by Nick Swartsell
65 hours ago
Posted In: News
at 09:47 AM | Permalink
Super-action-packed Budget Committee thrill ride; Jeff Ruby restaurant sails, err, sinks into the sunset; this porcupine is eating a pumpkin. Nuff said.
Morning y’all. Before we begin, I have to share something only tangentially related to the news. Last night I went and checked out a concert at Union Terminal, which has a 100-year-old organ in house and more than 4,000 pipes for that organ built into the walls. I don’t know a whole lot about baroque and classical music, but I do know a lot about loud music, and it was insanely loud. And awesome. Very recommended. To tie this into newsy stuff, I’ll just say go weigh in one way or the other on Issue 8 (the icon tax) at your local polling place. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday more or less tied up what the city will do with its $18 million budget surplus. The committee, which is composed of all nine council members basically adopted City Manager Harry Black’s recommendations outright. The decision came with controversy, however, as some on Council again questioned the process by which the recommendations were proposed. Council members Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and P.G. Sittenfeld pushed back on the process, accusing Budget Committee Chair Charlie Winburn of trying to push the proposals through quickly and asking why public input wasn’t sought on the proposals before they were brought before Council for a vote. The three abstained from voting for Black’s recommendations.• Council also wrangled again over funding for Mayor John Cranley’s Hand Up Initiative at the committee meeting. Several council members had questions about why some established programs are being cut to fund the $2.3 million jobs initiative, especially when the city is running a large budget surplus. Councilman Chris Seelbach pushed for an amendment to the ordinance funding the program to try and restore some cuts to housing advocacy group Housing Opportunities Made Equal and People Working Cooperatively, which helps the elderly and low-income with home weatherization, maintenance and energy efficiency. Those programs lost federal dollars from Community Development Block Grants that have been diverted to the mayor’s new jobs program. The amendment was voted down, 5-4. “These programs employ people,” said Councilman Wendell Young, who, along with council members Seelbach, Sittenfeld and Simpson voted for the amendment. “When these programs take a hit, that impacts their employees. There’s a real paradox there. These programs leverage dollars. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s help everybody.” Others turned out to either support the mayor’s program or oppose the cuts. Many spoke on behalf of Cincinnati Cooks, which is a Hand Up partner. But some questioned the mayor’s program. Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless Director Josh Spring praised the organization's partnering with Hand Up, but said cutting other programs was counterproductive and unnecessary.“Are we really going to lower poverty by five percent in five years by serving just 4,000 people? What the mayor has accomplished is that he has forced groups that get along to come down here and fight each other,” Spring said. “We do have a surplus. There are other ways to do this. Things like lead abatement, things like home repair, things like upward mobility so that folks experiencing low incomes can move up economically — those aren’t handouts.”• One other skirmish broke out at the marathon meeting, which was still going when I stopped watching it on Citicable at about 6 p.m. (yes, I lead an exciting and enviable life). The tussle broke out over money that was once set aside for permanent supportive housing in the city. That money had been earmarked for a prospective 99-unit affordable housing development in Avondale for those recovering from addiction and other issues called Commons at Alaska. However, pushback from some community members there hamstrung that development. Now it will be used for other things.“Last June, we had money set aside in the budget for permanent supportive housing,” Seelbach said. “I know some people say Alaska Commons doesn’t have enough community buy-in. But permanent supportive housing is an essential part of the equation. We were told we were not going to be eliminating it. And now guess what? We’re eliminating permanent supportive housing. Well, I’m not going to do that.” Seelbach voted against moving the money, along with Simpson, Young and Sittenfeld. • That’s enough City Council action, at least until Wednesday. Let’s move on. Normally, the words “best” and “suburbs” in the same sentence cause heavy cognitive dissonance in my brain. But this is cool, I guess. Three Cincinnati suburbs have been ranked among the best in America by a new study. Madeira (3), Montgomery (21) and Wyoming (24) were tops in the region and among the best in the country, according to Business Insider. The rankings looked at nearly 300 ‘burbs across the country and took into account housing affordability, commute times, poverty, public school ratings and the number of stifling gated communities, GAP outlets and SUVs with stick figure family stickers on the back window per capita. Just kidding on those last ones, guys. Suburbs can be cool, too.• The end of a long, watery saga: Jeff Ruby’s Waterfront restaurant, a boat that has been basically sinking since August, is being demolished.• The Ohio Department of Transportation commissioned a study to determine future transit needs, and it found that the state will need to double its funding of transit over the next decade to more than $1 billion due to increasing demand. In 2000, the state spent $44 million for public transit. In 2013, it spent just $7.3 million. ODOT also gets money for transit from the federal government, however. Gov. John Kasich's administration has been especially cold to public transit, calling passenger rail supporters a "train cult" and turning down $400 million in federal funds for a commuter line between Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland. He also, you know, withheld state funds for the streetcar. This is why we can't have nice things.• In Ohio and beyond, it’s looking more and more likely that Democrats are going to take a beating this midterm election. That’s especially true in Congress, where once-safely Democratic House seats suddenly seem to be up for grabs. If Dems lose enough of those seats, they may not have any chance of taking back a majority in the House until redistricting rolls around again. Many analysts and some in the party have blamed the potential slide in House seats on the unpopularity of the president.• Finally, if all this news is just too overwhelming for you (I know how you feel) check out this porcupine. He’s eating a pumpkin. It's adorable. You’re welcome.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: LGBT Issues
