by German Lopez 03.04.2014
Posted In: News, Development, Budget, City Council, Mayor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
downtown grocery

Morning News and Stuff

Mayor blocks downtown development, city leaders push for Google Fiber, budget gap grows

Mayor John Cranley could dismantle a deal that would produce a grocery store, 300 luxury apartments and a new parking garage downtown. Cranley says he doesn’t want millions put toward the deal, even though the developer involved plans to invest another $60 million. Councilman Chris Seelbach says the deal isn’t dead just because of the mayor’s opposition, and City Council could act to bypass the mayor, just like the legislative body did with the streetcar project and responsible bidder. To Seelbach, the deal is necessary to bring much-needed residential space and an accessible grocery store downtown.Cincinnati officials and startup executives will try to bring Google Fiber, which provides Internet speeds 100 times faster than normal broadband, to Cincinnati. Google plans to hold a national competition to see which cities are most deserving of its fiber services. “Over the last several years, Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem has made tremendous strides,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a statement. “We’re increasingly becoming a magnet for talented entrepreneurs across the country who want to come here to bring their big ideas to life. We need to ensure that we have the modern technological infrastructure to make Cincinnati nationally competitive.”Cincinnati’s operating budget gap for fiscal 2015 now stands at $22 million, up from an earlier forecast of $18.5 million, largely because of extra spending on police pushed by Cranley and a majority of City Council. The city must balance its operating budget each year, which means the large gap will likely lead to layoffs and service cuts.Commentary: “Budget Promises Spur Fears of Cuts.”Cranley won’t re-appoint the chair of Cincinnati’s Board of Health. When asked why, Chairwoman Joyce Kinley told City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee that Cranley told her “he had to fulfill a campaign promise.” Some city officials say they worry Cranley is putting politics over the city’s needs.Troubled restaurant Mahogany’s needs to pay back rent or move out, The Banks’ landlord declared Monday. The deciding moment for Mahogany’s comes after months of struggles, which restaurant owner Liz Rogers blames on the slow development of the riverfront.Kathy Wilson: “Mahogany’s: Turn Out the Lights.”Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino supports 1,700 workers, making it the largest of Ohio's four voter-approved casinos.At least one airline, Allegiant Air, plans to add flights from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.Headline: “Man wakes up in body bag at funeral home.”“A 30,000-year-old giant virus has been revived from the frozen Siberian tundra,” the Los Angeles Times reports.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 02.26.2014
Posted In: News, LGBT, Inclusion, Preschool at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Preschool could save money, domestic partner registry coming, mayor seeks inclusion

Universal preschool could save Cincinnati $48-$69.1 million in the first two to three years by ensuring children get through school with less problems and costs to taxpayers, according to a University of Cincinnati Economics Center study. The public benefits echo findings in other cities and states, where studies found expanded preschool programs generate benefit-cost ratios ranging from 4-to-1 to 16-to-1 for society at large. For Cincinnati and preschool advocates, the question now is how the city could pay for universal preschool for the city’s three- and four-year-olds. CityBeat covered universal preschool in further detail here.Cincinnati leaders intend to adopt a domestic partner registry that would grant legal recognition to same-sex couples in the city. Councilman Chris Seelbach’s office says the proposal would particularly benefit gays and lesbians working at small businesses, which often don’t have the resources to verify legally unrecognized relationships. Seelbach’s office says the registry will have two major requirements: Same-sex couples will need to pay a $45 fee and prove strong financial interdependency. In a motion, the mayor and a supermajority of City Council ask the city administration to structure a plan that meets the criteria; Seelbach’s office expects the full proposal to come back to council in the coming months.Mayor John Cranley plans to take a sweeping approach to boosting minority inclusion in Cincinnati, including the establishment of an Office of Minority Inclusion. The proposal from Cranley asks the city administration to draft a plan for the office, benchmark inclusion best practices and identify minority- and women-owned suppliers that could reduce costs for the city. The proposal comes the week after Cranley announced city contracting goals of 12 percent for women-owned businesses and 15 percent for black-owned businesses.Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminated early voting on Sundays with a directive issued yesterday. Husted’s directive is just the latest effort from Republicans to reduce early voting opportunities. Democrats say the Republican plans are voter suppression, while Republicans argue the policies are needed to establish uniform early voting hours across the state and save counties money on running elections.The Butler County Common Pleas Court ruled Tuesday that the village of New Miami must stop using speed cameras. Judge Michael Sage voiced concerns about the administrative hearing process the village used to allow motorists to protest or appeal tickets.Ohio officials expect to get 106,000 Medicaid applications through HealthCare.gov.The first shark ray pups born in captivity all died at the Newport Aquarium. Rising home prices might lead to more babies for homeowners.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 02.25.2014
Posted In: News, LGBT, City Council, Mayor at 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

