by Nick Swartsell
105 days ago
Posted In: News
at 10:17 AM | Permalink
City fights over public vs. private streetcar operation; Ohio to free man wrongly imprisoned for 40 years; is another government shutdown looming?
Hey all! Once again, I’m rushing toward a day of covering meetings and hearings, so let’s do this morning news thing in a “just the facts” fashion. First, about those meetings:Cincinnati City Council today is expected to pass the streetcar operating and funding plans after the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee gave it the thumbs up yesterday. That’s a big deal, considering the city had been working for months to figure out where the system’s $4 million yearly operating budget would come from. But the fighting isn’t over. Now there’s disagreement about whether Metro or a contractor should run the streetcar. It’s a classic private vs. public argument. Vice Mayor David Mann and a majority of council want the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority to do the work. Councilmembers Kevin Flynn and Amy Murray, on the other hand, would like to see SORTA take bids on operations from private companies to see what kind of savings contracting the work could yield. A consultant for the transit authority, TRA, has generated numbers saying that the city could save about $300,000 a year by going private. SORTA’s union has taken issue with those numbers, though, and say they could match a private company’s price. Council won’t consider Mann’s proposal until sometime after Thanksgiving, which means a couple more weeks for wrangling over the deal.City Council will also vote on a motion to name Third Street after Carl H. Lindner Jr., one of Cincinnati’s most towering business figures. That’s prompted some questions about Lindner’s legacy, specifically around LGBT issues. He gave millions to various causes around the city, but also had a darker side. Some, including Councilman Chris Seelbach, would like to take some time to get more public input on the move before putting his name on a prominent downtown street.• Hamilton County Commissioners are holding a public hearing over the county’s 2015 budget this morning. The budget has been controversial. The original proposal by County Administrator Christian Sigman called for a .25 cent tax increase to fund renovations of a former hospital in Mt. Airy, a boost Republican commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann batted down recently. The Mt. Airy site, donated to the county by Mercy Hospital, would hold a new, updated crime lab and coroner’s office, as well as the county board of elections and other offices. The coroner’s office and crime lab are in serious need of updates, officials say, and are running at less than full capacity. Without the tax boost, however, the budget will remain flat and many other offices, including the Sheriff’s Department, will face cuts. Monzel has said he’d like to have the budget passed before Thanksgiving, making this the last significant hearing on the issue.• Procter & Gamble has officially stepped up to publicly support same-sex marriage, the company said yesterday. While the company has had domestic partner benefits since 2001, this is the first time it’s made a public statement about the divisive issue. Though the announcement comes in the wake of a recent federal court decision upholding Ohio’s same-sex marriage amendment, the company says the move isn’t political, but is about supporting its employees and attracting the best possible talent. • Major Hollywood movies filming here in Cincinnati give the city an undeniable cool factor, but does that translate into an economic boon as well? A recent study by the UC Center for Economics Education & Research says yes. The state pitches big tax breaks to film production companies, but also get a big boost in the jobs and economic activity those films bring, the study says — 4,000 jobs and $46 million in economic activity in Cincinnati for $6.5 million in tax breaks. But the equation may be more complicated than that. According to this Business Courier blog post, when you take into account the state’s return on investment – how much of that $46 million is coming back in taxes — and alternative uses for the tax dollars spent. Interesting stuff and worth thinking about.• Ohio is about to free a prisoner wrongly convicted of murder almost 40 years ago. Ricky Jackson and two others were convicted of murdering a man in 1975 based on the eyewitness accounts of a single 12-year-old boy. That boy later recanted his testimony, saying he was "just trying to be helpful" to police by testifying. Jackson will be freed from jail Friday after a years-long legal battle aided by the Ohio Innocence Project. The Cleveland Scene first reported the story and drew attention the Jackson's plight.• Finally, are we headed for another government shutdown? There’s a showdown brewing over President Barack Obama’s use of executive action to ease deportations of undocumented immigrants. Hardline conservative Republicans want to tuck measures preventing the president from doing this into spending bills integral to the budget process, forcing Obama to either sign them or veto them and halt Congress’ approval of funds that keep the federal government operating. GOP congressional leadership, including House Speaker John Boehner and probable Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said last year’s shutdown was damaging for the party and that they will not abide by a repeat. But the GOP’s tea party-aligned right flank says they won’t rule out grinding the government to a halt again.
by Andy Brownfield
City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs
Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention
on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday
committee presentation on the 2013 budget.
It was the first opportunity council members had to
publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would
cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal
year starting in July.
Many council members expressed concern over the plan
to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking
meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.
“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities
net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about
$210 million over 30 years.
Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the
facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit,
for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.
Other council members expressed concern that whoever
leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas
“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.
Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue,
projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34
million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.
A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.
The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating
support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and
Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts
It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of
50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse
patrol would bring that closer to 40.
Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits
to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use
University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.
He said the police department would also look for ways to
save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could
do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had
considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long
been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying
staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is
The proposed budget also includes investments in business
groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority,
Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American
Chamber of Commerce.
Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget
team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six
years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on
people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.
