The latest batch of bad streetcar news provoked a harsh memo to the city manager’s office from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who has long supported the $125 million transit project. In the memo, Qualls wrote about “serious concerns” regarding the project’s costs and timetable.
“Whether people support or oppose the streetcar project, everyone has a vested interest in getting the most for our public dollars and in having the highest confidence in the management of the project,” Qualls wrote. “While a council majority has continued to support the project, council has not given the administration a ‘blank check.’”
The memo suggested putting the streetcar project through “intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
The memo is in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over
budget. Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the bids leave the city with
two options: The city could take up the current bids, which could have their costs brought down upon further review, or the city could reject the
bids and rebid the project, which would cause delays. But Olberding also cautions that the administration is still working on fully reviewing the bids — a process that could take weeks or longer.
Qualls is running for mayor against John Cranley, a former Democratic council member. Cranley has been a vocal opponent of the streetcar project — creating a strong contrast between the two candidates that has placed the streetcar in the center of the 2013 mayoral race.
Earlier today, Cranley held a press conference asking the city to halt the streetcar project. In a statement, he argued it is “irresponsible” to continue work on the streetcar in light of the higher costs.
CityBeat previously covered the streetcar and how it relates to the race between Qualls and Cranley (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
The mayor and a supermajority of City Council backs efforts to establish a domestic partner registry for same-sex couples in Cincinnati, Councilman Chris Seelbach’s office announced Tuesday.
If adopted by the city, the registry will allow same-sex couples to gain legal recognition through the city. That would let same-sex couples apply for domestic partner benefits at smaller businesses, which typically don’t have the resources to verify legally unrecognized relationships, according to Seelbach’s office.
Specifically, the City Council motion asks the city administration to reach out to other cities that have adopted domestic partner registries, including Columbus and eight other Ohio cities, and establish specific guidelines.
Seelbach’s office preemptively outlined a few requirements to sign up: Same-sex couples will need to pay a $45 fee and prove strong financial interdependency by showing joint property ownership, power of attorney, a will and other unspecified requirements.
“As a result of a $45 fee to join the registry, we believe this will be entirely budget neutral, meaning it won't cost the city or the taxpayers a single dollar,” Seelbach said in a statement.
If the plan is adopted this year, Cincinnati should gain a perfect score in the next “Municipal Equality Index” from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group that, among other tasks, evaluates LGBT inclusion efforts from city to city. Cincinnati scored a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 rankings, with domestic partner registries valued at 12 points.
Seelbach expects the administration to report back with a full proposal that City Council can vote on in the coming months.
Mayor Mark Mallory announced a trade deal between the small Greater Cincinnati-based Solutions Plus, Inc. and the giant Saudi Arabia-based Diversified Lines Petroleum Company. The deal will produce $20 million in business in the next two to five years, said Solutions Plus President Charlie Weaver. The deal is largely due to a trade mission to Saudi Arabia Mallory led in January.
The Cincinnati streetcar project is moving forward. On Wednesday, City Council will be voting on a routine ordinance to transfer $3 million to the streetcar project.
Cincinnati is studying the feasibility of a bike share program. If enacted, the program would begin next summer in Over-the-Rhine and Uptown.
Kings Island is taking down the Son of Beast. The attraction, which was originally advertised as the only wooden roller coaster with a loop, has been closed since 2009 due to a series of problems.
Gov. John Kasich announced the approval of 25 new economic projects by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority. The approval should pave the way to 2,003 new jobs and $212 million in investment in Ohio, according to the announcement. Three of the projects will be in the city of Cincinnati: Integra LifeSciences Corporation, Southern Air Incorporated and Corbus, LLC.
Kasich wants answers. Yesterday, the governor gave his opinion on the ongoing investigation into the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio schools for fraudulent data reporting. Kasich said both schools and the Ohio Department of Education should be held accountable if necessary.
Democrats are setting the groundwork to endorse same-sex marriage in the official party platform for the 2012 election. The news would echo President Barack Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage earlier this year.
Medical marijuana is heading to court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will be hearing whether or not the federal government is right to classify marijuana as having no medical value.
James Holmes was charged with 24 counts of murder in the case for the Colorado theater massacre.
Mitt Romney praised Israel’s health-care system, which does a lot of what he’s opposing in Obamacare.
Japanese developers have built a real-life mech robot. The robot can be piloted, and it can shoot 6,000 BBs in a minute.
Flaherty & Collins, the developer that wants to tear down a garage as part of its downtown grocery and apartment tower project, offered to pay for a tenant’s move to keep the deal moving forward. The tenant, Paragon Salon, recently announced its intent to sue the city after Mayor John Cranley’s refusal to pay for the salon business’s move left the development project and Paragon in a limbo of uncertainty. With Flaherty & Collins’ offer, the development deal should be able to advance without extra costs to the city.
