by German Lopez
Lone Democrat dissents on $14.4 million in cuts
For the sixth year in a row, Hamilton County’s budget will
be getting some cuts. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners
today approved $14.4 million in across-the-board cuts in a 2-1 vote, with Democrat
Todd Portune voting no and Republicans Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel voting yes.
The budget’s cuts will affect every county department, but
they will not raise taxes. The plan will likely result in layoffs,
according to the county budget office. The sheriff’s office is the least
affected by cuts.
With a few revisions and tweaks, the plan is basically
what Board President Hartmann originally proposed. Previously, Hartmann touted the
budget plan by praising its “austerity” — a word that has lost popularity in Europe as budget cuts and tax hikes have thrown the continent into a double-dip recession.
Portune suggested an alternative plan that made fewer cuts and instead borrowed money against delinquent taxes.
By law, the county is required to balance its budget.
by Andy Brownfield
Proposed 'austere' budget would cut $14.4M from 2012 levels
A vote on the 2013 Hamilton County budget is being delayed
a week at the request of the sole Democrat on the Board of County
Commissioner Todd Portune asked Board President Greg
Hartmann at a Monday staff meeting to push back the vote a week to
address funding to juvenile courts and the county’s plan for future
Hartmann, who earlier denied Portune’s request to issue
securities to raise millions to balance the budget, agreed. He said it
was important that all three commissioners agree on the budget.
Portune told reporters he wanted to see more funding for
juvenile courts. The proposed budget would cut about $3 million from the
juvenile court’s 2012 appropriation.
He said he also wants to see specific plans on how and
where the county will invest in economic development. He and Hartmann
disagree about whether that kind of planning belongs in a budget.
Hartmann had the proposal developed after commissioners rejected three plans from County Administrator Christian Sigman, two of which would have raised taxes. The $192 million budget under consideration cuts about $14 million from the 2012 appropriation levels without raising taxes.
The proposed budget makes a number of what Hartman calls “modest cuts” in almost every county department.
All three commissioners have stated that public safety
funding is a priority. The Sheriff’s Department would see a small
reduction of $27,033, bringing its budget to almost $57.5 million.
However, the department would also face an additional $4.3
million in expenses next year, giving incoming Sheriff Jim Neil an
effectively reduced budget.
The Emergency Management Agency would get a nearly 40 percent increase in the proposed budget, up to $400,000.
The Board of Elections would see its budget slashed 36.2
percent to $6.9 million. However, its expenses would also be lower in
2013 because there is no presidential election as there was in 2012.
The proposed budget would bring the Department of Job and
Family Services’ appropriation to $832,900 — a reduction of $10,360.
However, that funding level is dictated by the State of Ohio and not the
The Hamilton County Prosecutor would also see a small
increase of $37,597 intended to hold level its funding from 2012, as the
department went over-budget. The prosecutor has the ability to sue the
county over its budget appropriation, so the department typically
maintains level funding.
by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, County Commission
, Financial Crisis
, Mitt Romney
at 03:53 PM | Permalink
"Austerity budget" rejects tax increases
The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board
outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an
austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said
his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30
percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to
approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or
0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3
percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5
percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the
Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public
safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic
development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he
supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own
budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is
working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the
Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by
the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the
budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for
county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different
visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is
running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s
waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the
economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking
that’s what you were going to go with.”
by German Lopez
Newspapers all around the state — including The Cincinnati Enquirer, which labelled its article an “Enquirer Exclusive” (both The Toledo Blade and Columbus Dispatch ran a story with the same angle as The Enquirer)
— are really excited about a new poll that found Sen. Sherrod Brown
leads Josh Mandel in the U.S. senatorial race for Ohio’s seat by 7
percent. But the poll only confirms what aggregate polling has been
saying for a while now. Mayor Mark Mallory fired back at Commissioner Greg
Hartmann Friday. In a letter Tuesday, Hartmann accused Mallory of
failing to stick to his promises in support of a city-council committee that
would have established greater collaboration between Cincinnati and Hamilton
County governments. But in his letter, Mallory said the committee was
unnecessary and Hartmann was just playing politics by sending a letter
to media instead of calling the mayor on his cell phone.
