by Nick Swartsell
138 days ago
at 08:08 AM | Permalink
Budget watch, $500k for baseball, AR15s and appletinis
City council continued to tinker with the budget yesterday, shifting around a few items in an edge of your seat, five-plus hour thrill ride that was as riveting for me to watch as it would be for you to read about. Instead of giving you the play by play, though, because it’s probably too early for that much excitement, I’ll just hit you with the high points. Under the changes approved yesterday, Cincinnati Works will get $250,000 for a jobs program on which Cranley campaigned, Bond Hilll will get $350,000 for blight removal and the Camp Washington pool will stay open.Council passed the changes 6-3, with members Kevin Flynn, Chris Seelbach, and Yvette Simpson voting against due to some lingering concerns about the city’s pension fund.Other issues still looming include a water rate hike and questions about $4 million the city owes eight neighborhoods. On that last issue, Councilman Charlie Winburn suggested the sale of the Blue Ash Airport could cover the borrowed money. Council may need to decide quickly, because a lawsuit hits court today over the city’s use of the money.There is a public hearing tonight on the budget in Westwood, so you can still catch some of the action. Let’s get fiscal! Council is expected to take a final vote on the package tomorrow at its weekly meeting, though it has until June 30 to pass the budget.The state could throw Cincinnati half a million dollars to help the city with hosting the 2015 Major League Baseball All Star Game. That money from taxpayers could be used for extra police, enhanced transit options and general beautification, according to The Enquirer. Though the money hasn’t been allocated yet, Gov. John Kasich has indicated he’s looking for ways to make it happen. Elsewhere, Seattle just raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, among the highest in the country. The city has yet to receive a predicted smiting from the economics gods, though no doubt it will soon turn into a hellish wasteland where fast food workers can actually afford to buy things like food and shelter without government assistance. When even the National Rifle Association says your preoccupation with guns is “weird,” you know you’re in Texas. Open carry advocacy groups in the Lone Star state have gotten in hot water recently for toting their assault rifles into Chili’s and other fine dining establishments. AR15s and appletinis? What could go wrong?Got news? Want to talk? Email nswartsell@citybeat or hit me on Twitter-- @nswartsell
by Rachel Podnar
Organization could become first to utilize city’s proposed domestic partner registry
Lahman was doing cartwheels in her mind for Metro this morning.
organization’s Ridership and Development Director celebrated Metro’s
announcement on Thursday that it will provide health and dental benefits to
domestic partners of its employees.
said she has used same-sex partner benefits in the past, when she went back to
partner and I] know first-hand what it means to have the flexibility and
equality as others do in the workplace,” Lahman said at a press conference at
Metro’s office. “This is just a fantastic day and I’m so proud that Metro is
able to do the right thing.”
is the first employer to say it will use Cincinnati’s domestic partner registry
if the initiative passes next week in City Council. Should it pass, Cincinnati
will be the 10th city in Ohio to have a domestic partner registry.
John Cranley and City Councilman Chris Seelbach attended the press conference
and spoke in support of the move.
called it “symbolically and substantively right” and during the
announcement shared a memory in honor of Maya Angelou, her poem “On the Pulse
of Morning” at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
ended it with ‘Good morning,’” Cranley said. “I think this is a good morning
for Cincinnati, a new day.”
of Cincinnati’s major employers, including Procter & Gamble, Kroger and
Macy’s offer same-sex and domestic partner benefits.
said while those companies already have systems to evaluate domestic
partnerships, the registry will give other companies like Metro an easy way to
provide those benefits.
are now leaders in the nation and the region to make sure everyone is welcome
in our city, regardless of who they love,” Seelbach said. “Everyone should
bring their full self to their workplace and be able to do that with health
benefits for their partners.”
said while Metro is the first to say it will use the registry, other companies
like Cincinnati Bell have expressed interest.
is a nonprofit tax-funded public service of the Southwestern Ohio Regional
Transit Authority (SORTA) with around 850 employees.
of SORTA’s executive statements says the organization is committed to a work
environment that “promotes dignity and respect for all.”
