the parking plan. But with the appeals court ruling, that referendum may never come to pass.

The city says the parking plan’s funds will be used to accelerate economic growth, but critics argue the parking plan will hurt downtown businesses by expanding parking meter hours and increasing meter rates.

City Council began discussing potential changes to the parking plan in a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today. The meeting largely focused on whether City Council could repeal or rework the parking plan with a simple majority or supermajority.

Following the June 12 ruling, five out of nine council members signed a motion to repeal the parking plan. But City Council would need to pass an ordinance for any changes to be legally binding.

An ordinance would likely need six votes to overrule the mayor’s veto powers.

City Solicitor John Curp told City Council the mayor also has the power through the City Charter to hold any proposed ordinances until the end of his term on Nov. 30, which means the mayor can effectively stop all repeal attempts.

Mayor Mark Mallory supports the parking plan. Jason Barron, his spokesperson, previously told CityBeat Mallory would reject a repeal.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.18.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, Development at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Court refuses delay on parking, interchange needs city support, final budget mixes tax cuts

The Hamilton County Court of Appeals refused to delay enforcement of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court rescinds its original injunction on the plan. Six out of nine City Council members say they want to repeal or rework the deal, but City Solicitor John Curp says Mayor Mark Mallory, who supports the plan, has the power to hold any repeal attempts until Nov. 30, which means he can effectively stop any repeal attempts until the end of his final term as mayor.

City Manager Milton Dohoney told City Council yesterday that the state government will not pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange if the city doesn’t pick up some of the cost. Dohoney made the statement when explaining how he would use the $92 million upfront money from the parking plan. The interchange project has long been sought out by city and state officials to create jobs and better connect uptown businesses to the rest of the area and state.

State officials told The Cincinnati Enquirer the final budget plan may include downsized versions of the tax cut plans in the Ohio House and Senate budget bills. The House bill included a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut, while the Senate bill included a 50-percent income tax deduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 worth of income. Democrats have criticized the across-the-board income tax cut for cutting taxes for the wealthy and the business tax cut for giving a tax cut to passive investors, single-person firms and partnerships that are unlikely to add jobs. Republicans claim both tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs.

Ohio ranked No. 46 out of the 50 states for job creation in the past year, according to an infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts. Both Ohio and Alaska increased their employment levels by 0.1 percent. The three states below Ohio and Alaska — Wisconsin, Maine and Wyoming — had a drop in employment ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced 8,229 new entities filed to do business in Ohio in May, up from 7,687 the year before.

StateImpact Ohio has an ongoing series about “value-added,” a state-sanctioned method of measuring teacher performance, here. The investigation has already raised questions about whether value-added is the “great equalizer” it was originally made out to be — or whether it largely benefits affluent school districts.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency awarded $5,690 to the Cincinnati Nature Center for its teacher training program Nature in the Classroom. The grant will help continue the program’s goals of training first through eighth grade teachers about local natural history, how to implement a science-based nature curriculum and how to engage students in exploring and investigating nature.

Controversial Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley yesterday was suspended from arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kings Island and Cedar Point were among the top 15 most visited amusement parks in the nation in 2012 — after the obvious hotspots in California and Florida.

Meet NASA’s astronaut class of 2013.

Google is launching balloon-based Internet in New Zealand.

Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.13.2013
Posted In: News, Food Deserts, Parking, Development at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Food deserts plague city, court reverses parking ruling, downtown grocery store coming

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

For many neighborhoods, the lack of access to fresh, healthy fruits, vegetables and foods is a big problem, but Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan is helping address the problem, at least in the short term, through mobile produce zones that will be placed in eight neighborhoods generally considered “food deserts.” Quinlivan acknowledges the solution is a stopgap, but Michael Widener, assistant professor in University of Cincinnati’s Geography Department, says it’s a start that could help many local residents as a better solution is worked on.

In a 2-1 ruling yesterday, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision and said the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets is not subject to a referendum and may move forward. Parking opponents are appealing the decision and pushing for a stay. For the city, the parking plan will potentially unlock millions of dollars over 30 years, including a $92 million upfront payment. But opponents argue the terms of the deal, which include increased parking meter rates and operation hours, will hurt downtown business. The ruling also returned the city’s emergency clause powers, which the city says allow it to bypass a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and make laws insusceptible to referendum.

