by German Lopez
Board president still unsure of how he'll vote; Portune's sales tax increase still on the table
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a public
meeting today to discuss options for balancing the stadium fund. Commissioner
Todd Portune, the lone Democrat on the board, on Nov. 28 proposed a 0.25-percent sales tax hike. At the meeting, Board President Greg Hartmann, a Republican, suggested reducing the property tax rollback by 50 percent for two years, but he said he was unsure which way he would vote. Portune also gave ideas for possible adjustments to his sales tax proposal. He said commissioners could “sunset” the sales tax hike, essentially putting an expiration date on the tax increase. He also would like to see the sales tax hike reviewed on a regular basis to ensure taxpayers aren't being burdened longer than necessary. The idea behind possible time limits for both proposals is new revenues, perhaps from an improving economy or Cincinnati's new casino, could make changes unnecessary in the long term.If anything came from the meeting, it’s that none of the
commissioners like the position they’re in. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican,
said he had been placed “between a rock and a hard place.” Hartmann
echoed Monzel, saying it was an “unenviable position.” Despite being the
one to propose the hike, Portune said, “We’re left with two
options that none of us like at all.”
repeated previous arguments during most of the meeting. Hartmann continued saying he was unsure how
he would vote, but he said the two options presented are the only
options left. He called Portune's plan “bold.”
Portune claimed the sales tax hike was more equitable
because it spreads out the tax burden to anyone who spends money in Hamilton
County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. In contrast,
eliminating or reducing the property tax rollback would place the burden
of the stadium fund exclusively on residential property owners in
Hamilton County.The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the
poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and
services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes
that disproportionate burden even larger.
One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found
the wealthy made more money from the property tax rebate than
they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was originally
meant to support the stadium fund. For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause, a journalist who
chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book Field of Schemes, told CityBeat
the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a
“terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals.
Monzel said he will continue to try to find alternatives to raising taxes. On Nov. 28, Monzel told CityBeat
he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with
short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks
development, before raising taxes. In the long term, Monzel says
commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a
possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown
Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund.
The commissioners will vote on the proposals on Dec. 5.
by German Lopez
Ohio Republican supermajority hangs on 14 votes, city unveils budget, county passes budget
In the Ohio House of Representatives, the difference between a Republican supermajority and a normal majority is now 14 votes.
That’s how many votes are splitting Republican Rep. Al Landis and
Democratic challenger Josh O'Farrell. The small difference has already
triggered an automatic recount and likely a series of lawsuits from
Democrats over counting provisional ballots. The supermajority would
allow Ohio House Republicans to pass legislation without worry of a
governor’s veto and place any measure on the ballot — including
personhood initiatives — without bipartisan approval.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his 2013 budget proposal at a press conference yesterday.
The proposal will pursue privatizing the city’s parking services to
help close a $34 million deficit. The privatization plan has already
faced some early criticism from Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld. The budget
will also make minor cuts elsewhere. In addition to the 2013 budget, the
Tentative Tax Budget proposal, which Dohoney passed to City Council and
the mayor yesterday, also raises property tax rates.
Meanwhile, the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners approved the 2013 budget in a 2-1 vote.
Democrat Todd Portune was outvoted by Republicans Chris Monzel and
Board President Greg Hartmann. The final budget was basically Hartmann’s “austerity” proposal, barring some minor tweaks. The cuts could cost 150 or more Hamilton County jobs.
Councilman Chris Smitherman is facing a challenge
for his spot as president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP. The
councilman’s opponent is Bob Richardson, a former officer of Laborers
Local 265 and former president of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council.
Richardson’s son told WVXU, “I think we have seen the NAACP veer off its
core principles and turn into a tool for Smitherman and his
In a promising sign for the local economy, Greater Cincinnati banks are taking in more money from deposits.
The 21c Museum Hotel opened yesterday.
But the hotel has critics, including Josh Spring from the Greater
Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. Drawing a comparison to the situation between
Western & Southern and the Anna Louise Inn, Spring said the hotel
ended up displacing far too many people.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is taking up research into how autism develops.
A new report found expanding Medicaid in Ohio could cost the state $3.1 billion. The money would be enough to insure 457,000 uninsured Ohioans. Previous studies found states that expanded Medicaid faced less health problems.
One concern with the state's “fracking” boom: water supply.