But Cranley says he still wants 3CDC to review the downtown development project to set the best path forward.
Federal money will help Cincinnati keep and hire more
firefighters. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response
(SAFER) grant provides nearly $8.1 million — about 2 percent of the
city’s $370 million operating budget — to pay the salaries and benefits
of 50 firefighters for two years. Afterward, the city will need to pick
up the costs, which could worsen an operating budget gap that currently
sits at $22 million for fiscal 2015. The move would increase the
Cincinnati Fire Department’s staffing levels from 841 to 879 and help prevent brownouts, according to the firefighting agency.
The Cincinnati Board of Health defied Mayor Cranley by
unilaterally pursuing a $1.3 million grant that will provide
preventative and primary care services to underserved populations. Rocky
Merz, spokesperson for the board, says the grant application complies
with guidance from the city’s top lawyer. Cranley opposes the grant because the extra services it enables could push up costs for the city down the line.
Hamilton County officials will look for outside legal help in their fight against the city’s job training rules for Metropolitan Sewer District projects. CityBeat covered the rules, known as “responsible bidder,” in further detail here.
Smale Riverfront Park will receive $4.5 million in federal funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control erosion and prevent flooding.
Crime around Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino never materialized, despite warnings from critics prior to casinos’ legalization in Ohio.
Ohio’s prison re-entry rate declined and sits well below the national average, according to a study from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The study found 27.1 percent of inmates released in 2010 ended up back up in prison, down from 28.7 percent of individuals released in 2009. In comparison, the national average is 44 percent.
Hundreds of Ohio school districts plan to test out the state’s new online assessments for math, language arts, social studies and science.
The cold winter is pushing up natural gas prices, according to Ohio’s largest natural gas utility.
A second baby might have been cured of HIV, the sexually transmitted disease that causes AIDS. Even with the potential successes, doctors caution it’s still very much unclear whether the treatment provides a definitive cure for the deadly disease.
Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind intravaginal ring could prevent pregnancy and HIV.email@example.com.
After taking a two-month summer break — with a week for some committee hearings and a council meeting — Cincinnati City Council has canceled its meetings for the first half of September.
The council meetings for Sept. 6 and 12 have been canceled, along with all committee meetings for the first week of September and the Job Growth Committee meeting for Sept. 10.
Jason Barron, spokesman for Mayor Mark Mallory, said the council meetings were canceled due to the Democratic National Convention, which is occurring in the first week of September. Barron said many of the Democratic officials in the city are delegates to the convention.
Asked why the City Council meeting was canceled for the second week of September, Barron said he didn’t know.Council did meet once in August, where they approved a ballot measure to lengthen council terms from two to four years, as well as a plan to undo the sale of the Blue Ash airport.
All of the committee meetings for the week of the DNC were canceled as well. Strategic Growth Committee chairwoman Laure Quinlivan is not a delegate to the convention, but is attending, an aide said.
Council members Roxanne Qualls and Cecil Thomas, who chair the Budget and Finance and Public Safety Committees respectively, did not respond to CityBeat’s requests for comment as of Friday afternoon.
A special meeting of the Rules and Government Operations Committee is meeting on Sept. 10 — the first committee meeting after the summer break. An aide to committee chairman Wendell Young says the committee is meeting to receive a report from a task force charged with recommending ways to put grocery stores in so-called “food deserts” — neighborhoods where fresh food isn’t readily available.
The Livable Communities Committee and Major Transportation & Infrastructure Sub-committee are meeting during the second week of September, but the first full council meeting isn’t until the 19th.
Council still has a few big-ticket items it is expected to deal with this year, including proposed budget cuts from City Manager Milton Dohoney (expected to be laid out in November) and the approval of a new city plan, which shifts development emphasis from downtown and Over-the-Rhine to the city’s other 50 neighborhoods. More on that plan here.
Mayor John Cranley could dismantle a deal that would produce a grocery store, 300 luxury apartments and a new parking garage downtown. Cranley says he doesn’t want millions put toward the deal, even though the developer involved plans to invest another $60 million. Councilman Chris Seelbach says the deal isn’t dead just because of the mayor’s opposition, and City Council could act to bypass the mayor, just like the legislative body did with the streetcar project and responsible bidder. To Seelbach, the deal is necessary to bring much-needed residential space and an accessible grocery store downtown.
Cincinnati officials and startup executives will try to bring Google Fiber, which provides Internet speeds 100 times faster than normal broadband, to Cincinnati. Google plans to hold a national competition to see which cities are most deserving of its fiber services. “Over the last several years, Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem has made tremendous strides,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. “We’re increasingly becoming a magnet for talented entrepreneurs across the country who want to come here to bring their big ideas to life. We need to ensure that we have the modern technological infrastructure to make Cincinnati nationally competitive.”