City Council unanimously approved a development deal for Fourth and Race streets downtown to build a grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage to replace Pogue’s Garage. With council approval, construction could begin late this year, with developers hoping to finish in 2015. The deal will be headed by Indianapolis-based development company Flaherty and Collins. The city’s share of the $80 million deal will be $12 million, paid for with a five-year forgivable loan financed by urban renewal funds, which are generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for downtown capital projects.

Commentary: “‘Jobs’ Budget Attacks Women’s Health Options”

The first mayoral candidate forum is tonight at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital MERC Auditorium at 620 Oak Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith are scheduled to participate.

After nearly six years of no pay increases for non-union workers, Hamilton County commissioners approved raises for some county employees yesterday. The raises will be merit-based, but they will not exceed 3 percent of what the county pays in wages each year.

Few owners actually register their exotic animals. The state began requiring exotic animal registration after a man in Zanesville, Ohio, released 56 exotic animals and committed suicide.

Pending approval from the board of trustees, the University of Cincinnati is hiring Beverly Davenport Sypher as senior vice president for academic affairs. Previously, Davenport Sypher was the vice provost for faculty affairs at Purdue University.

An ongoing study found women who are denied abortions have poorer health and are more likely to live in poverty two years on.

In Japan, cyclists can now store their bikes in underground robot caverns.

Updated at 11:10 a.m.: Added information about first mayoral candidate forum.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.16.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Streetcar, City Council at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Memo doubts parking plan, city manager defends hiding memo, streetcar to open 2016

The city administration yesterday disputed the findings of a June 20 memo that suggested the city is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but controversy remains about why the city administration withheld the memo from City Council and the Port Authority for three-plus weeks. Opponents of the parking plan are now attempting to use the memo to convince the Port Authority to reject the lease with Xerox, but the Port Authority insists that the memo is laced with inaccuracies and technical errors. The city is pursuing the lease to obtain a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. The money will be used to pay for future budget gaps and development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.

City Manager Milton Dohoney defended the city administration’s decision to withhold the June 20 memo, but several council members are angered by what they call a “lack of transparency.” Still, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls argued the administration’s decision to keep the memo from City Council was understandable because the memo was based on faulty information.

The Cincinnati streetcar got an opening date yesterday: Sept. 15, 2016. The grand opening comes after years of political controversy, pulled funding and two referendum efforts nearly killed the project. Ever since it was first proposed, the streetcar project has been engulfed in misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered here.

A federal judge made permanent his earlier decision that Ohio must count provisional ballots if they’re submitted in the right polling place but wrong precinct. The ruling is being taken as a victory by voting-rights advocates.

Cincinnati is negotiating to claw back its incentive with Kendle International Inc., which agreed in 2008 to keep its headquarters and create jobs at the city’s Carew Tower. The agreement gave Kendle $200,000 over 10 years on the condition it steadily grew jobs. The failure may add further doubt to the value of job deals, which were criticized earlier in the year by a report CityBeat covered here.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ Hospital and Bethesda North Hospital are among the best hospitals in the nation, according to U.S. News’s “Best Hospitals” feature.

Here are some of the odd things that made it into the two-year state budget.

Gov. John Kasich signed a Columbus school plan that will allow levy money to be shared with charter schools that partner with the Columbus school district.

The Senate is the best place in the country to eat hot dogs, according to Food & Wine.

More U.S. hospitals now treat gay parents equally.

Dogs apparently can watch television, which is good news for an Israeli channel explicitly aimed at dogs.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.12.2014 70 days ago
Posted In: News, Parking, City Council, Mayor at 04:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
news1_parkingmeters

What Is Cranley’s Parking Plan?

Proposal could increase parking enforcement, hours and rates

Mayor John Cranley on Feb. 12 officially unveiled his plan for Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, providing the first clear option for the city’s parking system since the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority agreed to halt the previous plan.

