by German Lopez
95 days ago
Council allows pension amendment, parking lease in court again, county to evict squatters
Despite unanimous opposition, City Council yesterday fulfilled duties dictated by the City Charter and reluctantly voted to allow the controversial pension amendment on the November ballot. The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are
under a separate system — contribute to and manage individual
401k-style accounts. Currently, the city pools pension contributions and
manages the investments through an independent board. City officials,
including all council members, oppose the amendment because they say it
will cost the city more and hurt benefits for city employees. Supporters of the amendment, who are backed by out-of-state tea party
groups, claim it’s necessary to address Cincinnati’s rising pension
costs. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.
The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is once again taking the parking lease to court. The legal pursuit comes after City Solicitor John Curp denied COAST’s challenge.
COAST claims that the city manager made “significant and material”
changes to the parking lease, but Curp said the changes were
ministerial and only made as a result of delays caused by COAST’s first
legal challenge against the parking lease. If the latest legal tactic is
successful, City Council could be forced to vote on the changes made to
the parking lease, which could endanger the entire lease because a
majority of council members now say they oppose the plan. A hearing is
scheduled for the challenge today at 11:30 a.m.
Hamilton County is evicting homeless squatters from its courthouse,
but it plans to carry out the evictions by connecting the homeless with
existing services. “We don’t want to get mired down in too much
political debate,” Hamilton County Sheriff’s Major Charmaine McGuffey
told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s a public health hazard.”
About 750 people in Hamilton County are homeless throughout any typical
night; of those, 700 spend the night in shelters and the rest, who are mostly downtown, sleep
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor against
ex-Councilman John Cranley, yesterday unveiled two TV advertisements: “Neighborhoods” and “Wheelbarrow.”
The first ad touts Qualls’ supports for neighborhood
investments. The second ad is particularly aggressive and claims Cranley
was forced to resign from City Council because of ethics issues regarding his personal
The number of Ohioans on welfare dropped over the past few years
as Gov. John Kasich’s administration enforced federal work
requirements. Ben Johnson, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job
and Family Services, says the efforts have brought the state’s welfare
program into federal compliance.
Ariel Castro, the man convicted for the decade-long
kidnapping, beating and raping of three Cleveland women he held captive,
was found hanging in his prison cell on Tuesday after an apparent suicide.
Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday released an update
on the state’s sexual assault kit testing initiative: So far, the
attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation has received 3,530
previously untested rape kits from 105 law enforcement agencies in Ohio.
The agency has tested 1,488 kits, leading to to 460 hits in the
Combined DNA Index System.
Internet cafe owners submitted petitions yesterday to put a law that effectively banned their businesses on the ballot. State officials claim the cafes were hubs for criminal and illegal gambling activity, but cafe owners say the ban is unfair.
This frog listens with its mouth.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
City Solicitor John Curp on Aug. 15
rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of
Cincinnati over changes made to the city’s parking lease without City
Council’s explicit approval.
by German Lopez
111 days ago
Posted In: News
at 08:17 PM | Permalink
City solicitor says conservative group's previous lawsuit forced changes
City Solicitor John Curp on Aug. 15 rebuked a conservative group that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the city's parking lease without City Council's explicit approval.With Curp's denial, the conservative group behind the request — the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) — is now legally able to once again sue the city over its plans to lease Cincinnati's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. It would be the second time COAST has taken major legal action over the parking plan.In a letter to COAST's attorney, Curp writes that the two changes COAST called "significant and material" in its July 17 letter were shifts in dates and time limits that were necessary because a previous lawsuit from COAST forced the city to delay implementation of the parking lease for more than two months. In other words, COAST is trying to use the delays it forced to stop the parking lease once again.Curp also argues in his letter that the lease gave the city manager the power to make changes that keep the lease "substantially in the form" approved by Council and authorizes city officials to "take all necessary and proper actions" to carry out the lease. Curp writes the disputed changes were within those terms.In response to Curp's denial, COAST member and attorney Chris Finney told The Cincinnati Enquirer that COAST will pursue another lawsuit against the parking lease if Council doesn't vote on the disputed changes. Although a majority of Council now says it opposes the parking lease, Mayor Mark Mallory has said he will hold any legislation trying to repeal or undo key elements of the deal. Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92
million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according
to city estimates. Private operators will also be tasked with modernizing Cincinnati's parking assets so parking meters can accept credit cards and payment through a smartphone.Supporters of the parking lease argue it's necessary to leverage the city's parking assets for development projects and modernize the city’s parking
services.Opponents say the lease gives
up too much public control over the city’s parking assets
and will hurt local residents and businesses by causing meter rates and operation
hours to go up.The parking plan has been engulfed in political controversies since it was first unveiled by the city manager in October. Most recently, the city administration withheld a memo that was critical of the plan from the public, City Council and Port Authority — a move that triggered outrage about the administration's lack of transparency.
