by German Lopez
135 days ago
Streetcar decision today, city's streetcar costs could grow, city manager nomination delayed
City Council plans to vote
today on 11 ordinances that would indefinitely pause the $132.8 million
streetcar project while council members review and weigh the costs of
cancellation versus the costs of completion. The measures are expected
to pass. Because they each allocate at least $100,000 in funding, the
ordinances are not susceptible to referendum. Although Mayor John
Cranley repeatedly defended the “people’s sacred right of referendum” in
opposition to the parking privatization plan while on the campaign trail, he
now says he doesn’t want the city to be forced to continue spending on
the streetcar project he adamantly opposes until November 2014, as would
be required under a traditional referendum.
If a 1930 Ohio Supreme Court ruling applies, Cincinnati could be responsible
for paying to move utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks,
but the city might be able to charge some of those costs back to utility
companies, according to a newly disclosed 2011 memo from a city
attorney to former City Manager Milton Dohoney. The memo is the latest
twist in the ongoing legal battle between Duke Energy and the city over
who has to pay $15 million to move utility lines for the streetcar
project. If the city loses the case, the cost of the project could climb
from $132.8 million to $147.8 million. But it’s still unclear how much
the 1930 case applies, given that the 1930 streetcar system was owned by
a private company and the 2016 version would be owned by the city.Editorial from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Pausing streetcar same as killing it.”
Mayor Cranley and City Council agreed to delay
a vote on Willie Carden’s nomination for city manager to
give council members enough time to meet with the candidate one-on-one
and “digest” ordinances for his nomination. The nomination of Carden,
who currently heads the Parks Department, has been plagued by some
controversy because of Carden’s decision to live outside Cincinnati,
which violates the rules set by the city charter for the city manager, and recently uncovered ethics issues in which Carden wrongfully took pay from both the private Parks Foundation and city.
City Council also delayed voting on new rules for a week
to give council members more time to analyze and discuss the rules.
Until then, City Council will operate under the standard Robert's Rules
of Order. One possible change to the rules would increase the time given to public
speakers during committee meetings from two to three minutes.Watch Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld outmaneuver Mayor Cranley here.
The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday unanimously dismissed
a request to compel JobsOhio to disclose various documents. The court
argued that state law passed by Republican legislators largely exempted
JobsOhio from public record requests, which means the privatized
development agency can keep most of its inner workings secret.
Republicans argue the agency’s secretive, privatized nature is necessary
to quickly establish business deals around the state, while Democrats
claim the anti-transparency measures make it too difficult to hold
JobsOhio accountable as it uses taxpayer dollars.
The addition of measures that would create state and county councils to help get people off Medicaid ruined some of the bipartisan efforts behind Medicaid overhaul legislation,
but Republican legislators still intend to bring the legislation to an
Ohio House vote today. Republicans argue the controversial
amendments merely update the “framework” under which counties can
streamline efforts to get people off public assistance programs. But
Democrats say the last-minute measures might have unintended
consequences, including one portion that might give the state council
the ability to change — and potentially weaken — Medicaid eligibility
An Ohio Senate bill would revamp and reduce teacher evaluation requirements
to make them less costly and burdensome for school districts. The
current standards require an annual evaluation of any Ohio teacher rated
below “accomplished” and, according to some school districts, create
high costs and administrative burdens that outweigh the benefits.
For the second time in two weeks, Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter left court in an ambulance after supposedly passing out in court. Hunter faces increasing pressure from higher courts to rule on long-stalled cases.
A 9-year-old boy who was abandoned by his adoptive parents in Butler County allegedly threatened to kill his adoptive family.
Here is how bars are using cutting-edge technology to make better drinks.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
It’s difficult to consider the Cincinnati
Bengals to be one of the NFL’s more innovative franchises — aside from
winning the most lopsided stadium deal in the history of football and
then hiring the guy who negotiated it for the county, the team is really
only known for losing Super Bowls to the 49ers and a funny 1990s
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 19, 2013
SUNDAY JUNE 16: The Muppets from Sesame Street
today introduced a new character named Alex whose father is
incarcerated. Since we live in the nation that imprisons a higher
percentage of its populace than any other in the goddamned world, it
makes sense to reduce the stigma attached to this aspect of our society.