Some are worried that the amount of water needed to fuel hydraulic
fracturing, a drilling technique for oil and gas, will drain Ohio’s
wells and reservoirs.
After some sentencing reform, Ohio’s inmate population is not decreasing as fast as some state officials would like.
As the state deals with prison overpopulation and more expensive
prisons, Gov. John Kasich’s administration has turned to privatization. CityBeat looked at issues surrounding private prisons and the connections between the state government and private prison companies here.
Ohio women are having fewer abortions in the state.
The drop seems largely attributable to increased access to birth
control. Better access to health care and improved health education are
also factors.Ever forget to take some medication? No longer. There is now a pill that can inform others when it's taken.
by German Lopez
Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts
For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will
be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners
today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat
Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes.
The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but
they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs,
according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least
affected by cuts.
With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically
what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the
budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession.
Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes.
By law, the county is required to balance its budget.
by Andy Brownfield
Proposed 'austere' budget would cut $14.4M from 2012 levels
A vote on the 2013 Hamilton County budget is being delayed
a week at the request of the sole Democrat on the Board of County
Commissioner Todd Portune asked Board President Greg
Hartmann at a Monday staff meeting to push back the vote a week to
address funding to juvenile courts and the county’s plan for future
Hartmann, who earlier denied Portune’s request to issue
securities to raise millions to balance the budget, agreed. He said it
was important that all three commissioners agree on the budget.
Portune told reporters he wanted to see more funding for
juvenile courts. The proposed budget would cut about $3 million from the
juvenile court’s 2012 appropriation.
He said he also wants to see specific plans on how and
where the county will invest in economic development. He and Hartmann
disagree about whether that kind of planning belongs in a budget.
Hartmann had the proposal developed after commissioners rejected three plans from County Administrator Christian Sigman, two of which would have raised taxes. The $192 million budget under consideration cuts about $14 million from the 2012 appropriation levels without raising taxes.
The proposed budget makes a number of what Hartman calls “modest cuts” in almost every county department.
All three commissioners have stated that public safety
funding is a priority. The Sheriff’s Department would see a small
reduction of $27,033, bringing its budget to almost $57.5 million.
However, the department would also face an additional $4.3
million in expenses next year, giving incoming Sheriff Jim Neil an
effectively reduced budget.
The Emergency Management Agency would get a nearly 40 percent increase in the proposed budget, up to $400,000.
The Board of Elections would see its budget slashed 36.2
percent to $6.9 million. However, its expenses would also be lower in
2013 because there is no presidential election as there was in 2012.
The proposed budget would bring the Department of Job and
Family Services’ appropriation to $832,900 — a reduction of $10,360.
However, that funding level is dictated by the State of Ohio and not the
The Hamilton County Prosecutor would also see a small
increase of $37,597 intended to hold level its funding from 2012, as the
department went over-budget. The prosecutor has the ability to sue the
county over its budget appropriation, so the department typically
maintains level funding.
by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, County Commission
, Financial Crisis
, Mitt Romney
at 03:53 PM | Permalink
"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases
The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board
outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an
austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said
his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30
percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to
approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or
0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3
percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5
percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the
Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public
safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic
development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he
supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own
budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is
working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the
Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by
the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the
budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for
county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different
visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is
running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s
waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the
economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking
that’s what you were going to go with.”
by German Lopez
Newspapers all around the state — including The Cincinnati Enquirer, which labelled its article an “Enquirer Exclusive” (both The Toledo Blade and Columbus Dispatch ran a story with the same angle as The Enquirer)
— are really excited about a new poll that found Sen. Sherrod Brown
leads Josh Mandel in the U.S. senatorial race for Ohio’s seat by 7
percent. But the poll only confirms what aggregate polling has been
saying for a while now. Mayor Mark Mallory fired back at Commissioner Greg
Hartmann Friday. In a letter Tuesday, Hartmann accused Mallory of
failing to stick to his promises in support of a city-council committee that
would have established greater collaboration between Cincinnati and Hamilton
County governments. But in his letter, Mallory said the committee was
unnecessary and Hartmann was just playing politics by sending a letter
to media instead of calling the mayor on his cell phone.
