by German Lopez
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 email@example.com.
by German Lopez
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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.
by German Lopez
State plans for fracking in parks, mayor to help Obamacare, airport’s flood levee decertified
Gov. John Kasich’s administration in 2012 privately discussed a
public relations campaign to help bring fracking to three state parks. The
plan was apparently abandoned. But ProgressOhio, which released documents showing the discussions, says the plan highlights a trend in the Kasich administration
of looking out for business interests first. Fracking is a drilling technique
in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped
underground to unlock oil and gas reserves. In the past couple years,
the technique has been credited with bringing about a natural gas
production boom in much of the United States, including Ohio. But
environmentalists worry the poorly regulated practice contaminates air
and water. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.Mayor John Cranley and Enroll America today plan to announce a partnership to get people enrolled in Obamacare. The goal is to fill the insurance pool
with healthier, younger enrollees, many of whom qualify for financial
assistance through HealthCare.gov, to help keep costs down. CityBeat previously interviewed Trey Daly, Ohio director of Enroll America, about the outreach efforts here.The two Republicans in charge of City Council’s Budget and
Finance Committee want to know why the city decertified a flood levee
surrounding Lunken Airport, instead of bringing it up to federal standards,
without consulting City Council. The decertification forced property
owners around the airport to buy costly flood insurance. City officials
say they made the decision because the city did not have the $20-$100
million it would cost to bring the levee up to standards.The W. Va. chemical spill cost Greater Cincinnati Water
Works about $26,000 in treatment chemicals, or about 11 cents per
customer.Getting ex-prisoners enrolled in Medicaid as they are
released could save Ohio nearly $18 million this year, according to state
officials.Duke Energy plans to sell 13 power plants, including 11 in Ohio. The company says the move is necessary because of the state’s increasingly unpredictable regulatory environment for electricity generators. Last week, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rejected Duke’s request for a $729 million rate increase.With algorithms now capable of breaking CAPTCHA 90 percent
of the time, companies might need to find other anti-spam
protections.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:44 AM | Permalink
Parking plan targets budget, GOP could restrict early voting, e-cigarette bill advances
Mayor John Cranley says his parking plan intends to
alleviate Cincinnati’s ongoing budget woes by increasing parking
revenue, but the plan will need approval from a majority of City Council
to become law. The plan wouldn’t increase parking meter
rates downtown, but it would increase neighborhood rates by 25 cents to
75 cents an hour. The plan would also increase enforcement at parking
meters, which could lead to more tickets, and extend enforcement hours
to 9 p.m. around the University of Cincinnati, Short Vine in Corryville,
Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But the plan would not give control of the city’s parking meter rates and hours to outside entities, like
the parking privatization plan did. Cranley plans to send the proposal
to the Neighborhood Committee, with a full council vote possible in two
weeks.An Ohio House committee yesterday cleared a pair of
controversial election bills that would reduce the state’s early voting
period by one week — effectively eliminating a “Golden Week” in which
voters can register and vote at the same time — and restrict counties’
abilities to mail out absentee ballot applications. The bills wouldn’t
go into effect until after the May 6 primary. Democrats say the bills
are blatant attempts at voter suppression, but Republicans, some of whom
acknowledge they politically benefit from reduced access to voting,
say the reform is necessary to eliminate voting disparities between
urban and rural counties. The bills still need approval from the
Republican-controlled Ohio House and Republican Gov. John Kasich to
become law.A bill placing age requirements on electronic cigarettes
yesterday passed an Ohio Senate committee. Critics of the bill argue it
doesn’t go far enough because it puts e-cigarettes in a different
category than tobacco, which exempts e-cigarettes from higher taxes and
stricter regulations even though they contain addictive substances and
potential health risks. Kasich and the rest of the legislature need to OK the proposal before it becomes law.Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center reopened
three school-based health clinics closed after Neighborhood Health
Care’s abrupt shutdown.A poll worker in Avondale allegedly voted twice, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.The Ohio Department of Education plans to increase the
number of weeks schools can administer state tests to alleviate time
concerns brought on by excessive snow days.Meanwhile, the Ohio House plans to vote on a bill that would let schools take on more snow days this year.A Christian university located south of Columbus gets public dollars to teach “biblical truth,” an Akron Beacon Journal investigation found. And the school’s president and lobbyist just happen to sit on the Ohio Board of Education.NBC correspondent Tom Brokaw revealed he has cancer.RoboCop isn’t that far off from reality.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
Another LGBT battle could reach court, Cranley crafts parking plan, fracking tax bill revised
A federal court in Cincinnati could soon decide whether
married same-sex parents should be recognized by Ohio on their
children’s birth certificates. Civil rights attorney Alphonse
Gerhardstein filed the lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who
married outside the state and an adoption agency that helped one of the
couples adopt a child in Ohio. The lawsuit argues leaving one parent
unnamed perpetuates harmful social stigmas and potentially endangers a
child’s life by making it more difficult for a parent to get his child
help in case of emergencies. Although opponents of LGBT rights argue allowing gay couples to adopt hurts children, the research suggests widespread discrimination and same-sex parents’ limited rights are the real threats to gay couples’ sons and daughters.Mayor John Cranley is crafting a new plan to upgrade
Cincinnati’s parking system while retaining local control. Under the
drafted plan analyzed by The Business Courier, the Greater
Cincinnati Port Authority would issue $25 million in bonds backed by
parking revenues. To pay for the new costs, parking meter rates in
neighborhoods — but not downtown — would increase by 25 cents per hour
to 75 cents per hour, and the city would hire more officers to increase
enforcement. The new parking meters would take credit card payments, but
smartphone payments currently aren’t in the plan.A revised version of the Ohio House’s fracking tax bill
increases the severance tax on oil and gas companies but cuts the income
tax more and directs funding to areas most affected by the state’s oil
and gas boom. Fracking is a drilling technique in which millions of
gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to unlock
oil and gas reserves. Following its widespread adoption, the United
States, including Ohio, began pumping out natural gas at record levels.
