by German Lopez 02.05.2014
Posted In: News, Death Penalty, Fracking, Parking at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

New parking deal soon, warden denies botched execution, fracking tax bill under works

Mayor John Cranley appears to be working on another parking deal to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking meters, although the mayor’s office says this plan won’t give up control of the city’s parking meters to a private entity. At the same time, it seems the deal won’t produce a large lump-sum like the defunct parking privatization plan did. Cranley and other opponents of the old parking plan have long said that, even without privatization, the city’s parking meters need to be upgraded to accept credit card payments, among other modern features.The warden who oversaw Dennis McGuire’s 26-minute, seemingly painful execution says it went “very well.” The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted use of the death penalty in 1999, drew international attention, particularly because many blamed the long time to kill on the state’s use of a cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. The warden’s statements essentially reject those concerns. Still, state officials say they’re conducting a third review of McGuire’s execution in particular, which is apparently uncommon. CityBeat covered the execution in further detail here.An Ohio House bill could boost funding to local governments affected by the fracking boom by hiking the severance tax on oil and gas companies. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. Its widespread use has spurred an economic boom across the country, including northeast Ohio. While it’s boosted the overall economy, it’s also raised environmental and displacement concerns, particularly in areas where the boom is most active. CityBeat covered the fracking boom in further detail here.In response to complaints about slow snow plowing, the city tweeted, “We’ve got 2,800+ lane miles to clear. It’s going to take some time. Please, go slow & be patient today as our crews work ’round-the-clock.”In light of yesterday’s “debate” over evolution and biblical creationism, here are four things the anti-science crowd denies.An Ohio Senate bill would prohibit sales of e-cigarettes to those younger than 18, but some anti-smoking activists worry the bill’s classification of e-cigarettes as an “alternative nicotine product” instead of a tobacco product could loosen regulations on the potentially cancer-causing product.Meanwhile, CVS plans to stop selling tobacco products as it focuses more on health care.Ohio’s standardized tests for grades 3-8 could be delayed after winter storms forced so many school closings.The Cincinnati Fire Department is looking into the possibility of using drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — in the future through a partnership with the University of Cincinnati.A Salvadoran newspaper used a drone to cover a presidential election.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to glopez@citybeat.com.
by German Lopez 11.06.2013
Posted In: News, Mayor, Streetcar at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
john cranley

Mayor-Elect Explains Vision for First Term

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 canceled. 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 Corporation). “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 developed.” 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 01.06.2014
Posted In: News, 2014 election, Governor, LGBT, Parking at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

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 timing. 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 12.01.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
city hall

Cranley, New City Council Take Office

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.

Parking Plan Called Off

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 11.13.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

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 Drive. 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 of Obamacare. 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 11.12.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Mayor at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parking Plan Called Off

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 short-term fixes.” 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 country. 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 firefighters. 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 revenues. 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 11.08.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Parking, Transportation at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
john cranley

Morning News and Stuff

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 breaks. 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

The Folly of Privatization

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Privatization schemes in Cincinnati and Ohio just went through a bad month.   

Port Authority Reduces Parking Plan Payment

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.