by German Lopez
Streetcar faces $22.7m budget gap, bill would restrict sex education, councilman resigns
In a memo to the mayor and City Council members last night, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed the streetcar is facing a $22.7 million shortfall because construction bids were way over budget. The memo says $5.3 million of that budget gap could be brought down through cuts, but fixing the rest requires $17.4 million in additional funds. The memo comes at a time the city is attempting to balance its operating budget by laying off cops and firefighters. But as John Deatrick explained when the city moved to hire him for the streetcar project, the streetcar is part of the capital budget, which is separate from the operating budget and can't be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.The budget bill heading to the Ohio House floor would ban comprehensive sex education, defund Planned Parenthood and fund crisis pregnancy centers that pro-choice groups consider "anti-choice." Citing "gateway sexual activity," the bill would open teachers to up to $5,000 in fines for explaining the use of condoms and other birth control to students, and it also bans the distribution of any birth control on school grounds. The bill takes its anti-contraceptive measures to promote an abstinence-only education program. Research has found abstinence-only programs to be generally ineffective, while birth control programs ultimately save money by avoiding costly pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection treatment.Councilman Cecil Thomas is stepping down, and he will be replaced by his wife of 32 years, Pam Thomas. The appointment has raised questions about how council members are replaced upon resignation, but Thomas says he's just following the rules. Under the current system, designees appoint successors to council seats, but the designees give great weight to the incumbent's input.JobsOhio repaid $8.4 million to Ohio yesterday — fulfilling a promise it made in March that it would fully repay the state for public funding received since it opened on July 5, 2011. The sum is much higher than the $1 million state officials originally said would go to the agency. JobsOhio's finances came under criticism after it was revealed that Gov. John Kasich was redirecting public funds to the agency, prompting a closer look from State Auditor Dave Yost. JobsOhio is a privatized development agency that Kasich and Republicans established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.In light of the Boston Marathon bombings, Flying Pig Marathon organizers are evaluating security measures, but they're not sure whether additional measures are needed just yet. The Flying Pig Marathon is expected to draw more than 20,000 participants on May 5 — close to the 23,000 who typically attend the Boston Marathon. Still, only about 150,000 spectators are expected at the Flying Pig Marathon, while about 500,000 typically spectate the Boston Marathon.City Council is expected to vote today in support of expanding mobile food vending in the city and make the program, which is handled by 3CDC, permanent. The new mobile vending spots will be near nightlife areas in Over-the-Rhine and during the day at Washington Park.TriHealth and Mercy Health are among the top 15 hospital systems in the United States, according to a new ranking from Truven Health Analytics.When renewing its contract with Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., Kroger asked the company to move its center from Des Moines, Iowa, to Cincinnati, bringing an estimated 55 new jobs to the city.New surgical tape works like a parasitic worm for extra stickiness.For the first time, scientists are being allowed to study psychedelics for potential medical treatments.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:26 PM | Permalink
City Council committee passes measure allowing “double dipping”
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee moved forward
with two controversial measures in two 5-4 votes today that will allow the
city to rehire retirees while still paying their pensions and create an
executive project director position for the streetcar project.One of the measures repeals the city’s ban on “double dipping,”
which means rehired retirees will be able to
simultaneously cash in a salary and pension payments. The measures will allow the city to hire John Deatrick, the
current project manager for The Banks, to head the streetcar project.
The city could not previously hire Deatrick because he formally retired
from the city and is currently receiving pension payments.
The city says Deatrick has the experience and expertise
necessary to help bring the streetcar project’s costs in line, but
critics say the city should not be hiring someone for the streetcar
project when the city is considering laying off 344 employees, including
189 cops and 80 firefighters, to balance the budget.
Deatrick says the layoffs are unfortunate, but he
emphasizes that they are occurring through the general fund. If he was
hired, Deatrick’s salary would be paid through the capital budget, a
completely separate fund that the city uses for major development
projects. Because of legal and traditional constraints, capital budget funds generally can’t be used to balance the general fund.
“The capital budget generates projects that bring money into the general fund,” Deatrick says.
