by German Lopez
53 days ago
Streetcar track arrives, thousands to get new ballots, "right to work" supporters aim for 2014
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
City leaders will host an event today to lay down the
first streetcar track. The event will take place at 11 a.m. near Music
Hall at Elm and 12th streets. The moment has been years in the making
for Cincinnati, which continued pursuing the streetcar project through
two referendums, Gov. John Kasich’s decision to pull $52 million from
the project and a separate $17.4 million budget gap. Meanwhile, ex-Councilman John Cranley, citing costs, says he would cancel the project
if he wins the mayoral election against streetcar supporter Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls on Nov. 5, even though canceling at this point could cost more than completing the project.
More than 3,000 Cincinnatians who already voted early will get new ballots in the mail
after an Ohio Supreme Court decision forced the Hamilton County Board
of Elections to change the ballot language for Issue 4, the tea
party-backed city charter amendment that would semi-privatize
Cincinnati’s pension system. Sally Krisel, deputy director of the
Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the old ballots will at least
count for every candidate and issue except Issue 4, but the 3,000-plus
voters could have to refile their ballots to have their votes counted on
the controversial pension issue. The board will make the final decision
on whether to count the old votes for or against Issue 4 after it hears from state officials and
reviews election law, Krisel says.
Supporters of a type of anti-union law infamously dubbed “right to work” say they’re gathering petitions
to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. The anti-union proposal
wouldn’t ban unions, but it would significantly weaken them by banning
agreements between companies and unions that mandate union membership
for employees and allow unions to collect dues and fees from nonunion
members. The proposal first lost in Ohio in 1958, and it’s been a
“flashpoint” for union politics ever since, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Cranley says he’d pick a Democrat as his vice mayor
if elected to office. The announcement came on the same day a group of
Democratic ward chairs pressured him to announce he’d pick a Democrat as
his vice mayor. It was previously rumored that Cranley would choose
Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman over any of the Democrats on
City Council. The news is the second time in a week Cranley attempted to
rebuke the idea that he’s the conservative alternative to Qualls. Previously, Cranley told CityBeat
he doesn’t want and would reject an endorsement from the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group
with a history of anti-gay causes.
In a 3-1 vote, the Hamilton County Board of Elections decided to keep Randy Simes, the pro-streetcar founder of UrbanCincy.com,
on the local voter rolls. Tea party groups contested Simes’ ability to
vote in Cincinnati because he’s currently on assignment in South Korea
and they believed he lived in Chicago when he voted in the Sept. 10
mayoral primary. But Simes says he intends to return to Cincinnati once
he completes his assignment in South Korea, leading election officials
to conclude that the case is similar to when Procter & Gamble or
General Electric employees work abroad but retain their right to vote in
Cincinnati. Simes’ supporters said the whole case reeked of politics;
the tea party groups behind the charges oppose Qualls for mayor, who
Simes openly supports.
Cincinnati yesterday broke ground
on its new police headquarters in District 3, which
covers East Price Hill, East Westwood, English Woods, Lower Price Hill,
Millvale, North Fairmount, Riverside, Roll Hill, Sayler Park,
Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount, West Price Hill and
Westwood on the West Side.
WCPO will host a mayoral candidate debate between Qualls and Cranley tonight at 7 p.m. Submit questions for the candidates here.
The Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday hosted an online chat with streetcar project executive John Deatrick. Check out the replay here.
Mercy Health hopes to sell two hospitals to consolidate its medical services on the West Side of Cincinnati.
Headline: “Man grabs attacking black bear’s tongue.”
Here’s an army robot firing a machine gun:
by German Lopez
109 days ago
Tea party-backed reform would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
Councilman Chris Smitherman told CityBeat he doesn’t support the pension amendment that will appear on the ballot this November, which means no council member approves of the controversial proposal.
The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are under a
separate system — contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts.
Currently, the city pools pension contributions and manages the investments
through an independent board.
City officials and unions claim the amendment will cost
the city more and hurt retirement gains for public employees. Tea party groups say
the amendment is necessary to address the city’s growing pension costs,
including an $862 million unfunded liability.
“I do not support the amendment. I have introduced several
solutions that have been ignored by council and your paper,” Smitherman
wrote in an email.
The other eight members of City Council — seven Democrats
and one Republican — on Aug. 7 approved a resolution
that condemned the tea party amendment. But Smitherman, an Independent,
wasn’t present at the meeting.
CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Council to rework "responsible bidder" ordinance
Cincinnati and Hamilton County today announced a compromise that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects, allowing the projects to move forward. As a condition, the city will have to rework and repeal the controversial laws that incited county commissioners into approving the hold in the first place.As part of the deal, Commissioner Chris Monzel will ask the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to immediately repeal a hold on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.On the city's side, Councilman Chris Seelbach will ask City Council to immediately repeal so-called "local hire" and "local preference" rules, which require a certain percentage of contractors' workforce be local residents.The city, county and their partners will then work on changing the city's responsible bidder ordinance before new rules are officially implemented on Aug. 1.In May, City Council modified the responsible bidder ordinance originally passed in June 2012. The changes were supposed to trigger in August, but the compromise may alter those changes altogether. Under the current language, the ordinance forces MSD contractors to establish specifically accredited apprenticeship programs and put money — based on labor costs — toward a pre-apprenticeship fund.The city argued the programs will help create local jobs and train local workers, but the county criticized the rules for supposedly favoring unions and imposing extra costs on MSD projects.Meanwhile, MSD is facing pressure from the federal government to comply with a mandate to retrofit and replace Cincinnati's sewers. MSD estimates the project will cost $3.2 billion over 15 to 20 years, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cincinnati's history.But the project was effectively halted by the county commissioners' funding hold, which forced the city and county to hastily work out a compromise.CityBeat covered the county-city conflict in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:10 AM | Permalink
EPA approves sewer plan, anti-union law gets hearing, DeWine to speed synthetic drug bans
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a Mill Creek sewer overhaul plan
that includes bringing back a long-buried creek in the area. The
unconventional strategy is the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD)
attempt at dealing with storm overflow in a green, sustainable manner
that also saves taxpayers money — particularly in comparison to an
expensive deep underground tunnel that the EPA originally suggested. CityBeat previously covered MSD’s green plans in further detail here.
A law that would ban mandatory union membership is temporarily back on the Ohio House agenda,
leaving union advocates worried that Republicans are trying to push the
anti-union law, which supporters of the change call “right to work,” once again.
Still, lawmakers say they’re only giving the law one hearing as
required by House rules for legislation introduced early on in the
session. Under current law, employers and unions are allowed to agree to mandating union membership for employees, but the anti-union law would
bar that agreement. Many states have already taken up similar laws, and
they’ve been linked to a significant decline of unions around the
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is partnering with Ohio
State Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Kyle Parker to continue the
fight against synthetic drugs. In a statement, DeWine’s office said the
partnership will help state officials expedite the process of banning
synthetic drugs as they are found. “Despite the success of House Bill 334,
which outlawed a multitude of synthetic drugs in 2012, rogue chemists
continue to create new, dangerous chemicals that fall outside of Ohio's
controlled substances law,” DeWine said in a statement.
Cost for vehicle registration in Ohio could go up under a plan being considered by state lawmakers.
Two more alleged voter fraud cases were sent to the county prosecutor.
So far, most of the Hamilton County voter fraud cases involve people voting twice —
supposedly on accident — by first early voting and then voting on
A Gillette commercial is at the center of the most important question of our time: How does Superman shave?
The “cutest couple” at a suburban New York school is two boys.
Being from Ohio may have ruined Neil Armstrong’s most famous quote.
In case you missed it, here is the news section for the latest issue of CityBeat:
Cover story: “From
the Inside: Inmates told CityBeat about violence, staff ineptitude and
unsanitary conditions inside Ohio’s private prison. Then came the
surprise inspections.”News: “What’s On the Books?: Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state”Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics”
by German Lopez
Streetcar budget fixes detailed, Senate kills 'right to work,' county fights infant mortality
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave his suggestions for fixing the streetcar budget gap Tuesday, and CityBeat analyzed the details here. The suggestion, which include temporarily using front-loaded Music Hall funds and pulling money from other capital projects, are capital budget items that can't be used to balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits in state law, so if City Council approved the suggestions, the streetcar would not be saved at the expense of cops, firefighters and other city employees being laid off to balance the operating budget.Ohio Senate Republicans seem unlikely to take up so-called "right to work" (RTW) legislation after it was proposed in the Ohio House. RTW legislation prevents unions and employers from making collective bargaining agreements that require union membership to be hired for a job, significantly weakening a union's leverage in negotiations by reducing membership. Since states began adopting the anti-union laws, union membership has dropped dramatically around the nation. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, were quick to condemn the RTW bills and compare them to S.B. 5, a 2011 bill backed by Republican Gov. John Kasich and Ohio Republicans that would have limited collective bargaining powers for public employees and significantly reduced public sector unions' political power.Hamilton County commissioners approved a county-wide collaborative between health and government agencies to help reduce the county's infant mortality rate, which has exceeded the national average for more than a decade. Funding for the program will come in part from the sale of Drake Hospital to UC Health.With a 7-2 vote yesterday, City Council updated its "responsible bidder" ordinance, which requires job training from contractors working with the Metropolitan Sewer District, to close loopholes and include Greater Cincinnati Water Works projects. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the charge on the changes, which were opposed by council members Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn.Ohio Senate Democrats are still pushing the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found would insure 456,000 Ohioans and save the state money in the next decade. Ohio House Republicans effectively rejected the expansion with their budget bill, which the Ohio Senate is now reviewing. CityBeat covered the Ohio House budget bill in further detail here.The state's Public Utilities Commissions of Ohio approved a 2.9 percent rate hike for Duke Energy, which will cost customers an average of $3.72 every month.Concealed carry permits issued in Ohio nearly doubled in the first three months of the year, following a wave of mass shootings in the past year and talks of federal gun control legislation.Real headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: "How much skin is too much skin for teens at prom?"A Pennsylvania woman who had been missing for 11 years turned herself in to authorities in Florida.New research shows early American settlers at Jamestown, Va., ate each other.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The city of Cincinnati and a union
representing city workers are currently negotiating an out-of-court
settlement for a lawsuit involving the city’s pension program.
