by German Lopez
Police program raises privacy issues, parking plan explained, streetcar project continues
With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine,
law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial
recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer,
DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the
program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the
public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s
initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and
privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able
to abuse the new tool.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets
once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but
it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise
revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or
the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken
steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a
reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas.
The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time
injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to
development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents
of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s
parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking
rates and hours.
Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets
will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for
Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving
forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John
Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the
demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1
A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic
will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI
claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of
that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way.
Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary
Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to
provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation
funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals,
among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today
begins its first week back to school.
Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery.
Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than
Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has
stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by
half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average.
The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial.
NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
by German Lopez
Streetcar gets executive, businesses call for inclusion, gun control group opens Ohio chapter
John Deatrick is taking over as project executive of the Cincinnati streetcar project, moving on from his previous work as project manager of The Banks. Deatrick’s hiring announcement happened in April, but it was delayed while City Council fixed the project’s budget gap. Deatrick and his team previously won an award
for their work at The Banks, and he says he will bring the same scrutiny
and success to the streetcar project. A new project manager for The
Banks is set to be hired in August. Since the streetcar project’s
inception, it has been mired in misrepresentations and political
controversy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Local business leaders are calling on the city government to change its contracting policies to target minority- and women-owned businesses. Advocates argue the city’s inclusion rates have greatly dropped
since Cincinnati did away with its inclusion program in the 1990s, but
the city administration points out the rates are likely understated
because women- and minority-owned businesses are no longer required to report
themselves as minorities or women. The business leaders say the figures are too low regardless,
which could have big implications since minority-owned businesses are
more likely to hire minorities, who have twice the unemployment rate as
white residents. As a result of court rulings, Cincinnati needs to first
conduct a disparity study before it makes any changes that specifically target minorities or women.
Gabrielle Giffords’s anti-gun violence organization is opening an Ohio chapter
to promote legislation that intends to protect both the public
and the rights of gun owners. Giffords, a former U.S. representative
who survived an assassination attempt, has been touring around the
country — at one point coming to Cincinnati
— to speak out against gun violence. Gun control legislation
failed in the U.S. Senate in April after it fell short of getting 60 votes to overcome
procedural hurdles, even though polling shows a clear majority of
Americans favor such legislation.
Local government funding may be further reduced
as a result of recent tax cuts because the Local Government Fund traditionally gets a percent of state tax revenue. Specifically, critics are concerned
less state tax revenue will slow down “natural growth” in funding to
cities and counties. Last week, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio
found the recently passed two-year state budget already reduces local government funding, following even steeper reductions in the previous budget. The cuts since Gov. John Kasich took office have cost Cincinnati more than $22 million.
A traffic camera ban would cost Ohio cities and counties millions of dollars in revenue.
Ohio gas prices are starting down this week.
Home-schooled and private-school students have a right to play on public school teams because of a provision in the recently passed state budget.
When Columbus’ parking meters were upgraded to accept credit cards, revenue jumped by 13.2 percent. Cincinnati’s meters will be upgraded as part of the parking privatization plan.Ohio air bases are undergoing review
this week as part of Congress’ attempts to gauge whether the nation’s
Air Force is prepared for current and future missions and homeland
Slow news day, Enquirer?
Florida researchers found “fat shaming” actually perpetuates obesity.
It would probably take 300 to 500 piranhas five minutes to strip the flesh off a 180-pound human.
by German Lopez
Parking lease facing legal dispute, critical memo dismissed, mayor to attend streetcar social
In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action
to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages
to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager exceeded his authority when he
made two “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after
City Council approved the deal in March. If the city solicitor doesn’t
take up the legal challenge, COAST could sue the city by itself.
Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s necessary to fund development
projects in the city and modernize the city’s parking services, but
opponents say it gives up too much control over the city’s parking
meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown.
The Business Courier reports that a critical parking memo was supposed to provide a “strike point” for negotiations between the Port Authority and Xerox,
which will manage the city’s parking meters under a lease agreement.
But the city administration didn’t begin sharing the June 20 memo with
anyone else, including the Port Authority, until July 12, after council
members and media outlets began asking the city administration about it.
The memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the parking lease agreement and overpaying Xerox. Port and city officials argue the memo relied on outdated information and made technical errors.
Mayor Mark Mallory will today join fellow streetcar supporters
at Rhinegeist Brewery to discuss the streetcar project’s latest news
and future. The city on July 15 set an opening date of Sept. 15, 2016
after finalizing a construction contract with Messer Construction, Prus
Construction and Delta Railroad, which was made possible after City Council closed a $17.4 million budget gap in June. CityBeat recently debunked some of the misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project here.
Commentary: “Zimmerman Reactions Overlook Broader Racial Issues in America.”
Public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down
following city and state funding cuts. The organization’s demise is a
great loss to producers like Rufus Johnson, who used its resources for years. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the
state eliminated a fund that was provided by Time Warner Cable, but even the local funding was fully cut in the budget passed in May. City officials
have justified the cuts by pointing to citizen surveys that ranked Media
Bridges poorly in terms of budgetary importance, but a CityBeat
analysis found the surveys were skewed against the low-income
Cincinnatians that benefit the most from public access programs like
State Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing multiple felony charges
related to securities fraud. A lawsuit filed in Hamilton County by
investors alleges that money invested at the request of Beck and others
was used for personal gain — specifically, Beck’s campaign — instead of a
business investment as originally intended. Beck has been in power
since 2009, and his current term is set to expire in 2014.
A former poll worker was sentenced to five years for voter fraud after she voted twice for herself and three times for her sister, who’s been in a coma since 2003.
The driver who last August accidentally hit and killed a local cyclist is awaiting his sentence.
Local bike advocacy groups are asking courts to give the maximum
penalty to the driver, who’s facing at most six months in jail and a
The local housing market is rapidly recovering in a
continuing good sign for the economy, with single-family home permits up
48 percent in June compared to the year before, according to the Home
Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Reds games are No. 3 for local TV ratings in all of Major League Baseball, behind only the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Xavier University is laying off 31 employees and cutting 20 currently vacant positions.
A Miami University student is getting an astronaut scholarship, making him one of 28 students nationwide to receive the honor.
Entrepreneur says Cincinnati is an “unexpected hub for tech startups.”
A new self-aiming rifle would outshoot human snipers.
Popular Science has a guide for arguing against anti-vaccine crazies here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:55 AM | Permalink
Supporters gathering Thursday to discuss project
Mayor Mark Mallory will join fellow streetcar
supporters Thursday to discuss how the project is coming along and where
The event is the monthly streetcar social, hosted by Cincinnatians for Progress.
Organizers expect to pull in nearly 100 people from around
the city to discuss topics and issues surrounding the project. It will take place on Thursday, July 18, between 5:30 p.m. to 8
p.m. at Rhinegeist Brewery, 1910 Elm St., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202. For
more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.
Mallory, who’s term-limited from running for reelection
this year, has spearheaded efforts to build a streetcar in Cincinnati.
He’s been joined by a steady Democratic majority in City Council, which
most recently approved $17.4 million more in funding for the project
alongside several accountability measures that will require the city
manager to regularly update council and the public on the project’s
In the past week, the city announced the streetcar is set to open for service on Sept. 15, 2016, after city officials and bidders finalized details for a construction contract.
CityBeat’s cover story for the week of July 10 debunked the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the Cincinnati streetcar project.
Streetcar supporters argue the project will foster
economic growth and development in Cincinnati, particularly downtown — a
claim backed by studies from advising company HDR and the University of
Opponents claim the project, which now stands at $133
million after recent cost overruns were fixed, is too expensive. They doubt it will succeed in spurring growth
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Following years of political controversy,
the Cincinnati streetcar is scheduled to open for service on Sept. 15,
by German Lopez
Memo doubts parking plan, city manager defends hiding memo, streetcar to open 2016
The city administration yesterday disputed the findings of a June 20 memo
that suggested the city is getting a bad deal from its parking lease
agreement with the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but controversy
remains about why the city administration withheld the memo from City Council and the
Port Authority for three-plus weeks. Opponents of the parking plan are
now attempting to use the memo to convince the Port Authority to reject
the lease with Xerox, but the Port Authority insists that the memo is
laced with inaccuracies and technical errors. The city is pursuing the
lease to obtain a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual
payments, according to city estimates. The money will be used to pay
for future budget gaps and development projects, including the I-71/MLK
City Manager Milton Dohoney defended the city administration’s decision to withhold the June 20 memo,
but several council members are angered by what they call a “lack
of transparency.” Still, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls argued the
administration’s decision to keep the memo from City Council was
understandable because the memo was based on faulty information.
