by German Lopez
Board of Elections looking into anonymous video, but no formal challenge filed
A YouTube video
posted Sunday suggests that some of the parking plan referendum petition
signatures might have been gathered without a legitimate witness, but city
and county officials are so far unsure whether the video, which was posted anonymously, will amount to
much.Under Ohio law, petitions require signatures from both a supporter, who must reside in Cincinnati in the case of parking petitions, and a witness, who must be an Ohio resident and witness the act of someone signing the petition. The video shows what seems to be parking petitions placed on business counters with limited supervision — potential evidence that some of the parking petitions were signed without a witness present.
Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic
Party and Hamilton County Board of Elections, says the Board of
Elections is currently looking into what process needs to be followed as a result of the video.
Traditionally, Burke says, someone has to file a challenge,
which would then be investigated by the board. At that point, the board
would rely on subpoenas to get testimony from witnesses to determine
whether their petitions were valid.
“Under oath, circulators are likely to tell us the truth,”
Burke says. “Did you witness all the signatures on that parking petition? If he says no or she says no, ... then none of those
signatures are valid.”But Burke says it’s so far unclear whether that process will happen.
“The video is interesting, but it doesn’t prove anything,”
he says. “Any challenger would have to link each one of those shots in
the video to specific petitions that were signed by the circulator of
the petition that was on those counters.”
Even if someone did bring a challenge, it would
require nearly 4,000 invalid signatures to halt the parking plan referendum effort.
Yesterday, the Board of Elections announced the referendum effort had
gathered 12,446 valid signatures — considerably more than the 8,522
“Because they are so far over, there’s going to have to be
more evidence by any petitioner that there are problems well beyond
those five or six sights shown in the video,” Burke says.Circulators who mishandled the process would
not face charges; instead, the signatures would simply be
discarded, according to Burke.
City Solicitor John Curp says the city’s law department is
taking “no side on whether there’s a vote,” and the city administration
has not taken action based on the video.
Curp says he would like to confirm whether those are parking petitions and if the video is factual in its presentation.
“If those were parking petitions, that was certainly troubling,” he says. “I hope this gets worked out in a timely manner.”
The parking plan would lease the city’s parking assets to
the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the city’s
operating budget deficits for the next two years and fund development
projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents say they’re concerned the plan will lead to
higher parking rates and extended hours that will hurt the local
economy. With 12,466 valid signatures, their referendum effort is
expected to culminate in a vote this November.
City officials previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters.
The full video is embedded below:
by German Lopez
Democrats endorse candidates, parking petitions scrutinized, Senate to rework state budget
The Democratic Party’s nominating committee announced who it’s supporting
for City Council Friday: Greg Landsman, who heads the Strive
Partnership and worked for former Gov. Ted Strickland; Shawn Butler,
Mayor Mark Mallory’s director of community affairs; Michelle Dillingham,
a community activist; and the six incumbents, which include Laure
Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Pam Thomas
and Wendell Young. The nominations still have to be approved by the
Cincinnati Democratic Committee.
Petitioners against the city’s parking plan are supposed to get their final tally on referendum today, but a new video shows at least some of the petitions may have been signed without a legitimate witness, which are needed to validate a signature.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections announced Thursday that
petitioners had met the necessary threshold of 8,522 signatures, but the
video casts doubts on whether those signatures were legitimately
gathered. The city wants to lease its parking assets to help balance the
deficit for the next two years and fund development programs around the
city (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), but opponents worry higher parking rates and
extended hours will harm the local economy. Here is the embedded video:
The Ohio Senate could restore
Gov. John Kasich’s tax, school funding and Medicaid plans when it votes
on the biennium budget for 2014 and 2015. Kasich’s tax and education
funding plans were criticized by Democrats and progressive groups for
favoring the wealthy, but the Medicaid expansion, which the Health Policy Institute of Ohio
says would expand Medicaid coverage to 456,000 low-income Ohioans and
save the state money, was mostly opposed by state Republicans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
New polling from Quinnipiac University found a plurality of Ohio voters now support same-sex marriage rights — granting promising prospects to Freedom Ohio’s ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage in the state this year.
An audit on JobsOhio could take months,
according to State Auditor Dave Yost’s office. Gov. John Kasich was
initially resistant to a full audit, but Yost eventually won out,
getting full access to JobsOhio’s financial records. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that is meant to eventually replace the
Ohio Department of Development.
In response to not getting a Democratic endorsement for his City Council campaign, Mike Moroski, who was fired from his job at Purcell Marian High School for supporting gay marriage, launched the Human Party.
Cincinnati received an “F”
for business friendliness in the 2013 Thumbtack.com U.S. Small
Business Friendliness Survey from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Embattled attorney Stan Chesley will no longer practice law in Ohio.