Cincinnati’s operating budget gap for fiscal 2015 now stands at $22 million, up from an earlier forecast of $18.5 million, largely because of extra spending on police pushed by Cranley and a majority of City Council. The city must balance its operating budget each year, which means the large gap will likely lead to layoffs and service cuts.
Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”
Cranley won’t re-appoint the chair of Cincinnati’s Board of Health. When asked why, Chairwoman Joyce Kinley told City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee that Cranley told her “he had to fulfill a campaign promise.” Some city officials say they worry Cranley is putting politics over the city’s needs.
Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s needs to pay back rent or move out, The Banks’ landlord declared Monday. The deciding moment for Mahogany’s comes after months of struggles, which restaurant owner Liz Rogers blames on the slow development of the riverfront.
Kathy Wilson: “Mahogany’s: Turn Out the Lights.”
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino supports 1,700 workers, making it the largest of Ohio's four voter-approved casinos.
At least one airline, Allegiant Air, plans to add flights from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Headline: “Man wakes up in body bag at funeral home.”
“A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra,” the Los Angeles Times firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor John Cranley on Thursday offered the Hamilton County Board of Elections free space at the city-owned Shillito’s building to keep their offices and early voting downtown.
The offer comes in the middle of a contentious debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Elections over whether the county should move the board to a former hospital at Mount Airy, where only one bus line runs.
The Board of Elections currently rents its offices from a private landlord. Moving to the Mount Airy facility would place the board on county-owned property and allow the county to avoid paying rent.
Along with the Board of Elections move, the county wants to establish a new crime lab at the Mount Airy location. Consolidating the crime lab and Board of Elections at the Mount Airy facility would provide the critical mass necessary to financially justify the move and the renovations it would require, according to county officials.
To solve the critical mass issue if the board moves to the former Shillito’s building instead, Cranley, a Democrat, said he’s willing to look into moving some city police services, including SWAT operations, to the Mount Airy facility.
But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat the offer probably won’t satisfy the county’s needs.
“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” he said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”
Hartmann said it’s now up to the Board of Elections to accept or reject the Mount Airy facility. If the board declines to move to Mount Airy, Hartmann explained the county would likely drop the Mount Airy plan and the county coroner would go without a new crime lab.
For the city, Cranley’s offer raises questions about what other potential uses exist for the Shillito’s building, given the high property demand downtown. But Cranley said there’s currently no credible attempt at marketing the facility for other uses.
“The building is vacant, and we spend over $100,000 a year just to maintain a vacant building,” Cranley said. “I believe that getting someone in there that takes a significant amount of space is going to open up the rest of the building, which would be over 200,000 square feet, to make it more marketable. I think long-term it would be better for the city financially.”
He added, “In the short-term I think there are some things more important than money. And I think the symbolism of keeping the Board of Elections and voting downtown is just worth it.”
City Council appears to agree with the mayor. Shortly after Cranley announced his offer, council passed a symbolic resolution opposing the Mount Airy move.
From an electoral perspective, part of the issue is which voting location would favor Democrats or Republicans. Democrats tend to dominate in urban areas like downtown, while Republicans could benefit from a facility in Mount Airy that’s closer to suburban voters.
State Rep. Alicia Reece, who joined Cranley for the announcement, tried to defuse concerns that she, Cranley and other Democrats are trying to keep voting downtown for electoral gains.
“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of elections,” Reece said. “I think the focus is to just make sure that we have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether you’re driving or whether you’re on the bus.”
CityBeat’s full Election Issue is in stands now. Check out our feature stories on three remarkable City Council challengers: Mike Moroski, Michelle Dillingham and Greg Landsman. Find the rest of our election coverage, along with our endorsements, here.
The Ohio legislature is working through a bill that would limit ballot access for minor parties, which argue the petitioning and voting requirements are meant to help Gov. John Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014. The Ohio House narrowly passed the bill yesterday with looser restrictions than those set by the Ohio Senate earlier in the month, but a legislative error in the House means neither chamber will hammer out the final details until they reconvene next week. Republicans say the bill is necessary to set some basic standards for who can get on the ballot. Democrats have joined with minor parties in calling the bill the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” because it would supposedly protect Kasich from tea party and other third-party challengers after his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion turned members of his conservative base against him.
As an attorney and lobbyist at Keating, Muething & Klekamp (KMK), mayoral candidate John Cranley helped payroll company Paycor finalize plans to move its headquarters
— and 450 to 500 jobs with it — from Queensgate in Cincinnati to
Norwood, Ohio. Specifically, KMK and several of its employees, including
Cranley, helped Paycor and Norwood set up a tax credit deal to
incentivize the company’s relocation. The Cranley campaign says he was
just doing his job after Paycor went to KMK, not the other way around.