The proposal seeks to effectively replace the previous administration’s parking privatization plan, which outsourced the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority and several private companies, and maintain local control of the city’s parking assets.

Here’s a breakdown of the plan and all its finer details.

What is Cranley’s parking plan?

It’s a plan for Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages. More specifically, Cranley calls his proposal a “framework” that focuses on upgrading the city’s parking meters and keeps City Council’s control of parking rates and hours.

Cranley’s plan, based on a Feb. 7 memo from Walker Parking Consultants, achieves his goals in a few ways:

• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to upgrade all parking meters to accept credit card payments.

• The amount of enforcement officers under the city’s payroll would increase to 15, up from five, to provide greater coverage of the city’s parking meters. (Currently, a few areas, including major hubs like the University of Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine, are effectively unenforced for two to five hours a day, according to Walker.)

• Neighborhood meter rates would go up by 25 cents to 75 cents an hour. Downtown rates would remain at $2 an hour.

• Sundays and holidays remain free.

Cranley says the underlying idea is to maintain a few key principles, particularly local control over rates and hours. He cautions Walker’s proposal, including expanded enforcement hours, could change with public input and as City Council puts together the final plan.

Does the plan let people use smartphones to pay for parking meters?

No. Cranley says the upgraded meters will support the technology, but it will be up to council to decide whether it’s enabled in the future.

Smartphone capability is a double-edged sword: It introduces its own set of costs, including shorter battery life for meters. It also allows customers to avoid under- and overpaying at parking meters, which decreases citation and meter revenues. But smartphone access also increases ease of use, which could lead to higher revenues by making it easier to pay.

The parking privatization plan promised to provide smartphone access at all parking meters. The previous administration and Port Authority championed the feature as key to increasing convenience and revenue.

OK, that explains the parking meters. What about the parking garages?

Cranley’s plan makes two changes to garages:

• The Port Authority would take over Fountain Square South Garage. The Port would be required to cover expenses for the garage, but any net revenue could be used on projects within the city.

• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to build a garage at 7th and Broadway streets.

Otherwise, things remain the same as today.

In other words, the city would be on the hook for parking garage repairs and upgrades, which Walker estimates would cost roughly $8 million in capital expenses over the next five years.

But the city would also continue directly receiving around $2 million per year in net revenue from parking garages, according to Walker.

Still, the city isn’t allowed under state law to use the revenue from parking garages for anything outside the parking system.

The parking privatization plan tried to do away with the restriction by putting the Port Authority in charge of garages. State law allows agencies like the Port to tap into garage revenues for other uses, such as development projects.

But without the previous administration’s plan, Cranley claims the Port Authority declined to take over more facilities beyond Fountain Square South Garage. Given the rejection, Cranley says its up to council to figure out another way to leverage garage revenues beyond putting them back in the parking system.

What does Cranley’s plan do about the thousands of parking tickets already owed to the city?

Nothing. By Cranley’s own admission, the city needs to do a better job collecting what its owed. But he says that’s something City Council will have to deal with in the future.

So why did Cranley oppose the parking privatization plan?

Cranley vehemently opposed giving up local control of the city’s parking assets. He warned that outsourcing meters to the Port Authority and private companies would create a for-profit incentive to ratchet up parking rates and enforcement.

The previous administration disputed Cranley’s warnings. They pointed out an advisory board, chaired by four Port Authority appointees and one city appointee, would need to unanimously agree on rate and hour changes, and the changes could be vetoed by the city manager.

Without any changes from the advisory board, the 30-year privatization plan hiked downtown parking meter rates by 25 cents every three years and neighborhood rates by 25 cents every six years. The plan also expanded enforcement hours to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. in Over-the-Rhine and parts of downtown.

Still, City Council would lose its control of rates and hours under the privatization plan. Cranley and other opponents argued the outsourcing scheme could insulate the parking system from public — and voter — input.

Cranley also opposed the privatization plan’s financial arrangement.

Under the old deal, the city would receive a lump sum of $85 million and annual installments of $3 million, as long as required expenses, such as costly garage upgrades or repairs, were met.

In comparison, the city currently gets roughly $3 million in net revenue from parking meters and another $2 million in net revenue from parking garages. (As noted earlier, the parking garage revenue can only be used for parking expenses.)

