by German Lopez
Officials push to keep early voting downtown, Portune flounders, Ohio joblessness rate falls
Mayor John Cranley yesterday offered free space to the
Hamilton County Board of Elections at the city-owned Shillito’s building
to keep the board’s offices and early voting downtown. The idea comes
in the middle of a debate between Democrats and Republicans on the
Board of Elections over whether they should move their offices — and early
voting — to a Mount Airy facility, where only one bus line runs, to
consolidate county services and avoid the cost
of rent. Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann said there
won’t be enough occupancy at the Mount Airy location if the Board of
Elections decides not to move there. For the county, a certain amount of
occupancy must be filled at Mount Airy to financially justify the move
and the renovations it would require. Without the move, the county will
need to find another location or means to build a new county crime lab.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune yesterday
refused to announce whether he will actually run against gubernatorial
candidate Ed FitzGerald in a Democratic primary, even though he told The Cincinnati Enquirer
the day before that he already made a decision. At this point,
Portune’s lack of organization and name recognition means his chances of beating FitzGerald are slim to none.Ohio’s December unemployment rate dropped to 7.2
percent from 7.4 percent the month before. The amount of employed
and unemployed both increased compared to the previous year. The
state of the economy could decide this year’s statewide elections, even if state
officials aren’t to credit or blame for economic conditions, as CityBeat covered here.It is perfectly legal to forgive back taxes in Hamilton
County. Supporters argue the practice removes a tax burden that likely
wasn’t going to get paid anyway, but opponents worry it could be misused and take away
revenue from schools and other public services that rely on property
taxes.A Hamilton County court ruled against the legality of automated traffic cameras in Elmwood Place. Officials plan to appeal the ruling.More than 10,000 Ohioans lost food stamps this month after
Gov. John Kasich declined to request a federal waiver for work requirements.
Hamilton County officials estimate Kasich’s decision could affect 18,000
food stamp recipients across the county.A new Ohio House bill delays the transition from the Ohio
Graduation Test to new end-of-course exams. The delay aims to provide
more time to vet the tests and allow schools to better prepare for the
changes.Local home sales improved by nearly 21 percent during 2013, according to the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
reported 3 percent more passengers and 9 percent more cargo traffic in
2013.Ohioans spent 5.8 percent more on liquor in 2013 compared
to the year before, reaching a new record in yearly purchases of liquor
across the state.The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards return this Sunday.Telling people they slept better than they did improves their performance on math and word association tests.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Board of Elections considering move to Mount Airy facility
Mayor John Cranley on Thursday offered the Hamilton County Board of Elections free space at the city-owned Shillito’s building to keep their offices and early voting
The offer comes in the middle of a contentious debate
between Democrats and Republicans on the Board of Elections over whether
the county should move the board to a former hospital at Mount Airy,
where only one bus line runs.The Board of Elections currently rents its offices from a private landlord. Moving to the Mount Airy facility would place the board on county-owned property and allow the county to avoid paying rent.
Along with the Board of Elections move, the county wants
to establish a new crime lab at the Mount Airy location. Consolidating
the crime lab and Board of Elections at the Mount Airy facility would
provide the critical mass necessary to financially justify the move and
the renovations it would require, according to county officials.
To solve the critical mass issue if the board moves to the
former Shillito’s building instead, Cranley, a Democrat, said he’s willing to look into
moving some city police services, including SWAT operations, to the
Mount Airy facility.But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, told CityBeat the offer probably won’t satisfy the county’s needs.
“Without the Board of Elections coming with the crime lab, that’s not enough occupancy,” he said. “There would be some good potential co-location opportunities with the city (at the Mount Airy facility), but not enough to take up 400,000 square feet.”Hartmann said it’s now up to the Board of Elections to accept or reject the Mount Airy facility. If the board declines to move to Mount Airy, Hartmann explained the county would likely drop the Mount Airy plan and the county coroner would go without a new crime lab.
For the city, Cranley’s offer raises questions about what other potential uses exist for the Shillito’s building, given the high property demand downtown. But Cranley said there’s
currently no credible attempt at marketing the facility for other uses.
“The building is vacant, and we spend over $100,000 a year
just to maintain a vacant building,” Cranley said. “I believe that
getting someone in there that takes a significant amount of space is
going to open up the rest of the building, which would be over 200,000
square feet, to make it more marketable. I think long-term it would be
better for the city financially.”
