by German Lopez
Plan B would lay off 344 city employees, eliminate Human Services Funding
If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, but critics argue
there are better alternatives.In a memo dated to Feb. 26,
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. wrote that the city will also have to close three community centers and six pools; eliminate Human Services Funding, which aids the
city’s homeless and poor; and reduce funding for local business groups,
parks, nature education for Cincinnati Public Schools and environmental
regulations, among other changes. In total, the cuts would add up to $25.8 million — just
enough to balance the deficit that would be left in place without the parking plan.
In addition to the cuts, failing to approve the parking
plan, which leases the city’s parking meters for 30 years and lots and garages for 50 years to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority, would displace plans to
convert Tower Place Mall, construct a 30-floor tower with a grocery
store downtown, accelerate the the I-71/MLK Interchange project, acquire
the Wasson Line right-of-way for a bike trail and add $4 million to the
next phase of Smale Riverfront Park (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls, who’s running for mayor, has come out in favor of the parking plan, but John Cranley, another
Democrat running for mayor, says he opposes the deal because it will
hurt downtown businesses.
“It’s the boy who cried wolf,” Cranley says. “In 2009,
2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and
firefighters, and it never happened.”
Cranley says he
would rather take $10 million from projected casino revenue and $7
million from current parking revenues to help clear the deficit. For the
remaining $8.8 million, he would cut non-essential programs, which
would exclude police, fire, garbage collection, health, parks and
recreation, street pavement and Human Services Funding, across the
board by 10 to 15 percent. If that wasn’t enough, he would then
move to the essential programs, which he says make up about $300 million
in the $368.9 million budget, with a 1-percent across-the-board cut.
He says his solution would have the upside of fixing
structural deficit problems in Cincinnati’s General Fund, whereas the
one-time lease of the city’s parking assets will only take care of the deficit for the next two years.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says City Council could
use the casino revenue to pay for the deficit, but $4 million of it is
already set for the Focus 52 program, which funds neighborhood
“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,”
Olberding says. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan
or another plan.”
Cranley says he would not do away with the Focus 52
program, but he would instead find funding for it in the Capital Budget,
which is separate from the General Fund.
Olberding says City Council could approve the use of about
$3 million in parking meter revenue for the General Fund, but the rest
of the parking money, which comes from lots and garages, is tied to an
enterprise fund, which, by state law, means the city would have to sell
its parking lots and garages before it could obtain money for the General Fund.Cranley, who also opposes the streetcar project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23), says it
would be possible to pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange and other projects
if the streetcar wasn’t taking up funds. If it was up to him, he says
he would remove streetcar funding and use it on other development
projects “without batting an eye.”
In the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls said the Budget and Finance Committee will likely vote
on the city manager’s parking plan on March 4 or March 11.
City manager’s new parking plan attempts to limit private influence, boost development
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
On Feb. 19, City Manager Milton Dohoney
Jr. announced what he called a “public-public partnership” that would
give control of Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $110 million in
economic development and help balance the city’s budget for the next two
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
A surprise inspection of the private
prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on Feb. 22
revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high presence of
gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and theft,
according to the report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog.
by German Lopez
City releases parking documents, parking plan gets hearing, restroom could cost $35,000
Following CityBeat’s blog post yesterday, the city released the official documents
for the city manager’s parking plan. So far, no one has reported
anything outrageous or unexpected. If you see anything, feel free to
Of the two dozen people who spoke at a public hearing for the parking plan yesterday, all but two opposed the plan.
Much of the opposition came from people who said they were worried parking will be expensive, but the city manager’s office says it will take three years for
parking rates to go up in Downtown and six years for rates to go up in neighborhoods after an initial hike
to 75 cents. CityBeat covered the parking plan in detail here.
Cincinnati officials are now saying that a freestanding restroom could cost as low as $35,000.
