Mayor Cranley’s first budget cuts out some community groups, gives cash to others outside standard funding process
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 11, 2014
There are lingering concerns about the
ways programs designed to help neighborhoods will or won’t be funded
under Mayor John Cranley’s first budget, which City Council passed June
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 08:39 AM | Permalink
Greenpeace protesters in court, Cranley on Clifton and upward mobility, free donuts
It’s that time again when I tell you all about the weird stuff that has happened in the last 24 hours or so. Cincinnati’s a crazy place, and the rest of the world isn’t far behind, so let’s get started.• Remember those folks who hung the Greenpeace banners off the side of the Procter and Gamble building back in March? You know, the ones protesting P&G’s use of palm oil, the production of which leads to massive deforestation and loss of habitat for a number of endangered animals, including tigers? Of course you do. They were 50-foot banners with tigers on them, for godsakes. No surprise, the nine activists responsible ended up in Hamilton County Court on felony counts. Today, lawyers for the group asked a judge to dismiss those charges.The nine were charged with burglary and vandalism. However, there was no breaking and entering. One of the group, dressed in business attire with a fake badge, told security she had a meeting in the building and snuck the others in through a regular old door she unlocked. The group’s lawyers insist burglary charges would only stick if the group had planned on committing another crime, and they say the political speech inherent in hanging banners off a building doesn’t count. They’re asking the courts to dismiss the charges on First Amendment grounds, saying the group is being punished for its political speech. If that doesn’t fly, the activists could face up to nine and a half years in jail and/or a $20,000 fine. P&G claims the activists did $17,000 in damage to their windows while gaining access to the outside of the building, a charge the group denies.• Yesterday, Mayor John Cranley explained his vision for Clifton as a place that pumps out the city’s future CEOs. The mayor said he’d like to make the area appealing to “the future Carl Lindners, the future Dick Farmers, the future folks who will build up business in this city” so they’ll stick around.At an annual event held by the Uptown Consortium, a non-profit development group for the area, Cranley called the University of Cincinnati “the gateway to the upper-middle class” and Cincinnati State “the gateway to the middle class.” He said he’d like to improve the district, including centerpiece Burnet Woods, which he has descrbed as “creepy” in its current state. Specific ideas include a skywalk between the park and UC; more landscaped, Washington Park-like grounds; and more programing in the park.• Today's job report shows that more than six years after the worst recession in recent memory we've finally regained number of jobs the country had before the plunge. Except we have 15 million more people now to fill those jobs, and the unemployment rate hasn't really budged much lately. • But cheer up. It's National Donut Day. If you're me, every day is a donut day, but this donut day you can get some free deep-fried deliciousness down at Fountain Square. I started to ditch this news thing to go grab some, but it doesn't start until noon. Hey, free lunch.