by German Lopez
110 days ago
City refuses parking lease challenge, Qualls calls for transparency, Kasich losing in new poll
City Solicitor John Curp rebuked a conservative group
that asked him to sue the city of Cincinnati over changes made to the
city’s parking lease without City Council's explicit approval. Curp
wrote in a letter that the two changes disputed by the Coalition Opposed
to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) were within the lease’s terms
and only made because COAST’s previous lawsuit forced the city to delay
leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority. If COAST hadn’t pursued the lawsuit, the city would have
been able to continue with the original timetable for the parking
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls yesterday unveiled a motion
calling for the first expansion of local disclosure and reporting
requirements since 1997 that would impose new rules on city officials,
lobbyists and contractors and require the city administration to post
the disclosed information on the city’s website. Qualls said in a
statement that the update is particularly timely because the
Metropolitan Sewer District is taking on a federally mandated $3.2
billion, 15-year reworking of the city’s sewers, which will presumably
involve many lobbyists trying to get lucrative contracts for businesses
New poll results from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald beating Gov. John Kasich 38-35 percent in the 2014 election. Kasich’s approval rating now
stands at 42-47 percent, down 10 points from November. Most respondents
still seem unaware of FitzGerald, with 62 percent saying they aren’t
sure if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of him. PPP is
affiliated with Democrats, but the polling firm performed well in the
2012 presidential race and, if anything, favored Republicans with its results.
Hop On Cincinnati is asking the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District to support a trackless trolley
that the group says could live alongside the Cincinnati streetcar. The
trolley, estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million, would be similar
to the system in Northern Kentucky, and each route would run past major
garages to allow people to park before getting on board. If the Hamilton
County Transportation Improvement District gives the project approval,
it could get federal funding.
Investors are upset with SoMoLend,
the crowdfunding incubator that has been targeted by a state
investigation with accusations of fraud. Critics of the company say that
the allegations could hurt future crowdfunding pursuits and harm the
state. Shortly after the charges came to light, the city of Cincinnati
announced it would cut ties with SoMoLend, which partnered with the city to connect small businesses and startups with up to $400,000 in loans.
Ohio is the seventh worst state for debt, according to a recent study from NerdWallet.com.
The number of low-income Ohio children in Head Start, the early education program, will drop by more than 1,800 following automatic spending cuts at the federal level. CityBeat previously covered the cuts here.
Ohio’s top waterways watchdog is stepping down from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency after his boss and Kasich asked him to step down. Kasich was apparently angered by an email in which George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s division of surface water, told his staff that the coal industry wants
permits that would damage the state’s streams and wetlands and break
state and federal laws.
Various state officials are criticizing a “stand your ground” bill
currently sitting in the Ohio legislature. The self-defense law has
been scrutinized because of George Zimmerman, a Florida resident who was
acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old
Trayvon Martin. Many people blame Florida’s “stand your ground” law,
which expands self-defense rights, for Martin’s death. Zimmerman’s legal
defense team didn’t invoke the law, but the judge involved in the case mentioned it in her jury
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says some school safety plans would be “useless” during a real shooting because they’re too long and complicated.