at 12:32 PM | Permalink
Measure would allow same-sex couples to register for benefits purposes
Cincinnati is one step closer to joining nine other Ohio cities that have established domestic partner registries, which would open up more possibilities for equal employee benefits for same-sex couples.A measure introduced by City Councilman Chris Seelbach to have the city set up the registry passed unanimously through the council’s Human Services Committee today. Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council have expressed support for the measure, and it seems likely to come up for a vote and pass during Wednesday's council meeting.The registry, which would be run through the City Clerk’s office, would verify financial relationships between non-married domestic partners. The list would take a burden off employers, who currently have to independently verify financial relationships if they wish to provide equal benefits for partners of employees.Couples would be required to show strong financial interdependency to qualify. Applicants to the registry would be eligible if they own joint property, have granted each other power of attorney, are named in each others’ will and meet other requirements. Many large companies, as well as the city, already offer some form of domestic partner benefits. However, requirements can vary, and it’s expensive and time-consuming to set up criteria and then screen employees’ eligibility, especially for smaller employers.The registry proposed for Cincinnati is based on one adopted by Columbus in 2012. It requires a $45 fee to register, which Seelbach says will pay for the program. If passed, Seelbach said the plan could be up and running in a few weeks.Metro on May 29 announced plans to provide health and dental benefits to
domestic partners of its employees,
the first employer to say it will utilize the registry once it passes.
by Rachel Podnar
Organization could become first to utilize city’s proposed domestic partner registry
Lahman was doing cartwheels in her mind for Metro this morning.
organization’s Ridership and Development Director celebrated Metro’s
announcement on Thursday that it will provide health and dental benefits to
domestic partners of its employees.
said she has used same-sex partner benefits in the past, when she went back to
partner and I] know first-hand what it means to have the flexibility and
equality as others do in the workplace,” Lahman said at a press conference at
Metro’s office. “This is just a fantastic day and I’m so proud that Metro is
able to do the right thing.”
is the first employer to say it will use Cincinnati’s domestic partner registry
if the initiative passes next week in City Council. Should it pass, Cincinnati
will be the 10th city in Ohio to have a domestic partner registry.
John Cranley and City Councilman Chris Seelbach attended the press conference
and spoke in support of the move.
called it “symbolically and substantively right” and during the
announcement shared a memory in honor of Maya Angelou, her poem “On the Pulse
of Morning” at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
ended it with ‘Good morning,’” Cranley said. “I think this is a good morning
for Cincinnati, a new day.”
of Cincinnati’s major employers, including Procter & Gamble, Kroger and
Macy’s offer same-sex and domestic partner benefits.
said while those companies already have systems to evaluate domestic
partnerships, the registry will give other companies like Metro an easy way to
provide those benefits.
are now leaders in the nation and the region to make sure everyone is welcome
in our city, regardless of who they love,” Seelbach said. “Everyone should
bring their full self to their workplace and be able to do that with health
benefits for their partners.”
said while Metro is the first to say it will use the registry, other companies
like Cincinnati Bell have expressed interest.
is a nonprofit tax-funded public service of the Southwestern Ohio Regional
Transit Authority (SORTA) with around 850 employees.
of SORTA’s executive statements says the organization is committed to a work
environment that “promotes dignity and respect for all.”
Chair Jason Dunn said SORTA’s commitment to inclusion is a great business
shows that we value our employees,” Dunn said. “It shows that not only is Metro
on the cutting edge of transportation but also making sure we are open to
talent and we are open to retaining great talent in our system.”
partners with a valid marriage license, same-sex partners registered by a
government entity and same-sex partners with a sworn affidavit will be
recognized by Metro for domestic partner benefits, which will take effect
January 1, 2015.
Mayor Cranley insists the future of bike-friendliness is not in Cincinnati's planned on-street infrastructure
6 Comments · Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Mayor John Cranley’s sudden steering of
Cincinnati’s bike plan off-street has forced cycling advocates and
administrators to regroup and refocus their attempts to move the city in
a more bike-friendly direction.
by Anthony Skeens
at 04:02 PM | Permalink
Council support changes city manager's mind about going back to fossil fuels
City Manager Scott Stiles today announced his intention to keep Cincinnati’s
electricity green after City Councilman Chris Seelbach rallied a majority of
council to oppose Stiles’ earlier plan to go back to using conventional fossil
fuels to light and heat the city.
