by Andy Brownfield
City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs
Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention
on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday
committee presentation on the 2013 budget.
It was the first opportunity council members had to
publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would
cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal
year starting in July.
Many council members expressed concern over the plan
to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking
meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.
“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities
net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about
$210 million over 30 years.
Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the
facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit,
for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.
Other council members expressed concern that whoever
leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas
“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.
Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue,
projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34
million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.
A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.
The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating
support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and
Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts
It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of
50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse
patrol would bring that closer to 40.
Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits
to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use
University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.
He said the police department would also look for ways to
save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could
do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had
considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long
been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying
staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is
The proposed budget also includes investments in business
groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority,
Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American
Chamber of Commerce.
Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget
team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six
years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on
people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.
“There is a focus on helping people make more money that
are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that
aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
by Andy Brownfield
Loan would help move three homeless shelters out of Over-the-Rhine
UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for
federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new
Council members voted with all but one approving the
application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the
Washington Park-area shelters.
If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would
move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount
Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined
Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the
shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20
Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice.
He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the
loan and the city’s ability to pay it back.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to
Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying
for the loan, but also voiced some concern.
“The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love
with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting
income diversity as well as racial and ethnic.
“I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop
that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low
income people out of Over-the-Rhine.”
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly
adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable
housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.
“Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982
and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,”
“Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters
were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had
failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”
by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, Barack Obama
, LGBT Issues
, President Obama
, Mitt Romney
at 02:52 PM | Permalink
On National Coming Out Day, Obama campaign releases new ad featuring LGBT activist
On National Coming Out Day, Cincinnati’s only openly gay
city councilman told CityBeat that equality for America’s Lesbian Gay
Bisexual and Transgendered people would take a hit under a President
“On day one (of his presidency) he (Romney) could hurt gay
families by reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hurt security for our
country,” Seelbach said. “We need as many people serving as possible.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to CityBeat as he waited to vote early outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Proponents of the measure that prevented openly gay
service members from serving in the military have said repealing Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell would damage the country’s combat-readiness.
A study published by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School in September found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.
Seelbach said there would be a stark contrast for LGBT
people under President Barack Obama and his GOP rival. He pointed to the
Obama administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in
court; his vocal approval of same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination
measures signed by the president that, among other things, give same-sex
partners the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make
He said the next president would also likely have the
opportunity to appoint new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court
will likely decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which
outlawed gay marriage."If you care about equality, you've got to vote," Seelbach said. "The easiest way to vote is to vote early."
The Obama campaign in Ohio plans to release a new online ad touting the president’s accomplishments for LGBT people.
The ad, made available to CityBeat, features Zach Wahls, a
gay-rights activist born to a lesbian couple via artificial
insemination. Wahls is known for his testimony before the Iowa House
Judiciary Committee against a constitutional amendment that would ban
gay marriage in that state.
In the ad, Wahls touts the president’s accomplishments and exhorts Ohioans to reelect Obama.
“We want to make sure that we’re all doing everything we
can this fall to get out, register voters, canvass, knock on doors, get
our family members and friends out to the polls so that we can re-elect
the best president this country has ever seen on LGBT rights,” Wahls
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Democrats have had a strange election
cycle regarding same-sex rights. The party went from shying away from
the same-sex marriage issue in 2010 to President Barack Obama embracing
same-sex marriage rights in June and the official Democratic platform
embracing same-sex rights last week.
by Andy Brownfield
Group threatens referendum of Blue Ash Airport resale
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
(COAST) has threatened to block a move that would allow Cincinnati to use $37.5 million from the 2007 sale of the Blue Ash Airport for projects other than aviation, $11 million of which would go to the Cincinnati streetcar.
The Blue Ash City Council voted Thursday to re-do the sale of 130 acres at the Blue Ash Airport to the City of Cincinnati. COAST
says it wants to put the matter before voters in a 2013 referendum,
which would halt the sale and re-instate the original agreement made in
2007 when Cincinnati made the sale.
The two cities decided to re-work the $37.5 million sale
because a federal rule requires proceeds from the sale of an operating
airport to be used for other aviation projects. The money would be
returned, airport shut down and then the property re-sold to Blue Ash
for the original amount.
“When they originally sold it they were stupid, which is
typical of the City of Cincinnati, and did not realize that the proceeds
on the sale of the airport have to go to other aviation-type things,” says COAST Chairman Tom Brinkman. “Now that they want to get the
streetcar, they want to crack that money.”
Brinkman openly admits he doesn’t want the money to go to
the streetcar (“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that
boondoggle doesn’t occur”) but says COAST is working with a group of local
pilots who want money from the sale to go to Cincinnati’s Lunken
Blue Ash is confident that the ordinance they passed approving the re-sale isn’t subject to referendum.
“Blue Ash believes everything enacted was lawful and would
survive any challenge,” says City Solicitor Brian Pachenco. He declined
to discuss specifics
The city wants the airport land to build a park.
Pachenco said the ordinance wasn’t written specifically to
exempt it from referendum attempts, but nevertheless it falls under a
section of the city’s charter that makes voters unable to recall it.
COAST isn’t so sure.
Chris Finney, legal counsel for COAST, said the buying and
selling of land under the Blue Ash charter is subject to referendum. He
said the ordinance was written to avoid using that language, but what
was happening was in reality a sale.
For its part, Cincinnati doesn’t seem too concerned with the threatened referendum.
