by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities
Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on
Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as
mayor of Cincinnati.
Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the
kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins
his term on Dec. 1.
Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he
already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build
more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix
of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent
starting in December.
One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133
million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members
oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing
construction for the project.
“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some
point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,”
Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the
clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going
in a different direction.”
But in response to recent reports
that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown
costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a
final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley
acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.
Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.
Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter
that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by
placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.
On the current city administration’s plan to lease the
city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and
Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a
way to cancel the deal.
But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement
already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port
works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance
the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.
Cranley also promises to make various development projects
his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to
re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to
the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of
Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back
nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were
Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to
leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s
neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and
downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We
want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see
significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square
He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can
policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several
stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”
Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus
unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley
says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in
line, but no specifics on a plan were given.
by German Lopez
Tea party drops challenge to Kasich, gay marriage in 2014 election, city faces parking issues
Tea party leader Ted Stevenot won’t run against Gov. John
Kasich in a Republican primary after all. The development came just four
days after Stevenot announced his candidacy. Stevenot said his decision
to pull out had nothing to do with his running mate’s tax problems,
which The Columbus Dispatch uncovered shortly after Stevenot
announced his intention to run. Stevenot’s withdrawal comes despite
building tea party opposition against Kasich over his support for the
Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion and his unwillingness to support
anti-union “right-to-work” legislation.
The debate over same-sex marriage reached the state
attorney general’s race Friday when Democratic candidate David Pepper
published an online petition calling on Republican Attorney General Mike
DeWine to stop the state-sanctioned legal battle against a local gay
couple. On Dec. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled that
state officials must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates,
including the union of Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur.
But the state is appealing the ruling. DeWine’s office said it’s up to
the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to appeal
Black’s decision. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s office
declined to comment whether he advised for or against appeal.When Pepper and DeWine face off in the November election, same-sex marriage legalization could appear on the ballot as
well — despite LGBT groups’ disagreement over the ballot initiative’s
With the parking privatization plan presumably dead, Mayor
John Cranley and City Council plan to address what to do with
Cincinnati’s lackluster parking system in the next couple months. By all
accounts, the system is broken and in need of upgrades. The question is
how to fund the upgrades and leverage parking revenue so it can better
finance basic services and development projects. When asked whether
privatization is still on the table, Cranley says he’s only open to
leasing parking garages, not parking meters, to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority.Another issue looming for city officials: Their desire to
structurally balance the budget without raising taxes or draconian
spending cuts. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.Frigid weather led area schools to close today,
including the region’s public universities. For developing weather
information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.Dayton gets a new mayor today.
Ohio was snubbed for a coveted drone testing program, much
to the chagrin of state officials who are now touting partisan claims
as reasons why.Ohio gas prices dropped in time for the first full work week of 2014.A study found no evidence of time travelers on the Internet.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Swearing in sets path to contentious moves on streetcar project, parking plan
Mayor John Cranley and the new City Council were officially sworn in on Sunday after nearly a month of contentious political battles that effectively doomed the parking privatization plan and put the $132.8 million streetcar project in danger.Cranley was joined by three newcomers to City Council — Kevin Flynn, David Mann and Amy Murray — and six re-elected council members — Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Christopher Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young — as they were sworn in on Dec. 1 at 11 a.m., as required by the city charter.Already, the new mayor and council plan to move decisively on the streetcar project and parking plan. On Dec. 2, council will hold committee and full meetings to consider pausing the streetcar project as the costs of cancellation are weighed with the costs of continuation.Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick on Nov. 21 revealed that cancellation costs could nearly reach the the costs of completion, even before considering the cost of potential litigation from contractors already committed to ongoing construction of the project.Council is expected to have five of nine votes to pause the project. But with Seelbach, Simpson, Sittenfeld and Young on record in support of the streetcar project, council might not have the six votes for an emergency clause that would make a pause or cancellation ordinance immediately effective and insusceptible to referendum. If streetcar supporters successfully place a council action on the November 2014 ballot, construction could be forced to continue on the streetcar for nearly a year until voters make a final decision.Supporters of the streetcar project argue pausing the project would effectively act as cancellation, given the federal government's warnings that any delay in the project could lead the Federal Transit Administration to yank $40.9 million in grants that are funding roughly one-third of the overall project.A larger majority of council and Cranley also plan to quickly terminate the parking plan, which would outsource the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and private companies. The previous administration pursued the deal to obtain a lump sum payment of $85 million that would have paid for various development projects around the city and helped balance the city's operating budget.On Friday, Cranley announced his appointments to the committee chair positions that play a crucial role in deciding what legislation comes before the full body of City Council.The appointments for two of the most powerful council committees became particularly contentious after Cranley, a Democrat, snubbed members of his own political party to build what he calls a bipartisan coalition. Winburn, a Republican, will take the Budget and Finance Committee chair, and Smitherman, an Independent, will take control of the Law and Public Safety Committee.Mann, a Democrat who will also act as vice mayor, will lead the newly formed Streetcar Committee. He opposes the streetcar project.Sittenfeld, a Democrat, will lead the Education and Entrepreneurship Committee; Simpson, a Democrat, will run the Human Services, Youth and Arts Committee; Murray, a Republican, will head the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee; Smitherman will chair the Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee; and Flynn, an Independent, will preside over the Rules and Audit Committee.Democrats Seelbach and Young won't be appointed to any committee chair positions. Both publicly supported former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in her bid against Cranley for the mayor's office.Cranley on Wednesday also unveiled Willie Carden, current director of Cincinnati Parks, as his choice for the next city manager. With council's approval appearing likely, Carden will replace City Manager Milton Dohoney, who, during his more than seven years of service, fostered Cincinnati’s nationally recognized economic turnaround, the streetcar project and the parking plan.Beyond the streetcar project and parking plan, a majority of the new council is determined to structurally balance the operating budget without raising taxes. Some council members argue that's much easier said than done, especially since specific proposals for budget balance are few and far between.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Mayor-elect John Cranley, the newly
elected City Council and the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Nov.