Deatrick’s point is similar to an argument often touted by City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr., who says the city needs to economically grow out of structural budget
deficits. Dohoney and other city officials say the true cause of Cincinnati’s
structural budget imbalance has been the city’s dwindling population in
the past decade, and bringing people back to Cincinnati through economic
development projects, including the streetcar, is a better approach than austerity that would cause more
layoffs and economic pain.
Others, particularly Democratic mayoral candidate John
Cranley, aren’t convinced. In a press statement that used vocabulary that often comes from streetcar opponent COAST (Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes), Cranley said, “Since day one the
streetcar has been a poorly conceived, poorly managed boondoggle that is
now costing the city even more money. The fact that this being done
while police officers and firefighters are facing layoffs is a slap in
the face of those who risk so much to make sure that our city is safe.”
But the city says Deatrick’s involvement could help bring
the streetcar project’s costs down, and Deatrick seems to agree. “That’s
been my whole ‘shtick,’ ” Deatrick says, before citing numerous aspects
of the streetcar project he would be interested in looking at to
bring costs in line.Opponents have pointed to the streetcar’s multiple problems, including unexpected costs and delays, as proof the project has been doomed from the start. But Deatrick says it’s normal for big projects to deal with hurdles, and he cautions he would expect to deal with more rising problems if he takes the job.
“Any time you try to build something — even out in the
middle of a corn field — you’re going to have unexpected, unanticipated
issues,” he says. “These things happen, and that’s what project
management is all about.”
Deatrick says he has long supported the streetcar, and he
plans to expand the project up to the University of Cincinnati and the
rest of the uptown area if he’s put in charge.
While Deatrick has discussed heading the streetcar project with
city officials, no formal offers have been made yet. Still, City Council members
and Dohoney repeatedly named Deatrick as a potential candidate in the
special session of City Council today.
Some council members said they were concerned the double-dipping measure will be
used for more similar hires in the future, which could raise
hiring costs as the city pays for multiple employees’ salaries and
pensions at the same time.
Democratic council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure
Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young supported the
measures. Democrats Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld, Republican
Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman voted in opposition.
Deatrick’s resume shows experience going back decades.
Since June 2008, Deatrick has headed The Banks project, which recently
won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning
Excellence Award for Implementation (“Bank On It,” issue of Jan. 16).
Before that, he worked as deputy director and chief
engineer at the District of Columbia Department of Transportation from
May 2002 to August 2007, where he says he helped manage parts of the
D.C. streetcar, among other projects.
Prior to his work at D.C., Deatrick started his career as an urban development
technician at Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering on September 1973. He helped with many projects around the city before eventually rising to the director position in
November 1999, where he remained until May 2002.
The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing Democratic
mayoral candidates Cranley and Qualls, making the 2013 mayoral race
another important election for the future of the project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
When Cincinnati found out about the city
manager’s parking plan, it was not through a press conference or a
widely dispersed announcement from the city; it was through a silently
released memo that media outlets stumbled upon almost by accident.
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
City officials warn of budget cuts, budget woes pinned on Kasich, fracking causes earthquake
Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city.
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of
a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal
year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said
the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the
possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to
expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was
previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects,
but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a
referendum effort is complete.
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern,
chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only
reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police
and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars
to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati
struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again,
proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help
pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his
proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will
see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.”
Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose
$40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.
A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake.
The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an
earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection
wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat
covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water
underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.
In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits.
In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits,
ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in
The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way
for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his
experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration,
but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and
State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote
— a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill
was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing
opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green
State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly
support the idea.
A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.
Headline: Man accused of using fake penis for drug test.
New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.
Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 01:15 PM | Permalink
City manager says he's already made preparations for layoff notices
Speaking at a press conference today, city officials did
not mask their contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold
earlier in the day, saying it will force the city to make cuts and layoffs to
balance the 2014 budget and potentially eliminate the passage of
The press conference was in response to a ruling
from Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler, which opened the parking plan
to referendum and ordered a permanent injunction on the plan pending any referendum effort. City Solicitor John Curp said the city is appealing
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
explained the city will now have to close a $25.8 million shortfall in
the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. Dohoney said he has already ordered city departments to begin
preparations for Plan B, which will lay off 344 employees, including 80
firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance projected deficits.
