by German Lopez
41 hours ago
Local job numbers improve, housing supply lags behind demand, The Banks gets price tag
Local job numbers continued their positive trend
in April, with Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dropping to 6.9 percent
and the rest of the region following suit. Michael Jones, research
director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, attributed
the job gains to improvements in manufacturing and continued growth in
health care jobs. Still, the public sector continued to lag behind the
private sector — a trend Jones says could change in the coming months as
government budgets are adjusted to match higher tax revenues resulting
from the recovering economy.
Downtown’s population growth slowed last year as available housing failed to match demand,
according to Downtown Cincinnati Inc.’s annual report. In the past few
years, the city has pursued multiple actions to meet demand,
particularly through public-private partnerships. Most recently, City
Council approved leasing the city’s parking assets to raise funds that
would help build 300 luxury apartments, but that plan is currently being held up in court.
The second phase of The Banks riverfront project will cost $62 million,
according to the report from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. That’s smaller
than the first phase, which cost $90 million. The second phase of the
project is expected to begin this fall, and it should bring 300
apartments and 60,000 square feet of street-level retail space to the
area by the end of 2015. The Banks also plans to build a $45 million
hotel, which is also expected to be complete in 2015. The funding for the projects is
coming through multiple public-private partnerships.
After the final
public hearing on the city budget Wednesday, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan plans to introduce her own
budget plan that would avoid all city employee layoffs. A statement from Quinlivan
did not give much in the way of details: “My plan saves all city jobs
and restores all neighborhood programs. It requires common sense and
shared sacrifice of all city employees.” Most recently, council members
Chris Seelbach and Roxanne Qualls co-sponsored a motion that would eliminate fire layoffs and reduce police layoffs to 25 by making cuts elsewhere.
The Ohio Senate plans to vote
today on a measure that would effectively close down hundreds of
Internet “sweepstakes” cafes around the state in an effort to eliminate
illegal gambling activities. The cafes’ operators insist their
activities are not gambling but rather a promotional tool that helps
sell Internet time and long-distance phone cards.
Cincinnati’s zoning hearing examiner says he’s trying to reduce the time it takes to go through the zoning hearing process to less than 60 days.
Three major Ohio universities, including the University of
Cincinnati, and four hospitals, including Cincinnati Children's
Hospital, are teaming up to find out what causes premature birth.
Beginning July 1, some Ohio interstates will allow drivers to go 70 miles per hour. Find out which ones here.
At congressional hearings yesterday, U.S. senators
criticized Apple for legally taking advantage of the complex American
corporate tax system, but Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put the blame on
Russia is building robots to “neutralize” terrorists, and other researchers are working on robots that will attempt to rescue people after disasters.
The creator of the GIF says it’s pronounced “jif.”
by German Lopez
14 days ago
Posted In: Budget
at 10:31 AM | Permalink
Plan includes property tax hike, police and fire layoffs
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating
budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes
lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to
help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal
year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes.
The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in
property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for
the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan
would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual
property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new
pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s
bill each quarter.
The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the
Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire
personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other
departments, 64 would be laid off.
The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead
to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would
be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with
changes in revenue.
The budget release says the cuts are a result of the
city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and
legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy
makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the
local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of
revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the
majority of City Council but held up in litigation.”
With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance.
Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10
million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to
$3.5 million in the revised budget plan.
The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time
positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant
positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These
vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would
further challenge departments that have already experienced significant
funding and position reductions in prior budget years.”
The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for
health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living
adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and
senior level management positions, including the city manager. The
changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the
Other cuts in the budget were selected through the
Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used
surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important
to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from
personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental
Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation.
Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of
Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the
Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be
eliminated, along with all arts funding.
The budget plan would also eliminate various other
services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the
Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the
Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.
The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for
accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement
applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for
fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a
50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an
unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special
The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015.
The city was originally planning to lease its parking
assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the
operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful.
But if the city is successful in court, the budget release
claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the
The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved
by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the
budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July
Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause
to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City
Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively
eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even
laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall.