by Hannah McCartney
Four Ohio energy providers earn spot on Pear Energy's "Dirty Dozen"
Cincinnati's main gas and electricity provider, Duke Energy, has scored a No. 1 ranking, but it's not exactly one you'll be wanting to clap your hands about. Remember when we blogged a couple of weeks ago about how Greater Cincinnati has some of the worst air pollution in the nation? Yep, the American Lung Association's report, "State of the Air," gave us an "F" for ozone pollution, a "D" for 24-hour particle pollution and a "fail" for year-round particle pollution. That put us at the 10th worst spot in the country for year-round particle pollution and 14th worst for ozone pollution. Solar and wind energy provider Pear Energy, which currently operates in all 50 states, released yesterday its "Dirty Dozen" compilation, a list of the 12 utility providers emitting the greatest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a type of greenhouse gas. CO2 emissions, of course, are the gunk released into our atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels like gas, coal or oil. Excess CO2 in our atmosphere is directly linked to global warming. Coming from a company that wants to sell you energy itself, it's good to approach the list with a little skepticism, but the methodology seems transparent; according to the website, all rankings were determined by total CO2 emissions in 2010 of power producers with retail operations that have carbon intensities above the national average emissions rate (stats were sourced from Environmental Protection Agency data). While Duke Energy was pinpointed as the nation's worst offender, several other Ohio energy providers also earned accolades, including American Electric Power (No. 2), NRG (No. 8) and First Energy (No. 11). First Energy is the utility provider that in 2012 partnered with Duke Energy locally to bring Cincinnati an electric aggregation program, allegedly useful for both lowering electricity rates and increasing use of renewable energy sources with group buying power. Last month, CityBeat covered allegations that First Energy was focused on weakening energy efficiency standards under Ohio's Clean Energy Law, supposedly to protect prices from shooting up for its customers.
by German Lopez
Council combats human trafficking, Medicare reveals price data, Duke tops 'Dirty Dozen'
With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem.
The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human
trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more
surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a
notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who
spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will
serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other
prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp
Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars
depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care
advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of
transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set
prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.
Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter
in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings
looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global
warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes
with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the
rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency data.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Voter Suppression Tactics.”
City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement,
Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional
zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of
cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable
places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of
Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program
that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details
of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of
the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state
time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded,
it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education
programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.
Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion,
which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half
a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars
in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report
yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and
electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy.
The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies
to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.
The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.
Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.
They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
A Washington school principal canceled classes on Friday,
May 3 for a “sun-day” to “celebrate an exceptionally nice day of the
spring season,” according to a letter he sent home to students and
parents. WORLD +1
by Hannah McCartney
Mallory announces construction to begin in April on track for 2015 completion
Another hurdle in the ongoing struggle to make the streetcar a reality was bypassed today, when Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. announced that after months entangled in a gridlock, Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati have finally reached an agreement over who will pay for the relocation of utility lines. Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.The city broke ground on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but the skirmish between Duke and the city delayed further development — Duke refused to begin any kind of construction before financial responsibility was determined. The reconciliation contains two separate agreements, one of which outlines how Duke will safely operate its utilities once the streetcar is in place. The other demarcates how Duke and the city will resolve the issue of financial responsibility; they've both agreed to abide by the court ruling after any appeals are exhausted. "The utilities' agreements are in place, the cars are being ordered and
the construction bids are coming in," announced Dohoney. Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016. In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a
challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of
meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and
effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and
allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain
Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.” At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs. CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.
by Andy Brownfield
Measures front Duke $15 million, add utility responsibility to move lines to city code
Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday approved a set of
measures to alter funding of the $110 million streetcar project in order
avoid further delaying its 2015 opening.
The three measures set up $15 million to front to Duke
Energy to move utility lines out of the proposed path; changes the
source of funding to repay some $25 million in bonds used to pay for the
streetcar; sells $14 million in bonds for streetcar improvements; and
changes the municipal code to clarify that it is the responsibility of a
utility to relocate its structures.
The $15 million comes from the $37 million sale of city-owned land near the former Blue Ash Airport.
Council voted 6-3 to approve the front money, improvement
bonds and bond repayment, a vote that largely mirrored a Monday Budget
and Finance Committee vote. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole
“no” vote on the ordinance to change the municipal code.
Councilmembers Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Roxanne
Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson voted to pass
funding, while Councilmembers Smitherman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Charles
Winburn voted against.
“My concern with all of these votes … in particular the
Blue Ash Airport dollars, these were promises that you made to the
neighborhoods and I don’t have the confidence that the legal battle
against Duke Energy is going to yield a 100 percent win for the city of
Cincinnati, so there’s no assurance that these dollars are going to come
back,” said Councilman Chris Smitherman, one of the most vocal
opponents of the streetcar.
“I want to be clear that it’s something that I don’t support.”
The $15 million would be fronted to Duke to move its lines
while the city and utility work out who is responsible for funding the
Duke estimates the full cost at $18 million and argues
that the lines would not have to be moved if the streetcar wasn’t being
built. The city maintains that it has always been the responsibility of
utilities to move or upgrade their structures — which the third measure
clarified in the municipal code. If the city loses a legal battle against Duke, it will not
recoup the $15 million.
The second proposal switches the source of funding for
streetcar bonds from money coming into city coffers from southern
downtown and the riverfront area to a 1995 fund set up to collect
service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks. The measure wouldn't use any additional new money for the streetcar.
That downtown area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as
expected but the city hopes to repay the other fund once the downtown
district — which includes the Banks and the casino — rebounds.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 19, 2012
THURSDAY SEPT. 13: Amanda Bynes, once named one of Teen People’s
“25 Hottest Stars Under 25” got herself into hot water today after
paparazzi filmed her driving around for hours while hitting a marijuana
pipe that looks like a car lighter.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 19, 2012
The $110 million streetcar project’s opening is being delayed by more than a full year — from spring 2014 to summer 2015.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, attributes the delay to “a number of scheduling issues.”