WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 06.18.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Parking at 03:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

City Signs Parking Lease

Mayor, City Council could make changes

The city signed an agreement Monday to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, but the mayor and City Council may make changes to the plan before it’s implemented. The city tweeted the news of the signing to several reporters today with a caveat: “Changes to hours etc. can still be made.” The caveat comes after a majority of City Council asked City Manager Milton Dohoney to give council more time to make changes to the parking plan. Council approved the parking plan in March, but that was in the middle of a tenuous budget process that has since finished with the passing of a balanced budget. Now, a majority of City Council is pushing to rework the deal. Democrats Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Pam Thomas and Laure Quinlivan, Republican Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman support reworking or repealing the parking plan. In particular, Seelbach and Quinlivan have suggested reducing or eliminating the expansion of parking meter operation hours. The original plan expands hours to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. downtown and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in neighborhoods, but private operators wouldn’t have the ability to further expand hours. How much City Council will be able to do remains uncertain. City Solicitor John Curp previously told City Council that a supermajority is not enough for a repeal because Mayor Mark Mallory, who supports the parking plan, can hold any ordinances until Nov. 30, which marks the end of the current City Council session. Jason Barron, Mallory’s spokesperson, told CityBeat the mayor would reject a repeal, but he’s open to changes. “There will be financial repercussions to that,” he said, alluding to possibly smaller payments from the Port Authority. “But there’s a ton of flexibility in this plan.” Still, Barron says the city won’t spend any funds until there is legal certainty, meaning until potential appeals are exhausted. At the center of the legal battles: Whether an emergency clause allows the parking plan to avoid a referendum. Opponents gathered more than 12,000 signatures earlier in the year for a referendum effort, but the referendum may never come to pass in the aftermath of recent court rulings. The latest ruling from the Hamilton County Court of Appeals decided the city can use emergency clauses to avert referendum efforts on passed legislation, on top of bypassing a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws. In other words, since the parking plan had an emergency clause attached to it, the plan is not subject to referendum. The appeals court later refused to delay enforcement of its ruling, which allowed the city manager to sign the lease within days.Opponents are attempting to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. For Cincinnati, the parking plan will provide $92 million in an upfront payment, followed by at least $3 million in estimated annual payments that the city says will eventually grow to $7 million and beyond.The city plans to use the lump sum to rescind budget cuts, help balance future budgets and fund economic development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.Opponents of the plan argue it cedes too much control of the city’s parking assets to private operators and could hurt neighborhoods and downtown by expanding parking meter operation hours and increasing meter rates.Correction: The city signed the lease Monday, not Tuesday as originally reported in the story. The city made the announcement Tuesday, which caused confusion and miscommunication.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.17.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Development at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Court Refuses Stay on Parking Ruling

City now waits on lower court to sign lease

The Hamilton County Court of Appeals today refused to delay enforcement of its earlier ruling on the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, which will allow the city administration to sign the lease as soon as a lower court rescinds its original injunction on the plan. On June 12, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling and sided with the city over critics of the parking plan, deciding that the city can use emergency clauses to avert referendum efforts on passed legislation, including the parking plan. Emergency clauses also allow the city to avoid a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws. For Cincinnati, the plan will first produce a $92 million one-time payment. Following that, the city will get an estimated $3 million a year, which the city says will eventually increase to $7 million and continue climbing afterward. Still, the city says it won’t spend any funds until there is legal certainty, meaning until potential appeals are exhausted. “The City cannot commit the money in the parking plan until there is legal certainty around the funds,” City Manager Milton Dohoney said in a statement on June 12. “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.” Opponents are planning to appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court. Opponents gathered more than 12,000 signatures supporting a referendum on the parking plan. But with the appeals court ruling, that referendum may never come to pass. The city says the parking plan’s funds will be used to accelerate economic growth, but critics argue the parking plan will hurt downtown businesses by expanding parking meter hours and increasing meter rates. City Council began discussing potential changes to the parking plan in a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today. The meeting largely focused on whether City Council could repeal or rework the parking plan with a simple majority or supermajority.Following the June 12 ruling, five out of nine council members signed a motion to repeal the parking plan. But City Council would need to pass an ordinance for any changes to be legally binding. An ordinance would likely need six votes to overrule the mayor’s veto powers. City Solicitor John Curp told City Council the mayor also has the power through the City Charter to hold any proposed ordinances until the end of his term on Nov. 30, which means the mayor can effectively stop all repeal attempts.Mayor Mark Mallory supports the parking plan. Jason Barron, his spokesperson, previously told CityBeat Mallory would reject a repeal.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.12.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Budget, Courts at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Court Sides with City on Parking Plan

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 says. 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 parking plan. “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 ruling. “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 enforcement. 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 06.13.2013
Posted In: News, Food Deserts, Parking, Development at 09:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news_gardentour_kailabusken3

