CityBeat Blogs - 2011 Election <![CDATA[COAST's Latest Apology?]]>

A series of contradictory tweets and blog comments posted by members of an anti-transit group has observers wondering of there is dissension in its ranks — or whether one member simply has anger management issues.

Ever since an initiative put on the Nov. 8 ballot by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was rejected by voters, someone with the group has vowed on various local blogs that it still would try to block Cincinnati’s streetcar project.---

Last month COAST and the NAACP’s local chapter mounted their second ballot initiative in two years to stop the project. Under the proposal, city officials would’ve been prohibited from spending money on anything related to preparing any type of passenger rail transit, including the streetcar system, through Dec. 31, 2020. Further, it would’ve restricted the city from accepting federal grants for such projects, along with entering into public-private partnerships or even accepting private investment for a passenger rail project within the city’s rights-of-way.

The measure failed, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Earlier this month the Obama administration awarded a $10.92 million transportation grant to the project. The cash means a scuttled connection from downtown to the riverfront will be restored. Construction is expected to begin
in the next few months.

The action prompted someone using COAST’s name to take to the Internet and allege the political and legal battles over the project weren’t over.

"We’re going to make sure this project sees delay after delay after delay until it is back down the toilet where it belongs," someone using the name “COAST” posted Dec. 14 on
the UrbanCincy blog.

The next day, in the same stream of comments, COAST posted, “Horrible waste of taxpayer money. We will see you guys in court soon.”

Although it’s unclear who wrote the comment, Mark Miller, the group’s treasurer, writes many of COAST’s blog comments and tweets. Miller ignited public outrage and apologized after he tweeted on Sept. 11, “3% of FDNY died 10 yrs ago by terrorism. Today Cincinnati lost 17.5% of fire companies by brownout to pay for a streetcar. Which is worse?”

So, crazy, over-the-top invective is nothing new for the group.

On Dec. 21, after a fire at a Westwood apartment building killed 2-year-old Tristen Sanders,
COAST tweeted, “2 year old dead in fire. City brown outs to blame; no doubt City Mgr will deny. Tragedy of misdirected funds continues.”

Kevin LeMaster, who operates the 
Building Cincinnati blog, checked with city officials and learned that the closest fire stations weren’t shut during the Westwood incident, making COAST’s tweet inaccurate.

During last fall’s campaign for Issue 48, COAST made multiple allegations on a near-daily basis of blaming the "browning out" of certain Fire Department companies on the streetcar project. It has made similar claims on the campaign trail. “Companies” is firefighter lingo for a ladder track, a pumper or a heavy rescue unit and the four people who work on each. During a brownout, those workers are transferred to other duties. City administrators have said the actions are needed to reduce the department's soaring overtime costs and help avoid a projected deficit for 2012 that could reach $33 million.

But the brownouts were unconnected to the streetcar project, city administrators said. The project is funded through state and federal grants, along with construction bonds from the city's Capital Improvements budget. The brownouts are needed to cut costs in the city's General Fund budget, which covers daily operations.

This week, after
CityBeat published its annual “Year in Review” article that mentioned the streetcar project’s progress, someone using the name “COAST” posted online, “Forget Detroit. We are the next Moscow. Fountain Square is now Red Square with Liberal Marxist Communists running amuck fleecing the taxpayers to pay for amusement park rides through the ghetto. The Mayor's Trolley Folly will never see the light of day.  We'll make sure of that Yups.”

“Yups,” apparently, refers to “yuppies.”

Less than 24 hours later, however, COAST posted the following comment, “We respect the outcome of the recent vote. We live in a democracy and the people have spoken. COAST wishes the City and its residents the best of luck as it builds the streetcar. While you won't see us turning shovels, we recognize what the people want and will get out of the way.”

We’re awaiting clarification from COAST on exactly what its plans are. If, in fact, members actually know.

<![CDATA[CityBeat's Cheat Sheet]]>

During the past two weeks CityBeat has published its list of endorsements in the race for Cincinnati City Council,along with those on local and state issues.

Some readers have requested that the endorsements be put into a smaller format that will be simpler to print out and take along with them to their polling places on Tuesday.

So, here it is. Clip, save and enjoy.---

Cincinnati City Council: Kevin Flynn, Nicholas Hollan, Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Jason Riveiro, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young.

Ohio Issue 2: No

Ohio Issue 3: No

Local Issue 32: Yes

Local Issue 37: Yes

Local Issue 38: Yes

Local Issue 44: Yes

Local Issue 45: Yes

Local Issue 46: No

Local Issue 47: No

Local Issue 48: No

And if you want even more endorsements to consider, find CityBeat's award-winning Who's Endorsing Whom charts here (City Council) and here (school issues).

<![CDATA[Candidates On: Consolidating City and County Services]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “What are your thoughts on consolidating some city and county services? If you support the concept, are there specific services that should be considered for consolidation? Conversely, are there specific services that should be deemed off-the-table?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “I am strongly in favor of combining many city and county services. For instance, there is no reason that the county handles birth certificate records for all of the county but the city. We should look into the cost effectiveness of the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office assuming the duties and responsibilities of the Cincinnati City Prosecutor's Office. When I was (county) prosecutor, we worked with the city and determined that there was no significant cost savings to be realized by such a move. Times and caseloads have changed and it should be looked at again.

“I am not in favor of consolidating services between the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office as has been considered in the past.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “I am completely in favor of the concept and completely aware that groundwork needs to be laid to make this a reality. The problem will be in the implementation. The Government Cooperation and Efficiency Project studied and identified areas where efficiencies could be obtained by consolidation. For the most part, the recommendations were ignored or rejected because of partisan political in-fighting and turf wars. In 2010, I spent six months serving on the Hamilton County Government Reform Task Force. In this position, I observed how arcane and inefficient our county structure is. As chairman of the board of The Drake Center, I saw how the county took a larger and larger portion of the ‘Drake Levy’ to pay for operating expenses. We have seen the same thing happen this year with the indigent care levy.

“For shared services to become a reality, our city needs to become the best at providing the services we are going to continue to provide, so that the people in other jurisdictions will demand to become a part of our service network, and for those areas where others do it better, Cincinnati needs to have the will to cede control.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “I am interested in exploring consolidation opportunities as a way for all municipalities to decrease expenditures. I view the bulk purchase of salt or the contracting of snow removal as prime examples of regional cooperation.

