by German Lopez
City personnel changes spur backlash, county seeks MSD compromise, judge indicted again
The latest administrative shakeups at City Hall spurred
controversy after the city administration confirmed City Solicitor John
Curp will leave his current position and one of the new hires — Bill
Moller, a city retiree who will become assistant city manager — will be
able to “double dip” on his pension and salary ($147,000 a year). Councilman
P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at today’s council meeting. The hiring decisions are up to Interim City Manager
Scott Stiles, but some council members say they should be more closely
informed and involved. (This paragraph was updated after council members called off the special session.)Hamilton County commissioners plan to vote on a resolution
today that attempts to compromise with City Council on controversial
contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. Both
the Democrat-controlled city and Republican-controlled county agree the
issue needs to be resolved soon so MSD can get on with a $3.2 billion
sewer revamp mandated by the federal government. But it remains unclear
whether the county’s compromise, which adds some inclusion goals and
funding for training programs, will be enough for City Council. In
December, Democratic council members refused to do away with the city’s
contracting rules, which require MSD contractors to meet stricter job
training standards and programs.Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter was
indicted on a ninth felony charge yesterday. The charge — for misusing
her county credit card — comes on top of eight other felony counts for
allegedly backdating court documents and stealing from office. In
response to the first eight charges, the Ohio Supreme Court disqualified
Hunter as she fights the accusations and replaced her with a formerly retired judge, who will be
aided by the juvenile court’s permanent and visiting judges in
addressing Hunter’s expansive backlog of cases.A bipartisan proposal would allow Ohioans to recall any elected official in the state.Duke Energy cut a $400,000 check to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority for redevelopment projects at Bond Hill, Roselawn and
Queensgate.Sixty-two people will be dropped from Hamilton County
voter rolls because they didn’t respond to a letter from the board of
elections challenging their voting addresses.It’s official: Democrat Charlie Luken and Republican Ralph
Winkler will face off for the Hamilton County Probate Court judgeship.Facing state cuts to local funding, a Clermont County
village annexed its way to higher revenues. But the village has drawn
controversy for its tactics because it explicitly absorbed only public
property, which isn’t protected from annexation under state law like
private property is.More Ohio inmates earned high school diplomas over the
past three years, putting the state ahead of the national average in
this area, according to a report from the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee.Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear says he supports legislative
efforts to increase Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 over the next
three years.One Malaysian language describes odors as precisely as English describes colors.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
New assistant city manager could "double dip" into pension and salary
Cincinnati’s city manager, law and budget offices will see
major shakeups in the coming months, the city administration announced
Tuesday, and one of the new hires is a
former city retiree who might tap into his pension while
receiving a salary from the city.Bill Moller is a city retiree who will be eligible to
“double dip” into his pension and a city salary ($147,000 a year) when the city rehires him in February
to fill an opening for assistant city manager, city spokesperson Meg
Olberding confirmed in an email to CityBeat. Whether he does is entirely up to the interim city manager, Olberding wrote.The possibility could draw criticism from city officials looking to balance Cincinnati’s structurally imbalanced operating budget. Last year, City Council drew opposition for its decision to hire Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick and allow him to double dip on his pension and a city salary.Update: Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at Wednesday’s full council meeting, instead of a special session on Thursday as originally planned.Moller will eventually replace Assistant City Manager
David Holmes, who helped oversee efforts for The Banks and 2012 World
Choir Games and filed to retire on April 1, Interim City Manager Scott
Stiles wrote in a memo to City Council and the mayor.“At this point in time, Cincinnati needs not only someone
who is proficient in all aspects of municipal finance, but in the
aspects of the city of Cincinnati’s finances in particular. Mr. Moller
has that experience,” Stiles wrote, noting Moller’s budget and finance
experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington.City Solicitor John Curp will also leave his current position to instead act as chief
counsel for the city’s two utilities, the Metropolitan Sewer District
and Water Works.“The utility has been undergoing a merger of back office
functions to save ratepayers money, and also has been expanding services
and service areas to decrease costs,” Stiles wrote. “John (Curp) has the private sector experience to assist the utilities with a market-oriented approach, and is uniquely positioned to understand both the particulars of MSD and GCWW as well as the areas in which they can expand.”The move should save ratepayers money by allowing both
utilities to rely on Curp instead of outside legal counsel when legal
issues arise, according to Stiles.Although widely praised by city officials, Curp’s move is
unsurprising given the politics surrounding Mayor John Cranley’s
election. Curp offered legal guidance for the parking privatization plan
and streetcar project, both of which Cranley opposes.Terrence Nestor, currently the city’s chief litigator, will replace Curp as city solicitor until a permanent appointment is made.Stiles announced other changes as well:• Markiea Carter, currently a development officer, will
move to the city manager’s office to act as assistant to the city
manager.• Karen Alder, currently risk manager for the city, will begin
assisting Finance Director Reginald Zeno as the city’s deputy finance
director.Stiles is currently filling as interim city
manager while the city conducts a nationwide search for a permanent
replacement to former City Manager Milton Dohoney. Stiles could apply
for the permanent role, but his application would need City Council
support to win out over other potential candidates.The city expects the city manager search to last through
June, at which point further administrative changes could be expected if
the city hires a new permanent city manager.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Major supporters of the streetcar project oppose the Oasis rail line and the broader Eastern Corridor project.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
In the third month of open enrollment,
Obamacare failed to meet crucial demographic goals for young adults in
Ohio and across the nation.