by Nick Swartsell
at 11:10 AM | Permalink
Believe in Cincinnati continues engaging neighborhood leaders about future transit options
Believe in Cincinnati, the grassroots group that played a big role advocating for the Cincinnati streetcar during and since the infamous City Hall pause, is expanding its focus beyond Over-the-Rhine.More than 80 people showed up to a meeting in Clifton Tuesday night to discuss taking the streetcar beyond OTR."We started around the streetcar, but our vision is much broader than that,” said Believe in Cincinnati organizer Ryan Messer. He said people from 80 percent of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods are involved in the group. “I think we have a vision that someday every neighborhood will have a transportation committee. The conversation we want to continue is this broader regional transit plan while ensuring we’re going forward with the Cincinnati streetcar.”Believe in Cincinnati was instrumental in advocating for the streetcar last winter when recently-elected Mayor John Cranley, who campaigned on opposition to the streetcar, put the project on hold. When the project came back online, Vice Mayor David Mann credited the group with making a big difference.Now progress on the streetcar is humming along. Project executive John Deatrick says construction of the track and the cars themselves is on schedule, with more than 7,000 feet of track done, four stations stops completed and delivery of the first five streetcars expected next fall and winter. Deatrick says the whole system should be up and running by summer 2016.Deatrick also talked about the possibilities for “phase 1B,” or the extension of the streetcar into uptown. That leg of the route was part of the initial plans for the system until Gov. John Kasich pulled $52 million in state funds from the project in 2010. That’s left the proposed extension into Corryville and Clifton without funding. Deatrick said the city has decided not to pursue a federal grant to build the uptown extension, because the downtown portion isn’t far enough along yet. But Deatrick said the city has continued to explore the possibility of running the streetcar up Vine Street and has kept plans for an eventual expansion up to date. “As soon as city council and the mayor are ready, we’re ready to apply for more money,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting.Advocates see uptown, including Avondale, Corryville and Clifton, as a logical next step in the progression of the streetcar since it’s where a big number of the city’s jobs are located, including major hospitals and the University of Cincinnati, the city’s largest employers.Councilman Kevin Flynn, who cast a deciding vote to restart the project last December, voiced cautious support for Believe in Cincinnati’s efforts but said the challenges faced by efforts to expand the line are daunting. He told the crowd not to put the cart before the horse. “On the day I made the vote, I said, ‘this isn’t the end, this is the beginning.’” Flynn said. “I see energy, but we have to harness that energy. I understand this is talking about how we get to phase two. I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but the way to get to phase two is to make phase one a success."I've talked to a lot of the big employers uptown. They'd all like to see the streetcar up here. There's no money — right now — to do that. But probably more important than the money… there's not the will. The only way the will could possibly be generated is to make phase one a financial success."While funding is the big stumbling block for expanding the system right now, that hasn’t stopped Believe in Cincinnati from growing. The group recently hired a full-time employee to continue to promote the group and transit projects for the next five months and has been raising funds from donors both in Cincinnati and across the country. The group has also been meeting with residents in communities outside the streetcar’s current planned path. Messer said he’s spoken with community council members and other community leaders in a number of neighborhoods, including Hyde Park, Avondale and even communities in Northern Kentucky. All have expressed interest in eventually widening the streetcar’s reach.West Side transit advocate Pete Witte said interest in the streetcar is growing in neighborhoods like Price Hill and Westwood. He joked that Cincinnati’s western neighborhoods are a “lion’s pit” when it comes to the issue. Those neighborhoods voted overwhelmingly for Mayor Cranley and his opposition to the project. But with progress downtown, Witte said some in the West Side are coming around. He highlighted the looming reconstruction of the Western Hills Viaduct as a great opportunity to have the conversation about expanding transit to the area.“We’re real people, residents, business owners, raising families, going to school, whatever, who understand the importance that transit can make for our community and the city as a whole,” Witte said of West Siders who are advocating for transit expansion. “We’re going to be meeting and focusing on the Western Hills Viaduct, but it does go beyond that.”Messer said his group believes the issue of transit doesn’t have to be politically divisive. “I
think a lot of people have said they’re a little surprised we’re not a
bunch of flaming liberals who want to put streetcars everywhere and
don’t care about what it costs," he said. "Some of us are probably progressive,
some of us are not. I don’t know that transit is a partisan issue. We
see transit as an investment to grow our city.”
