by German Lopez
Award acknowledges 10 leaders committed to equality, public service
The White House announced today that Councilman Chris Seelbach has won the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award, which recognizes 10 community leaders around the nation each year for a commitment to equality and public service.Seelbach, Cincinnati's first openly gay council member, won the award after he was nominated by the the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). He will officially receive the award at a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday."I am humbled and proud to be recognized by the White House for my
efforts on City Council and extremely grateful to the people of
Cincinnati for giving me the opportunity to effect positive change in
our community. In order to create a city where more people want to live, work and
raise a family, we must continue fighting to make sure all people feel
welcomed, valued and respected," Seelbach said in a statement.The award recognizes Seelbach's accomplishments, but it also shows Cincinnati's progress in the past few years.Seelbach led efforts to extend health benefits to all city employees, including gay couples, and require anyone accepting city funds or subsidies to agree to Cincinnati's non-discrimination policies. During Seelbach's time in office, the city's police and fire departments created a LGBT liaison.Most recently, Seelbach co-sponsored a motion that will help avert police and fire layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget plan. He also spearheaded "responsible bidder" changes that require bidders on most Metropolitan Sewer District projects to offer apprenticeship programs.The Harvey Milk Champion of Change award is named after Harvey Milk, who became California's first openly gay elected official when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was assassinated on Nov. 10, 1978 — only 10 months after he was sworn into office.
by German Lopez
Public safety layoffs reduced, state unemployment drops, county agency wins award
Council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach proposed a motion
yesterday that would reduce the amount of police layoffs to 25 and
eliminate all firefighter layoffs previously proposed in budget plans
for fiscal year 2014. The huge layoff reduction comes despite months of
warning from the city administration that the city would have to carry
out big public safety layoffs without the parking plan, which is currently stalled in court.
But it’s come with large cuts and shifted priorities in other areas of
the budget, such as reduced funding to parks, health, human services, parades
and outside agencies. (For example, the Health Department warned that cuts to its
services could lead to more rats and bedbugs.) The motion from Qualls and Seelbach came just in time for last night’s public hearing, which mostly focused on the cuts to parks and public safety.
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.0 percent
in April, down from 7.1 percent the month before, thanks to increases
in the amount of people employed and decreases in the amount of people
unemployed. The gains coincided with decent job growth throughout the rest of
the nation in April, which dropped nationwide unemployment from 7.6 percent
to 7.5 percent. But the state gains were fairly
mixed, and the amount of construction, professional and business services and federal
and local government jobs actually dropped. The mixed, slow growth helps
explain why conservative and liberal think tanks seemingly disagree with Gov. John Kasich that Ohio is undergoing an “economic miracle.”
The Hamilton County Public Health’s (HCPH) food protection program is apparently the best in the United States and Canada.
The Conference for Food Protection awarded the program the 2013 Samuel
J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award, which “recognizes unsurpassed
achievement in providing outstanding food protection services to
communities,” according to a statement from HCPH.
Homophobic Boy Scouts supporters are rallying nationwide today to support the continuation of the Boy Scouts’ homophobic rules.The Taste of Cincinnati and the the Cubs-Reds series may have helped downtown Cincinnati earn the No. 42 spot in Priceline.com’s top 50 Memorial Day destinations.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirmed
Ohio has been undergoing a boom in oil and gas production in the past
two years thanks to developments in a drilling process known as
fracking, which CityBeat previously covered in further detail here.Duke Energy hired a new contractor — Southern Cross Co. — to carry out gas and line inspections.
Cincinnati-based Kroger developed a new system that will convert food that can’t be sold or donated into clean energy to power one of its distribution centers.
Convergys is selling is downtown Cincinnati headquarters as the company goes through big changes. So far the buyer is unknown.
Jim Kingsbury, CEO of UC Health since 2010, is retiring.
Using an optical illusion to make white people look darker can diminish racial biases, according to a new study.
