by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:43 PM | Permalink
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
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
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
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.
4 Comments · Wednesday, March 20, 2013
LGBT-supporting Cincinnatians had a
bipolar March 15, with Sen. Rob Portman coming out in support of
same-sex marriage and the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network
(GLSEN) being publicly barred from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the
by German Lopez
Parade blocks LGBT group, parking plan awaits ruling, Boehner still against gay marriage
Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade drew a lot of criticism
Friday for excluding the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a
group within K-12 schools that works to prevent bullying by striving for
equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and
expression. Councilman Chris Seelbach led the criticisms and a boycott
on the parade — an effort that gained national attention.
Chris Schulte, who was on the board that organized the parade,
apparently told Seelbach that the board did not want to be affiliated
with gays and lesbians due to the parade’s Catholic roots, but Schulte
said in a follow-up press release that the parade does not allow any
political or social movement, no matter the cause.
Cincinnati’s plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains in legal limbo,
even after a court hearing on Friday. Judge Robert Winkler, who
presided over the hearings, did not hand down a ruling after hearing
extensive legal arguments from the city and opponents of the parking
plan. Opponents argued the city charter’s definition of emergency
clauses is ambiguous, and legal precedent supports siding with voters’
right to referendum when there is ambiguity. The city said legal
precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law
is not contradicted in the city charter. Cincinnati’s city charter does
not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but
state law explicitly says emergency laws are not subject to referendum.
Despite the reversal of his friend and Republican colleague Sen. Rob Portman, House Speaker John Boehner says he doesn’t see himself ever supporting same-sex marriage. Portman gained national recognition Friday for reversing his position two years after finding out his son is gay.
Mayor Mark Mallory will announce details about the City’s
Summer Youth Jobs Program tomorrow, and he’s also seeking as many
employers as possible to participate in his eighth Annual Youth Job Fair.
Employers can sign up for free booths at www.mayormallory.com.
Due to a policy that encourages doctors to work overtime, psychiatrists are among the state’s top paid employees.
State officials say the policy saves money because overtime rates are
lower than psychiatrists’ normal hourly wages. On average, the doctors
end up working 80 hours a week, but state officials say there are
precautions in place to ensure the highest levels of care.
The Steubenville rape case came to a close over the weekend, with two teenagers being found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl.
While most people were appalled by the teenagers’ audacity on Twitter
and other social media regarding the rape, CNN decided to report the
story with sympathy for the convicted rapists:
A University of Cincinnati study found a cholesterol drug could prevent colorectal cancer recurrence.
Sometimes science can do gross things, like resurrecting a frog that gives birth from its mouth.
Popular Science has been covering 3-D printer plans for houses, and the latest one actually looks like a house.
by German Lopez
Before Xerox buyout, audit found ACS improperly managed parking meters
The company that would operate Cincinnati’s parking meters
if the city passes its controversial parking plan this week was mired with audited problems and
complaints in the past. The issues surfaced years before Affiliated
Computer Services (ACS) was bought by Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing.
A 2007 audit found ACS had failed to take care and keep track of parking meters it operated in Washington, D.C.
The audit claimed 35 percent of parking meters listed in ACS’s inventory
were missing, about 16 percent of the remaining meters were completely
inoperative and 65 percent had problems that ranged from defacing to
improper height and stability. ACS also failed to fix meters within the
72-hour period mandated by its contract, according to the audit.
For some residents, the broken meters led to unfair
tickets, with 6,888 tickets, or nearly 1 percent of parking meter
tickets, being improperly issued at unfixed meters, according to the audit. The audit also found a 903-percent increase in overall parking meter complaints under the privatization contract with ACS.
The audit also questioned the financial gains for Washington, D.C., which had to pay $8.8 million, or 33.4
percent, more under privatization than projected trends under public
The bad audit wasn’t enough for Washington,
D.C., to cut its contract with ACS, which still manages the city’s
parking meters today.
The audit was among a few other problems tipped to multiple media outlets by Tabitha
Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. In 2007, ACS was accused of bribing police officers in Edmonton, Canada, but a judge ruled in favor of ACS, stating there wasn’t sufficient evidence. In 2010, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged
ACS with backdating and falsely disclosing stock options between 1996
and 2005, and ACS consented to a permanent injunction without admitting or
denying the charges.