Contrary to the claims of Mitt Romney’s campaign,
President Barack Obama does care about the work requirements in
welfare-to-work reform. In fact, Obama is disapproving of Ohio’s
program, which his administration says has not enforced work
requirements stringently enough. However, most of the blame is going to
former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, not Gov. John Kasich, a
The University of Cincinnati received a $3.7 million grant
to increase the participation of women in science, technology,
engineering and math disciplines. The grant comes from the National
Science Foundation, a federal entity that funds science. The grant could
help current problems with science research. One recent study found
scientists prefer to hire male students over female students, pay male
students more and spend more time mentoring men over women.
Local homeless groups managed to get a hold of a $600,000
grant to aid homeless military veterans. The grant will provide
financial assistance and job training for the currently homeless and
vets at risk of becoming homeless.The Cincinnati Enquirer is raising subscription costs by 43 percent — from $210 a year to $300 a year.City Council will host a special session today to get
public feedback and work on the new deal meant to prevent further
streetcar delays. The meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. at City Council
Chambers, City Hall room 300, 801 Plum St.
Ohio is a swing state, which means we get a lot of
political ads during the campaign season. Are you tired of them? Well,
politicians don’t seem to care. In 2008, both parties ran a combined
total of 42,827 ads between April and September. In the same time period
this year, the parties have run 114,840.Citizens for Common Sense was formed to support Issue 4 on the November ballot, which changes City Council terms
from two to four years. The initiative would let political candidates
worry more about policy and less about campaigning, but some critics say
it would make it more difficult to hold council members accountable.Research shows random promotions may be better for
business. The study verifies the Peter Principle, which says many people
are eventually promoted to positions beyond their competence.
by German Lopez
Mayor criticizes county commissioner for going to media first
Mayor Mark Mallory was not happy with Hamilton County
Commission President Greg Hartmann’s Tuesday letter criticizing him for failing to follow through with a city-county shared services plan. Mallory fired back today in his own letter,
criticizing Hartmann for going to the media first and explaining why he
no longer supports the City County Shared Services Committee.
“We have had a
strong working relationship since you have become Commission
President,” Mallory wrote. “So, I was surprised and disappointed that
you sent the letter to the media instead of sharing your concerns with
me directly; after all, you have my cell phone number.”
Mallory went on to point out that Hartmann is the fourth
commission president he has worked with, and the previous three “never
would have handled City/County relations in such a confrontational
The mayor also clarified why he no longer supports the
City County Shared Services Committee, which was meant to consolidate
county and city services to end redundancies and improve efficiency and
“As the scope of the proposed committee’s work was
developed, it became clear to me that not only were we already
collaborating at a high level, but that several new collaborations
proposed by the City had met resistance from the County,” Mallory wrote.
“I began to question the need for a committee to conduct a $400,000
study of future collaboration if there were already potential new
collaborations sitting on the shelf.”
Mallory also said he “will never give away the ability of
the citizens of Cincinnati to control crucial City functions.” He cited
the examples of prosecutors and health clinics, which Mallory implied
could have been given off to the county if the committee pushed through
The mayor also pointed out that even if the city and
county approved the committee and its recommendations, Hamilton County
would still have serious budget problems: “You and I both know that the
recommendations of the Shared Services Committee would never have
resulted in close to enough savings to close the County’s budget
deficit, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.” In other words, stop
shifting the blame.
The rest of Mallory’s letter went on to point out
Cincinnati and Hamilton County collaborate on a regular basis to
“improve services, create efficiencies, and save money.” The mayor
pointed to many programs for examples of the city and county working
together: the Banks development, the Convention and Visitors Bureau,
the Metropolitan Sewer District, emergency operations, the Port Authority, a
$1.9 million city-county contract that has the county manage
Cincinnati’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program and the Neighborhood
Stabilization Program Consortium.
Mallory also claimed there have been cases in which the county declined to collaborate with the city, citing the Indigent Care Levy. The
county’s consultant recommended Hamilton County give some of that levy
to provide county residents access to primary care at the City Health
Center System, but the county declined the potential partnership.
Mallory then said he was willing to work on collaboration
with purchasing, fire hydrant maintenance and economic development —
three areas Hartmann cited in his own letter to Mallory.
The letter finished with a call to end the politics of the
back-and-forth: “I feel very strongly that it is time to take the
politics out and leave the matter to the public sector professionals.
The City Manager is ready to meet with the County Administrator to
discuss any proposed partnership that would improve the lives of our
citizens by improving service, increasing efficiency, or saving money.”
