by German Lopez
Parking debate continues, mayors work to bring manufacturing, voting bills pass legislature
City Council watered down Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to
just two proposals: upgrading parking meters and increased enforcement. Council and public opposition ultimately proved too much for increasing neighborhood rates and expanded evening hours at major hubs. The changes
mean less revenue for the city but reduced parking costs for
residents. Still, with the parking plan changing almost daily, it’s
unclear whether the current iteration will be the final proposal that
the Neighborhood Committee and City Council ultimately pass.Compare: Cranley’s original parking plan versus the parking privatization plan.Meanwhile, Xerox, the private operator that took over
Cincinnati’s parking meters in the parking privatization plan, proposed
its own version of a parking plan in which the company manages parking
meters while City Council retains control over setting hours, rates and
enforcement. Xerox says its plan will generate
more revenue. But Cranley rejected Xerox’s plan weeks ago.Commentary: “County Should Accept Responsible Bidder Law.”Cranley yesterday announced he’s partnering with Dayton
Mayor Nan Whaley to get a share of $1.3 billion in federal funds that
would help attract manufacturing. The two cities will compete as one
community for the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities
Partnership. The competition’s 12 winners will each receive part of
the $1.3 billion pot. Even if Cincinnati and Dayton don’t win, Cranley
said the competition will at least get them thinking about working
together as a community for manufacturing jobs.The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday
approved controversial election bills that reduce the state’s early voting period by one week and restrict
counties’ abilities to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot
applications. Democrats say the measures are meant to suppress voters,
but Republicans argue the changes are supposed to set uniform standards
across the state. At least one top Ohio Republican previously admitted the
measures were supposed to suppress voters, particularly “the urban —
read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Gov. John Kasich is now
the only person that stands between the bill becoming law.The city plans to undertake a pothole-fixing blitz in March.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will begin its
14-neighborhood rehabilitation plan in Evanston, where the agency will
target about 100 properties.With a “virtual online menu” and access to vocational
education in the seventh grade, Gov. Kasich says he wants to get Ohio students planning their careers much earlier.The Ohio House approved a plan that will give schools four
more calamity days — more popularly known as “snow days” — for the
current school year. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate and Kasich.U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown wants to close a loophole in
Medicare that costs seniors thousands of dollars in unexpected medical
bills.Quinnipiac University’s most recent poll found Ohioans
would choose Hillary Clinton over Kasich and other Republicans for
president.Whooping cough appears to be evolving in response to its vaccine.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comparing Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to the one he stopped in November
5 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
What's different between Mayor John Cranley's parking plan and the plan he helped kill in November?
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities
Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on
Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as
mayor of Cincinnati.
Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the
kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins
his term on Dec. 1.
Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he
already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build
more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix
of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent
starting in December.
One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133
million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members
oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing
construction for the project.
“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some
point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,”
Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the
clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going
in a different direction.”
But in response to recent reports
that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown
costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a
final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley
acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.
Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.
Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter
that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by
placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.
On the current city administration’s plan to lease the
city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and
Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a
way to cancel the deal.
But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement
already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port
works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance
the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.
Cranley also promises to make various development projects
his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to
re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to
the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of
Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back
nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were
Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to
leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s
neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and
downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We
want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see
significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square
He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can
policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several
stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”
Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus
unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley
says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in
line, but no specifics on a plan were given.
The people, budgets and controversies CityBeat covered while writing about the streetcar all year
0 Comments · Thursday, December 26, 2013
Just like it was a big year for Cincinnati and Ohio, it was a big year for the CityBeat news team.
by German Lopez
ProgressOhio loses case against privatized development agency
The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously dismissed a request to compel JobsOhio to disclose various documents. The court argued the Republican-controlled General Assembly largely
exempted JobsOhio from public records law and therefore allowed the agency to keep most of its inner workings secret.The decision was a major loss
for advocacy group ProgressOhio, which claims the documents should be on the
The Republican-controlled legislature, with the support of
Republican Gov. John Kasich, in 2011 established JobsOhio, a privatized
development agency, to replace the Ohio Department of
Development. The JobsOhio Board of Directors is chaired by wealthy Ohio businessmen.
Republicans argue JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature
is necessary to quickly foster economic development deals across the
state. Democrats say the anti-transparency measures make it far too difficult to hold
JobsOhio accountable as it recommends how to spend taxpayer dollars.An Oct. 23 report criticized JobsOhio and other privatized development agencies around the country for consistently displaying conflicts of interest and other scandalous behavior. The report came from Good Jobs First, a
research center founded in 1998 that scrutinizes deals between
businesses and governments.