Chair Jason Dunn said SORTA’s commitment to inclusion is a great business
shows that we value our employees,” Dunn said. “It shows that not only is Metro
on the cutting edge of transportation but also making sure we are open to
talent and we are open to retaining great talent in our system.”
partners with a valid marriage license, same-sex partners registered by a
government entity and same-sex partners with a sworn affidavit will be
recognized by Metro for domestic partner benefits, which will take effect
January 1, 2015.
by German Lopez
Downtown project gets path forward, feds to pay for firefighters, health board defies mayor
Flaherty & Collins, the developer that wants to tear
down a garage as part of its downtown grocery and apartment tower
project, offered to pay for a tenant’s move to keep the deal moving
forward. The tenant, Paragon Salon, recently announced its intent to sue
the city after Mayor John Cranley’s refusal to pay for the salon
business’s move left the development project and Paragon in a limbo of
uncertainty. With Flaherty & Collins’ offer, the development deal
should be able to advance without extra costs to the city.But Cranley says he still wants 3CDC to review the downtown development project to set the best path forward.Federal money will help Cincinnati keep and hire more
firefighters. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response
(SAFER) grant provides nearly $8.1 million — about 2 percent of the
city’s $370 million operating budget — to pay the salaries and benefits
of 50 firefighters for two years. Afterward, the city will need to pick
up the costs, which could worsen an operating budget gap that currently
sits at $22 million for fiscal 2015. The move would increase the
Cincinnati Fire Department’s staffing levels from 841 to 879 and help prevent brownouts, according to the firefighting agency.The Cincinnati Board of Health defied Mayor Cranley by
unilaterally pursuing a $1.3 million grant that will provide
preventative and primary care services to underserved populations. Rocky
Merz, spokesperson for the board, says the grant application complies
with guidance from the city’s top lawyer. Cranley opposes the grant because the extra services it enables could push up costs for the city down the line.Hamilton County officials will look for outside legal help in
their fight against the city’s job training rules for Metropolitan Sewer
District projects. CityBeat covered the rules, known as “responsible bidder,” in further detail here.Smale Riverfront Park will receive $4.5 million in federal
funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control erosion and
prevent flooding.Crime around Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino never
materialized, despite warnings from critics prior to casinos’
legalization in Ohio.Ohio’s prison re-entry rate declined and sits
well below the national average, according to a study from the Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The study found 27.1
percent of inmates released in 2010 ended up back up in prison, down
from 28.7 percent of individuals released in 2009. In comparison, the
national average is 44 percent.Hundreds of Ohio school districts plan to test out the
state’s new online assessments for math, language arts, social studies
and science.The cold winter is pushing up natural gas prices, according to Ohio’s largest natural gas utility.A second baby might have been cured of HIV, the sexually
transmitted disease that causes AIDS. Even with the potential successes,
doctors caution it’s still very much unclear whether the treatment
provides a definitive cure for the deadly disease.Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind intravaginal ring could prevent pregnancy and HIV.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Anti-P&G protesters face court, 3CDC to resolve project, mayor denies politics in board pick
A group of Greenpeace protesters face burglary and vandalism charges after a stunt yesterday on
the Procter & Gamble buildings. Protesters apparently teamed up with a helicopter to climb
outside the P&G buildings to hang up a large sign criticizing the
company for allegedly enabling the destruction of rainforests in
Indonesia by working with an irresponsible palm oil supplier. P&G
officials say they are looking into the protesters’ claims, but they
already committed to changing how they obtain palm oil by 2015.Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) will step in
to resolve the status of a downtown grocery and apartment tower
project. The previous city administration pushed the project as a means
to bring more residential space downtown, but Mayor John Cranley refuses
to pay to move a tenant in the parking garage that needs to be torn
down as part of the project. Following Cranley and Councilman Chris Seelbach’s request for 3CDC’s help, the development agency will recommend a
path forward and outline costs to the city should it not complete the
project.Meanwhile, the tenants in the dispute announced today that
they will sue the city to force action and stop the uncertainty
surrounding their salon business.Cranley insists politics were not involved in an
appointment to the Cincinnati Board of Health, contrary to complaints
from the board official the mayor opted to replace. Cranley will replace
Joyce Kinley, whose term expired at the end of the month, with Herschel
Chalk. “Herschel Chalk, who(m) I’m appointing, has been a long-time
advocate against prostate cancer, who's somebody I’ve gotten to know,”
Cranley told WVXU. “I was impressed by him because of his advocacy on behalf