“Part of the irony is we're swearing in a recruit class tomorrow,” he said, then shook his head. “Too bad.”
In addition to meeting the July 1 budget deadline, the city has to expedite some layoff notices to meet union contracts, which typically require a notice 30 days in advance.
Curp said the ruling also poses significant legal challenges that will hinder the city’s ability to expedite legislation with emergency clauses. Emergency clauses are often used by City Council to remove
a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, and the city argues they also
remove the ability to referendum.
The layoffs could be retroactively pulled back if the city
wins in appeals courts or if the referendum effort fails to gather
“Don't sign the petition,” Mallory said. “If you sign a petition, you're laying off a cop or firefighter.”
Dohoney said the delays make the city look
sluggish — an image that he says the city has been trying to overcome.
“One of the criticisms I’ve gotten is that this city takes too long to
get deals done,” he said. “This complicates that.”
City Council approved the parking plan to lease the city’s
parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund
development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the plan argued that there were alternatives
that did not involve laying off cops or firefighters. Councilman Chris
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
At the press conference, Mallory called the alternatives
“unworkable.” He said Plan S in particular does not work because it
relies on a ballot initiative that would have to be voted on in
November. “We don’t have until November,” he said.
Opponents say they’re concerned the parking plan will
cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say
will lead to a spike in parking rates.
The city says rate increases are initially capped at 3
percent or inflation — whichever is higher — but the rates can change
with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city
manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee
would be made up of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one
appointed by the city manager.
In the legal proceedings, the two sides are arguing whether emergency
clauses eliminate the ability to hold a referendum on legislation. Opponents of the
parking plan, headed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), say the city charter is ambiguous with its definition of
emergency clauses, and legal precedent demands courts side with voters’
right to referendum when there’s ambiguity.
Supporters of the parking plan cite state law, which says emergency legislation is not subject to referendum. Terry
Nestor, who represented the city in the court hearings, said legal precedent requires the city
to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the
Winkler sided with opponents of the parking plan in his
decision. He wrote in his ruling, “If the people of Cincinnati had
intended to exempt emergency legislation from their referendum powers,
they could have done so when adopting Article II, Section 3 of the City
Mallory says the city is not disputing voters’ right to
referendum in a general sense; instead, he says the city needs to expedite
the budget process to balance the budget before fiscal year 2014.City officials say the parking plan is necessary largely because of Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts, which Dohoney previously said cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in annual revenues (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20). Opponents argue Cincinnati had structurally imbalanced budgets years before Kasich took office, but the city says Kasich’s policies have made the situation much worse.The parking plan is one of the few issues dividing Democratic
mayoral candidates John Cranley and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Cranley opposes the plan, while Qualls supports it.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a
presentation to City Council March 6 explaining how Cincinnati could
work to reduce its structural budget deficits.
by German Lopez
Long-term plan could swing City Council’s parking vote
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a presentation to City Council today that explained how Cincinnati could work to reduce its structural budget deficits. The presentation was presumably in response to
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who said Monday that she wanted to see a
long-term deficit reduction plan before she could approve the city
manager’s proposal to lease parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority.
Even with the parking plan’s one-time infusion of money (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), Cincinnati will need to make further changes to
balance budgets for the next three fiscal years. To help tame these
deficits, Dohoney says the city could reduce or eliminate lower-ranked
programs in the city’s Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, reduce
subsidies to health clinics that are getting more money from Obamacare,
semi-automate solid waste collection or introduce new or increased fees
for certain programs, among other changes.
But some council members said they were more concerned
about how the city will manage once it loses the parking plan’s one-time injection of funding after the 2016 fiscal year.
“I think this is a bit muddled,” Quinlivan said. “It doesn’t get to the systemic problem we have.”
Quinlivan, who has long argued for “rightsizing”
police and fire departments, says the city should draw down its public
safety spending to “sustainable” levels, but she says she would prefer
attritioning public safety forces over abrupt, short-term cuts. Dohoney
acknowledges attrition would help balance budgets, but he cautions
that even attrition “would have to be married” with a plan that reduces the public’s expectations for public safety services —
particularly if the city decides to not answer every 911 call by
dispatching officers, which is currently required.
