0 Comments · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Mayor-elect John Cranley, the newly
elected City Council and the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Nov.
12 agreed to eliminate the city’s parking plan once newly elected officials take
office in December.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:30 PM | Permalink
Port Authority and newly elected mayor and council agree to end deal
Mayor-elect John Cranley, the newly elected City Council and the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority on Tuesday agreed to eliminate the city’s plan to lease its parking
meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority once newly elected officials take office in December.But it remains unclear how much it will cost to terminate the plan, default on the lease agreement with the Port Authority and allow the Port to break its contracts with private companies that would have operated the assets under the deal.
The announcement follows the Nov. 5 election of Cranley and a City Council supermajority opposed to the parking plan.“It is a tremendously positive announcement for the city and its citizens that the current parking deal is now dead,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. “I was glad to help sound the alarm on this deal from the
beginning, but this victory ultimately belongs to the public, who were
instrumental in providing sustained public pressure. This has shown us that the public values its public
assets and wants long-term solutions to our financial challenges, not
Cranley and Sittenfeld were joined by
Councilman Christopher Smitherman, incoming council members Amy Murray
and David Mann and Port Authority CEO Laura Brunner for the
announcement. They discussed continuing the city’s partnership with the Port Authority, including the possibility of establishing a development fund for the agency.
Cranley also reiterated his intention to
pursue some of the development projects originally tied to the deal,
particularly the interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King
Drive. He also said the city will try to find other ways to leverage the city’s parking assets, including the possibility of stricter enforcement and better technologies.
From the start, opponents of the
parking plan claimed it gave up too much local control over the city’s
parking assets. The plan would have leased the assets to the Port
Authority — a local, city- and county-funded development agency — but the Port
planned to sign off operations to private companies from around the
The plan grew particularly controversial in July, after a previously concealed memo critical of the plan was leaked to media outlets and council members.
The city administration originally claimed the parking
plan — and the lump-sum payment it would produce — was necessary to
balance the city’s operating budget without laying off cops and
But when the plan was held up in court following the current
City Council’s approval on March 6, council managed to balance the
operating budget without layoffs by making cuts elsewhere, including
council members’ salaries, and tapping into higher-than-expected
City Council also managed to use alternative funding
sources to finance the development of a downtown grocery store and
luxury apartment tower at Fourth and Race streets, which city
administration officials originally touted as a major selling point of
the parking plan.
Still, city administration officials claimed the plan was necessary to
fund other development projects around the city, help balance the budget for the next two years and modernize the city’s parking assets so, for example, all parking meters would have the ability to accept credit card payments.
City Manager Milton Dohoney, a proponent of the parking
plan, also proposed using the lump-sum payment to pay for a parking
garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets. Under the original parking plan,
the Port Authority was supposed to pay for the garage; after the Port
Authority completed its review of the deal on Oct. 9, it backed down
from the commitment.
The Port Authority’s review also reduced the lump-sum payment to $85 million from $92 million.
Cranley and other critics said the reduction and the new $14-$15
million cost brought on by the parking garage effectively reduced the
upfront payment to $70-$71 million.
Without the parking plan, the planned projects will require new
sources of funding if they are to proceed. But to critics, the plan’s
dissolution is an intangible victory that has been months in the making.Updated with more details.
by German Lopez
Port advances parking plan, board could expand Medicaid, county to gauge tourist revenues
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended.