“However, I am not supportive of merging the Cincinnati Police Department with the county. In this plan, we would essentially lay off CPD officers and hire them back at a lower wage under the Sheriff's Department. This is nothing more than an attempt to get around the FOP contract. To me, that’s tantamount to union-busting.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “I would consider consolidation of services. To eliminate some of the shortfall, we may need to start looking at the two local government statuses. There is Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County commissioners. All of Cincinnati is a part of Hamilton County. We currently pay salaries for council and commissioners. They are making decisions and ruling the same areas. If you are on council, you are politically working for the voters within the city limits. If you serve on the County Commissioners, you are making decisions for voters in the city of Cincinnati as well as the voters outside of the city limits. I think if we looked at some of those positions that overlap in duties and agree on those positions that are not covered in the overlapping positions.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “I strongly support investigating the consolidation of city and county services, starting with the development department. Here we have an excellent opportunity to allow growth and development at the hands of experts, not government. By focusing city and county development efforts out of one central development organization, projects would move more efficiently ensuring that local priorities are moving in the same direction as regional ones. It will be important for our future growth and economic solvency that City Council members and Hamilton County commissioners look at options like these.

“At this time, I do not support merging the police and Sheriff’s Department.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “Consolidate a Bill of Sale from the native people of this country first.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “I am not in favor of consolidating the city and county; however, we can work together to create economies of scale and efficiencies through procurement and professional services. We must be city first in our approach because our city has many valuable assets we must protect. This conversation takes decades and should not be explored without careful consideration. Moreover, police and fire are the last entities this should address.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “I support collaborative relationships and shared service agreements between our region's local governments. As a successful alternative to privatization, greater efficiencies can occur by sharing public services with the county or other small municipalities that could benefit from the strength and size of Cincinnati’s public services. Gov. Kasich’s budget has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from Ohio communities, both large and small. Cincinnati should begin open dialogue with all our neighbors, finding greater ways for all communities to benefit. Sharing heavy equipment is one of the first areas of sharing and consolidation that I would direct the city manager to study. I do not support the merger of the Cincinnati Police Department and the Hamilton County Sheriffs Office.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “Shared services and collaboration across jurisdictions to find cost savings for taxpayers is critical in a time of across-the-board budget deficits. The next step is the thoughtful implementation of many of the Government Collaboration and Efficiency Project recommendations. I think starting with a smaller example of success — for instance, I would suggest combining the city and county Planning Departments — is a more viable way to show people that collaboration and consolidation between jurisdictions with very different cultures can still be a win-win.

“I am against consolidation of the Cincinnati Police Department with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department. I think it's right and fair for taxpayers to expect certain core competencies to come out of City Hall, with 'safe and clean' being first among them. Police-community relations and the general culture of the Cincinnati Police Department are in a very good place right now, and we don't want to risk hindering that progress.

“Finally, I would add that in my job transforming schools into community learning centers as the assistant director of the Community Learning Center Institute, I commit myself every day to the concept of smart public-private partnerships that can leverage different pools of resources to deliver more cost-effective outcomes, and I know I can bring that same approach to working cooperatively and productively with other municipalities.”

<![CDATA[Smitherman's Strange Assertions]]>

Based on the latest comments on his Facebook page, it appears Christopher Smitherman either doesn't understand the wording of Issue 48 or is deliberately trying to mislead voters.

On Wednesday, Smitherman wrote on his Facebook page: “Remember Issue 48 DOES not STOP light rail but it does force City Council to ask the citizens (sic) permission before spending $144 million. City Council does not want to ask the people (for) permission.”

As several legal experts have agreed, Issue 48's net effect will be to stop the planning and construction of any type of passenger rail project within Cincinnati city limits until Dec. 31, 2020 — even if the project is privately financed.---

If any type of passenger rail project was attempted after Issue 48 was approved, the charter amendment would have to be repealed.

In other words, it does stop light rail and would have to be undone first. Smitherman has a strange definition of “does not stop light rail.”

An impartial analysis by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area states, “This proposed Ballot Issue would amend the Charter of the City of Cincinnati by adding a new Article XVI. The amendment would prohibit the City from spending or appropriating any money to plan, construct, or operate a Streetcar System or any passenger rail transit in the City in existing public rights of way through the year 2020.”

And it's not just the League that interprets Issue 48 that way.

When The Enquirer interviewed six legal experts for an article it published on Sept. 18, the experts agreed that Issue 48's impact extended beyond blocking the streetcar project.

“All six experts — law and political science experts and ballot language experts — agreed that (Issue 48) could do more than just stop the current streetcar plan. It could stop any city rail project,” the article stated.

Later in the article, the head of a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group whose purpose is to make government and business documents more understandable said Issue 48's wording is confusing. “I think it could be applied more broadly,” said Annetta Cheek, chairwoman of the Center for Plain Language. “That could be a train, And heaven knows what else it could be.”

Smitherman didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

On his Facebook page, however, when responding to a critic, Smitherman wrote, “Asking permission does not mean STOP!” (Read the exchange at the bottom of this page.)

Smitherman has stepped down temporarily as president of the NAACP's local chapter while he campaigns for Cincinnati City Council. The chapter and the ultra-conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) are jointly pushing Issue 48. Its wording was crafted by attorney Chris Finney, a COAST leader who Smitherman also appointed as the local NAACP's legal counsel.

Rob Richardson, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress, the anti-Issue 48 group, said Smitherman probably is worried the ballot measure's wording overreaches and turns off some voters.

“He wants to lessen the consequences of what Issue 48 means,” Richardson said, referring to Smitherman. “He realizes that some people may not like the streetcar, but they don't want to ban all passenger rail. No city anywhere has done anything like this. It would hinder growth and economic development.”

Smitherman is trying to confuse voters, he added.

“Certainly, if Issue 48 becomes law, it would stop all passenger rail projects in the city. In order to overturn it, we would have to overturn Issue 48,” Richardson said.

“If, for example, in 2013 we had someone willing to privately finance a rail system using public rights-of-way, we would have to have an election first before any planning or discussion could occur,” he said. “We couldn't even engage in planning before that.”

