by German Lopez
Behind the parking plan drama, state budget cuts local funding, bridge to get federal bump
Being one of the first to discover a critical memo put Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld at the center of an ongoing drama
regarding the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and
garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The memo criticized
the financial details of the lease, but it was kept from the Port, City
Council and the public for nearly a month. Ever since the controversial
parking plan passed City Council and was upheld in court, concerned
citizens, business leaders and critics like Sittenfeld have been calling
on the city and Port to rework or halt the deal. So far, the city and
Port have stuck to their support. The city will get a $92 million lump
sum and at least $3 million a year from the lease, which it currently
plans to use to help balance city budgets and fund development projects,
such as the I-71/MLK Interchange.
The latest state budget secured more cuts to city and county governments,
putting local governments at a $1.5 billion shortfall in the next two
years compared to 2010 and 2011, according to a new report from
progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
Republican Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local
government funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But
the latest state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash
in extra revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that
legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts. For Cincinnati, the
original cuts cost the city more than $22 million in revenue.
The Brent Spence Bridge was bumped up in a federal funding priority list
through a successful amendment from Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio
Republican. The amendment prioritized $500 million for obsolete and
structurally unsound bridges, but it’s so far unclear how much of the
money will go to the Brent Spence Bridge project, which state officials
estimate will cost $2.7 billion. Currently, Ohio and Kentucky officials
plan to pay for the bridge project by enacting tolls.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor this
year, is calling on the city manager to produce a plan that would
structurally balance Cincinnati’s operating budget by 2016. “To build on
the momentum Cincinnati is now experiencing, we must set a course now
for a fiscally sustainable future,” Qualls said in a statement. “That’s
why I’m urging that we have a plan to reach structural balance by 2016,
restore reserves and increase the city’s pension contribution, minimize
using the parking lease payment to restore budget cuts and continue to
invest in neighborhoods and jobs to grow revenue.” The announcement
comes more than one week after Moody’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded Cincinnati’s bond rating
and criticized the city for its exposure to unsustainable pension
liabilities and reliance on one-time sources to fix budget gaps.
Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who’s also running for mayor,
is rolling out his jobs plan today. The initiative will provide a job
training program for individuals facing long-term unemployment or
underemployment, which the Cranley campaign estimates will result in 379
individuals per year obtaining full-time, permanent jobs. The
program will be mainly paid for by pulling funds from the city’s Office of
Environmental Quality, Department of Finance, travel and the state
lobbyist. “My deepest conviction is that there is dignity in work. I
believe all able-bodied adults should work and be self-sufficient. And I
believe society has an obligation to ensure the opportunity to work
exists,” Cranley said in a statement.On Second Thought: “Facts vs. Perceptions in Trayvon Martin Coverage.”
Police yesterday shot and killed
Roger Ramundo, an allegedly armed Clifton resident. Officers had
been called to the area of Clifton and Ludlow avenues by a mental health
provider, who said there was a person with mental health issues armed with a gun, according to interim Cincinnati Police Chief Paul
Humphries. Police said they tried to first subdue Ramundo with Tasers
during an ensuing struggle, but they were unsuccessful and the man
pulled out his gun and fired a shot. That’s when one officer fired two
shots that hit Ramundo, who was then taken to University Hospital, where
he was pronounced dead.
Gov. Kasich isn’t providing clemency
to a Cleveland killer who stabbed his victim 17 times, overruling a
rare plea for mercy from prosecutors but siding with a majority of the
state parole board. Billy Slagle will be executed on Aug. 7.
Ohio will take a hands-off approach
to promoting Obamacare, even though outreach will be crucial for the controversial
health care law. President Barack Obama’s administration estimates it
will have to enroll millions of young adults into health care plans to turn the law into a success.
Meanwhile, Hamilton County is investigating if Obamacare could result in lower property taxes by allowing the county to shift costs to the federal government.
A Cincinnati money manager is being accused of running an “elaborate Ponzi scheme”
that cost investors “tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars,”
according to a July 20 complaint filed in the Hamilton County Common
The average price of a flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport dropped, but the airport is still the second-most expensive in the nation.
CityBeat gave Internet cat-celebrity Lil Bub an in-depth look in this week’s issue. Find it online here.
Want to maximize your tan? Here is how close you could get to the sun and survive.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:17 PM | Permalink
Policy Matters Ohio finds cities, counties will receive $720 million less from state
The recently passed state budget means cities and counties will get even less money from the state, according to a new report from progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio.
The report looks at “three blows” of cuts to local governments: less direct aid, no money from a now-repealed estate tax and
the beginning of the end of a state subsidy that supported local property taxes. The cuts add up to at least $720 million less over the next
two years than cities and counties got in the past two years, the report finds.
It’s even less money when looking further back in Ohio’s history — specifically before Republican Gov. John Kasich took office.
“Local governments will see $1.5 billion less in tax
revenues and state aid compared with” fiscal years 2010 and 2011, said
Wendy Patton, the report’s author, in a statement. “Fiscal crisis will
continue in many communities.”
Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local government
funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But the latest
state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash in extra
revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that
legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts.
The Republican-controlled state government repealed the
estate tax in the last budget, but some Democrats and local governments
were hopeful at least some of the lost money could be restored this
Casino revenue was supposed to curtail some of the cuts,
but Policy Matters concludes it’s not enough. Casino revenue has also
consistently come under expectations: The state government in 2009
estimated Ohio’s casinos would take in $1.9 billion a year, but that
projection was changed in February to roughly $1 billion a year.
For Cincinnati, the previous round of budget cuts cost the
city more than $22 million in revenues — nearly two-thirds of the
budget gap the city faced for fiscal year 2014. Although the city managed to avoid laying off cops and firefighters as a result, it still had to slash other city services and raise property taxes.
Some city and county officials are trying to persuade the
state government to undo the cuts. In March, Cincinnati Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld gathered officials around the state to launch ProtectMyOhio.com, which lets citizens write directly to the state government about the cuts.
by German Lopez
Inclusion becomes mayoral issue, streetcar clears hurdle, state budget cuts local funding
Following Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s announcement Friday to increase city contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses once elected, fellow Democratic mayoral candidate and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls echoed support for the proposals, although she disputed Cranley’s record on the issue.
One issue in particular is the Croson study that would allow the city
to prepare for a broader inclusion plan for minorities and women. Qualls has repeatedly proposed a Croson study during her time in
City Council and previous time in the mayor’s office, but she says
Cranley failed to publicly raise the issue at all during his time on
council between 2000 and 2009.
Cincinnati’s streetcar project cleared another hurdle
Friday when Messer Construction announced it needed $500,000 to carry
out construction work, which is easily covered by the project’s $10
million contingency fund.
With a construction contract, new funding and accountability measures
now moving forward, the only potential issue is who has to pay to
move utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The city claims
Duke Energy does, while the energy company puts the onus on the city.
That issue is currently being worked out in court, although the city has
already set aside $15 million to carry out the work for now and just in
case Duke isn’t forced to carry the costs. Throughout the streetcar’s
history, the project has been mired in misrepresentations and
exaggerations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
The recently approved two-year state budget provides about $517 million less local government funding than the budget did in 2011,
even though it pays for $2.7 billion in new tax cuts. Democrats have been highly critical of the cuts, but the
governor’s office says local governments are effectively getting more
funding through other sources not particularly geared for city and
county governments. CityBeat covered local government funding in greater detail here and the state budget here.
Some state officials are pushing to establish an online, searchable database that would allow Ohio taxpayers to track state spending penny-by-penny. The state treasurer’s office already maintains a database for teacher and state employee salaries.
The Health Careers Collaborative, an organization working to increase health care employment in Greater Cincinnati, has a new leader.
Amish communities in Ohio are questioning whether they should take royalties for land that would be used for fracking,
an oil and gas extraction process that environmentalists claim is
dangerous for surrounding air and water. For the Amish, the issue is
spiritual, rooted in their religious restrictions against technology and
many facets of the modern world. CityBeat covered fracking and its ongoing effect on some Ohio communities in greater detail here.
Ohio gas prices are starting up this week.
Twinkies are returning to store shelves today.
HD 189773b, a blue exoplanet, may look hospitable, but the planet has a bad habit of raining glass sideways.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes.
by German Lopez
Officials seek local funding, parking plan delayed again, poor schools may get more funding
During Gov. John Kasich’s term as governor, local
government funding has fallen by nearly half — from nearly $3 billion to
about $1.6 billion — and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading an effort to get that funding back.
With the support of Democratic officials from around the state,
Sittenfeld is launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com, which is
gathering petition signatures that will eventually be sent to Kasich and
members of the Ohio General Assembly.
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler extended the temporary restraining order
on the city’s parking plan yesterday, potentially delaying any ruling
on the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority for another two weeks. In response, the city said
it’s approaching a “pressure point” for budget cuts for fiscal year
2014, which must be executed by July 1.
Ohio House Republicans are looking to bolster education funding to poor districts in response to criticisms of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal. A previous CityBeat analysis found Kasich’s budget proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthy in a few ways, including education funding.
City Council did not vote on funding
for a feasibility study for Westwood Square Wednesday, but the vote
could happen as early as next week. The delay came after the Westwood
Civic Association said in a letter that the plan needs more discussion.
The controversial election bill moved through
the Ohio House yesterday despite calls for more time for debate. The
bill, which will now head to Kasich to be signed into law, limits the
referendum process by giving referendum and ballot initiative
petitioners 10 days to get more signatures if the initial batch is found
to be inadequate. Under current law, petitioners can continually search
for more signatures while the secretary of state and ballot board sort
through signatures. Republicans argue the change makes the petition
process fair and uniform, but Democrats say it goes too far in weakening ballot initiative
and referendum powers.
The state’s $7.6 billion transportation budget, which
includes plan to fund transportation projects around the state with Ohio
Turnpike funds, breezed through the Ohio Senate Wednesday. It will reach the House for a scheduled vote today.
