0 Comments · Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Cincinnati City Council approved a budget
Dec. 14 that relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34
million budget deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.
by German Lopez
Mayor candidate’s budget suggestions are inadequate, impossible
Former Democratic city council member John Cranley is kicking off his 2013 mayoral campaign by getting involved in budget talks. In a public hearing at City
Hall last week, Cranley tried to provide an alternative to privatizing the
city’s parking assets, which City Manager Milton Dohoney has suggested
to pay for $21 million of the city’s $34 million deficit.
“It’s not the citizen’s job to balance the budget, but let
me make it very easy for you,” Cranley said. “You have $12 million in
casino money that can be used but is currently being used on pet
projects, like street sculptures. The parking meters themselves produce
$7 million a year. That’s $19 million. And $5 million for garbage cans.
That’s $24 million. You only need ($21 million) to cancel the parking
privatization plan, so I got you $3 extra million to spare.”
In short, Cranley's alternative to parking privatization is using $12 million from
casino revenue, $7 million from keeping parking meters under city ownership and $5
million saved from not purchasing trash carts.
So how viable are Cranley’s ideas? In a memo, Dohoney’s
office responded. The memo points out that casino revenue is currently
estimated at $7.2 million, not $12 million, and $1.3 million is already
included in the budget for Focus 52, a neighborhood redevelopment project. That leaves casino revenues $6.1 million short of what Cranley proposed.
Regarding parking meters, Dohoney’s office says revenue
from parking meters is restricted to fund “operations and maintenance in
the right-of-way.” The memo says City Council could authorize using the money to plug the deficit, but it would then have to find
alternatives for funding operations and maintenance.
Even the trash cart proposal doesn’t work. Not buying trash carts would only
save $4.7 million, not $5 million. And the plan, which is part of the city’s effort to
semi-automate trash collection, is in the general capital budget,
not the general fund operating budget that’s being debated. The memo
concludes, “If the trash carts are not purchased, the funds would not be
available to close the gap because this is a capital budget expenditure
and resources supporting the capital budget cannot be used in the operating budget.”
In other words, Cranley’s “very easy” budget plan isn’t just difficult; it’s a mix of inadequate and impossible. If CityBeat was PolitiFact, Cranley’s suggestions would probably get him a “Pants on Fire” label.
by German Lopez
Governor reveals turnpike plan, city to approve budget, Kroger could buy Hostess brands
It’s official: Gov. John Kasich won’t privatize
the Ohio Turnpike. Instead, the Republican governor wants to increase
tolls at the rate of inflation and issue bonds backed by the turnpike’s
profits to raise an estimated $3 billion for infrastructure projects — more than 90 percent of which will be in northern Ohio, where the turnpike is located. To
ease the short-term burden of the plan, tolls for local passenger trips
using E-ZPasses will be frozen at current levels for 10 years. In a video
unveiling the announcement, Kasich says the projects could generate an
estimated 75,000 jobs. To most, the plan, which will require approval
from the legislature, probably seems like a fairly liberal proposal: use
a public asset to leverage revenue, then use the revenue on a large,
statewide stimulus program. But Democrats are criticizing the plan
because they say the toll hike will hurt individuals, families and businesses
that use the Ohio Turnpike. Let the eye-rolling at blatant politicking begin!
City Council is getting ready to approve the budget today. The final plan has made a few tweaks to City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposal. Parking privatization will remain, but the budget will provide a
one-year stopgap in funding for Media Bridges. Previously,
all of Media Bridges’ funding was being cut, which CityBeat wrote about here.
The plan will also keep the mounted patrol unit, maintain income tax
reciprocity and restore funding for human services and arts grants.
Will Cincinnati-based Kroger soon own Twinkies? It’s possible. The grocery store giant is considering buying Hostess brands in the aftermath of Hostess’ bankruptcy. CityBeat previously wrote about the Hostess bankruptcy here.
A study found a gap
in Hamilton County’s housing stock. The report suggests the county
doesn’t need any more housing than it already has; instead, it should
build on current properties. The report also found vacant housing that
isn’t for sale and serves no purpose has increased by 107 percent.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled a new master plan. It’s proposing $450 million in projects.