The proposed charter amendment is long, composed of four sections. The trickiest one is its third section, which states: For purposes of this Amendment, (i) the term “Streetcar System” means a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way, (ii) the term “City” includes without limitation the City, the Manager, the Mayor, the Council, and the City’s various boards, commissions, agencies and departments and (iii) the term “money” means any money from any source whatsoever.

For the complete text of the ballot issue, which is a summary, click here.

Interestingly, Smitherman's opposition to Cincinnati's streetcar system puts him at odds with a resolution approved by the NAACP's national office in 2009.

The resolution is entitled, “NAACP supports the improvement and expansion of passenger rail transportation solutions to serve the nation's urban communities."

Part of the resolution states, “the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People urges the expanded use of federal transportation dollars, whether provided through stimulus funding or conventional federal funding allocations, and of state and local resources, to enhance existing passenger rail systems and to develop additional passenger rail alternatives in America’s urban communities, including streetcars, light rail and high speed intercity rail systems.”

Another section states, “in many urban communities existing and proposed passenger rail systems — ranging from streetcars, to light rail, to subways and to inter-city high-speed rail — can and will provide enhanced transportation options and opportunities to the public, and particularly to minorities and the poor, while reducing traffic congestion and pollution generated by automobiles and buses using diesel fuel or gasoline.”

Under the NAACP's structure, local chapters may decide on their own policy directives, but they are generally supposed to give some consideration and deference to the national office's positions.



<![CDATA[The First Two — Really?]]>

Perhaps hoping to mimic the suspenseful aspects of an Alfred Hitchcock film or a Thomas Harris novel, an ultra-conservative group has been issuing press releases announcing its endorsements for Cincinnati City Council one at a time.

Oh, the anticipation!---

First, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) announced Oct. 24 that it endorsed independent Christopher Smitherman for City Council. No surprise there: COAST is almost single-handedly responsible for reviving Smitherman's political prospects after voters dumped him following a single council term in 2003-05.

Today, COAST announced its second endorsement: Preacher and exorcist turned politician Charlie Winburn, an ex-Democrat who became a Republican in the 1980s.

COAST struggles to explain its latest endorsement, writing, “COAST is concerned that Winburn was the fifth vote for the irresponsible city budget in 2009, including $300,000 in new monies for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, but is hopeful that the election will bring together a new majority on council advancing principles of fiscal restraint.”

It adds, “Still, COAST heard repeatedly from City Hall during those negotiations that it was Winburn who blocked tax increases in the city budget, and thus stymied Mallory's efforts for more revenue. For this we are appreciative.”

We wonder who COAST heard that from, Winburn himself?

So, there you have it. COAST's first endorsements for City Council are Smitherman and Winburn.

That sound you hear is the banging of nails into the coffin containing COAST's last shred of credibility on Cincinnati issues.

<![CDATA[Firefighters Union Endorses Nine]]>

For readers who have been wondering, and there have been a few judging from our emails, here is a list of the endorsements for Cincinnati City Council made by the local firefighters union.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local No. 48 has endorsed a full, nine-member slate for council. The endorsements include five incumbents and four challengers.---

Candidates who received the union's backing were Republicans Leslie Ghiz, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn, all of whom are incumbents; Democratic incumbents Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young; Democratic challenger P.G. Sittenfeld; Charterite challenger Kevin Flynn; and independent challengers Mike Allen and Christopher Smitherman.

There's no word on whether the candidates selected had to agree to a “no-layoff” pledge, as some candidates allege was the standard used by the local police union.

Also, as expected, the union endorsed a “no” vote on Ohio Issue 2, which supports the repeal of restrictions on collective bargaining rights for public sector labor unions like the IAFF.

<![CDATA[Sheriff Urges 'No' Vote on Issue 48]]>

The person who often ranks in polls as the most popular politician in Hamilton County is breaking with his Republican colleagues and is appearing in a new radio commercial urging a “no” vote on Issue 48.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. asks residents to oppose the anti-streetcar initiative that was placed on the ballot by the NAACP's local chapter and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). The commercial will begin airing Wednesday during the morning drive time period on WLW (700 AM) and WKRC (550 AM), two stations with predominately conservative, Republican audiences.---

In the ad, the sheriff says, “This is Sheriff Simon Leis. I am here to urge you to vote 'no' on Issue 48. This anti-growth charter amendment would drive away investment and make the city's deficit worse. Issue 48 could lead to layoffs and service cuts that hurt every neighborhood in Cincinnati. It's a bad deal any way you look at it. If you want to see a safer, stronger Cincinnati, join me and vote 'no' on Issue 48."
Leis' commercial puts him at odds with the Hamilton County Republican Party, which has made opposing Cincinnati's long-planned streetcar project one of its central issues in the 2011 elections.

All of the GOP candidates for City Council — Leslie Ghiz, Wayne Lippert, Catherine Smith Mills, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn — oppose the streetcar and have urged a “yes” vote.

Leis, 77, announced in September that he wouldn't seek another term as sheriff when his current term ends next year, and planned to retire after a 40-year career in various elective offices. Leis was first appointed sheriff in 1987 and was elected to the office the following year. Since then, he's been reelected sheriff five times.

Also, Leis served as county prosecutor from 1971 until 1982, when he was elected as a Common Pleas Court judge.

If approved by voters, Issue 48 would impose an outright ban on spending any money on “a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way” until Dec. 31, 2020. The ban would affect any source of funding regardless if it came from local, state or federal governments or even if it was privately financed.

Many legal experts said the broad wording wouldn't only affect the streetcar project but also any type of passenger rail project including commuter rail lines along the Eastern Corridor or to places like Sharonville and West Chester, along with possible light rail service to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron.

<![CDATA[GOP Council Members Push for Piatt Arrests]]>

Three of the four Republican members of Cincinnati City Council introduced a motion today calling for the city manager to immediately begin enforcing all city laws at Piatt Park, which eventually might result in the arrest of Occupy Cincinnati protestors.

Councilman Wayne Lippert introduced the motion this afternoon. Councilwomen Leslie Ghiz and Amy Murray signed the document, giving it their support. It would require at least two more signatures to have enough backing to be approved.---

But it might take awhile before the measure is voted upon by City Council if, in fact, it ever is given the legislative process used by the group.

Because the motion was submitted today, it cannot be referred to a committee for review and recommendation until the next meeting of the entire City Council; that occurs on Oct. 26.