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: LGBT Issues
at 12:32 PM | Permalink
Measure would allow same-sex couples to register for benefits purposes
Cincinnati is one step closer to joining nine other Ohio cities that have established domestic partner registries, which would open up more possibilities for equal employee benefits for same-sex couples.A measure introduced by City Councilman Chris Seelbach to have the city set up the registry passed unanimously through the council’s Human Services Committee today. Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council have expressed support for the measure, and it seems likely to come up for a vote and pass during Wednesday's council meeting.The registry, which would be run through the City Clerk’s office, would verify financial relationships between non-married domestic partners. The list would take a burden off employers, who currently have to independently verify financial relationships if they wish to provide equal benefits for partners of employees.Couples would be required to show strong financial interdependency to qualify. Applicants to the registry would be eligible if they own joint property, have granted each other power of attorney, are named in each others’ will and meet other requirements. Many large companies, as well as the city, already offer some form of domestic partner benefits. However, requirements can vary, and it’s expensive and time-consuming to set up criteria and then screen employees’ eligibility, especially for smaller employers.The registry proposed for Cincinnati is based on one adopted by Columbus in 2012. It requires a $45 fee to register, which Seelbach says will pay for the program. If passed, Seelbach said the plan could be up and running in a few weeks.Metro on May 29 announced plans to provide health and dental benefits to
domestic partners of its employees,
the first employer to say it will utilize the registry once it passes.
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.
Vice Mayor Mann set to propose altered bike project to save on-street parking
4 Comments · Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The city’s cost of a long-planned piece of
cycling infrastructure could more than double if City Council approves a
motion Vice Mayor David Mann planned to introduce on April 23.
by Anthony Skeens
Posted In: Mayor
at 04:43 PM | Permalink
Vice Mayor Mann set to introduce motion to save parking spaces
The city’s cost of a long-planned piece of
cycling infrastructure could more than double if City Council approves a
motion Vice Mayor David Mann planned to introduce on April 23.
Mayor John Cranley successfully paused
the Central Parkway Bikeway Project for public discourse in response to a
handful of business owners and residents taking exception to it, and a
spokesman for Mann shared his suggested compromise with CityBeat today.
In response to an April 21 special
Neighborhoods Committee meeting, Mann seeks to alter the bike route to
appease people who don’t want to see parking spaces removed, but the
updated plan will cost an additional $110,00 on top of the $82,600 the
city would pay under the original plan, which would create the beginning
of a cycling corridor running from Elm Street downtown to Ludlow Avenue
in Clifton. The project was supposed to break ground next month and
could lose $330,400 in federal money if the contract isn’t awarded by
“We routinely spend hundreds of thousands
of dollars as a city to create new jobs in our community,” Mann said in
a statement. “We should not approve a new project that places 60 newly
created jobs in jeopardy when such a sensible accommodation is
The planned bikeway is an innovative
piece of cycling infrastructure meant to better protect cyclists along a
critical thoroughfare that would connect a number of inner-city
neighborhoods and business districts. The lane will be protected,
meaning cyclists will have their own lane with a buffer separating them
from traffic; in some areas plastic bollards will separate the bike and
automobile lanes. The street will not be widened, so traffic lanes will
be impacted through restriping, and parking will be restricted during
peak traffic hours in the morning and evening.
Opponents of the project are concerned
about losing public, on-street parking for parts of the day as well as
potentially encountering traffic issues from shaving lanes from Brighton
Place to Liberty Street. They also worry the bollards will become a
blight issue and emergency vehicles will be impeded during one-lane
Mann’s motion supports an alternative
plan for a section running from Ravine Street to Brighton Place that
would preserve 23 parking spaces full-time, alter 4,300 square feet of
greenspace and remove 15 trees at an estimated cost of $110,000. The
parking spaces would benefit a building owner and his tenants at 2145
City Councilman Chris Seelbach and others
demonstrated frustration with the administration’s interest in stepping
in at the 11th hour.
“I think we have reached a new era in
Cincinnati: two steps forward, pause, lots of long meetings, two steps
forward, and I’m convinced after the pause and lots of long meetings, we
will continue to go two steps forward today,” Seelbach said at the
April 21 meeting.
Mayor Cranley requested City Manager
Scott Stiles delay awarding a contract after meeting with local business
owner Tim Haines, who purchased a vacant building located at 2145
Central Parkway in 2012 for $230,000. His building now houses 65
employees from 12 different businesses including his own, Relocation
Strategies. Haines has become a mouthpiece for the opposition to the
bikeway — though he adamantly states he is not against the lane; he is
just against the project’s current incarnation as it affects Central
Parkway near his business, which utilizes 500 feet of on-street,
unmetered parking, which translates to 30 parking spaces.
