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by German Lopez 06.21.2013
Posted In: News, County Commission, City Council at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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City, County Work Out Compromise on Sewer Projects

Council to rework "responsible bidder" ordinance

Cincinnati and Hamilton County today announced a compromise that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects, allowing the projects to move forward. As a condition, the city will have to rework and repeal the controversial laws that incited county commissioners into approving the hold in the first place.

As part of the deal, Commissioner Chris Monzel will ask the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to immediately repeal a hold on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.

On the city's side, Councilman Chris Seelbach will ask City Council to immediately repeal so-called "local hire" and "local preference" rules, which require a certain percentage of contractors' workforce be local residents.

The city, county and their partners will then work on changing the city's responsible bidder ordinance before new rules are officially implemented on Aug. 1.

In May, City Council modified the responsible bidder ordinance originally passed in June 2012. The changes were supposed to trigger in August, but the compromise may alter those changes altogether.

Under the current language, the ordinance forces MSD contractors to establish specifically accredited apprenticeship programs and put money — based on labor costs — toward a pre-apprenticeship fund.

The city argued the programs will help create local jobs and train local workers, but the county criticized the rules for supposedly favoring unions and imposing extra costs on MSD projects.

Meanwhile, MSD is facing pressure from the federal government to comply with a mandate to retrofit and replace Cincinnati's sewers. MSD estimates the project will cost $3.2 billion over 15 to 20 years, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cincinnati's history.

But the project was effectively halted by the county commissioners' funding hold, which forced the city and county to hastily work out a compromise.

CityBeat covered the county-city conflict in further detail here.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 08.01.2012
Posted In: News, County Commission at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincinnatians Speak Out For Social Services Levies

"We will do less with less," mental health chairman tells commissioners

A week before Hamilton County commissioners vote to approve levies to fund senior and mental health services, Cincinnatians on Wednesday again packed the Board of County Commissioners' meeting room to urge them to preserve the funding.

The public hearing — the first of two scheduled for the day — saw service providers, service recipients and activists ask commissioners not to enact what would be an effective cut to the funding for those services when they vote on the levies Aug. 8.

The levies, approved in 2008, are up for renewal this November. The Tax Levy Review Committee recommended that the levies continue at the 2008 rates — an effective cut because of declining property values due to the housing market collapse. Many of the advocates at the meeting asked commissioners to increase the levy so they could maintain their current level of funding.

“I cannot tell you we can do more with less,” said Thomas Gableman, Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Chairman. “We cannot do the same with less. We will do less with less.”

The Tax Levy Review Committee’s recommendation was based on the rationale that struggling homeowners shouldn’t be burdened with additional taxes. Gableman and others said it should be up to taxpayers whether they were willing to shell out more to preserve funding for services such as meals on wheels, senior transportation, mental health treatment and alcohol diversion programs.

“We’re not asking you to vote for a tax increase,” an impassioned Gableman told commissioners, “we’re saying let the voters of Hamilton County decide — let the voters of Hamilton County decide if they will take care of their own. We do take care of our own, and we’re damn proud of it.”

Gableman said if the Mental Health Services levy simply re-approved, those services would lose $17.3 million in funding. He said if commissioners provided the same level of funding approved in 2008, services would still face a $5.6 million reduction in funding.

Some Cincinnatians who had benefited from the services were in attendance to share their stories.

Greg Williams said he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. He said that were it not for mental health services he received from the Ikron Corporation, he “would be dead or in prison.”

He said thanks to his treatment, he was able to get hired to two jobs, get his life, family and some of his friends back.

“If they cut funding, imagine if you were going to the zoo and let loose every violent animal — imagine what would happen?” Williams said.

 
 
by Danny Cross 09.29.2011
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Ohio's new concealed-carry law will take effect tomorrow, allowing Second Amendment lovers the opportunity to reach into their pocket and feel the cold, smooth feel of safety while enjoying a non-alcoholic beverage at a bar or restaurant in Ohio. Seriously, y'all better not be drinking or the liberals will tell on you before you can get buzzed enough to go outside and fire a couple of funny shots up into the air.

Read More

 
 
by Danny Cross 11.22.2011
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

The Hamilton County Commissioners' stadium funding failures have caused County Auditor Dusty Rhodes to describe a “dream world” where politicians think their inaction doesn't affect anybody. Today's news that the stadium fund will be bankrupt by March without additional funding has not deterred Republican Chris Monzel and Democrat Todd Portune from giving property owners the tax credit that convinced them to vote for the 1996 sales tax increase.

"It would be the height of irresponsibly to commit funds they knew were not there," Rhodes said. "I've long criticized various governments for living in dream world.

"This takes it to a whole new level," Rhodes said.

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 10.09.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Today is the last day to register to vote, and in-person early voting is underway. Register to vote and vote at your nearest board of election, which can be located here.

Hamilton County commissioners agree on not raising the sales tax. That effectively rules out two of three plans laid out by the county administrator. The one plan left would not cut public safety, but it would make cuts to the courts, criminal justice system, administrative departments, commissioner departments and the board of elections.

It seems other news outlets are now scrutinizing online schools. A Reuters report pointed out state officials — including some in Ohio — are not happy with results from e-schools. Even Barbara Dreyer, CEO of the e-school company Connections Academy, told Reuters she’s disappointed with performance at e-schools. A CityBeat look into e-schools in August found similarly disappointing results. 

Ohio Democrats are asking federal and state officials for an investigation into Murray Energy, the Ohio-based coal company that has been accused of coercing employees into contributing to Republican political campaigns. In the statement calling for action, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “Thanks to this report, now we know why coal workers and miners have lent themselves to the rallies, ads, and political contributions. They’ve been afraid.”