The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used
to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established
in state law.
by German Lopez
17 days ago
Parking hearing today, police chief may go, tea party planning against GOP
The First District County Court of Appeals heard arguments over the city’s parking plan and emergency clause powers today, with both sides making similar arguments as before
— except this time the city acknowledged it will probably have to move
forward with layoffs because the city only has a few weeks remaining
before it has to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins
July 1. The city claims it can use emergency clauses to expedite
legislation, such as the parking plan, by eliminating a 30-day waiting
period and the possibility of a referendum, but opponents argue the
wording in the City Charter doesn’t justify terminating referendum
efforts. If courts side with opponents, the city’s plan to lease its
parking assets to the Port Authority, which CityBeat covered here, will likely appear on the ballot in November, forcing the city to lay off cops, firefighters and other city employees instead of using the parking plan to help balance the budget.
It’s looking more and more likely that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will take the top police job in Detroit,
despite Cincinnati officials asking Craig to reconsider. Previously,
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, pushed
city officials to do more to encourage Craig to stay, but City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. said Craig’s motivations may be personal because
his family resides in Detroit, a city that is in desperate need of a
Ohio’s tea party groups are preparing to either split from
the Republican Party or punish Republican leaders for recent actions,
according to The Columbus Dispatch. Tea party groups have been particularly upset with Gov. John Kasich’s endorsement of the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here and here,
and Ohio Republicans’ election of Matt Borges, who once lobbied for a
gay rights group, as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Since the
2010 elections, tea party groups have kept political footholds in some
areas, but they have consistently lost favor with voters.
In case you missed it, here was CityBeat’s news coverage for the current week’s issue, which went online late because of Internet issues:News: “Think of the Children: Local leaders pledge to support efforts to put more low- and middle-income kids in preschools.”City Desk: “City Manager Defends Streetcar in Light of Budget Gap.”Commentary: “The Many Merits of Cycling Infrastructure.”
A portion of the Ohio House budget bill would make it more difficult
for out-of-state students to vote in Ohio by forcing public universities to
decide between extra tuition money and providing documents that students need to vote. Republicans say the rule is meant to lower tuition and prevent
out-of-state students from voting on local issues they may know little
about, but Democrats, backed by university officials, say the rule
suppresses college-going voters, who tend to support Democrats over
Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said there is no substantial Republican support
in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate or governor’s mansion for so-called
“right to work” legislation. The lack of support for the anti-union
laws, which prevent unions and employers from making collective
bargaining agreements that require union membership, may be
linked to 2011’s voter rejection of Senate Bill 5, which would have
limited public unions’ collective bargaining and political powers. S.B. 5
was one reason unions, including the Republican-leaning Fraternal Order
of Police, supported Democrats in 2012.
Despite security concerns in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon, Sunday’s Flying Pig Marathon had a record 34,000 participants.
Ohio gas prices are trending up this week.
Now on Kickstarter: Genetically modified plants that glow.
by German Lopez
29 days ago
Day of fasting today, local joblessness drops in March, parking petition process questioned
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to take
part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of Fasting today and put off lunch to help support the Freestore Foodbank. Sittenfeld’s office said in a press release that the event will allow
participants to “experience a small measure of the hunger that is a part
of many people’s daily lives.” There will be a ceremony for the event
at noon in Fountain Square, where participants will be able to donate to
the Freestore Foodbank.
March was another decent month for jobs in Cincinnati, with the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropping to 7.5 percent,
down from a revised 7.9 percent in February and 8 percent in March
2012. Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati
Economics Center, says most of the job growth is attributable to
Cincinnati’s growing health care services, but manufacturing has also
provided a local boon.
An anonymously posted video questions the legitimacy of some parking plan referendum petitions, but so far no formal challenges
have been filed against the referendum effort. Even if somebody were to
file a challenge, Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke
says it would required a lot — nearly 4,000 signatures — to halt a
referendum: “Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be
more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond
those five or six sights shown in the video.”