The Hamilton County recorder’s office will remain open
on Fridays. The office was previously planning to close every Friday
due to funding cuts, but restored funds have made staying open possible.
In its last session of the year, the Ohio Senate approved redistricting reform
32-1. The House could not take up the measure before the end of the
lame-duck session, but the vast bipartisan support could be a good sign
for next year’s legislative session. Redistricting is widely used by
politicians to redraw district boundaries in politically beneficial
ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was
redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include
Republican-leaning Warren County, effectively diluting Cincinnati’s
Democratic-leaning urban vote in the district.
Ohio lost more residents than it gained last year, but the trend might be reversed by a growing economy. Economic improvements have already slowed down what Dayton Daily News calls an “exodus.”
A new Ohio law would increase the amount of auto insurance motorists are required to carry.
A drop in gas prices lowered U.S. consumer prices by 0.3 percent.
NASA discovered the largest river
ever seen on another world. The river is on Titan, Saturn’s largest
moon, and it is made up of hydrocarbons. The river is still unnamed, so I
encourage everyone to email NASA to name the river the German Lopez
Climate change isn’t just bad for humans. It will also hurt cuddly land mammals.
Lynchpin of city budget plan has produced mixed results in other cities
1 Comment · Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The plan to balance Cincinnati’s budget
and its $34 million deficit seems to hinge on one thing — the
controversial plan to lease city parking facilities to a private
by German Lopez
Turnpike could remain public, asbestos bill passes, $150 million bid for parking services
The Ohio Turnpike will remain a public asset, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Many Ohioans have been worried Gov. John Kasich would attempt to privatize the
Turnpike in order to pay for transportation projects; instead, the
governor will try to generate revenue for state infrastructure projects
elsewhere, perhaps by using the Turnpike’s tolls. Kasich will unveil his
full plans Thursday and Friday.
The asbestos lawsuit bill is heading to Kasich to be signed.
The bill attempts to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos
exposure. Supporters of the bill say it will prevent double-dipping by
victims, but opponents say the bill will impede legitimate cases. Ohio has one
of the largest backlogs of on-the-job asbestos exposure cases.
City Manager Milton Dohoney has released some of the potential bids for the city’s parking services, and one bidder is offering $100 to $150 million. Dohoney says the budget can only be balanced if parking services are privatized or the city lays off 344 employees.
But Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is speaking out against the
privatization of the city’s parking services. In a statement, Sittenfeld
said, “Outsourcing our parking system robs the city of future revenue,
and also will mean higher parking rates, longer hours of enforcement,
and more parking tickets.”
LGBT rights are becoming “the new normal,” but not for Western & Southern or American Financial Group.
In the 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the Human Rights Campaign gave 252
companies a 100-percent score for LGBT rights.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble got a 90 percent, Macy’s got a 90
percent, Kroger got an 85 percent, Fifth Third Bank got an 85 percent, Omnicare got a 15 percent,
American Financial Group got a 0 percent and Western & Southern got a
0 percent. The rankings, dubbed a “Buyer’s Guide,” can be found here.
The Sierra Club says Cincinnati has some of the best and worst transportation projects.
In its annual report, the environmental group praised the Cincinnati
streetcar, claiming the transportation project will attract residents
and business owners. But the organization slammed the Eastern Corridor
Highway project because of its negative impact on the Little Miami River
and the small village of Newtown. The Sierra Club says the purpose of
the report is to shed light on the more than $200 billion spent on
transportation projects every year.
University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono is getting a 10-year contract.
The disease-carrying Walnut Twig Beetle has been discovered
in southwest Ohio. The beetle is known for carrying Thousand Cankers
Disease, which threatens the health of walnut trees. So far, no trees
have been determined to be infected.
Ohio Gov. Kasich, Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will meet today
to discuss funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project. If the bridge
project starts in 2014, northern Kentucky and Cincinnati could save $18
billion in fuel and congestion costs, according to the Build Our New
Bridge Now Coalition.