Officials say the public restroom is needed to accommodate growing
activity and population in Over-the-Rhine and Downtown. Some critics
were initially worried that the facility would cost $100,000.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino will partner up
with the Cincinnati Police Department to keep out cheats and prevent
theft. The casino will also have advanced surveillance equipment,
allowing them to detect anyone around the casino before they even get
into the building. It may seem like a lot, but casinos do tend to
attract cheaters and other troublemakers, according to Ohio Casino
Control Commission Director of Enforcement Karen Huey. The Horseshoe
Casino is set to open March 4.
A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association found more teen drivers died in crashes this year than the last two,
and some officials fear wireless devices may be a leading cause. In
Ohio, the six-month grace period for the teen wireless ban expires
Friday, which will allow police officers to issue tickets instead of
warnings to teenagers using any wireless devices while driving.
Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal would cut back a state-funded college internship program, which awarded $11 million to universities around the state.
Ohio Democrats are asking Kasich to put his Ohio Turnpike funding promises in writing
after they found out the governor’s budget proposal doesn’t actually say
that 90 percent of leveraged funds will remain in northern Ohio, which
Kasich originally promised.
Barry Horstman, investigative reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer, collapsed and died in the newsroom yesterday. CityBeat offers its condolences to Horstman’s co-workers, family and friends.
The University of Cincinnati got a $2.3 million grant
from the National Cancer Institute to train cancer researchers. “Our
emphasis is on training the next generation of cancer researchers to
translate basic science discoveries into improved patient care,” Susan
Waltz, co-principal investigator of the grant and professor of cancer
biology at the UC College of Medicine, said in a statement.
A homemade jetpack can reach altitudes up to 25,000 feet, but it might have some trouble landing.
by German Lopez
Federal cuts will hurt Ohio, casino revitalizes neighborhood, danger at private prison
The White House released a list
of what cuts will be made in Ohio as part of mandatory spending cuts
set to kick in March 1, which are widely known as the sequester. Among other
changes, 26,000 civilian defense employees would be furloughed, 350
teacher and aide jobs would be put at risk due to $25.1 million in
education cuts and $6.9 million for clean air and water enforcement would
be taken away. President Barack Obama and Democrats have pushed to
replace the sequester with a plan that contains tax changes and budget
cuts, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise with Republicans, who
insist on a plan that only includes spending cuts.
Community Council President David White told WVXU that the
streets and sidewalks of the long-neglected neighborhood of Pendleton
were previously crumbling, but the Horseshoe Casino’s development has helped transform the area.
With Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, the city has budgeted $6
million in neighborhood development that has led to new trees, expanded
sidewalks and the potential for further developments that will appeal to
A surprise inspection
of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)
on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high
presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion and
theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog. The
CIIC report found enormous increases in violence, with a 187.5-percent
increase in inmate-on-inmate violence and 305.9-percent in
inmate-on-staff violence between 2010 and 2012. Many of the problems are
being brought on by inadequate staff, according to the report. The
findings echo much of what privatization critics have been warning about
ever since Gov. John Kasich announced his plans to privatize the state
prison in 2011, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.
Kasich has highlighted funding increases in the education plan in his 2014-2015 budget proposal, but the plan also includes looser requirements for Ohio’s schools.
The plan will remove the teacher salary schedule from law, which sets a
minimum for automatic teacher pay increases for years of service and
educational accomplishments, such as obtaining a master’s degree. It
would also change the minimum school year from 182 days to 920 hours for
elementary students and 1,050 for high school students, giving more
flexibility to schools. CityBeat took an in-depth look at the governor’s budget and some of its education changes here.
Ohio Democrats want to change how the state picks its watchdog.
The governor currently appoints someone to the inspector general
position, but Democrats argue a bipartisan panel should be in charge of
making the pick.