of fighting cancer. I committed to appoint him a long time ago.”The costs for pausing the streetcar project back in
December remain unknown, but city officials are already looking into
what the next phase of the project would cost.Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s must fully pay for rent and fees by March 10 or face eviction.Through his new project, one scientist intends to “make 100 years old the next 60.”Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Mayor blocks downtown development, city leaders push for Google Fiber, budget gap grows
Mayor John Cranley could dismantle a deal that would
produce a grocery store, 300 luxury apartments and a new parking garage
downtown. Cranley says he doesn’t want millions put toward the deal, even
though the developer involved plans to invest another
$60 million. Councilman Chris Seelbach says the deal isn’t dead just
because of the mayor’s opposition, and City Council could act to bypass
the mayor, just like the legislative body did with the streetcar project
and responsible bidder. To Seelbach, the deal is necessary to bring
much-needed residential space and an accessible grocery store downtown.Cincinnati officials and startup executives will try to
bring Google Fiber, which provides Internet speeds 100 times faster than
normal broadband, to Cincinnati. Google plans to hold a national
competition to see which cities are most deserving of its fiber
services. “Over the last several years, Cincinnati’s innovation
ecosystem has made tremendous strides,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said
in a statement. “We’re increasingly becoming a magnet for talented
entrepreneurs across the country who want to come here to bring their
big ideas to life. We need to ensure that we have the modern
technological infrastructure to make Cincinnati nationally competitive.”Cincinnati’s operating budget gap for fiscal 2015 now
stands at $22 million, up from an earlier forecast of $18.5 million,
largely because of extra spending on police pushed by Cranley and a
majority of City Council. The city must balance its operating budget
each year, which means the large gap will likely lead to layoffs and
service cuts.Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”Cranley won’t re-appoint the chair of Cincinnati’s Board
of Health. When asked why, Chairwoman Joyce Kinley told City Council’s
Budget and Finance Committee that Cranley told her “he had to fulfill a
campaign promise.” Some city officials say they worry Cranley is putting
politics over the city’s needs.Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s needs to pay back rent or
move out, The Banks’ landlord declared Monday. The deciding moment
for Mahogany’s comes after months of struggles, which restaurant owner
Liz Rogers blames on the slow development of the riverfront.Kathy Wilson: “Mahogany’s: Turn Out the Lights.”Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino supports 1,700 workers, making it the largest of Ohio's four voter-approved casinos.At least one airline, Allegiant Air, plans to add flights from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.Headline: “Man wakes up in body bag at funeral home.”“A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra,” the Los Angeles Times reports.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Tax abatements benefit wealthy, group to market Cincinnati, winter raises city’s costs
About 1 in 20 Cincinnatians, many of them in the
wealthiest neighborhoods, pay less in taxes because their home
renovations and constructions are subsidized by a local tax program.
While the program benefits the wealthy, it also hits Cincinnati Public
Schools and other local services through lost revenue. The tax abatement
program aims to keep and attract residents and businesses by lowering
the costs of moving and living in Cincinnati. Anastasia Mileham,
spokeswoman for 3CDC, says the tax abatements helped revitalize
Over-the-Rhine, for example. Others say the government is picking winners and losers
and the abatement qualifications should be narrowed.With hotel room bookings back to pre-recession levels,
Source Cincinnati aims to sell Cincinnati’s offerings in arts, health
care, entrepreneurism and anything else to attract new businesses and
residents. The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau
established the organization to reach out to national journalists and
continue the local economic momentum built up in the past few years.
“Successful cities are those that have good reputations,” Julie
Calvert, interim executive director at Source Cincinnati, told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Without reputation it’s difficult to get businesses to expand or
relocate or get more conventions or draw young diverse talent to work
for companies based here.”The harsh winter weather this year pushed Cincinnati’s
budget $5 million over, with nearly $3 million spent on salt, sand and
. The rest of the costs come through increased snow
plowing shifts and other expenses to try to keep the roads clean. The
extra costs just compound the city’s structurally imbalanced budget
problems. The need for more road salt also comes despite Councilman Charlie
Winburn’s attempts to undermine the city’s plans to stockpile and buy
salt when it’s cheap.Mayor John Cranley says the success of The Incline Public
House in East Price Hill, which he helped develop, speaks to the pent-up
demand for similar local businesses in neglected Cincinnati
neighborhoods.Less than a month remains to sign up for health insurance plans on HealthCare.gov.