Morning News and Stuff

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 capital projects. 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.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.12.2013
Posted In: Budget, Abortion, News, Privatization at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Court OKs parking plan, council to vote on grocery, Kasich unclear on abortion restrictions

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.In a 2-1 ruling announced today, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals reversed an injunction holding up the city’s plan to semi-privatize its parking assets, allowing the city to move on with the plan and continue the use of emergency clauses. The plan, which CityBeat covered in further detail here, will raise $92 million in upfront money and at least $3 million in annual increments for the city, which the city planned to use to help balance the city budget and pursue a slate of development projects, including a downtown grocery store. But critics argue the plan will lead to a spike in parking rates and goes too far in expanding operating hours for parking meters, which they say could hurt downtown business. CityBeat will have more on this story later today. City Council will vote today on whether it will move on with using $12 million in urban renewal funds to build a downtown grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace Pogue’s Garage. The Budget and Finance Committee already approved the project in a 7-0 vote Monday. If the full session of City Council approves the project, construction could begin late this year or early 2014, which means likely completion in 2015 or 2016. Gov. John Kasich was unclear on whether he’ll support anti-abortion measures passed by the Ohio House and Senate in their budget bills. The governor reiterated that he’s “pro-life,” but he said he’s not sure if the measures go too far. The budget bills would effectively defund Planned Parenthood, use federal funds for pro-abstinence, anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and allow the state health director to shut down abortion clinics by making it more difficult for them to get required transfer agreements with hospitals. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital ranked No. 3 in a new U.S. News and World Report for pediatric hospitals. The hospital also ranked No. 1 for pediatric cancer care. The Catholic Archdiocese of Columbus won’t reinstate a fired gay teacher. But while Catholic institutions continue pursuing conservative social policies, some groups are pushing for the Church to reform. New research found hands-free technology doesn’t make driving safer. A study from Duke University found video gamers really do see more and better.
 
 
by German Lopez 06.10.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Budget, Development at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City advances without parking plan, Kasich on budget defense, Seelbach questions Cranley

Got questions for CityBeat about, well, anything? Submit them here, and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.Even without the parking plan, the city passed a budget with no public safety layoffs and is moving forward with plans for the Uptown interchange project, a downtown grocery store, a new garage to replace Pogue’s Garage, Wasson Way and the Smale Riverfront Park. The turnaround has prompted some critics to question whether city officials were being honest when they cited a list of potential problems if the city failed to semi-privatize its parking assets to raise funds, but Mayor Mark Mallory and supporters say a lot changed between the time the threats were made and now, including tax revenues coming in at $4.5 million better than projected. The Columbus Dispatch says Gov. John Kasich has found himself “playing defense” in the current budget cycle — a sharp contrast to the budget cycle in 2011. Both the Ohio House and Senate have greatly changed Kasich’s original budget plan. Instead of taking up Kasich on his plan to expand the sales tax while lowering the rate, cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board and cut small business taxes, the House approved a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut and the Senate replaced the House plan with a tax cut aimed at small businesses. Both chambers also rejected the Kasich-backed, federally funded Medicaid expansion and the governor’s education funding plan. Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach says he was yelled and sworn at for several minutes by Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s campaign manager following open questions about whether Cranley is still a Democrat. Cranley has long opposed the city’s streetcar project and parking plan, which have both received support from a majority of Democrats in City Council, and tacitly supports Amy Murray, a Republican City Council candidate. Estimates for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino improved last month, coming in at $2 million more than April’s estimates. The $20 million estimate is still nearly $2 million less than the casino received on opening month. Former mayor Eugene Ruehlman died Saturday night at the age of 88. Ohio gas prices remain at nearly $4 this week, above the national average. The self-proclaimed “whistleblower” who leaked details about two NSA surveillance programs has revealed himself in Hong Kong. Apparently Kings Island is open, and Adventure Express was evacuated due to a “mechanical problem.” The latest design for skateboard wheels is a square. Cold War-era radiation apparently has the answer for whether adults keep making new brain cells.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.30.2013
Posted In: News, Prisons, Budget, Tea Party at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
from the inside

Morning News and Stuff

Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget

Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA accountable. To read the full story, click here. A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state. The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code, potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes. If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to considerably less funding for the public institutions. City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters, but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs, increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway. Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.” A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion, while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans. The Ohio legislature is moving to take away the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development. A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital sex rules against women than men. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here. Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain. CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here. To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.29.2013
Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Budget, City Council at 07:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council to vote on budget, Senate reveals budget plan, FitzGerald supports LGBT rights

