The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”
City officials are now considering four finalists for the Cincinnati Police Department’s top job, City Manager Milton Dohoney announced today.
The city has been looking for a replacement for former Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to take the top police job in his hometown, Detroit. Since then, Paul Humphries has been acting chief of the Cincinnati Police Department.
Humphries is among the four finalists being considered by the city manager. The others: Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.
Whoever is picked will be charged with implementing new policies and leading the Cincinnati Police Department.
The four finalists were screened by a committee that looked at 28 total applicants. The committee was comprised of 11 members that included a former police chief, a former prosecuting attorney, Air Force veterans, business leaders and community members.
“I am appreciative to the Screening Committee for their time, dedication and the seriousness to which they approached the selection process in order to recommend this group of excellent candidates for our next Chief of Police,” Dohoney said in a statement.
The city manager will make the final decision of who to appoint as Cincinnati’s next police chief. Dohoney could choose one of the four finalists or consider other applicants until the position is filled.
Streetcar proponents have spent considerably more on their campaign than the anti-streetcar people, probably because Issue 48 is so wide-reaching it has brought out people concerned with things way more important than the streetcar such as regional planning, commuter rail and making Cincinnati not look like it totally sucks.
Also being outspent are the SB 5 supporters, who have seen support decline dramatically in recent weeks as people look around their neighborhoods and see a bunch of regular people whose rights would be taken away. And Building a Better Ohio does unethical things like this, which makes people think they are meanies.
Here's a blog about City Council candidate Chris Smitherman arguing against all the legal experts who say Issue 48 will block all rail construction through 2020.
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld wants his colleagues to approve a police recruit class for next year, the first since June 2008.
There currently are 1,022 sworn officers in the Cincinnati Police Department, along with 115 non-sworn staff. The high-mark during the past decade occurred in 2008, when there was a total of 1,148 sworn officers and 229 non-sworn staff.
By November 2013, based on department retirement projections and without the addition of a new recruit class, the Police Department's complement will be down to 964 sworn officers — 184 fewer sworn officers than in 2008.
“By the end of 2014, without the addition of a recruit class, our police force will be 197 officers below the authorized complement level,” Sittenfeld wrote in a memo to his colleagues.
“The Police Department has communicated the importance of a recruit class as a simple reflection of the numbers,” he added. “In the same way that council has needed to be realistic about our highest police staffing levels being financially unsustainable, we must also be realistic about how low we can allow staffing levels to fall and still provide the service that is expected.”
Other council members haven’t yet weighed in on the issue, which is a topic that likely will be brought up during budget hearings later this year.
Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department testified in front of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Monday to address the local increase in homicides.
The city’s homicide rate hit 25 per 100,000 residents in 2013, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.7 per 100,000 in 2012, following a spike in homicides in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati, according to police statistics.
“The concern has been the sheer number of homicides we experienced in 2013 and the number of juvenile victims we had this year,” said Assistant Chief Dave Bailey.
Councilman Christopher Smitherman also highlighted the high levels of black-on-black crime, which Chief Jeffrey Blackwell agreed are unacceptable across the country.
“My fear is that my son, who’s African-American … is going to be killed by another African-American,” Smitherman said. “That’s what those stats are saying.”
The key driver of the increases, according to police, is gang-related activity, particularly activity involving the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade.
“If our theory is correct, most of these homicides involve narcotic sales, respect and retaliation,” Bailey said.
Chief Blackwell explained the increase in homicides appears to be particularly related to disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories.
“Criminal territories have been disrupted, and we’ve seen an increase in turf wars and neighborhood situations between young people,” he said. “Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature.”
Councilman Kevin Flynn asked what council could do to help remedy the situation.
“We are significantly short of police officers, so we desperately need a recruit class,” Blackwell responded. “We need to improve our technology platform here in the police department.”
Blackwell cautioned that there’s not a direct correlation between more police officers and less homicides, but he said another recruit class could help the city meet basic needs.
Flynn claimed council is very willing to meet those needs, given the importance of public safety to the city’s prosperity.
“If we’re not safe and we don’t have the perception that we’re a safe city, none of the rest of the great things we do as a city are going to help,” he said.
How council meets those needs while dealing with fiscal concerns remains to be seen, considering Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council members ran on the promise of structurally balancing the city’s operating budget for the first time in more than a decade.
City officials have vowed to avoid raising taxes and cutting basic services, which makes the task of balancing the budget all the more difficult. Advancing promises of more spending for the police department further complicates the issue, even if it’s politically advantageous in a city seriously concerned about public safety.
Cincinnati Police will hold several town hall meetings in
the next week to hear concerns from citizens. The meetings will span
across all local districts:
• District 2: Jan. 7, Medpace, Inc., 5375 Medpace Way.
• District 3: Jan. 8, Elder HS Schaeper Center, 3900 Vincent.
• District 1 and Central Business District: Jan. 9, River of Life Church, 2000 Central Parkway.
• District 5: Jan. 13, Little Flower Church, 5560 Kirby Ave..
• District 4: Jan. 14, Church of the Resurrection, 1619 California Ave.
