Balanced budget, pension reform among tough tasks facing incoming council members hoping not to raise taxes
1 Comment · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
of newly elected council members say they’re committed to structurally
balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget — a promise repeated by
Mayor-elect John Cranley on the campaign trail and following the Nov. 5
by German Lopez
79 days ago
Councilman Kevin Flynn still undecided on whether to cast deciding vote to restart project
It's decision day for Cincinnati's $132.8 million streetcar
But hours before City Council expects to make a decision,
it's unclear whether the legislative body has the six votes necessary to
overcome Mayor John Cranley's veto and restart construction for the streetcar
The deciding vote will most likely come from Charterite
Kevin Flynn, who says he's working behind the scenes with undisclosed private
entities to get the streetcar's operating costs off the city's books. If that
deal pulls through, Flynn would provide the sixth vote to keep going.
The project already has five votes in favor: Democrats David
Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young.
Three council members have long opposed the project:
Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn and Independent Christopher
It's a big financial decision for the city.
If the city goes forward with the project, it would cost
$53.9-$68.9 million, depending on whether the city convinces courts Duke Energy
should pay for $15 million in utility costs, according to an audit from
consulting firm KPMG.
If the city cancels, it will incur $16.3-$46.1 million
in additional close-out costs, the same audit found. But it will get nothing for
those tens of millions spent and could face costly litigation in the future.
Council expects to make a final decision at Thursday's 2
p.m. meeting. Follow @germanrlopez on Twitter for live updates.
by German Lopez
86 days ago
Compensation package remains controversial after changes
City Council on Wednesday officially appointed Scott
Stiles as interim city manager, but only after a testy exchange over the
compensation package left three of eight present council members as
“no” votes.The package gives Stiles a raise if he returns to his previous role as one of two assistant city managers, which three council members said is unfair to lesser-paid city
workers, such as trash collectors, and the other assistant city manager, David Holmes, who won’t get comparable pay increases.
The package appoints Stiles to the city’s top job at a
salary of $240,000 a year, less than the previous city manager’s
If the city appoints someone other than Stiles as
permanent city manager, Stiles will be placed back in the assistant city
manager role with a $180,000 salary, roughly $33,500 more than the
other assistant city manager.
If a permanent city manager decides to relieve Stiles of
the assistant city manager position, the city will be required to make a
good faith effort to find Stiles some form of employment within the
city until 2018, which would allow Stiles to collect his full pension
payment upon retirement.
Council Members David Mann, Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray,
Kevin Flynn and Christopher Smitherman voted in favor of the appointment
and package, while Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young
voted against it. P.G. Sittenfeld was absent.
Simpson and Seelbach said they have no problem giving
Stiles a $240,000 salary while he’s in the interim city manager
position, but both argued it’s unfair to other city workers to give only
Stiles a raise if he’s reappointed as assistant city manager.
Simpson pointed out that the package would also increase
the city administration budget if the new permanent city manager decides
to keep Stiles and Holmes as assistant city managers at the agreed-upon
Mayor John Cranley argued Simpson, Seelbach and Young were
trying to introduce a new standard that wasn’t present in the previous
council, where Simpson, Seelbach and Young were in the majority
“I would have appreciated long-term thinking when I was
saddled with a $255,000 severance payment,” he said, referencing a
severance package the previous council gave to former City Manager
Milton Dohoney after Cranley announced Dohoney would resign on Dec. 1.
Simpson argued the severance package wouldn’t have been
necessary if Cranley agreed to keep Dohoney on the job until a permanent
replacement was found.
“It’s our job to protect the taxpayer,” Simpson said.
Vice Mayor Mann pointed out that if the city doesn’t fill
the assistant city manager role while Stiles presides as interim city
manager, the city will actually save money by leaving a salaried
administrative position vacant for six months.