The Cincinnati streetcar got an opening date yesterday: Sept. 15, 2016.
The grand opening comes after years of political controversy, pulled
funding and two referendum efforts nearly killed the project. Ever
since it was first proposed, the streetcar project has been engulfed in
misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered here.
A federal judge made permanent his earlier decision that Ohio must count provisional ballots
if they’re submitted in the right polling place but wrong precinct. The
ruling is being taken as a victory by voting-rights advocates.
Cincinnati is negotiating to claw back
its incentive with Kendle International Inc., which agreed in 2008 to
keep its headquarters and create jobs at the city’s Carew Tower. The
agreement gave Kendle $200,000 over 10 years on the
condition it steadily grew jobs. The failure may add further doubt to
the value of job deals, which were criticized earlier in the year by a
report CityBeat covered here.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Christ
Hospital and Bethesda North Hospital are among the best hospitals in the
nation, according to U.S. News’s “Best Hospitals” feature.
Here are some of the odd things that made it into the two-year state budget.
Gov. John Kasich signed a Columbus school plan that will allow levy money to be shared with charter schools that partner with the Columbus school district.
The Senate is the best place in the country to eat hot dogs, according to Food & Wine.
More U.S. hospitals now treat gay parents equally.
Dogs apparently can watch television, which is good news for an Israeli channel explicitly aimed at dogs.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:16 AM | Permalink
Grand opening among several dates set after construction deal finalized
Following years of political controversy, the Cincinnati streetcar is scheduled to open for service on Sept. 15, 2016.
The news was unveiled in a city memo this morning, which
detailed the streetcar project’s future following a construction deal
with Messer Construction, Prus Construction and Delta Railroad.
The news comes after Messer revealed it will need nearly $500,000 more to do construction work, which will be covered by the project’s $10 million contingency funds.
The memo detailed other upcoming milestones for the streetcar project:• March 1, 2015: Substantial completion of a 3,000-foot test track and maintenance center.• June 29, 2015: Substantial completion of Over-the-Rhine loop.• March 15, 2016: Substantial completion of all work.
City Council recently approved $17.4 million in
additional capital funding for the streetcar project, along with various
accountability measures that will require the city manager to regularly update
council and the public on the project’s progress. The project’s estimated cost now stands at $133 million.Ever since its inception, the Cincinnati streetcar has been mired in political controversies and misrepresentations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
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.
13 Comments · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Most anti-streetcar talking points are
perpetuated without proper context, but they’ve still been effective in
rallying a libertarian-style argument against government spending,
despite the potential benefits.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:08 AM | Permalink
Messer Construction asks for less than $500,000 more; easily covered by contingency fund
Messer Construction says it needs nearly $500,000 more than the original $71 million it asked for to
do construction work for the streetcar project, but the extra money is
easily covered by the project’s $10 million contingency fund that the
city established in case of further cost overruns.In June, City Council approved an extra $17.4 million and
accountability measures for the streetcar project, which require the city manager to publicly update council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an
operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports. During discussions for
the funding and accountability proposals, some council members, particularly Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld, raised concerns that Messer would require more money than
the city could afford. Sittenfeld said he was especially concerned Messer would have all the leverage going forward, considering the city supposedly needed the lower construction bid to keep the project within its new budget.Messer was the lowest bidder for the project’s
construction work, but even that bid came $26 million higher than
the city’s original estimates, forcing the city to close a budget gap if
the project was to continue.
With the construction bids taken care of, the only known
funding concern for the streetcar is who has to pay $15 million for moving utility
lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. Duke Energy argues the cost burden is on
the city, while the city says the energy company has to pay up. The
issue is currently being decided in court.Ever since Cincinnati began pursuing the streetcar
project, it’s been mired in misrepresentations and political
controversy, which CityBeat covered in further detail in this week’s cover story.