There is now a local effort to embrace the Cincinnati Preschool Promise,
a private-public partnership that would get more local children in
preschool. The current goal is to get 25 to 50 children in preschool in a pilot
program this fall. Studies show preschool is one of the best investments
that can be made for the economy in the long term. Local preschool
services were recently cut as a consequence of federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts that began March 1.
UC President Santa Ono is recommending the school freeze in-state tuition for the next school year
— a measure the UC Board of Trustees will consider in June. Ono also
said he will not take a salary increase or bonus for the next two years,
and he is asking the school to sell the presidential condo and use the
money to pay for scholarships.
While testifying to legislators reviewing his two-year budget request, State Treasurer Josh Mandel said his office has been targeted by cyberattacks, and the technology currently available to his department is not good enough to hold off the attacks.
Humana will hire 60 people for its customer service center in downtown.
Brain cells will control the power plants of the future.In a press release, Mayor Mark Mallory proclaimed today
Zips’ Cafe Day because the restaurant is finally adding bacon to its
by German Lopez
30 days ago
Board of Elections looking into anonymous video, but no formal challenge filed
A YouTube video
posted Sunday suggests that some of the parking plan referendum petition
signatures might have been gathered without a legitimate witness, but city
and county officials are so far unsure whether the video, which was posted anonymously, will amount to
much.Under Ohio law, petitions require signatures from both a supporter, who must reside in Cincinnati in the case of parking petitions, and a witness, who must be an Ohio resident and witness the act of someone signing the petition. The video shows what seems to be parking petitions placed on business counters with limited supervision — potential evidence that some of the parking petitions were signed without a witness present.
Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic
Party and Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the Board of
Elections is currently looking into what process needs to be followed as a result of the video.
Traditionally, Burke says, someone has to file a challenge,
which would then be investigated by the board. At that point, the board
would rely on subpoenas to get testimony from witnesses to determine
whether their petitions were valid.
“Under oath, circulators are likely to tell us the truth,”
Burke says. “Did you witness all the signatures on that parking petition? If he says no or she says no, ... then none of those
signatures are valid.”But Burke says it’s so far unclear whether that process will happen.
“The video is interesting, but it doesn’t prove anything,”
he says. “Any challenger would have to link each one of those shots in
the video to specific petitions that were signed by the circulator of
the petition that was on those counters.”
Even if someone did bring a challenge, it would
require nearly 4,000 invalid signatures to halt the parking plan referendum effort.
Yesterday, the Board of Elections announced the referendum effort had
gathered 12,446 valid signatures — considerably more than the 8,522
“Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be
more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond
those five or six sights shown in the video,” Burke says.Circulators who mishandled the process would
not face charges; instead, the signatures would simply be
discarded, according to Burke.
City Solicitor John Curp says the city’s law department is
taking “no side on whether there’s a vote,” and the city administration
has not taken action based on the video.
Curp says he would like to confirm whether those are parking petitions and if the video is factual in its presentation.
“If those were parking petitions, that was certainly troubling,” he says. “I hope this gets worked out in a timely manner.”
The parking plan would lease the city’s parking assets to
the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the city’s
operating budget deficits for the next two years and fund development
projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents say they’re concerned the plan will lead to
higher parking rates and extended hours that will hurt the local
economy. With 12,466 valid signatures, their referendum effort is
expected to culminate in a vote this November.
City officials previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters.
The full video is embedded below:
by German Lopez
31 days ago
Democrats endorse candidates, parking petitions scrutinized, Senate to rework state budget
The Democratic Party’s nominating committee announced who it’s supporting
for City Council Friday: Greg Landsman, who heads the Strive
Partnership and worked for former Gov. Ted Strickland; Shawn Butler,
Mayor Mark Mallory’s director of community affairs; Michelle Dillingham,
a community activist; and the six incumbents, which include Laure
Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Pam Thomas
and Wendell Young. The nominations still have to be approved by the
Cincinnati Democratic Committee.