Cranley previously said the city will conduct a national
search for a permanent city manager. Council members at Wednesday’s
meeting estimated the effort should take six months.
by German Lopez
93 days ago
Council pauses streetcar, issue could make it to ballot, groups call for police camera fixes
City Council yesterday voted to allocate $1.25 million to pause the $132.8 million streetcar project
and study how much it will cost to continue or cancel the project. The
final 5-4 votes to pause came despite offers from private contributors
to pay for the $250,000 study and construction for the one or two weeks
necessary to carry out the cost analysis. The city administration warned
council earlier in the day that pausing the project for one month could
cost $2.56-$3.56 million, while previous estimates put continuing
construction for the month at $3 million. After the cost study is
finished, council members expect to make a final decision on whether to
continue or cancel the project.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson filed a motion
to draw up a city charter amendment that would task the city with
completing the current streetcar project. If the charter amendment gets council approval,
Cincinnatians would vote on the issue approximately 60 to
120 days afterward. But it’s unclear whether the
$44.9 million in federal grants for the streetcar project would survive through the months; the federal
government previously warned a delay could be grounds for pulling the money.
Commentary: “Atmosphere at City Hall Changes for the Worse.”
Following various cases of malfunctioning or disabled police cruiser cameras, various groups, including Councilman Chris Seelbach, are asking to get to the bottom of the issue.
Police officials say old, deteriorating technology is to blame, but critics claim some officers are purposely tampering with the technology to
avoid filming themselves during controversial moments in the line of
duty. For both sides, getting the cameras working could be mutually
beneficial; functioning cameras would allow police to clear their names but also show when officers make mistakes.
The University of Cincinnati asked Hamilton County judges to crack down on criminals targeting students on or near campus.
State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati says he won’t give up his Democratic candidacy for lieutenant governor despite $825,000 in unpaid state and federal taxes.
Republican State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati canceled a vote
for a proposal that would greatly weaken Ohio’s renewable energy
and efficiency standards. But he vowed to pursue a “three-pronged strategy to reform the current
envirosocialist mandates,” including potential litigation. Environmental
groups argued Seitz’s proposal would have effectively eliminated the
state’s energy standards. According to a study from Ohio State University and
the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition, repealing the standards
would increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by $3.65 billion over the next
12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s proposal in greater detail here.
The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday approved a bill
that establishes a state panel to oversee Medicaid and recommend
changes for the costly program. Republicans insist the measure isn’t
about reducing benefits or eligibility for Medicaid; instead, they argue
it’s about finding ways to cut growing health care costs without making
such cuts. Gov. John Kasich must sign the bill for it to become law.
Months after rejecting Kasich’s proposal to do so, Ohio House leaders introduced a scaled-down measure
that would slightly raise the oil and gas severance tax and cut income
taxes. Unlike the governor’s previous proposal, the House plan seems to
have support from the oil and gas industry.
Another Ohio House bill seeks to reintroduce prayer in public schools.
Ohioans are borrowing more to pay for college, but the debt load remains less than the national average.
Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “CVG board votes to hire investigator for butt-dialed call.”
It seems Metropolitan Sewer District rates will increase by 6 percent.
Cincinnati could get three to six inches of snow tomorrow.
Robert Carr, a 49-year-old Cincinnati man, has been going into the homes of strangers and trying to claim them as his own. He’s now being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center on six felony charges for breaking into homes.
Ohio gas prices fell below $3 a gallon.
According to a study from the Library of Congress, 70 percent of America’s silent films are lost and a good portion of the remaining films are in poor condition.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by Hannah McCartney
127 days ago
Westwood pride, Council to address racial disparity, why dogs wag their tails
CityBeat’s full Election Issue is in stands now. Check out our feature stories on three remarkable City Council challengers: Mike Moroski, Michelle Dillingham and Greg Landsman. Find the rest of our election coverage, along with our endorsements, here.
Atheist marriages may last longer than Christian ones. Research shows that divorce rates are highest among Baptists and nondenominational
Christians, while more “theologically liberal” Christians like
Methodists enjoy lower rates. The findings showed that Atheist marriages
held the lowest divorce rates.