12 agreed to eliminate the city’s parking plan once newly elected officials take
office in December.
by German Lopez
Parking plan called off, Cranley flips on streetcar referendum, streetcar supporters rally
Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council announced on Tuesday that, upon taking office in December, they will terminate the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority,
following an agreement with the Port Authority to hold off on a bond
sale that would have financed — and effectively sealed — the deal. But
it remains unclear how much it will cost to terminate the plan, default
on the lease agreement with the Port Authority and allow the Port to
break its contracts with private companies that would have operated the
assets under the deal. The current city administration argues the
parking plan is necessary to help balance the budget over the next two
years, pay for economic development projects around the city and
modernize the city’s parking assets so, for example, parking meters can
accept credit card payments. Opponents argue the plan gives up too much
control over the city’s parking assets by outsourcing their operations
to private companies based around the country.
But some business leaders are upset with the death of the parking plan
because it leaves no visible alternative for funding major development
projects like the interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King
Cranley now says he will not allow a referendum on any ordinance undoing the streetcar project
and will instead try to work with supporters of the project to find
another way to put it on the ballot if they can gather enough petition
signatures. Cranley says blocking a referendum is necessary to avoid
spending money during a referendum campaign that could last months. But
for supporters of the streetcar, Cranley’s decision seems highly
hypocritical following his repeated praise for the “people’s sacred
right of referendum” on the campaign trail after City Council blocked a
referendum on the parking plan. If the project is placed on the ballot,
it will essentially be the third time it’s brought to a public vote;
opponents of the project in 2009 and 2011 pursued two ballot initiatives
that many saw as referendums on the streetcar.
Meanwhile, Over-the-Rhine businesses and residents yesterday officially launched a campaign to save the streetcar project
from Cranley and a newly elected City Council that appears poised to
cancel the project. Touting the project’s potential return on investment
and cancellation costs,
the group plans to lobby newly elected officials to vote in favor of
keeping the project going. The group invited Cranley and all elected
council members to join them at a town hall-style meeting on Nov. 14 at
the Mercantile Library, where supporters will discuss their path
forward. So far, supporters have publicly discussed a concerted lobbying
effort, a ballot initiative if council passes an ordinance undoing the
streetcar project and possible legal action against the city.
The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board is apparently unpleasantly surprised
that Cranley undid the parking plan, even though the board endorsed
Cranley for mayor after he ran in opposition to the parking plan for
nearly a year.
An Ohio Senate bill caps the spending ability of the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative board that previously approved the federally funded Medicaid expansion
despite the Ohio legislature’s opposition. Gov. John Kasich angered
many Republican legislators when he decided to go through the
Controlling Board to get the Medicaid expansion, which is a major part
Meanwhile, the Ohio legislature is working on changes to Medicaid
that would cap future cost increases and employ professional staff for a
Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee that would have the ability to
review Medicaid programs and agencies. The bill also includes a portion
that clarifies its passage “shall not be construed with endorsing,
validating or otherwise approving the (Medicaid) expansion.”
Despite attempts from city officials and local business leaders, Saks Fifth Avenue is leaving downtown to open a store at Kenwood Collection.