Cranley characterizes the lump sum as “borrowing from the future” because it uses upfront money that could instead be taken in by the city as annual revenue.

Related: Compare Cranley’s plan with the parking privatization plan.

Why does Cranley think his proposal is necessary?

It solidifies the death of the parking privatization plan. That’s important to begin the process of legally dismantling the previous plan.

The plan also increases net parking meter revenues from roughly $3 million to $6 million in the next budget year and more than $7 million per year within five years, according to Walker’s original estimates. (The estimates are likely too high because they assumed evening hours would expand around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville, Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But Cranley shelved the expansion of hours, with no estimates for how the changes will affect revenues.)

Since parking meter revenue, unlike garage revenue, can be used for non-parking expenses, the extra revenue could help plug the $20 million gap in the $370 million operating budget.

Why do some people oppose Cranley’s plan?

Some people supported the parking privatization plan. They saw the lump sum as a great opportunity to invest in development projects around the city. Without the lump sum, critics claim Cranley’s plan accepts all the pain of the previous plan — increased enforcement, rates and hours — for very little gain, even though the city would get more annual revenue and upgraded parking meters and garages.

Politics are also involved. After the contentious streetcar debate, there’s not much Cranley can do without some critics speaking out.

When will Cranley’s plan go into effect?

City Council first has to approve Cranley’s plan for it to become law. Council will likely take up and debate the plan at the Neighborhood Committee on Feb. 24 and set a more concrete timeline after that.

This blog post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available. Latest update: Feb. 19.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.21.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Commissioners, Health care at 08:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Port advances parking plan, board could expand Medicaid, county to gauge tourist revenues

Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.

On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.

The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Saturday approved bond sales and contract agreements for the controversial parking plan. The approval is the final major step necessary for the Port Authority and its private partners to take over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages after the city leased the assets to the nonprofit development agency earlier in the year. The deal is supposed to raise $85 million in upfront funds and at least $3 million in annual payments for the city, which the city administration previously planned to use for development projects and operating budget gaps. But opponents of the deal say the city is giving up far too much control over its parking assets, which they argue could cause parking rates to skyrocket as private operators attempt to maximize profits.

Ohio’s Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, is expected to decide today whether it will use federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program to more low-income Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich opted to bypass the legislature and put the decision to the Controlling Board after months of failing to convince his fellow Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate to take up the expansion. But critics of the expansion have threatened to sue the Kasich administration if it bypasses the legislature. Under Obamacare, the federal government will pay for the full expansion for the two years being considered; if Ohio ends up accepting the expansion beyond that, the federal government will pay for the entire expansion through 2016 then phase down its payments to an indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.

Hamilton County commissioners could consider today whether to use excess tourist tax revenues on more funding for tourism-related infrastructure projects. The tourist tax was previously used to help build the Cincinnati and Sharonville convention centers and fund the Convention and Visitors Bureau, but the county administrator intends to lay out more options in his meeting with commissioners.

In the mayoral race between Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, black voters could make the big decision.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday warned about so-called sweetheart scams in which a con artist develops a relationship with a victim, typically through the Internet, before asking for money. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received about 70 complaints involving the scams since October 2011, resulting in an average loss of more than $14,000 with the highest reported loss coming in at $210,000, according to the attorney general.

Ohio’s school chief ordered two Columbus charter schools to shut down for health and safety reasons and inadequate staffing.

Findlay Market is tapping into crowdsourcing to decide three new storefronts.

Ohio gas prices increased for the second week in a row.

A thermal wristband promises to keep the user’s body at the perfect temperature.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
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• Music: @CityBeatMusic
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by German Lopez 06.19.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Development, Parking at 09:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

Parking lease signed, council discusses highway project, Medicaid bills introduced in House

City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement Monday to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but the mayor and City Council may still make changes to the controversial parking plan before it’s implemented. In the past week, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling, made the parking plan insusceptible to a referendum and refused to delay enforcement on the ruling, which allowed the city manager to sign the lease within days. Still, the city won’t spend the $92 million lump sum from the lease until there is legal certainty, meaning until appeals from opponents are exhausted. (Correction: The city signed the lease Monday, not Tuesday as originally reported in the story. The city made the announcement Tuesday, which caused confusion and miscommunication.)