Attorney General Mike DeWine announced new efforts to help sexual assault victims around Ohio by ensuring each county has
adequate services. The efforts are in response to a survey that found
59 percent of counties don’t have comprehensive services and eight
counties have very few or no services. “It is our goal to ensure that a
quick and compassionate emergency response is available to any victim of
sexual assault at any time of the day, any day of the week and in any
area of the state,” DeWine said in a statement.
The federal government released data that shows
serious safety violations in hospitals that occurred since Jan. 1, 2011,
and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Christ Hospital are
both on the list.
Hamilton County ranked No. 65 out of Ohio’s 88 counties
for health in a new survey from Patrick Remington at the University of Wisconsin
School of Medicine. The study found suburban counties fare much better
than urban counties, and premature death is at a 20-year low.
Accusations of inappropriate teacher behavior in Ohio are on the rise.
Voyager 1 is or may soon become the first object humanity has ever sent out of the sun’s reach.
Officials from around Ohio want their local government funding back from Gov. John Kasich
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 20, 2013
With the support of Democratic officials
from around the state, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is
launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com to organize efforts to restore local government funding cut during Republican Gov. John Kasich’s time in office.
by German Lopez
at 10:13 AM | Permalink
Findlay Market ideal for restroom, Kasich cuts local funding, The Banks exceeds goals
A report issued by Director of Public Services Michael Robinson found Findlay Market would be the best place for a freestanding public restroom,
which could cost as little as $35,000. The idea has been heavily pushed
by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who has argued that the restrooms are
necessary to accommodate a growing population and wider activity in
Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took office,
leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding. Most of the
cuts came from the elimination of the estate tax, which would have
provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget,
but it was repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio
legislature and Kasich. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost
Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
In 2012, the team behind The Banks’ public construction met or exceeded all four major project goals,
according to the annual report from The Banks Public Partnership.
Contractors installed public safety technologies throughout the
intermodal transit center and parking facility, awarded a trade contract
for a new Pete Rose Way pedestrian bridge and walkway and prepared
design and funding documents for a river walk along the Ohio River. The
project has also gone more than 400,000 hours without a lost-time
accident. The Banks previously won what John Deatrick, project executive, called the “Oscar” of planning awards, which CityBeat covered here.
City Council delayed a vote
on opposing the sale of more than 700 Section 8 units in Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale because they want meet with the firm buying
the units first. City officials have scheduled the meeting for next
week. CityBeat previously covered Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ opposition to the deal here.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lifted a requirement
that forced any new sewer development that added waste water to the
county’s overall system to offset its gains with a fourfold reduction in
storm water taken in.
BuzzFeed, the popular viral video and pop culture website, listed the Cincinnati Public Library as No. 28 on the list “The 30 Best Places To Be If You Love Books.”
Ohio’s imprisonment of fewer youth may be part of a nationwide trend.
Three Cincinnati area businesses made Interactive Health’s “Healthiest Companies in America”: Standard Textile Inc., Totes-Isotoner and American Modern Insurance Group.
Mercy Health’s Anderson and Fairfield branches made the Truven Health Analytics ranking released this week, putting the two hospitals among the nation’s best.
Omya Inc. is receiving a five-year, 40-percent tax credit for completing a consolidation of its regional headquarters to Cincinnati, which should create 25 full-time jobs and generate $1.4 million in annual payroll.
Breaking news: Teenagers are horny. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Hundreds of Madeira High students involved in sexting?”
A Dayton donut shop is apparently one of the best in the nation, according to Saveur magazine.
Do video games cause violence? Apparently, the debate is a lot more complicated than most people think.
Mouse brain cells can live longer than the mice they came from.
by German Lopez
Previous cuts helped cause Cincinnati budget deficit
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government
funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took
office, leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding.
The report found local government funding dropped from
nearly $3 billion in the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years — the years budgeted
by former Gov. Ted Strickland — to about $2.2 billion in the 2012 and
2013 fiscal years — the first two years budgeted by Kasich. The governor’s most recent budget proposal would ensure
the continuation of the downward slide, with local government funding
dropping down to slightly more than $1.5 billion in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, according to the
Policy Matters concluded new revenue from the state’s
casinos and an expanded sales tax would not be enough to outweigh cuts
in the Local Government Fund, utility tax reimbursements, tangible
personal property reimbursements and the termination of the estate tax. By itself, the estate tax, which was phased out at the beginning of 2013, would have provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget, but it was repealed
in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Kasich.
The governor’s office has repeatedly argued that the cuts in Kasich’s first budget
were necessary to help balance an $8 billion budget deficit, but the
Policy Matters report says improving economic conditions have removed a need
for further local government funding cuts: “To encourage growth we need
good schools, reliable public safety and emergency services and strong
communities. During hard times, state and local policy led to cuts. But
further cuts in appropriations for local government are not helping
communities. Curtailing local control of local revenues will complicate
recovery – as the economy improves, it is time to restore the fiscal
partnership between state and community.”
When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
CityBeat previously covered Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal and how it affects taxpayers, schools and Medicaid recipients (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).