A group of Westwood residents held an event Wednesday at
Westwood Town Hall in response to Westwood resident Jim Kiefer’s racist
Facebook post directed at Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. The residents
also created a change.org petition to dispel negative perceptions about
the neighborhood. “For too long, the largest neighborhood in our great
City has been publicly identified by the negative statements of a few
disgruntled, racially insensitive and regressive individuals,” reads the
Kiefer posted a message on his Facebook wall that read:
“For my pick as worst councilperson in cincinnati (sic).... Evette (sic)
getto (sic) Simpson!”
According to Simpson, Kiefer went on a racist tirade
against her in June, when he told her not to return to the West Side of
Cincinnati. Feeling bummed by this gloomy weather? Watch this photographer's stunning time-lapse video compiled from about 10,000 photos he took during a road trip across the country and feel better. Councilman Wendell Young led a motion signed on Oct. 30 that asks the city administration to allocate $2 million to address racial
disparities in Cincinnati, including disproportionate infant mortality
rates, unemployment rates and statistics that cite the city’s black
population, which make up nearly half of the city’s residents, hold only
1 percent the area’s of economic worth. Dogs' tail-wagging could have deeper meaning than we thought: Researchers have concluded that the direction in which dogs wag their tails expresses their emotional state. Left-side tail wagging indicates anxiety, while right-side tail wagging is a stronger symbol of companionship.The Pacific Ocean warms 15 times faster than it used to. That helps explain why the average global surface-air temperatures have been warming at a slower rate than projected, but scientists aren't sure what kind of impact the warming has on ocean life yet.
The chair of Jelly Belly, Herman Rowland, Sr.,
donated $5,000 to an anti-LGBT conservative efforts “Privacy for All
Students” initiative to overturn California’s new
School Success and Opportunity Act, which protects the rights of
transgender students to participate in school activities.
Montgomery Inn has sold 30 million bottles of barbecue sauce.
Here’s a video of a porcupine making really hilarious noises while eating a pumpkin:
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. If you don’t vote early, you can still vote on Election Day
(Nov. 5). Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic
• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
133 days ago
Yvette Simpson says man quoted in WCPO story harassed her with racist remarks
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used
a man named Jim Kiefer as a source for a story after he harassed her on social media with racist insults.
WCPO’s Kevin Osborne
quoted Kiefer in a story, identifying him as a supporter for John Cranley’s mayoral
campaign. (Full disclosure: Osborne formerly worked for CityBeat.) When Simpson saw the story with Kiefer as a source, she says she immediately recognized him as someone who has repeatedly harassed her with racist remarks on Facebook. Kiefer's Facebook page was publicly viewable prior to Simpson calling him out on Twitter yesterday, but it has since been made private. On Oct. 20, the day before WCPO's story was published, Kiefer posted a message on his Facebook
wall that said, “For my pick as worst councilperson in cincinnati
(sic).... Evette (sic) getto (sic) Simpson!” Although the post included
various grammatical and spelling errors, Kiefer then attached an image
that said, “No you may not ‘Axe’ me a question. I don't speak Walmart.”Several of Simpson’s colleagues, including Councilman Chris Seelbach and City
Council candidate Mike Moroski, have come
to Simpson’s defense after she posted the image. The issue for Simpson is whether a media outlet should be
using Kiefer as a source, considering his images and posts were publicly viewable on Facebook. Simpson says Osborne never responded to
her email asking whether he or WCPO is aware of Kiefer’s history. Osborne is Facebook friends with Kiefer.CityBeat contacted WCPO News Director Alex Bongiorno by phone and email to ask about WCPO’s policy for vetting and identifying sources, but no response was given prior to the publishing of this story.WCPO’s story detailed criticisms from Cranley
supporters against opponent Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who Simpson supports. Specifically, the
story questioned why Qualls allegedly never sought an opinion from the
Ohio Board of Ethics over whether her work as a realtor presents a
potential conflict of interest with her support for the streetcar
project, which could increase property values — and perhaps Qualls’ compensation as a realtor — along its route.It turns out Qualls had asked for a professional opinion on the ethical issue at least two times before,
but the city solicitor deemed the connection
between Qualls’ work and the streetcar project too indirect and
speculative to present a conflict of interest, according to an email
from City Solicitor John Curp copied to CityBeat and other media outlets.Kiefer called CityBeat after people on social media discussed CityBeat’s various calls for comment for this story. Kiefer said the images were supposed to be jokes. “You have to have a sense of humor,” he said. The Cranley campaign says it has and wants nothing to do with Kiefer.“John (Cranley) wouldn’t know Jim Kiefer if he walked past him in
the street right now. It’s not someone that he’s ever met. It’s not
someone that he’s ever dealt with. It’s not someone that the campaign
has ever dealt with,” says Jay Kincaid, Cranley’s campaign director.
