by German Lopez
62 days ago
Parking debate continues, mayors work to bring manufacturing, voting bills pass legislature
City Council watered down Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to
just two proposals: upgrading parking meters and increased enforcement. Council and public opposition ultimately proved too much for increasing neighborhood rates and expanded evening hours at major hubs. The changes
mean less revenue for the city but reduced parking costs for
residents. Still, with the parking plan changing almost daily, it’s
unclear whether the current iteration will be the final proposal that
the Neighborhood Committee and City Council ultimately pass.Compare: Cranley’s original parking plan versus the parking privatization plan.Meanwhile, Xerox, the private operator that took over
Cincinnati’s parking meters in the parking privatization plan, proposed
its own version of a parking plan in which the company manages parking
meters while City Council retains control over setting hours, rates and
enforcement. Xerox says its plan will generate
more revenue. But Cranley rejected Xerox’s plan weeks ago.Commentary: “County Should Accept Responsible Bidder Law.”Cranley yesterday announced he’s partnering with Dayton
Mayor Nan Whaley to get a share of $1.3 billion in federal funds that
would help attract manufacturing. The two cities will compete as one
community for the federal Investing in Manufacturing Communities
Partnership. The competition’s 12 winners will each receive part of
the $1.3 billion pot. Even if Cincinnati and Dayton don’t win, Cranley
said the competition will at least get them thinking about working
together as a community for manufacturing jobs.The Republican-controlled Ohio legislature yesterday
approved controversial election bills that reduce the state’s early voting period by one week and restrict
counties’ abilities to mail out unsolicited absentee ballot
applications. Democrats say the measures are meant to suppress voters,
but Republicans argue the changes are supposed to set uniform standards
across the state. At least one top Ohio Republican previously admitted the
measures were supposed to suppress voters, particularly “the urban —
read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Gov. John Kasich is now
the only person that stands between the bill becoming law.The city plans to undertake a pothole-fixing blitz in March.The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority will begin its
14-neighborhood rehabilitation plan in Evanston, where the agency will
target about 100 properties.With a “virtual online menu” and access to vocational
education in the seventh grade, Gov. Kasich says he wants to get Ohio students planning their careers much earlier.The Ohio House approved a plan that will give schools four
more calamity days — more popularly known as “snow days” — for the
current school year. The bill now heads to the Ohio Senate and Kasich.U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown wants to close a loophole in
Medicare that costs seniors thousands of dollars in unexpected medical
bills.Quinnipiac University’s most recent poll found Ohioans
would choose Hillary Clinton over Kasich and other Republicans for
president.Whooping cough appears to be evolving in response to its vaccine.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
Comparing Mayor John Cranley’s parking plan to the one he stopped in November
5 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
What's different between Mayor John Cranley's parking plan and the plan he helped kill in November?
by German Lopez
70 days ago
Proposal could increase parking enforcement, hours and rates
Mayor John Cranley on Feb. 12 officially unveiled his
plan for Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, providing the
first clear option for the city’s parking system since the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority agreed to halt the previous plan.
The proposal seeks to effectively replace the previous
administration’s parking privatization plan, which outsourced the city’s
parking assets to the Port Authority and several private companies, and maintain local control of the city’s parking assets.Here’s a breakdown of the plan and all its finer details.
What is Cranley’s parking plan?
It’s a plan for Cincinnati’s parking
meters, lots and garages. More specifically, Cranley calls his proposal a
“framework” that focuses on upgrading the city’s parking meters and keeps City Council’s control of parking rates and hours.
Cranley’s plan, based on a Feb. 7 memo from Walker Parking Consultants, achieves his goals in a few ways:
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to upgrade all parking meters to accept credit card payments.
• The amount of enforcement officers under the city’s
payroll would increase to 15, up from five, to provide greater coverage
of the city’s parking meters. (Currently, a few areas, including major
hubs like the University of Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine, are
effectively unenforced for two to five hours a day, according to Walker.)
• Neighborhood meter rates would go up by 25 cents to 75 cents an hour. Downtown rates would remain at $2 an hour.