On Oct. 29, local residents will be able to give feedback
to Cincinnati officials about the city budget — and also nab some free
pizza. The open budgeting event is from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 29
at 1115 Bates Ave., Cincinnati.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Saturday approved bond sales and contract agreements
for the controversial parking plan. The approval is the final major
step necessary for the Port Authority and its private partners to take
over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages after the city leased
the assets to the nonprofit development agency earlier in the year. The
deal is supposed to raise $85 million in upfront funds and at least $3
million in annual payments for the city, which the city administration previously planned to use for development projects and operating budget gaps. But opponents of the deal say the city is giving up far too
much control over its parking assets, which they argue could cause
parking rates to skyrocket as private operators attempt to maximize
Ohio’s Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative panel, is expected to decide
today whether it will use federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid
program to more low-income Ohioans. Gov. John Kasich opted to bypass the
legislature and put the decision to the Controlling Board after months
of failing to convince his fellow Republicans in the Ohio House and
Senate to take up the expansion. But critics of the expansion have
threatened to sue the Kasich administration if it bypasses the
legislature. Under Obamacare, the federal government will pay for the
full expansion for the two years being considered; if Ohio ends up
accepting the expansion beyond that, the federal government will pay for
the entire expansion through 2016 then phase down its payments to an
indefinite 90 percent of the expansion’s cost. The Health Policy
Institute of Ohio previously found the expansion would generate $1.8 billion for the state and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
Hamilton County commissioners could consider today whether to use excess tourist tax revenues
on more funding for tourism-related infrastructure projects. The tourist tax was previously
used to help build the Cincinnati and Sharonville convention centers and fund the Convention and Visitors Bureau, but the county administrator intends to lay out more options in his meeting with commissioners.
In the mayoral race between Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley, black voters could make the big decision.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday warned about so-called sweetheart scams
in which a con artist develops a relationship with a victim, typically
through the Internet, before asking for money. The Attorney General’s
Consumer Protection Section has received about 70 complaints involving
the scams since October 2011, resulting in an average loss of more than
$14,000 with the highest reported loss coming in at $210,000, according
to the attorney general.
Ohio’s school chief ordered two Columbus charter schools to shut down for health and safety reasons and inadequate staffing.
Findlay Market is tapping into crowdsourcing to decide three new storefronts.
Ohio gas prices increased for the second week in a row.
A thermal wristband promises to keep the user’s body at the perfect temperature.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Bill restricts minor parties, parking contracts released, Pure Romance to get tax credits
A bill enacting new regulations on minor political party participation in state elections yesterday passed through the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate
despite objections from the Libertarian Party and other critics that
the bill will shut out minor parties in future elections. The bill now
needs approval from the Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich, who would
likely benefit from the bill because it would help stave off tea party
challengers in the gubernatorial election. The proposal was sponsored by
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority yesterday released drafts for contracts
with operators who will manage Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and
garages under the city’s parking plan, which leases the parking assets
to the Port Authority for at least 30 years. Xerox will be paid about
$4.5 million in its first year operating Cincinnati’s parking meters,
and it will be separately paid $4.7 million over 10 years to upgrade
meters to, among other features, allow customers to pay through a
smartphone. Xerox’s contract will last 10 years, but it can be renewed
for up to 30 years. The city administration says the parking plan will
raise millions in upfront money then annual installments that will help
finance development projects and balance the budget, but critics say the
plan gives up too much control of Cincinnati’s parking assets.
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee yesterday approved nearly $854,000 in tax credits over 10 years for Pure Romance
in return for the company coming to and remaining in Cincinnati for 20
years. The city administration estimates the deal will lead to at least
126 new high-paying jobs in downtown Cincinnati over three years and
nearly $2.6 million in net tax revenue over two decades. Pure Romance is
a $100 million-plus company that originally planned to move from
Loveland to Cincinnati with support from the state and city, but Gov.
John Kasich’s administration ultimately rejected state tax credits for
the company. Kasich’s administration says Pure Romance didn’t fit into
an industry traditionally supported by the state, but critics argue the
state government is just too “prudish” to support a company that includes sex
toys in its product lineup.
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST),
Cincinnati’s vitriolic tea party group, yesterday appeared to endorse John
Cranley, who’s running for mayor against Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.Ohio conservatives are defending their proposal to weaken the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates,
which environmentalists and businesses credit with spurring a boom of clean
energy production in the state and billions in savings on Ohioans’
electricity bills. State Sen. Seitz compared the mandates to “central
planning” measures taken in “Soviet Russia.” A study from Ohio State
University and Ohio Advanced Energy Economy found Ohioans will spend
$3.65 billion more on electricity bills over the next 12 years if the
mandates are repealed. CityBeat covered the attempts to repeal the mandates in further detail here and the national conservative groups behind the calls to repeal here.
