by German Lopez
Parking meter enforcement will go up, but Port says it's not for revenue
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority today acknowledged that it will increase enforcement when it takes over Cincinnati's parking meters, but the agency says its goal is to encourage people to pay up, not raise revenues that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port Authority and the private operators it's hiring.In a much-awaited presentation, the quasi-public development agency rolled out board members and statistics to explain why the city should lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port, which will hire various private companies to operate the assets.Much of the controversy surrounding the lease has focused on enforcement, which critics argue will be ratcheted up under the deal. Port officials clarified that the deal will involve more enforcement officers and more aggressive tactics, but Laura Brunner, CEO of the Port, claimed there will be limits. For example, parking meters won't have built-in connectivity that allows officers to immediately detect when a meter is going unpaid, which means enforcers will have to make regular rounds and checks, just as they do today, before issuing a ticket.Lynn Marmer, a Port board member and vice chairwoman of Kroger, said increased enforcement is necessary because most people currently don't pay for the parking services they use. She blamed that on the city's dwindling enforcement for parking violations: The city handed out 65,000 tickets in 2012, down from 104,000 in 2008."I think it's unlikely we all got better at following the rules and paying fines," Marmer said.The Port doesn't expect enforcement to reach the levels of 2008 any time soon, but Brunner and others said that tickets will gradually rise once the Port Authority hands the parking meters over to private operators.One of those private operators is Xerox, which will manage Cincinnati's parking meters under the deal. The Port says it plans to establish a 10-year contract with Xerox, but the contracts will be reviewed quarterly to ensure the company is doing a good job. If not, the contract can be terminated.Port officials stated that Xerox will not get revenue based on stringent enforcement. Instead, the Port will regularly review Xerox based on a series of measurements that attempt to gauge how efficiently the company is running the city's parking meters.Port officials also reemphasized that parking meter enforcement hours in neighborhoods — meaning outside of downtown and Over-the-Rhine — will only last until 6 p.m., instead of 9 p.m. as originally called for in the plan. Downtown and Over-the-Rhine meters will still be extended to 9 p.m., although some areas on the edges of downtown, such as Broadway Street, are exempt and enforcement will only run through 6 p.m. in those places.The change for neighborhood meter hours will presumably lower how much Cincinnati gets from leasing its parking assets to the Port, but officials weren't ready to unveil exactly how much money the city will get. Previous city estimates put the lump sum at $92 million and annual installments at a minimum of $3 million, but that was before the Port's changes.Prepared statements show if the final lump sum falls under $85 million, the city manager will need to approve the changes before the Port can move forward with the deal.The decrease in hours also comes with a caveat: It will be possible for the city manager, Port and an independent board appointed by the Port and city manager to expand parking meter hours in the future. But such a change would require approval from all three governing bodies.Ex-Councilman John Cranley, who's running for mayor and opposes the parking lease, says the Port's presentation did nothing to address his concerns. Claiming that "the devil's in the details," Cranley pointed out that the Port still hasn't released the actual contracts or bond documents.Brunner said the documents should be released within a month, and the Port plans to give the public two weeks to review the details between the documents' release and the Port's final vote.Cranley argued that might not be enough time. He told CityBeat that the city "almost gave away" free Sunday and holiday parking under its original lease agreement. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld's office had to catch the error and refer it to the city administration before it was corrected.The Port's presentation was meant to wrap up the agency's due diligence of the parking lease as it approaches a Sept. 4 deadline. Going into the presentation, Marmer explained, "Frankly, we were more skeptical (of the parking lease) than neutral."Emails previously acquired by CityBeat back Marmer's skepticism. Writing to other Port officials in June, Marmer expressed concerns that the parking lease has been poorly handled and will snare the Port with controversy. "This whole parking issue has been a gigantic distraction from our core mission," she claimed.Supporters of the parking lease argue it's necessary to leverage Cincinnati's parking assets to pay for development projects that will grow the city's tax base. Opponents argue it will take too much control out of the city's hands, cause parking rates and enforcement to skyrocket and hurt businesses and residents.The parking lease has been engulfed in political controversy ever since it was announced in October. Most recently, the city administration was criticized for failing to disclose an independent consultant's memo that found the city was getting a bad deal from the lease. City officials argue the memo was outdated, so they didn't feel the need to release its details. With its due diligence nearly finished, the Port will now finalize contracts, update the financial model for the lease and vote on the bonds and contracts that will complete the deal. If all goes as planned, the Port's new system will be in place by April next year.This story was updated to clarify some wording and what parking meters will be enforced until 9 p.m.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Like many politicians, Gov. John Kasich
touted transparency and openness on the campaign trail, but this year’s
JobsOhio controversies have proven that the governor was all talk and no
action when he made such claims.