But critics worry the technique could pollute and contaminate
surrounding air and water resources. CityBeat covered fracking in greater detail here.As a result of the harsh winter, Cincinnati’s winter
shelter for the homeless has been extra busy this year. Some City
Council members appear to be considering a more standardized funding
plan for the shelter, which traditionally relies largely on private
funding.The Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Parade will take a slight detour this year to avoid streetcar construction.No surprise here: Ohio is among the worst states for funding transit projects.Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland want to know what it
would take to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, which will
name the GOP’s presidential candidate.Fixing food deserts alone won’t make people eat healthier, a new study found.A Los Angeles newscaster mixed up Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne.Astronomers say they found the oldest known star in the
universe. At more than 13 billion years old, the star is about three
times the age of the Sun.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
by German Lopez
City plans to add firefighters, abortion clinics under threat, Kasich gets union supporters
Mayor John Cranley yesterday announced a plan to add
another recruit class to the Cincinnati Fire Department and effectively
eliminate brownouts, but it remains unclear how the class will be paid
for in the long-term. The Fire Department applied for a federal grant
that would cover the costs for two years, but the city would need to pay for the new firefighters’ salaries after that. To some City Council members, the proposal, along
with other plans to add more police recruits and fund a jobs program
for the long-term unemployed, raises questions about what will get cut
in the budget to pay for the new costs.Gov. John Kasich’s administration has led an aggressive
effort to shut down abortion clinics around the state, and a clinic in
Sharonville, Ohio, could be the next to close after the administration
denied a request that would have allowed the clinic to stay open without an
emergency patient transfer agreement. The process has apparently
involved high-ranking officials in the Ohio Department of Health, which
one regulator says is unusual. The
threat to the Sharonville clinic follows the passage of several new anti-abortion
regulations through the latest state budget, but state officials say the
new regulations were unnecessary to deny the Sharonville clinic’s
request to stay open.Unions broadly support Democratic gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald’s campaign, but at least one union-funded group,
Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio, seems to be throwing its
weight behind Kasich, a Republican. The surprising revelation shows
not every union group has kept a grudge against Kasich and other
Republicans after they tried to limit public employees’ collective
bargaining rights through Senate Bill 5 in 2011. ACT Ohio says its
support for Kasich is related to jobs, particularly Kasich’s support for
infrastructure projects. The jobs market actually stagnated after
Kasich took office, which some political scientists say could
cost Kasich his re-election bid even though economists say the governor isn’t to blame.Talk of tolls continues threatening the $2.65 billion
Brent Spence Bridge project as opposition from Northern Kentuckians remains strong. Ohio and Kentucky officials insist tolls are necessary to replace
the supposedly dangerous bridge because the federal government doesn’t
seem willing to pick up the tab.
Ohio gas prices keep rising.A Dayton University student froze to death after falling asleep outside, with alcohol a possible factor.Airplane pilots often head to the wrong airport, according to new reports.Watch people tightrope walk between hot air balloons.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
New parking deal soon, warden denies botched execution, fracking tax bill under works
Mayor John Cranley appears to be working on another
parking deal to upgrade Cincinnati’s parking meters, although the
mayor’s office says this plan won’t give up control of the city’s parking
meters to a private entity. At the same time, it seems the deal won’t
produce a large lump-sum like the defunct parking privatization plan
did. Cranley and other opponents of the old parking plan have long said
that, even without privatization, the city’s parking meters need to be
upgraded to accept credit card payments, among other modern features.The warden who oversaw Dennis McGuire’s 26-minute,
seemingly painful execution says it went “very well.” The execution, the
longest since Ohio restarted use of the death penalty in 1999, drew
international attention, particularly because many blamed the long time
to kill on the state’s use of a cocktail of drugs never tried before in
the United States. The warden’s statements essentially reject those
concerns. Still, state officials say they’re conducting a third review
of McGuire’s execution in particular, which is apparently uncommon. CityBeat covered the execution in further detail here.An Ohio House bill could boost funding to local
governments affected by the fracking boom by hiking the severance tax on
oil and gas companies. Fracking is a drilling technique in which
millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground
to unlock oil and gas reserves. Its widespread use has spurred an
economic boom across the country, including northeast Ohio. While it’s
boosted the overall economy, it’s also raised environmental and
displacement concerns, particularly in areas where the boom is most
active. CityBeat covered the fracking boom in further detail here.In response to complaints about slow snow plowing, the
city tweeted, “We’ve got 2,800+ lane miles to clear. It’s going to take
some time. Please, go slow & be patient today as our crews work
’round-the-clock.”In light of yesterday’s “debate” over evolution and biblical creationism, here are four things the anti-science crowd denies.An Ohio Senate bill would prohibit sales of e-cigarettes
to those younger than 18, but some anti-smoking activists worry the
bill’s classification of e-cigarettes as an “alternative nicotine
product” instead of a tobacco product could loosen regulations on the potentially
cancer-causing product.Meanwhile, CVS plans to stop selling tobacco products as it focuses more on health care.Ohio’s standardized tests for grades 3-8 could be delayed after winter storms forced so many school closings.The Cincinnati Fire Department is looking into the
possibility of using drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — in the future
through a partnership with the University of Cincinnati.A Salvadoran newspaper used a drone to cover a presidential election.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopezGot any news tips? Email them to email@example.com.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 5, 2014
City officials announced an initiative that promises to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and do more to reach out to youth.