Dohoney says City Council needs to be clearer with
its long-term budget policy. “If we’re going to make adjustments, I need
clear policy direction, and I do not feel that I have it,” he says.
“Give me a clear direction on where you want the police department to
be, and I can get it there.”
The city manager says the city will have to approve a tax
hike or cuts to government spending, which poses the possibility of
layoffs, if it’s serious about eliminating structural deficit problems.
For every 1,000 residents, Cincinnati has less cops than
only two comparable cities: Cleveland and St. Louis. The fire department
has higher numbers, with Cincinnati equal to Pittsburgh and above
other comparable cities. The high levels of cops and firefighters per
capita comes despite downsizing in the police and fire departments in the past five years.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls says the city may have
drawn down its police force between 2000 and 2012, but the local police
department has also been reorganized in a way that actually puts more
cops out on patrol. Lea Eriksen, the city’s budget director, says street
strength has moved from 832 police officers out of 1,034 officers
available in 2002 to 864 out of 981 in 2012.
Between 2000 and 2012, the fire department was the only
city agency to see an increase in employment, while the city had slight
employment reductions overall. In the same time span, the General Fund increased by more than $30 million, and Cincinnati’s population fell by about 10 percent.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee on March 4 approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking
assets to the Port Authority in a 4-3 vote, but part of the plan was
separated from the budget, leaving it open to referendum.
by German Lopez
Plan will fund development projects, help balance deficit for two fiscal years
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee today approved a
plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority in a 4-3 vote, but the plan will require five votes to become law in a final City Council vote on March 6.
Council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Cecil
Thomas and Wendell Young voted for the plan, and council members Chris
Seelbach, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against it.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was absent, and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan
abstained, although she said she could vote yes if she sees more details about how the city will curb its long-term budget problems.
The plan, which CityBeat previously covered (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), would lease the city’s parking assets to
fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown
grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years.
The deal would produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city
projects that additional annual installments would generate more than
$263 million throughout the lease’s duration.
Before the vote, several City Council members said the
parking plan would not solve Cincinnati’s structural deficit problems, but
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the plan would help reduce the deficit by
generating recurring revenues through long-term economic growth and
“The situation that we’re in requires that we accelerate
growth right now, not later,” he said. “If we do not do that, then we’re going to
have further negative ramifications to deal with.”
Still, Dohoney admitted the plan would not solve all the
city’s budget woes — just like he has repeatedly said in the past. Even
with the parking plan, the city projects a $10 million deficit in 2014,
$15.5 million deficit in 2015 and $20 million deficit in 2016.
The council members insisted there are alternatives to the
parking plan and Dohoney’s Plan B, which would lay off 344 employees,
eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers,
among other changes.
On March 1, Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would not
lease the city’s parking assets to balance the budget 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.
On the same day as the hearings, Winburn, the sole
Republican on City Council, proposed Plan C, which would reduce city
employees’ salaries across the board — with exemptions for police, ﬁre,
health, garbage, recreation, parks and road paving — and use casino and
parking revenue to clear the deficit.
At the City Council hearings, Quinlivan listed a few other
possibilities, including sharing public safety services with other
local communities. She also advised the city to put together a long-term deficit reduction plan. “We don’t want to kick the can down the road any more,” she said.
Thomas suggested putting an earnings tax hike of 0.1
percent or 0.2 percent on the ballot. He said, “It would solve this
(deficit) problem once and for all.”
Some council members also raised concerns about the
release of bond documents, which will further detail the framework of
the parking agreement. Dohoney and Laura Brunner, president of the Port
Authority, said the bond documents have not been crafted because a
lease agreement has to be approved by City Council first, but the
documents will be made public once they are put together.
Before the final committee vote, Smitherman successfully
motioned to separate part of the parking plan from the budget, which opens the plan to referendum. The motion was in response to City Solicitor
John Curp, who said appropriation ordinances, or ordinances that are essentially budgets, aren’t subject to
referendum, according to state law.