• Sundays and holidays remain free.
Cranley says the underlying idea is to maintain a few key
principles, particularly local control over rates and hours. He cautions
Walker’s proposal, including expanded enforcement hours, could change with public input and as City Council puts together the final plan.Does the plan let people use smartphones to pay for parking meters?
No. Cranley says the upgraded meters will support the
technology, but it will be up to council to decide whether it’s enabled in the
Smartphone capability is a double-edged sword: It introduces its own set of costs, including shorter battery life for meters. It also allows customers to avoid under- and overpaying at parking meters, which decreases citation and meter revenues. But smartphone access also increases ease of use, which could lead to higher revenues by making it easier to pay.
The parking privatization plan promised to provide smartphone access at all parking meters. The previous administration and Port
Authority championed the feature as key to increasing convenience and revenue.
OK, that explains the parking meters. What about the parking garages?
Cranley’s plan makes two changes to garages:
• The Port Authority would take over Fountain Square South
Garage. The Port would be required to cover expenses for the garage,
but any net revenue could be used on projects within the city.
• The city would issue bonds, backed by future parking revenues, to build a garage at 7th and Broadway streets.
Otherwise, things remain the same as today.
In other words, the city would be on the hook for
parking garage repairs and upgrades, which Walker estimates would cost
roughly $8 million in capital expenses over the next five years.But the city would also continue directly receiving around $2 million per year in net revenue from parking garages, according to Walker.
Still, the city isn’t allowed under state law to use the revenue from parking garages for anything outside the parking system.The parking privatization plan tried to do away with the restriction by putting the Port Authority in charge of garages. State law allows agencies like the Port to tap into garage revenues for other uses, such as development projects.But without the previous administration’s plan, Cranley claims the Port Authority declined to take over more facilities beyond Fountain Square South
Garage. Given the rejection, Cranley says it’s up to council to figure out another way to leverage garage
revenues beyond putting them back in the parking system.What does Cranley’s plan do about the thousands of parking tickets already owed to the city?
Nothing. By Cranley’s own admission, the city needs to do a
better job collecting what it’s owed. But he says that’s something City
Council will have to deal with in the future.
So why did Cranley oppose the parking privatization plan?
Cranley vehemently opposed giving up local
control of the city’s parking assets. He warned that outsourcing meters to the Port Authority and private companies would create a for-profit incentive to
ratchet up parking rates and enforcement.
The previous administration disputed Cranley’s warnings.
They pointed out an advisory board, chaired by four Port Authority
appointees and one city appointee, would need to unanimously agree on
rate and hour changes, and the changes could be vetoed by the city
manager.Without any changes from the advisory board, the 30-year privatization plan hiked downtown parking meter rates by 25 cents every three years and neighborhood rates by 25 cents every six years. The plan also expanded enforcement hours to 8 a.m.-9 p.m. in Over-the-Rhine and parts of downtown.
Still, City Council would lose its control of rates and hours under the privatization plan. Cranley and other opponents argued the outsourcing scheme could insulate the parking system from public — and voter — input.
Cranley also opposed the privatization plan’s financial
arrangement. Under the old deal, the city would receive a lump sum of
$85 million and annual installments of $3 million, as long as required
expenses, such as costly garage upgrades or repairs, were met.In comparison, the city currently gets roughly $3 million in net revenue from parking meters and another $2 million in net revenue from parking garages. (As noted earlier, the parking garage revenue can only be used for parking expenses.) Cranley characterizes the lump sum as
“borrowing from the future” because it uses upfront money that could
instead be taken in by the city as annual revenue.Related: Compare Cranley’s plan with the parking privatization plan.
Why does Cranley think his proposal is necessary? It solidifies the death of the parking privatization plan. That’s important to begin the process of legally dismantling the previous plan.The plan also increases net parking meter revenues from roughly $3 million to $6 million in the next budget year and more than $7 million per year within five years, according to Walker’s original estimates. (The estimates are likely too high because they assumed evening hours would expand around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville, Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But Cranley shelved the expansion of hours, with no estimates for how the changes will affect revenues.)Since parking meter revenue, unlike garage revenue, can be used for non-parking expenses, the extra revenue could help plug the $20 million gap in the $370 million operating budget.Why do some people oppose Cranley’s plan?
