0 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
At a Budget and Finance Committee meeting
on May 13, City Council members grilled City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
on how the city will fix the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget
by German Lopez
Mallory to propose budget today, ALI settlement criticized, council reviewing rules
Mayor Mark Mallory will deliver his operating budget proposal to City Council today after making changes to the city manager’s proposal,
which hikes property taxes and lays off 201 city
employees, including cops and firefighters. City Council will then be
able to change and give final approval to the budget plan before June 1.
Some of the cuts may hit parks the hardest,
but city administration officials are cautioning that they did not
recommend the specific cuts being outlined, and it’s up to the
Cincinnati Parks Board to decide which areas the cuts will impact. The
city planned to help balance its $35 million operating budget
deficit with the parking plan, but that plan is currently being held up in court.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is speaking out against the settlement to sell the Anna Louise Inn to Western & Southern for $4 million.
“What has been served today is not justice nor moral on the part of
Western & Southern, and we will push for a day when Western Southern
recognizes their wrong-doings, asks for forgiveness and turns to doing
good,” said Josh Spring, executive of the Homeless Coalition, in a
statement. The group is asking supporters of the Anna Louise Inn to meet
at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church Friday at 6 p.m. to discuss
City Council is likely to keep its ability to call votes on different items
in larger ordinances and motions after seemingly failing to get support
from six elected council members. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who
proposed the changes, says the power is confusing because there’s no
hard standard set for what is separable, but Councilwoman Laure
Quinlivan, who has used the power before and supports it, says the rule
retains choice and flexibility. City Council is currently reviewing many
of its procedural rules, according to Simpson.
Ohio’s third grade reading guarantee was reworked by the Ohio House in part to relax standards for teachers. Previously, the law mandated teachers providing
reading guarantee services to have taught the subject for at least three
years, which critics of the law previously called “impossible to meet.”
The Ohio House is slowing down
with its Internet cafe moratorium bill while the Ohio Senate works on its bill that would effectively ban the businesses altogether. State
officials, particularly Attorney General Mike DeWine, have warned that
Internet cafes are prone to criminal activity, but supporters say the
businesses are just providing a demanded service.
The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending states strengthen drunken driving standards from a blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.
Here is the science behind hating nails on a chalkboard.
6 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Forget the bickering, back-and-forth and ballot measures. What we’re now doing — and I use “we” to
mean whomever accesses city coffers or pulls capital and/or operating
budget purse strings — is putting the streetcar before public good and
by German Lopez
Police chief leaving to Detroit, council scrutinizes streetcar, Anna Louise Inn sold
The city confirmed today that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig
will be leaving Cincinnati to take a job in Detroit. During Craig’s
time, the city experienced a significant drop in crime. City officials praised Craig for his attempts to forge better ties between the
Cincinnati Police Department and local communities, particularly by establishing
the External Advisory Committee, a group of active local
community members and business leaders that gives advice on the police department’s policies and procedures. City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. said the city will begin a nationwide search for
Craig’s replacement tomorrow.
Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) is selling the Anna Louise Inn to Western & Southern for $4 million,
and CUB will be relocating the Inn’s services to Mount Auburn. Many Anna Louise Inn
supporters are taking the sale as a sign Western & Southern won,
while others are glad the extensive legal battles are finally over. The
sale came after years of Western & Southern obstructing the planned renovations for the Anna Louise
Inn through court battles and other legal challenges, which CityBeat covered here. In a Q&A with The Cincinnati Enquirer,
Western & Southern CEO John Barrett reflected on the events, saying
his company took the “high road” throughout the controversy — a claim many Anna Louise Inn supporters dispute.
City Council grilled Dohoney
yesterday over fixing the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap and
whether paying for the cost overruns to save the project is worth it.
Supporters of the streetcar pushed questions and comments that touted
the streetcar project’s return on investment, which was further
supported by Dohoney’s testimony and previous studies
from HDR, a consulting firm, and the University of Cincinnati.