City Pursues Domestic Partner Registry for Same-Sex Couples

Seelbach touts measure to boost Cincinnati’s LGBT inclusion score

The mayor and a supermajority of City Council backs efforts to establish a domestic partner registry for same-sex couples in Cincinnati, Councilman Chris Seelbach’s office announced Tuesday.If adopted by the city, the registry will allow same-sex couples to gain legal recognition through the city. That would let same-sex couples apply for domestic partner benefits at smaller businesses, which typically don’t have the resources to verify legally unrecognized relationships, according to Seelbach’s office.Specifically, the City Council motion asks the city administration to reach out to other cities that have adopted domestic partner registries, including Columbus and eight other Ohio cities, and establish specific guidelines.Seelbach’s office preemptively outlined a few requirements to sign up: Same-sex couples will need to pay a $45 fee and prove strong financial interdependency by showing joint property ownership, power of attorney, a will and other unspecified requirements.“As a result of a $45 fee to join the registry, we believe this will be entirely budget neutral, meaning it won't cost the city or the taxpayers a single dollar,” Seelbach said in a statement.If the plan is adopted this year, Cincinnati should gain a perfect score in the next “Municipal Equality Index” from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group that, among other tasks, evaluates LGBT inclusion efforts from city to city. Cincinnati scored a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 rankings, with domestic partner registries valued at 12 points.Seelbach expects the administration to report back with a full proposal that City Council can vote on in the coming months.
by German Lopez 02.07.2014
Posted In: News, Education, MSD, The Banks at 09:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City, schools to collaborate, protesters call for MSD work, some question The Banks’ success

Cincinnati officials and Cincinnati Board of Education leaders yesterday announced a new collaborative that aims to share and align the city and Cincinnati Public Schools’ (CPS) policy goals. The initiative will focus on five areas: population growth, workforce development, safe and livable neighborhoods, wellness and access to technology. City and school officials say the collaborative alone won’t hit their budgets, but future joint initiatives could obviously carry their own costs.Councilman Chris Seelbach and union supporters yesterday gathered outside the Hamilton County Administrations Building to call on county commissioners to open bidding on several Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. County commissioners blocked the work in protest of Cincinnati’s “responsible bidder” rules, which require MSD contractors to meet more stringent job training requirements and pay into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will train new workers in different crafts. The Republican-controlled county says the rules are illegal, favor unions and burden businesses, but the Democrat-controlled city says the standards help train local workers and create local jobs.Meanwhile, county commissioners appear ready to take the city-county dispute to court. If the conflict isn’t resolved by the end of the year, the federal government could impose fines to force work on a mandatory overhaul of the local sewer system to fully continue, according to Commissioner Chris Monzel.Cincinnati’s riverfront has come a long way, but The Cincinnati Enquirer and others seem unhappy The Banks is taking so long to fully develop. A lot was promised with the initial plan for the riverfront, but the Great Recession and other hurdles slowed down the development of condos, office and retail space and a hotel. For some business owners, the slowdown has made it much harder to get by unless a major event — a Reds or Bengals game, for example — is going on, particularly during bad winters. In particular, struggling Mahogany’s owner Liz Rogers says she “would like to see more retail, a hotel, a movie theater.”Following Councilman Charlie Winburn’s warnings that the city wastefully bought too much road salt, the city is actually running low on salt and waiting on an order of 3,500 tons. Over the past couple months, Winburn accused the city of wasting money when he “discovered” a pile of unused road salt. Despite Winburn’s attempts to make “saltgate” into a thing, it turns out the city bought the salt when it was cheaper and planned to use it in the future.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center plans to reopen a pediatric health clinic that abruptly closed down when Neighborhood Health Care Inc. shut down operations. The clinic expects to see 500 needy children and teenagers each month.Local Republicans are still looking to host the Republican National Convention in 2016.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald asked Republican Gov. John Kasich to pledge he would serve his full four years if he won re-election, meaning Kasich would be unable to run for president in 2016.Doctors say technology must prevent texting while driving.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 01.15.2014
scott stiles