But supporters of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Cranley’s opponent in the
mayoral race, say he shouldn’t be helping companies leave the city he
wants to lead. Paycor’s move in 2014 means the city will have to take
back some of the money it gave the company, through two tax deals that
Cranley approved while on City Council, to encourage it to stay in Cincinnati through 2015. Cranley received a $1,100 campaign contribution from Paycor CEO Bob Coughlin on Aug. 20.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) board travels widely and often dines at public expense, according to an investigation from The Cincinnati Enquirer. Among other findings, The Enquirer found the CVG board, which is considered a governmental agency, has a much more lenient travel expense policy for itself than it does for staff members, and it sometimes uses airport funds to pay for liquor. On Twitter, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartman called the findings outrageous and demanded resignations.
Northside property crime is on the rise, and police and residents are taking notice. Business leaders in the neighborhood are concerned the negative stigma surrounding the crime will hurt their businesses.
With federal stimulus funding expiring in November, 1.8 million Ohioans will get less food assistance starting tomorrow. The news comes after 18,000 in Hamilton County were hit by additional restrictions this month, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Hamilton County commissioners yesterday agreed to pay $883,000 to cover legal fees for Judge Tracie Hunter and her legal team. The Hamilton County Board of Elections racked up the bill for the county by repeatedly appealing Hunter’s demands that the board count more than one-third of previously discarded provisional ballots, which were enough to turn the juvenile court election in Hunter’s favor. Hunter’s opponent, John Williams, later won a separate appointment and election to get on the juvenile court.
Metro, Cincinnati’s local bus service, announced it’s relaxing time limits on transfer tickets, which should make it easier to catch a bus without sprinting to the stop.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp laid off nearly 500 employees in the past six months, with some of the layoffs hitting Cincinnati. The bank blames the job cuts on slowdowns in the mortgage business.
Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. If you don’t vote early, you can still vote on Election Day (Nov. 5). Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
Mayor John Cranley plans to address the city’s long-term unemployment problems with a set of new initiatives, some of which could get support from the White House, he told CityBeat Thursday.
One of the initiatives is in direct response to President Barack Obama’s call, heard by millions during the State of the Union Tuesday, to get private companies on board with ending discrimination against the long-term unemployed.
Specifically, Cranley says he helped get Procter & Gamble and other local companies to agree to join the president’s initiative.
“It wasn’t that hard to sell them on it, but they've got a lot of things going on,” Cranley says. “Getting their attention and focus on these things is one of the great powers that I have. I can help ask people to give back in ways they just haven’t thought of before.”
With a visit to the White House planned for Friday, Cranley hopes his quick response to Obama’s call could help the city land future federal grants for programs that address long-term unemployment.
As an example, Cranley points to a new White House initiative that asks cities to develop innovative pilot programs that help the long-term unemployed. The initiative will award federal grants, which Cranley estimates at a couple million dollars per city, to the 10 best proposals.
In preparation, the city is partnering with several local organizations, including the Workforce Investment Board and United Way of Greater Cincinnati, to develop a unique plan. How the city’s proposal looks ultimately depends on the constraints set by the application requirements, but Cranley cited more educational opportunities and subsidies for companies that hire the long-term unemployed as two examples cities might undertake.
The proposal, however it looks, would come in addition to Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative, which he plans to fund through this year’s city budget. As part of the initiative, the city will first partner with Cincinnati Cooks, Cincinnati Works and Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention (SOAR) to provide more job training opportunities. Participants who graduate from those programs can then apply to the Transitional Jobs Program, which provides short-term, part-time work opportunities to people as they look for long-term, full-time jobs.
The initiative will begin as a pilot program for the first two years, but it could eventually expand with more partnerships and job training opportunities, according to Cranley.
If successfully carried out, Cranley’s proposals could help break the long-term unemployment trends that keep so many Americans jobless in the first place.
In one study, Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University sent out 4,800 fake resumes for 600 job openings. Ghayad found people who had been out of work for six months or more very rarely got called back, even in comparison to applicants without work experience who were unemployed for shorter periods of time.
In other words, diminishing the discrimination on the employer’s side or ongoing joblessness on the potential employee’s side could be enough to land more people in jobs.
A proper solution to the issue could also go a long way to picking up the nation’s sluggish job market. By the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ estimate, nearly 38 percent of the unemployed in December had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer — the highest rate in six decades. In comparison, the rate was below 20 percent prior to the recession.
For Cranley, the initiatives also present an opportunity to address Cincinnati’s abhorrent poverty rates by giving people a chance to obtain better-paying jobs.
“In the end, we want a city that isn’t just good for future residents,” Cranley says, referencing the economic momentum in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and uptown that might benefit future Cincinnatians. “We need a city solution that grows the capacity and builds the opportunities for residents who are already here and families that are already dealing with poverty.”