Contrary to the claims of Mitt Romney’s campaign,
President Barack Obama does care about the work requirements in
welfare-to-work reform. In fact, Obama is disapproving of Ohio’s
program, which his administration says has not enforced work
requirements stringently enough. However, most of the blame is going to
former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, not Gov. John Kasich, a
The University of Cincinnati received a $3.7 million grant
to increase the participation of women in science, technology,
engineering and math disciplines. The grant comes from the National
Science Foundation, a federal entity that funds science. The grant could
help current problems with science research. One recent study found
scientists prefer to hire male students over female students, pay male
students more and spend more time mentoring men over women.
Local homeless groups managed to get a hold of a $600,000
grant to aid homeless military veterans. The grant will provide
financial assistance and job training for the currently homeless and
vets at risk of becoming homeless.The Cincinnati Enquirer is raising subscription costs by 43 percent — from $210 a year to $300 a year.City Council will host a special session today to get
public feedback and work on the new deal meant to prevent further
streetcar delays. The meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. at City Council
Chambers, City Hall room 300, 801 Plum St.
Ohio is a swing state, which means we get a lot of
political ads during the campaign season. Are you tired of them? Well,
politicians don’t seem to care. In 2008, both parties ran a combined
total of 42,827 ads between April and September. In the same time period
this year, the parties have run 114,840.Citizens for Common Sense was formed to support Issue 4 on the November ballot, which changes City Council terms
from two to four years. The initiative would let political candidates
worry more about policy and less about campaigning, but some critics say
it would make it more difficult to hold council members accountable.Research shows random promotions may be better for
business. The study verifies the Peter Principle, which says many people
are eventually promoted to positions beyond their competence.
by German Lopez
Mayor criticizes county commissioner for going to media first
Mayor Mark Mallory was not happy with Hamilton County
Commission President Greg Hartmann’s Tuesday letter criticizing him for failing to follow through with a city-county shared services plan. Mallory fired back today in his own letter,
criticizing Hartmann for going to the media first and explaining why he
no longer supports the City County Shared Services Committee.
“We have had a
strong working relationship since you have become Commission
President,” Mallory wrote. “So, I was surprised and disappointed that
you sent the letter to the media instead of sharing your concerns with
me directly; after all, you have my cell phone number.”
Mallory went on to point out that Hartmann is the fourth
commission president he has worked with, and the previous three “never
would have handled City/County relations in such a confrontational
The mayor also clarified why he no longer supports the
City County Shared Services Committee, which was meant to consolidate
county and city services to end redundancies and improve efficiency and
“As the scope of the proposed committee’s work was
developed, it became clear to me that not only were we already
collaborating at a high level, but that several new collaborations
proposed by the City had met resistance from the County,” Mallory wrote.
“I began to question the need for a committee to conduct a $400,000
study of future collaboration if there were already potential new
collaborations sitting on the shelf.”
Mallory also said he “will never give away the ability of
the citizens of Cincinnati to control crucial City functions.” He cited
the examples of prosecutors and health clinics, which Mallory implied
could have been given off to the county if the committee pushed through
The mayor also pointed out that even if the city and
county approved the committee and its recommendations, Hamilton County
would still have serious budget problems: “You and I both know that the
recommendations of the Shared Services Committee would never have
resulted in close to enough savings to close the County’s budget
deficit, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.” In other words, stop
shifting the blame.
The rest of Mallory’s letter went on to point out
Cincinnati and Hamilton County collaborate on a regular basis to
“improve services, create efficiencies, and save money.” The mayor
pointed to many programs for examples of the city and county working
together: the Banks development, the Convention and Visitors Bureau,
the Metropolitan Sewer District, emergency operations, the Port Authority, a
$1.9 million city-county contract that has the county manage
Cincinnati’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance Program and the Neighborhood
Stabilization Program Consortium.
Mallory also claimed there have been cases in which the county declined to collaborate with the city, citing the Indigent Care Levy. The
county’s consultant recommended Hamilton County give some of that levy
to provide county residents access to primary care at the City Health
Center System, but the county declined the potential partnership.
Mallory then said he was willing to work on collaboration
with purchasing, fire hydrant maintenance and economic development —
three areas Hartmann cited in his own letter to Mallory.
The letter finished with a call to end the politics of the
back-and-forth: “I feel very strongly that it is time to take the
politics out and leave the matter to the public sector professionals.
The City Manager is ready to meet with the County Administrator to
discuss any proposed partnership that would improve the lives of our
citizens by improving service, increasing efficiency, or saving money.”
In his letter, Hartmann
criticized Mallory for not keeping his promise to back the
city-county committee, citing a previous letter from Mallory to the
Ohio Department of Development that promised $100,000 for the new committee.
by German Lopez
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann wants Mayor
Mark Mallory to live up to past promises of county-city collaboration.
