WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
Posted In: Privatization, News, Parking, Budget, Economy at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
downtown grocery

Parking Meter Company's Past Problems Resurface

Before Xerox buyout, audit found ACS improperly managed parking meters

The company that would operate Cincinnati’s parking meters if the city passes its controversial parking plan this week was mired with audited problems and complaints in the past. The issues surfaced years before Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) was bought by Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing. A 2007 audit found ACS had failed to take care and keep track of parking meters it operated in Washington, D.C. The audit claimed 35 percent of parking meters listed in ACS’s inventory were missing, about 16 percent of the remaining meters were completely inoperative and 65 percent had problems that ranged from defacing to improper height and stability. ACS also failed to fix meters within the 72-hour period mandated by its contract, according to the audit. For some residents, the broken meters led to unfair tickets, with 6,888 tickets, or nearly 1 percent of parking meter tickets, being improperly issued at unfixed meters, according to the audit. The audit also found a 903-percent increase in overall parking meter complaints under the privatization contract with ACS. The audit also questioned the financial gains for Washington, D.C., which had to pay $8.8 million, or 33.4 percent, more under privatization than projected trends under public management. The bad audit wasn’t enough for Washington, D.C., to cut its contract with ACS, which still manages the city’s parking meters today. The audit was among a few other problems tipped to multiple media outlets by Tabitha Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. In 2007, ACS was accused of bribing police officers in Edmonton, Canada, but a judge ruled in favor of ACS, stating there wasn’t sufficient evidence. In 2010, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged ACS with backdating and falsely disclosing stock options between 1996 and 2005, and ACS consented to a permanent injunction without admitting or denying the charges. All the discovered problems occurred before 2010, when Xerox bought ACS.Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit’s findings were based on “faulty information.” He says Xerox and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation found ACS had saved Washington, D.C., money. He also claims the auditor had misunderstood the parking meters’ screen displays, which he says led to the improper identification of inoperative or malfunctioning meters.CityBeat previously covered the parking proposal, which would lease the city’s parking assets to fund deficit reduction and economic development, in detail. Mayor Mark Mallory and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls have endorsed the plan, and it’s currently expected to have the five votes necessary to pass a possible City Council vote today. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach revealed Plan S, an alternative proposal that would not lease the city’s parking assets and would instead use $7.5 million in casino revenue, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. also put forward his “Plan B,” which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to “non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years.
 
 

Cincinnati in Running for $5 Million to Reduce Infant Mortality

0 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Babies in Cincinnati don’t get the same chance to celebrate a first birthday as do babies in other areas across the country, and Mayor Mark Mallory has entered Cincinnati into a contest that could change that.    
by Hannah McCartney 02.20.2013
Posted In: Health, News, Mayor at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
german cute

Cincinnati in Running for $5 Million to Reduce Infant Mortality

Mayor Mark Mallory's proposal earns finalist spot in nationwide competition

Babies in Cincinnati don't get the same chance to celebrate a first birthday as do babies in other areas across the country, and Mayor Mark Mallory has entered Cincinnati into a contest that could change that. Today, a proposal Mallory submitted was selected as one of 20 finalists from more than 305 cities in the Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition designed to propel mayors from around the country to dream up innovative solutions to urban problems and improve city life. It's partnered with The Huffington Post to give readers the chance to explore each finalists' proposal and vote on their favorite. Each city's proposal tackles a different flaw — ours, perhaps, is among the most pressing of the bunch: dealing with alarmingly high infant mortality rates.  Infant mortality rates are typically measured by the number of deaths of babies under one year of age per 1,000 live births. Infant mortality rates in Cincinnati are at 13.6; the national average is 6 — less than half that. Mallory puts the issue in perspective on the proposal's page on The Huffington Post: "In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital, and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate." Mallory's proposal would create an Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which, according to a press release sent out by Mallory's office, has already been launched via a pilot version with significant success. Here's how it works: When a woman finds out she's pregnant, she's enrolled in First Steps, a care program that maintains a secure database of new mothers and monitors pregnancies. The competition garnered applications from 305 cities, and Cincinnati was one of 20 finalists selected. If recognized, Cincinnati could win a $5 million prize or one of four $1 million prizes to help implement and sustain the Infant Mortality Network. "City after city deals with this issue, but in Cincinnati, we are dealing with an infant mortality rate that is twice the national average. And half of those deaths occur in just five zip codes. So we know exactly where the problem is, we know exactly what community is having the issue. ... We're really trying to create a program in Cincinnati that can be replicated all across the country. So that in city after city, they can see the same type of success that we are seeing  — continuing to drive that infant mortality rate down so that we are saving babies' lives," Mallory says in the Mayors Challenge finalist video below. According to data from 2007-09 from the Cincinnati Health Department, the five zip codes experiencing the highest infant mortality rates are: 45219 (30.4), 45202 (24.2), 45246 (20.7), 45203 (20.1) and 45214 (19.2). For more detailed information from the Cincinnati Health Department, click here. Watch the full finalist video: Right now, you can vote for the best proposal on The Huffington Post. This November, a team assembled by each city will travel to New York for a conference, where teams will work together and improve their ideas. Winners will be announced in spring 2014.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.01.2013
 
 
streetcar

Court to Decide Dispute over Streetcar Utility Lines

Mallory announces construction to begin in April on track for 2015 completion

Another hurdle in the ongoing struggle to make the streetcar a reality was bypassed today, when Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. announced that after months entangled in a gridlock, Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati have finally reached an agreement over who will pay for the relocation of utility lines. Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.The city broke ground on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but the skirmish between Duke and the city delayed further development — Duke refused to begin any kind of construction before financial responsibility was determined. The reconciliation contains two separate agreements, one of which outlines how Duke will safely operate its utilities once the streetcar is in place. The other demarcates how Duke and the city will resolve the issue of financial responsibility; they've both agreed to abide by the court ruling after any appeals are exhausted.  "The utilities' agreements are in place, the cars are being ordered and the construction bids are coming in," announced Dohoney. Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016. In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.” At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs. CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.
 
