by German Lopez 07.02.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Voting, Budget at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto

Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”. Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency personnel to enter. Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is “silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here. A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid. The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here. The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot. Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?” It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways. Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine. The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation. Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).
by German Lopez 06.27.2013
Posted In: News, Jail, LGBT Issues, City Council at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Pay-to-stay jail fee

Morning News and Stuff

Pay-to-stay jail policy criticized, locals react to LGBT rulings, council OKs streetcar funding

The Hamilton County Jail charges its inmates a fee for incarceration, and a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) suggests the practice harms low-income inmates and raises little money for the county. CityBeat got an exclusive early look at the report, which scrutinized three counties for their pay-to-stay policies. Among the three samples, Hamilton County had the second lowest fees and did the second least harm to low-income people, according to the report. Although the ACLU was hopeful the report and the election of a new sheriff would inspire some change, Hamilton County officials told CityBeat that no changes are planned. The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage, and some local and state leaders had a few things to say about it. The reactions seem to vary depending on a partisan basis, with Republicans in opposition and Democrats in favor. Rest assured: Here at CityBeat, we favor giving equal rights to people no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. City Council yesterday approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project and funding for development at Fourth and Race streets, which will include a downtown grocery store. The streetcar measures close the project’s $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The accountability measures, which were initially introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, require the city manager to update City Council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports. Commentary: “The Little Engine That Could.” Make sure to check out CityBeat’s extensive LGBT coverage for our Pride Issue here, including a mini-profile of Councilman Chris Seelbach and his partner. It’s local election season. In the next five months, City Council will meet only seven times, down from the typical 14. Odis Jones is leaving his post as Cincinnati’s director of economic development to become CEO of the Detroit Public Lighting Authority, a city-run utility operated by an independent board. Jones was known at City Council meetings for making passionate pitches for various economic development projects, including the most recent plans for Fourth and Race streets. He told Business Courier he wants to go to Detroit to play a role in the revitalization of his hometown: “My mother always said, 'If you see a good fight, get in it.' I'm in it.” The Ohio House voted to ban red-light cameras despite arguments that the cameras have reduced traffic accidents and saved lives. An Ohio Senate vote is expected in the fall. NASA is teaming up with Italy and Japan on a mission to Mercury. Researchers found wearing a T-shirt with the letter “T” on it makes men more attractive. Critics of the study argue attractive men would be better with no shirt — or pants — at all.
by German Lopez 06.26.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Streetcar, City Council at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

City Council Approves Streetcar Budget Fixes

Funding for development at Fourth, Race streets also gets approval

City Council today approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project, allowing the project to move forward.On Monday, the Budget and Finance Committee approved the measures, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The funding ordinance closes the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The accountability motion will require the city manager to update City Council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted for the measures. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against both. Councilwoman Pam Thomas voted against the funding ordinance, but she voted for the accountability motion.City Council also unanimously approved funding for a development project on Fourth and Race streets, which includes a downtown grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace Pogue's Garage. CityBeat covered that project in further detail here.

The Little Engine That Could

3 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Against all the odds, naysaying and obstructionism it’s faced, Cincinnati’s streetcar project is moving forward.  

Report: Government “Megadeals” Fail to Produce Jobs

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
A new report found many "megadeals" rarely produce the kind of jobs initially touted by public officials.   

Streetcar Plan Moves Forward

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
City Council on June 24 approved increased funding along with additional accountability measures that will close a $17.4 million budget gap and keep the streetcar project on track.    
by German Lopez 06.21.2013
Posted In: News, Parking at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Port Authority Signs Parking Lease

Lease moves parking plan forward

Cincinnati is officially leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. The agency announced today that it had signed a lease agreement with the city, putting an end to a four-day controversy over whether the Port would sign the lease to begin with.The Port will now move forward with establishing contracts with the four private companies it will use to operate and upgrade the city's parking assets.What remains unclear is whether the Port actually worked out the problems that supposedly delayed the lease's signing. The Cincinnati Enquirer originally reported that the Port wouldn't sign the lease until it got a financial guarantee from the city that the local government would not cut future funds to the agency. City Council had considered cutting $100,000 out of $700,000 in annual funds to the Port as part of broader cuts to outside agencies in the fiscal year 2014 budget, but the cut to the Port was ultimately eliminated.Port spokesperson Gail Paul said she doesn't know whether the issue is under review, but she pointed out the agreement isn't supposed to address future funding concerns and only sets the terms of the parking lease.In return for the lease, the city is getting a $92 million lump sum and at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. The city plans to use that money to pay down future budget deficits and fund development projects, including the I-71/MLK Interchange.Critics argue the lease gives up too much control over the city's parking assets and will ultimately hurt downtown and neighborhoods by raising parking meter rates and expanding meter operation hours.Update (1:35 p.m.): Added a comment from Port Authority spokesperson Gail Paul.
by German Lopez 06.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking at 04:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Port Still Hasn’t Signed Parking Lease