In a letter to Mallory, Hartmann criticized the mayor for failing to
stick to his pledge of supporting the City-County Shared Services
Committee. The committee seeks to streamline county and city services to
end redundancies and make the services more competitive and efficient.Cincinnati Economic Development’s director asked City
Council to create a “mega incentive” for “huge impact” development. He
also asked City Council to pledge $4 million of casino revenue a year to
a local neighborhood project. If City Council agrees, casino revenue
will be used to boost local businesses.Metro is looking at the world’s quickest-charging electric bus. It supposedly can charge in 10 minutes and travel 40 miles.
The day before Pennsylvania’s voter ID law faced trouble
in court, Secretary of Jon Husted suggested a “more strict” voter ID law
for Ohio. Husted said the current ID system needs to be streamlined and
simplified. Democrats criticized the suggestion for its potential voter
Sept. 22 will be the “Global Frackdown,” a day where
activists will protest around the world in a push to ban hydraulic
fracturing — or fracking. Cincinnati will have its own “Frackdown” at
Piatt Park. Activists are generally against fracking because it poses
too many risks, which CityBeat covered here. But Gov. John Kasich
and other supporters of fracking insist it can be made safe with proper
regulations. Some have also suggested that natural gas, which is now
plentiful due to the spread of fracking, can be used as part of a bigger
plan to stop global warming.A new survey says Cincinnati companies will continue hiring through the fourth quarter. It wasn’t as good as last year, but it was better than the
month before. A new state report says 7,341 new businesses filed to do
work in Ohio in August, down from 7,423 in August 2011.A state commission approved $1.5 million for the
Cincinnati Art Museum and a $600,000 reimbursement for the Art Academy
of Cincinnati.More than half of Ohioans could be obese by 2030, a new
report found. The rise in obesity could push up medical costs by $23.8
billion.But screw worrying about weight. Taste of Belgium (writer’s note: best restaurant in the land) is thinking about expanding.In other restaurant news, it seems Chick-Fil-A may stop its anti-gay donations. Maybe Kermit and friends will be forgiving.The full footage for Mitt Romney’s controversial comments
at a May 17 fundraiser has become available here. The footage shows why
Romney prefers to be dishonest most of the time. More importantly,
Romney’s comments about Obama voters are not accurate. The Onion, a satirical newspaper, has an explanation for why Romney insists on unleashing gaffe after gaffe.One astrophysicist says there is no such thing as time.
by German Lopez
Commissioner asks mayor to live up to county-city collaboration promises
In contrast to the partisan gridlock at the federal level, Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, sent a letter
to Mayor Mark Mallory, a Democrat, today asking the mayor to commit to earlier
promises to boost collaboration between Hamilton County and the City of
“I am writing to express my disappointment in the lack of
progress of the City-County Shared Services Committee that we originally
announced in October 2011,” Hartmann wrote. “Despite numerous attempts
by my office and County Administration to make progress with the
Committee, it appears you have abandoned your commitment to this
The committee was meant to increase collaboration between the
city and county to bring together important county and city leaders and
make government services more streamlined and competitive. According the
letter, the county expected to “eliminate any duplicative services,
overlapping departmental functions and competing initiatives with the
With the county and city both facing budget shortfalls in
the face of the Great Recession, Hartmann says the increased
collaboration would help ease tight budgets. The Hamilton County
commissioners are currently going through meetings with department heads
to see what can and needs to be cut from county services to make up for
what is projected to be a $20 million budget shortfall.