 

Music Hall Renovations Coming

0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
Cincinnati’s Music Hall will be getting renovations, but the project will be much smaller than anticipated.  

Council Passes SORTA Resolution, Budget

0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council Dec. 19 passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar.   
by German Lopez 12.19.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Government, Privatization at 11:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
music hall

Music Hall Renovations Coming

City will lease Music Hall to private company for 75 years

Cincinnati’s Music Hall will be getting renovations, but the project will be much smaller than anticipated. Instead of the previously estimated $165 million, the project, which involves the city leasing the iconic building to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) for 75 years, will only cover approximately $95 million. At a joint press conference Wednesday, Mayor Mark Mallory and Otto Budig, president of MHRC, officially announced the plan, which City Council will take up early next year. Not many details or a timeline were announced at the press conference, but some information did come to light. The renovations will include more comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning, improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations, Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet, will be closed for an estimated 17 months. “We will do this in a manner that carries with it the surety that the project will be complete,” Budig said. “The worst thing we could do is start this project without the natural resources and pledges available.” On top of the leasing agreement, the city will also help fund the project through tax credits.  The lease continues the trend of public-private partnerships city government has used to revitalize Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati in recent years. From the Banks to Washington Park, the city of Cincinnati has pushed to be seen as a more attractive, business-friendly environment. However, that has come with some push back. The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and city have previously faced criticisms from homeless advocates for allegedly discriminatory rules at Washington Park, which were later voted down by the Cincinnati Park Board. Some public officials have also raised concerns about the city giving away too many of its public assets. The 2013 budget currently relies on a proposal that will privatize Cincinnati’s parking assets, a plan that has faced heavy criticism from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and mayoral candidate John Cranley. City Manager Milton Dohoney argues the privatization plan is necessary to avoid 344 layoffs.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.19.2012
 
 
bus

Council Passes SORTA Resolution, Budget

Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar

In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation can’t be used on the streetcar. The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds. SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose, but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any transportation project. At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution. Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the streetcar. “I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that we do it,” he said. The resolution has no legal standing preventing council from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their intentions. Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the streetcar. He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money for the operation of the streetcar. Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one. Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the streetcar. Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote. However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer money to sue the city. City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are used, not the city.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.19.2012
Posted In: Budget, News, Streetcar, Mayor, Development at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Supposed City-SORTA Conflict Much Ado About Nothing

SORTA wants to limit transit fund, Mallory refuses

In the past few days, local media outlets have reported heavily on a supposed conflict between Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and the city of Cincinnati. Essentially, SORTA wants the transit fund limited, while the city government says it doesn’t want to “undermine the city charter” with limitations. At its heart, the argument is a political back-and-forth with little consequence. It’s two government agencies at a small divide over legalese in an intergovernmental agreement about how the streetcar will operate and how it will be funded. The specific issue is SORTA, which runs the Metro bus system and will operate the streetcar, wants to include phrasing in its agreement with the city that makes it so the transit fund can’t be used for the streetcar. In a 7-6 vote Tuesday, SORTA's board pushed its preferred wording along with an application for an $11 million federal grant that will help fund the streetcar.But the city government claims the limitation would go against the spirit of the city charter, which says the transit fund can be used for “public transit purposes generally and without limitation.”UPDATE: City Council on Wednesday passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar, although it has no legal standing preventing council from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar. Still, Mayor Mark Mallory’s office has insisted time and time again that funding for the streetcar’s construction and operation is already allocated, so taking any money from the transit fund will be unnecessary. Specifically, the city will tap into casino revenue to operate the streetcar, on top of the $11 million federal grant. In an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, Mallory said the real issue goes back to an ongoing lawsuit between SORTA and the city. In 2010, the city diverted money from the transit fund to pay for street lights. That prompted a lawsuit from SORTA, asking the courts to define the limits of the transit fund. The mayor’s office sees the wording from SORTA as an attempt from the transit agency to score a minor victory in the legal battle. If the city government accepted the wording, it would be agreeing to a limited transit fund, which is essentially what SORTA wants. SORTA’s wording also makes it so all transit fund money will continue going to the Metro bus system, which is the agency’s sole service today. But even SORTA says the disagreement is getting blown out of proportion by media outlets and public officials. Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for SORTA, says the wording in the approved agreement was the board’s attempt to ensure the transit fund isn’t used for the streetcar, but, for the most part, it’s “really just procedures.”  Hilvers insisted the disagreement over wording has plenty of time to be worked out, and it will not hinder collaboration between the city of Cincinnati and SORTA. The agreement will need to be worked out before summer 2013 for the streetcar to stay on track.
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.15.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Council Approves Raise, Bonus for City Manager

Opponents argue unwise with looming deficit; Dohoney's last raise in 2007

City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus. Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay increase. Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job. Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it. Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager, saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them, but the manager exceeded all of them. “To do anything other than that (approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big enough raise.” The raise came from a performance review conducted by Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council Republican Charlie Winburn. Winburn said the city manager’s financial management system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for the previous five years. Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise. “For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service. This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.” Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide. Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the raise would not hurt the budget. Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes. Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009. Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations. "Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”
 
 

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