Councilman Chris Seelbach is following up on information obtained during public safety meetings. The most consistent concerns Seelbach heard were worries about loitering and young people breaking curfew.

The state auditor says the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) could save $430,000 a year if it moved its student information database in-house. Current law prohibits ODE from having access to the data for privacy reasons, but State Auditor Dave Yost says it’s unnecessary and “wastes time and money.”

It seems Duke Energy is quickly integrating into its recent merger with Progress Energy. The company's information technology, nuclear and energy-supply departments are fully staffed and functional.

The Cincinnati Art Museum is renovating and restoring the Art Academy on the building’s west side.

It might not feel like it sometimes, but parking in Cincinnati is still pretty cheap.

Scientific research is increasingly pointing to lead as an explanation for people’s crazy grandparents. Research indicates even small programs cleaning up lead contamination can have massive economic and education returns.

Kings Island is selling off pieces of the Son of Beast. The troubled roller coaster was torn down after years of being shut down.

The “Jeopardy!” Ohio Online Test is today. If you’re ever on the show, give a shout-out to CityBeat.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.21.2012
Posted In: Mayor, News, County Commission, Economy, Budget at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Mallory to Hartmann: We are Collaborating

Mayor criticizes county commissioner for going to media first

Mayor Mark Mallory was not happy with Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann’s Tuesday letter criticizing him for failing to follow through with a city-county shared services plan. Mallory fired back today in his own letter, criticizing Hartmann for going to the media first and explaining why he no longer supports the City County Shared Services Committee.

“We have had a strong working relationship since you have become Commission President,” Mallory wrote. “So, I was surprised and disappointed that you sent the letter to the media instead of sharing your concerns with me directly; after all, you have my cell phone number.”

Mallory went on to point out that Hartmann is the fourth commission president he has worked with, and the previous three “never would have handled City/County relations in such a confrontational manner.”

The mayor also clarified why he no longer supports the City County Shared Services Committee, which was meant to consolidate county and city services to end redundancies and improve efficiency and competitiveness.

“As the scope of the proposed committee’s work was developed, it became clear to me that not only were we already collaborating at a high level, but that several new collaborations proposed by the City had met resistance from the County,” Mallory wrote. “I began to question the need for a committee to conduct a $400,000 study of future collaboration if there were already potential new collaborations sitting on the shelf.”

Mallory also said he “will never give away the ability of the citizens of Cincinnati to control crucial City functions.” He cited the examples of prosecutors and health clinics, which Mallory implied could have been given off to the county if the committee pushed through its recommendations.  

The mayor also pointed out that even if the city and county approved the committee and its recommendations, Hamilton County would still have serious budget problems: “You and I both know that the recommendations of the Shared Services Committee would never have resulted in close to enough savings to close the County’s budget deficit, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.” In other words, stop shifting the blame.

The rest of Mallory’s letter went on to point out Cincinnati and Hamilton County collaborate on a regular basis to “improve services, create efficiencies, and save money.” The mayor pointed to many programs for examples of the city and county working together: the Banks development, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Metropolitan Sewer District, emergency operations, the Port Authority, a $1.9 million city-county contract that has the county manage Cincinnati’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Consortium. 

Mallory also claimed there have been cases in which the county declined to collaborate with the city, citing the Indigent Care Levy. The county’s consultant recommended Hamilton County give some of that levy to provide county residents access to primary care at the City Health Center System, but the county declined the potential partnership.

Mallory then said he was willing to work on collaboration with purchasing, fire hydrant maintenance and economic development — three areas Hartmann cited in his own letter to Mallory.

The letter finished with a call to end the politics of the back-and-forth: “I feel very strongly that it is time to take the politics out and leave the matter to the public sector professionals. The City Manager is ready to meet with the County Administrator to discuss any proposed partnership that would improve the lives of our citizens by improving service, increasing efficiency, or saving money.”

In his letter, Hartmann criticized Mallory for not keeping his promise to back the city-county committee, citing a previous letter from Mallory to the Ohio Department of Development that promised $100,000 for the new committee.

 
 
by German Lopez 08.08.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Hamilton County commissioners will vote on levies today. If commissioners do not increase the money levies generate, mental health services could be severely cut in Hamilton County. On Aug. 1, Thomas Gableman, Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Chairman, told the commissioners, “I cannot tell you we can do more with less. We cannot do the same with less. We will do less with less.”

Republicans, including local state representative candidate Mike Wilson, have been pushing false information regarding a lawsuit filed by President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to restore early voting. After releasing a misleading press release, Wilson clarified his position to CityBeat. Politifact rated Mitt Romney’s accusations “False.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is calling for new regulations on internet cafes. Internet cafes have been taking advantage of legal loopholes to hold contests, according to a press release from DeWine’s offices.

Ohio could finish the 2013 fiscal year with a $408 million surplus. The surplus could give more ground to Gov. John Kasich’s call for an income tax cut.

The swine flu outbreak in Ohio is being watched carefully by CDC officials. The CDC is worried the virus could mutate, making it deadlier or more contagious.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has a big announcement about elections tomorrow.

One reason for high health-care costs may be the fee-for-service model. The model encourages doctors to provide as many medical procedures as possible, even when they might not be necessary.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra saw attendance and subscriptions rise in the 2011-2012 season.

There are super PACs for everything. Even time travel.

The public may be excited about NASA’s current mission, but future missions could be in jeopardy due to funding reductions.

 
 

 

 

 
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