Cincinnati will continue using 100-percent renewable-backed energy from First
city signed on with First Energy in 2012, making Cincinnati the largest metropolitan
are in the country to use 100-percent renewable energy.
was expected to sign the three-year contract with First Energy Solutions today,
according to city spokeswoman Meg Olberding.
and other council members convinced Stiles to change his mind about the
contract, Olberding says.
also added that First Energy told Stiles it would allow any customer who wants
to save the additional $5.63 annual savings of conventional energy to opt-out
of the green energy agreement.
green energy plan is estimated to save customers $43.58 compared Duke’s
65,000 households and small businesses will continue using First Energy unless
they choose to retain another energy supplier.
will also institute a green energy fee of $.006 on each electric bill as part
of a program he’s developing that will help local business owners and residents
equip their homes or offices with energy-saving solutions. The program will be
run by the Office of Environment and Sustainability.
St. Patrick's Day Parade boots pro-gay anti-bullying organization for the second year straight
2 Comments · Wednesday, March 12, 2014
after being booted out of Cincinnati’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade over
its pro-gay platform, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network
(GLSEN) has been banned again this year — along with all politicians.
by German Lopez
Anti-P&G protesters face court, 3CDC to resolve project, mayor denies politics in board pick
A group of Greenpeace protesters face burglary and vandalism charges after a stunt yesterday on
the Procter & Gamble buildings. Protesters apparently teamed up with a helicopter to climb
outside the P&G buildings to hang up a large sign criticizing the
company for allegedly enabling the destruction of rainforests in
Indonesia by working with an irresponsible palm oil supplier. P&G
officials say they are looking into the protesters’ claims, but they
already committed to changing how they obtain palm oil by 2015.Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) will step in
to resolve the status of a downtown grocery and apartment tower
project. The previous city administration pushed the project as a means
to bring more residential space downtown, but Mayor John Cranley refuses
to pay to move a tenant in the parking garage that needs to be torn
down as part of the project. Following Cranley and Councilman Chris Seelbach’s request for 3CDC’s help, the development agency will recommend a
path forward and outline costs to the city should it not complete the
project.Meanwhile, the tenants in the dispute announced today that
they will sue the city to force action and stop the uncertainty
surrounding their salon business.Cranley insists politics were not involved in an
appointment to the Cincinnati Board of Health, contrary to complaints
from the board official the mayor opted to replace. Cranley will replace
Joyce Kinley, whose term expired at the end of the month, with Herschel
Chalk. “Herschel Chalk, who(m) I’m appointing, has been a long-time
advocate against prostate cancer, who's somebody I’ve gotten to know,”
Cranley told WVXU. “I was impressed by him because of his advocacy on behalf
of fighting cancer. I committed to appoint him a long time ago.”The costs for pausing the streetcar project back in
December remain unknown, but city officials are already looking into
what the next phase of the project would cost.Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s must fully pay for rent and fees by March 10 or face eviction.Through his new project, one scientist intends to “make 100 years old the next 60.”Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Mayor blocks downtown development, city leaders push for Google Fiber, budget gap grows
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 reports.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Preschool could save money, domestic partner registry coming, mayor seeks inclusion
Universal preschool could save Cincinnati $48-$69.1
million in the first two to three years by ensuring children get through
school with less problems and costs to taxpayers, according to a
University of Cincinnati Economics Center study. The public benefits
echo findings in other cities and states, where studies found expanded
preschool programs generate benefit-cost ratios ranging from 4-to-1 to
16-to-1 for society at large. For Cincinnati and preschool advocates,
the question now is how the city could pay for universal preschool for
the city’s three- and four-year-olds. CityBeat covered universal preschool in further detail here.Cincinnati leaders intend to adopt a domestic partner
registry that would grant legal recognition to same-sex couples in the
city. Councilman Chris Seelbach’s office says the proposal would
particularly benefit gays and lesbians working at small businesses,
which often don’t have the resources to verify legally unrecognized
relationships. Seelbach’s office says the registry will have two major
requirements: Same-sex couples will need to pay a $45 fee and prove
strong financial interdependency. In a motion, the mayor and a
supermajority of City Council ask the city administration to structure a
plan that meets the criteria; Seelbach’s office expects the full
proposal to come back to council in the coming months.Mayor John Cranley plans to take a sweeping approach to
boosting minority inclusion in Cincinnati, including the establishment
of an Office of Minority Inclusion. The proposal from Cranley asks the
city administration to draft a plan for the office, benchmark inclusion
best practices and identify minority- and women-owned suppliers that
could reduce costs for the city. The proposal comes the week after
Cranley announced city contracting goals of 12 percent for women-owned
businesses and 15 percent for black-owned businesses.Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminated early voting
on Sundays with a directive issued yesterday. Husted’s directive is
just the latest effort from Republicans to reduce early
voting opportunities. Democrats say the Republican plans are voter suppression, while
Republicans argue the policies are needed to establish uniform early
voting hours across the state and save counties money on running
elections.The Butler County Common Pleas Court ruled Tuesday that
the village of New Miami must stop using speed cameras. Judge Michael
Sage voiced concerns about the administrative hearing process the
village used to allow motorists to protest or appeal tickets.Ohio officials expect to get 106,000 Medicaid applications through HealthCare.gov.The first shark ray pups born in captivity all died at the Newport Aquarium.
Rising home prices might lead to more babies for homeowners.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Seelbach touts measure to boost Cincinnati’s LGBT inclusion score
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.