Ohio is releasing school report cards this week, but the standards may be biased against income and racial diversity.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s stocks plunged last week, alongside other Cincinnati stocks and the rest of the market.
Renowned “Star Trek” actor George Takei will lead Cincinnati in the Chicken Dance at Oktoberfest this year.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry was made from meteorites.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 24, 2013
A conservative organization is
threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its
parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 08:58 PM | Permalink
Conservative group claims city manager exceeded authority with changes
In a letter to the city solicitor, a conservative organization is threatening more legal action to stop the city’s plans to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority.The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) claims the city manager made “significant and material” changes to the lease agreement after City Council approved the deal in March. That, the letter states, exceeds the city manager’s authority.The two changes in question: First, the city changed the original June 30 deadline for issuing bonds that will finance the deal to a less specific 90-day period that will kick in once the agreement is in full effect. Second, the city added sections that allow the Port to review and potentially terminate the lease within 75 days.The changes were made after another legal challenge delayed the lease’s implementation.The letter asks City Solicitor John Curp to review the allegations and sue the city. If he doesn’t, COAST would gain the legal standing necessary under Ohio law to sue the city by itself.“The law requires that before a lawyer can sue the city and ask taxpayers to pay his fees he must send a letter of this type,” Curp explained in an email.Curp also wrote that the city will review the allegations and respond within a month.“Today’s letter is an attempt to comply with part of the legal process that would allow the authors to claim attorneys fees from taxpayers,” he wrote. “The Law Department will review the issues raised, attempt to engage the authors constructively and respond appropriately. The policy of the Law Department is to defend aggressively against claims from lawyers that seek taxpayers dollars to fund their litigation against the City of Cincinnati.”COAST is pursuing the legal challenge as a longtime critic of the parking lease. The organization supported the previous lawsuit against the lease, which an appeals court struck down. The letter comes in the middle of another controversy over a June 20 memo that the city administration kept from the public, Port Authority and City Council for three-plus weeks, until council members and media outlets enquired about it. The
memo suggested the city is getting a bad deal from the lease agreement.
Port and city officials argue the memo made technical errors and used
outdated information.Under the parking lease, the city will receive a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates.Supporters of the parking lease argue it’s needed to raise funds for development projects and modernize the city’s parking services. Opponents say the lease gives up too much control over the city’s parking meters, lots and garages and will hurt businesses downtown by causing meter rates and operation hours to go up.
5 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Step one: Create problems for
Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Step two: Blame the problems on the
streetcar project. Step three: Political profit.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking
assets remains up in the air after court rulings last week kept a
court-mandated restraining order in place until at least March 15, when a
hearing is scheduled at the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
by German Lopez
Case moved back to common pleas court, hearing set for March 15
The plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port
of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains up in the air today
after court rulings kept a court-mandated restraining order in place
until at least March 15, when a hearing is scheduled at the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
The hearing on March 15 will establish whether the lawsuit
should move forward and whether the restraining order will remain until the lawsuit is resolved. The latter poses a budgetary challenge to the city; if the restraining
order is kept in place and opponents gather the signatures required for a November referendum on the parking plan, the city says it will have to make cuts before July to balance the budget
for fiscal year 2014, which could result in layoffs.“We’ve been very clear that, by state law, we need to have
a balanced budget starting July 1, so we will need to do all things
necessary at that point,” says Meg Olberding, city spokesperson.The lawsuit was originally moved to federal courts on March 7 because it included complaints regarding civil rights. Plaintiffs removed the mention of civil
rights, which then prompted Judge Michael Barrett to send the lawsuit back to
the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on
March 6, but the plan was almost immediately held up by a temporary
restraining order from Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert
Winkler. The restraining order is meant to provide enough time to
process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the
Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of
local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to
“If there was even five seconds without a temporary
restraining order in place, the city’s going to sign that lease,” Chris Finney, another attorney that represents COAST, said in a public
statement after the hearing with Barrett. “At that point, the city will
argue that the case has moved and that the (referendum) petitions are
The legal dispute is focused on City Council’s use of the
emergency clause, which eliminates a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws but takes away the possibility of a referendum.
