City appears ready to pause streetcar project
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Mayor John Cranley and a majority of City
Council appear ready to halt Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar
project on Dec. 4.
by German Lopez
New assistant city manager could "double dip" into pension and salary
Cincinnati’s city manager, law and budget offices will see
major shakeups in the coming months, the city administration announced
Tuesday, and one of the new hires is a
former city retiree who might tap into his pension while
receiving a salary from the city.Bill Moller is a city retiree who will be eligible to
“double dip” into his pension and a city salary ($147,000 a year) when the city rehires him in February
to fill an opening for assistant city manager, city spokesperson Meg
Olberding confirmed in an email to CityBeat. Whether he does is entirely up to the interim city manager, Olberding wrote.The possibility could draw criticism from city officials looking to balance Cincinnati’s structurally imbalanced operating budget. Last year, City Council drew opposition for its decision to hire Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick and allow him to double dip on his pension and a city salary.Update: Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at Wednesday’s full council meeting, instead of a special session on Thursday as originally planned.Moller will eventually replace Assistant City Manager
David Holmes, who helped oversee efforts for The Banks and 2012 World
Choir Games and filed to retire on April 1, Interim City Manager Scott
Stiles wrote in a memo to City Council and the mayor.“At this point in time, Cincinnati needs not only someone
who is proficient in all aspects of municipal finance, but in the
aspects of the city of Cincinnati’s finances in particular. Mr. Moller
has that experience,” Stiles wrote, noting Moller’s budget and finance
experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington.City Solicitor John Curp will also leave his current position to instead act as chief
counsel for the city’s two utilities, the Metropolitan Sewer District
and Water Works.“The utility has been undergoing a merger of back office
functions to save ratepayers money, and also has been expanding services
and service areas to decrease costs,” Stiles wrote. “John (Curp) has the private sector experience to assist the utilities with a market-oriented approach, and is uniquely positioned to understand both the particulars of MSD and GCWW as well as the areas in which they can expand.”The move should save ratepayers money by allowing both
utilities to rely on Curp instead of outside legal counsel when legal
issues arise, according to Stiles.Although widely praised by city officials, Curp’s move is
unsurprising given the politics surrounding Mayor John Cranley’s
election. Curp offered legal guidance for the parking privatization plan
and streetcar project, both of which Cranley opposes.Terrence Nestor, currently the city’s chief litigator, will replace Curp as city solicitor until a permanent appointment is made.Stiles announced other changes as well:• Markiea Carter, currently a development officer, will
move to the city manager’s office to act as assistant to the city
manager.• Karen Alder, currently risk manager for the city, will begin
assisting Finance Director Reginald Zeno as the city’s deputy finance
director.Stiles is currently filling as interim city
manager while the city conducts a nationwide search for a permanent
replacement to former City Manager Milton Dohoney. Stiles could apply
for the permanent role, but his application would need City Council
support to win out over other potential candidates.The city expects the city manager search to last through
June, at which point further administrative changes could be expected if
the city hires a new permanent city manager.
by German Lopez
Gay marriage case becomes election issue, local jobs report mixed, mayoral primary nears
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper is
criticizing Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine for contesting the case that’s forcing the state to recognize the same-sex
marriage of two Cincinnatians, one of who is currently sick with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deadly neurodegenerative disease with
no known cure, and expected to die soon. “Above all, an Attorney General
takes an oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. This case is
a truly sad example of constitutional rights being violated, and the
deep and personal harms that result from constitutionally unequal
treatment,” Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati Council member, said in a statement. “I respectfully call upon
Attorney General DeWine to recognize the clear constitutional wrongs
taking place here. Allow this couple to spend their final weeks together
The Cincinnati metropolitan area received a mixed jobs report in June,
gaining some jobs over the year but not enough to match population
trends. Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate hit 7.4
percent in June, up from 6.8 percent in May and the same as the year
before. Although the jobs report was fairly negative, the area has
received some good news as of late: Housing sales were up in June despite higher interest rates, and CNBC host Joe Kernen, a Western Hills native, in July 22 segment declared, “Cincinnati has successfully reinvented itself as a hub for innovation” and technology.