City Council will vote on a budget plan today that will include no public safety layoffs, but about 60 other public employees will likely be jobless as a result of the plan in a couple weeks. The budget proposal comes after months of city officials claiming public safety layoffs were unavoidable without the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority. But the parking plan is now being held up in court, and the layoffs were avoided anyway.CityBeat commentary: "Good News Reveals Budget Deception."The Ohio Senate revealed a budget plan yesterday that made some major tax changes to the Ohio House proposal, but the budget will still effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion. The Ohio Senate plan passes on the Ohio House's 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut for all Ohioans and instead focuses on a 50-percent tax cut for small businesses. The bill also undid controversial language that forced public universities and colleges to decide between out-of-state tuition rates and providing out-of-state students with documents required for voting. CityBeat covered the conservative social policies in the Ohio House budget plan, which remain in the Ohio Senate bill, here.Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald came out in support of same-sex marriage in a May 17 interview with Outlook Columbus, putting him at odds with Republican opponent and incumbent Gov. John Kasich, who is running for re-election in 2014. Kasich previously implied support for same-sex civil unions in an interview with a local TV news station, but his spokesperson later walked back that support and reiterated the governor's opposition to same-sex civil unions and marriage. Same-sex marriage could be on the ballot in 2013 through FreedomOhio's efforts, which CityBeat covered in greater detail here.Twenty were arrested yesterday during the Hamilton County Sheriff Department's sex offender compliance sweep.A University of Cincinnati study found CPR training does little good, and most people do a lousy job at the life-saving technique. Some Cincinnati businesses are taking more steps to protect their intellectual property rights in light of high rates of intellectual property theft in Asia.The leader of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce is set to leave.A new study suggests humans began walking upright because of rock climbing.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.22.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Development, Budget at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_banks_condos_ck

Morning News and Stuff

Local job numbers improve, housing supply lags behind demand, The Banks gets price tag

Local job numbers continued their positive trend in April, with Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dropping to 6.9 percent and the rest of the region following suit. Michael Jones, research director at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center, attributed the job gains to improvements in manufacturing and continued growth in health care jobs. Still, the public sector continued to lag behind the private sector — a trend Jones says could change in the coming months as government budgets are adjusted to match higher tax revenues resulting from the recovering economy. Downtown’s population growth slowed last year as available housing failed to match demand, according to Downtown Cincinnati Inc.’s annual report. In the past few years, the city has pursued multiple actions to meet demand, particularly through public-private partnerships. Most recently, City Council approved leasing the city’s parking assets to raise funds that would help build 300 luxury apartments, but that plan is currently being held up in court. The second phase of The Banks riverfront project will cost $62 million, according to the report from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. That’s smaller than the first phase, which cost $90 million. The second phase of the project is expected to begin this fall, and it should bring 300 apartments and 60,000 square feet of street-level retail space to the area by the end of 2015. The Banks also plans to build a $45 million hotel, which is also expected to be complete in 2015. The funding for the projects is coming through multiple public-private partnerships. After the final public hearing on the city budget Wednesday, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan plans to introduce her own budget plan that would avoid all city employee layoffs. A statement from Quinlivan did not give much in the way of details: “My plan saves all city jobs and restores all neighborhood programs. It requires common sense and shared sacrifice of all city employees.” Most recently, council members Chris Seelbach and Roxanne Qualls co-sponsored a motion that would eliminate fire layoffs and reduce police layoffs to 25 by making cuts elsewhere. The Ohio Senate plans to vote today on a measure that would effectively close down hundreds of Internet “sweepstakes” cafes around the state in an effort to eliminate illegal gambling activities. The cafes’ operators insist their activities are not gambling but rather a promotional tool that helps sell Internet time and long-distance phone cards. Cincinnati’s zoning hearing examiner says he’s trying to reduce the time it takes to go through the zoning hearing process to less than 60 days. Three major Ohio universities, including the University of Cincinnati, and four hospitals, including Cincinnati Children's Hospital, are teaming up to find out what causes premature birth. Beginning July 1, some Ohio interstates will allow drivers to go 70 miles per hour. Find out which ones here. At congressional hearings yesterday, U.S. senators criticized Apple for legally taking advantage of the complex American corporate tax system, but Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put the blame on Congress: Russia is building robots to “neutralize” terrorists, and other researchers are working on robots that will attempt to rescue people after disasters. The creator of the GIF says it’s pronounced “jif.”
 
 
by German Lopez 05.09.2013
Posted In: Budget, News at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

City Manager Unveils Budget Plan

Plan includes property tax hike, police and fire layoffs

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes. The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s bill each quarter. The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other departments, 64 would be laid off. The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with changes in revenue. The budget release says the cuts are a result of the city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the majority of City Council but held up in litigation.” With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance. Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10 million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to $3.5 million in the revised budget plan. The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would further challenge departments that have already experienced significant funding and position reductions in prior budget years.” The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and senior level management positions, including the city manager. The changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the budget release. Other cuts in the budget were selected through the Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation. Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce. Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be eliminated, along with all arts funding. The budget plan would also eliminate various other services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit. The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a 50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special events. The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015. The city was originally planning to lease its parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful. But if the city is successful in court, the budget release claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the parking plan. The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within 30 days. The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall. The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established in state law.
 
 

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