At that time, it likely would be referred to council's Law and Public Safety Committee — but such an action is left to the discretion of Mayor Mark Mallory, who could delay it, perhaps indefinitely. Even if Mallory referred it to the committee, it wouldn't be discussed until its Nov. 1 meeting. If a committee majority recommended passage — and that's a big “if” — it would go before the full City Council for a decision on Nov. 2.

Which just happens to be the last City Council meeting before elections on Nov. 8. A coincidence, we're sure.

Lippert's motion states: “For nearly the past two weeks, the city administration has refused to apply and enforce the law as it pertains to the city's parks. This is out of the ordinary in relation to how these laws have been enforced in the past. This is certainly dangerous for the city from a legal perspective going forward.”

It continues, “With the exception of the stay put on ticketing/removing people from the city parks by a federal court on Oct. 18, 2011, the city has made the decision without the authority or discretion, to selectively enforce our laws with regard to city parks. This is a regrettable and dangerous error on the part of the city administration. The city administration has put our city at great legal risk with regard to its choice to selectively enforce our laws, and its discretion must end immediately.”

Although the issuance of citations to protestors has begun again, a staffer in Lippert's office said the motion asks the administration to enforce the law and policies that have been customary for individuals in the parks after they close. “We have been told that the customary policy when it comes to individuals in the park after 10 p.m. is that they are cited two or three times, and following that they are arrested,” the staffer said.

Based on answers given to The Enquirer, at least two other council members agree that protestors should be removed after the park's closing — which would mean Lippert's motion may be approved.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls told The Enquirer, “I believe in the constitutionally protected right of speech, right of assembly, and right to petition government to redress grievances. I do not believe that 'occupying' public space by camping out and violating regulation designed to manage use and ensure reasonable access is protected. I do not think the protesters should be allowed to stay overnight.”

Also, Councilman Chris Bortz told the newspaper, “I think the Occupy Cincinnati protesters should be permitted to protest anywhere they choose, so long as they follow the laws that apply to all of us equally. Overnight stays in the park are not permitted, and selective enforcement of those laws opens the city to liability from anyone who may choose to protest in the future. The city must consistently, predictably and equitably enforce its laws.”

Bortz's family operates Towne Properties, which owns apartment buildings next to the park. Bortz's uncle, ex-Mayor Arn Bortz, has lobbied Mallory to remove the protestors.

Lippert and Murray are appointees to council, each seeking their first elected term on Nov. 8.

Lippert was appointed by maverick, conservative Democrat Jeff Berding, a Bengals executive who resigned from the group amid controversy. Berding recently has been stumping statewide for a “yes” vote on Issue 2, to retain GOP-approved restrictions on the collective bargaining rights of public sector labor unions.

Murray was appointed by Chris Monzel, who left City Council when he was elected to the Hamilton County Commission.

<![CDATA[Candidates On: City-operated Swimming Pools]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, Do you consider the operation of public swimming pools to be an acceptable function of municipal government?”---

Mike Allen (Independent):Yes. Every effort should be made to keep the pools open.

Kevin Flynn (Charterite):Not just acceptable, but a necessary function of our city.

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat):Swimming pools are not only an acceptable function of government but a critical function. Pools are a source of neighborhood pride, a welcome relief to the summer heat and a diversion to keep our youth occupied and off the streets. We must maintain funding for the current number of pools.

Patricia McCollum (Independent):Recreation is funded as a service provided by the city and it is the cities responsibility to oversee operations of these public facilities.

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican):Swimming pools are very important to our children and our communities. The city has not, in recent years, had the funding to keep them all open. We have been very fortunate that community members and leaders step in to support our pools. To ensure long-term support and operation of pools, we need to pursue public-private partnerships to keep them open. ”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent):Why not? The municipal government is accountable for childhood poverty.

Jason Riveiro (Democrat):Yes, it is part of creating safe and healthy neighborhoods. We cut them every year, and every year we collectively agree we should re-fund them.

Chris Seelbach (Democrat):Absolutely. Our public swimming pools not only raise the quality of life for tens of thousands of children, of all income levels, each year, they give kids a safe and well-maintained place to play. Kids enjoying our swimming pools and learning how to swim are safer than those 'playing' in our streets.

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat):Yes, I do – and have even helped generate private support to sustain them.

<![CDATA[Candidates On: Taking a Two-Month Summer Break]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “Do you believe City Council should continue taking its two-month summer break, or should it meet weekly during the summer?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “If there is a consensus among council members on how to solve some of the major issues facing the city, then they should consider coming back early from the summer break.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “City Council has serious issues facing it. In June 2011, I issued a call for Council to cancel its recess to deal with those issues. Council ignored my call. It only takes two members of Council to call a meeting of Council. There are not two members who were willing to do so.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “Like most people, my staff and I work year round to make ends meet. Our elected officials should be held to the same standard and work year-round. I believe that city residents deserve a government that works as hard as they do.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “The business and daily operations of the City of Cincinnati are continuous and are not suspended. The amount of time for a summer recess should be reevaluated.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “If City Council is going to continue to be a part-time job, I think they should keep the break and consider a pay cut. A council member can still choose to work through this time if they so desire, and some do. If council members were required to work during this period, then I think that work should be dedicated to team building and collaboration meetings around the budget process.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “Incumbents are insincere. They can't balance a budget because it can't accept Jesus Christ as lord and savior. The controversy over the national debt is whose fault? The people or the politicians? $60 grand wont balance the budget unless she get two extra years' of $60 grand. And the council is with it.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “No, it should work during the summer and take December off.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “Absolutely not. Council should work through the summer.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “Council cannot afford to take a two-month break. The challenges facing the city demand full-time attention, not vacation.”

<![CDATA[Cracking the FOP's Secrets]]>

As has become the norm during the last few election cycles, Cincinnati's police union is reluctant to publicly reveal its full slate of endorsements, for some strange reason. No matter: CityBeat managed to get this year's information.

Working through multiple sources at different campaigns, we've compiled what we believe to be an all-inclusive list of endorsements made by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Queen City Lodge No. 69.---

The FOP endorsed seven candidates for City Council, only three of whom are incumbents. The incumbents getting the nod are Republicans Leslie Ghiz, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn.

Also, the police union endorsed challengers Mike Allen, an independent who is a former police officer and county prosecutor; Charterite Kevin Flynn; Christopher Smitherman, president of the NAACP's local chapter; and Democrat Jason Riveiro.