“There is a focus on helping people make more money that
are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that
aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
by Andy Brownfield
Opponents argue unwise with looming deficit; Dohoney's last raise in 2007
City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus.
Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus
for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city
and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong
message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay
Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a
merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living
adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the
raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job.
Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it.
Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager,
saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them,
but the manager exceeded all of them.
“To do anything other than that
(approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a
statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to
give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big
The raise came from a performance review conducted by
Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council
Republican Charlie Winburn.
Winburn said the city manager’s financial management
system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has
expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for
the previous five years.
Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise.
“For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google
where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service.
This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.”
Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide.
Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether
it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an
estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the
raise would not hurt the budget.
Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the
manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes.
Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a
two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009.
Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations.
"Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”
by Andy Brownfield
Loan would help move three homeless shelters out of Over-the-Rhine
UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for
federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new
Council members voted with all but one approving the
application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the
Washington Park-area shelters.
If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would
move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount
Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined
Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the
shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20
Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice.
He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the
loan and the city’s ability to pay it back.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to
Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying
for the loan, but also voiced some concern.
“The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love
with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting
income diversity as well as racial and ethnic.
“I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop
that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low
income people out of Over-the-Rhine.”
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly
adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable
housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.
“Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982
and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,”
“Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters
were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had
failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”
by Bill Sloat
Posted In: Media
at 10:27 AM | Permalink
WCPO-TV’s parent corp. pledges to retain 184 jobs, add 125 more downtown
A deal is expected to be approved next week between E.W. Scripps Co. and Cincinnati could bring about $5.65 million in tax revenue to the city by 2018. It
also means that Scripps — which was founded here in the 1800s —
promises to expand and keep its corporate headquarters in Cincinnati for
at least 10 more years. The
media company currently resides in a downtown high-rise on Walnut
Street, and the growth will be in cyber content as it morphs for the
Internet Age. A City Hall document submitted to council in advance of next week’s meeting, says:“The
expansion downtown will be from the Scripps digital group that is
growing and gaining momentum with new product offerings, enhancements
and technology. These products will be developed for smart phones, tablets and computers. They
will include applications that push content from Scripps’ chain of
newspapers and TV stations and distribute new content to consumers in
cities that Scripps does not serve. The new jobs will include skills in sales, design, marketing and journalism.”In all, the payroll is expected to reach $30 million when the 125 new jobs are added. The agreement says Scripps will make “good faith efforts to fill at least 75 percent of the new jobs created” with city residents. Scripps owns 19 television stations and 13 newspapers across the U.S. It
used to publish the Cincinnati Post — the publication that started the
entire Scripps company — but that daily newspaper was shuttered in 2007
because of sharp declines in readership.
by German Lopez
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast last night. At
least 16 people are believed to have died from the storm, and as many
as 7.5 million were left without power. Areas of New York and New Jersey
also faced major flooding. It took until 4:30 a.m. for Sandy to go from
hurricane to tropical storm.
The Anna Louise Inn will be in court at 9 a.m. today arguing in front of the First District Court of Appeals, which could overturn a May ruling and allow the Inn to move forward with its renovation. CityBeat will have online coverage for the hearing later today.
Hamilton County’s probation department is facing
sexual harassment charges. The charges are coming from a county worker
who said her promotion was denied due to her actions “for opposing
discrimination and encouraging others to exercise their right to be free
from acts of discrimination.”
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
filed a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to reverse the August reworking of
the Blue Ash airport deal. For COAST, the lawsuit is mostly to stall or
stop the financing for the $110 million Cincinnati streetcar.
City Council will vote next week to decide whether
the city should borrow $37 million to fund development projects and a
portion of the Homeless to Homes program. But Homeless to Homes is
generating some concern due to its requirement to move three shelters.
Three Cincinnati charity groups are coming together to
help veterans with disabling injuries. The organizations will pool
available resources to hopefully find jobs for veterans.
Mitt Romney is running a new ad against President Barack
Obama in Ohio that says Chrysler is moving Jeep production to China. The
ad, which Chrysler says is false, warranted a snarky response from the
car company: “Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given
birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans
to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore
idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be
difficult even for professional circus acrobats.” The Obama team also
responded with its own ad. It is somewhat understandable Romney would be
getting a bit desperate at this point in the race. Ohio is widely
considered the most important swing state, but aggregate polling has
Romney down 1.9 points in the state. Romney is up 0.9 points nationally.
State Republicans are refusing to pull an ad that accuses
William O’Neill, Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, of
expressing “sympathy for rapists.” This is despite the fact that Justice
Robert Cupp, O’Neill’s Republican opponent, has distanced himself from
the ad. At this point, even the most nonpartisan, objectives watchers
have to wonder why the Republican Party can’t keep rape out of its
messaging. In comments aired first on Aug. 19, U.S. Senate candidate
Todd Akin of Missouri said on pregnancy after rape, “If it's a
legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole
thing down.” On Oct. 23, Richard Mourdock, the Senate candidate for
Indiana, said, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came
to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life
begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that
God intended to happen.”