Early voting for Cincinnati’s Sept. 10 mayoral primary begins Aug. 6. The candidates are Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley,
Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Queen Noble. The top two
finishers will face each other again in the Nov. 5 election. Qualls and Cranley are
perceived as the leading contenders in the race.
University of Cincinnati’s police chief is stepping down.
Angela Thi Bennett, one of Gov. John Kasich’s appointees to the Ohio Board of Education, is leaving the board to take a job at a charter school. The board is dominated by Kasich and Republican appointees.
BRIDGES for a Just Community will shut down
by early September. The nonprofit, which was founded as the Cincinnati
chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, has promoted
religious inclusion in the workplace, schools and broader communities
since 1944. “Improving community attitudes toward diversity and
inclusion, which are a direct result of BRIDGES’ work, coupled with
increasing competition in providing services caused the organization to
experience persistent financial challenges in recent years,” the
organization said in a statement.
Butler County Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged
two men for possessing 155 pounds of marijuana, valued at more than
$155,000, in their vehicle at a traffic stop Sunday. Butler County
Richard Jones is calling the case evidence that the Mexico-U.S. border
Talking Points Memo obtained the U.S. House Republicans’ political playbook for the congressional recess.
One highlight: “Remarkably, the packet includes virtually no discussion
of immigration reform — a major issue pending before the House after
comprehensive legislation passed the Senate.”
Here are 36 photos showing anti-gay Russians attacking LGBT activists.
Researchers from Heptares Therapeutics, a drug company, have found the molecule responsible for stress, hopefully giving them the ability to create drugs that precisely fit into its structure.
by German Lopez
Turnout much higher than mayoral primary
Early reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections indicate Election Day is proceeding with
minimal problems and voter turnout is considerably better than it was for the Sept.
10 mayoral primary.
“There’s always bumps in every election … but nothing
highly unusual,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of the board of
Countywide voter turnout was estimated at 20 percent
around noon, with turnout in Cincinnati stronger than the rest of the
county, according to Krisel. But she cautions that the numbers are still
unclear and could completely change, particularly after work hours.
Turnout is particularly strong in wards one, four and five,
according to Krisel. That could be good news for mayoral candidate John
Cranley, who handily won all three wards in the primary against opponents Roxanne Qualls, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble.
But since citywide voter turnout was an abysmal 5.74 percent in the
primary election, it remains uncertain how much primary results will
ultimately reflect on Tuesday’s election. Historically, Cincinnati’s mayoral primaries failed to predict the winner of the general election.
Cranley obtained nearly 56 percent of the vote on Sept.
10, while Qualls got slightly more than 37 percent. Both candidates received enough support to advance to Tuesday’s ballot, but the
Qualls campaign acknowledged the lopsided results were disappointing.
To obtain the Election Day numbers, the county is for the
first time tracking ballot usage. Krisel says the measure allows the
county to gauge countywide voter turnout and whether more
ballots are needed in different voting locations.
Tuesday’s votes come in addition to 20,500 absentee and early voters
across the county, about 90 percent of who already submitted ballots to the board of elections. Krisel claims that’s about half the amount of early
voters from two years ago, but she says she doesn’t know whether that
will reflect on the final turnout numbers.
The election is the first time Cincinnati voters will
elect City Council members for four-year terms, which means Tuesday’s
results will effectively set the city’s agenda for the next four years.
Voters are also deciding on a new mayor, the Cincinnati Public Schools board, two property tax levies for the local library and zoo, and a proposal that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees.
Polls will remain open until 7:30 p.m. To find out where to vote, visit the board of elections website.
For more election coverage and CityBeat’s endorsements, go to the official election page here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities
Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on
Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as
mayor of Cincinnati.
Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the
kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins
his term on Dec. 1.
Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he
already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build
more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix
of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent
starting in December.
One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133
million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members
oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing
construction for the project.
“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some
point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,”
Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the
clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going
in a different direction.”
But in response to recent reports
that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown
costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a
final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley
acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.
Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.
Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter
that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by
placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.
On the current city administration’s plan to lease the
city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and
Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a
way to cancel the deal.
But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement
already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port
works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance
the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.