Delay raises questions about local control

It’s been three days since City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an agreement to lease Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, and the Port Authority still hasn’t signed the agreement.Port Authority spokesperson Gail Paul told CityBeat she had no definitive information on when or whether the Port Authority will sign the lease, but she said she would contact CityBeat when she learned more. The lease would produce a $92 million lump sum for the city, followed by at least $3 million in annual payments, according to city estimates. But it would hand over majority control of Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port Authority, which will operate and upgrade the meters, lots and garages through four private companies from around the nation. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the Port Authority has yet to sign the lease because it first wants a financial guarantee that the city will not threaten to cut future funding. In May, City Council considered pulling $100,000 out of $700,000 in annual funding from the Port Authority as part of a broader cut to outside agencies. The threat apparently made Port Authority officials concerned about future funding. The city originally claimed the parking plan will keep local control of the city’s parking assets through the Port Authority. But the delay has raised doubts about local control, given that the Port Authority is going against the will and assumptions of the city government. When asked whether the delay on signing the lease raises question about local control, Paul responded, “That’s an interesting take on it.” She says the Port Authority isn’t refusing to sign the lease, but the agency’s board is getting “reacquainted” with the plan and has a few lingering questions. Paul added the Port Authority understands there’s a lot of public interest in the plan. She said the organization is paying attention to feedback and criticisms. City spokesperson Meg Olberding said she’s confident the Port Authority will sign the lease. Olberding responded to questions about local control by pointing out the Port Authority “has been at the table since the beginning.” She added, “The local control is not only through the Port, but also through the advisory board. The board members are citizens as well. So that local control will still be there.” The advisory board will be made up of five members: four appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager. The board would be able to make changes to various aspects of the parking plan, including parking meter rates. Under the original agreement, rates downtown will go up by 25 cents every three years, and rates in neighborhoods will go up by 25 cents every six years. The advisory board will be able to approve a hike or reduction in those rates, but those changes would also require approval from the city manager and Port Authority’s board.
by German Lopez 06.18.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, Development at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Morning News and Stuff

Court refuses delay on parking, interchange needs city support, final budget mixes tax cuts

The Hamilton County Court of Appeals 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. Six out of nine City Council members say they want to repeal or rework the deal, but City Solicitor John Curp says Mayor Mark Mallory, who supports the plan, has the power to hold any repeal attempts until Nov. 30, which means he can effectively stop any repeal attempts until the end of his final term as mayor. City Manager Milton Dohoney told City Council yesterday that the state government will not pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange if the city doesn’t pick up some of the cost. Dohoney made the statement when explaining how he would use the $92 million upfront money from the parking plan. The interchange project has long been sought out by city and state officials to create jobs and better connect uptown businesses to the rest of the area and state. State officials told The Cincinnati Enquirer the final budget plan may include downsized versions of the tax cut plans in the Ohio House and Senate budget bills. The House bill included a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut, while the Senate bill included a 50-percent income tax deduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 worth of income. Democrats have criticized the across-the-board income tax cut for cutting taxes for the wealthy and the business tax cut for giving a tax cut to passive investors, single-person firms and partnerships that are unlikely to add jobs. Republicans claim both tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs. Ohio ranked No. 46 out of the 50 states for job creation in the past year, according to an infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts. Both Ohio and Alaska increased their employment levels by 0.1 percent. The three states below Ohio and Alaska — Wisconsin, Maine and Wyoming — had a drop in employment ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced 8,229 new entities filed to do business in Ohio in May, up from 7,687 the year before.StateImpact Ohio has an ongoing series about “value-added,” a state-sanctioned method of measuring teacher performance, here. The investigation has already raised questions about whether value-added is the “great equalizer” it was originally made out to be — or whether it largely benefits affluent school districts.The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency awarded $5,690 to the Cincinnati Nature Center for its teacher training program Nature in the Classroom. The grant will help continue the program’s goals of training first through eighth grade teachers about local natural history, how to implement a science-based nature curriculum and how to engage students in exploring and investigating nature. Controversial Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley yesterday was suspended from arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Kings Island and Cedar Point were among the top 15 most visited amusement parks in the nation in 2012 — after the obvious hotspots in California and Florida. Meet NASA’s astronaut class of 2013. Google is launching balloon-based Internet in New Zealand. Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue. CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.