by German Lopez
Homeless shelters report rise in calls, Cincinnati loses jobs, JobsOhio controversy continues
Greater Cincinnati homeless shelters are reporting a 31 percent increase in the number of families calling for help
— a sign that homelessness may be trending up.
Meanwhile, City Council managed to avoid cutting funding to human
services that help the homeless this year, but the local government has
steadily provided less funding since 2004, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.Cincinnati lost 4,000 jobs
from June to July, but it gained 14,000 between July 2012 and July this
year, far above the 3,000 necessary to keep up with annual population
growth, according to data released yesterday by the Ohio Department of
Job and Family Services. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was
at 7.1 percent in July, down from 7.3 percent in June and 7.4 percent
in July 2012. The labor force shrunk in comparison to the previous month
and year, which means the unemployment rate fell partly because many
people stopped looking for jobs. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally
unadjusted unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July and the U.S. rate
was 7.4 percent.
More JobsOhio controversy: The state panel that approves
tax credits recommended by the privatized development agency has never
said no, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
Gov. John Kasich and Republicans say the Ohio Tax Credit Authority is
supposed to be an independent watchdog on JobsOhio, but both JobsOhio
and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority have their boards appointed by the
governor. Democrats have been highly critical of JobsOhio for its lack
of transparency and privatized nature, but Republicans say both are good
traits for an agency that needs to move fast to land job-creating
Meanwhile, two Democrats in the Ohio House are pushing a ban
on Ohio officials, including the governor, receiving outside pay. The
proposal is largely in response to JobsOhio recommending $619,000 in tax
credits in 2012 and 2013 to Worthington Industries, a company that paid
Kasich through 2012 for his time on its board. The Ohio Ethics
Commission refused to investigate the potential conflict of interest
because it said Kasich made a clean break from Worthington when he was
Hamilton County taxpayers might have to put up $10 million
to give the Cincinnati Bengals a high-definition scoreboard, thanks to
the team’s lease with the county. Economists generally see stadiums as
one of the most over-hyped, unsuccessful urban investments, according to The Nation.
No City Council member supports the tea party-backed pension amendment that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system so future city workers, excluding
cops and firefighters, contribute to and manage individual 401k-style
accounts. Currently, Cincinnati pools pension funds and manages the
investments through an independent board. City officials and unions
claim the measure will cost the city more than the current system and
hurt retirement gains for city employees. But tea party groups say the
amendment is necessary to address Cincinnati’s growing pension costs,
including an $862 million unfunded liability. CityBeat wrote about the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
Ohio is partnering up with the Jason Foundation to provide training and information
to teachers, coaches, other school personnel, parents and students
about suicide, the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds
after car accidents. The measure aims to curb down suicide rates.
Hamilton County and Cincinnati are pursuing joint funding
of technology upgrades for 911 services, and the two local governments are moving
permitting services to one location, according to a statement from
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s office. Hartmann has long pursued more city-county collaboration so both can run more
efficiently and bring down costs.
The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati is now called Interact for Health.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported 2013’s first case of West Nile Virus.