But the committee never came to be. Hartmann claims his
office tried to contact Mallory again and again, but he never received a
response. The county even set aside $100,000 for a promised joint
review of city and county operations, and the Cincinnati Business
Committee did as well. Mallory pledged to devote $100,000 to the effort in a letter to the Ohio Department of Development,
but “the follow-up legislation by the City Council never occurred,”
The commissioner even specified some ideas to the City
Manager’s Office in February. The three areas covered: improved
collaboration on purchasing, countywide fire hydrant maintenance and
improved collaboration on economic development. The ideas never made it
past discussion.Jason Barron, spokesperson for Mallory, could not
immediately comment on the letter. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.The full letter, along with the attached letter from Mallory:Open publication - Free publishing - More cincinnati
by German Lopez
President Barack Obama will visit Cincinnati Monday. No
details were given for the event. Last time Obama was in
Cincinnati, he held a town hall meeting to tout his support for small
businesses and the LGBT community. Ohio is considered a vital swing
state for the presidential election, and it’s widely considered a
must-win for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. However, after the
Democratic National Convention, aggregate polling at FiveThirtyEight and
RealClearPolitics hugely favors Obama, establishing many paths for the
Democrat to clinch the presidency. Obama could lose Ohio, Virginia and
Florida and still win the election, which shows how many options he has to victory.A new index lists Cincinnati’s economy as one of the
strongest in the nation. The On Numbers Economic Index ranked Cincinnati
No. 15 out of 102 metro areas with a score of 67.65. Oklahoma City was
No. 1 with a score of 91.04. Cincinnati also touts a lower unemployment
rate than the U.S. and state average. The area’s seasonally unadjusted
unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July in comparison to the state’s
7.4 percent unadjusted rate and the country’s 8.6 percent unadjusted
rate.The 2013 Hamilton County budget process is “challenging,”
says Commissioner Greg Hartmann. He says the county is dealing
with a $200 million budget instead of the $300 million budget of six
years ago, which is presenting new problems. Hamilton County Sheriff Si
Leis said budget cuts could lead to up to 500 jail bed cuts. CityBeat
previously covered the county commissioners’ inability to tackle
challenging budget issues — sometimes at the cost of the taxpayer.
State Auditor Dave Yost says his investigation into
attendance fraud at Ohio schools could last well into the year. The
investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County
were found of attendance fraud, is slowed down by the state’s
data-reporting system, according to Yost. Schools may falsely alter
their attendance reports to improve grades in the state report
card.Secretary of State Jon Husted has been sued again. This
time he’s being sued by the Democratic Montgomery County election
officials he fired. The officials tried to expand in-person early voting
hours in Montgomery County to include weekend voting, but the move
violated Husted’s call for uniform hours across the state.The Ohio EPA will host a workshop in Cincinnati on
Sept. 25. The workshop will focus on the Ohio Clean Fund and other tools
and incentives to help individuals and groups embrace clean energy.For the first time since December, Ohio's tax collections were lower than expected. The state was $43 million below estimates in August.Eighteen percent of Ohio mortgages are underwater, according to a new survey.A study found wind power could meet the world’s energy
needs. Wind currently supplies 4.1 percent of the United States’ energy
needs. Obama greatly boosted the production of wind
energy with tax credits. Romney vowed to
repeal the tax credits in a brief moment of substance.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 14, 2012
A Democrat who was challenging Hamilton
County Commissioner Greg Hartmann in this fall’s election has left the
race due to work commitments.
by Kevin Osborne
Job will take him out of state often
A Democrat who was challenging Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann in this fall’s election has left the race due to work commitments.Greg Harris, a West Sider who is a former Cincinnati city councilman, said Monday night that a contract awarded to his educational consulting firm means he will be spending a large amount of time outside of the region. Harris’ firm, New Governance Group, recently was awarded a major contract with a nonprofit group in Delaware that seeks to improve public education in that state.“When I filed (to run for commissioner), I filed in all sincerity,” Harris said. “It was before I got this contract.”He added, “I feel bad. This was a race I really wanted to run in, but with all the traveling, I’m not equipped to give it the time it deserves.”Harris, 40, announced his candidacy in early December, when he filed paperwork to run against Hartmann, a Republican incumbent who is seeking his second term.The Hamilton County Democratic Party now will be able to select a replacement for Harris on the Nov. 6 ballot.Harris was appointed in January 2009 to Cincinnati City Council to fill the unexpired term of John Cranley, who was facing term limits. But Harris lost in an election that November, finishing 10th in balloting for the nine-member group, missing the final spot by about 3,400 votes. During his brief term, Harris angered the city’s police and firefighter unions by suggesting changes that he said would improve efficiency and reduce costs.Through his consulting firm, Harris had served as public policy advisor for Cincinnati-based KnowledgeWorks Foundation, a national education philanthropy that seeds educational practices and policy reforms.An Illinois native, Harris moved to the region in 1993 to attend graduate school at Miami University in Oxford. He stayed here after graduation and served from 2000-05 as executive director of Citizens for Civic Renewal, a nonprofit public advocacy group that promotes good government, volunteerism and civic involvement.Harris ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) twice, in 2002 and 2004. He also was prepared to challenge Hartmann for the Hamilton County Commission seat in 2008 until Democratic Party leaders cut a deal with the GOP and asked Harris to step aside and let Hartmann run unopposed. A reluctant Harris complied.