Cranley also promises to make various development projects
his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to
re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to
the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of
Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back
nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were
Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to
leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s
neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and
downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We
want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see
significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square
He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can
policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several
stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”
Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus
unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley
says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in
line, but no specifics on a plan were given.
by German Lopez
Economy could hurt Kasich, Cranley sustains attacks on streetcar, busy intersection to close
Ohio's weakening economy could hurt Gov. John Kasich and other Republican incumbents' chances of re-election in 2014, even if they don't deserve the blame for the state of the economy, as some economists claim. For Republican incumbents, the threat is all too real as groups from all sides — left, right and nonpartisan — find the state's economy is failing to live up to the "Ohio miracle" Kasich previously promised. Economists agree state officials often take too much credit for the state of the economy, but political scientists point out that, regardless of who is to blame, the economy is one of the top deciding factors in state elections. For Kasich and other incumbents, it creates a difficult situation: Their influence on the economy might be marginal, but it's all they have to secure re-election.Despite promising to move on after he failed to permanently halt the $132.8 million streetcar project, Mayor John Cranley continues criticizing the streetcar in interviews and social media. In a Sunday appearance on Local 12, Cranley threatened to replace the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) board, which manages local Metro bus services, in response to its offer to take up streetcar operating costs. (City Council sets SORTA appointments, not the mayor.) The interview, held within weeks of Cranley mocking and arguing with pro-streetcar critics on social media, comes despite Cranley's promises to move on after City Council agreed to continue the project. "As I tell my son when he doesn't get his way, it's time to move on," Cranley
said on Dec. 19. Streetcar track installation will force the busy intersection at Elm and Liberty streets to close between Jan. 16 at 9 a.m. to Jan. 21 at 7 p.m., city officials announced yesterday. One northbound lane will remain open on Elm Street, but traffic heading east and west on Liberty Street will be redirected.Commentary: "Bengals Loss Reminds of Terrible Stadium Deal."Police are investigating three homicides in Avondale and Over-the-Rhine this morning.Construction crews plan to turn the defunct Tower Place mall into Mabley Place, a new parking garage with several retail spaces on the exterior of the first floor. Across Race Street, other developers will turn Pogue's Garage into a 30-story tower with a downtown grocery store, luxury apartments and another garage.Hamilton County is dedicating a full-time deputy to crack down on semis and other vehicles breaking commercial laws.Ohio House Republicans' proposal to revamp the state's tax on the oil and gas industry would not produce enough revenue to cut income taxes for most Ohioans, despite previous promises. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the proposal would only allow for a very small 1-percent across-the-board income tax cut.Ohio's education system received five C's and an A on a private national report card. The state's middle-of-the-pack performance is largely unchanged from last year's score.The number of underwater residential properties is declining around the nation, but Ohio remains among the top six states worst affected by the housing crisis, according to real estate analysts at RealtyTrac.The state auditor's new app allows anyone to easily report suspected fraud.Macy's plans to lay off 2,500 employees and close five stores to cut costs.Cincinnati Children's is reaching out to to 10,000 children left without a health care provider after several clinics closed.Ohio drivers can expect lower gas prices in 2014, according to AAA and GasBuddy.com.A new glue that seals heart defects could provide an alternative to stitches.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Mayor threatens to replace SORTA board over streetcar debate
Despite promising to
move on after he failed to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar
project, Mayor John Cranley continues criticizing the
project in interviews and social media. Most recently, Cranley appeared on Local 12’s Newsmakers program and threatened
to eventually replace the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA)
board, which manages local Metro bus services, in response to board members’
defunct offer to take up streetcar operating costs. (City Council sets SORTA
appointments, not the mayor.) “The fact is they were
willing to cannibalize bus service,” Cranley said,
contrary to SORTA’s insistence that their offer would not have affected bus
services. “I just felt that was a huge violation of what SORTA is supposed to
be about and what Metro is supposed to be about and what public transportation
is supposed to be about.”
Throughout the 24-minute
interview, Cranley referenced the
streetcar project when discussing the city’s parking meters and other subjects
— a continuation of repetitive anti-streetcar tactics Cranley
deployed on the campaign trail and in mayoral debates against former Vice Mayor
“I think the project is
wasteful and not worth the investment,” Cranley said
when asked about the project. “I think we would have been better off making the
hard decision to cut bait.” Still, Cranley later added, “Obviously, since the supermajority of
council went against my wishes, I have to respect the process. So I’m not going
to try to sabotage the streetcar.”