The estimated 24,000 students who drop out of Ohio schools
each year might cost themselves and the public hundreds of millions a
year, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says meth abuse has reached “epidemic” levels in the state.Ohio gas prices continued to rise this week.Developers say they have funding for the first phase of a Noah’s Ark replica coming to Williamstown, Ky.There’s a Netflix hack that pauses a movie or TV show when the viewer falls asleep.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Council backs parking plan, strong mayor gains support, museum keeps Dr. Seuss cartoons
City Council yesterday expressed support for a barebones
parking plan that would upgrade all meters to accept credit card
payments and increase enforcement around the city, which should boost
annual revenues. The plan does not increase rates or hours at meters, as
Mayor John Cranley originally called for. It also doesn’t allow people
to pay for parking meters through smartphones. The plan ultimately means
death for the parking privatization plan, which faced widespread
criticism after the previous city administration and council passed it
as a means to jumpstart new investments and help fix the city’s
operating budget and pension system.Councilman Christopher Smitherman plans to pursue changes
to the city’s political structure to give more power to the mayor and
less to the city manager. Smitherman says the current system is broken
because it doesn’t clearly define the role of the mayor. Under
Smitherman’s system, the mayor would run the city and hire department
heads; the city manager, who currently runs the city and handles hiring,
would primarily preside over budget issues; and City Council would pass
legislation and act as a check to the mayor. Smitherman aims to put the
plan to voters this November.Commentary: “WCPO’s Sloppy Streetcar Reporting Misses Real Concerns.”The Cincinnati Art Museum maintains five political
cartoons from the famed Dr. Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel), but none are
currently on public display. The cartoons call back to the history before
World War II, when most of the world played ignorant to the horrors of
the Holocaust and Americans had yet to enter the war. Dr. Seuss loathed the villains on the world stage, and his cartoons promoted a
message of interventionism that would eventually lead him to join the
Army to help in the fight against the Axis powers. When he returned home, he would
write the famous stories and books he’s now so well known for.Mayor Cranley and some council members appear reluctant to
accept a routine grant application that would allow the Cincinnati Health
Department to open two more clinics because of the potential effect the
clinics could have on the city’s budget. Cranley and other council
members also seem concerned that the Health Department played a role in
the recent closing of Neighborhood Health Care, which shut down four
clinics and three school-based programs after it lost federal funding.Ohio legislators approved a bill that forces absentee
voters to submit more information and reduces the amount of time
provisional voters have to confirm their identities from 10 days to one
week. For Democrats, the bill adds to previous concerns that Republicans
are attempting to suppress voters. The bill now goes to Gov. John
Kasich, a Republican who’s expected to sign the measure into law.The Ohio legislature continues wrangling over how to give schools more snow days.More than 175,000 claims have been filed over winter damage, potentially making this winter one of the costliest in decades.Robot suits could make mixed martial arts blood-free.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
Preschool could save money, domestic partner registry coming, mayor seeks inclusion
Universal preschool could save Cincinnati $48-$69.1
million in the first two to three years by ensuring children get through
school with less problems and costs to taxpayers, according to a
University of Cincinnati Economics Center study. The public benefits
echo findings in other cities and states, where studies found expanded
preschool programs generate benefit-cost ratios ranging from 4-to-1 to
16-to-1 for society at large. For Cincinnati and preschool advocates,
the question now is how the city could pay for universal preschool for
the city’s three- and four-year-olds. CityBeat covered universal preschool in further detail here.Cincinnati leaders intend to adopt a domestic partner
registry that would grant legal recognition to same-sex couples in the
city. Councilman Chris Seelbach’s office says the proposal would
particularly benefit gays and lesbians working at small businesses,
which often don’t have the resources to verify legally unrecognized
relationships. Seelbach’s office says the registry will have two major
requirements: Same-sex couples will need to pay a $45 fee and prove
strong financial interdependency. In a motion, the mayor and a
supermajority of City Council ask the city administration to structure a
plan that meets the criteria; Seelbach’s office expects the full
proposal to come back to council in the coming months.Mayor John Cranley plans to take a sweeping approach to
boosting minority inclusion in Cincinnati, including the establishment
of an Office of Minority Inclusion. The proposal from Cranley asks the
city administration to draft a plan for the office, benchmark inclusion
best practices and identify minority- and women-owned suppliers that
could reduce costs for the city. The proposal comes the week after
Cranley announced city contracting goals of 12 percent for women-owned
businesses and 15 percent for black-owned businesses.Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminated early voting
on Sundays with a directive issued yesterday. Husted’s directive is
just the latest effort from Republicans to reduce early
voting opportunities. Democrats say the Republican plans are voter suppression, while
Republicans argue the policies are needed to establish uniform early
voting hours across the state and save counties money on running
elections.The Butler County Common Pleas Court ruled Tuesday that
the village of New Miami must stop using speed cameras. Judge Michael
Sage voiced concerns about the administrative hearing process the
village used to allow motorists to protest or appeal tickets.Ohio officials expect to get 106,000 Medicaid applications through HealthCare.gov.The first shark ray pups born in captivity all died at the Newport Aquarium.
