WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Lease or Layoffs?

Mayor, city manager warn of public safety layoffs, but some still weighing alternatives

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Speaking at a press conference on March 28, Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials did not mask their contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold earlier in the day.  
by German Lopez 04.03.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Education at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Ruling kills project, council members ask for alternatives, Kasich's school formula scrapped

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s ruling last week has already led to the dissolution of one project, according to Mayor Mark Mallory. The Kinsey Apartments project fell through after City Council was unable to expedite a change in the building’s classification that would have enabled access to state tax credits. Winkler’s ruling effectively eliminated the city’s use of emergency clauses, which the city used to remove a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, by ruling that all Cincinnati laws are open to referendum. The ruling means the city can no longer expedite laws even in extreme cases, such as natural disasters. The city is appealing the ruling. Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are calling for a special session of City Council to get the city administration to answer questions about budget alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Mallory and other city officials claim the only way to balance the budget is to carry out Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make cuts to other city services. But Sittenfeld and Seelbach have proposed alternatives with casino revenue and cuts elsewhere. The Ohio House may scrap Republican Gov. John Kasich’s school funding formula to use a “Building Blocks” model championed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The legislators say the formula will give more certainty to local officials by always providing a base of funding based on the average cost to educate a student, but the governor’s office says the approach neglects recent increases in school mobility. Kasich’s formula has come under criticism for disproportionately benefiting wealthy districts, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Ohio’s per capita personal income rose at one of the fastest rates in the nation last year, according to an analysis from Dayton Daily News. The news is another sign of Ohio’s strong economic recovery, but it remains unclear whether the rise will bring down the state’s income inequality. The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus (ODWC) is criticizing Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts to exempt more health providers from providing contraceptive coverage based on religious grounds. “DeWine wants to allow all employers to deny crucial health care services like birth control, cancer screenings and vaccines if they disagree with the services due to their personal or political beliefs,” Amy Grubbe, chairwoman of the ODWC, said in a statement. As part of Obamacare, health insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and other Republicans say the requirement violates religious liberty. Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering up to use technology to crack down on fraud in the federal food stamp program that costs the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars a year. A public Ohio school is taking down a portrait of Jesus after being threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating separation of state and church. Duke Energy reached a settlement that will allow the company to raise the average electric bill for its Ohio customers by $3.72 per month. Hamilton County’s SuperJobs Center and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Veterans Program are partnering with 28 employers, ranging from the University of Cincinnati to Coca Cola, to host the annual veteran hiring event at the SuperJobs Center, located at 1916 Central Parkway, on April 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The Midwest Homeschool Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center will bring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and 15,000 visitors to Cincinnati. President Barack Obama says he wants to fund a research project that would map the human brain. By 2020, scientists estimate the world’s solar panels will have “paid back” the energy it took to produce them. Scientists are growing immune cells in space to study how astronauts’ immune systems change in space.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.02.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
city hall

Council Members Demand Answers on Budget Alternatives

City officials frame budget debate with two choices, but there are more options

Councilman Chris Seelbach says Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials are wrong to claim Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make other cuts to city services, is the only solution to the city’s budget deficit if the parking plan isn’t implemented.Seelbach and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called for a special City Council session on April 4 to get the city administration to answer questions about alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Seelbach, who opposes the parking plan, has pointed to casino revenue and cuts in programs ranked poorly by the city’s priority-driven budgeting process as two potential alternatives to eliminating at least 269 public safety positions. “We spent $100,000 on the priority-based budget process to give the public and a diverse cross-section of the entire city input on what the Council and the city should be spending money on,” Seelbach says. “We should be using those results when deciding where we should make cuts.” In the midst of the parking plan debate, Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the deficit, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting process and put two charter amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. At a press conference on March 28, Mayor Mark Mallory implied the plan is unworkable because it relies on November ballot initiatives. “We don’t have until November,” he said. But Seelbach says City Council could pass a stub budget that would sustain the city financially until the ballot measures are voted on. If both the measures are rejected, City Council would then be required to make further adjustments to balance the budget. Even without the ballot initiatives, Seelbach’s suggestions for casino revenue and cuts based on the priority-driven budgeting process could be approved by City Council to avoid at least two-thirds of the $18.1 million in public safety cuts outlined by Dohoney’s Plan B memo. Seelbach says further cuts could be made through the budget-driven priority process if necessary. “It worries me that these threats of 344 layoffs is just an attempt to sell the parking plan,” he says. “Every option should be on the table.” Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that City Council could choose its own cuts and use other revenue, including casino revenue, to balance the budget. “Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” she said. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another plan.” In the 2013 mayoral race, the threat of laying off cops and firefighters has played a prominent role in the parking plan debate. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley has repeatedly said the threats are “the boy crying wolf.” On Friday, he proposed his own budget plan that he says would avoid layoffs, but critics say Cranley’s casino revenue estimates ignore recent trends. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another Democratic candidate for mayor, said the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters if the parking plan doesn’t go into effect, echoing earlier comments she made in a blog post Sunday. On March 6, City Council passed a plan that would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Development Authority to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27). But the plan is being held up by a referendum effort after a ruling from Judge Robert Winkler on March 28.
 