Kentucky’s state auditor will look at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport board’s spending policies and expenses, following reports from The Enquirer that the board spent exorbitant amounts on travel, dining and counseling.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Milford-Miami Advertiser’s request to appeal a 2012 ruling
that charged the Gannett-owned suburban weekly with defamation and
ordered the paper to pay the defamed plaintiff $100,000 in damages. In a
story titled “Cop's suspension called best move for city,”
the newspaper wrongly implicated a Miami Township police officer who
was previously accused but later exonerated of sexual assault.
Attorney General Mike DeWine warns that some typhoon relief requests could be scams.
Not satisfied with the mere wonder of beginning to exist, some stars explode in a rainbow of colors when they’re born.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:30 PM | Permalink
Port Authority and newly elected mayor and council agree to end deal
Mayor-elect John Cranley, the newly elected City Council and the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority on Tuesday agreed to eliminate the city’s plan to lease its parking
meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority once newly elected officials take office in December.But it remains unclear how much it will cost to terminate the plan, default on the lease agreement with the Port Authority and allow the Port to break its contracts with private companies that would have operated the assets under the deal.
The announcement follows the Nov. 5 election of Cranley and a City Council supermajority opposed to the parking plan.“It is a tremendously positive announcement for the city and its citizens that the current parking deal is now dead,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. “I was glad to help sound the alarm on this deal from the
beginning, but this victory ultimately belongs to the public, who were
instrumental in providing sustained public pressure. This has shown us that the public values its public
assets and wants long-term solutions to our financial challenges, not
Cranley and Sittenfeld were joined by
Councilman Christopher Smitherman, incoming council members Amy Murray
and David Mann and Port Authority CEO Laura Brunner for the
announcement. They discussed continuing the city’s partnership with the Port Authority, including the possibility of establishing a development fund for the agency.
Cranley also reiterated his intention to
pursue some of the development projects originally tied to the deal,
particularly the interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King
Drive. He also said the city will try to find other ways to leverage the city’s parking assets, including the possibility of stricter enforcement and better technologies.
From the start, opponents of the
parking plan claimed it gave up too much local control over the city’s
parking assets. The plan would have leased the assets to the Port
Authority — a local, city- and county-funded development agency — but the Port
planned to sign off operations to private companies from around the
The plan grew particularly controversial in July, after a previously concealed memo critical of the plan was leaked to media outlets and council members.
The city administration originally claimed the parking
plan — and the lump-sum payment it would produce — was necessary to
balance the city’s operating budget without laying off cops and
But when the plan was held up in court following the current
City Council’s approval on March 6, council managed to balance the
operating budget without layoffs by making cuts elsewhere, including
council members’ salaries, and tapping into higher-than-expected
City Council also managed to use alternative funding
sources to finance the development of a downtown grocery store and
luxury apartment tower at Fourth and Race streets, which city
administration officials originally touted as a major selling point of
the parking plan.
Still, city administration officials claimed the plan was necessary to
fund other development projects around the city, help balance the budget for the next two years and modernize the city’s parking assets so, for example, all parking meters would have the ability to accept credit card payments.
City Manager Milton Dohoney, a proponent of the parking
plan, also proposed using the lump-sum payment to pay for a parking
garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets. Under the original parking plan,
the Port Authority was supposed to pay for the garage; after the Port
Authority completed its review of the deal on Oct. 9, it backed down
from the commitment.
The Port Authority’s review also reduced the lump-sum payment to $85 million from $92 million.
Cranley and other critics said the reduction and the new $14-$15
million cost brought on by the parking garage effectively reduced the
upfront payment to $70-$71 million.
Without the parking plan, the planned projects will require new
sources of funding if they are to proceed. But to critics, the plan’s
dissolution is an intangible victory that has been months in the making.Updated with more details.
by German Lopez
Streetcar fight continues, state evaluating transit services, parking plan moving ahead
A small group of Over-the-Rhine homeowners is preparing for a possible lawsuit and other actions
should Mayor-elect John Cranley try to cancel the $133 million
streetcar project. Ryan Messer says the fight is about protecting his
family’s investment along the streetcar route. Streetcar supporters plan
to host a town hall-style meeting in the coming weeks to discuss
possible actions to keep the project on track, including a referendum
effort on any legislation that halts construction of the ongoing
project. While Cranley says canceling the streetcar is at the top of the agenda, questions remain about how much it would cost to cancel the project, as CityBeat covered in further detail here and here.
As Cincinnati debates canceling the streetcar project, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is evaluating transit systems around the state
to encourage more efficiency and cost effectiveness. The agency is
particularly focused on how different transit services are dealing with
rising demand and shrinking budgets. But if that’s the case, ODOT might
carry some of the blame: When Gov. John Kasich took office, ODOT’s
Transportation Review Advisory Council pulled $52 million from the
Cincinnati streetcar project despite previously scoring the streetcar
the highest among Ohio’s transportation projects. The Kasich
administration also refused $400 million in federal funding for a
statewide passenger light rail system, and the money ended up going to
California and other states that took on light rail projects.