The interview also
follows comments on social media. After the former head of the Cincinnati Art
Museum criticized the streetcar, Cranley tweeted on Dec. 27, “(N)ow some Orwellian commentators
will say art director not ‘progressive.’” The continued anti-streetcar rhetoric comes despite
promises to move on that Cranley made after Councilman Kevin Flynn announced he would provide the
final vote needed to veto-proof City Council’s decision to continue the
“As I tell my son when he doesn’t get his way, it’s time to move on,” Cranley
said on Dec. 19. But Cranley’s
heated rhetoric is nothing new in his campaign against the streetcar project. After the Nov. 5
election, Cranley told The Cincinnati Enquirer
the streetcar debate “is over.” Cranley’s comments
marked a high level of confidence after voters elected a mayor and council
supermajority that seemingly opposed the streetcar project, but his statement
to The Enquirer proved to be wrong after Council Members Flynn, David
Mann and P.G. Sittenfeld decided to continue the
project. Cranley also called city officials “incompetent” after
they projected that canceling the streetcar project would cost nearly as much as
completing it. Once again, Cranley’s comments proved
to be wrong — an independent audit found city officials were largely correct in
their assessment — but still showed the level of confident, heated rhetoric
that follows the mayor’s campaign against the streetcar project. At the very least, Cranley’s rhetoric proves
that while the policy debate over the streetcar is over for now, the public discussion is not. The
question is whether the messaging will work as the project moves forward and the streetcar becomes a reality of
by German Lopez
Tea party drops challenge to Kasich, gay marriage in 2014 election, city faces parking issues
Tea party leader Ted Stevenot won’t run against Gov. John
Kasich in a Republican primary after all. The development came just four
days after Stevenot announced his candidacy. Stevenot said his decision
to pull out had nothing to do with his running mate’s tax problems,
which The Columbus Dispatch uncovered shortly after Stevenot
announced his intention to run. Stevenot’s withdrawal comes despite
building tea party opposition against Kasich over his support for the
Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion and his unwillingness to support
anti-union “right-to-work” legislation.
The debate over same-sex marriage reached the state
attorney general’s race Friday when Democratic candidate David Pepper
published an online petition calling on Republican Attorney General Mike
DeWine to stop the state-sanctioned legal battle against a local gay
couple. On Dec. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled that
state officials must recognize same-sex marriages on death certificates,
including the union of Cincinnatians Jim Obergefell and John Arthur.
But the state is appealing the ruling. DeWine’s office said it’s up to
the Ohio Department of Health, the plaintiff in the case, to appeal
Black’s decision. Citing attorney-client privilege, DeWine’s office
declined to comment whether he advised for or against appeal.When Pepper and DeWine face off in the November election, same-sex marriage legalization could appear on the ballot as
well — despite LGBT groups’ disagreement over the ballot initiative’s
With the parking privatization plan presumably dead, Mayor
John Cranley and City Council plan to address what to do with
Cincinnati’s lackluster parking system in the next couple months. By all
accounts, the system is broken and in need of upgrades. The question is
how to fund the upgrades and leverage parking revenue so it can better
finance basic services and development projects. When asked whether
privatization is still on the table, Cranley says he’s only open to
leasing parking garages, not parking meters, to the Greater Cincinnati
Port Authority.Another issue looming for city officials: Their desire to
structurally balance the budget without raising taxes or draconian
spending cuts. CityBeat covered the issue in greater detail here.Frigid weather led area schools to close today,
including the region’s public universities. For developing weather
information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.Dayton gets a new mayor today.
Ohio was snubbed for a coveted drone testing program, much
to the chagrin of state officials who are now touting partisan claims
as reasons why.Ohio gas prices dropped in time for the first full work week of 2014.A study found no evidence of time travelers on the Internet.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
Balanced budget, pension reform among tough tasks facing incoming council members hoping not to raise taxes
1 Comment · Tuesday, November 26, 2013
of newly elected council members say they’re committed to structurally
balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget — a promise repeated by
Mayor-elect John Cranley on the campaign trail and following the Nov. 5
Two of nine council members could decide the streetcar project’s fate on Dec. 19
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Two council members could decide the $132.8 million streetcar project's fate on Dec. 18, just two weeks after they voted to pause.