In his letter, Hartmann
criticized Mallory for not keeping his promise to back the
city-county committee, citing a previous letter from Mallory to the
Ohio Department of Development that promised $100,000 for the new committee.
by German Lopez
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann wants Mayor
Mark Mallory to live up to past promises of county-city collaboration.
In a letter to Mallory, Hartmann criticized the mayor for failing to
stick to his pledge of supporting the City-County Shared Services
Committee. The committee seeks to streamline county and city services to
end redundancies and make the services more competitive and efficient.Cincinnati Economic Development’s director asked City
Council to create a “mega incentive” for “huge impact” development. He
also asked City Council to pledge $4 million of casino revenue a year to
a local neighborhood project. If City Council agrees, casino revenue
will be used to boost local businesses.Metro is looking at the world’s quickest-charging electric bus. It supposedly can charge in 10 minutes and travel 40 miles.
The day before Pennsylvania’s voter ID law faced trouble
in court, Secretary of Jon Husted suggested a “more strict” voter ID law
for Ohio. Husted said the current ID system needs to be streamlined and
simplified. Democrats criticized the suggestion for its potential voter
Sept. 22 will be the “Global Frackdown,” a day where
activists will protest around the world in a push to ban hydraulic
fracturing — or fracking. Cincinnati will have its own “Frackdown” at
Piatt Park. Activists are generally against fracking because it poses
too many risks, which CityBeat covered here. But Gov. John Kasich
and other supporters of fracking insist it can be made safe with proper
regulations. Some have also suggested that natural gas, which is now
plentiful due to the spread of fracking, can be used as part of a bigger
plan to stop global warming.A new survey says Cincinnati companies will continue hiring through the fourth quarter. It wasn’t as good as last year, but it was better than the
month before. A new state report says 7,341 new businesses filed to do
work in Ohio in August, down from 7,423 in August 2011.A state commission approved $1.5 million for the
Cincinnati Art Museum and a $600,000 reimbursement for the Art Academy
of Cincinnati.More than half of Ohioans could be obese by 2030, a new
report found. The rise in obesity could push up medical costs by $23.8
billion.But screw worrying about weight. Taste of Belgium (writer’s note: best restaurant in the land) is thinking about expanding.In other restaurant news, it seems Chick-Fil-A may stop its anti-gay donations. Maybe Kermit and friends will be forgiving.The full footage for Mitt Romney’s controversial comments
at a May 17 fundraiser has become available here. The footage shows why
Romney prefers to be dishonest most of the time. More importantly,
Romney’s comments about Obama voters are not accurate. The Onion, a satirical newspaper, has an explanation for why Romney insists on unleashing gaffe after gaffe.One astrophysicist says there is no such thing as time.
by German Lopez
Commissioner asks mayor to live up to county-city collaboration promises
In contrast to the partisan gridlock at the federal level, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, sent a letter
to Mayor Mark Mallory, a Democrat, today asking the mayor to commit to earlier
promises to boost collaboration between Hamilton County and the City of
“I am writing to express my disappointment in the lack of
progress of the City-County Shared Services Committee that we originally
announced in October 2011,” Hartmann wrote. “Despite numerous attempts
by my office and County Administration to make progress with the
Committee, it appears you have abandoned your commitment to this
The committee was meant to increase collaboration between the
city and county to bring together important county and city leaders and
make government services more streamlined and competitive. According the
letter, the county expected to “eliminate any duplicative services,
overlapping departmental functions and competing initiatives with the
With the county and city both facing budget shortfalls in
the face of the Great Recession, Hartmann says the increased
collaboration would help ease tight budgets. The Hamilton County
commissioners are currently going through meetings with department heads
to see what can and needs to be cut from county services to make up for
what is projected to be a $20 million budget shortfall.
But the committee never came to be. Hartmann claims his
office tried to contact Mallory again and again, but he never received a
response. The county even set aside $100,000 for a promised joint
review of city and county operations, and the Cincinnati Business
Committee did as well. Mallory pledged to devote $100,000 to the effort in a letter to the Ohio Department of Development,
but “the follow-up legislation by the City Council never occurred,”
The commissioner even specified some ideas to the City
Manager’s Office in February. The three areas covered: improved
collaboration on purchasing, countywide fire hydrant maintenance and
improved collaboration on economic development. The ideas never made it
past discussion.Jason Barron, spokesperson for Mallory, could not
immediately comment on the letter. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.The full letter, along with the attached letter from Mallory:Open publication - Free publishing - More cincinnati