Petitioners against the city’s parking plan are supposed to get their final tally on referendum today, but a new video shows at least some of the petitions may have been signed without a legitimate witness, which are needed to validate a signature.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections announced Thursday that
petitioners had met the necessary threshold of 8,522 signatures, but the
video casts doubts on whether those signatures were legitimately
gathered. The city wants to lease its parking assets to help balance the
deficit for the next two years and fund development programs around the
city (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), but opponents worry higher parking rates and
extended hours will harm the local economy. Here is the embedded video:
The Ohio Senate could restore
Gov. John Kasich’s tax, school funding and Medicaid plans when it votes
on the biennium budget for 2014 and 2015. Kasich’s tax and education
funding plans were criticized by Democrats and progressive groups for
favoring the wealthy, but the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio
says would expand Medicaid coverage to 456,000 low-income Ohioans and
save the state money, was mostly opposed by state Republicans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
New polling from Quinnipiac University found a plurality of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage rights — granting promising prospects to Freedom Ohio’s ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in the state this year.
An audit on JobsOhio could take months,
according to State Auditor Dave Yost’s office. Gov. John Kasich was
initially resistant to a full audit, but Yost eventually won out,
getting full access to JobsOhio’s financial records. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that is meant to eventually replace the
Ohio Department of Development.
In response to not getting a Democratic endorsement for his City Council campaign, Mike Moroski, who was fired from his job at Purcell Marian High School for supporting gay marriage, launched the Human Party.
Cincinnati received an “F”
for business friendliness in the 2013 Thumbtack.com U.S. Small
Business Friendliness Survey from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Embattled attorney Stan Chesley will no longer practice law in Ohio.
Chesley, who has been criticized for alleged misconduct, was recently
disbarred in Kentucky. He recently resigned from the University of
Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to in a letter from
fellow board members.
Ohio gas prices are shooting back up.
PopSci has an infographic showing sharks should be much more scared of humans than humans should be afraid of sharks.
by German Lopez
36 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:43 PM | Permalink
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls calls for public hearing to discuss project
After years of delays and obstructionism, a Tuesday memo from City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed a $22.7 million budget gap is
threatening to put an end to the streetcar project, prompting Vice Mayor
Roxanne Qualls to call for a public hearing to address the issue.
In the city manager’s memo,
the city says it could bring down the potential budget gap to $17.4
million with budget cuts, but the rest would have to come from new
funds. The memo says the budget gap is a result of construction bids coming in $26
million to $43 million over budget.
The memo says the city will continue working
with “federal partners” to find solutions, but it makes no specific
proposals — a sign the project will likely require new city funds and
private donations to close the gap.
In response to the memo, Qualls, a Democratic mayoral candidate who has long
supported the streetcar, called for a public hearing on April 29 in a statement sent out today. The statement says part of the meeting
will help clarify what would happen with allocated funding if
the project fell apart.
Qualls told CityBeat it’s too early to jump to
conclusions about the project’s fate, but she says it’s time to have a
serious discussion about the project. “We’re at the point where we need
to have a very robust public conversation about this that is based upon
fact,” she says.
At the public hearing, both council members and the public will have time to ask questions. Qualls says she’s interested in getting answers for how the project got to
this point, what the cost issues are, whether the streetcar is still a good economic investment and what
costs are associated with shutting down the project if it’s deemed
“Fundamentally, it’s an issue of what are the costs but
also what are the benefits,” she says. “We need to clearly outline both
for the public.”But opponents, including Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, have responded to the budget gap by criticizing the streetcar project. Cranley, a longtime
opponent of the streetcar, called for the project’s end in a statement
today: “The streetcar has been a bad idea and a bad deal for the people
of Cincinnati from the beginning. ... Ms.
Qualls has already voted to raise property taxes three times to pay for
the project. When is she going to say ‘enough is enough’?”The opposition is nothing new to the project, which has undergone multiple bouts of obstructionism, including two failed referendum efforts in which a majority of voters came out in favor of the streetcar. Qualls says these delays have only made the project’s implementation more difficult.The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing the two Democrats running for mayor this year, making it a contentious political issue (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
The city recently approved two motions to prepare to hire
John Deatrick, the current project manager for The Banks, to help bring
the streetcar’s costs in line (“City Moves to Hire New Streetcar Manager,” issue of April 10). Deatrick was involved in finding savings in the streetcar project, according to the memo.