Perhaps the most surprising facts about this list are that the FOP didn't endorse GOP incumbent Wayne Lippert, who's generally toed the same policy line as the other three Republicans; it didn't endorse Cecil Thomas or Wendell Young, two Democratic incumbents who had long careers as Cincinnati police officers before their retirement; and it
did endorse Smitherman, who was a frequent, outspoken critic of the department during his sole previous council term, in 2003-05.

Multiple sources have confirmed that the FOP is using a pledge not to lay off any police officers as its litmus test in deciding on City Council endorsements. It's unclear, however, whether the pledge applies only to the current two-year term being sought (2011-13) or would apply to the entire eight consecutive years that a candidate potentially could serve, if reelected.

To avoid a $33 million deficit next year, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed in August that City Council approve laying off 44 officers. So far, council has been divided on the issue.

Spending in the Police and Fire departments account for 69 percent of the city's General Fund budget. During the past several years, all other city departments have experienced cuts in funding, but the Police and Fire departments have seen their budgets increase.

One council candidate, who interviewed for an endorsement but didn't receive it, said, “It was very apparent in the interview that because I wouldn't commit to never ever laying off a police officer — not just in a two-year term, but for a possible eight-year stretch on council — they weren't going to endorse me.”

That candidate added, “As I told them, I'm running to make sure we don't lose another 10 percent of our population in the next 10 years. But, if we do, do they really want us to become a city that only pays for police officers at the expense of everything else? That's totally unrealistic.”

Still, another candidate who did receive the FOP's endorsement had a different impression. “They didn't asked me to pledge that but I told them that I was not in favor of layoffs,” that person said.

Additionally, Thomas and Young didn't seek the union's endorsement.

“My loyalty is to the city of Cincinnati, not just the Police Department,” Young said during a candidate forum Saturday night at The Greenwich in Walnut Hills. “I have to do what's best for the city as a whole.”

Also, the FOP is recommending a “no” vote on Issue 2, which would repeal the restrictions imposed on the collective-bargaining rights of public sector labor unions.

Further, the union is endorsing incumbents Lisa Allen, Bernie Bouchard, Brad Greenberg, Russell Mock and Fanon Rucker, along with challengers Brian Lee, William Mallory Jr. and Megan Shanahan, in their respective municipal court judicial races.

In related news, the Partnership of Westside Residents PAC — commonly known as POWR-PAC — has decided not to make any endorsements in this year's council elections.

<![CDATA[Council Forum to Include Public Input]]>

Local residents have a unique opportunity to participate in a candidate forum featuring people running for Cincinnati City Council that will occur this Saturday.

As it has done for the past few election cycles, The Greenwich nightclub in Walnut Hills will host the forum, which currently is scheduled to include all 23 candidates vying for the nine council seats. This year, the forum's theme is “Cincinnati 2012: Diary of a City in Transition,” and it will be held from 7:30-11 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public, although seating is limited.---

For the first time, event organizers are accepting suggestions for questions on The Greenwich's Facebook page. Submissions will will be analyzed and the concerns or issues most frequently raised will be asked of candidates by the moderator, Jeri Tolliver, program director for WDBZ (1230 AM).

To submit a question, go to The Greenwich's Facebook page and then click on the "Cincinnati 2012: Diary of a City in Transition" event listing. A form will appear for submitting questions.

The forum's co-sponsors are the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area, the Woman's City Club of Greater Cincinnati and CityBeat.

Media panelists are Annette Peagler, reporter and producer for WCPO-TV (Channel 9); Jane Prendergast, City Hall reporter for The Enquirer; and Kevin Osborne, news editor and political columnist for CityBeat.

The Greenwich is located at 2442 Gilbert Ave. For more information, call 513-221-1151.

<![CDATA[NAACP Icons Urge 'No' Vote on Issue 48]]>

Although the current leader of the NAACP's local chapter is trying to block Cincinnati's planned streetcar system, two former leaders of the organization are coming out in support of the system in a big way.

Milton W. Hinton and Judge Nathaniel R. Jones have endorsed a “no” vote on Issue 48, the proposed anti-rail charter amendment that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot in Cincinnati.---

Issue 48 is being pushed by Christopher Smitherman, president of the NAACP's local chapter, in conjunction with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), an ultra-conservative group. Smitherman has temporarily stepped down as NAACP president while he runs for City Council as an independent.

Hinton served three terms as head of the NAACP's local chapter. Under his leadership, the organization grew from 700 to 3,500 members and achieved fair housing agreements, creation of a Citizens Police Review Panel and minority participation in riverfront development, among other activities.

Before he served 22 years on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Jones served 10 years as general counsel to the NAACP's national office. In that role, he directed a long list of historic legal battles including the landmark Mississippi boycott case that affirmed the First Amendment rights of civil rights protesters.

Hinton and Jones will speak at a press conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the steps of City Hall, located at Plum Street downtown. They will discuss their support for affordable, growth-oriented transportation and opposition to Issue 48.

Also, Hinton has taped a radio commercial for the “No on Issue 48” campaign, which is now airing on WDBZ (1230 AM) and WIZF (101.1 FM), two radio stations geared toward a predominantly African-American audience.

If Issue 48 is approved by voters, it would impose an outright ban on any passenger rail project within Cincinnati city limits until Dec. 31, 2020. Due to its wording, the ban would affect any source of funding regardless if it was federal, state, local or privately financed.

Others who have urged a “no” vote on Issue 48 include the League of Women Voters, the Charter Committee and the Chamber of Commerce.

<![CDATA[Candidates On: City-operated Health Clinics]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “Do you consider the operation of health clinics to be an acceptable function of municipal government?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “Yes. Every effort should be made to keep the health clinics open, but council should also look to save resources by consolidating health services and bidding these services out through managed competition.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “We need to revamp our entire delivery system of public health in our community. We have a tremendous asset in our health clinics but we don’t utilize them well. Our city has a fine Health Department which is constantly threatened by the budget axe. The city needs to be a central player in redeveloping the public health model for our region in a sustainable manner.