Some people supported the parking privatization plan. They
saw the lump sum as a great opportunity to invest in development
projects around the city. Without the lump sum, critics claim Cranley’s
plan accepts all the pain of the previous plan — increased
enforcement, rates and hours — for very little gain, even though the city would get more annual revenue and upgraded parking meters and garages.
Politics are also involved. After the contentious
streetcar debate, there’s not much Cranley can do without some critics speaking out.
When will Cranley’s plan go into effect?
City Council first has to approve Cranley’s plan for it to
become law. Council will likely take up and debate the plan at the
Neighborhood Committee on Feb. 24 and set a more concrete timeline
after that.This blog post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available. Latest update: Feb. 19.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Gov. John Kasich’s income tax proposal would excessively favor Ohio’s wealthiest, an analysis from Policy Matters Ohio and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The federal government reported slightly
better numbers in January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online
marketplaces, but Ohio and the nation still fall far short of key
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The group heading a supportive housing
project in Avondale announced Feb. 14 that it will initiate monthly
“good neighbor” meetings to address concerns about the facility.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The debate over
responsible bidder is Cincinnati’s opportunity to switch the dynamic
between workers and bigger businesses.
by German Lopez
63 days ago
Local infant deaths remain high, pension fixes proposed, Seitz renews anti-efficiency efforts
Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s infant mortality rates
dropped to record lows in 2013, but the city and county’s rates of
infant deaths remain far above the national average. Over the past five
years, the city’s infant mortality rate hit 12.4 deaths per 1,000 live
births and the county’s rate reached 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.
In comparison, the national average in 2011 was 6.1 deaths per 1,000
live births. Cradle Cincinnati, a collaborative initiative formed in
2013, pointed to three possible factors to explain the troubling rates: short
time between pregnancies, maternal smoking during pregnancy and poor
sleeping habits, including deaths that could be easily prevented by
ensuring a baby sleeps alone, on his or her back and in a crib.Councilman Christopher Smitherman yesterday proposed fixes
for Cincinnati’s ailing pension system, and the proposal includes a hit
to city retirees’ benefits. Unique to Smitherman’s plan is a new $100
million commitment to help shore up the city’s unfunded
liability of $870 million, but Smitherman could not say where council would get that
much money. Otherwise, the proposal would freeze cost of living
increases in the system for three years and reduce future cost of living increases from a
3 percent compounded rate to a 2 percent fixed rate, among other
changes. Smitherman hopes to get up-or-down votes on his plan within the
next two weeks, even if it requires splitting the plan into multiple
parts.State Sen. Bill Seitz plans to renew his efforts in the Ohio legislature to
dismantle the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates. Seitz says
“devastating testimony” in support of his bill should invigorate a push
for his plan. But the testimony will apparently be based off a flawed
industry-financed report released yesterday. A separate study, based on
an economic model from the Ohio State University, found Ohio’s energy standards
will save Ohioans $3.65 billion on their electricity bills between 2014
and 2025.Cincinnati plans to begin marketing an 18-acre plot of
land in Lower Price Hill to bring 400 jobs to the
struggling neighborhood. After the city finishes environmental
remediation this month, it hopes to put the property on the market. CityBeat previously covered some of Lower Price Hill’s struggles with poverty in further detail here.The gubernatorial race between Republican Gov. John Kasich and
Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald tightened from seven points in
November to five points this month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. But the
survey did not include Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl as a choice —
an omission that could work to Kasich’s favor in the polling results.Gay families are being excluded from Obamacare benefits in
Ohio and other states in which same-sex marriage is not recognized.
