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 Danny Cross
Posted In: News
, 2012 Election
, President Obama
, Tea Party
, County Commission
at 08:50 AM | Permalink
County Commissioner Todd Portune's idea to borrow more
money and extend a half-cent sales tax in order to keep up with
stadium costs has been shot down by a Bengals lawyer who used 15
bullet points to demonstrate that Portune's plan “proposes to
breach one or both leases.”
Duke Energy is asking state regulators if it can bump customers' rates up again. Duke says the
increases are to pay for infrastructure investments. The change would
increase customer costs of electric service by $86 million and for
natural gas by $44 million. A federal appeals court on Monday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke Energy that accuses the
company of paying kick-backs to corporations opposing a 2004 rate
A rally for “religious freedom”
will take place on Fountain Square today in response to federal health care
legislation requiring women to have abortions employers to
provide insurance that covers birth control. The law includes a
religious exemption, which bishops have said isn't enough.
A group pushing to ban dog auctions in
Ohio has halted its effort to put the issue on the November ballot
due to lack of funding and time. CityBeat in February reported the
group's efforts to ban the sale of dogs through auctions or raffles,
as well as all trafficking in dogs from out-of-state auctions.New York City officials, including
Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke, are arguing that the city's
“Stop and Frisk” policy is racist. The policy allows police to
stop an individual and pat him or her down for contraband if they
suspect illegal activity. From USA Today:Clarke says the program, known as "Stop, Question and Frisk"
or "Stop and Frisk," amounts to racial profiling. It is
based on a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that police could stop people on
the basis of "reasonable suspicion."
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin approved
class-action status for a lawsuit that alleges the practice subjects
people to race-based illegal searches.
President Obama's health care law helped
6.6 million young adults stay on their parents' plans during the
first year and a half.
Rick Santorum has formed a new conservative organization aiming to
recruit 1 million supporters to help get Barack Obama out of the
While House. No word on how Santorum's “Patriot Voices” group
will differ from the tea party patriots.
NASA says it has spotted the universe's first objects.
Black members of the Netherlands soccer team were subjected to
racist chants at their Euro 2012 practice facility in Krakow, Poland.
The team says fans were making monkey chants at the players.
LeBron James scored 45 points to lead the
Miami Heat over the Boston Celtics last night, forcing a deciding Game 7 for the
Eastern Conference championship. The Oklahoma Thunder await in the
by Danny Cross
A federal appeals court yesterday reinstated an antitrust lawsuit against Duke
Energy. The lawsuit accuses Duke of paying kickbacks to local companies in order to gain
support for a 2004 electric rate increase. The lawsuit alleges that
Duke appeased the more powerful opposing companies by including rebate
deals for them. The suit is seeking unspecified damages and seeks to
represent all Ohioans affected by the rate increase.
Todd Portune is continuing his quest to
become the East Side's county's property tax rebate savior, yesterday offering a new idea
to bail out the stadium fund: extend the half cent sales tax past
2032. The revenue created by extending the sales tax, which has no
sunset clause, would repay loans the county could use to pay for
maintenance and projects at the stadiums now. Republican Commissioner
Chris Monzel is open to “any ideas,” though Democratic
Commissioner Greg Hartmann says otherwise:
“Todd, here we go again,” snapped Commissioner Greg Hartmann.
“Walking away from these leases is just fantasyland.
“How many times are we going to do this?” he asked.
Rob Portman will test out his GOP
rallying cries at the Faith & Freedom Coalition in Washington,
D.C. next week.
Bill Clinton says a Mitt Romney
presidency would be “calamitous” for the U.S.
The Senate will vote on a gender pay
equity bill today.
China and Russia say they'll help the
UN more going forward, though they've been supporting Syria more than
anyone really wants them to.
Here's an explanation of the Transit of
Venus, for those who don't get it yet.
Nintendo has revamped its Wii to try to
lure gamers from free Internet games they play on iPads.