“Whatever his views are don’t reflect those of John.”Kincaid also points out that Cranley’s record goes against
some of the bigotry perpetuated by Kiefer's posts. While on City Council, Cranley
championed and helped pass an anti-racial profiling ordinance and LGBT
protections in local hate crime laws.Simpson’s history with Kiefer goes back to at least June,
when Simpson says Kiefer went on a racist tirade against her on Facebook
in the middle of an online discussion over the city’s parking plan. The
discussion has been deleted since then, but Simpson says
Kiefer told her to never return to the West Side of Cincinnati.This is not the first time Kiefer touted images with bigoted connotations on
his Facebook wall. In one instance, he “liked” an image of President
Barack Obama in tribal regalia. In another, he posted an image of
Barney Frank that mocked the former congressman’s homosexuality.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Yvette Simpson has been one of the
strongest supporters of the city’s progressive policies, including the
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 18, 2013
City Council joined statewide efforts to avoid loosening restrictions on the use of deadly force when it unanimously passed on Sept. 11 a resolution that opposes Ohio’s version of controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws.
by German Lopez
Comprehensive surveys, profiles to be mostly privately funded
About 48 percent of Cincinnati’s youth are in poverty — a
statistic that has haunted Cincinnati and landed the city in third place
for the nation’s highest poverty rates. Now, Councilwoman Yvette
Simpson is trying to figure out the underlying causes to better
prioritize city programs.
At City Council’s Livable Communities Committee today,
Simpson and her staff gave a presentation supporting a citywide study
that would give an in-depth look at the city’s youth and their issues,
including crime, poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. It
would be the first comprehensive study of the city’s youth.
The $175,000 study, which Simpson says would be mostly
funded through private donations, will work through three phases: Look
at existing data to set goals and expectations, conduct surveys with 500
parents and 1,500 youth and gather 40 in-depth youth profiles.
Simpson told CityBeat the study would help the city
establish better budget priorities for youth programs: “If resources
were abundant, how much would it take for us to really be able to make a
significant impact? But also understanding that resources aren’t
abundant, where should we put the resources in order to make maximum
With better priorities, Simpson says the city would also
be able to create better collaboration between the city’s many
individuals, agencies and organizations that currently work to address youth issues.
“When you work together, you’re going to be better,” she says.
That’s particularly important in Cincinnati, which Simpson
says is “very disparate” in terms of wealth and resources. Simpson says
she would like to leverage the city’s centers of wealth in a way that
would better benefit some of the poorer, needier areas.
Simpson says the study is necessary because there is a lack of local data for the city’s youth, with Cincinnati
Children’s Child Well-Being Survey being the only comprehensive local
study in recent years.
To Simpson, the importance of understanding the city’s youth and how their
situation can be improved has been validated by her personal experience.
“I was supposed to have a student shadowing me yesterday,
who’s a very, very capable young man, but he’s homeless,” she says. “He
didn’t show up yesterday because he slept outside the night before.”
Carrying out the study and recalibrating the city’s
programs to provide more consistency, whether it’s through education or
simply providing more permanent shelter, will have huge effects on the
city’s youth, Simpson says.
The Youth Commission of Cincinnati was formed in the
spring of 2012 to help local government establish better priorities and
policies for youth programs. The study, which has been under planning
and development since July, is meant to help accomplish those goals.
by Andy Brownfield
Local Democrats say GOP nominee's plans would hurt middle class, Hamilton County
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Saturday laid out
five steps that he said would have America “roaring back” during his first campaign stop since formally accepting the
Republican nomination.At Cincinnati's Union Terminal, Romney was joined on stage by his wife Anne, who spoke briefly, echoing her convention speech meant to humanize her husband.