“As chairman of the board of the Drake Center, I have observed a lot of wasted time, money, and effort in this area. We spend a lot of money on public health in this region, but we do so in a manner which wastes money and does not address the health needs of our community. We need to combine and coordinate the efforts of the clinics sponsored by the city, the UC College of Medicine, the nursing and allied health colleges in our community, the funding provided by the county, the state, and the federal government, and the resources of our hospital systems. By combining efforts, we can focus on a continuum of care which will emphasize prevention and early treatment in our community, leading to better health in our community, and less cost to our community.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “Cincinnati has a long tradition of focusing on health care and our clinics play a critical role in our collective well being. As a healthcare professional, I am an ardent supporter of keeping the health clinics open and accessible to those individuals who desperately need them.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “The operation of public health clinics are beneficial for the health and safety of it’s citizens. It is our obligation to provide the necessary care for children, seniors and uninsured who have no other means to obtain basic care.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “We need to focus on the basic necessities: Safety, water and sanitation services, and then we should plan for future economic growth. I support health clinics if they are run in a sustainable matter with private/public partnerships to support any future planned growth.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “I am so for sure if someone brought harm to your family, you would change the world for them. On a daily basis, politicians produce the bitter taste of poverty economics, oversee public abuse, crimes against man's inhumanity toward man. I'm for 'No Heal, No Bill.'”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “Yes, and we can find more federal monies to address the serious health concerns in our city such as AIDS, birth rate, dental, etc.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “100 percent, yes. Just as Alicia Reece and Laketa Cole worked hard to keep our health centers open, I pledge to continue their work. I stand strongly against the current conservative majority who want to close the health centers that over 35,000 residents use every year.

“And of these 35,000 residents who use our health centers, nearly all have no other option. In 2014, President Obama’s health care overhaul will dramatically change the way many low-income and struggling Americans receive health-care. In the mean time, I am strongly against closing our health clinics and look forward to seeing how the president’s health-care overhaul may change our current system.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “Yes, I do – and I have advocated Council to maintain their support for health clinics. Our health centers provide an important safety net that helps keep people out of emergency rooms where we all bear a greater expense. Additionally, within the next several years, our health centers will be able to continue to deliver a valuable service at significantly reduced cost to the city due to new health care legislation.”

<![CDATA[Candidates On: The Future of the Environmental Justice Ordinance]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “What is your stance on the city's Environmental Justice Ordinance? Should it be retained or repealed?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “It should be repealed. This puts us at an economic disadvantage, when enforcing existing state and federal regulations accomplishes enough.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “The Environmental Justice Ordinance has some good parts to it, some parts that are duplicative of existing state and federal law, and some parts that are inappropriate. Enforcement of the EJO has never been attempted in our city because funding has never been made available. We need to relook at the EJO keeping the parts that will improve the health and wellbeing of our citizens and eliminating the parts that are redundant and questionable.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “I am supportive of the EJO because I believe it puts limits on heavy pollution and provides a voice to those Cincinnatians who live in low income, industrialized neighborhoods.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “This stance on the OEQ should be repealed.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “The city’s Environmental Justice Ordinance contains terms that exceed those set forth by the Ohio EPA. It also presents new barriers for business. This is not good policy for Cincinnati.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “The (EJO) should also be about eliminating ghettos. Invest in the public good. To support the city of Cincinnati’s Environmental Justice Ordinance, passed in '09, I created for implementation the Courtyard of Law. It can deal with every environmental issue, too.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “Environmental Justice is a top priority of mine as a Sierra Club-endorsed candidate. We need to look for ways for everyone to live in a clean and health environment and I think it should be retained.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “I helped my former boss, David Crowley, bring back the Office of Environmental Quality and pass the Environmental Justice Ordinance. I believe in it’s intent: To create a more healthy city where all people, including the poor, live in communities without harmful pollution that could lead to an excess cancer risk or acute health effects.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “I’m proud to come from a family of strong environmental advocates, so I am well aware that the first people to kick my butt if I were ever to come down on the wrong side of an environmental issue would be my own family! I think it would be difficult for anyone to disagree with the notion that all residents of our city deserve to be protected from harmful pollutants, no matter their neighborhood, race, or income level. Obviously, funding is always a critical aspect of any piece of policy, so it doesn’t matter how noble a piece of legislation is if the funding isn’t available for implementation. Our community must continue to strive for excellence in environmental health, and, while ensuring that businesses are compliant with necessary policy, not create unnecessary bureaucracy or expenses for them.”

<![CDATA[Candidates On: Assessing a Garbage Fee]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. has proposed a garbage collection fee which, so far, City Council has resisted. What is your stance on this fee?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “I am not in favor of a garbage collection fee. I am in favor of opening garbage collection, and many other services, to managed competition. When municipal workers are permitted to fairly compete, they win the job nearly 70 percent of the time. However, they find ways to provide these services with newfound efficiency and lower costs.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “As presently proposed, I oppose the garbage fee. Call it what you want, a garbage fee is a tax, and a regressive tax at that. The need for the garbage tax goes back to the fact that garbage collection is, besides Public Safety, the other major component of the General Operating Budget. Unless we are willing to look at city finances as a whole, instead of focusing on only one piece, we will forever be facing this false argument. Let’s share capital between departments, analyze our Water Works and Sewer departments, audit SORTA, and enhance revenue collection of our existing taxes and fees before we raise taxes on those least able to afford the increase.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “Cincinnati is facing an economic crisis due to a lack of revenue. Drastic cuts have been made across most departments and it is clear we aren’t going to cut our way out of this challenge. As such, I am open to instating a modest garbage collection fee in an effort for the city to balance the budget and still provide basic services.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “I am against a garbage collection fee which is attached to an existing service.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “I do not support a trash fee.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “He's a morpher, over-charging folks for the grand larceny committed by public and staff officials dipping in the till. In '05, I ran for mayor. I offered a guaranteed cure for male-pattern baldness. I'd still do Mr. Dohoney, damn!”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “I believe in making recycling a program everyone wants to participate in. Garbage is a basic city service. I want to incentivize recycling instead of creating roadblocks for individuals; however, I am not in favor of a ballot initiative to tie our options in the future. I want to support the (Office of Environmental Quality) and use their ideas for revenue generation through recycling and other green initiatives as a the way to treat garbage.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “I support a 'pay-as-you-throw fee,' which encourages less consumption and more reusing/ recycling. Almost every City our size has a garbage fee, but we shouldn’t charge the same amount to a household that consistently throws away everything they consume, opposed to a family who recycles and reuses as much as possible. This program would have a maximum and minimum fee and, depending on the weight of the trash, residents would pay along a sliding scale based on the previous months weight totals.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “I do not support a garbage fee. Taxpayer dollars should support basic services, and that includes trash pick-up.”