“If parking wasn’t an issue, I would open
up my arms and welcome the bike path,” Haines says. “Parking for my 65
tenants is in jeopardy. As a business owner I have to fight for my
tenants. … Could they park and walk a quarter of a mile? They could, but
that’s not what they signed up for when they moved in.”
Haines has a 16-space parking lot
adjacent to his building that some of his tenants use and also owns a
parking lot across the street that is in disrepair. Haines says he
already cleared it of underbrush to cut down criminal activity and
disposed of dozens of tires and beer bottles. He says it would cost up
to $300,000 to upgrade the lot.
During the April 21 presentation,
Department of Transportation and Engineering (DOTE) Director Michael
Moore presented the committee with an alternative recently developed
with Cranley’s office that he said would appease Haines and his tenants
but would cost more money. Moore pushed the notion that the alternative
creates a more balanced bikeway plan.
The original plan, passed by council last
year, restricts parking in front of Haines’ building from 7 a.m. to 9
a.m. Moore’s alternative, which Mann is on board with, is to ramp the
bike lane over the curb adjacent to a sidewalk where there is currently a
tree-lined area in front of Haines’ building and another business in
order to preserve public parking full-time.
At the meeting, council member Young took exception to the suggestion of changing the project at this point.
“For the life of me, I don’t see where
the reasonableness and the balance is with people who come so far after
the fact that want us to make these changes and the dollar amount it’s
going to cost the taxpayers to get it done,” Young said. “I am appalled
that people can come after the fact and tie up all these people down
here to simply want accommodations for them.”
Mann shared another perspective.
“There’s a gentleman who has brought 60
jobs to the city, including some folks who have Parkinson’s and use the
building, and the proposal that’s being made seems to me to represent
balance,” Mann said. “We spend millions of dollars, typically, to
support development, to support jobs, and you’re saying that the
proposal that was originally approved by this council without a hearing
like this is so pristine that it cant be adjusted in any way, and if
it’s adjusted that is a statement of imbalance? I just don’t follow
For the past year and a half, DOTE
conducted surveys, sought public input and developed plans for the
bikeway. After a strong consensus, the department chose the protected
bikeway plan. The bikeway is estimated to add just three seconds of
motorist commute time by 2030, though some naysayers suggest that
delivery trucks will clog the lanes and the turn left from Ravine Street
will create an even longer lag.
Community outreach for the design began
in March of last year with eight community council meetings. Letters
were mailed to residents, businesses and property owners, but Haines and
several other business owners stated they didn’t receive any and
weren’t aware of the project until late last year.
A website designed for public feedback
also garnered about 600 messages mainly supporting the bikeway project.
DOTE held an open house last September and the Over-The-Rhine and
Northside community councils, Findlay Market and Northside Business
Association endorsed the project.
Simpson expressed frustration with halting progress for a last-minute meeting.
“I don’t think that’s an appropriate
process,” she said. “Really, technically you can go over everything over
the past two years. The reality is we need to look forward. If we want
to be less auto-focused and more focused on other types of transit,
we’re going to have to ruffle a couple of feathers.”
Supporters — some who biked to the April
21 meeting and utilized a bike valet setup in front of City Hall —
represented various groups of the community from health and community
councils to business owners and cyclists. Their number doubled opponents
— mainly business owners along Central Parkway in the West End and the
West End Community Council, though some West End residents and business
owners supported the original bikeway plan.
0 Comments · Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Bullies can be such a predictable bunch, always going after nerdy kids and people who are quiet or can’t run very fast (although,
word to the wise — some dorks know karate).
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 12, 2014
P&G is the Mitt Romney of
corporations, a baby-eating psychopath that no amount of coaxing or
media manipulation can transform into something you’d want at your