Following the defeat of Issue 2, the Ohio Senate is taking on redistricting reform,
but opponents in the House say there isn’t enough time to tackle the
issue. The current redistricting system is widely abused by politicians
on both sides of the aisle in a process called “gerrymandering,” which
involves politicians redrawing district lines in politically beneficial
ways. The First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was
redrawn during the Republican-controlled process to include
Republican-leaning Warren County, heavily diluting the impact of
Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning urban vote.
Ohio employers are more aware
of wellness than employers in other states, a new survey found.
Wellness programs are one way employers can bring down health-care
expenditures as cost shifting feels the pinch of diminishing returns.
However, Ohio ranked No. 35 in a nationwide health survey.
Ohio district didn't win federal Race to the Top education funds in the latest competition.
Internet cafe legislation is dead for the year.
Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus announced the legislation, which
essentially puts Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors out of business.
State officials, including Attorney General Mike DeWine, have been
pushing for regulations or a ban on the businesses because they see them
as a breeding ground for criminal activity.
The final 2011-2012 school report cards will not be available until 2013. The report cards were originally delayed due to an investigation into fraudulent attendance reports.Michigan may have approved its anti-union right-to-work law, but Ohio is not eager to follow.
State Democrats are already preparing for a possible battle over the issue,
but even Republican Gov. John Kasich says he’s not currently interested in a
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is loosening
hazardous waste reporting requirements for companies. If the rules go
into effect, regulated facilities will report on hazardous waste once
every two years instead of once a year. The rule changes will get a
public hearing on Dec. 19 in Columbus.
In a question-and-answer session Monday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked,
“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it
against murder? Can we have it against other things?” (Hint: The answer
to both questions is yes.) The Supreme Court recently agreed to tackle the same-sex marriage issue. CityBeat wrote about same-sex marriage in Ohio here.Dogs are now capable of driving, and parrots now have vehicles too. But can our new animal overlords shoot magic foam into the body to stop major bleeding? Because we can.
by German Lopez
Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops
The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal
regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the
deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three
years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However,
the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?
The identity of the Miami University student who put up
the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court
will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.
Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.
A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.
Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing.
About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2
percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could
shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a
higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make
the cut more progressive.
Gov. Kasich is ending the practice
of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could
potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with
bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.
If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on
Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court
today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First
Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private
associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also
do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the
animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law,
which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.
An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.
Ohio gas prices are still dropping.
The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Cincinnati City Council members focused a
lot of attention on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets
during a Dec. 3 committee presentation on the 2013 budget. The proposed budget would cover the first half of 2013 until
a switchover to a fiscal year starting in July.
by German Lopez
Mandel hires political workers, county will raise taxes, city faces privatization or layoffs
Republican Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is hiring political workers and friends at his job again.
His latest hires are Joe Aquilino, former campaign political director
to Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign, and Jared Borg, former campaign
political coordinator. During the 2010 campaign for the state
treasurer’s office, Mandel said, “Unlike the current officeholder, I
will ensure that my staff is comprised of qualified financial
professionals — rather than political cronies and friends — and that
investment decisions are based on what is best for Ohioans.” Mandel’s
spokesperson defended the hires by touting the treasurer’s
accomplishments in office.
With a vote set for tomorrow, it’s still unsure how the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will solve the stadium fund deficit, but it seems like both options require tax increases.
Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, proposed
increasing the sales tax by 0.25 percent. Board President Greg Hartmann,
a Republican, presented an alternative plan that reduces the property
tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he also said he’s not sure
how he’ll vote. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, says he
wants to find a plan that doesn’t raise taxes.
Either parking services are privatized or 344 city employees are laid off. That’s how City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. framed budget talks to City Council yesterday.
The city has already made drastic cuts since 2000, laying off 802
employees. Dohoney also pushed for repealing the property tax rollback
promised as part of the stadium deal in 1996, but City Council does not
want to raise taxes in the middle of a slow economy. The fact is any form of austerity will be painful,
so City Council should be as cautious of spending cuts as tax hikes. A
public hearing on the budget will be held Thursday at 6 p.m.
The city of Cincinnati’s plan to buy Tower Place Mall and the adjacent Pogue’s Garage in downtown is moving forward.