Morning News and Stuff

City personnel changes spur backlash, county seeks MSD compromise, judge indicted again

The latest administrative shakeups at City Hall spurred controversy after the city administration confirmed City Solicitor John Curp will leave his current position and one of the new hires — Bill Moller, a city retiree who will become assistant city manager — will be able to “double dip” on his pension and salary ($147,000 a year). Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at today’s council meeting. The hiring decisions are up to Interim City Manager Scott Stiles, but some council members say they should be more closely informed and involved. (This paragraph was updated after council members called off the special session.)Hamilton County commissioners plan to vote on a resolution today that attempts to compromise with City Council on controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. Both the Democrat-controlled city and Republican-controlled county agree the issue needs to be resolved soon so MSD can get on with a $3.2 billion sewer revamp mandated by the federal government. But it remains unclear whether the county’s compromise, which adds some inclusion goals and funding for training programs, will be enough for City Council. In December, Democratic council members refused to do away with the city’s contracting rules, which require MSD contractors to meet stricter job training standards and programs.Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter was indicted on a ninth felony charge yesterday. The charge — for misusing her county credit card — comes on top of eight other felony counts for allegedly backdating court documents and stealing from office. In response to the first eight charges, the Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hunter as she fights the accusations and replaced her with a formerly retired judge, who will be aided by the juvenile court’s permanent and visiting judges in addressing Hunter’s expansive backlog of cases.A bipartisan proposal would allow Ohioans to recall any elected official in the state.Duke Energy cut a $400,000 check to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority for redevelopment projects at Bond Hill, Roselawn and Queensgate.Sixty-two people will be dropped from Hamilton County voter rolls because they didn’t respond to a letter from the board of elections challenging their voting addresses.It’s official: Democrat Charlie Luken and Republican Ralph Winkler will face off for the Hamilton County Probate Court judgeship.Facing state cuts to local funding, a Clermont County village annexed its way to higher revenues. But the village has drawn controversy for its tactics because it explicitly absorbed only public property, which isn’t protected from annexation under state law like private property is.More Ohio inmates earned high school diplomas over the past three years, putting the state ahead of the national average in this area, according to a report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee.Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear says he supports legislative efforts to increase Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years.One Malaysian language describes odors as precisely as English describes colors.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez

Easier Said Than Done

Balanced budget, pension reform among tough tasks facing incoming council members hoping not to raise taxes

1 Comment · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
 A majority of newly elected council members say they’re committed to structurally balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget — a promise repeated by Mayor-elect John Cranley on the campaign trail and following the Nov. 5 election.    
by German Lopez 12.19.2013
Posted In: Streetcar, City Council, Charter Committee, Mayor at 09:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Decision Day for Streetcar

Councilman Kevin Flynn still undecided on whether to cast deciding vote to restart project