The hire and shortfall announcement came in the middle of an ongoing local budget crisis that may lead to the layoff of 344 city employees,
including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. The crisis is a result of
legal and referendum efforts holding up the city’s plan to lease parking
assets to the Port Authority, which would have opened up funds to help
balance the budget for the next two years and carry out development projects around the city,
including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).But the streetcar project, including Deatrick’s hire, is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget that employs cops and firefighters. Capital budget funds can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.
A statement from Cincinnatians for Progress defended the
streetcar, despite the higher costs now facing the project: “These are
challenging moments for Cincinnati's administration and City Council
regarding the streetcar. Bids came in higher than anticipated. However,
even at a slightly higher cost, the economic benefits of the system far
outweigh these costs. This is a reality that has been outlined in study
after study and confirmed in results from other cities across the
“Nearly 100 years ago, political leaders were having these
same discussions before tragically losing resolve and abandoning the
proposed subway and rail system that was nearly complete. Times have
changed. A new attitude of positivity has taken over our city. We must
continue the pattern of success that encompasses many recent projects
that were difficult and not inexpensive, but well worth the investment.”
by German Lopez
37 days ago
Cecil Thomas recommends Pam Thomas for replacement
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas’ last City Council
meeting will be Wednesday, after which he will be replaced by his wife of
32 years, Pam Thomas.
“Her qualifications are impeccable,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “She will give this city a good representation.”
Thomas’ wife ran for Hamilton County clerk of courts last
year, ultimately losing to Tracy Winkler. But Thomas said she won 70
percent of the vote in Cincinnati, making her an obviously strong
contender as a local candidate.
Thomas’ recommendation has raised questions among critics about how council members are replaced upon resignation. Incumbents can only make recommendations to successor designees, who make the final decision, but as Councilman Wendell Young, one of Thomas’ designees, noted at the meeting, the designees typically give great weight to the incumbent’s recommendation. When asked whether council members should have so much
power in recommending appointees, Thomas said, “I just follow the
rules.” He said if City Council wants to change the rules, it can.
Thomas said he will now run for the
State Senate seat being left vacant by State Sen. Eric Kearney, who is
term limited. He acknowledged the State Senate may be a more
difficult place for Democrats, which are in the minority at the state
level, but he said he hopes to “bridge divides” if he serves.
Until then, Thomas said he is looking forward to his time
off, although he will miss having a role in local politics: “It's going
to be tough to not be able to have that direct hands-on.”
Thomas said he wanted to step down earlier in the year,
but he decided to stay in office to see if the city could avoid laying
off cops and firefighters by balancing the fiscal year 2014 budget through the parking plan
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), which Thomas strongly supports. With the parking plan now in legal limbo and the layoffs going through, Thomas is stepping down.
by German Lopez
43 days ago
Posted In: Health
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling
Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies.
The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas
severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state
income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The
amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school
funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House
plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting
too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s
proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal
funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL
Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47
percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link
between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided
false information about the connection between breast cancer,
infertility and abortion, among other findings.
The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling
so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City
Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case
of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need
to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency
clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but
Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum,
effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city
now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The
ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets
to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic
With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study
youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city
policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will
look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime,
poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the
study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.
Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely
limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will
co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a
bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.
Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting
to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton,
campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s
developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics
and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic
Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting,
McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as
“unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile,
recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.
As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.
Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.
by German Lopez
49 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:34 PM | Permalink
Still no budget deficit-solving consensus in sight
If Cincinnati does not lease its parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, it will have to pay
off a $35 million deficit in the fiscal year 2014 budget through other means, but
those means were disputed at a special session of City Council today.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and other
administration officials say the city will have to carry out Plan B,
which would lay off 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80
council members Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and
Chris Smitherman claim there are other ways — casino revenue and cuts
elsewhere — to balance the budget.