 

The Inevitable Progress of Gay Rights

4 Comments · Wednesday, March 20, 2013
LGBT-supporting Cincinnatians had a bipolar March 15, with Sen. Rob Portman coming out in support of same-sex marriage and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) being publicly barred from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the same day.  
by German Lopez 03.18.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Parking at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

Parade blocks LGBT group, parking plan awaits ruling, Boehner still against gay marriage

Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade drew a lot of criticism Friday for excluding the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a group within K-12 schools that works to prevent bullying by striving for equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the criticisms and a boycott on the parade — an effort that gained national attention. Chris Schulte, who was on the board that organized the parade, apparently told Seelbach that the board did not want to be affiliated with gays and lesbians due to the parade’s Catholic roots, but Schulte said in a follow-up press release that the parade does not allow any political or social movement, no matter the cause. Cincinnati’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains in legal limbo, even after a court hearing on Friday. Judge Robert Winkler, who presided over the hearings, did not hand down a ruling after hearing extensive legal arguments from the city and opponents of the parking plan. Opponents 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. 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. Despite the reversal of his friend and Republican colleague Sen. Rob Portman, House Speaker John Boehner says he doesn’t see himself ever supporting same-sex marriage. Portman gained national recognition Friday for reversing his position two years after finding out his son is gay. Mayor Mark Mallory will announce details about the City’s Summer Youth Jobs Program tomorrow, and he’s also seeking as many employers as possible to participate in his eighth Annual Youth Job Fair. Employers can sign up for free booths at www.mayormallory.com. Due to a policy that encourages doctors to work overtime, psychiatrists are among the state’s top paid employees. State officials say the policy saves money because overtime rates are lower than psychiatrists’ normal hourly wages. On average, the doctors end up working 80 hours a week, but state officials say there are precautions in place to ensure the highest levels of care. The Steubenville rape case came to a close over the weekend, with two teenagers being found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. While most people were appalled by the teenagers’ audacity on Twitter and other social media regarding the rape, CNN decided to report the story with sympathy for the convicted rapists: A University of Cincinnati study found a cholesterol drug could prevent colorectal cancer recurrence. Sometimes science can do gross things, like resurrecting a frog that gives birth from its mouth. Popular Science has been covering 3-D printer plans for houses, and the latest one actually looks like a house.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
Posted In: Privatization, News, Parking, Budget, Economy at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Parking Meter Company's Past Problems Resurface

Before Xerox buyout, audit found ACS improperly managed parking meters

The company that would operate Cincinnati’s parking meters if the city passes its controversial parking plan this week was mired with audited problems and complaints in the past. The issues surfaced years before Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) was bought by Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing. A 2007 audit found ACS had failed to take care and keep track of parking meters it operated in Washington, D.C. The audit claimed 35 percent of parking meters listed in ACS’s inventory were missing, about 16 percent of the remaining meters were completely inoperative and 65 percent had problems that ranged from defacing to improper height and stability. ACS also failed to fix meters within the 72-hour period mandated by its contract, according to the audit. For some residents, the broken meters led to unfair tickets, with 6,888 tickets, or nearly 1 percent of parking meter tickets, being improperly issued at unfixed meters, according to the audit. The audit also found a 903-percent increase in overall parking meter complaints under the privatization contract with ACS. The audit also questioned the financial gains for Washington, D.C., which had to pay $8.8 million, or 33.4 percent, more under privatization than projected trends under public management. The bad audit wasn’t enough for Washington, D.C., to cut its contract with ACS, which still manages the city’s parking meters today. The audit was among a few other problems tipped to multiple media outlets by Tabitha Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. In 2007, ACS was accused of bribing police officers in Edmonton, Canada, but a judge ruled in favor of ACS, stating there wasn’t sufficient evidence. In 2010, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged ACS with backdating and falsely disclosing stock options between 1996 and 2005, and ACS consented to a permanent injunction without admitting or denying the charges. All the discovered problems occurred before 2010, when Xerox bought ACS.Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit’s findings were based on “faulty information.” He says Xerox and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation found ACS had saved Washington, D.C., money. He also claims the auditor had misunderstood the parking meters’ screen displays, which he says led to the improper identification of inoperative or malfunctioning meters.CityBeat previously covered the parking proposal, which would lease the city’s parking assets to fund deficit reduction and economic development, in detail. Mayor Mark Mallory and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls have endorsed the plan, and it’s currently expected to have the five votes necessary to pass a possible City Council vote today. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach revealed Plan S, an alternative proposal that would not lease the city’s parking assets and would instead use $7.5 million in casino revenue, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. also put forward his “Plan B,” which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to “non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening

City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton Dohoney unveiled Plan B to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to “non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead. Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here. Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections. On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools. Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only to traditional public schools, not charter schools. Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150. The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons. U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests. Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.” If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 03.01.2013
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Seelbach Announces "Plan S" Budget Alternative

Third proposal would include ballot amendments, $5 million in spending cuts

City Councilmember Chris Seelbach this afternoon released a third alternative to City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.'s budget plans, both of which have received negative feedback from the public. Like Dohoney's "Plan B" (read about that here), Plan S would not lease the city's parking system to a private operator, a solution that citizens and officials are concerned would cause parking rates to skyrocket and ultimately not serve as a sustainable solution to the city's budget problems. Instead, Plan S would involve redirecting $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the city's $25 million deficit, $5 million in spending cuts based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and two charter amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Plan S is Seelbach's alternative to Dohoney's Plan B, which also does not privatize parking. Under Plan B, the city would be forced to lay off 344 public employees, including 80 firefighters and 189 police positions, and close three community centers and six pools.Instead, the $5 million in spending cuts would include reductions to city administrative services, council and the mayor’s office, some recreation and health programs and consolidation of some police and fire services. It would also freeze 20 vacant city positions and reduce car allowances for city employees. Seelbach says he determined who would suffer these cuts by exploring city services citizens valued least during last fall's Priority-Driven Budget Initiative. If council were to approve pursuing Seelbach's Plan S, there's a possibility it could send the city back to the drawing board, should voters choose not to approve the proposed charter amendments. "To me it seems like the public is overwhelmingly against parking, but we still have to balance our budget. ... I'm providing the public an alternative. If [the charter amendments are] something the voters would reject, I respect that and then we’d have to go back to the table and either do the leasing of parking or layoff 300 police and fire officers," Seelbach says. The parking plan is expected to be voted on during the Budget and Finance Committee's meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 4.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.27.2013
at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Morning News and Stuff

Findlay Market ideal for restroom, Kasich cuts local funding, The Banks exceeds goals

A report issued by Director of Public Services Michael Robinson found Findlay Market would be the best place for a freestanding public restroom, which could cost as little as $35,000. The idea has been heavily pushed by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who has argued that the restrooms are necessary to accommodate a growing population and wider activity in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took office, leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding. Most of the cuts came from the elimination of the estate tax, which would have provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget, but it was repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Kasich. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year. In 2012, the team behind The Banks’ public construction met or exceeded all four major project goals, according to the annual report from The Banks Public Partnership. Contractors installed public safety technologies throughout the intermodal transit center and parking facility, awarded a trade contract for a new Pete Rose Way pedestrian bridge and walkway and prepared design and funding documents for a river walk along the Ohio River. The project has also gone more than 400,000 hours without a lost-time accident. The Banks previously won what John Deatrick, project executive, called the “Oscar” of planning awards, which CityBeat covered here. City Council delayed a vote on opposing the sale of more than 700 Section 8 units in Avondale, Walnut Hills and Millvale because they want meet with the firm buying the units first. City officials have scheduled the meeting for next week. CityBeat previously covered Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ opposition to the deal here. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lifted a requirement that forced any new sewer development that added waste water to the county’s overall system to offset its gains with a fourfold reduction in storm water taken in. BuzzFeed, the popular viral video and pop culture website, listed the Cincinnati Public Library as No. 28 on the list “The 30 Best Places To Be If You Love Books.” Ohio’s imprisonment of fewer youth may be part of a nationwide trend. Three Cincinnati area businesses made Interactive Health’s “Healthiest Companies in America”: Standard Textile Inc., Totes-Isotoner and American Modern Insurance Group. Mercy Health’s Anderson and Fairfield branches made the Truven Health Analytics ranking released this week, putting the two hospitals among the nation’s best. Omya Inc. is receiving a five-year, 40-percent tax credit for completing a consolidation of its regional headquarters to Cincinnati, which should create 25 full-time jobs and generate $1.4 million in annual payroll. Breaking news: Teenagers are horny. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Hundreds of Madeira High students involved in sexting?” A Dayton donut shop is apparently one of the best in the nation, according to Saveur magazine. Do video games cause violence? Apparently, the debate is a lot more complicated than most people think. Mouse brain cells can live longer than the mice they came from.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.15.2013
 
 
kasich_2

Morning News and Stuff

GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency

State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion. Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that. Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate $1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal government. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through “intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems. With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards. State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups. Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2, according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge. State Democrats and Republicans have some questions about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for EZPass users. Others are worried about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program. The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act. Dayton wants to help illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio. A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars. The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps. In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.” Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement. A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people. Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.
 
 

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