Chesley, who has been criticized for alleged misconduct, was recently
disbarred in Kentucky. He recently resigned from the University of
Cincinnati Board of Trustees after being asked to in a letter from
fellow board members.
Ohio gas prices are shooting back up.
PopSci has an infographic showing sharks should be much more scared of humans than humans should be afraid of sharks.
by German Lopez
Boston violence continues, parking referendum moves forward, House budget bill passes
Boston and surrounding communities went through another night of terror and chaos
last night, with the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects allegedly rampaging
through the city just hours after their photos were released to the
public by authorities. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects, died
after apparently suffering multiple wounds from a police shootout and
what’s now believed to have been an explosion, but his brother, Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev, 19, remains at large while a massive manhunt is underway.
Authorities are telling people in Boston and the surrounding area to
stay indoors as the manhunt continues.
Opponents of the city’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port Authority gathered enough petitions
to put the issue on the ballot this November. The news comes as a huge
blow to local officials who supported the plan to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund development projects around the city. Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. previously warned that without the parking plan the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters.
Before approving the budget bill in a 61-35 vote, the Ohio House voted to remove an amendment from the bill that would have banned comprehensive sex education in a 76-19 vote
yesterday, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Still, the budget bill contains language that would defund Planned Parenthood
and redirect other funding to abstinence-only, anti-abortion crisis
pregnancy centers. The budget bill was also amended to ask for a
Medicaid waiver that give Ohio more time to mull over a Medicaid expansion and could lead to a revamp of the state-backed health care program. The budget bill must now be approved by the Ohio Senate and Gov. John Kasich.
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in March,
unchanged from February’s revised rate and a small drop from 7.4
percent in March 2012. The number of people unemployed rose by 1,000,
while the amount of people employed dropped by 20,400. March was also a
weak month for the U.S. jobs report, so Ohio’s numbers may be following a
nationwide slowdown. Jobs in manufacturing, mining and logging,
financial activities and trade, transportation and utilities increased,
while other areas dropped by varying degrees.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Mayor Mark Mallory still support the streetcar project, touting its economic benefits to the city. Still, Qualls told CityBeat Wednesday that she wants to have a “very robust public conversation” about the project with the public and city officials to see how it can move forward.
On the two-year anniversary of his death, the lawsuit for David “Bones” Hebert has been expanded
to include the city of Cincinnati and three Cincinnati
Police officers. Since he was killed by
police in 2011, Bones has built a following that wants to bring what
they perceive as justice to his death.
A state representative announced he will run against
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman in 2016 because of Portman’s vote against a
federal gun control bill. State Rep. Bob Hagan wrote on Facebook,
”Senator Portman shows his lack of courage and testicular fortitude. The
NRA Owns him. I am declaring my candidacy for US Senate to run against
him in the next election. I will be his hair shirt for the next three
years.” A poll from The New York Times and CBS found about 92 percent of Americans support universal background checks, the major policy proposal in the gun control bill.
A new app allows Icelanders to make sure their hookups don’t qualify as accidental incest.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:43 PM | Permalink
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls calls for public hearing to discuss project
After years of delays and obstructionism, a Tuesday memo from City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. revealed a $22.7 million budget gap is
threatening to put an end to the streetcar project, prompting Vice Mayor
Roxanne Qualls to call for a public hearing to address the issue.
In the city manager’s memo,
the city says it could bring down the potential budget gap to $17.4
million with budget cuts, but the rest would have to come from new
funds. The memo says the budget gap is a result of construction bids coming in $26
million to $43 million over budget.
The memo says the city will continue working
with “federal partners” to find solutions, but it makes no specific
proposals — a sign the project will likely require new city funds and
private donations to close the gap.
In response to the memo, Qualls, a Democratic mayoral candidate who has long
supported the streetcar, called for a public hearing on April 29 in a statement sent out today. The statement says part of the meeting
will help clarify what would happen with allocated funding if
the project fell apart.
Qualls told CityBeat it’s too early to jump to
conclusions about the project’s fate, but she says it’s time to have a
serious discussion about the project. “We’re at the point where we need
to have a very robust public conversation about this that is based upon
fact,” she says.
At the public hearing, both council members and the public will have time to ask questions. Qualls says she’s interested in getting answers for how the project got to
this point, what the cost issues are, whether the streetcar is still a good economic investment and what
costs are associated with shutting down the project if it’s deemed
“Fundamentally, it’s an issue of what are the costs but
also what are the benefits,” she says. “We need to clearly outline both
for the public.”But opponents, including Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, have responded to the budget gap by criticizing the streetcar project. Cranley, a longtime
opponent of the streetcar, called for the project’s end in a statement
today: “The streetcar has been a bad idea and a bad deal for the people
of Cincinnati from the beginning. ... Ms.