Mayor Mark Mallory is in Spain to meet with CAF, the
company constructing the cars for Cincinnati’s streetcar project. Streetcar opponents, including mayoral candidate John
Cranley, say the cars are being built too early, but the city says it needs the time to build the cars, test them, burn the tracks and
train staff in the cars’ use. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race here.
The amount of Ohio prisoners returning to prison after being released hit a new low of 28.7 percent in 2009.
The numbers, which are calculated over a three-year period, indicate an
optimistic trend for the state’s recidivism statistics even before Gov. John
Kasich’s sentencing reform laws were signed into law.
Cincinnati’s real estate brokers say the city manager’s parking plan will revitalize Downtown’s retail scene
by using funds from semi-privatizing Cincinnati’s parking assets to
renovate Tower Place Mall and build a 30-story apartment tower with a
parking garage and grocery store.
The University of Cincinnati was the second-best fundraiser in the state in the past year. On Feb. 20, UC announced it had met its $1 billion goal for its Proudly Cincinnati campaign.
On Saturday, Bradley Manning, the American citizen accused of leaking a
massive stash of diplomatic cables and military reports to WikiLeaks, went through his 1,000th day in U.S. custody without a trial.Popular Science has seven ways sitting is going to kill us all.
by German Lopez
City says official details, contracts will be ready before City Council vote
City Hall will host public hearings about the city manager’s
parking and economic development plan today, but the hearings will take
place before the public knows all the official details. Meg Olberding,
city spokesperson, says the legal documents and contracts for the deal
aren’t ready to be released yet, but they will be ready before City
Council holds a vote.
“We’re still finalizing the documents,” Olberding says.
“These are long, complicated documents, so we want to make sure they’re
done right, and we’ll put them online as soon as they’re available.”
When the documents are released, they will include
Cincinnati’s deal with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but they will not divulge specifics on the Port Authority’s
contracts with AEW, Xerox, Denison and Guggenheim — the four private
companies partnering with the Port Authority to manage city’s parking
Without the full details, mayoral candidate John Cranley,
who opposes the parking plan, says he’s concerned the public is going
into the deal blind: “Why are they having public hearings before giving
the contract to the public and giving us the exact details? What they do
is sit back and selectively give information.”
The lack of details has already led to some surprises since the parking proposal was announced to the public. On Feb. 21, Olberding told CityBeat
the city will be able to bypass the so-called cap on parking meter rate
increases through unanimous vote from a five-person advisory committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from
the Port Authority. The process, which begins with an advisory committee that will include four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by
the city manager, will allow the city to raise and lower the cap in case of changing economic needs, says Olberding.Under the initial plan, parking meter rates will be
set to increase annually by 3 percent or the rate of inflation on a
compounded basis, with any increases coming in 25-cents-an-hour increments. That
should translate to 25-cent increases every three years for Downtown and
every six years for neighborhoods, says Olberding.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled his parking
proposal on Feb. 19, promising $92 million upfront and an additional $3
million a year to pay off the city’s budget deficits for 2014 and 2015,
build a 30-story high-rise Downtown with a grocery store and 300 luxury
apartments, renovate Tower Place Mall and complete the I-71/MLK
Interchange project (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20).