It's decision day for Cincinnati's $132.8 million streetcar project. But hours before City Council expects to make a decision, it's unclear whether the legislative body has the six votes necessary to overcome Mayor John Cranley's veto and restart construction for the streetcar project. The deciding vote will most likely come from Charterite Kevin Flynn, who says he's working behind the scenes with undisclosed private entities to get the streetcar's operating costs off the city's books. If that deal pulls through, Flynn would provide the sixth vote to keep going. The project already has five votes in favor: Democrats David Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young.  Three council members have long opposed the project: Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn and Independent Christopher Smitherman. It's a big financial decision for the city. If the city goes forward with the project, it would cost $53.9-$68.9 million, depending on whether the city convinces courts Duke Energy should pay for $15 million in utility costs, according to an audit from consulting firm KPMG. If the city cancels, it will incur $16.3-$46.1 million in additional close-out costs, the same audit found. But it will get nothing for those tens of millions spent and could face costly litigation in the future.  Council expects to make a final decision at Thursday's 2 p.m. meeting. Follow @germanrlopez on Twitter for live updates. 
by German Lopez 12.11.2013
Posted In: City Council, News, city manager, Mayor at 04:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
city hall

Council Appoints Interim City Manager

Compensation package remains controversial after changes

City Council on Wednesday officially appointed Scott Stiles as interim city manager, but only after a testy exchange over the compensation package left three of eight present council members as “no” votes.The package gives Stiles a raise if he returns to his previous role as one of two assistant city managers, which three council members said is unfair to lesser-paid city workers, such as trash collectors, and the other assistant city manager, David Holmes, who won’t get comparable pay increases. The package appoints Stiles to the city’s top job at a salary of $240,000 a year, less than the previous city manager’s $255,000 salary. If the city appoints someone other than Stiles as permanent city manager, Stiles will be placed back in the assistant city manager role with a $180,000 salary, roughly $33,500 more than the other assistant city manager. If a permanent city manager decides to relieve Stiles of the assistant city manager position, the city will be required to make a good faith effort to find Stiles some form of employment within the city until 2018, which would allow Stiles to collect his full pension payment upon retirement. Council Members David Mann, Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray, Kevin Flynn and Christopher Smitherman voted in favor of the appointment and package, while Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted against it. P.G. Sittenfeld was absent. Simpson and Seelbach said they have no problem giving Stiles a $240,000 salary while he’s in the interim city manager position, but both argued it’s unfair to other city workers to give only Stiles a raise if he’s reappointed as assistant city manager. Simpson pointed out that the package would also increase the city administration budget if the new permanent city manager decides to keep Stiles and Holmes as assistant city managers at the agreed-upon salaries. Mayor John Cranley argued Simpson, Seelbach and Young were trying to introduce a new standard that wasn’t present in the previous council, where Simpson, Seelbach and Young were in the majority coalition. “I would have appreciated long-term thinking when I was saddled with a $255,000 severance payment,” he said, referencing a severance package the previous council gave to former City Manager Milton Dohoney after Cranley announced Dohoney would resign on Dec. 1. Simpson argued the severance package wouldn’t have been necessary if Cranley agreed to keep Dohoney on the job until a permanent replacement was found. “It’s our job to protect the taxpayer,” Simpson said. Vice Mayor Mann pointed out that if the city doesn’t fill the assistant city manager role while Stiles presides as interim city manager, the city will actually save money by leaving a salaried administrative position vacant for six months. Cranley previously said the city will conduct a national search for a permanent city manager. Council members at Wednesday’s meeting estimated the effort should take six months.
by German Lopez 12.05.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Streetcar, Police at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Council pauses streetcar, issue could make it to ballot, groups call for police camera fixes