Qualls has already voted to raise property taxes three times to pay for
the project. When is she going to say ‘enough is enough’?”The opposition is nothing new to the project, which has undergone multiple bouts of obstructionism, including two failed referendum efforts in which a majority of voters came out in favor of the streetcar. Qualls says these delays have only made the project’s implementation more difficult.The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing the two Democrats running for mayor this year, making it a contentious political issue (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
The city recently approved two motions to prepare to hire
John Deatrick, the current project manager for The Banks, to help bring
the streetcar’s costs in line (“City Moves to Hire New Streetcar Manager,” issue of April 10). Deatrick was involved in finding savings in the streetcar project, according to the memo.
The hire and shortfall announcement came in the middle of an ongoing local budget crisis that may lead to the layoff of 344 city employees,
including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. The crisis is a result of
legal and referendum efforts holding up the city’s plan to lease parking
assets to the Port Authority, which would have opened up funds to help
balance the budget for the next two years and carry out development projects around the city,
including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).But the streetcar project, including Deatrick’s hire, is part of the capital budget, not the operating budget that employs cops and firefighters. Capital budget funds can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of legal and traditional constraints.
A statement from Cincinnatians for Progress defended the
streetcar, despite the higher costs now facing the project: “These are
challenging moments for Cincinnati's administration and City Council
regarding the streetcar. Bids came in higher than anticipated. However,
even at a slightly higher cost, the economic benefits of the system far
outweigh these costs. This is a reality that has been outlined in study
after study and confirmed in results from other cities across the
“Nearly 100 years ago, political leaders were having these
same discussions before tragically losing resolve and abandoning the
proposed subway and rail system that was nearly complete. Times have
changed. A new attitude of positivity has taken over our city. We must
continue the pattern of success that encompasses many recent projects
that were difficult and not inexpensive, but well worth the investment.”
by German Lopez
Cecil Thomas recommends Pam Thomas for replacement
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas’ last City Council
meeting will be Wednesday, after which he will be replaced by his wife of
32 years, Pam Thomas.
“Her qualifications are impeccable,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “She will give this city a good representation.”
Thomas’ wife ran for Hamilton County clerk of courts last
year, ultimately losing to Tracy Winkler. But Thomas said she won 70
percent of the vote in Cincinnati, making her an obviously strong
contender as a local candidate.
Thomas’ recommendation has raised questions among critics about how council members are replaced upon resignation. Incumbents can only make recommendations to successor designees, who make the final decision, but as Councilman Wendell Young, one of Thomas’ designees, noted at the meeting, the designees typically give great weight to the incumbent’s recommendation. When asked whether council members should have so much
power in recommending appointees, Thomas said, “I just follow the
rules.” He said if City Council wants to change the rules, it can.
Thomas said he will now run for the
State Senate seat being left vacant by State Sen. Eric Kearney, who is
term limited. He acknowledged the State Senate may be a more
difficult place for Democrats, which are in the minority at the state
level, but he said he hopes to “bridge divides” if he serves.
Until then, Thomas said he is looking forward to his time
off, although he will miss having a role in local politics: “It's going
to be tough to not be able to have that direct hands-on.”
Thomas said he wanted to step down earlier in the year,
but he decided to stay in office to see if the city could avoid laying
off cops and firefighters by balancing the fiscal year 2014 budget through the parking plan
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), which Thomas strongly supports. With the parking plan now in legal limbo and the layoffs going through, Thomas is stepping down.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Health
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling
Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies.
The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas
severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state
income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The
amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school
funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House
plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting
too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s
proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal
funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL
Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47
percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link
between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided
false information about the connection between breast cancer,
infertility and abortion, among other findings.
The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling
so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City
Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case
of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need
to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency
clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but
Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum,
effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city
now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The
ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets
to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic
With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study
youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city
policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will
look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime,
poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the
study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.
Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely
limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will
co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a
bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.
Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting
to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton,
campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s
developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics
and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic
Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting,
McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as
“unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile,
recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.
As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.
Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.
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
Critics say mayoral candidate’s proposal is flawed
In response to the March 28 announcement that City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. has begun implementing a plan that will lay off cops
and firefighters, mayoral candidate John Cranley released his own budget plan that claims to avoid layoffs and the implementation of the city’s parking plan. But critics say Cranley’s budget is unworkable.
Cranley’s budget uses casino revenue, parking meter
revenue and various cuts to raise nearly $33.8 million — more than the
$25.8 million necessary to balance the budget without a parking plan.
Cranley’s critics have taken to social media to claim
Cranley’s revenue projections are “fantasy.” They also claim the
across-the-board budget cuts ignore the city’s priority-driven budgeting
process, and there’s no certainty that such broad cuts can be carried
out without laying off city employees.