Opponents suggested the cost overruns were too much and the project,
which now stands at $133 million, is too expensive. A final decision is
expected by the end of May. The streetcar project’s funding comes from
the capital budget, which can’t be used to fix the city’s $35 million
operating budget deficit because of limits established in state law.
The city and county governments are clashing over the city’s hiring policies
for companies bidding on the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD)
construction projects. The city’s laws require construction
firms to have apprenticeship programs, which the city says promotes job
training on top of employment. But the Hamilton County Board of
Commissioners claims the requirements aren’t feasible and put too much
of a strain on companies. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune
questioned why the city’s policy only applies to MSD and not other local
The Duke Energy Garden is the latest addition to the Smale Riverfront Park.
A Catholic teacher union will not support Carla Hale,
a gay Columbus-area teacher who was fired after she named her
girlfriend in an obituary for her mother. Hale says she was fired over
her sexuality, but the Catholic Church says she was fired for revealing a
“quasi-spousal relationship” outside of marriage. The Catholic Church
opposes same-sex marriage, which means all gay couples are in a
non-marital relationship under the Church’s desired policies.The Internal Revenue Service scandal, which involves IRS officials unfairly scrutinizing conservative groups, is now nationwide. Previous reports pinned the practice on a Cincinnati field office, but numerous IRS offices around the country, including one in Washington, D.C., were found to be guilty of the practice in documents acquired by The Washington Post.
Headline from The Columbus Dispatch: “Man who killed wife, then self: ‘I couldn’t take her mouth anymore.’”
The brain catches grammar errors even when a person doesn’t realize it.
by German Lopez
City manager, council members discuss streetcar funding
At a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today, City
Council members grilled City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on how the city
will fix the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap and whether
paying for the cost overrun to save the project is worth it.
Supporters of the streetcar pushed questions and comments
that suggested the streetcar will provide the city with a large return on investment, which was
supported by Dohoney’s testimony and previous studies from HDR, a consulting
firm, and the University of Cincinnati (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
Opponents suggested the cost overruns were too much, and
the project, which the city manager said now stands at an estimated $132 million to $133 million, is
In a memo issued April 30, Dohoney recommended various capital funding sources
to fix the streetcar budget gap, including a temporary reallocation of
Music Hall renovation funds and money that would have otherwise gone to infrastructure projects around the
Dohoney clarified that funding for Music Hall is not being
permanently pulled; instead, his recommendations would delay Music Hall funding
until 2016, which is when the Music Hall project will need the funds, and use currently allocated funding on the streetcar project.
Dohoney added that Otto Budig, president of the Music Hall
Revitalization Company, raised no concerns about the streetcar plan
after it was explained to him.
Dohoney also clarified that his recommendations would not raise taxes.
A few council members, particularly Councilman Chris
Seelbach, asked whether the streetcar project could face future cost
overruns. Dohoney said it’s possible, based on the project’s scope.
“For major projects like this … there is usually an
anticipation that something other than the exact plan may occur
somewhere along the line,” Dohoney said.
For the streetcar project, there are a few remaining uncertainties. Dohoney said he doesn’t know for certain whether Messer
Construction, which responded to the city’s bid process with the lowest construction bid, is still willing
to contract with the city under the terms it previously offered. He said Messer officials have indicated they are still interested, but it remains an uncertainty until a contract is in place.
Another uncertainty is exactly how much laying down the
tracks will cost. Dohoney said it won’t be possible to gauge the exact
cost until Messer or any other company contracts with the city and
begins actual work on the project.
But for those situations, Dohoney said the streetcar project has a $10 million contingency fund available, as required by the federal government.
Councilman Chris Smitherman, who opposes the streetcar project, asked whether there’s a
funding ceiling that, if breached, would make Dohoney stop supporting
the streetcar project. Dohoney said he could not provide a number
without further thought and analysis. When Smitherman later asked if the streetcar
should be built at any cost, Dohoney said no.