Earth’s super-dense core is weak.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 12:33 PM | Permalink
Qualls, Seelbach propose budget plan that would avert layoffs despite months of warnings
A budget plan proposed by two council members today would eliminate layoffs at the fire department and reduce the amount of police layoffs to 25, down from 49, by making cuts elsewhere, particularly by forcing city employees to take 10 furlough days in fiscal year 2014.Council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach are co-sponsoring the motion. If it's approved by City Council, the amount of city employee layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget would drop to 84, down from the original "Plan B" estimate of 344, by amending Mayor Mark Mallory's budget proposal, which was announced yesterday.The news is being well received by public safety advocates, but it's also vindication for some of the city's harshest critics. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley previously said the city was acting like "the boy who cried wolf" by suggesting it had to lay off 344 city employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions."In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and firefighters, and it never happened," Cranley previously told CityBeat.But avoiding the layoffs comes with large cuts and shifted priorities elsewhere: Furlough days for supervisory and leadership personnel would be bumped up from five to 10 ($250,000 in savings), all council members would be asked to take 10 furlough days ($22,700), City Council's office budgets would be reduced ($18,000), the clerk of council's office budget would also be reduced ($46,000), the departments of community development and economic development would be merged ($171,000) and the account for firefighter's protective gear would be reduced ($100,000). In total, the cuts in the motion add up to $607,000.The cuts would be in addition to larger cuts proposed by the city manager and mayor, which include reduced funding to parks, human services, parades and outside agencies.The motion will be formally introduced at tonight's Budget and Finance Committee meeting, which will also act as a public hearing for budget issues. The hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Duke Energy Convention Center.The layoff reductions come after the city manager and mayor spent a bulk of the past six months repeatedly warning that the city would have to carry out significant public safety layoffs if the city didn't lease its parking assets to the Port Authority. That plan would have opened up funds to help balance the budget for two years and pay for economic development projects, including a downtown grocery store ("Parking Stimulus," issue of Feb. 27).But the parking plan is now held up in court, and the city is apparently able to avoid most of the layoffs despite the repeated warnings.The city must enact a budget by May 31, which will give the city the required 30 days to implement the plan by fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Best news we already knew: Science has confirmed that just
the taste of a single sip of beer can make you happier by jump-starting
dopamine levels in your brain. WORLD +2
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 17, 2013
In the past few weeks, Cincinnati’s
political scene has been engulfed by debate over the budget, often
prompting testy exchanges between city officials.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:34 PM | Permalink
Still no budget deficit-solving consensus in sight
If Cincinnati does not lease its parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, it will have to pay
off a $35 million deficit in the fiscal year 2014 budget through other means, but
those means were disputed at a special session of City Council today.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and other
administration officials say the city will have to carry out Plan B,
which would lay off 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80
council members Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and
Chris Smitherman claim there are other ways — casino revenue and cuts
elsewhere — to balance the budget.
The meeting got testy after a few council members called
the city administration “disingenuous” for framing Plan B and the
parking plan as the only two budget options, prompting Mayor Mark Mallory to
slam council members for attempting to pin the city’s budget woes on the
“I don’t think anyone in the administration wants to see
their colleagues laid off,” Mallory said. “The administration makes a
recommendation to this mayor and to this council. The final decision
makers are the elected leaders.”
He added, “What’s disingenuous is to create a crisis and then
criticize the administration for its response to the crisis when those
responsible for dealing with the crisis are the elected leaders. It
would be like an arsonist setting a building on fire and then
complaining about how long it took the fire department to get there and
what equipment they used to put out the fire.”
Lea Eriksen, the city’s budget director, said the ideas
she heard at the special session today would not be enough
to close the budget gap.
Throughout the discussion, the city administration
repeatedly dismissed ideas presented by council members as not enough to overcome the city’s $35 million deficit and avoid layoffs. By the city
administration’s admission, even Plan B would only close about $26
million of the projected deficit.
How that budget gap is closed may come with additional
expenses. Eriksen said the budget gap may reach $45 million if the city carries
out Plan B because the city would also be forced to pay for accrued
leave and unemployment insurance.
Still, Assistant City Manager David Holmes
city could balance the deficit without Plan B or the parking plan, but
the numbers must “add up” and would require direction from City Council.
When the discussion came to casino revenues, Holmes said
the city administration feels “uncomfortable” projecting casino revenue
because the state’s projections have trended downward in the past few
years. In 2009, the state government estimated Ohio’s casinos would take
in $1.9 billion a year, but that projection was changed to $957.7
million a year in February.
Eriksen said the city estimates between $9
million and $11
million in casino funds will be available to the city. She said even if
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino hits its $100 million goal, the city
will not be able to get the $21 million previously touted by Horseshoe
Casino General Manager Kevin Kline because the money is pooled with
money from other casinos around the state, which has fallen far below
projections, before it’s distributed to cities
When asked about shifting parking
meter revenue to the general fund to help balance the budget, Eriksen
said doing so would ultimately be a “wash” because of expenses currently
attached to parking meter revenue.
Seelbach suggested making more cuts through the
priority-driven budgeting process. Eriksen explained Plan B does cut
programs that were poorly ranked by the process — the mounted patrol
unit, arts funding and recreation centers were a few examples she cited. But
only relying on programs ranked poorly by the priority-driven budgeting process would “decimate” departments and
programs that the city deems essential, she said.