City Council is discussing whether it needs to set funds for the I-71/MLK Interchange project. The state is asking the city to contribute $20 million, but some council members are questioning whether the state would pursue the project without city support. The city administration says the state is insisting on the city’s participation. City Council originally planned to use funds from the parking lease to pick up the city’s share of the tab for the project, which officials estimate will produce thousands of jobs in the region.

After introducing two competing Medicaid bills in the Ohio House, leaders said they’re unlikely to vote on the bipartisan measures before the General Assembly’s summer recess. One of the bills would create a Medicaid oversight committee and instruct the state Medicaid director to find cost savings without cutting benefits. The other bill would take up the federally funded Medicaid expansion while taking measures to diminish access to narcotics through the health care system and encourage cost sharing and private sector plans among Medicaid recipients. Gov. John Kasich is still pushing the General Assembly to pass the Medicaid expansion, whether it’s through the budget, these bills or other means.

Ohio will end the current budget year with an unused surplus of $397 million, according to the state budget director. Kasich says the money should go toward tax cuts. The Ohio House and Senate are currently discussing merging their tax plans in the 2014-2015 budget, which could mean taking up smaller versions of the House’s 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut and the Senate’s 50-percent income tax reduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 of annual income.

Sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, will cost Ohio $284 million in fiscal year 2013, according to a Policy Matters Ohio report. For the state, that means slower economic growth, furloughed defense workers, cuts to county funds for social services, public health service reductions and further downsizing of the Head Start program, which supports preschool. CityBeat covered the early impact of sequestration in Ohio here.

The American Medical Association will soon decide if obesity is a disease.

The U.S. House passed an anti-abortion bill that would restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks since conception. The bill is unlikely to move past the House.

Landlords are less likely to respond to rental inquiries from gay couples.

The Congressional Budget Office says immigration reform would save money and boost economic growth.

Researchers have apparently mastered the art of the bat and can now “hear” the size of a room.

Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking at 04:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Port Still Hasn’t Signed Parking Lease

Delay raises questions about local control

It’s been three days since City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement to lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and the Port Authority still hasn’t signed the agreement.

Port Authority spokesperson Gail Paul told CityBeat she had no definitive information on when or whether the Port Authority will sign the lease, but she said she would contact CityBeat when she learned more.

The lease would produce a $92 million lump sum for the city, followed by at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. But it would hand over majority control of Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port Authority, which will operate and upgrade the meters, lots and garages through four private companies from around the nation.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the Port Authority has yet to sign the lease because it first wants a financial guarantee that the city will not threaten to cut future funding. In May, City Council considered pulling $100,000 out of $700,000 in annual funding from the Port Authority as part of a broader cut to outside agencies. The threat apparently made Port Authority officials concerned about future funding.

The city originally claimed the parking plan will keep local control of the city’s parking assets through the Port Authority. But the delay has raised doubts about local control, given that the Port Authority is going against the will and assumptions of the city government.

When asked whether the delay on signing the lease raises question about local control, Paul responded, “That’s an interesting take on it.” She says the Port Authority isn’t refusing to sign the lease, but the agency’s board is getting “reacquainted” with the plan and has a few lingering questions.

Paul added the Port Authority understands there’s a lot of public interest in the plan. She said the organization is paying attention to feedback and criticisms.

City spokesperson Meg Olberding said she’s confident the Port Authority will sign the lease.

Olberding responded to questions about local control by pointing out the Port Authority “has been at the table since the beginning.” She added, “The local control is not only through the Port, but also through the advisory board. The board members are citizens as well. So that local control will still be there.”

The advisory board will be made up of five members: four appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager.

The board would be able to make changes to various aspects of the parking plan, including parking meter rates. Under the original agreement, rates downtown will go up by 25 cents every three years, and rates in neighborhoods will go up by 25 cents every six years. The advisory board will be able to approve a hike or reduction in those rates, but those changes would also require approval from the city manager and Port Authority’s board.

 
 

 

 

 
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