The meeting got testy after a few council members called
the city administration “disingenuous” for framing Plan B and the
parking plan as the only two budget options, prompting Mayor Mark Mallory to
slam council members for attempting to pin the city’s budget woes on the
“I don’t think anyone in the administration wants to see
their colleagues laid off,” Mallory said. “The administration makes a
recommendation to this mayor and to this council. The final decision
makers are the elected leaders.”
He added, “What’s disingenuous is to create a crisis and then
criticize the administration for its response to the crisis when those
responsible for dealing with the crisis are the elected leaders. It
would be like an arsonist setting a building on fire and then
complaining about how long it took the fire department to get there and
what equipment they used to put out the fire.”
Lea Eriksen, the city’s budget director, said the ideas
she heard at the special session today would not be enough
to close the budget gap.
Throughout the discussion, the city administration
repeatedly dismissed ideas presented by council members as not enough to overcome the city’s $35 million deficit and avoid layoffs. By the city
administration’s admission, even Plan B would only close about $26
million of the projected deficit.
How that budget gap is closed may come with additional
expenses. Eriksen said the budget gap may reach $45 million if the city carries
out Plan B because the city would also be forced to pay for accrued
leave and unemployment insurance.
Still, Assistant City Manager David Holmes
city could balance the deficit without Plan B or the parking plan, but
the numbers must “add up” and would require direction from City Council.
When the discussion came to casino revenues, Holmes said
the city administration feels “uncomfortable” projecting casino revenue
because the state’s projections have trended downward in the past few
years. In 2009, the state government estimated Ohio’s casinos would take
in $1.9 billion a year, but that projection was changed to $957.7
million a year in February.
Eriksen said the city estimates between $9
million and $11
million in casino funds will be available to the city. She said even if
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino hits its $100 million goal, the city
will not be able to get the $21 million previously touted by Horseshoe
Casino General Manager Kevin Kline because the money is pooled with
money from other casinos around the state, which has fallen far below
projections, before it’s distributed to cities
When asked about shifting parking
meter revenue to the general fund to help balance the budget, Eriksen
said doing so would ultimately be a “wash” because of expenses currently
attached to parking meter revenue.
Seelbach suggested making more cuts through the
priority-driven budgeting process. Eriksen explained Plan B does cut
programs that were poorly ranked by the process — the mounted patrol
unit, arts funding and recreation centers were a few examples she cited. But
only relying on programs ranked poorly by the priority-driven budgeting process would “decimate” departments and
programs that the city deems essential, she said.
In the original 2013 budget proposal put forward by the city
manager, mounted patrol was cut, but Seelbach lobbied for the
Multiple council members brought up traveling and training
costs as potential areas to cut, but Eriksen said the city
administration had not considered further cuts in those areas because
the leftover expenses are currently used to get certifications that city
employees “need to do their jobs.”
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, asked the city administration
if they tried to balance the budget without layoffs. Eriksen replied,
“Yeah, that was called the parking plan.” She added without the parking
plan, it would be “mathematically impossible” to balance the budget
When Winburn suggested city employees should take salary
cuts, Eriksen said such cuts would require extensive negotiations with
unions because about 90 percent of the city’s employees are unionized.
In November, Winburn was one of the prominent supporters of giving the city manager a raise and bonus.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat running for mayor,
said she would be open to using any revenues possible for reducing the
budget gap, but she said City Council must acknowledge the harsh budget
realities facing the city — further re-emphasizing points she made in a blog post Sunday.
John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, has said
in the past that the threat of layoffs is “the boy crying wolf.”
Cranley released his own budget plan
on March 28 that he says would avoid layoffs and balance the budget
without the parking plan, but some critics say the budget’s revenue
estimates are unrealistic.Eriksen said Cincinnati has run structurally imbalanced budgets since 2001, but city officials say deficits have been made much worse by state cuts in local government funding carried out by Gov. John Kasich and the Republican legislature since 2010 (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on
March 6 that would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority
to raise funds that would help balance the deficit for the next two
fiscal years and pay for new development projects, including the
construction of a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the parking plan, who say they fear it will
lead to rate hikes, filed their petitions for a referendum effort today.
It is so far unclear whether they have the 8,522 verified signatures
required to put the issue on the November ballot.