The city offered to buy the mall and garage for $8.5 million in order
to spur economic development in the area. The parking garage and
half-empty mall are currently in foreclosure.
Cincinnati State is looking to expand.
The Horseshoe Casino has begun its final round of hiring. The casino is set to open in spring 2013. A Washington Post analysis found casinos bring jobs, but also crime, bankruptcy and suicide.
One year later, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources hasn’t followed up on a court order to compensate flooded landowners.
The State Controlling Board approved three programs
that will provide transitional housing and other services to the
homeless. As part of the initiative, Habitat for Humanity of Ohio will
receive $200,000, the Homeless Crisis Response Program will receive
$12,680,700 and the Supportive Housing Program will receive $9,807,600
from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.Great numbers from November from auto companies could mean more hires.
The U.S. Supreme Court is delaying action on same-sex marriage. CityBeat covered gay marriage in Ohio and whether Ohioans are ready to embrace it in a Nov. 28 cover story.
A dissolving nanofabric could soon replace condoms for protecting against pregnancy and HIV.
by German Lopez
Port Authority could buy parking assets, county may raise sales tax, Cincinnati's LGBT score
The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is making a move to buy up the city’s parking services. Cincinnati is pursuing parking privatization
as a way of balancing the budget. If it accepts the Port Authority’s
deal, the city will get $40 million upfront, and $21 million of that
will be used to help plug the $34 million deficit in the 2013 budget.
Port Authority also promised 50 percent of future profits. The Port
Authority proposal is only one of nine Cincinnati’s government has
received since it announced its plan. CityBeat criticized the city’s budget plan in this week’s commentary.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners might raise the sales tax instead of doing away with the property tax rebate to stabilize the stadium fund.
Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune suggested the idea, and Board
President Greg Hartmann says it might be the only solution. Republican
Chris Monzel is against it. Sales taxes are notoriously regressive,
while the property tax rebate disproportionately favors the wealthy.
Portune claims the 0.25-percent sales tax hike would be more spread out
than a property tax rollback, essentially impacting low-income families
less than the alternative. CityBeat previously covered the stadium fund and its problems here.
While Cincinnati has made great strides in LGBT rights in
the past year, it still has ways to go. The Municipal Equality Index
from the Human Rights Campaign scored Cincinnati a 77 out of 100
on city services, laws and policies and how they affect LGBT
individuals. Cleveland tied with Cincinnati, and Columbus beat out both
with an 83. It's clear Ohio is making progress on same-sex issues, but will Ohioans approve same-sex marriage in 2013?
Some conservatives just don’t know when to quit. Even
though Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus pronounced the heartbeat bill
dead, Janet Porter, president of the anti-abortion Faith2Action, wants
to force a vote in the Ohio legislature. CityBeat previously wrote about Republicans’ renewed anti-abortion agenda.
Some people are not liking the idea of new fracking waste wells.
About 100 protesters in Athens were escorted out of an information
session from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for loudly
disputing a proposal to build more waste wells. Fracking, which is also
called hydraulic fracturing, is a drilling technique that pumps water
underground to draw out oil and gas. Waste wells are used to dispose of
the excess water.
One reason Ohio's online schools are so costly is advertising. CityBeat previously looked into online schools, their costs and their problems.
Divorce in Ohio might soon get easier to finalize, as long as it’s mutual and civil.
A new bill would give Ohio schools more flexibility
in making up snow days and other sudden disruptions in the school year.
The bill changes school year requirements from day measurements to
A new study found 60 percent of youth with HIV don’t know they have the deadly disease. CityBeat covered a new University of Cincinnati push meant to clamp down on rising HIV rates among youth in this week’s news story.
Tech jobs are seeing a boom due to Obamacare, according to Bloomberg.
Scientists have discovered a quasar that glows brighter than our entire galaxy.
They’ve also invented a chocolate that doesn’t melt at 104 degrees.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 31, 2012
It’s nearly budget season in Cincinnati
again. In a bit of a head start, City Manager Milton Dohoney has
unveiled his plan to look into privatizing the city’s parking services.