“We’re not going to talk 'what ifs' at this point,” city
spokeswoman Meg Olberding said. “The streetcar has had two previous
referendums that have been shot down.”
She pointed out that only $11 million of the sale was
going toward the streetcar, and the remaining money would be available
for other projects.
Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach was also unconcerned.
“COAST and groups like COAST have tried to put up every
obstacle possible to prevent the streetcar from happening and we have
overcome all of them,” Seelbach said. “I am 100 percent positive if this
comes to a vote we will overcome it again and the streetcar will be
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: bikes
at 09:00 AM | Permalink
Urban-friendly team sport swaps out horses for bikes
Klutzes beware — today marks the opening of the Coy Bike Polo Court in Clifton. If you've never heard of bike polo, it's when people ride around on bikes using mallets to push a ball across a court into a goal. Scared yet? Don't be. It just takes some practice. Bike polo is one of the world's up-and-coming sports, already highly popular in India and across Europe. According to the League of Bike Polo, U.S. bike polo was born in Seattle in the '90s, when a group of bike messengers were playing with a ball and some homemade mallets. “This bike polo court is one
the few official bike polo courts in the country,” says Steve Pacella,
Cincinnati Recreation Commission superintendent, according to a press
release. Several other cities across the U.S., including San Francisco, are scheduled to open official bike polo courts later this year. Aside from the rise in U.S. cycling culture, its popularity is attributed, in part, to its flexibility — courts can be parking lots, roofs or grassy areas, meaning it's easy for urban-dwellers to find spots to pay. The new bike polo court is located at the end of Joselin Avenue off Clifton Avenue, near the University of Cincinnati, and will be opened and dedicated today at 3 p.m. Councilman Chris Seelbach will be present to celebrate the court's opening, and the ceremony will also feature a bike polo demonstration for those unfamiliar with the game. Watch a game of bike polo and learn the rules: The opening of the bike court comes during Bike Month, a country-wide celebration of all things bike. Click here for a comprehensive list of Cincinnati bike happenings.
by German Lopez
Trend follows other cities, states, countries and a majority of Fortune 500 companies
Cincinnati inched closer to
equality after moving forward Monday with a measure that would allow city
employees in same-sex and other partnerships to receive health insurance
With a push by Chris Seelbach,
the first openly gay councilman in Cincinnati, the measure passed the finance
committee with the support of all council members except Charlie Winburn, who
The approval came after a city
report found that same-sex benefits could cost as much as $543,000 a year if 77
partners took advantage of the benefits.
The report suggested City Council
mimic a system already in place in Columbus, which requires partners to prove
financial interdependency and that they have been together for six months.
If the measure passes City
Council, Cincinnati would be more caught up with other cities, states,
countries and companies that already grant health benefits to same-sex
couples. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign estimated that 60 percent
of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to same-sex couples, including
Procter and Gamble and Fifth Third Bank.
Altogether, it seems like a small
step toward equality. What’s unfortunate is none of it would be required if
same-sex marriage was legal in Ohio. If it was,
same-sex couples could get marriage benefits, including health-care coverage.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday approved
the petition language for an amendment that would overturn Ohio’s 2004 ban on
gay marriage. The new amendment would define marriage as “a union of two
consenting adults, regardless of gender.”
The amendment now moves forward
to the Ohio Ballot Board. If approved, it will then require 385,253 signatures
from registered voters and, finally, voter approval.Ohio banned same-sex marriage in
2004 with a majority vote of 62 percent. But Ian James, co-founder of the
Freedom to Marry Coalition, told the Huffington Post that he is optimistic
things will be different this time, citing recent polls that show the nation is
moving toward support of gay marriage.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 11, 2012
City Councilman Chris Seelbach plans to
draft a motion that will take out breed-discriminatory language
targeting pit bulls and harshen punishments for negligent owners in
Once the motion is drafted, it will
need a minimum of five signatures from other City Council
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: City Council
at 01:11 PM | Permalink
Seelbach says he has support of four colleagues for repealing pit bull ban
Repealing discriminatory breed-specific legislation could come sooner than expected for Cincinnati. Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach is working to draft a motion that he says could be ready for council signatures as early as today. Yesterday, Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach tweeted this: Last week, CityBeat's April 4 cover story, "Losing Fight," discussed Cincinnati's legislation that's outlawed ownership of pit bulls within city limits since 2003. Seelbach reveals to CityBeat that he made a pledge to work to repeal the city's ban on pit bulls when he was first elected to office in December 2011, and has met in with stakeholders in the past to discuss reform strategies. "I've always believed that entire breeds should not be punished — we need to punish bad owners," he says. Seelbach's motion reportedly will seek to increase punishments for negligent owners, removing all breed-specific language and re-allowing the possession of pit bulls within Cincinnati city limits, similar to Ohio Gov. John Kasich's Substitute House Bill 14, which was signed into effect in February. Once the motion is drafted, Seelbach says he'll need to obtain a minimum of five signatures from his eight council colleagues before the motion can be voted on in a committee. He counts off the names of four council members he's already heard are in support of creating new legislation, before the motion has even been discussed. If the committee — most likely city council's public safety committee, according to Seelbach — chooses to pass the motion, it would then proceed to a formal vote before city council.
Seelbach focuses on social justice, development
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The phrase, ‘Cincinnati’s first openly
gay council member’ has been regularly linked to Chris Seelbach’s name
in media reports ever since his November election. In an interview last
week, Seelbach told CityBeat that this label helped him win his
seat on council and is an integral part of his identity as a man and a
city leader, but it’s far from a complete picture of who he is.