Correction: The local homicide rate for 2013 was 25 per 100,000 residents, contrary to the 15.5 per 100,000 rate cited by police officials to City Council.
A Sycamore Township man died overnight after the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office used a Taser to subdue him during a brief struggle.
While responding to a 911 call, deputies found Gary Roell, 59, half-clothed and smashing windows behind a resident’s home, according to the police report. When deputies ordered Roell to the ground, he charged at them and punched one of the officers in the face. The deputies then shot Roell on the back with a Taser to physically restrain and handcuff him.
After he was taken into custody, Roell began having labored breathing, and emergency medical services were called, the report reads. But before ambulances arrived, Roell stopped breathing. Despite attempts by deputies to revive Roell with CPR, he was pronounced dead upon reaching the hospital.
Roell reportedly suffers from bipolar depression and schizophrenia, which can lead to a distorted view of reality. He had apparently stopped taking his medication.
Two key facts remain unknown: whether the Taser led to Roell’s death and how many times the Taser was actually used. Jim Knapp, spokesperson for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, says those issues will be investigated by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigative Section and the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil says the officers followed protocol, given Roell’s violent behavior and actions.
For some, the question is whether police protocol is correct in the first place. Advocacy group Amnesty International has been asking police departments around the country to scrutinize standards for deploying a Taser.
A 2012 report from Amnesty International found at least 500 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2012 after being shocked with Tasers during their arrests or while in jail. On average, that’s nearly four deaths around the country each month.
But if officers don’t use Tasers, they must resort other non-lethal tools, such as pepper spray or a baton, that require getting closer to a target. That, police experts argue, could lead to more injuries.
Cincinnati officials today released an updated list of City Hall employees who have unpaid parking tickets, and the list includes members of the Police and Fire departments.
A total of 311 municipal employees have delinquent parking tickets, totaling $30,662 in unpaid fines, as of May 4th. That amounts to about 0.25 percent of the total amount of delinquent tickets, said a city spokeswoman.
The Cincinnati police officer who struck a pedestrian with his cruiser on Saturday was apparently driving 50 mph in a 25 mph zone, which violates the Cincinnati Police Department's guidelines that limit officers from driving more than 20 mph above the posted limit. Officer Orlando Smith was responding to a call to help an officer when he struck Natalie Cole of Dayton, Ky. She remains in critical condition at University Hospital Medical Center following the incident. CPD is conducting an investigation that is expected to be completed within two weeks. But Smith's cruiser camera mysteriously failed to record for three minutes as the events unfolded; the latest recording available prior to the incident shows Smith leaving a grocery store parking lot with his lights and sirens on, as required by department policy when responding to help an officer. Witnesses told WCPO that Smith was actually driving in excess of 60 mph without his siren on and the victim flung 40 feet after she was struck. Smith is on paid administrative leave as the investigation finishes, which is routine police procedure.
City Council's Budget and Finance Committee will hold its final scheduled meeting today, less than three weeks before the new mayor and council are sworn in on Dec. 1. The committee's agenda is fairly packed after council canceled so many meetings throughout September and October for election season, but most of the items are uncontroversial incentive packages that aim to bring jobs and develop more housing opportunities in the city.
The achievement gap between white and black students in Ohio grew in the past two years, according to the results from a series of tests known as "the Nation's Report Card" from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Chad Aldis, the vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute, told StateImpact Ohio the results are disappointing because the achievement gap between black and white students in Ohio was already way too big and above the national average in math and English, the two categories in which the gap widened. Overall, Ohio's students ranked slightly above the national average in all areas but showed no significant improvement since 2011. Aldis says Ohio's adoption of Common Core standards, a set of stricter expectations for students embraced by 45 states, should help challenge students and lead to improvement.
Here is an interactive map of marijuana seizures in Ohio this year, which were down from a record high in 2010. Some experts say marijuana and other drugs should be legalized following the failure of the decades-long war on drugs to seriously curtail supply and demand, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Mayor-elect John Cranley on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. will answer questions from readers and the editorial board at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The two chairmen of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Republican Party will on Nov. 21 switch roles and argue the other side's position on alleged voter fraud as part of the "Beyond Civility" debate series. The initiative seeks to bring public officials together in a less partisan environment.
The Cincinnati area's most prominent white-collar crime case will start hearings in December after a jury is picked by the end of the month in the trial of Matt Daniels, the former Kenwood Towne Place developer who's accused of various charges of fraud. Daniels' attorney talked to the Business Courier here.
Ohio homeschoolers can now join public schools' sports teams.
President Barack Obama will stop in Ohio on Thursday to discuss U.S. manufacturing.
Boy choirs are having a more difficult time filling roles as boys hit puberty earlier.
An organization called Citizens' League Against Subsidized Sports is gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would add a tax on Reds and Bengals tickets. Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann says he knows that the county's lease doesn't allow it to institute a ticket tax but that it doesn't say anything about a citizens' initiative.
Police costs are rising even though the force is shrinking, partially because it hasn't hired any new officers since 2008 while the top ranks have held steady.
The SB 5 debate is expected to draw a high voter turnout, which could bode well for school levies as voters come out to vote "no" on Issue 2.