All the discovered problems occurred before 2010, when Xerox bought ACS.Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit’s findings were based on “faulty information.” He says Xerox and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation found ACS had saved Washington, D.C., money. He also claims the auditor had misunderstood the parking meters’ screen displays, which he says led to the improper identification of inoperative or malfunctioning meters.CityBeat previously covered the parking proposal,
which would lease the city’s parking assets to fund deficit reduction
and economic development, in detail.
Mayor Mark Mallory and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls have endorsed the
plan, and it’s currently expected to have the five votes necessary to
pass a possible City Council vote today.
On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach revealed Plan S,
an alternative proposal that would not lease the city’s parking assets and would instead use
$7.5 million in casino revenue, cut $5 million based on the results of
the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a
$10-per-month trash fee or a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. also put forward
his “Plan B,” which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human
Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other
changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own
plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to
“non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and
Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget,
while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years.
by German Lopez
Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening
City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S,
which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million
based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow
voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the
city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton
Dohoney unveiled Plan B
to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own
plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to
“non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was
unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead.
Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism
toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax
to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and
make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the
federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives
before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of
Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here.
Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state
gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found
the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections.
On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools.
Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended
to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used
for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the
Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only
to traditional public schools, not charter schools.
Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150.
The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons.
U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant
after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such
low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests.
Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.”
If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.
by Hannah McCartney
Third proposal would include ballot amendments, $5 million in spending cuts
City Councilmember Chris Seelbach this afternoon released a third alternative to City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.'s budget plans, both of which have received negative feedback from the public. Like Dohoney's "Plan B" (read about that here), Plan S would not lease the city's parking system to a private operator, a solution that citizens and officials are concerned would cause parking rates to skyrocket and ultimately not serve as a sustainable solution to the city's budget problems. Instead, Plan S would involve redirecting $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the city's $25 million deficit, $5 million in spending cuts based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and 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. Plan S is Seelbach's alternative to Dohoney's Plan B, which also does not privatize parking. Under Plan B, the city would be forced to lay off 344 public employees, including 80 firefighters and 189 police positions, and close three community centers and six pools.Instead, the $5 million in spending cuts would include reductions to city administrative services, council and the mayor’s office, some recreation and health
programs and consolidation of some police and fire services. It would also freeze 20 vacant city positions and reduce car allowances for city employees. Seelbach says he determined who would suffer these cuts by exploring city services citizens valued least during last fall's Priority-Driven Budget Initiative.
If council were to approve pursuing Seelbach's Plan S, there's a possibility it could send the city back to the drawing board, should voters choose not to approve the proposed charter amendments. "To me it seems like the public is overwhelmingly against parking, but we still have to balance our budget. ... I'm providing the public an alternative. If [the charter amendments are] something the voters would reject, I respect that and then we’d have to go back to the table and either do the leasing of parking or layoff 300 police and fire officers," Seelbach says. The parking plan is expected to be voted on during the Budget and Finance Committee's meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 4.
by German Lopez
at 10:13 AM | Permalink
Findlay Market ideal for restroom, Kasich cuts local funding, The Banks exceeds goals
A report issued by Director of Public Services Michael Robinson found Findlay Market would be the best place for a freestanding public restroom,
which could cost as little as $35,000. The idea has been heavily pushed
by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who has argued that the restrooms are
necessary to accommodate a growing population and wider activity in
Downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
A new Policy Matters Ohio report found local government funding has been reduced by $1.4 billion since Gov. John Kasich took office,
leading to a nearly 50-percent reduction in state funding. Most of the
cuts came from the elimination of the estate tax, which would have
provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget,
but it was repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio
legislature and Kasich. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City
Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost
Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
In 2012, the team behind The Banks’ public construction met or exceeded all four major project goals,
according to the annual report from The Banks Public Partnership.
Contractors installed public safety technologies throughout the
intermodal transit center and parking facility, awarded a trade contract
for a new Pete Rose Way pedestrian bridge and walkway and prepared
design and funding documents for a river walk along the Ohio River. The
project has also gone more than 400,000 hours without a lost-time
accident. The Banks previously won what John Deatrick, project executive, called the “Oscar” of planning awards, which CityBeat covered here.