Whether avoiding layoffs is possible through Cranley’s proposal remains unclear, even according
to Cranley’s two-page budget plan, which reads, “We need to identify
only roughly $26 million to cover the 2014 deficit and will reduce some
of these cuts to ensure that there are no layoffs.”
Cranley says there is no certainty that the cuts could be
carried out without any layoffs, but he says he would do everything he
can to prevent personnel cuts: “I believe that people should take pay cuts. … If I
cut the office of the council members’ staff, I can’t force an
individual council member not to lay someone off, but I would certainly
encourage them to reduce salaries as opposed to layoffs.”
In government budget terms, a 10-percent cut to any
department is fairly large — particularly for Cincinnati’s operating
budget, which uses 90 percent of its funds on personnel. In comparison, the cuts from the 2013 sequester, the across-the-board federal
spending cuts that President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats say will
lead to furloughs and layoffs around the nation, ranged between 2
percent and 7.9 percent, depending on the department.
The cuts make up one-third of Cranley’s proposal, while the rest of the money comes from casino and parking meter revenue. For his casino revenue numbers, Cranley cites Horseshoe
Casino General Manager Kevin Kline, who told City Council he
expects the casino to raise $21 million each year, but city officials
have said they only expect $10 million a year.
Cranley insists the extra $11 million will come to fruition.
He says, “I would put my track record of being the chairman of the
budget committee for eight years, which balanced budgets without
layoffs, ahead of the people at the city that estimated the costs of the
Just in case, Cranley says his plan purposely overshoots the $25.8 million deficit to leave some leeway in carrying out cuts. But without the extra $11 million, Cranley’s plan would only raise about $22.8 million — $3 million short of filling the budget gap.
Jon Harmon, legislative director for Councilman Chris
Seelbach’s office, says the city and state were originally expecting a
lot more revenue from the state’s new casinos, but the legalization of
racinos, which enabled racetrack gambling, has pushed revenue projections down.
In February, Ohio’s Office of Budget Management estimated
the Horseshoe Casino will raise $75 million in tax revenue for the city,
state and schools, down from a 2009 estimate of $111 million, after
seeing disappointing returns from Ohio’s already-opened casinos. The
local numbers reflect a statewide revision downward: 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.
Even if Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino does much better
than the state’s other casinos, the way casino revenue is collected and
distributed by the state makes a $21 million windfall unlikely,
according to Harmon. Before the state distributes casino revenue to
cities, counties and schools based on preset proportions, the money is
pooled together, which means all the casinos would have to hit original
estimates for Cincinnati to get $21 million — an unlikely scenario,
according to Harmon.
The other major revenue source in Cranley’s budget is $5.2 million in parking meter revenue, which the city manager’s office told CityBeat in February
is usable for the general fund after months of insisting otherwise.
Some of that money is already used in the general fund under current law, but the parking plan would remove that revenue altogether and replace it with new revenue. Cranley says his plan would forgo the parking plan and secure the $5.2 million in the general fund.
Among other cuts, Cranley’s proposal would eliminate some of
the money that goes to software licensing. With the way the cut is
outlined in Cranley’s two-paged budget proposal, it’s unclear whether it
would hit all software licensing or just some of it, but Cranley says his plan is only reducing $531,554 of about $2.6 million, which he says
still leaves a $1 million increase over 2012’s software licensing
“I’m telling people what my priorities are: police, fire,
parks, recreation, garbage collection, health department (and) human
services,” he says. “I believe that elected officials should not be
paying consultants from Denver to tell people in Cincinnati what their
priorities are. I believe that elected officials should tell the voters
what their priorities are.”Cranley’s comments are critical of the the city’s priority-driven budgeting process, which ranked city programs based on feedback gathered through local surveys and meetings with Cincinnati residents.
With or without the parking plan, Cranley says the city is
facing structural deficit problems. He says his plan permanently
fixes those issues, while the parking plan would only eliminate the deficit for the next two fiscal years.
Cranley and Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns oppose
the city’s parking plan, while Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another
Democratic mayoral candidate, supports it.
The parking plan, which was approved by City Council on March 6,
would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati
Development Authority to help balance the deficit for the next two
fiscal years and fund development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
But the semi-privatization plan is being held up in court. Most recently, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler ordered a permanent restraining order on the plan pending a referendum effort. The extended injunction sparked criticism from city officials, who say delays will lead to fiscal and procedural problems.CityBeat’s coverage of other plans:“Parking Stimulus”: Explains the parking plan, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and supported by City Council.“City Manager Lists Alternatives to Parking Plan”: Explains Plan B, the alternative plan put forward by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. that would lay off 344 city employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions.“Seelbach Announces ‘Plan S’ Budget Alternative”: Explains Councilman Chris Seelbach’s proposed alternative to the parking plan.
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.
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.