Kasich previously touted JobsOhio as one of the reasons
Ohio’s economy quickly recovered following the Great Recession, but
recent indicators show the state’s economy is now slowing down. Ohio is one of five states whose economy worsened in the past three months,
according to an index from the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia that
combines four economic indicators to gauge states’ economic health.
Others have more directly questioned the Kasich administration’s claims to success. An Oct. 29 investigation from The Toledo Blade found
jobs numbers from the Ohio Development Services Agency are vastly inflated,
indicating that the state government isn’t producing nearly as many
jobs as it claims.
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
Streetcar fight continues, state evaluating transit services, parking plan moving ahead
A small group of Over-the-Rhine homeowners is preparing for a possible lawsuit and other actions
should Mayor-elect John Cranley try to cancel the $133 million
streetcar project. Ryan Messer says the fight is about protecting his
family’s investment along the streetcar route. Streetcar supporters plan
to host a town hall-style meeting in the coming weeks to discuss
possible actions to keep the project on track, including a referendum
effort on any legislation that halts construction of the ongoing
project. While Cranley says canceling the streetcar is at the top of the agenda, questions remain about how much it would cost to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here and here.
As Cincinnati debates canceling the streetcar project, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is evaluating transit systems around the state
to encourage more efficiency and cost effectiveness. The agency is
particularly focused on how different transit services are dealing with
rising demand and shrinking budgets. But if that’s the case, ODOT might
carry some of the blame: When Gov. John Kasich took office, ODOT’s
Transportation Review Advisory Council pulled $52 million from the
Cincinnati streetcar project despite previously scoring the streetcar
the highest among Ohio’s transportation projects. The Kasich
administration also refused $400 million in federal funding for a
statewide passenger light rail system, and the money ended up going to
California and other states that took on light rail projects.
Cranley’s other major campaign promise is to stop the
city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, but the Port intends to finalize the lease by the end of the month — before Cranley takes office in December — by selling bonds that will finance the deal. The outgoing city administration pushed the parking plan through City Council in a matter of months for an upfront payment of $92 million. But following unsuccessful litigation and a due diligence process, the Port Authority cut the payment to $85 million,
and the city is now responsible for paying $14-$15 million to build a
new parking garage that the Port was originally supposed to finance
under the deal. Cranley and other opponents of the parking plan say it
gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets, while
supporters argue it’s necessary to modernize the assets and help fund
economic development projects.
Several of Cincinnati’s power brokers and building owners are working on a plan
that would create a retail corridor in the city’s center and hopefully
keep Saks Fifth Avenue in the city. Some of the efforts apparently
involve financial incentives from the city, according to details
provided to the Business Courier.
In the past decade, Ohio students have shown limited improvement in reading and math scores.The Cincinnati area could become the largest metropolitan area without an abortion clinic following new regulations imposed by the state budget signed into law in June by Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature. CityBeat covered the regulations and the rest of the state budget in further detail here.
The Hamilton County Association of Chiefs of Police released a report outlining stricter guidelines for Taser use.
Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who has led lawsuits on behalf of families
who lost loved ones after they were Tased, told WVXU he’s encouraged by
the report, but he said he would also require annual tests of the
devices and a ban on chest shots.
The Cincinnati branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is filing a federal complaint
against the DHL Global Mail facility in Hebron, Ky., after DHL
allegedly fired 24 of its employees on Oct. 9 in a dispute over prayer
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino reported $18.2 million in gross revenue in October, down from $19.8 million in September.
The revenue reduction also cost Cincinnati’s casino the No. 1 spot,
which is now held by Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino. For Cincinnati and
Ohio, the drop means lower tax revenue.
The Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center plans to close its physical space,
but it’s sticking around as a virtual organization and will continue
hosting Pride Night at Kings Island. A letter from the center’s board of
directors stated that the transition was based on a need to “evolve
with the times.”
The U.S. Senate passed a bill
that would ban discrimination against gay and transgendered workers,
but the bill’s chances are grim in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both Ohio senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman —
voted in favor of the Senate bill. CityBeat previously covered efforts in Ohio to pass workplace protections for LGBT individuals here.