Rising home prices might lead to more babies for homeowners.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Seelbach touts measure to boost Cincinnati’s LGBT inclusion score
The mayor and a supermajority of City Council backs
efforts to establish a domestic partner registry for same-sex couples in Cincinnati,
Councilman Chris Seelbach’s office announced Tuesday.If adopted by the city, the registry will allow same-sex
couples to gain legal recognition through the city. That would let
same-sex couples apply for domestic partner benefits at smaller businesses, which typically don’t
have the resources to verify legally unrecognized relationships, according to Seelbach’s office.Specifically, the City Council motion asks the city administration to
reach out to other cities that have adopted domestic partner registries,
including Columbus and eight other Ohio cities, and establish specific guidelines.Seelbach’s office preemptively outlined a few requirements to sign up: Same-sex
couples will need to pay a $45 fee and prove strong financial
interdependency by showing joint property ownership, power of attorney, a
will and other unspecified requirements.“As a result of a $45 fee to join the registry, we believe
this will be entirely budget neutral, meaning it won't cost the city or
the taxpayers a single dollar,” Seelbach said in a statement.If the plan is adopted this year, Cincinnati should gain a perfect
score in the next “Municipal Equality Index” from the Human Rights
Campaign, an advocacy group that, among other tasks, evaluates LGBT inclusion efforts from city to city.
Cincinnati scored a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 rankings, with domestic
partner registries valued at 12 points.Seelbach expects the administration to report back with a full proposal that City Council can vote on in the coming months.
by German Lopez
Proposal could increase parking enforcement, hours and rates
Mayor John Cranley on Feb. 12 officially unveiled his
plan for Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, providing the
first clear option for the city’s parking system since the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority agreed to halt the previous plan.
The proposal seeks to effectively replace the previous
administration’s parking privatization plan, which outsourced the city’s
parking assets to the Port Authority and several private companies, and maintain local control of the city’s parking assets.Here’s a breakdown of the plan and all its finer details.
What is Cranley’s parking plan?
It’s a plan for Cincinnati’s parking
meters, lots and garages. More specifically, Cranley calls his proposal a
“framework” that focuses on upgrading the city’s parking meters and keeps City Council’s control of parking rates and hours.
Cranley’s plan, based on a Feb. 7 memo from Walker Parking Consultants, achieves his goals in a few ways:
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to upgrade all parking meters to accept credit card payments.
• The amount of enforcement officers under the city’s
payroll would increase to 15, up from five, to provide greater coverage
of the city’s parking meters. (Currently, a few areas, including major
hubs like the University of Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine, are
effectively unenforced for two to five hours a day, according to Walker.)
• Neighborhood meter rates would go up by 25 cents to 75 cents an hour. Downtown rates would remain at $2 an hour.
• Sundays and holidays remain free.
Cranley says the underlying idea is to maintain a few key
principles, particularly local control over rates and hours. He cautions
Walker’s proposal, including expanded enforcement hours, could change with public input and as City Council puts together the final plan.Does the plan let people use smartphones to pay for parking meters?
No. Cranley says the upgraded meters will support the
technology, but it will be up to council to decide whether it’s enabled in the
Smartphone capability is a double-edged sword: It introduces its own set of costs, including shorter battery life for meters. It also allows customers to avoid under- and overpaying at parking meters, which decreases citation and meter revenues. But smartphone access also increases ease of use, which could lead to higher revenues by making it easier to pay.