Ohioans renewing their driver’s licenses or state ID cards will no longer be asked
whether they want to remain on the list of willing organ donors. The
move is supposed to increase the amount of participants in the state’s
organ donation registry by giving people less chances to opt out.
An Ohio Senate bill would ban red-light cameras.
Supporters of the traffic cameras say they deter reckless driving, but
opponents argue the cameras make it too easy to collect fines for the
most minor infractions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine awarded $17 million in grants to crime victims services around Ohio, including more than $49,000 to the Salvation Army in Hamilton County.
President Barack Obama is likely to appoint Janet Yellen to lead the Federal Reserve, which would make her the first woman to lead the nation’s central bank.
Lost in their smartphones and tablets, San Francisco train passengers didn’t notice a gunman until he pulled the trigger.
Scientists are bad at identifying important science, a new study found.
by German Lopez
Plan addresses blight and abandonment in eight Cincinnati neighborhoods
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and community partners on Monday unveiled the “Come Home Cincinnati” initiative, which promises to make vacant properties available to new occupants in an effort to increase homeownership and redevelop neighborhoods hit hardest by vacancy and abandonment.The goal is to establish a residential base that will help jumpstart private redevelopment and revitalize largely abandoned areas of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. “Just about a year ago, we were in Evanston to talk about their housing strategy for the Woodburn Avenue corridor and what to do about the 200 vacant and abandoned properties in the community,” Qualls said in a statement. “The next logical step on the path to revitalization is to incentivize private market investment in the residential core of our neighborhoods and help to fill the once-abandoned homes with new owner-occupants.” The initiative will work through the Hamilton County Land Bank, private lenders and community development corporations to connect potential homeowners with a pool of loan guarantees. Qualls’ office says the plan will likely require tapping into the city’s Focus 52 fund, which finances neighborhood projects. The Port Authority estimates the loan guarantee pool will be $2.5 million to $4.5 million and other aspects of the initiative will cost $3.3 million, but not all of the funding will come from the city. To qualify for the program, owner-occupants will have to meet minimum credit requirements, agree to live in the rehabilitated home for five years and pay for 5 percent of the total rehabilitation and acquisition costs as a down payment. After five years, the loan will be refinanced at the same or better interest rates to relinquish the city and its partners’ loan guarantee.The city is eyeing a few potential partners for the initiative, including the Cincinnati Development Fund, Cincinnati Preservation Association, the University of Cincinnati Urban Design Center and neighborhood-specific groups.The initiative will start with 100 homes in the pilot neighborhoods of Evanston and Walnut Hills, but it will expand to Avondale, College Hill, Madisonville, Northside, Price Hill and South Cumminsville as resources grow. It will work in conjunction with the Moving Ohio Forward demolition grant program, which allows the city and Hamilton County Land Bank to tear down blighted and vacant buildings.At the same time, three of the neighborhoods — College Hill, Madisonville and Walnut Hills — are currently trying out form-based code, a special kind of zoning code championed by Qualls that allows developers to more easily pursue projects as long as they stay within a neighborhood’s established goals.City Council will now need to approve a motion that gives the city administration 60 days to develop a plan and budget for the initiative. The city administration’s proposal will also require City Council approval.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on
Aug. 23 acknowledged that it will increase enforcement when it takes
over Cincinnati’s parking meters.
by German Lopez
Police program raises privacy issues, parking plan explained, streetcar project continues
With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial
recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer,
DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the
program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the
public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s
initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and
privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able
to abuse the new tool.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets
once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but
it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise
revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or
the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken
steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a
reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas.
The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time
injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents
of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s
parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking
rates and hours.
Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets
will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for
Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving
forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John
Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the
demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1
A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic
will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI
claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of
that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way.
Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary
Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to
provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation
funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals,
among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today
begins its first week back to school.
Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery.
Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than
Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has
stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by
half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average.
The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial.
NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
by German Lopez
Parking meter enforcement will go up, but Port says it's not for revenue
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today acknowledged that it will increase enforcement when it takes over Cincinnati's parking meters, but the agency says its goal is to encourage people to pay up, not raise revenues that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port Authority and the private operators it's hiring.In a much-awaited presentation, the quasi-public development agency rolled out board members and statistics to explain why the city should lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port, which will hire various private companies to operate the assets.Much of the controversy surrounding the lease has focused on enforcement, which critics argue will be ratcheted up under the deal. Port officials clarified that the deal will involve more enforcement officers and more aggressive tactics, but Laura Brunner, CEO of the Port, claimed there will be limits. For example, parking meters won't have built-in connectivity that allows officers to immediately detect when a meter is going unpaid, which means enforcers will have to make regular rounds and checks, just as they do today, before issuing a ticket.Lynn Marmer, a Port board member and vice chairwoman of Kroger, said increased enforcement is necessary because most people currently don't pay for the parking services they use. She blamed that on the city's dwindling enforcement for parking violations: The city handed out 65,000 tickets in 2012, down from 104,000 in 2008."I think it's unlikely we all got better at following the rules and paying fines," Marmer said.The Port doesn't expect enforcement to reach the levels of 2008 any time soon, but Brunner and others said that tickets will gradually rise once the Port Authority hands the parking meters over to private operators.One of those private operators is Xerox, which will manage Cincinnati's parking meters under the deal. The Port says it plans to establish a 10-year contract with Xerox, but the contracts will be reviewed quarterly to ensure the company is doing a good job. If not, the contract can be terminated.Port officials stated that Xerox will not get revenue based on stringent enforcement. Instead, the Port will regularly review Xerox based on a series of measurements that attempt to gauge how efficiently the company is running the city's parking meters.Port officials also reemphasized that parking meter enforcement hours in neighborhoods — meaning outside of downtown and Over-the-Rhine — will only last until 6 p.m., instead of 9 p.m. as originally called for in the plan. Downtown and Over-the-Rhine meters will still be extended to 9 p.m., although some areas on the edges of downtown, such as Broadway Street, are exempt and enforcement will only run through 6 p.m. in those places.The change for neighborhood meter hours will presumably lower how much Cincinnati gets from leasing its parking assets to the Port, but officials weren't ready to unveil exactly how much money the city will get. Previous city estimates put the lump sum at $92 million and annual installments at a minimum of $3 million, but that was before the Port's changes.Prepared statements show if the final lump sum falls under $85 million, the city manager will need to approve the changes before the Port can move forward with the deal.The decrease in hours also comes with a caveat: It will be possible for the city manager, Port and an independent board appointed by the Port and city manager to expand parking meter hours in the future. But such a change would require approval from all three governing bodies.Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who's running for mayor and opposes the parking lease, says the Port's presentation did nothing to address his concerns. Claiming that "the devil's in the details," Cranley pointed out that the Port still hasn't released the actual contracts or bond documents.Brunner said the documents should be released within a month, and the Port plans to give the public two weeks to review the details between the documents' release and the Port's final vote.Cranley argued that might not be enough time. He told CityBeat that the city "almost gave away" free Sunday and holiday parking under its original lease agreement. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld's office had to catch the error and refer it to the city administration before it was corrected.The Port's presentation was meant to wrap up the agency's due diligence of the parking lease as it approaches a Sept. 4 deadline. Going into the presentation, Marmer explained, "Frankly, we were more skeptical (of the parking lease) than neutral."Emails previously acquired by CityBeat back Marmer's skepticism. Writing to other Port officials in June, Marmer expressed concerns that the parking lease has been poorly handled and will snare the Port with controversy. "This whole parking issue has been a gigantic distraction from our core mission," she claimed.Supporters of the parking lease argue it's necessary to leverage Cincinnati's parking assets to pay for development projects that will grow the city's tax base. Opponents argue it will take too much control out of the city's hands, cause parking rates and enforcement to skyrocket and hurt businesses and residents.The parking lease has been engulfed in political controversy ever since it was announced in October. Most recently, the city administration was criticized for failing to disclose an independent consultant's memo that found the city was getting a bad deal from the lease. City officials argue the memo was outdated, so they didn't feel the need to release its details. With its due diligence nearly finished, the Port will now finalize contracts, update the financial model for the lease and vote on the bonds and contracts that will complete the deal. If all goes as planned, the Port's new system will be in place by April next year.This story was updated to clarify some wording and what parking meters will be enforced until 9 p.m.