When asked what would happen if the project’s cost overruns were not covered, Dohoney said the project would effectively end.
Smitherman asked how the city administration can be
pushing forward with the project, given the cost overruns: “How is the
administration continuing to move forward with a project that without a
vote of council is dead?”
Dohoney responded by saying the city administration does not have to stop by law until it is directed to do so by City Council.
Ending the project would come with its own costs of about
$72 million, according to Dohoney: $19.7 million that was already spent,
$14.2 million in close-out costs and $38.1 million in federal grants
that would have to be returned to the federal government.Dohoney said stopping would also make the federal government reluctant about working with Cincinnati in the future: “They’ve let us know they would not be pleased if we did it.”The city administration is currently working with the federal government to obtain another $5 million that could be used for contingency or to undo some of the overrun fixes being looked at, but federal officials are waiting to see how the city government reacts to the current cost overrun problems before a decision is made, according to Dohoney.
Much of the City Council discussion focused on the streetcar’s merits,
particularly whether the first phase of the project, which would run
from The Banks to just north of Findlay Market, could be successful on its own. The
city plans to eventually expand the route to the University of
Cincinnati and hospitals uptown — a route originally part of the first phase of the streetcar project that was cut after Gov. John Kasich pulled $52 million in state-distributed federal funding in 2011.
“If the intent of the streetcar would only be to go from
The Banks to just north of Findlay Market, then I never would have said
it's a project worth doing,” Dohoney said. “The intention has always
been to connect the two major employment centers of the city and go
But Dohoney later clarified that the first phase of the
project would help invigorate hundreds of vacant lots and buildings in
Over-the-Rhine, which he said would make that phase of the project a
success by itself.
Some opponents of the streetcar have incorrectly attempted
to tie the streetcar project to the city’s $35 million operating budget
deficit, which will likely be closed in part by laying off cops, firefighters and other city employees.
But the streetcar project’s funding comes from the capital budget,
which can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of limits
established in state law.
by German Lopez
Council to discuss streetcar, bills would protect LGBT, CPS to prevent data scrubbing
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding
sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and
money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino.
None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million
operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law
between capital budgets and operating budgets.
A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law
to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The
measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the
state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the
District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to
be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican
Gov. John Kasich to become law.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February
that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal
investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the
changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The
state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over
individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing
can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to
increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state.
An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups
that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the
U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a
Cincinnati field office.
Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job.
The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.”
Ohio gas prices are down this week.
A new study found people can better calm themselves down
by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to
control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions.
Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space:
by German Lopez
City manager proposes budget plan, budget hearings set, redistricting reform in 2014
The city manager unveiled his budget plan
to solve the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit yesterday. The plan includes less layoffs than expected — particularly to cops and
firefighters — but it proposes an increase to
property taxes. The plan also includes a series of other cuts, including
to all arts funding and subsidies that go to parades, and new fees. The
release for the budget plan says many of the cuts could have been
avoided if the city obtained revenue from the proposed parking plan, which is currently being held up by a referendum effort and court challenges.
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which uses
capital funds that can’t be used to balance the operating budget because
of limits established in state law.
The budget plan still has to be approved by Mayor Mark
Mallory and City Council to become law, and City Council will hear the
public’s opinion before a vote at three public hearings: May 16 at the
Duke Convention Center, May 20 at College Hill Recreation Center and May
22 at Madisonville Recreation Center. All the hearings will begin at
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he hopes the Constitutional Modernization Commission will produce a ballot initiative for redistricting reform in 2014. Politicized redistricting — also known as “gerrymandering” —
has been traditionally used by politicians in power to redraw
congressional district borders in a way that favors the political party
in charge, but reform could change that. Gerrymandering was used
by national and state Republicans to blunt losses in the 2012 election,
as CityBeat detailed here.
