by German Lopez
Medical marijuana may be on ballot, mayor reduces layoffs, budget hearing tonight
The Ohio Rights Group could be asking voters to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp statewide
in 2013 or 2014. The Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati says
drug approval should be up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
but that may not matter because polls so far shows medical marijuana
getting widespread approval from Ohio voters. The Ohio Rights Group
argues its amendment would help Ohioans by opening up better health
treatments and boosting the economy. Whether that will be enough to land
the issue on the ballot remains to be seen.Mayor Mark Mallory revised the city manager’s budget plan
to carry out less layoffs but more cuts to outside spending and
recreation centers. Mallory's changes will restore 18 firefighter
positions, 17 police positions, three inspector positions at the Health
Department and two positions at the Law Department, reducing the total
layoffs to 161, with 49 of those being police positions and 53 being
firefighter positions. But it will come with more cuts to third-party
agencies, including the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Center
for Closing the Health Gap and Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of
Commerce, and two closed recreation centers. The plan will also use
about $500,000 in recently discovered revenue. Mallory said the layoffs and cuts have to be made in part because of multiple outside factors, including reduced state funding and courts holding up the city's parking plan.The first hearing on the city's fiscal year 2014 budget proposals will be tonight at the Duke Energy Convention Center at 6:30 p.m. The public will be asked to give feedback on the budget plan put forward by the city manager and mayor, which would lay off 161 city employees, including cops and firefighters, to help balance the city's $35 million operating budget deficit.CityBeat editorial: "Cincinnati's 1 Percent."The Ohio Department of Transportation has raised its estimated price for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project by about $10 million to $30 million after meetings with business owners in Cincinnati's uptown area. It's so far unclear how the project's costs will be divided between the city, state and federal governments. Originally, Cincinnati was looking to pay for its share of the project through its plan to lease the city's parking assets, but that plan is being held up in court.City
Council approved a resolution yesterday supporting a statewide ban on
injection wells used to dispose wastewater during the hydraulic
fracturing — "fracking" — process, a drilling process that injects
millions of gallons of water underground to unlock natural gas and oil
reserves. The injection wells are a vital part of a fracking boom that
has helped revitalize economies in Ohio and other states and could help combat climate change,
but environmentalists and health advocates are concerned about the
unintended consequences the wells could have on nearby water sources ("Boom, Bust or Both?" in issue of June 6, 2012).The Ohio House approved changes to the state's third grade reading requirement that will relax standards teachers must meet to provide reading instruction and tutoring services for young students. The current law requires teachers to have taught reading for at least three years, but the bill approved by the Ohio House would eliminate that requirement.Mayoral candidate John Cranley says choosing Cincinnati's next police chief should wait until the next mayor is elected in November.The Hamilton County Board of Elections sent two more voter fraud cases to the prosecutor, but the question remains whether the dozens of people who filed provisional ballots and absentee ballots are actually in the wrong — an issue that will be ultimately decided by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Top public safety issues are urging schools not to arm teachers to protect students from gun violence. CityBeat previously found that arming teachers is not supported by research.Ohioans, including CityBeat’s most dazzling staff member, apparently enjoy swearing.Before the IRS harassed tea party groups, it harassed gay rights groups.No further explanation necessary: "Police: Man used grenade to rob Hamilton bank."Scientists have created the first cloned human embryo.A new laser scanner can detect someone watching you from a kilometer away.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Mayor
at 10:41 AM | Permalink
Revisions will reduce city layoffs, make cuts to outside agencies
Mayor Mark Mallory announced revisions to the city manager’s budget plan
today that will reduce the amount of layoffs by making several
additional cuts, particularly in funding that goes to outside agencies,
and using recently discovered revenue.
Mallory’s changes will restore 18 firefighter positions,
17 police positions, three inspector positions at the Health Department
and two positions at the Law Department, reducing the total layoffs to 161, with 49 of those being police positions and 53 being firefighter positions.
To balance out the restored positions, the mayor is suggesting closing down two more recreation centers: Westwood Town Hall
Recreation Center and Mt. Auburn Recreation Center. He is also suggesting cuts to the
mayor’s office budget ($32,000) and outside agencies ($1.3 million),
including the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), the
Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Center for Closing the Health Gap,
the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber
Mallory’s revised budget plan also makes use of about
$500,000 in revenue that was not located in time for City Manager Milton
Dohoney’s budget proposal.
Mallory justified the cuts by saying public safety must
come first, but he says he would keep the funding under better circumstances.
“The progress we have seen in our city cannot stand on its own without an emphasis on public safety,” he said.
The budget will have to be enacted by June 1 to give the
city 30 days to implement the changes before fiscal year 2014, which
begins July 1. It will now move to City Council, which will be able to make its own changes.
Mallory stressed that the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit
is being driven by a few outside factors, including reduced state
funding, court challenges holding up the parking plan and the recent
Gov. John Kasich has cut local government funding by about half in his state budget plans, which Dohoney estimated cost
Cincinnati about $22.2 million in 2013 (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
The city was planning to make up for some of that lost
funding by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority and using
the funds to help balance the deficit and fund development projects
around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27). But opponents of the plan, who say they are cautious
of parking rate hikes and extended parking meter hours, have
successfully held up the plan in court and through a referendum effort.
Cincinnati’s population has steadily decreased since the
1950s, which means the city has been taking in less tax revenue from a
shrinking population. That was exacerbated by the Great Recession, which
further lowered tax revenue as people lost their jobs and cut back
Still, the city has run structurally imbalanced budget
since 2001, according to previous testimony from Budget Director Lea
Eriksen. The previous budgets were balanced through one-time revenue
sources, but Dohoney told media outlets last week that, barring the
parking plan, those sources have run out.
by German Lopez
Mallory to propose budget today, ALI settlement criticized, council reviewing rules
Mayor Mark Mallory will deliver his operating budget proposal to City Council today after making changes to the city manager’s proposal,
which hikes property taxes and lays off 201 city
employees, including cops and firefighters. City Council will then be
able to change and give final approval to the budget plan before June 1.
Some of the cuts may hit parks the hardest,
but city administration officials are cautioning that they did not
recommend the specific cuts being outlined, and it’s up to the
Cincinnati Parks Board to decide which areas the cuts will impact. The
city planned to help balance its $35 million operating budget
deficit with the parking plan, but that plan is currently being held up in court.
The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is speaking out against the settlement to sell the Anna Louise Inn to Western & Southern for $4 million.
“What has been served today is not justice nor moral on the part of
Western & Southern, and we will push for a day when Western Southern
recognizes their wrong-doings, asks for forgiveness and turns to doing
good,” said Josh Spring, executive of the Homeless Coalition, in a
statement. The group is asking supporters of the Anna Louise Inn to meet
at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church Friday at 6 p.m. to discuss
City Council is likely to keep its ability to call votes on different items
in larger ordinances and motions after seemingly failing to get support
from six elected council members. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who
proposed the changes, says the power is confusing because there’s no
hard standard set for what is separable, but Councilwoman Laure
Quinlivan, who has used the power before and supports it, says the rule
retains choice and flexibility. City Council is currently reviewing many
of its procedural rules, according to Simpson.
Ohio’s third grade reading guarantee was reworked by the Ohio House in part to relax standards for teachers. Previously, the law mandated teachers providing
reading guarantee services to have taught the subject for at least three
years, which critics of the law previously called “impossible to meet.”
The Ohio House is slowing down
with its Internet cafe moratorium bill while the Ohio Senate works on its bill that would effectively ban the businesses altogether. State
officials, particularly Attorney General Mike DeWine, have warned that
Internet cafes are prone to criminal activity, but supporters say the
businesses are just providing a demanded service.
The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending states strengthen drunken driving standards from a blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.
Here is the science behind hating nails on a chalkboard.
by German Lopez
City manager proposes budget plan, budget hearings set, redistricting reform in 2014
The city manager unveiled his budget plan
to solve the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit yesterday. The plan includes less layoffs than expected — particularly to cops and
firefighters — but it proposes an increase to
property taxes. The plan also includes a series of other cuts, including
to all arts funding and subsidies that go to parades, and new fees. The
release for the budget plan says many of the cuts could have been
avoided if the city obtained revenue from the proposed parking plan, which is currently being held up by a referendum effort and court challenges.
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which uses
capital funds that can’t be used to balance the operating budget because
of limits established in state law.
The budget plan still has to be approved by Mayor Mark
Mallory and City Council to become law, and City Council will hear the
public’s opinion before a vote at three public hearings: May 16 at the
Duke Convention Center, May 20 at College Hill Recreation Center and May
22 at Madisonville Recreation Center. All the hearings will begin at
Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder says he hopes the Constitutional Modernization Commission will produce a ballot initiative for redistricting reform in 2014. Politicized redistricting — also known as “gerrymandering” —
has been traditionally used by politicians in power to redraw
congressional district borders in a way that favors the political party
in charge, but reform could change that. Gerrymandering was used
by national and state Republicans to blunt losses in the 2012 election,
as CityBeat detailed here.
As Ohio struggles to expand Medicaid, our more conservative neighbor to the south is moving forward. CityBeat
covered the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, which the Health Policy
Institute of Ohio says would insure nearly half a million people and
save millions of dollars by 2022, here.
While some Democrats want to attach party labels to Ohio Supreme Court elections, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wants to do away with party primaries for judicial elections.
Former University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger, the second longest-serving president at UC, died at 76 yesterday.
New York City could soon become the first major city to let non-citizens vote in local elections.
The legislation would allow non-citizens to vote if they are lawfully
present in the United States, have lived in New York City for six months
or more on the date of a given election and meet other requirements
necessary to vote in New York state.
When one simple question makes a huge difference: “When Did You Choose to Be Straight?”
Blood may be the key to seeing how long brain tumor patients have to live and whether their treatment is working.
A new study found oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill sickened fish for at least a year.
Here is a compilation of adorable animals trying to stay awake.
1 Comment · Thursday, May 2, 2013
Politicians here are like helicopter
parents, mishandling the city in the same blatantly narcissistic manner
as parents who bear children for the sole purposes of shaping those
children in their images.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:49 PM | Permalink
Decision follows public outrage caused by misleading reports
Mayor Mark Mallory announced in a memo today that he will not be following through with previously planned salary raises for his staff, citing poor morale in light of recent — but misleading — press coverage. But the rest of his budget plan will remain.Mallory explained his reasoning in a statement: "I am rescinding the raises that I gave my staff and returning all salaries to the previous levels. Although the changes that I made in my office structure resulted in a saving of $66,000 to be used in next year’s budget, I realize that the perception has had a negative effect on the morale of other City Employees."I am the biggest promoter of the public servants who choose to work for the city, both on my staff and in all City Departments. I don’t want to see anyone lose their job. I have been successfully fighting to prevent layoffs throughout the recession. I supported the parking plan because it will ensure that no city employees lose their job. I plan to continue to fight for City Employees and to do everything that I can to minimize the reductions to our City Workforce. Every job that we save is a win for our community."The announcement comes after a misleading report from The Cincinnati Enquirer sparked public outrage. The Enquirer's original report neglected to say that the overall budget plan would save the city $66,000 for the year and $33,000 during the mayor's remaining time in office. CityBeat covered Mallory's budget changes and The Enquirer's misleading report here.
by German Lopez
'Enquirer' riles up angry readers with incomplete report
Even though some members of Mayor Mark Mallory's staff
are getting double-digit raises, the mayor's budget is actually being
downsized to rely on less staff members, ultimately shrinking the mayor's
office budget by $33,000 between July 1 and Dec. 1.Some
of Mallory's staff obtained raises because they will be taking up the
former duties of Ryan Adcock, who left earlier in the month to help lead
a task force on infant mortality and will not be replaced. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported
the raises earlier today, but the story at first did not mention that
the budgetary moves will ultimately save the city money. The "Enquirer exclusive" includes a "tell them what you think" section in which citizens can email the mayor's office and copy Enquirer editors. The story was later updated to include the overall savings, though The Enquirer posted a separate blog titled, "Mallory getting an earful on raises," which was a collection of angry emails to the mayor based on the original version of the story.CityBeat
acquired a memo written by Mallory that outlines the rest of the
plan, which will produce savings: "I will not replace Ryan Adcock on my
staff. Instead, I have divided his responsibilities among my remaining
staff. In addition, I will not hire the two part-time staffers that I
had considered hiring. The additional work in the office will be
supplemented by unpaid interns."In
addition, I have enacted internal savings in order to return $20,000
from my FY 2013 office budget to be used for the FY 2014 city budget.
Finally, in preparation of the Mayor’s Office Budget for FY 2014, I am
reducing my office budget by $33,000 for the remaining 5 months of my
spokesperson Jason Barron says the mayor will also not be replacing
staff that leaves from this point forward, which could produce more
savings down the line. As of 6:30 p.m., The Enquirer's homepage still prominently displayed the story out of context, suggesting that the raises will add to the city's $35 million deficit.Shawn Butler, the mayor's director of community
affairs, was given an 11-percent raise; Barron, the mayor's
director of public affairs, was given a 16-percent raise; and Arlen
Herrell, the mayor's director of international affairs, was given a
20-percent raise. Adcock also obtained a 20-percent raise briefly before
leaving, which Barron described to CityBeat as a budgetary technicality.Since
Mallory is term-limited, Barron says the savings will only apply to
Mallory's remaining five months. The mayor who replaces Mallory in
December will decide whether to keep or rework Mallory's policies.Last
year, Barron was paid $66,144 in regular pay, Butler was paid $71,349,
Herrell was paid $59,961 and Adcock was paid $66,049, according to the
city's payroll records. But Barron explained that those numbers were
higher because last year happened to have an extra payday. Under normal
circumstances, Barron is paid $62,740 a year, Butler is paid $67,760,
Adcock was paid $62,740 and Herrell is paid $62,031.
by German Lopez
Budget pushes conservative policy, moms demand action on guns, mayor shrinking budget
For this week’s cover story, CityBeat analyzed the Ohio House budget bill that would defund
Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the
Medicaid expansion in favor of broader reforms. The bill passed the Republican-controlled Ohio House last week, but it still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich. Ohio Senate President Keith
Faber announced yesterday that the Ohio Senate will not move forward
with the Medicaid expansion — a sign the Ohio Senate is agreeing with the Ohio House on that issue.
Facing the recent wave of deadly gun attacks around the nation, some moms have banded together to demand action. Moms Demand Action is using its political clout to push gun control legislation at a federal level, but it’s also promoting grassroots campaigns in cities and states around the nation.
Contrary to The Cincinnati Enquirer’s “exclusive” story, the mayor’s office is actually shrinking its budget
by $33,000 between July 1 and Dec. 1 despite plans to give some
employees raises. The mayor’s office says the raises are necessary
because the employees will be taken a bigger workload to make up for
reduced staff levels, but the budgetary moves will save money overall.
Originally, The Enquirer reported the raises without noting the savings in the
rest of the budget plan, inspiring a wave of angry emails from readers
to the mayor’s office through The Enquirer’s “tell them what you think” tool.
This week’s commentary: “Streetcar’s No. 1 Problem: Obstructionism.”
At the NAACP meeting today, members will ask independent Councilman Chris Smitherman to step down from his leadership position. The disgruntled members told The Enquirer
that Smitherman, who is an opponent of the streetcar and often partners
up with the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), is using the NAACP for his “personal and political
agenda,” not civil rights. Smitherman told The Enquirer to focus
on the legitimate work of the NAACP instead of a potential coup that he
says isn’t newsworthy. Smitherman will not allow media into today’s
City Council unanimously passed a resolution
yesterday to oppose anti-union laws that are misleadingly called “right
to work” laws. The laws earned their name after a decades-long spin campaign from big businesses that oppose unions, but the laws’ real purpose is weakening unions
by banning collective bargaining agreements that require workers to join
unions and pay dues. The City Council resolution has no legal weight;
it simply tells higher levels of government to not pass the anti-union law.