How P.G. Sittenfeld found himself at the center of the city’s parking plan drama
2 Comments · Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was
one of the first to find out about a memo that’s spurred renewed calls
to halt the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages
to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.
by German Lopez
Ohio’s jobless rate unchanged, Port patches parking lease, anti-abortion bill returns
Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent in July, unchanged from June, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
The amount of employed Ohioans went up by 5,300 from month-to-month and
37,700 year-over-year, showing stronger signs of job growth than earlier in the year. But the amount of jobless Ohioans still looking for jobs went up by
3,000 between June and July. In the past year, the private
service-providing sector, education and health services and leisure and
hospitality have gained the most jobs, while local government and
construction jobs have plummeted.
The Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati proposed keeping neighborhood parking meter hours the same under a lease agreement with Cincinnati in which the city is handing over control of its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port and the agency is tasking private companies with operating the assets. Keeping the meter hours
the same as today, instead of expanding them as previously suggested,
would lower Cincinnati’s upfront lease revenue from $92 million
to $88.3 million and reduce annual payments, which were originally
projected at $3 million but estimated to go up over the life of the
lease. Still, the move would satisfy neighborhood residents and businesses who were worried the expanded hours would quickly become a financial hassle. CityBeat covered the parking lease and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.
Republican legislators are reintroducing a bill that would ban abortions in Ohio as early as six weeks after conception,
even though questions remain about the proposal’s constitutionality.
The bill has been dubbed the “heartbeat bill” because it prohibits
abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. A federal judge on July
22 blocked a similar law in North Dakota after deeming it
unconstitutional. “The United States Supreme Court has unequivocally
said that no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her
pregnancy at a point prior to viability,” wrote U.S. District Judge
Daniel Hovland, who was appointed to the District of North Dakota seat
by former President George W. Bush in 2002. Health experts generally
agree viability is not reached until 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
Part of the Cincinnati streetcar route could be operational in late 2015, much earlier than the Sept. 15, 2016 date the city previously announced for the entire track.
The Ohio Ethics Commission won’t investigate Gov. John Kasich’s relationship with a company
that received $619,000 in tax credits from JobsOhio because Kasich
supposedly made a clean break from the company upon taking office.
JobsOhio, the privatized development agency established by Kasich and
Republican legislators, has been mired in controversy in the past few
weeks for providing state aid to companies that have direct financial
ties to JobsOhio board members and the governor.
Meanwhile, Kasich is fueling speculation that he will run for president in 2016.
Cincinnati mayoral candidate and ex-Councilman John Cranley on Thursday unveiled an innovation plan
that he says will boost government transparency and help foster
Cincinnati’s newly gained reputation as a tech startup hub. The plan
would take $5 million in capital funds over four years and ask local
startup incubators Cintrifuse, The Brandery and CincyTech where they
would like to see the money going. It would also call for hiring a chief
innovation officer (CIO) and creating “CincyData,” a transparency
initiative that would gather and publish city data to create “a more
efficient, effective and user-friendly City government.” Under the plan,
both the CIO position and CincyData would be leveraged to find new ways
to carry out city services in the hopes of running the local government
Cincinnati Public Schools’ ratings are likely to dip
as the school district transitions into Common Core standards and a
new state report card system. Superintendent Mary Ronan says the
district is doing well but needs to work on getting kids’ reading scores
up to grade level. CityBeat originally covered the ratings drop here and some of the hurdles faced by CPS in the past few years here.
New data show the growth of health care costs is slowing down in the Cincinnati area.
Ohio will come up with a new plan to execute condemned inmates
no later than Oct. 4 to deal with the state’s expiring supply of drugs
used to carry out capital punishments. Specifics were not detailed in
Procter & Gamble is recalling dog and cat food because some of the product may be contaminated with Salmonella.
Science confirmed pulling out is a bad way to avoid pregnancy.