In an interview on March 7, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who voted for the parking plan, told CityBeat
the dispute over emergency clauses is politically motivated: “I think it’s nothing but a
political controversy that’s generated for political gain and for
political purposes. Council passes many of its ordinances with emergency
clauses. In fact, the other candidate for mayor himself consistently
voted for emergency clauses.”
The other mayoral candidate Qualls is referring to is John
Cranley, a former council member who opposes the parking plan and says he will support a
“Just because the emergency clause may be used too often
doesn’t make it right,” says Cranley. “I never voted for an emergency
clause when there was a stated grassroots effort to have a referendum on
a vote that I was facing.”CityBeat previously covered the parking plan in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Injunction puts agreement to lease parking assets on hold
a 5-4 vote today, City Council approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s
parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
to help balance deficits for the next two fiscal years and fund
development projects in Downtown, but the plan is now being held up by a Hamilton County
judge's temporary restraining order (TRO).The
plan was approved with an emergency clause, which means it is not
subject to referendum, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Councilman
Chris Seelbach joined the parking plan’s five supporters in approving
the emergency clause, which is meant to expedite the plan’s implementation by
removing a 30-day waiting period.Shortly
after the parking plan was approved by City Council, Judge Robert
Winkler signed a TRO that will halt its implementation for at least one
week. The judge’s action will provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt
Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the
plan and argue it should be subject to referendum.Mayor
Mark Mallory says the emergency clause was passed to speed up the
plan’s implementation in time for the budget that will begin July 1, not
to suppress voters: “I don't think that any member of council has ever
voted for an emergency clause in an effort to keep voters from being
able to reverse the decision that the council is making, so I take
exception with that characterization.”The parking plan got its required fifth vote, up from a 4-3 vote in the Budget and Finance Committee Monday,
from Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who abstained from voting in the
committee meeting because she said she was concerned about the city’s
long-term fiscal outlook. She says her concerns were eased after she
read the leasing agreement and listened to a presentation from City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. that gave City Council a few options for fixing the city’s structural deficits.The
parking plan’s other supporters were council members Roxanne Qualls,
Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young. Council members
Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted
against the plan.The plan, which CityBeat previously covered (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), will lease the city’s parking assets to fund
development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery
store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. The
deal will produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city projects
that additional annual installments will generate more than $263 million
throughout the lease’s duration.Opponents
say they are concerned the plan will give up too much control of the
city’s parking meters and garages, which they say could lead to spikes
in parking rates.Under
the initial plan, downtown rates will remain at $2 an hour and
neighborhood rates will be hiked to 75 cents. Afterward, parking meter
rates will be set to increase annually by 3 percent or the rate of
inflation on a compounded basis, with actual increases coming in at
25-cents-an-hour increments. That should translate to 25-cent increases
every three years for downtown and every six years for neighborhoods,
according to Meg Olberding, city spokesperson.The
city will be able to bypass the so-called “cap” on parking meter rate
increases through a unanimous vote from a five-person advisory
committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port
Authority. The process, which begins with an advisory committee that
will include four members appointed by the Port Authority and one
selected by the city manager, will allow the city to raise and lower
rates to adjust for changing economic needs, says Olberding.Opponents
also say the money from the parking plan is being used too quickly,
which does little to alleviate the city’s structural deficits.Dohoney
previously argued the plan will help reduce the deficit by generating
recurring revenues through long-term economic growth and development.“The
situation that we’re in requires that we accelerate growth right now,
not later,” he said Monday. “If we do not do that, then we’re going to
have further negative ramifications to deal with.”With
the lease agreement approved, it is now up to the Port Authority to
develop and publicize the bond documents that will further detail the
framework of the parking plan.Earlier
in the same meeting, City Council unanimously passed a resolution
asking the federal government to take up comprehensive immigration
reform.Update: This story was updated to reflect Judge Robert Winkler's actions.