4 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Put it all together, and the trend is obvious: Republicans are trying their best to rig the elections.
Following promises of miracles, Ohio’s weakening economy could hurt Gov. John Kasich’s re-election bid
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Ohio’s weakening economy could damage Gov. John Kasich and other Ohio Republican incumbents’ chances of reelection in 2014.
by German Lopez
Gay marriage case becomes election issue, local jobs report mixed, mayoral primary nears
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is
criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex
marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with
no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General
takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is
a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the
deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal
treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon
Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs
taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together
The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June,
gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population
trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4
percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year
before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has
received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.
Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley,
Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two
finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are
perceived as the leading contenders in the race.
University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.
Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.
BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down
by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati
chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted
religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities
since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and
inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with
increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to
experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the
organization said in a statement.
Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged
two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than
$155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County
Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border
Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess.
One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion
of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after
comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”
Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.
Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.
by German Lopez
Early voting tomorrow, Obamacare enrollment to open, pension amendment cuts benefits
Have any questions for City Council candidates? Submit them here and CityBeat may ask your questions at this Saturday’s candidate forum.
Early voting for the 2013
City Council and mayoral elections begins tomorrow. Find your voting
location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
Tomorrow is also the first day of open enrollment at Obamacare’s online marketplaces, which can be found at www.healthcare.gov.
At the marketplaces, an Ohio individual will be able to buy a
middle-of-the-pack health insurance plan for as low as $145 a month
after tax credits, while a family of four making $50,000 will be able to
pay $282 a month for a similar plan, according to Congressional Budget Office numbers.
Starting in 2014, most Americans — with exemptions for religious and
economic reasons, the imprisoned and those living outside the country —
will be required to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
Organizations from around the state and country will be working over
the next six months to help insure as many Ohioans and Americans as
possible, but some of those efforts have been obstructed by Republican
legislators who oppose the president’s signature health care law, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Meanwhile, the federal government is nearing a shutdown because of Republican opposition to Obamacare, including local Reps. Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup.
A report from the conservative Buckeye Institute echoes claims made by both sides in Cincinnati’s pension debate:
A tea party-backed amendment, if approved by voters, would
reduce retirement benefits for new city employees by one-third. At the
same time, the city’s unfunded pension liability might be $2.57 billion,
or three times what officials currently estimate. The amendment would
semi-privatize Cincinnati’s pension system by forcing future city
employees to contribute to and manage their own individual retirement
accounts, which would imitate private 401k plans commonly seen in the
private sector. Under the current system, the city pools pension funds
and manages the public system through an independent board. The pension
amendment is backed by tea party groups, some of who may reside outside Cincinnati and Ohio, and will appear on the ballot as Issue 4.
To celebrate early voting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley,
will name her vice mayor today. Qualls is expected to select
Councilman Wendell Young. Cranley and Qualls are both Democrats, but
they’re heavily divided on the streetcar project and parking plan, both
of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The mayoral candidates mostly focused on the two issues in their first post-primary mayoral debate,
which CityBeat covered here.
Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati’s new police chief, starts on the job today.
He’s replacing former Police Chief James Craig, who left in June to
take the top police job in his hometown of Detroit. The city has praised
Blackwell for his 26 years at the Columbus Division of Police, where he
reached out to youth and immigrants, advanced the use of technology,
worked closely with community members and helped reduce operating costs.
Cincinnati Councilwoman Pam Thomas today announced that
she’s introducing a motion to hire a 40-member police recruit class. The
motion addresses a drop in the amount of Cincinnati police officers in
recent years: Staffing levels since the last recruit class have dropped
by 15.2 percent, according to Thomas’ office. “Our police staffing
levels are dangerously low,” Thomas said in a statement. “We cannot
afford to sacrifice our public’s safety by not hiring this recruit
class.” In this year’s budget, the city managed to prevent cutting
public safety jobs by slashing other city services, including city
parks. But Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan argues that Cincinnati’s public
safety forces, which are proportionally larger than most comparable
cities, need to be “rightsized” and reduced over time.
The amount of local children and teens going to the hospital with a concussion massively increased
between 2002 and 2011, and the number is expected to increase further
because state law now requires medical clearance to continue playing
sports after a concussion.
Ohio gas prices are back below the national average.
AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati's largest private company, got a new CEO.
Earth may have stolen its moon from Venus.
by German Lopez
Turnout much higher than mayoral primary
Early reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections indicate Election Day is proceeding with
minimal problems and voter turnout is considerably better than it was for the Sept.
10 mayoral primary.
“There’s always bumps in every election … but nothing
highly unusual,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of the board of
Countywide voter turnout was estimated at 20 percent
around noon, with turnout in Cincinnati stronger than the rest of the
county, according to Krisel. But she cautions that the numbers are still
unclear and could completely change, particularly after work hours.
Turnout is particularly strong in wards one, four and five,
according to Krisel. That could be good news for mayoral candidate John
Cranley, who handily won all three wards in the primary against opponents Roxanne Qualls, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble.
But since citywide voter turnout was an abysmal 5.74 percent in the
primary election, it remains uncertain how much primary results will
ultimately reflect on Tuesday’s election. Historically, Cincinnati’s mayoral primaries failed to predict the winner of the general election.
Cranley obtained nearly 56 percent of the vote on Sept.
10, while Qualls got slightly more than 37 percent. Both candidates received enough support to advance to Tuesday’s ballot, but the
Qualls campaign acknowledged the lopsided results were disappointing.
To obtain the Election Day numbers, the county is for the
first time tracking ballot usage. Krisel says the measure allows the
county to gauge countywide voter turnout and whether more
ballots are needed in different voting locations.
Tuesday’s votes come in addition to 20,500 absentee and early voters
across the county, about 90 percent of who already submitted ballots to the board of elections. Krisel claims that’s about half the amount of early
voters from two years ago, but she says she doesn’t know whether that
will reflect on the final turnout numbers.
The election is the first time Cincinnati voters will
elect City Council members for four-year terms, which means Tuesday’s
results will effectively set the city’s agenda for the next four years.
Voters are also deciding on a new mayor, the Cincinnati Public Schools board, two property tax levies for the local library and zoo, and a proposal that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees.
Polls will remain open until 7:30 p.m. To find out where to vote, visit the board of elections website.
For more election coverage and CityBeat’s endorsements, go to the official election page here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities
Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on
Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as
mayor of Cincinnati.
Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the
kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins
his term on Dec. 1.
Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he
already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build
more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix
of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent
starting in December.
One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133
million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members
oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing
construction for the project.
“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some
point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,”
Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the
clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going
in a different direction.”
But in response to recent reports
that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown
costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a
final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley
acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.
Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.
Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter
that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by
placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.
On the current city administration’s plan to lease the
city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and
Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a
way to cancel the deal.
But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement
already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port
works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance
the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.
Cranley also promises to make various development projects
his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to
re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to
the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of
Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back
nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were
Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to
leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s
neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and
downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We
want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see
significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square
He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can
policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several
stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”
Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus
unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley
says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in
line, but no specifics on a plan were given.