He added, “In the short-term I think there are some things
more important than money. And I think the symbolism of keeping the
Board of Elections and voting downtown is just worth it.”City Council appears to agree with the mayor. Shortly after Cranley announced his offer, council passed a symbolic resolution opposing the Mount Airy move.
From an electoral perspective, part of the issue is which
voting location would favor Democrats or Republicans. Democrats tend to
dominate in urban areas like downtown, while Republicans could benefit
from a facility in Mount Airy that’s closer to suburban voters.
State Rep. Alicia Reece, who joined Cranley for the
announcement, tried to defuse concerns that she, Cranley and other Democrats are
trying to keep voting downtown for electoral gains.
“The reality is the Board of Elections at its current
location has declared both Democrat and Republican winners of
elections,” Reece said. “I think the focus is to just make sure that we
have a facility that everyone can have access to, whether you’re driving
or whether you’re on the bus.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Mayor says incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to
receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City
by German Lopez
FitzGerald picks running mate, Cranley opposes double dipping, Hunter pleads not guilty
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Friday announced his new running mate: Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area business
attorney and twice-failed candidate for Congress. The choice boosts the
ticket’s credentials with women and abortion-rights advocates, but it
also reinforces support for pro-choice policies that upset many Republicans and
conservatives. FitzGerald originally picked State Sen. Eric Kearney as
his running mate, but Kearney dropped out of the race after multiple
media reports uncovered he owed more than $800,000 in tax debt. CityBeat covered the gubernatorial race and how the economy could play into it in further detail here.Mayor John Cranley on Friday reiterated his opposition to double dipping, even though he supports hiring an assistant city
manager who will take advantage of the practice. Because Bill Moller is a
city retiree, he will be eligible to double dip — simultaneously take a
salary ($147,000 a year) and pension — when the city hires him in
February. Cranley called the practice “abusive” on the campaign trail,
but he says it’s up to City Council to pass legislation that prevents it.Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on
Friday pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including accusations
of backdating court documents, theft in office and misusing her county
credit card. The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 10 replaced Hunter until her case is decided. The felony charges are just the latest for the judge, who has been mired in controversy
after controversy since before she won her election.State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing an initiative for the November ballot that would embed “voter rights”
into the Ohio Constitution. The Democrat-backed constitutional amendment is in direct
response to Republican-led attempts to shrink early voting periods and
restrict access to the ballot.A propane gas shortage in some parts of the state led Gov.
John Kasich to suspend state and federal laws that keep propane
suppliers off the roads on weekends.State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s failed Senate campaign sold
an SUV totaled in March — effectively averting an insurance review that
might have clarified the vehicle’s use and insurance status — shortly after
questions arose over the continued use of the vehicle months after
Mandel’s Senate campaign ended.Secondhand smoke increases the odds of hospital
readmission for children with asthma, according to a study from
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S.
Hershey Children’s Hospital.Google’s smart contact lens could help diabetics.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Incoming assistant city manager eligible to receive pay and pension benefits
Mayor John Cranley told CityBeat Friday that he's still troubled by the practice of "double dipping," but he said the incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City Council.Bill Moller will be rehired by the city in February to fill in as assistant city manager. Because Moller is a city retiree, he'll be eligible to draw a city salary ($147,000 a year) and pension benefits.The concern: Allowing city workers to double dip, or tap into both a
salary and pension benefits, could encourage the kinds of abuse
already seen in other municipalities, where public workers can reach eligibility for
maximum pension benefits, retire one day and get rehired the next day to effectively receive both a salary and pension. The extra cost — effectively a double payout for city retirees who are rehired — could further strain Cincinnati's structurally imbalanced operating budget.On the campaign trail, Cranley called double dipping "abusive" after City Council repealed a ban on the practice so the administration could hire John Deatrick, a city retiree, to lead the $132.8 million streetcar project.Cranley said he will sign any legislation reinstating the ban on double dipping. As a council member, Cranley
supported the ban when it was originally instated in 2008.Under the previous ban, city retirees rejoining the administration would need to temporarily forfeit pension benefits or face substantial limits on salaries and health benefits.Despite his opposition to double dipping, Cranley cautioned that he still supports Moller's hire."Obviously I like Bill Moller," he said. "But the city manager is working within current policy."The city administration on Tuesday justified Moller's hire by pointing to his previous budget and finance experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington."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," wrote Interim City Manager Scott Stiles in a memo.It remains unclear whether a ban on double dipping would influence Moller's decision to return to the city administration.
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.