Watch a homeless veteran’s aesthetic transformation, which apparently helped push his life forward:
The popular video of a baby’s reaction to his singing mom might actually show conflicting feelings of fear and sociality, not sentimentality.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
A re-inspection of the privatized Lake
Erie Correctional Institution (LECI) found the prison is “heading in a
positive direction,” but the facility is still on pace in 2013 to
maintain increased levels of violence similar to the year before.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Privatization schemes in Cincinnati and Ohio just went through a bad month.
by German Lopez
Few local contributions to Issue 4, private prison mired in violence, Ohio could limit voting
Issue 4, the ballot initiative that would semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system, obtained most of its financial support from out-of-town tea party groups,
according to financial disclosure forms filed to the Hamilton County
Board of Elections on Oct. 24. Of the more than $231,000 raised for Issue 4 by
Cincinnati for Pension Reform, $229,500 came from groups in
West Chester, Ohio, and Virginia. Chris Littleton, a leading consultant
for Issue 4 and a long-time tea party activist involved in a few of the
listed groups, is also based in West Chester. City leaders unanimously
oppose Issue 4 because they argue it would force the city to cut
services and city employees’ retirement benefits — two claims that have
been backed by studies on Issue 4. Supporters say Issue 4 is necessary
to help fix the pension system’s $862 unfunded liability. Vice Mayor
Roxanne Qualls previously told CityBeat that City Council will take up
further reforms to address the unfunded liability after the election,
assuming voters reject Issue 4 on Nov. 5.
A re-inspection of the privatized Lake Erie Correctional
Institution (LECI) found that, while the private prison has made some
improvements in rehabilitation, health services and staffing, it remains
on pace in 2013 to match the previous year’s increased levels of violence.
Various state reports found the facility quickly deteriorated after it
became the first state prison to be sold to a private company,
Corrections Corporation of America, in 2011, under the urging of Gov.
John Kasich. In particular, inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff
assaults rapidly rose between 2010 and 2012 and appear to remain at
similar increased levels in 2013, according to an audit conducted on
Sept. 9 and 10 by Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, Ohio’s
independent prison watchdog. CityBeat previously covered the deteriorating conditions at LECI in further detail here.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted advocated trimming the amount of early voting days
in a letter to the state legislature yesterday. Husted says he wants
the rules passed to establish uniformity across all Ohio counties. But
Democrats — including State Sen. Nina Turner, who is set to run against
Husted in 2014 for secretary of state — say the measures attempt to
limit voting opportunities and suppress voters. In 2012, Doug Preisse,
close adviser to Gov. Kasich and chairman of the Franklin County
Republican Party, explained similar measures that limit early voting in
an email to The Columbus Dispatch: “I guess I really actually
feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban —
read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Husted’s suggestions
also included measures that would allow online voter registration and
limit ballot access for candidates in minor political parties.
A Hamilton County judge yesterday dismissed another legal challenge
against the city’s parking plan, but the conservative group behind the legal dispute
plans to appeal. The plan would lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots
and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which would then
use private operators to manage the assets. Supporters say the lease is
necessary to leverage the city’s parking assets for an $85 million
upfront payment that would help pay for development projects. Opponents argue
it gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets to private
Several Medicaid overhaul bills began moving in the Ohio House
yesterday, following months of work and promises from Republican
legislators. The bills increase penalties for defrauding the state,
require the Department of Medicaid to implement reforms that seek to
improve outcomes and emphasize personal responsibility, and make
specific tweaks on minors obtaining prescriptions, hospitals reporting
of neonatal abstinence syndrome, behavioral health services and other
smaller categories. The overhaul bills follow Gov. Kasich’s decision to bypass the Ohio legislature
and expand Medicaid eligibility for at least two years with federal
funds approved by the Controlling Board, an obscure seven-member legislative
Ohio’s controversial facial-recognition program can be used by some federal and out-of-state officials, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a
photo to search state databases for names and contact information; previously,
law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such
databases. Shortly after the program was revealed, Gov. Kasich compared it to privacy-breaching national intelligence agencies.
Ohio students aren’t as good at math and science as students in China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, among other countries.
A bipartisan “open container” bill would allow cities, including Cincinnati, to legalize drinking alcohol in the streets. In the case of Cincinnati, the city could allow public drinking in up to two districts if the bill passed.
Supporters of the bill say it would boost economic activity in certain
areas, but some are concerned the bill will enable “trash and
Cincinnati leads the way on Twitter.
Vitamin B2, which is commonly found in cottage cheese, green veggies and meat, could be used to 3-D print medical implants.
Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
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.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez