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
Food deserts plague city, court reverses parking ruling, downtown grocery store coming
Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.For many neighborhoods, the lack of access to fresh,
healthy fruits, vegetables and foods is a big problem, but Councilwoman
Laure Quinlivan is helping address the problem,
at least in the short term, through mobile produce zones that will be
placed in eight neighborhoods generally considered “food deserts.”
Quinlivan acknowledges the solution is a stopgap, but Michael Widener,
assistant professor in University of Cincinnati’s Geography Department,
says it’s a start that could help many local residents as a better solution is worked on.
In a 2-1 ruling yesterday, the Hamilton County Court of
Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision and said the city’s plan to
semi-privatize its parking assets is not subject to a referendum and may move forward.
Parking opponents are appealing the decision and pushing for a stay.
For the city, the parking plan will potentially unlock millions of
dollars over 30 years, including a $92 million upfront payment. But
opponents argue the terms of the deal, which include increased parking
meter rates and operation hours, will hurt downtown business. The ruling
also returned the city’s emergency clause powers, which the city
says allow it to bypass a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and
make laws insusceptible to referendum.
City Council unanimously approved
a development deal for Fourth and Race streets downtown to build a
grocery store, luxury apartment tower and garage to replace Pogue’s
Garage. With council approval, construction could begin late this year,
with developers hoping to finish in 2015. The deal will be headed by
Indianapolis-based development company Flaherty and Collins. The city’s
share of the $80 million deal will be $12 million, paid for with a
five-year forgivable loan financed by urban renewal funds, which are
generated through downtown taxes and can only be used for downtown
Commentary: “‘Jobs’ Budget Attacks Women’s Health Options”
The first mayoral candidate forum is tonight at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital MERC Auditorium at 620 Oak Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Candidates Roxanne Qualls, John Cranley, Jim Berns and Stacy Smith are scheduled to participate.After nearly six years of no pay increases for non-union workers, Hamilton County commissioners approved raises for some county employees yesterday. The raises will be merit-based, but they will not exceed 3 percent of what the county pays in wages each year.
Few owners actually register their exotic animals.
The state began requiring exotic animal registration after a man in
Zanesville, Ohio, released 56 exotic animals and committed suicide.
Pending approval from the board of trustees, the University of Cincinnati is hiring Beverly Davenport Sypher as senior vice president for academic affairs. Previously, Davenport Sypher was the vice provost for faculty affairs at Purdue University.
An ongoing study found women who are denied abortions have poorer health and are more likely to live in poverty two years on.
In Japan, cyclists can now store their bikes in underground robot caverns.Updated at 11:10 a.m.: Added information about first mayoral candidate forum.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 22, 2013
A Kentucky resident implicated in an
incident that took place in May 2012 at a public Party in the Park event
is now suing the city of Cincinnati.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
April 18 marked the two-year anniversary
of the death of David “Bones” Hebert, which prompted his estate to file a
wrongful death lawsuit against Mitchell on April 18, 2012.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:17 AM | Permalink
Ohio courts hurt poor, Qualls calls for streetcar hearing, House to vote on budget today
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) found Ohio's poor are regularly victimized by illegal practices in courts that jail the state's poor for failing to pay fines they can't afford. The problem particularly afflicts the state's rural counties, which sometimes openly admit to jailing people even when they can't afford to pay fines. The ACLU says courts need to be more transparent in communicating defendants' rights, provide retroactive credits to those wrongfully incarcerated based on circumstances of poverty and consistently hold hearings to assess defendants' financial viability and willfulness to pay fines.The streetcar is being threatened by a $22.7 million budget gap, and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who is running for mayor and has long supported the streetcar, is calling a meeting to get all the details on how the project got here and whether it's still economically viable. Qualls says it's too soon to jump to conclusions about the project's fate, and she says she would like to see the options and details laid out by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. at the hearing. But Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, a longtime opponent of the streetcar, is already using the news to call for the project's demise. The streetcar is one of few issues dividing the Democratic candidates in the mayoral race, which the latest poll has Qualls leading by 14 points.The Ohio House is expected to vote on a budget
today that would defund Planned Parenthood, ban comprehensive sex
education and fund crisis pregnancy centers that promote
abstinence-only, anti-abortion education. This week, the budget has been
regularly mocked by Democrats for potentially opening teachers to lawsuits if
they explain condoms, other forms of birth control and other basic sex facts to students in a
way that could lead to "gateway sexual activity."The Ohio House budget bill also fails to expand Medicaid — a failing that Moody's is warning could put hospitals at risk for budgetary shortfalls. The report points out that hospitals were supposed to get more patients through a Medicaid expansion, which would be funded almost entirely by the federal government through Obamacare, to make up for a reduction of federal reimbursements for uncompensated care. The Medicaid expansion would have insured 456,000 Ohioans and saved the state money, according to a report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion in greater detail here.For student voters, the Ohio House budget bill would also make it more difficult to vote by forcing public universities to withhold essential documents that can be used as voter identification. The rule would make it so universities have to declare students in-state for tuition purposes when issuing them a letter or utility bill to vote, effectively costing universities extra revenue from out-of-state students if they choose to issue the documents. Democratic State Rep. Kathleen Clyde says the move will likely make it so universities never hand over the documents.This week's CityBeat commentary: "Bad Budget Ideas Confound Public Discourse."As the city wrestles with laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig is considering a potential job offer in Detroit "very carefully." Craig interviewed for the top cop position in Detroit last week. "I'm humbled they would consider me a top candidate," Craig told The Cincinnati Enquirer.A new poll found Republican Gov. John Kasich in "reasonably good shape" for re-election, beating potential challenger Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald 46-37.Disbarred attorney Stan Chesley resigned from the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to by fellow board members.Metro announced new direct, crosstown routes yesterday. The routes will make it easier to travel from the east to west side and vice versa.The Business Courier has a look at the top 10 worst-paying Cincinnati jobs.Five to 15 were killed and more than 150 were injured in a Texas fertilizer plant explosion yesterday.Even though a majority of 54 voted in favor and only 46 voted against it, the background checks bill for gun buyers failed in the U.S. Senate yesterday, failing to overcome what was essentially a filibuster. Ohio's senators were split on the issue, with Sen. Rob Portman voting against the bill and Sen. Sherrod Brown voting in favor. Universal background checks are supported by more than 90 percent of Americans, according to a poll from The New York Times and CBS.Scientists have found magnetic brain stimulation could remove cravings for cigarettes.
ACLU: Ohio’s poor population is regularly victimized by legal system
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
For most people, being charged with a
minor offense like speeding is often little more than an inconvenience.
others, though, it could literally change — or ruin — a life.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Health
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling
Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies.
The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas
severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state
income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The
amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school
funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House
plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting
too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s
proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal
funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL
Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47
percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link
between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided
false information about the connection between breast cancer,
infertility and abortion, among other findings.
The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling
so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City
Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case
of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need
to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency
clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but
Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum,
effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city
now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The
ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets
to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic
With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study
youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city
policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will
look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime,
poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the
study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.
Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely
limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will
co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a
bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.
Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting
to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton,
campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s
developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics
and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic
Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting,
McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as
“unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile,
recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.
As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.
Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler
announced March 20 that he will extend the restraining order on the
city’s parking plan until April 3, potentially delaying any ruling on
the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority for another two weeks.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:26 AM | Permalink
City, parking plan opponents meet in court, judge unlikely to rule today
The city of Cincinnati and opponents of the parking plan
met in court today to debate whether laws passed with emergency clauses are subject to
referendum — a crucial legal issue as the city attempts to speed ahead
with plans to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the deficit and foster
After hearing extensive legal arguments
from both sides, Judge Robert Winkler, who presided over the hearings, said
a decision is unlikely today.
Curt Hartman, who represented opponents of the parking plan, argued
the city charter’s definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and
legal precedent supports siding with voters’ right to referendum when
there is ambiguity.
Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said legal
precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law
is not contradicted in the city charter. Cincinnati’s city charter does not specify whether
emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly
says emergency laws are not subject to referendum.Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that if the parking plan is held up for too long in legal battles, the city will have to carry out spending cuts before July to balance the budget in time for the 2014 fiscal year.Emergency clauses remove a 30-day waiting period on approved legislation, and the city claims they also remove the possibility of referendum.
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6 before attaching an emergency clause to the law in a 6-3 vote. But the law was
quickly put on hold by a temporary restraining order from Winkler after a lawsuit was filed in favor of subjecting the plan to referendum.
Opponents of the parking plan say they’re concerned the
plan will cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which
they say could lead to skyrocketing parking rates.
The city says rates are set at 3 percent or inflation, but the rate can
change with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval
from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The
special committee would comprise of four people appointed by the Port Authority
and one appointed by the city manager.
The city is pursuing the parking plan to help balance the
city’s deficit for the next two fiscal years and enable economic
development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 20, 2013
The city of Cincinnati and opponents of
the parking plan met in court March 15 to debate whether laws passed
with emergency clauses are subject to referendum.