A 72-year-old woman in Cuyahoga County is apparently being hospitalized for the disease. ODH Director Ted Wymyslo said in a statement that,
while Ohio has dealt with West Nile Virus since 2002, cases have dropped
in the past year.
The University of Cincinnati is set to break another record for enrollment this fall.
Dunnhumby USA yesterday unveiled the design for its downtown headquarters.
A new electric car can fold itself in half when parking.
by German Lopez
Tea party-backed reform would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
Councilman Chris Smitherman told CityBeat he doesn’t support the pension amendment that will appear on the ballot this November, which means no council member approves of the controversial proposal.
The amendment would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system
so future city employees — excluding police and fire personnel, who are under a
separate system — contribute to and manage individual 401k-style accounts.
Currently, the city pools pension contributions and manages the investments
through an independent board.
City officials and unions claim the amendment will cost
the city more and hurt retirement gains for public employees. Tea party groups say
the amendment is necessary to address the city’s growing pension costs,
including an $862 million unfunded liability.
“I do not support the amendment. I have introduced several
solutions that have been ignored by council and your paper,” Smitherman
wrote in an email.
The other eight members of City Council — seven Democrats
and one Republican — on Aug. 7 approved a resolution
that condemned the tea party amendment. But Smitherman, an Independent,
wasn’t present at the meeting.
CityBeat covered the amendment and the groups that could be behind it in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Prison company currently owns and operates Ohio's Lake Erie Correctional Institution
The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) lost four prison contracts in June as a result of rising violence and turmoil in the corrections facilities, echoing many of the same problems critics claim are found in a CCA-owned facility located in northeastern Ohio.A report from the American Civil Liberties Union found CCA lost contracts in Idaho, Texas and Mississippi this month. The most recent announcement came Wednesday in Idaho, where a prison was allegedly deemed so dangerous that prisoners took to calling the facility "Gladiator School."Two of the contracts are being sold to other companies, which the ACLU claims is a bad idea."Rather than repeatedly handing off authority to a revolving door of contractors, states need to both take responsibility for their own prisons and reduce the number of people entering the criminal justice system in the first place," wrote Carl Takei of the ACLU National Prison Project. "Only then can they unshackle themselves from the false promise of for-profit imprisonment."In May, CityBeat published an in-depth report about the CCA-owned prison in Ohio, which detailed evidence of rising violence and unsanitary conditions first exposed to CityBeat by concerned inmates and their families.CityBeat could not reach CCA for immediate comment on the ACLU report. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.
by German Lopez
City now waits on lower court to sign lease
The Hamilton County Court of Appeals today refused to delay enforcement of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court rescinds its original injunction on the plan.
On June 12, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling and sided with the city over critics of
the parking plan, deciding that the city can use emergency clauses to avert referendum
efforts on passed legislation, including the parking plan. Emergency clauses also allow the city to
avoid a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws.
For Cincinnati, the plan will first produce a $92 million one-time payment.
Following that, the city will get an estimated $3 million a year, which
the city says will eventually increase to $7 million and continue
Still, the city says it won’t spend any funds
until there is legal certainty, meaning until potential appeals are
“The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan
until there is legal certainty around the funds,” City Manager Milton
Dohoney said in a statement on June 12. “Once there is legal certainty,
the Administration will look at the budget to determine if there are
items that may need to be revisited and bring those before Members of
City Council, as appropriate.”
Opponents are planning to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Opponents gathered more than 12,000 signatures supporting a
referendum on the parking plan. But with the appeals court ruling, that
referendum may never come to pass.
The city says the parking plan’s funds will be used to accelerate economic growth, but critics argue the parking
plan will hurt downtown businesses by expanding parking meter hours and
increasing meter rates.
City Council began discussing potential changes to the parking plan in a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today. The meeting largely focused on whether City Council could repeal or rework the parking plan with a simple majority or supermajority.Following the June 12 ruling, five out of nine council
members signed a motion to repeal the parking plan. But City Council would
need to pass an ordinance for any changes to be legally binding.