That means Ohio’s gay families can’t get financial benefits going to
traditional families to help them get covered. President Barack Obama’s
administration says it’s aware of the issue, but it doesn’t plan a fix
until next year.Some Ohio lawmakers want an investigation into Kasich’s
administration after documents showed his administration planning to
work with oil and gas companies to promote fracking in state parks and
forests. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of gallons
of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock oil and
gas reserves. CityBeat covered fracking and the controversy surrounding it in further detail here.Bad news: A Chinese firm won’t bring an $80 million project to the Cincinnati area after all.An Ohio driver rescued a kitten found frozen on the road.A parasite commonly found in cats can now be found in
arctic beluga whales. Scientists say melting ice barriers — a symptom of
climate change — explains the pathogen’s increased migration.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by German Lopez
64 days ago
Posted In: News
at 12:38 PM | Permalink
Cradle Cincinnati hopes to reduce infant deaths through new initiative
Cincinnati and Hamilton County saw infant mortality rates
drop to the lowest on record in 2013, but the city and county’s rates
for infant deaths remained far above the national average, according to a
report released Tuesday by advocacy group Cradle Cincinnati.In 2013, the city saw 53 babies die before their first
birthday, or 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Throughout the county,
the deaths of 95 babies put the rate at 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live
births.But in the past five years, the city’s infant mortality
rate hit 12.4 deaths per 1,000 live births and the county’s rate reached
9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.Even worse, black families in Hamilton County were twice
as likely as white families to have a baby die before his or her first
birthday.In comparison, the national average for infant mortalities was 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011.To help reduce the region’s high infant mortality rates, Cradle Cincinnati points to a few potential targets:• Short pregnancy spacing, meaning 18 months or fewer
between births, can lead to premature birth. It was associated with 33
percent of the county’s infant mortalities last year.• Maternal smoking during pregnancy can lead to premature
birth and birth defects. It was associated with 15 percent of the
county’s infant mortalities last year.• The local rate of sleep-related infant deaths in Hamilton
County is triple the national average. Many of these deaths could be prevented
by ensuring a baby sleeps alone, on his or her back and in a crib,
Cradle Cincinnati found.Cincinnati’s high rate of infant mortalities are one of
the many factors that help explain the city’s disparities in life
expectancies, according to Cincinnati Health Department officials.
A CityBeat analysis of U.S. Census Bureau and
Cincinnati Health Department data also tied neighborhood life
expectancies to income levels. The strong correlation could suggest a connection
between poverty and earlier death.Through the Cradle Cincinnati initiative established last year, local officials hope to put an end to the disturbing trends.
“We are cautiously optimistic that these numbers are going
down, but we still have a very long way to go,” said Hamilton County
Commissioner Todd Portune, founder and co-chair of Cradle Cincinnati, in
a statement. “We cannot rest until every child born in Hamilton County
lives to see his or her first birthday.”
Cradle Cincinnati’s full report:
by German Lopez
69 days ago
Demographics, overall numbers move in right direction
The federal government reported slightly better numbers in
January for Obamacare’s once-troubled online marketplaces, but Ohio and
the nation still fall far short of key demographic goals.
For the first time since HealthCare.gov’s glitch-ridden rollout, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) numbers show the amount of new enrollees actually beat projections.
About 1,146,100 signed up for Obamacare in January, slightly higher
than the 1,059,900 previously projected by the Centers for Medicare and
More importantly, a small boost in young adults means 25
percent of 3.3 million enrollees across the nation and 21 percent of
60,000 Ohio enrollees were aged 18 to 34. That’s up 1 percentage point
for the nation and 2 percentage points for Ohio.
The White House previously said 39 percent of enrollees
need to be young adults, who tend to be healthier, to avoid driving up
health care costs by filling the insurance pool with older, sicker
people who typically use more resources.
HHS’ numbers only reflect people who signed up for a
health plan, not people who paid for their first premium, which is
widely considered the final crucial step to getting covered.
Nearly nine in 10 single, uninsured young adults could
qualify for financial assistance through the health care law or free
Medicaid, which expanded eligibility in Ohio through Obamacare, according to HHS.