by German Lopez
Report echoes concerns raised by privatization critics
A surprise inspection of the private prison owned by Corrections Corporation of
America (CCA) on Feb. 22 revealed higher levels of violence, inadequate staff, high
presence of gang activity, illegal substance use, frequent extortion
and theft, according to the report from the Correctional Institution
Inspection Committee (CIIC), Ohio’s nonpartisan prison watchdog.The CIIC
report found the Lake Erie Correctional Institution had a 187.5-percent
increase in inmate-on-inmate violence between 2010 and 2012, leading to a rate of inmate-on-inmate violence much higher than comparative prisons and slightly
below the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC)
average for all state prisons. Rates of inmate-on-staff violence increased by 305.9-percent between
2010 and 2012 and were much higher than comparative prisons and the ODRC
average, according to the report.Safety
and security were major areas of concern, with the report noting
“personal safety is at risk.” Fight convictions were up 40 percent, but
they weren’t any higher than comparative prisons or the ODRC average,
the report found. Disturbances, use of force, access to illegal
substances, shakedowns and bunk searches were all in need of
improvement, but rounds were acceptable. How
staff handle the use of force and sanctions were particularly
problematic, the report said: “Incident reports indicate that staff
hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy
chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both
inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for
serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no
options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full.”Fair
treatment, fiscal accountability and rehabilitation and reentry
were all found by the report to be in need of improvement, with
many of the problems focusing on inadequate staff — a common concern
critics repeatedly voiced after Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to
sell the state prison to CCA in 2011. “The above issues are compounded
by high staff turnover and low morale,” the report said. “New staff
generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make
quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to
handle inmate confrontations. Staff also reported that they are often
required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their
troubling findings left CIIC with dozens of recommendations for
the private prison, including a thorough review of staff policy and
guidelines, stronger cooperation between staff, holding staff and
inmates more accountable and the completion of required state audits and
only positive findings were in health and well-being. The
report said unit conditions, mental health services and food services
were all good, while medical services and recreation were acceptable.The report echoes many of the concerns raised by private prison critics, which CityBeat previously covered (“Liberty for Sale,” issue of Sept. 19). A
September audit from ODRC also found the prison was only meeting two-thirds of the
state’s standards, and reports from locals near the prison in January warned about a
rise in smuggling.
by German Lopez
City could raise rate cap, Cranley's website against parking plan, superintendent pays up
While fact checking an interview, CityBeat
discovered it will be possible to circumvent the parking plan’s cap
on meter rate increases through a multilayer process that involves
approval from a special committee, the city manager and the Port of
Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The process adds a potential
loophole to one of the city manager’s main defenses against fears of
skyrocketing rates, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says raising
the cap requires overcoming an extensive series of hurdles: unanimous
approval from a board with four members appointed by the Port Authority
and one selected by the city manager, affirmation from the city manager
and a final nod from the Port Authority. Olberding says the process is
necessary in case anything changes during the 30-year time span of the
parking deal, which CityBeat covered in detail here.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley launched DontSellCincinnati.org to prevent the city manager’s parking plan, which
semi-privatizes the city’s parking assets. The website claims the plan
gives for-profit investment companies power over enforcement, guarantees
3-percent rate increases every year and blows through all the money
raised in two years. The plan does task a private company with
enforcement, but it will be handled by Xerox, not a financial firm, and
must follow standards set in the company’s agreement with the Port
Authority. While the plan does allow 3-percent rate increases each year,
Olberding says the Port Authority will have the power to refuse an
increase — meaning it’s not a guarantee.
Arnol Elam, the Franklin City Schools superintendent who
sent an angry letter to Gov. John Kasich over his budget plan, is no
longer being investigated for misusing county resources after he paid $539 in restitution. CityBeat
covered Elam’s letter, which told parents and staff about regressive
funding in Kasich’s school funding proposal, and other parts of the
governor’s budget in an in-depth cover story.
To the surprise of no one, Ohio’s oil lobby is still against Kasich’s tax plan, which raises a 4 percent severance tax on oil and wet gas from high-producing fracking wells and a 1 percent tax on dry gas.
Local faith leaders from a diversity of religious backgrounds held a press conference
yesterday to endorse the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom
Amendment, an amendment from FreedomOhio that would legalize same-sex
marriage in the state. Pastor Mike Underhill of the Nexus United Church
of Christ (UCC) in Butler County, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple
Sholom, Pamela Taylor of Muslims for Progressive Values and Mike
Moroski, who recently lost his job as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School for standing up for LGBT rights all attended the event. CityBeat covered the amendment and its potential hurdles for getting on the 2013 ballot here.
Vanessa White, a member of the Cincinnati Public Schools board, is running for City Council.