Metro’s budget would need to increase by two-thirds
to implements the bus and public transportation agency’s long-range plan, which would add rapid
transit lines, other routes and sheltered transit centers with more
Two Cincinnati economic entities are getting federal funds:
The Cincinnati Development Fund will get $35 million to invest in
brownfield redevelopment, nutritional access and educational
improvements, and Kroger Community Development Entity will get $20
million to increase low-income access to fresh and nutritional foods and
fund redevelopment projects.
As expected, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald officially announced yesterday that he will run for governor against Kasich in 2014.
Kasich appointed former State Rep. John Carey to head the Ohio Board of Regents,
which manages the state’s public university system. Carey says his
biggest goal will be to better align higher education opportunities with
jobs that are available in Ohio.
Sen. Sherrod Brown is unveiling a bill that would effectively break up the big banks by imposing strict capital limits and other rules. CityBeat wrote about Brown’s efforts here.
In a blog post
yesterday, Rep. Steve Chabot, a Cincinnati Republican, criticized
President Barack Obama for not calling the Boston bombers “Islamic
jihadists.” Public officials typically do not publicly jump to
conclusions in the middle of an ongoing investigation.
A new app gives you an automatic nose job.
Researchers are developing a solar dish that produces electricity and fresh water at the same time.
by German Lopez
Boston violence continues, parking referendum moves forward, House budget bill passes
Boston and surrounding communities went through another night of terror and chaos
last night, with the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects allegedly rampaging
through the city just hours after their photos were released to the
public by authorities. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects, died
after apparently suffering multiple wounds from a police shootout and
what’s now believed to have been an explosion, but his brother, Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev, 19, remains at large while a massive manhunt is underway.
Authorities are telling people in Boston and the surrounding area to
stay indoors as the manhunt continues.
Opponents of the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority gathered enough petitions
to put the issue on the ballot this November. The news comes as a huge
blow to local officials who supported the plan to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund development projects around the city. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters.
Before approving the budget bill in a 61-35 vote, the Ohio House voted to remove an amendment from the bill that would have banned comprehensive sex education in a 76-19 vote
yesterday, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Still, the budget bill contains language that would defund Planned Parenthood
and redirect other funding to abstinence-only, anti-abortion crisis
pregnancy centers. The budget bill was also amended to ask for a
Medicaid waiver that give Ohio more time to mull over a Medicaid expansion and could lead to a revamp of the state-backed health care program. The budget bill must now be approved by the Ohio Senate and Gov. John Kasich.
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in March,
unchanged from February’s revised rate and a small drop from 7.4
percent in March 2012. The number of people unemployed rose by 1,000,
while the amount of people employed dropped by 20,400. March was also a
weak month for the U.S. jobs report, so Ohio’s numbers may be following a
nationwide slowdown. Jobs in manufacturing, mining and logging,
financial activities and trade, transportation and utilities increased,
while other areas dropped by varying degrees.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Mayor Mark Mallory still support the streetcar project, touting its economic benefits to the city. Still, Qualls told CityBeat Wednesday that she wants to have a “very robust public conversation” about the project with the public and city officials to see how it can move forward.
On the two-year anniversary of his death, the lawsuit for David “Bones” Hebert has been expanded
to include the city of Cincinnati and three Cincinnati
Police officers. Since he was killed by
police in 2011, Bones has built a following that wants to bring what
they perceive as justice to his death.
A state representative announced he will run against
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in 2016 because of Portman’s vote against a
federal gun control bill. State Rep. Bob Hagan wrote on Facebook,
”Senator Portman shows his lack of courage and testicular fortitude. The
NRA Owns him. I am declaring my candidacy for US Senate to run against
him in the next election. I will be his hair shirt for the next three
years.” A poll from The New York Times and CBS found about 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks, the major policy proposal in the gun control bill.
A new app allows Icelanders to make sure their hookups don’t qualify as accidental incest.
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
In the past few weeks, Cincinnati’s
political scene has been engulfed by debate over the budget, often
prompting testy exchanges between city officials.