by Andy Brownfield
City workers would get raises, protection from layoffs if City Council approves parking plan
In order to win the support of the largest city employees
union for the leasing of Cincinnati’s parking facilities, the city
administration has agreed to pay raises and no layoffs for three years.
There’s a catch — municipal employees only get the raises
and job security if the city’s parking meters, garages and surface lots
are leased to a private company for 30 years.
City Manager Milton Dohoney wants to lease the facilities
for at least $40 million upfront and a share of parking profits for the
next 30 years. He’d use $21 million of the upfront payment to patch a
$34 million deficit in the city’s budget.
During recent budget hearings before City Council, Dohoney
said extra revenue was needed to avoid the layoff of 344 city
In a memo to the mayor and city council members, Dohoney outlined the agreement between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Any municipal employees who will lose their jobs because of the deal would be placed in other city jobs with no loss of wages. No city employees covered by the union would be laid off between 2013 and 2016. City employees will receive a 1.5 percent cost of living
raise for the 2013-2014 contract year and another 1 percent raise for
the next contract year. AFSCME members will continue city vehicle maintenance work from 2013-2016.
However, if City Council doesn’t approve of the plan to privatize parking, city employees get nothing.
Public employees in Cincinnati have not been given raises
in almost four years. Meanwhile, council voted last month to give Dohoney a 10
percent raise and a $35,000 bonus. Dohoney had not received a merit raise since 2007, but had collected cost of living adjustments and bonuses over the years.
by Andy Brownfield
Council members urge city to investigate worker wages
Some members of city council agreed that the city needs to
take a hard look at the way it inspects projects done with taxpayer
money, but they took no action during a special joint committee meeting
Thursday to discuss allegations that workers were being underpaid at the
University Square development in Clifton.
Council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell
Young presented a video investigation they conducted, which included interviews
with workers on the project who claim they were being taken advantage of
by the University Square developers.
Under Ohio and Cincinnati law, workers on projects funded
by taxpayers must be paid a so-called “prevailing wage” (the same as a
unionized worker) and be given benefits.
In Cincinnati, that wage is $23.17 an hour for the carpentry work done by the workers interviewed for the video.
The workers in the video claimed they were paid $500 for working a 60-hour week.
“Five-hundred dollars a week to me when you don’t have a
job, that’s a lot,” said Garrick Foxx, a construction worker on the
“But actually when you average it out, it’s not. Like to
the hour-wise it’s probably like 9-something, so like I could actually
make that working at McDonalds.”
The University Square developer — a collaboration between
Towne Properties and Al. Neyer, Inc. — is building a complex with a
parking garage, residential units and retail space.
The City of Cincinnati has $21 million invested in the
parking garage. The State of Ohio recently ruled that the prevailing
wage provisions apply only workers constructing the garage that the city
has money invested in.
Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said the controversy was
ginned up by unions and it hasn’t been proven that workers are being
“All of this was started by the unions themselves because
they became very unhappy when the State of Ohio said a sizeable portion
of our project was not subject to prevailing wage,” Bortz said. “They
tried then to discredit and intimidate anyone who is on the other side
of the table.”
Bortz said he agreed to pay a prevailing wage even to
workers who worked on parts of the project not subject to the law. He
said he cuts a check to the subcontractors based on that agreement.
“Whether any of those subcontractors might have been
unfair to the workers, we do not know,” Bortz said. “If they were, they
should be made to be fair.”
Deputy City Solicitor Aaron Herzig said if the contract
required a particular wage be paid and it wasn’t, the city can bring a
breach of contract action against the developers. But to start an
investigation, a complaint must first be made.The council members asked that their investigation be considered a formal complaint.