0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
City Solicitor John Curp on Aug. 15
rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of
Cincinnati over changes made to the city’s parking lease without City
Council’s explicit approval.
by German Lopez
111 days ago
Posted In: News
at 08:17 PM | Permalink
City solicitor says conservative group's previous lawsuit forced changes
City Solicitor John Curp on Aug. 15 rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the city's parking lease without City Council's explicit approval.With Curp's denial, the conservative group behind the request — the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) — is now legally able to once again sue the city over its plans to lease Cincinnati's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. It would be the second time COAST has taken major legal action over the parking plan.In a letter to COAST's attorney, Curp writes that the two changes COAST called "significant and material" in its July 17 letter were shifts in dates and time limits that were necessary because a previous lawsuit from COAST forced the city to delay implementation of the parking lease for more than two months. In other words, COAST is trying to use the delays it forced to stop the parking lease once again.Curp also argues in his letter that the lease gave the city manager the power to make changes that keep the lease "substantially in the form" approved by Council and authorizes city officials to "take all necessary and proper actions" to carry out the lease. Curp writes the disputed changes were within those terms.In response to Curp's denial, COAST member and attorney Chris Finney told The Cincinnati Enquirer that COAST will pursue another lawsuit against the parking lease if Council doesn't vote on the disputed changes. Although a majority of Council now says it opposes the parking lease, Mayor Mark Mallory has said he will hold any legislation trying to repeal or undo key elements of the deal. Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92
million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according
to city estimates. Private operators will also be tasked with modernizing Cincinnati's parking assets so parking meters can accept credit cards and payment through a smartphone.Supporters of the parking lease argue it's necessary to leverage the city's parking assets for development projects and modernize the city’s parking
services.Opponents say the lease gives
up too much public control over the city’s parking assets
and will hurt local residents and businesses by causing meter rates and operation
hours to go up.The parking plan has been engulfed in political controversies since it was first unveiled by the city manager in October. Most recently, the city administration withheld a memo that was critical of the plan from the public, City Council and Port Authority — a move that triggered outrage about the administration's lack of transparency.
by German Lopez
111 days ago
City refuses parking lease challenge, Qualls calls for transparency, Kasich losing in new poll
City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group
that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the
city’s parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp
wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed
to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms
and only made because COAST’s previous lawsuit forced the city to delay
leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have
been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion
calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting
requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials,
lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post
the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a
statement that the update is particularly timely because the
Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2
billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably
involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses
New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now
stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents
still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t
sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is
affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the
2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results.
Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley
that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The
trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar
to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major
garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton
County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval,
it could get federal funding.
Investors are upset with SoMoLend,
the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state
investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that
the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the
state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati
announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans.
Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com.
The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here.
Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants
permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break
state and federal laws.
Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill
currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has
been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was
acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old
Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law,
which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal
defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated.
Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market.
Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 24, 2013
A conservative organization is
threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its
parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 08:58 PM | Permalink
Conservative group claims city manager exceeded authority with changes
In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager made “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after City Council approved the deal in March. That, the letter states, exceeds the city manager’s authority.The two changes in question: First, the city changed the original June 30 deadline for issuing bonds that will finance the deal to a less specific 90-day period that will kick in once the agreement is in full effect. Second, the city added sections that allow the Port to review and potentially terminate the lease within 75 days.The changes were made after another legal challenge delayed the lease’s implementation.The letter asks City Solicitor John Curp to review the allegations and sue the city. If he doesn’t, COAST would gain the legal standing necessary under Ohio law to sue the city by itself.“The law requires that before a lawyer can sue the city and ask taxpayers to pay his fees he must send a letter of this type,” Curp explained in an email.Curp also wrote that the city will review the allegations and respond within a month.“Today’s letter is an attempt to comply with part of the legal process that would allow the authors to claim attorneys fees from taxpayers,” he wrote. “The Law Department will review the issues raised, attempt to engage the authors constructively and respond appropriately. The policy of the Law Department is to defend aggressively against claims from lawyers that seek taxpayers dollars to fund their litigation against the City of Cincinnati.”COAST is pursuing the legal challenge as a longtime critic of the parking lease. The organization supported the previous lawsuit against the lease, which an appeals court struck down. The letter comes in the middle of another controversy over a June 20 memo that the city administration kept from the public, Port Authority and City Council for three-plus weeks, until council members and media outlets enquired about it. The
memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the lease agreement.
Port and city officials argue the memo made technical errors and used
outdated information.Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates.Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s needed to raise funds for development projects and modernize the city’s parking services. Opponents say the lease gives up too much control over the city’s parking meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown by causing meter rates and operation hours to go up.
by German Lopez
Board of Elections looking into anonymous video, but no formal challenge filed
A YouTube video
posted Sunday suggests that some of the parking plan referendum petition
signatures might have been gathered without a legitimate witness, but city
and county officials are so far unsure whether the video, which was posted anonymously, will amount to
much.Under Ohio law, petitions require signatures from both a supporter, who must reside in Cincinnati in the case of parking petitions, and a witness, who must be an Ohio resident and witness the act of someone signing the petition. The video shows what seems to be parking petitions placed on business counters with limited supervision — potential evidence that some of the parking petitions were signed without a witness present.
Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic
Party and Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the Board of
Elections is currently looking into what process needs to be followed as a result of the video.
Traditionally, Burke says, someone has to file a challenge,
which would then be investigated by the board. At that point, the board
would rely on subpoenas to get testimony from witnesses to determine
whether their petitions were valid.
“Under oath, circulators are likely to tell us the truth,”
Burke says. “Did you witness all the signatures on that parking petition? If he says no or she says no, ... then none of those
signatures are valid.”But Burke says it’s so far unclear whether that process will happen.
“The video is interesting, but it doesn’t prove anything,”
he says. “Any challenger would have to link each one of those shots in
the video to specific petitions that were signed by the circulator of
the petition that was on those counters.”
Even if someone did bring a challenge, it would
require nearly 4,000 invalid signatures to halt the parking plan referendum effort.
Yesterday, the Board of Elections announced the referendum effort had
gathered 12,446 valid signatures — considerably more than the 8,522
“Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be
more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond
those five or six sights shown in the video,” Burke says.Circulators who mishandled the process would
not face charges; instead, the signatures would simply be
discarded, according to Burke.
City Solicitor John Curp says the city’s law department is
taking “no side on whether there’s a vote,” and the city administration
has not taken action based on the video.
Curp says he would like to confirm whether those are parking petitions and if the video is factual in its presentation.
“If those were parking petitions, that was certainly troubling,” he says. “I hope this gets worked out in a timely manner.”
The parking plan would lease the city’s parking assets to
the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the city’s
operating budget deficits for the next two years and fund development
projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents say they’re concerned the plan will lead to
higher parking rates and extended hours that will hurt the local
economy. With 12,466 valid signatures, their referendum effort is
expected to culminate in a vote this November.
City officials previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters.
The full video is embedded below:
by German Lopez
City officials warn of budget cuts, budget woes pinned on Kasich, fracking causes earthquake
Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city.
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of
a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal
year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said
the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the
possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to
expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was
previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects,
but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a
referendum effort is complete.
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern,
chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only
reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police
and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars
to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati
struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again,
proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help
pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his
proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will
see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.”
Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose
$40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.
A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake.
The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an
earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection
wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat
covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water
underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.
In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits.
In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits,
ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in
The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way
for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his
experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration,
but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and
State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote
— a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill
was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing
opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green
State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly
support the idea.
A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.
Headline: Man accused of using fake penis for drug test.
New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.
Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:15 PM | Permalink
City manager says he's already made preparations for layoff notices
Speaking at a press conference today, city officials did
not mask their contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold
earlier in the day, saying it will force the city to make cuts and layoffs to
balance the 2014 budget and potentially eliminate the passage of
The press conference was in response to a ruling
from Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler, which opened the parking plan
to referendum and ordered a permanent injunction on the plan pending any referendum effort. City Solicitor John Curp said the city is appealing
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
explained the city will now have to close a $25.8 million shortfall in
the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. Dohoney said he has already ordered city departments to begin
preparations for Plan B, which will lay off 344 employees, including 80
firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance projected deficits.
“Part of the irony is we're swearing in a recruit class tomorrow,” he said, then shook his head. “Too bad.”
In addition to meeting the July 1 budget deadline, the city has to expedite some layoff notices to meet union contracts, which typically require a notice 30 days in advance.
Curp said the ruling also poses significant legal challenges that will hinder the city’s ability to expedite legislation with emergency clauses. Emergency clauses are often used by City Council to remove
a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, and the city argues they also
remove the ability to referendum.
The layoffs could be retroactively pulled back if the city
wins in appeals courts or if the referendum effort fails to gather
“Don't sign the petition,” Mallory said. “If you sign a petition, you're laying off a cop or firefighter.”
Dohoney said the delays make the city look
sluggish — an image that he says the city has been trying to overcome.
“One of the criticisms I’ve gotten is that this city takes too long to
get deals done,” he said. “This complicates that.”
City Council approved the parking plan to lease the city’s
parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund
development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the plan argued that there were alternatives
that did not involve laying off cops or firefighters. Councilman Chris
Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino
revenue to help balance the deficit, cut $5 million based on the results
of the city's priority-driven budgeting process and put two charter
amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a
$10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2
At the press conference, Mallory called the alternatives
“unworkable.” He said Plan S in particular does not work because it
relies on a ballot initiative that would have to be voted on in
November. “We don’t have until November,” he said.
Opponents say they’re concerned the parking plan will
cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say
will lead to a spike in parking rates.
The city says rate increases are initially capped at 3
percent or inflation — whichever is higher — but the rates can change
with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city
manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee
would be made up of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one
appointed by the city manager.
In the legal proceedings, the two sides are arguing whether emergency
clauses eliminate the ability to hold a referendum on legislation. Opponents of the
parking plan, headed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), say the city charter is ambiguous with its definition of
emergency clauses, and legal precedent demands courts side with voters’
right to referendum when there’s ambiguity.
Supporters of the parking plan cite state law, which says emergency legislation is not subject to referendum. Terry
Nestor, who represented the city in the court hearings, said legal precedent requires the city
to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the
Winkler sided with opponents of the parking plan in his
decision. He wrote in his ruling, “If the people of Cincinnati had
intended to exempt emergency legislation from their referendum powers,
they could have done so when adopting Article II, Section 3 of the City
Mallory says the city is not disputing voters’ right to
referendum in a general sense; instead, he says the city needs to expedite
the budget process to balance the budget before fiscal year 2014.City officials say the parking plan is necessary largely because of Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts, which Dohoney previously said cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in annual revenues (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20). Opponents argue Cincinnati had structurally imbalanced budgets years before Kasich took office, but the city says Kasich’s policies have made the situation much worse.The parking plan is one of the few issues dividing Democratic
mayoral candidates John Cranley and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Cranley opposes the plan, while Qualls supports it.
by Hannah McCartney
Threat of lawsuit next phase in Anna Louise Inn dispute
Financial giant and Lytle Park bully Western & Southern has accused city officials and other Anna Louise Inn advocates of repeatedly deceiving the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to obtain federal funds for the long-awaited, $13 million renovations to the Inn.
Those renovations are the same ones that have been blocked over and over by a series of legal entanglements initiated by Western & Southern, which tried to purchase the Inn back in 2009 for $1.8 million, refusing to buffer the Inn's $3 million price tag. In 2011, the Hamilton County Auditor valued the plot at $4 million.
Now, the corporate giant, which owns a number of other plots of land in Lytle Park, wants to buy the Inn and convert it into an upscale hotel.
Western & Southern’s lawyer, Glenn Whitaker, sent a letter obtained by CityBeat dated March 19 to City Solicitor John Curp accusing city officials of knowingly violating the federal Fair Housing Act by allowing the owner of the Inn, Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB), to pursue federal funding for renovations while providing services to exclusively women in need, which the letter alleges would “discriminate on the basis of gender” and “expose the City to liability under both the federal False Claims Act and the FHA.”
“We share this with you because — no matter where one stands on whether ALI’s renovations comply with Cincinnati Zoning Code — it is in the public interest for the City to avoid a lawsuit that could lead to a significant payout in today’s budget environment,” reads the letter.
Of course, that lawsuit is one that would be entirely fabricated and launched by Western & Southern, on top of years worth of zoning violation allegations that, so far, have failed to gather much merit.Some women-only shelters are deemed permissible due to safety issues, but in the letter, Whitaker alleges that the renovation plans expose ALI to discrimination liability by, in theory, making the safety issue moot by providing clear, separated spaces for men and women. The renovation plans include converting what are now dormitory-style units with shared bathrooms into private residences with private bathrooms and kitchens, according to the letter. Curp, who received the letter, says the city’s relationship with HUD is one that hinges on constant communication, and though Western & Southern's allegations were unexpected, they'll be taken seriously. “We work with them closely, we have a great relationship with HUD. They were the first organization we contacted when we got this letter, ... so they understood the nature of the allegations and because they’re one of our development partners. We have lots of development partners in the city, frankly, including Western & Southern. ... We're disappointed that the city has been pulled into what is otherwise a third-party dispute."
The letter also accuses a number of community members, including 3CDC, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Model Group, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and the YMCA of conspiring to move low-income residents from the Metropole to the Anna Louise Inn in order to ease litigation with the Homeless Coalition and make way for the new, upscale 21c Museum Hotel. John Barrett, Western & Southern’s CEO, is also on the board of 3CDC, which adds an extra element of mystery to the lodged accusations; at best, it seems extreme they'd be willing to accuse ally 3CDC of wrongdoing or conspiracy for the sake of a discrimination lawsuit against a nonprofit social services agency whose stated goal for more than 100 years has been to provide a haven for women in need. Ideally, explains Curp, HUD will respond equipped with some sort of past precedent that would absolve the city and the Inn of alleged discrimination and make the lawsuit irrelevant. "I think a lawsuit would be very much premature. ... Like I said, our first step is to talk to HUD and to make sure that between the both of us, we don’t see any discrimination or compliance issues. If there’s any chance of that ... after our review and a review by HUD, we will fix it to bring it into compliance," he says. "As I sit here today, I can't imagine this situation hasn't been dealt with in the past. I'd be shocked if HUD hasn't dealt with this in another community and come up with a set of guidelines for us to follow."