A new PC virus can infect computers by
imitating a Windows update.
by Kevin Osborne
If you come from a large family, you might remember when older siblings would always get new clothes when you were a child and you'd get their hand-me downs. That's also been the situation at Paul Brown Stadium in the past, but Hamilton County commissioners are putting a stop to it. Because the county's Riverfront Parking Operations needs two new trucks, the plan had been to move two trucks from Paul Brown to parking services and buy new ones for the stadium. Commissioners balked at the plan Tuesday, saying the new trucks should be bought for Parking Operations. Commissioner Todd Portune estimates the county will save up to $20,000 because Parking Operations doesn't require the same kind of heavy-duty trucks the stadium uses.Cincinnati City Council is considering restoring $250,000 to the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Council had cut the money from CIRV's budget in late 2010, but statistics show that the number of shootings increased in the city afterward. When CIRV was in full effect, the percentage of shootings linked to gang activity fell from nearly 70 percent in 2007 to around 50 percent in 2008 and 2009, but has bounced up to 60 percent in 2011 and so far this year. Part of the cash allocated to CIRV would pay for a statistical analysis by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, to determine if there is a verifiable link.Federal prosecutors want the jury in the upcoming insider trading trial of former Procter & Gamble Co. board member Rajat Gupta to hear secretly recorded telephone conversations with another man as evidence of the alleged conspiracy between them. The government said in a pre-trial filing that the conversations showed Gupta, also a former Goldman Sachs director, leaked Goldman board secrets at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded the calls.The Reds postponed Tuesday's game against the Chicago Cubs due to high water on the field at Great American Ball Park. Heavy rains on Tuesday afternoon and evening saturated the area, and the stadium was no exception. A makeup date hasn't been announced. The action marks only the sixth time that the Reds have postponed a game since Great American opened in 2003.Cincinnati Public Schools will make energy-saving renovations at 28 schools using a nearly $27 million low-interest loan. The school board approved the plan Monday, despite some board members' concerns about moving ahead with the projects while the district cuts jobs and faces an estimated $43 million deficit.In news elsewhere, the rumors were true: Blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was hiding at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since escaping house arrest last month. Chen's presence was revealed today when he left the diplomatic compound to seek medical treatment after receiving assurances from China’s government that he would be treated humanely. Chinese leaders agreed that Chen would be reunited with his family, moved to a safe place and allowed to enroll in a university, U.S. officials said. (Well, that's one international crisis averted, and only about 50 more to go.)One of Willard Mitt Romney's top campaign spokesmen is leaving his job less than two weeks after his appointment. Richard Grenell, Romney's national security spokesman, resigned after some hardcore conservatives complained about the hiring of the openly gay man. Others, however, say it also was because Grenell was coming under fire “for numerous sexist and impolitic statements he had made about prominent women and members of the media.” After the complaints, he scrubbed over 800 tweets from his Twitter feed and deleted his personal website. Some reporters who dealt with Grenell while he was a spokesman for the United Nations years ago called him the "most dishonest and deceptive press person" they had ever encountered.An eyewitness to the 1968 assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy says she heard two guns firing during the shooting and authorities altered her account of the crime. Nina Rhodes-Hughes, who is now 78, is coming forward as a federal court prepares to rule on a challenge to Sirhan Sirhan's conviction in the assassination. Sirhan, who is now 68, wants to be released, retried or granted a hearing on new evidence.President Obama made a surprise visit Tuesday to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, just before today's first anniversary of the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Willard Mitt Romney has been criticizing the president's recent comments about bin Laden's death, but the Obama campaign questions whether Romney would've made the same decision, given his past statements. While in Afghanistan, Obama signed a security pact that means the United States will maintain a military presence there through 2024 – despite supposedly ending combat operations at the end of 2014. (For those keeping track, the deal means the United States will stay in Afghanistan for 23 years; let's just end the suspense and declare it our 51st state.)Tuesday was May Day, which traditionally is a day to celebrate workers' rights around the globe — or protest the lack of same. The Occupy Wall Street movement and its various off-shoots held demonstrations in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and elsewhere across the United States to commemorate the occasion.
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 7, 2011
If you’re like most people, you would jump
at the chance to buy something that you wanted if it was offered at
just one-third of its normal price. That’s exactly what happened last week when two of the three Hamilton County commissioners offered to sell the county-owned Drake Center to
the University of Cincinnati at a rock-bottom price.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Disturbed by the large number of Bengals games that aren’t allowed to
be aired on TV stations in Cincinnati, Dayton and Lexington, Ky., Sen. Sherrod Brown
has proposed the Federal Communications Commission repeal or revise the
“sports blackout rule,” a 1970s-era regulation that allows the NFL to
prohibit broadcasts of a local sports game when the event doesn’t sell
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 25, 2011
One of the nice things about Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune is he never gives up trying to find a way to help taxpayers get out of the supremely bad deal that led to the construction of the Reds and Bengals stadiums.
8 Comments · Tuesday, February 8, 2011
We're not sure if Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters pays The Enquirer to handle his public relations, but he should. In a stunning example of Deters spinning his previous statements and the newspaper ignoring its previous article on the topic, The Enquirer reported Feb. 2 that Deters was angry and upset about a contract approved by county commissioners for use of an outside law firm.