City Council delayed a vote
on opposing the sale of more than 700 Section 8 units in Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale because they want meet with the firm buying
the units first. City officials have scheduled the meeting for next
week. CityBeat previously covered Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls’ opposition to the deal here.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency lifted a requirement
that forced any new sewer development that added waste water to the
county’s overall system to offset its gains with a fourfold reduction in
storm water taken in.
BuzzFeed, the popular viral video and pop culture website, listed the Cincinnati Public Library as No. 28 on the list “The 30 Best Places To Be If You Love Books.”
Ohio’s imprisonment of fewer youth may be part of a nationwide trend.
Three Cincinnati area businesses made Interactive Health’s “Healthiest Companies in America”: Standard Textile Inc., Totes-Isotoner and American Modern Insurance Group.
Mercy Health’s Anderson and Fairfield branches made the Truven Health Analytics ranking released this week, putting the two hospitals among the nation’s best.
Omya Inc. is receiving a five-year, 40-percent tax credit for completing a consolidation of its regional headquarters to Cincinnati, which should create 25 full-time jobs and generate $1.4 million in annual payroll.
Breaking news: Teenagers are horny. Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Hundreds of Madeira High students involved in sexting?”
A Dayton donut shop is apparently one of the best in the nation, according to Saveur magazine.
Do video games cause violence? Apparently, the debate is a lot more complicated than most people think.
Mouse brain cells can live longer than the mice they came from.
by German Lopez
GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency
State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion.
Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the
expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising
potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal
government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first
three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that.
Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in
case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A
study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found
the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate
$1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned
about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the
city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and
timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League
Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar
construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a
setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.
With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public
Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the
state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.
Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2,
according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls
will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained
national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.
State Democrats and Republicans have some questions
about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned
the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for
EZPass users. Others are worried
about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.
The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.
Dayton wants to help
illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission
approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential
victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.
A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.
The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.
In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.
A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.
Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s
staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists
are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.
by German Lopez
Council resolution embraces Cincinnati’s past clean energy successes
With a resolution passed Wednesday, City Council is urging state legislators to maintain the energy efficiency standards that helped drive Cincinnati’s clean energy growth.State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo
Feb. 1 that suggested “a meaningful review” of the state’s energy
efficiency standards, which were previously established by Senate Bill
221 in 2008 and Senate Bill 315 in 2012. In the memo, Seitz wrote he was open
to freezing and weakening some of the established standards.Environmental groups responded by calling on local governments to defend the standards. In Cincinnati, the
call was picked up by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who touted
the city’s past clean energy efforts in a statement: “Cincinnati has
made great strides in energy efficiency by seeking cost savings while
boosting our city’s green image. Energy efficiency is helping Cincinnati
support a double bottom line of environmental and economic
sustainability, and we endorse full implementation of our state
efficiency law.”The city estimates it saves $1 million a year on energy bills
because of the law’s efficiency programs, which includes upgrades and
Christian Adams, a clean energy associate of Environment Ohio,
praised Cincinnati for passing the resolution in a statement: “From
efficiency to solar, Cincinnati [is] a state leader on clean energy, and it’s
proving to be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the
economy. If state lawmakers want to change our clean energy law, they
should follow Cincinnati’s lead and double-down on wind, solar and
energy efficiency.”In a previous report, Environment Ohio claimed Cincinnati could become the solar energy capital of the region. CityBeat covered the report and Cincinnati’s — particularly the Cincinnati Zoo’s — success with solar energy (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).
by German Lopez
Seelbach tired of streetcar delays, Pentagon to lift combat ban for women, JobsOhio in court
Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient
with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major
League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race.
The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban
on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said
the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of
Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision,
President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most
inclusive when it comes to the military.
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear
a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to
fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up
to drive economic growth in the state.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring
$60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath,
director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was
recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015.
Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust
State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a
Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she
admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that.
Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday.
American Military Partner Association, a national
organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s
same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this
November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here.
Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals.
New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here.
Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.