WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 04.17.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Streetcar at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Budget Gap Threatens Streetcar Project

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 necessary. “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 country. “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 04.16.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Government at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
cecil-thomas-1

Councilman to Resign, Wife to Take Seat

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 04.10.2013
Posted In: Health, News, Budget, Courts at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

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 development. 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 04.04.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
city hall

Mallory Fires Back at Critics During Testy Council Meeting

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 city administration officials say the city will have to carry out Plan B, which would lay off 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But 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 city administration. “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 admitted the 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 and counties. 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 program’s restoration. 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 without layoffs. 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 03.29.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, News, Budget at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Proposes Budget Plan

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 streetcar.” 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 budget. “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 04.04.2013
Posted In: LGBT Issues, News, Budget, Parking at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

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 crying wolf.” 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.
 
 

Poor Messaging Holds Back Parking Plan

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.    

Lease or Layoffs?

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 day.  
by German Lopez 04.03.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Economy, Education at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

Morning News and Stuff

Ruling kills project, council members ask for alternatives, Kasich's school formula scrapped

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s ruling last week has already led to the dissolution of one project, according to Mayor Mark Mallory. The Kinsey Apartments project fell through after City Council was unable to expedite a change in the building’s classification that would have enabled access to state tax credits. Winkler’s ruling effectively eliminated the city’s use of emergency clauses, which the city used to remove a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, by ruling that all Cincinnati laws are open to referendum. The ruling means the city can no longer expedite laws even in extreme cases, such as natural disasters. The city is appealing the ruling. Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are calling for a special session of City Council to get the city administration to answer questions about budget alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Mallory and other city officials claim the only way to balance the budget is to carry out Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make cuts to other city services. But Sittenfeld and Seelbach have proposed alternatives with casino revenue and cuts elsewhere. The Ohio House may scrap Republican Gov. John Kasich’s school funding formula to use a “Building Blocks” model championed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The legislators say the formula will give more certainty to local officials by always providing a base of funding based on the average cost to educate a student, but the governor’s office says the approach neglects recent increases in school mobility. Kasich’s formula has come under criticism for disproportionately benefiting wealthy districts, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. Ohio’s per capita personal income rose at one of the fastest rates in the nation last year, according to an analysis from Dayton Daily News. The news is another sign of Ohio’s strong economic recovery, but it remains unclear whether the rise will bring down the state’s income inequality. The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus (ODWC) is criticizing Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts to exempt more health providers from providing contraceptive coverage based on religious grounds. “DeWine wants to allow all employers to deny crucial health care services like birth control, cancer screenings and vaccines if they disagree with the services due to their personal or political beliefs,” Amy Grubbe, chairwoman of the ODWC, said in a statement. As part of Obamacare, health insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and other Republicans say the requirement violates religious liberty. Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering up to use technology to crack down on fraud in the federal food stamp program that costs the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars a year. A public Ohio school is taking down a portrait of Jesus after being threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating separation of state and church. Duke Energy reached a settlement that will allow the company to raise the average electric bill for its Ohio customers by $3.72 per month. Hamilton County’s SuperJobs Center and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Veterans Program are partnering with 28 employers, ranging from the University of Cincinnati to Coca Cola, to host the annual veteran hiring event at the SuperJobs Center, located at 1916 Central Parkway, on April 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The Midwest Homeschool Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center will bring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and 15,000 visitors to Cincinnati. President Barack Obama says he wants to fund a research project that would map the human brain. By 2020, scientists estimate the world’s solar panels will have “paid back” the energy it took to produce them. Scientists are growing immune cells in space to study how astronauts’ immune systems change in space.
 
 
by German Lopez 04.02.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking at 03:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
city hall

Council Members Demand Answers on Budget Alternatives

City officials frame budget debate with two choices, but there are more options

Councilman Chris Seelbach says Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials are wrong to claim Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make other cuts to city services, is the only solution to the city’s budget deficit if the parking plan isn’t implemented.Seelbach and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called for a special City Council session on April 4 to get the city administration to answer questions about alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Seelbach, who opposes the parking plan, has pointed to casino revenue and cuts in programs ranked poorly by the city’s priority-driven budgeting process as two potential alternatives to eliminating at least 269 public safety positions. “We spent $100,000 on the priority-based budget process to give the public and a diverse cross-section of the entire city input on what the Council and the city should be spending money on,” Seelbach says. “We should be using those results when deciding where we should make cuts.” In the midst of the parking plan debate, Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the deficit, cut $5 million based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting process and put two charter amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. At a press conference on March 28, Mayor Mark Mallory implied the plan is unworkable because it relies on November ballot initiatives. “We don’t have until November,” he said. But Seelbach says City Council could pass a stub budget that would sustain the city financially until the ballot measures are voted on. If both the measures are rejected, City Council would then be required to make further adjustments to balance the budget. Even without the ballot initiatives, Seelbach’s suggestions for casino revenue and cuts based on the priority-driven budgeting process could be approved by City Council to avoid at least two-thirds of the $18.1 million in public safety cuts outlined by Dohoney’s Plan B memo. Seelbach says further cuts could be made through the budget-driven priority process if necessary. “It worries me that these threats of 344 layoffs is just an attempt to sell the parking plan,” he says. “Every option should be on the table.” Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that City Council could choose its own cuts and use other revenue, including casino revenue, to balance the budget. “Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” she said. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another plan.” In the 2013 mayoral race, the threat of laying off cops and firefighters has played a prominent role in the parking plan debate. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley has repeatedly said the threats are “the boy crying wolf.” On Friday, he proposed his own budget plan that he says would avoid layoffs, but critics say Cranley’s casino revenue estimates ignore recent trends. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another Democratic candidate for mayor, said the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters if the parking plan doesn’t go into effect, echoing earlier comments she made in a blog post Sunday. On March 6, City Council passed a plan that would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Development Authority to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27). But the plan is being held up by a referendum effort after a ruling from Judge Robert Winkler on March 28.
 
 

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