City Council yesterday voted to allocate $1.25 million to pause the $132.8 million streetcar project and study how much it will cost to continue or cancel the project. The final 5-4 votes to pause came despite offers from private contributors to pay for the $250,000 study and construction for the one or two weeks necessary to carry out the cost analysis. The city administration warned council earlier in the day that pausing the project for one month could cost $2.56-$3.56 million, while previous estimates put continuing construction for the month at $3 million. After the cost study is finished, council members expect to make a final decision on whether to continue or cancel the project. Meanwhile, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson filed a motion to draw up a city charter amendment that would task the city with completing the current streetcar project. If the charter amendment gets council approval, Cincinnatians would vote on the issue approximately 60 to 120 days afterward. But it’s unclear whether the $44.9 million in federal grants for the streetcar project would survive through the months; the federal government previously warned a delay could be grounds for pulling the money. Commentary: “Atmosphere at City Hall Changes for the Worse.” Following various cases of malfunctioning or disabled police cruiser cameras, various groups, including Councilman Chris Seelbach, are asking to get to the bottom of the issue. Police officials say old, deteriorating technology is to blame, but critics claim some officers are purposely tampering with the technology to avoid filming themselves during controversial moments in the line of duty. For both sides, getting the cameras working could be mutually beneficial; functioning cameras would allow police to clear their names but also show when officers make mistakes. The University of Cincinnati asked Hamilton County judges to crack down on criminals targeting students on or near campus. State Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati says he won’t give up his Democratic candidacy for lieutenant governor despite $825,000 in unpaid state and federal taxes. Republican State Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati canceled a vote for a proposal that would greatly weaken Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. But he vowed to pursue a “three-pronged strategy to reform the current envirosocialist mandates,” including potential litigation. Environmental groups argued Seitz’s proposal would have effectively eliminated the state’s energy standards. According to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy coalition, repealing the standards would increase Ohioans’ electricity bills by $3.65 billion over the next 12 years. CityBeat covered Seitz’s proposal in greater detail here. The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday approved a bill that establishes a state panel to oversee Medicaid and recommend changes for the costly program. Republicans insist the measure isn’t about reducing benefits or eligibility for Medicaid; instead, they argue it’s about finding ways to cut growing health care costs without making such cuts. Gov. John Kasich must sign the bill for it to become law. Months after rejecting Kasich’s proposal to do so, Ohio House leaders introduced a scaled-down measure that would slightly raise the oil and gas severance tax and cut income taxes. Unlike the governor’s previous proposal, the House plan seems to have support from the oil and gas industry. Another Ohio House bill seeks to reintroduce prayer in public schools. Ohioans are borrowing more to pay for college, but the debt load remains less than the national average. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “CVG board votes to hire investigator for butt-dialed call.” It seems Metropolitan Sewer District rates will increase by 6 percent. Cincinnati could get three to six inches of snow tomorrow. Robert Carr, a 49-year-old Cincinnati man, has been going into the homes of strangers and trying to claim them as his own. He’s now being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center on six felony charges for breaking into homes. Ohio gas prices fell below $3 a gallon. According to a study from the Library of Congress, 70 percent of America’s silent films are lost and a good portion of the remaining films are in poor condition. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez 11.19.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT at 05:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Cincinnati's 'Equality Index' Score Improves

City gains 13 points in HRC’s index ranking treatment of LGBT community

Cincinnati obtained a 90 out of 100 in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on Tuesday, giving the city a 13-point bump compared to 2012’s mixed score. The city aced categories for its relationship with the LGBT community, law enforcement and non-discrimination laws, which ban employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also fared well with municipal services and opportunities provided to city workers. The index also gave Cincinnati various bonus points, including three for the election of Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city’s first openly gay elected official. But the city was docked for failing to recognize LGBT relationships through a domestic partner registry. Seelbach told CityBeat last week that establishing a registry will be one of his priorities in his upcoming four-year term. This year, establishing a domestic partner registry would have been enough to give Cincinnati a perfect overall score in the Municipal Equality Index — a strong upward shift from the 77 out of 100 the city received in 2012. The 90 out of 100 was enough to place Cincinnati in the top 25 percent of cities. The top 10 percent got a 96 or higher, and 25 of 291 cities got perfect scores in 2013.