Ohio is getting closer to the health exchange deadline
with no plan in sight. Obamacare asks states to take up health exchanges
that act as competitive markets for different health insurance plans.
States are allowed to either accept, let the federal government run the
exchanges or take a hybrid approach. As part of the health exchanges,
the federal government will also sponsor a heavily regulated nonprofit
plan that sounds fairly similar to the public option liberals originally
wanted in Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Ohio and other states still haven’t decided
whether they will be expanding their Medicaid programs. In the past,
state officials have cited costs as a big hurdle, but one study from
Arkansas found Medicaid expansions actually saved money by reducing the
amount of uncompensated care. Some states that expanded Medicaid also
found health improvements afterward.
An inspector at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was
caught not doing her job. The inspector was supposed to do 128 site
visits for in-person safety inspections, but she apparently never showed
up to some of the schools and filed fraudulent reports.
Peter Cremer North America could add 50 jobs in Cincinnati over three years in an expansion.
A San Francisco firm bought a major stake in Cincinnati Bell.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 26, 2012
City Council’s budget committee voted 6-3 Sept. 24 to use $29 million from other projects in part to move utility
lines and pipes to accommodate for streetcar tracks.
by Andy Brownfield
DNC causes first week's cancellations, Council to resume Sept. 19
After taking a two-month summer break — with a week for
some committee hearings and a council meeting — Cincinnati City Council
has canceled its meetings for the first half of September.
The council meetings for Sept. 6 and 12 have been
canceled, along with all committee meetings for the first week of
September and the Job Growth Committee meeting for Sept. 10.
Jason Barron, spokesman for Mayor Mark Mallory, said the
council meetings were canceled due to the Democratic National
Convention, which is occurring in the first week of September. Barron
said many of the Democratic officials in the city are delegates to the
Asked why the City Council meeting was canceled for the second week of September, Barron said he didn’t know.Council did meet once in August, where they approved a ballot measure to lengthen council terms from two to four years, as well as a plan to undo the sale of the Blue Ash airport.
All of the committee meetings for the week of the DNC were
canceled as well. Strategic Growth Committee chairwoman Laure Quinlivan
is not a delegate to the convention, but is attending, an aide said.
Council members Roxanne Qualls and Cecil Thomas, who chair
the Budget and Finance and Public Safety Committees respectively, did
not respond to CityBeat’s requests for comment as of Friday afternoon.
A special meeting of the Rules and Government Operations
Committee is meeting on Sept. 10 — the first committee meeting after the
summer break. An aide to committee chairman Wendell Young says the
committee is meeting to receive a report from a task force charged with
recommending ways to put grocery stores in so-called “food deserts” — neighborhoods where fresh food isn’t readily available.
The Livable Communities Committee and Major Transportation
& Infrastructure Sub-committee are meeting during the second week
of September, but the first full council meeting isn’t until the 19th.
Council still has a few big-ticket items it is expected
to deal with this year, including proposed budget cuts from City Manager
Milton Dohoney (expected to be laid out in November) and the approval
of a new city plan, which shifts development emphasis from downtown and
Over-the-Rhine to the city’s other 50 neighborhoods. More on that plan here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Nobody stood up for fracking in a July 31
City Council committee meeting that saw dozens of people urge council
to pass an ordinance banning injection wells within Cincinnati.
by Andy Brownfield
Wording tries to skirt ODNR oversight
Nobody stood up for fracking in today's City Council
committee meeting that saw dozens of people urge council to pass an
ordinance banning injection wells within Cincinnati.
All members of the Strategic Growth Committee voted in
favor of the proposed ordinance, with the exception of Councilman Chris
Seelbach, who was recovering after allegedly being assaulted in downtown Monday night.
If approved, the ordinance would prohibit injections wells
— which inject wastewater underground — from being allowed within city
limits. It now goes before the full council.
The practice is commonly associated with hydraulic
fracturing – or “fracking” — which uses chemical-laced water to drill
for oil and gas. Fracking fluid injected underground has been tied to a
dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio.
A 2004 Ohio law puts regulation of oil and gas drilling
under the state’s purview, preventing municipalities from regulating the
The wording of the proposed Cincinnati ordinance doesn’t
mention oil or gas drilling, which proponents say they hope will keep it
from clashing with the state law if it passes.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans tells CityBeat that injection wells also fall under ODNR’s purview.
She says she isn’t sure if the proposed Cincinnati ordinance would conflict with the state law.
“It’s very hard for ODNR to speculate on what might
happen,” she says, adding that there aren’t any injection wells or
applications for them in the Cincinnati area. “This may not be an issue
that’s ever tested.”
That didn’t stop the dozens of people who spoke in favor
of the ordinance at the committee meeting from erupting into applause
once the ordinance was approved.
Barbara Wolf, a documentarian who has made a video about
Cincinnati’s Water Works, said that the city has some of the cleanest
water in the world, and chemicals from hydraulic fracturing could
“We are studied by other countries,” Wolf said. “If it
(fracking fluid) goes into the Ohio River, we don’t know what the
chemicals are. It’s very hard to clean up chemicals if you don’t know
what they are. And that’s one of the things we do really well: clean up