An ordinance would likely need six votes to overrule the mayor’s veto powers. City Solicitor John Curp told City Council the mayor also has the power through the City Charter to hold any proposed ordinances until the end of his term on Nov. 30, which means the mayor can effectively stop all repeal attempts.Mayor Mark Mallory supports the parking plan. Jason Barron, his spokesperson, previously told CityBeat Mallory would reject a repeal.
by German Lopez
City plans to move forward as some council members suggest a repeal
In a 2-1 ruling today, the Hamilton County Court of
Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling and said the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets is not
subject to a referendum and may move forward.But opponents are pushing for a stay on the ruling as they work on an appeal, which could put the case in front of the Ohio Supreme Court.
For the city, the ruling means it can potentially move forward with
leasing parking meters and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority for a one-time
payment of $92 million and an estimated $3 million in annual increments. The city originally planned
to use the funds for development projects, including a downtown grocery
store and the uptown interchange, and to help balance the city’s budget
for the next two years.
But critics, including those who led the referendum
efforts, are calling on the city to hold off on the lease. They argue
the plan, which raises parking meter rates and expands meters’
operation hours, will hurt downtown business.In a statement, City Manager Milton Dohoney praised the ruling, but he clarified that the city will not be able to allocate parking plan funds until potential appeals of today’s ruling are exhausted or called off.“The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan until there is legal certainty around the funds. Once there is legal certainty, the Administration will look at the budget to determine if there are items that may need to be revisited and bring those before Members of City Council, as appropriate,” he said.
Jason Barron, spokesperson for Democratic Mayor Mark Mallory, says the city will now be able to re-evaluate current plans for the
budget and other projects.
“Council will get a chance to look at the budget again and
undo some of the stuff that they’ve done, but some of the cuts will
definitely stay — that way we continue to move towards balance,” he
But first, the city must follow through with legal
processes to get Judge Robert Winkler’s original order on the parking
plan lifted, which will then allow the city and Port Authority to sign the lease.Already, some council members are pushing back. Following the ruling, Democratic council members Chris Seelbach and Laure Quinlivan announced that they plan to introduce a motion that would repeal the parking plan.But Barron says City Council would need six out of nine votes to overrule Mallory and other supporters of the parking plan, which he says is unlikely.At today’s City Council meeting, Quinlivan and Seelbach were unable to introduce the motion, which has five signatures, because the motion requires six votes for immediate consideration and to overrule the mayor, who opposes a repeal. The motion also needs to be turned into an ordinance to actually repeal the parking plan.
In a statement, Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley criticized the ruling and city. He said the plan
should be subject to referendum: “This decision affects
an entire generation and shouldn’t be made by people who are trying to
spend a bunch of money right before an election, while leaving the bill
for our kids to pay.”Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who is also running for mayor, praised the ruling in a statement.“My goal is that proceeds from the parking proposal are used to put the city on a path to a structurally balanced budget by 2017,” she said.Qualls said she will introduce a motion that calls on the city administration to draw up a plan that would use parking funds on “long-term investments that support long-term fiscal sustainability,” including neighborhood development, other capital projects, the city’s reserves and the city’s pension fund.
The ruling also allows the city to once again use
emergency clauses, which the city claims eliminate a 30-day waiting
period on implementing laws and make laws insusceptible to referendum.
Judges Penelope Cunningham and Patrick DeWine cited legal
precedent and the context of the City Charter to rule the city may use
emergency clauses to expedite the implementation of laws, including the
“Importantly, charter provisions, like statutes and
constitutions, must be read as a whole and in context,” the majority opinion
read. “We are not permitted — as the common pleas court did, and Judge
Dinkelacker’s dissent does — to look at the first sentence and
disassociate it from the context of the entire section.”