Cranley’s other major campaign promise is to stop the
city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority, but the Port intends to finalize the lease by the end of the month — before Cranley takes office in December — by selling bonds that will finance the deal. The outgoing city administration pushed the parking plan through City Council in a matter of months for an upfront payment of $92 million. But following unsuccessful litigation and a due diligence process, the Port Authority cut the payment to $85 million,
and the city is now responsible for paying $14-$15 million to build a
new parking garage that the Port was originally supposed to finance
under the deal. Cranley and other opponents of the parking plan say it
gives up too much control over the city’s parking assets, while
supporters argue it’s necessary to modernize the assets and help fund
economic development projects.
Several of Cincinnati’s power brokers and building owners are working on a plan
that would create a retail corridor in the city’s center and hopefully
keep Saks Fifth Avenue in the city. Some of the efforts apparently
involve financial incentives from the city, according to details
provided to the Business Courier.
In the past decade, Ohio students have shown limited improvement in reading and math scores.The Cincinnati area could become the largest metropolitan area without an abortion clinic following new regulations imposed by the state budget signed into law in June by Gov. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature. CityBeat covered the regulations and the rest of the state budget in further detail here.
The Hamilton County Association of Chiefs of Police released a report outlining stricter guidelines for Taser use.
Attorney Al Gerhardstein, who has led lawsuits on behalf of families
who lost loved ones after they were Tased, told WVXU he’s encouraged by
the report, but he said he would also require annual tests of the
devices and a ban on chest shots.
The Cincinnati branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is filing a federal complaint
against the DHL Global Mail facility in Hebron, Ky., after DHL
allegedly fired 24 of its employees on Oct. 9 in a dispute over prayer
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino reported $18.2 million in gross revenue in October, down from $19.8 million in September.
The revenue reduction also cost Cincinnati’s casino the No. 1 spot,
which is now held by Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino. For Cincinnati and
Ohio, the drop means lower tax revenue.
The Cincinnati Gay and Lesbian Center plans to close its physical space,
but it’s sticking around as a virtual organization and will continue
hosting Pride Night at Kings Island. A letter from the center’s board of
directors stated that the transition was based on a need to “evolve
with the times.”
The U.S. Senate passed a bill
that would ban discrimination against gay and transgendered workers,
but the bill’s chances are grim in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both Ohio senators — Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman —
voted in favor of the Senate bill. CityBeat previously covered efforts in Ohio to pass workplace protections for LGBT individuals here.
Watch a homeless veteran’s aesthetic transformation, which apparently helped push his life forward:
The popular video of a baby’s reaction to his singing mom might actually show conflicting feelings of fear and sociality, not sentimentality.
Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Privatization schemes in Cincinnati and Ohio just went through a bad month.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The parking plan’s lump sum payment is
being reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city could
be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage.
by German Lopez
City to get $85 million lump sum, down from $92 million
The parking plan’s lump sum payment is being reduced to $85 million, down from $92 million, and the city could be on the hook for $14 million to $15 million to build a garage, according an Oct. 9 memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney to council members and the mayor. Dohoney wrote that the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which is leasing Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages under the 30-plus-year deal, reduced its lump sum payment because of rising interest rates and its decision to reduce parking meter enforcement hours outside of Over-the-Rhine and the Cincinnati Business District.Under the reviewed deal, the Port Authority also handed the responsibility of building a garage at Seventh and Sycamore streets to the city of Cincinnati. Dohoney recommends using the parking plan’s upfront payment to fund the garage, which will cost between $14 million and $15 million, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding.If City Council approves the allocation, the upfront funds would be effectively left at $70 million to $71 million.The city still estimates it will get at least $3 million in annual installments from the lease. Supporters of the parking plan claim it’s necessary to fully leverage Cincinnati’s parking assets to fund development projects and help balance the operating budget. The plan also requires private operators, which will be hired by the Port Authority, to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking assets. The upgrades should allow parking meters to accept remote payments through smartphones, among other new features.Critics claim the plan gives up too much local control over the city’s parking assets. They say the city and Port Authority could easily be pressured by private operators to hike parking rates far beyond the 3-percent-a-year increase currently called for under the plan.The plan has also been mired in controversy, notably because the city administration withheld a consultant’s memo from the public and council members that claimed the plan is a bad deal for the city. The city administration says the memo was based on outdated information, but opponents still criticized the lack of transparency behind the deal.Dohoney wrote in the Oct. 9 memo that the Port Authority’s board plans to meet on Oct. 19 to finalize contracts with private operators. If all goes as planned, the Port Authority estimates the new parking system will be in place by April 2014.