He said his plan involved encouraging development in oil
and coal, implementing a trade policy that favored American companies
and not “cheaters” like China, making sure workers and students had
skills to succeed in the coming century, reducing the deficit and
encouraging small business growth.
“America is going to come roaring back,” Romney told the crowd of thousands packed inside Union Terminal.
Not everyone was so impressed with the GOP nominee’s promises.
About an hour after the Romney campaign event, Cincinnati
Democratic leaders held a news conference to rebut the Republican’s
“Much of his (Romney’s) speech was like his speech in
Tampa, which is where Romney gave Cincinnatians nothing more than vague
platitudes, false and misleading attacks without one single tangible
idea on how to move forward,” said Democratic/Charterite Cincinnati City
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson.
Simpson, along with Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas and
Bishop Bobby Hilton, attacked the tax plan put forward by Romney and
his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. They said it would cut taxes
for the richest Americans while raising taxes on the middle class by
about $2,000 per household, citing an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax
“Mitt Romney’s plan would take Ohio and Cincinnati backwards, and we don’t have time to go backwards,” Hilton said.
Hilton credited Cincinnati’s revitalization and urban development in part on federal money obtained from Obama’s stimulus plan.
“We deserve better than this. We deserve better than Romney/Ryan,” he said.
Romney would have disagreed with Hilton’s assessment of
Cincinnati’s growth. During his speech he praised Ohio Gov. John Kasich,
crediting him with bringing jobs and businesses to the state.
Romney also took time to attack President Barack Obama’s
record in office. The GOP nominee said in preparation for his convention
speech he read many past convention speeches — including Obama’s.
“He was not one of the ones that I wanted to draw from,
except I could not resist a couple of things he said, because he made a
lot of promises,” Romney said. “And I noted that he didn't keep a lot of
Romney also criticized what he called the bitterness and
divisiveness of Obama’s campaign, saying as president he would bring the
country together. He mentioned the “patriotism and courage” of the late
Neil Armstrong, who was honored in a private service in Cincinnati on
“I will do everything in my power to bring us together,
because, united, America built the strongest economy in the history of
the earth. United, we put Neil Armstrong on the moon. United, we faced
down unspeakable darkness,” Romney said.
“United, our men and women in uniform continue to defend
freedom today. I love those people who serve our great nation. This is a
time for us to come together as a nation.”
The candidate’s remarks ignited the crowd of thousands,
many of whom wore shirts with slogans like “Mr. President, I did build
my business,” in response to a remark made by Obama about businesses being helped to grow by government contracts and
infrastructure, and “Mitt 2012: At least he never ate dog meat,” referring to a passage in Obama’s 2008 memoir during which he recalls being
fed dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.
Steve Heckman, a 62-year-old environmental consultant from
Springfield, Ohio, said he voted for Obama in 2008 but will likely
vote for Romney in this election.
He said he’d written “some pretty ugly stuff” about Romney
in the past but felt jobs was the No. 1 issue and thought the Obama
administration’s policies were sending them out of the country.
“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has, to me, become a little too almost like a fringe group, putting so much pressure
on businesses that they are moving to Canada,” Heckman said. “Things
like air permits, the EPA is taking too long to issue them. It’s not
just power plants they’re affecting, but all manufacturing.”
Heckman said he didn’t blame the president personally but thinks whoever he put in charge of the agency is being too strict.
“I grew up when the EPA was first put in place in the '70s, and they were, in my opinion, doing God’s work,” he said, citing
the cleaning up of rivers such as the Cuyahoga near Cleveland, which
famously caught fire because of pollution in 1969.
“I support the EPA, but it’s driving businesses out of here.”
Speaking ahead of Romney were U.S. House Speaker John
Boehner, Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio treasurer and
GOP senatorial candidate Josh Mandel and Republican U.S. House candidate
for Ohio’s 2nd District, Brad Wenstrup.
“This election is all about changing Washington,” Mandel
said. “The only way to change Washington is to change the people we send