In the original 2013 budget proposal put forward by the city
manager, mounted patrol was cut, but Seelbach lobbied for the
Multiple council members brought up traveling and training
costs as potential areas to cut, but Eriksen said the city
administration had not considered further cuts in those areas because
the leftover expenses are currently used to get certifications that city
employees “need to do their jobs.”
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, asked the city administration
if they tried to balance the budget without layoffs. Eriksen replied,
“Yeah, that was called the parking plan.” She added without the parking
plan, it would be “mathematically impossible” to balance the budget
When Winburn suggested city employees should take salary
cuts, Eriksen said such cuts would require extensive negotiations with
unions because about 90 percent of the city’s employees are unionized.
In November, Winburn was one of the prominent supporters of giving the city manager a raise and bonus.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat running for mayor,
said she would be open to using any revenues possible for reducing the
budget gap, but she said City Council must acknowledge the harsh budget
realities facing the city — further re-emphasizing points she made in a blog post Sunday.
John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, has said
in the past that the threat of layoffs is “the boy crying wolf.”
Cranley released his own budget plan
on March 28 that he says would avoid layoffs and balance the budget
without the parking plan, but some critics say the budget’s revenue
estimates are unrealistic.Eriksen said Cincinnati has run structurally imbalanced budgets since 2001, but city officials say deficits have been made much worse by state cuts in local government funding carried out by Gov. John Kasich and the Republican legislature since 2010 (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on
March 6 that would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority
to raise funds that would help balance the deficit for the next two
fiscal years and pay for new development projects, including the
construction of a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the parking plan, who say they fear it will
lead to rate hikes, filed their petitions for a referendum effort today.
It is so far unclear whether they have the 8,522 verified signatures
required to put the issue on the November ballot.
by German Lopez
Council seeks budget options, city funds come with rules, parking petitions due today
City Council will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. today
to discuss alternatives to laying off cops and firefighters to balance
the budget, which CityBeat covered in detail here.
Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are pushing to use
casino revenue and cuts elsewhere in the budget to avoid cutting public
safety services. A spokesperson for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a
Democrat running for mayor, told CityBeat that Qualls will also
consider every option available. John Cranley, another Democratic
candidate for mayor, has long called the threat of layoffs “the boy
City Council unanimously passed a motion
yesterday that will require all parades receiving financial support
from the city to adhere to the city’s anti-discrimination policies. Council members cautioned that the measure won’t
require event hosts to invite fringe groups, but it will ensure
LGBT individuals, people of color and women are allowed to participate
in future events. The measure was inspired by a recent controversy surrounding
the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which barred an LGBT group from participating.
An appeals court will hear arguments
over the Cincinnati parking plan and the city’s use of emergency
clauses on May 6, even though the city had asked for a final decision by
May 1. Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s original ruling decided
emergency clauses do not remove the possibility of a referendum.
Emergency clauses are regularly used by City Council to remove a 30-day
waiting period on passed legislation, but the city says that power is
weakened by Winkler’s ruling since the city will now have to wait for
referendum efforts to safely begin implementation.
Meanwhile, referendum organizers against the parking plan are expected to drop off petitions at City Hall later today. Organizers previously
said they have more than 10,000 unverified signatures, but they’ll need 8,522
verified signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The parking plan, which CityBeat explained in further detail here,
would lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Development Authority to raise funds that would be used to help balance
the deficit for the next two fiscal years and launch development
projects, including a downtown grocery store.
This week’s CityBeat commentary: “Poor Messaging Holds Back Parking Plan.”
JobsOhio agreed to let State Auditor Dave Yost check their books — private funds and all — last month, but Yost says he’s still in talks
with the agency about future audits. JobsOhio is a publicly funded,
nonprofit corporation established by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio
legislature to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Kasich’s advice for opponents of the Medicaid expansion: “Kick them in the shins.”
As part of a broader budget proposal, the governor is seeking to take
advantage of Obamacare to expand Medicaid with financial support from
the federal government, but some Republican legislators fear the money
won’t be there in a few years. Independent analysts say the Medicaid
expansion will save Ohio money, which CityBeat covered alongside Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
The cost of Reds games has gone down since last season, according to one study.
Ohio’s improving economy is leading to less problem loans in the statewide mortgage market.
Headline: “Nobody Wants a Facebook Phone.”
A new laser zaps away cocaine addiction from rats.
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
by German Lopez
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
Posted In: News
at 03:43 PM | Permalink
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
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
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
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.