As Ohio struggles to expand Medicaid, our more conservative neighbor to the south is moving forward. CityBeat
covered the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which the Health Policy
Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million people and
save millions of dollars by 2022, here.
While some Democrats want to attach party labels to Ohio Supreme Court elections, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wants to do away with party primaries for judicial elections.
Former University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger, the second longest-serving president at UC, died at 76 yesterday.
New York City could soon become the first major city to let non-citizens vote in local elections.
The legislation would allow non-citizens to vote if they are lawfully
present in the United States, have lived in New York City for six months
or more on the date of a given election and meet other requirements
necessary to vote in New York state.
When one simple question makes a huge difference: “When Did You Choose to Be Straight?”
Blood may be the key to seeing how long brain tumor patients have to live and whether their treatment is working.
A new study found oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill sickened fish for at least a year.
Here is a compilation of adorable animals trying to stay awake.
by German Lopez
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
Council combats human trafficking, Medicare reveals price data, Duke tops 'Dirty Dozen'
With a set of initiatives unanimously approved last week, City Council is looking to join the state in combating Cincinnati’s human trafficking problem.
The initiatives would evaluate local courts’ practices in human
trafficking and prostitution cases and study the need for more
surveillance cameras and streetlights at West McMicken Avenue, a
notorious prostitution hotspot. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who
spearheaded the initiatives, says the West McMicken Avenue study will
serve as a pilot program that could eventually branch out to other
prostitution hotspots in Cincinnati, including Lower Price Hill and Camp
Medicare data released yesterday revealed charges and payments can vary by thousands of dollars
depending on the hospital, including in Cincinnati. Health care
advocates and experts attribute the price disparity to the lack of
transparency in the health care system, which allows hospitals to set
prices without worrying about typical market checks. CityBeat previously covered the lack of health care price transparency in Ohio here.
Duke Energy is the No. 1 utility company polluter
in the nation, according to new rankings from Pear Energy. The rankings
looked at carbon dioxide emissions, which directly contribute to global
warming. Pear Energy is a solar and wind energy company that competes
with utility companies like Duke Energy, but the methodology behind the
rankings was fairly transparent and based on U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency data.
Commentary: “Republicans Continue Voter Suppression Tactics.”
City Council approved form-based code yesterday, which
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has been working on for years. In a statement,
Qualls’ office called form-based code an “innovative alternative to conventional
zoning” that will spur development. “Cincinnati now joins hundreds of
cities that are using form-based code to build and reinforce walkable
places that create value, preserve character and are the bedrock of
Cincinnati neighborhoods’ competitive advantage,” Qualls said in the statement.
State Sen. Peggy Lehner is looking to amend the Ohio budget bill to add a $100 million voucher program
that would cover preschool for three- and four-year-olds. The details
of the program are so far unclear, but Lehner said she might put most of
the funding on the second year of the biennium budget to give the state
time to prepare proper preschool programs. If the amendment proceeded,
it would join recent efforts in Cincinnati to open up early education
programs to low- and middle-income families. CityBeat covered the local efforts and many benefits of quality preschool here.
Gov. John Kasich says he would back a ballot initiative for a mostly federally funded Medicaid expansion,
which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half
a million Ohioans and save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars
in the next decade. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio released a lengthy report
yesterday detailing how the state could move towards clean energy and
electric cars and calling for more state incentives for clean energy.
The report praises Cincinnati in particular for using municipal policies
to build local clean energy and keep energy jobs in the city.
The last tenant at Tower Place Mall is moving out.
Scientists are working on a microchip that could be implanted into the brain to restore memories.
They also found proof that seafloor bacteria ate radioactive supernova dust.
1 Comment · Wednesday, May 8, 2013
If you can’t beat them, make it so they
can’t play to begin with. That’s been the mentality of the Ohio
Republican Party time and time again, and the latest budget bill from
the Republican-controlled Ohio House continues the trend.