White is finishing her first four-year term at the board after winning
the seat handily in 2009. She has said she wants to stop the streetcar
project, but she wants to increase collaboration between the city and
schools and create jobs for younger people.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ (BMV) policy on providing driver’s licenses to the children of illegal immigrants remains unclear. Since CityBeat
broke the story on the BMV policy, the agency has shifted from internally pushing
against driver’s licenses for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA) recipients to officially “reviewing guidance from the federal
government as it applies to Ohio law.” DACA is an executive order from
President Barack Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to
qualify for permits that enable them to remain in the United States
without fear of prosecution.
A survey from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments found locals are generally satisfied with roads, housing and issues that affect them everyday. The survey included 2,500 people and questions about energy efficiency, infrastructure, public health, schools and other issues.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed 7,000 Ohioans
have received more than $280 million in consumer relief as part of the
National Mortgage Settlement announced one year ago. The $25 billion
settlement between the federal government and major banks punishes
reckless financial institutions and provides relief to homeowners in the
aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Ohio received a $3 million federal grant to continue improving the state’s health care payments and delivery programs.
Cincinnati home sales reached a six-year high after a 27-percent jump in January.
CityBeat’s Hannah “McAttack” McCartney interviewed yours truly for the first post of her Q&A-based blog, Cinfolk.
Crows have a sense of fairness, a new study found.
by German Lopez
Kasich gives State of the State, Dohoney's parking plan, county rejects bridge tolls
Gov. John Kasich gave his State of the State speech
yesterday. Kasich focused on his budget proposal and jobs, and he
urged lawmakers to take up the Medicaid expansion. Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer has a thorough report on the speech here. CityBeat gave an in-depth look at Kasich’s budget in this week’s cover story here.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. proposed an ambitious parking and economic development plan
yesterday. The 30-year plan, which Dohoney called a “public-public
partnership,” will lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of
Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $100 million
in projects around the city, including the I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower
Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a downtown grocery store. As
part of the deal, the city will retain control over parking rates,
operation hours and the placement of meters.
The Kenton County Fiscal Court unanimously voted against tolls
to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project, reports WVXU. County
residents are concerned the tolls will be a financial drain for
commuters and travelers, but finding other sources of funding for the project has been an ongoing struggle.
An Ohio woman claims she was fired after voting for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, reports Dayton Daily News.
Patricia Kunkle’s lawsuit claims her former employer, Roberta “Bobbie”
Gentile of Q-Mark Inc., threatened to fire workers if Obama won election
and that Obama supporters would be first on the list.
John Cranley, former Democratic council member, will
formally launch his mayoral campaign today. The kick-off will be at 20th
Century Theater in Oakley at 5:30 p.m. Cranley’s main opponent will
most likely be Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a fellow Democrat. The two
Democrats have split on one issue: the streetcar. Qualls supports it,
while Cranley is against it. CityBeat covered the streetcar and how it relates to the mayor’s race here.
The University of Cincinnati is conducting research for how to locate food deserts, reports the Business Courier.
Professor Michael Widener is looking at where people live and work,
with a focus on how many people are able to stop by a grocery store
after a workday.
Failing to yield caused 37,475 crashes in 2012,
according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Altogether, the crashes
killed 187 people and injured 23,353. Young drivers, aged 16 to 25, were at
fault for 30 percent of the crashes — nearly twice as high as those aged
26 to 35, who caused 16 percent of accidents. The full county-by-county
report is available here.
UC will spend $2 million on design work for Nippert Stadium, reports WLWT. UC hopes the work will attract an Atlantic Coast Conference invitation.
Popular Science has a demonstration of scientists teaching language to a childlike robot.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
In a presentation to City Council Feb.
19, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled an unexpected parking
proposal that will solve a $25.8 million budget deficit for the 2014
fiscal year and avoid full privatization. The 30-year plan will also put
more than $100 million toward economic development in the city.