The parking privatization plan promised to provide smartphone access at all parking meters. The previous administration and Port
Authority championed the feature as key to increasing convenience and revenue.
OK, that explains the parking meters. What about the parking garages?
Cranley’s plan makes two changes to garages:
• The Port Authority would take over Fountain Square South
Garage. The Port would be required to cover expenses for the garage,
but any net revenue could be used on projects within the city.
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to build a garage at 7th and Broadway streets.
Otherwise, things remain the same as today.
In other words, the city would be on the hook for
parking garage repairs and upgrades, which Walker estimates would cost
roughly $8 million in capital expenses over the next five years.But the city would also continue directly receiving around $2 million per year in net revenue from parking garages, according to Walker.
Still, the city isn’t allowed under state law to use the revenue from parking garages for anything outside the parking system.The parking privatization plan tried to do away with the restriction by putting the Port Authority in charge of garages. State law allows agencies like the Port to tap into garage revenues for other uses, such as development projects.But without the previous administration’s plan, Cranley claims the Port Authority declined to take over more facilities beyond Fountain Square South
Garage. Given the rejection, Cranley says it’s up to council to figure out another way to leverage garage
revenues beyond putting them back in the parking system.What does Cranley’s plan do about the thousands of parking tickets already owed to the city?
Nothing. By Cranley’s own admission, the city needs to do a
better job collecting what it’s owed. But he says that’s something City
Council will have to deal with in the future.
So why did Cranley oppose the parking privatization plan?
Cranley vehemently opposed giving up local
control of the city’s parking assets. He warned that outsourcing meters to the Port Authority and private companies would create a for-profit incentive to
ratchet up parking rates and enforcement.
The previous administration disputed Cranley’s warnings.
They pointed out an advisory board, chaired by four Port Authority
appointees and one city appointee, would need to unanimously agree on
rate and hour changes, and the changes could be vetoed by the city
manager.Without any changes from the advisory board, the 30-year privatization plan hiked downtown parking meter rates by 25 cents every three years and neighborhood rates by 25 cents every six years. The plan also expanded enforcement hours to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. in Over-the-Rhine and parts of downtown.
Still, City Council would lose its control of rates and hours under the privatization plan. Cranley and other opponents argued the outsourcing scheme could insulate the parking system from public — and voter — input.
Cranley also opposed the privatization plan’s financial
arrangement. Under the old deal, the city would receive a lump sum of
$85 million and annual installments of $3 million, as long as required
expenses, such as costly garage upgrades or repairs, were met.In comparison, the city currently gets roughly $3 million in net revenue from parking meters and another $2 million in net revenue from parking garages. (As noted earlier, the parking garage revenue can only be used for parking expenses.) Cranley characterizes the lump sum as
“borrowing from the future” because it uses upfront money that could
instead be taken in by the city as annual revenue.Related: Compare Cranley’s plan with the parking privatization plan.
Why does Cranley think his proposal is necessary? It solidifies the death of the parking privatization plan. That’s important to begin the process of legally dismantling the previous plan.The plan also increases net parking meter revenues from roughly $3 million to $6 million in the next budget year and more than $7 million per year within five years, according to Walker’s original estimates. (The estimates are likely too high because they assumed evening hours would expand around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville, Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But Cranley shelved the expansion of hours, with no estimates for how the changes will affect revenues.)Since parking meter revenue, unlike garage revenue, can be used for non-parking expenses, the extra revenue could help plug the $20 million gap in the $370 million operating budget.Why do some people oppose Cranley’s plan?
Some people supported the parking privatization plan. They
saw the lump sum as a great opportunity to invest in development
projects around the city. Without the lump sum, critics claim Cranley’s
plan accepts all the pain of the previous plan — increased
enforcement, rates and hours — for very little gain, even though the city would get more annual revenue and upgraded parking meters and garages.
Politics are also involved. After the contentious
streetcar debate, there’s not much Cranley can do without some critics speaking out.
When will Cranley’s plan go into effect?
City Council first has to approve Cranley’s plan for it to
become law. Council will likely take up and debate the plan at the
Neighborhood Committee on Feb. 24 and set a more concrete timeline
after that.This blog post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available. Latest update: Feb. 19.