<![CDATA[Candidates On: Moving the Drop Inn Center]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “There is a movement afoot to move the Drop Inn Center homeless shelter out of Over-the- Rhine. Do you support or oppose this effort, and why?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “With the development of Over-the-Rhine proceeding as planned, we need to make sure that we make the most appropriate use of property in the area. If a better location can be found for the Drop Inn Center, I would support moving it.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “The Drop Inn Center is a private, nonprofit organization and the city should not be interfering in their operations. If the Drop Inn Center chooses to move out of OTR, I would support their move.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “I believe that the Drop Inn Center should be located in an area that is easily accessible to its clients. Any potential move would afford the opportunity to ensure facilities are of the highest standard to provide a continuum of care to individuals needing service.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “I disagree. I believe the Drop Inn Center needs to be accessible with our existing transportation and in the community where it is most beneficial.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “I will wait for more information and final details as this plan seems to still be unfolding, before making a final decision around it.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “I'll fight for human rights. When I ran for Congress last November in D.C., my plan was to have Bill Clinton pull a Monica Lewinsky on me before he kissed the Secretary of State. The court system and slum landlords created homelessness. They need to be rescued first in order to stabilized the public.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “I support working with the Drop Inn Center and the Homeless Coalition and I am opposed to a forced relocation.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “I support greater access for Cincinnatians struggling with homelessness and ensuring that our city’s shelters have the space and resources they need to provide a true continuum of care for all those in need. Having spoken with participants involved in the City Gospel Mission’s relocation, it seems clear their move will make their organization both more effective and accessible to more people. They will have the space for job training classes, greater resources for drug and alcohol treatment programs and of course, more beds.

“The Drop Inn Center has been a beacon in Over-the-Rhine for decades, but if they feel they can be more effective, have more beds, programs, classes and help more individuals in another location, I would support their decision.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “As we balance the city’s development efforts with our commitment to care for those most in need, I will look to all of the stake-holders involved to work collaboratively so that we can meet all parties’ needs, especially those who don’t typically have a voice.”

<![CDATA[Candidates On: The Planned Streetcar System]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, Do you support or oppose the city's streetcar system as currently planned and financed?---

Mike Allen (Independent):I do not support the streetcar system as currently constituted. We need to prioritize our resources and fully fund the most important services. The streetcar is too expensive, and is not part of a long-term, strategic transportation solution.

Kevin Flynn (Charterite):I support the development of the streetcar as an economic development tool and job creator. All of the studies show, and all of the cities which have invested in streetcars have demonstrated, economic benefits for the city many times greater than the investment. We cannot continue to make cuts in services and play accounting tricks in order to balance our budget. In order to sustain our city in the long-term, we need to grow our city and invest in the infrastructure that will encourage private investment.

I support the current plan as a first phase of a larger system that will connect our uptown hospital/university district with our downtown entertainment/Central Business District. I would like to see the city pay for construction with Tax Increment Financing revenues generated by increased property values along the streetcar route.

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat):I strongly support the streetcar plan because I see it as an opportunity to simultaneously encourage economic growth and promote rail transit.

Patricia McCollum (Independent):I do not support the streetcar because the funds can be reallocated to our existing transportation which has been negatively impacted and routes have been consolidated to save tax dollars.

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican):When the plan was first unveiled, I served on the Cincy PAC board, which endorsed the plan based on its economic development potential. Unfortunately, the times have changed and so has the streetcar plan. I cannot support a plan that no longer has state funding, that is taking city dollars while we have a $33 million deficit, and no longer will connect downtown with the uptown area. I am in favor of better transit options to reduce pollution like bus rapid transit, bike paths, and planning more walkable communities.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent):I'm innate Law Enforcement. I'll hold government officials criminally accountable for not exercising fiscal discipline with public funds used to pay off city, state, county and federal Revere deficits. Stop railroading the public funds. My idea is to turn car and truck windows into LDS screens for instant 3D Internet and entertainment assets. It will save time and trouble carting mobile laptop appendages everywhere you travel. Now, thats enhancement and advancement that wont charge the public $13 million.

Jason Riveiro (Democrat):Yes, I support the streetcar as currently planned.

Chris Seelbach (Democrat):Support. Period. Once on council, I will work to make sure it is funded in a sustainable way that does not cut into core services. In the long run, it is clear that the streetcar will increase city revenues by raising property value along the route and leading to increased development and investments. Transportation, including the streetcar, is my top priority.

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat):The city's focus right now needs to be on basic services ahead of streetcars but the reality is, this project is now in the hands of the voters, and I will respect the direction they give us in November. I plan to vote 'no' on Issue 48 because tying the city's hands for such a long duration and denying citizens the chance to revisit critical issues and changing circumstances when it comes to transportation or any other city function is bad governance that I cannot support.