Judge Patrick Dinkelacker dissented, claiming the other
judges are applying the wrong Ohio Supreme Court cases to the
“In my view, the charter language is ambiguous and,
therefore, we must liberally construe it in favor of permitting the
people of Cincinnati to exercise their power of referendum,” Dinkelacker
wrote in his dissent.The parking plan leases the city’s parking meters and
garages to the Port Authority, which will use a team
of private operators from around the country — AEW Capital, Xerox,
Denison Parking and Guggenheim — for operations, technology upgrades and
The city originally argued the parking plan was necessary
to help balance the budget without laying off cops and firefighters and
pursue major development projects downtown.
Since then, the city used higher-than-expected revenues and cuts elsewhere, particularly to parks and human services funding, to balance the fiscal year 2014 budget without laying off public safety personnel.
City Council is also expected to vote today on an alternative funding plan to build a grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage on Fourth and Race streets downtown. The project was originally attached to the parking plan.Dohoney asked City Council in a statement to pursue the alternative plan today.“We are asking Council to pass the development deal today so that the developers have the city’s commitment and can move ahead with their financing,” he said. “If we wait any longer on the parking deal, we put this deal at risk. With the housing capacity issue downtown and decade-long cry for a grocery store, we must move forward.”
CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.Updated at 1:39 p.m.: Added comments from the city manager’s statement.Updated at 2:00 p.m.: Added comments from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ statement.Updated at 3:23 p.m.: Added results of City Council meeting.Updated at 10:35 a.m. on June 13: Added latest news about appeal.
by German Lopez
Another anti-abortion amendment, Kasich prevents JobsOhio audit, streetcar funds remain
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Also, take our texting while driving survey here.The Ohio Senate proposed a budget amendment
yesterday that would ban abortion providers from transferring
patients to public hospitals. The rule continues a series of
conservative pushes on social issues in the ongoing budget process that began in the Ohio House. The
Ohio House budget bill effectively defunded Planned Parenthood and funded anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, while the Ohio Senate accepted those measures and added another rule that potentially allows the health director to shut down abortion clinics.
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed a bill
that will prevent a full public audit of JobsOhio, the private
nonprofit entity established by Kasich and Republican legislators to
replace the Ohio Department of Development. The bill defines liquor
profits, which were public funds before JobsOhio, and private funds in a
way that bars the state auditor from looking into any funding sources
that aren’t owed to the state. Last week, Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald called on Kasich to veto the bill,
claiming, “The people’s money is the people’s business, and this bill,
which slams shut the door on accountability, is simply unacceptable.”
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) says the $4 million going to the streetcar is a done deal.
Republican county commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann tried to
get OKI to pull the funds, but there now seems to be a general
consensus that the money is contractually tied to the Southwest Ohio
Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and, therefore, the streetcar
project. City Council is likely to consider a plan to plug the streetcar project’s budget gap later this month.
Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns is handing out marijuana plants
at a campaign event today, even though the event may run foul of state
law. Democratic candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls are generally
considered the top contenders in this year’s mayoral race, but Berns
has differentiated himself by putting marijuana legalization in his
platform. While drug prohibition policies are generally dictated at
state and federal levels, cities can decriminalize or legalize certain
drugs and force police departments to give prohibition enforcement lower priority.
Ohio State University President Gordon Gee is retiring July 1
following controversial remarks about “those damn Catholics,” the
University of Notre Dame and others. Gee, a Mormon, says he has regrets,
but the gaffes didn’t compel him to retire. In a statement, OSU
credited Gee with helping the school build an academic profile of a
“highly selective, top-tier public research institution.”
Local officials cut the ribbon yesterday for the Roebling Bridge, the latest piece of infrastructure to debut at The Banks.
Fort Hamilton Hospital has a new president.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has loaned more than any other big bank in the country, according to a new study.
How do mosquitoes survive storms? Popular Science has the answer.
Researchers unveiled a drone that can be controlled by thoughts. Next stop: the Iron Man suit.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Republicans are attempting to block a full public audit of JobsOhio — signaling they have something to fear.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald on May 31 called on Republican Gov. John Kasich to veto a
bill that would prevent State Auditor Dave Yost from fully auditing