<![CDATA[Candidates On: What to Do About the Tax Rollback]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “What is your stance on the property tax rollback? Do you believe the city's property tax rate should be increased to the maximum 6.1 mills allowed under the charter, or remain at a rate to generate $28.9 million each year, or be decreased? Please explain your answer.”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “I am not in favor of increasing property tax to the maximum of 6.1 mills. We must learn to live within our resources the same way families in our city have to do. By taking more money from our citizens, we do more damage to our weakened local economy.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “I used to be in favor of increasing the millage to 6.1. As I investigated further, it became apparent that, between the Tax Increment Financing Districts our city created in the 1990s to divert money to redevelopment, and the Tax Abatements our city grants for new residential construction, the property tax burden is falling on fewer and fewer property owners who own ever aging properties. I cannot support laying the entire burden on a smaller and smaller number of properties. I also do not support lowering our property tax revenue by over $5 million, as was done by City Council this past June. Council lowered the revenue, increasing the projected 2012 deficit, without identifying any means of eliminating the deficit. This is irresponsible. For 2012, I supported the plan to keep revenues at $28.9 million, as had been done for the past decade, as a reasonable compromise between the two extremes.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “Our governor has decreased the amount of money allocated to local municipalities and the resulting deficit is essentially forcing the city to end the property tax rollback. Ending this rollback would cost the taxpayer of a $100,000 home around only $15 but the collective impact would increase much needed revenue.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “I do not want to decrease the property tax but if a nominal increase would have a positive impact in reducing the budget deficit, I would take this under consideration. An increase in property taxes at this time will not answer the question of rollback or not. The rollback will not make a difference in the revenue to the city or the county. The revenue is being affected by the foreclosure of homes, and with that, not taxes being paid. The rollback will allow a few voters to continue to do what they are doing, but this will not affect the majority of the voters who will continue to work hard and sacrifice to pay the property taxes as long as they can hold on to their homes. I think the increase in property taxes should be revisited for businesses and people who own property and rent for profits.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “I am opposed to raising property taxes. We do not need to give residents another excuse to leave the Cincinnati city limits by asking them to pay more than they are in these tough economic times. Surrounding municipalities have lower tax rates that compete for our citizens’ tax dollars and we need to remain competitive.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “You will just be creating another debt ceiling. The maximum won't stand because City Council will continue to borrow money they can't pay back. The public are slaves to the deficit.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “Council’s latest action has no benefit — their decrease in the property tax only gave a $5 savings per homeowner. While I am not in favor of maximizing the millage, we should at least maintain the level we’ve been collecting.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “I do not support any increase in taxes at this time. If possible, once on council, it would be ideal to keep the property tax rate at the rate set last year. However, if this is not possible without major cuts to core services, I would support returning the property tax rate to a level that brings in the same $29 million it has for the past decade. I would not support raising it to the maximum 6.1 mills as we need to remain competitive with the outer suburbs and continue to increase homeownership.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “The onus is on the city to demonstrate that it has its fiscal house in order and is being an effective custodian of public dollars before increasing taxes. We must always recognize that we are in a competition, so while increasing taxes is one method for closing a short-term budget hole, if that makes us a less attractive place to live or do business, then that’s not a success in the long-term for the city or its residents. I support the property tax rollback, and while my impulse is strongly against raising the millage, I would add that for the majority on council to have increased the operating deficit by $8 million knowing that there was no consensus among themselves about how they would plug that hole feels irresponsible.”

<![CDATA[Candidates On: How to Budget for Public Safety]]>

As CityBeat did in the 2007 and 2009 election cycles, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “The Police and Fire departments constitute 69 percent of the city's General Fund spending. Do you believe this amount can be lessened without affecting public safety?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “We cannot lay off more police officers and expect safety in our city to improve. We must make better use of sworn officers by putting officers on the street and by using more civilians in support roles. In addition, we should look into establishing Police Reserve Officer Programs. Cities such as Columbus, San Francisco and San Diego have reserve units of former police officers and state certified police volunteers. Reserve officers can fill in when extra manpower is needed. We also need to implement better data driven policing, by implementing enhanced crime mapping techniques to direct officers to areas where crime is more prevalent.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “We have a great opportunity beginning in 2011 to reposition our Police and Fire departments because of new leadership with (Police) Chief (James) Craig and (Fire) Chief (Richard) Braun heading our the departments. Because of the lack of new recruit classes and the continuing retirement of 30-40 people for each department each year, we will soon be at our lowest staffing levels in over a decade. The departments are doing more with less. Already, six to eight fire companies a day are out of service because of lack of personnel. Citizens in many areas of our city have to wait 30 minutes for a police officer to respond to a call. We cannot afford to cut public safety personnel without jeopardizing the safety of the public. If people aren’t safe, or don’t feel safe, residents will move out and businesses will relocate away from our city.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “With two-thirds of the budget dedicated to Police and Fire, it is fair and appropriate to explore responsible spending cuts. Public safety isn’t measure by the amount of dollars spent or the number of police on the street. Crime reduction and increased public safety in our city will only happen when we use a strong two pronged attack: Proactively focus on education and job training, while deterring crime through policing and community engagement. 

“We should remember to fund the police to the best of our ability but not forsake those programs necessary to lessen their workload.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “My only response would be that there will have to be a reorganization of the departments, positions, and duties of the personnel that were lost but if the heads of these areas took extra care in maintaining the quality of service and there are no at-risk areas, we should not feel the impact.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “Although the downtown area has been getting safer over the past decade, many Cincinnati neighborhoods have serious blight and crime. This is one of the reasons that my focus on safe and clean streets includes gathering input from citizens who live there. Fighting crime requires a multi-faceted approach that includes our police at the helm and involves citizen supporters who live in the community. Our neighborhood Community Councils are doing a lot to lower crime in their areas. Block Watch, Citizens on Patrol, and Good Guys Loitering are making a difference & lowering crime rates. These citizens, along with the police, sit on the frontlines of our urban crime and we need to support them both.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “(I would like to create) the Courtyard of Law, a new addition to the Department of Justice. This court will put a stop to institutionalized racism, false charges, slander, torts, mobs, wars and weapons of mass destruction by means of Fist to Cuff. Example: (I) was ejected from (Fraternal Order of Police Lodge) Local 69 for telling the truth. The law enforcer was a vanity (sic) sick old lady who would have gotten her ass kicked in the Courtyard Of Law for violating Queen's freedom of speech. The old racist was surrounded by a group of very sick mentalities.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “I believe there is room for improvement but we must work together with the Police and Fire (departments) instead of City Council acting alone. I am not in favor of layoffs because we can find areas within administration to improve.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “Absolutely. I agree with Police Chief Craig along with many police officers and firefighters, who believe we can absolutely cut waste (if we’re willing to look for it everywhere) without eliminating a single police or fire job.

“However, I also believe public safety is about more than just the number of police officers on our streets. It’s about economic development: Creating thriving business and housing districts, such as the successful public/private partnership renovating Over the Rhine, which has shown a dramatic decrease in crime. As a resident of OTR (on Main Street) for almost eight years, I have seen crime decrease as local businesses open up in formerly abandoned buildings. Also, I plan to lead a coalition between the city, county and other local municipalities to create a regional job training and reentry program that can further increase public safety.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “The city's first obligation is to ensure that citizens are safe, which is why we should not be laying off police officers or firefighters, especially when we can absolutely still achieve cost savings in both departments without layoffs. It’s also important to note that the Police Department is already down more than 100 officers through attrition since last year while the Fire Department continues to have rolling fire engine brownouts.”