WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 12.12.2013 129 days ago
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Open to Private Sector Paying Streetcar Operating Costs

Haile Foundation working with private-sector leaders to find solution

The streetcar project’s chances of survival grew on Thursday after Mayor John Cranley announced he’s willing to allow the $132.8 million project move forward if the annual operating costs for the streetcar are underwritten by private contributors.But streetcar supporters might have as little as one week to provide assurances to Cranley that the operating costs can be underwritten by the private sector, given the federal government’s Dec. 20 deadline for up to $44.9 million in grants financing roughly one-third of the project.Still, a representative of the Haile Foundation, a major private contributor to city projects, said private-sector leaders are already working on meeting Cranley’s offer and solving the issue. The concern for Cranley — and even some streetcar supporters — is that annual operating expenses for the streetcar would hit the city’s already-strained operating budget, especially if the annual operating expenses are higher than the previous estimate of $3.4-$4.5 million. Although the city wouldn’t need to pay for the full operating costs until the streetcar opens for service in 2016, Cranley and some council members are concerned finishing the project now would force the city to make payments it won't be able to afford in the future. “We know the streetcar is a very expensive project,” Cranley said. “This community cannot afford a new, ongoing liability that goes on forever.”Streetcar supporters argue Cranley’s view misses the streetcar’s potential for economic development, which could bring in more city revenues as more people move and work in the city. The streetcar project would produce a 2.7-to-1 return on investment, according to a 2007 study from consulting firm HDR that was later verified by the University of Cincinnati. Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of the two potential swing votes on council, said Cranley’s offer could provide “a way forward.” He previously told CityBeat that the operating costs remain a prominent concern for him because they could translate to cuts in the city’s budget, particularly to police and firefighters. Eric Avner, vice president and senior program manager of community development at the Haile Foundation, called the deal “an olive branch” to streetcar supporters. He said he’s “very, very confident” the private sector will be able to find a solution. “I don’t think we can solve it in a week. What I heard is he needs assurances,” Avner said. Cranley said he doesn’t expect someone to come to city leaders next Wednesday with a check paying for 30 years of operating costs, but he said the commitment has to be serious and long lasting for the city to move forward with the streetcar. Avner discussed bringing together a commission of private-sector leaders with some long-term assurances. In what he described as an “organic” movement, Avner said he’s heard from various private-sector leaders that they want to keep the project going, but he claimed most of them don’t want to engage in a public “food fight” that could hurt their relations with the mayor and other city officials. For Avner, it’s a matter of sticking to a project that’s already well into development and construction. “We don’t have the luxury to waste that kind of money in this town,” he said. Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick on Nov. 21 told council members that canceling the streetcar project could save only $7.5-$24.5 million in capital costs after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grants that would be lost if the project were stopped. After Cranley’s announcement, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson questioned Cranley’s motives and said the solicitation might be very difficult to meet in just one week. Cranley said he’ll reach out to the Federal Transit Administration to try to get an extension, perhaps until the end of the year, on the deadline for federal grants. “It’s obviously a huge, huge hurdle to try to pull this together in seven days,” Cranley said. Cranley cautioned he wouldn’t be upset if his offer fell through. Flanked by union representatives for police, firefighters and other city workers, Cranley reiterated that his priorities still lie in basic city services. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld previously proposed setting up a special improvement district to pay for the operating costs. But Cranley called the approach unworkable because it would require property owners to opt in — an effort that would presumably take much longer than one week. Cranley’s announcement came as streetcar supporters move to place a city charter amendment in support of the streetcar project on the ballot. The campaign vowed to gather 12,000 signatures by the end of the week.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.11.2013 130 days ago
Posted In: City Council, News, city manager, Mayor at 04:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Council Appoints Interim City Manager

Compensation package remains controversial after changes

City Council on Wednesday officially appointed Scott Stiles as interim city manager, but only after a testy exchange over the compensation package left three of eight present council members as “no” votes.The package gives Stiles a raise if he returns to his previous role as one of two assistant city managers, which three council members said is unfair to lesser-paid city workers, such as trash collectors, and the other assistant city manager, David Holmes, who won’t get comparable pay increases. The package appoints Stiles to the city’s top job at a salary of $240,000 a year, less than the previous city manager’s $255,000 salary. If the city appoints someone other than Stiles as permanent city manager, Stiles will be placed back in the assistant city manager role with a $180,000 salary, roughly $33,500 more than the other assistant city manager. If a permanent city manager decides to relieve Stiles of the assistant city manager position, the city will be required to make a good faith effort to find Stiles some form of employment within the city until 2018, which would allow Stiles to collect his full pension payment upon retirement. Council Members David Mann, Charlie Winburn, Amy Murray, Kevin Flynn and Christopher Smitherman voted in favor of the appointment and package, while Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted against it. P.G. Sittenfeld was absent. Simpson and Seelbach said they have no problem giving Stiles a $240,000 salary while he’s in the interim city manager position, but both argued it’s unfair to other city workers to give only Stiles a raise if he’s reappointed as assistant city manager. Simpson pointed out that the package would also increase the city administration budget if the new permanent city manager decides to keep Stiles and Holmes as assistant city managers at the agreed-upon salaries. Mayor John Cranley argued Simpson, Seelbach and Young were trying to introduce a new standard that wasn’t present in the previous council, where Simpson, Seelbach and Young were in the majority coalition. “I would have appreciated long-term thinking when I was saddled with a $255,000 severance payment,” he said, referencing a severance package the previous council gave to former City Manager Milton Dohoney after Cranley announced Dohoney would resign on Dec. 1. Simpson argued the severance package wouldn’t have been necessary if Cranley agreed to keep Dohoney on the job until a permanent replacement was found. “It’s our job to protect the taxpayer,” Simpson said. Vice Mayor Mann pointed out that if the city doesn’t fill the assistant city manager role while Stiles presides as interim city manager, the city will actually save money by leaving a salaried administrative position vacant for six months. Cranley previously said the city will conduct a national search for a permanent city manager. Council members at Wednesday’s meeting estimated the effort should take six months.
 
 

Winter Shelter Finally Opens

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Cincinnati’s winter shelter opened on Dec. 10, days after a winter storm caused the city to declare a snow emergency, and will remain open through February.  

Committee Votes to Pull Support for Supportive Housing Facility

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A City Council committee voted to rescind council’s support for a 99-unit supportive housing facility in Avondale that would aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income individuals.    

Cincinnati’s Impoverished Continue to be Underserved and Undercovered

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Local leaders could once again prove how little they care about homelessness and poverty if they rescind their support for a housing project in Avondale.  
by German Lopez 12.10.2013 131 days ago
Posted In: News, Homelessness, City Council at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
avondale housing

Committee Votes to Pull Support for Supportive Housing Facility

Commons at Alaska in Avondale snared by controversy

A City Council committee on Tuesday voted to rescind council’s support for state tax credits going to a 99-unit supportive housing facility in Avondale that would aid chronically homeless, disabled and low-income individuals.But since National Church Residences already obtained tax credits for the project from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency in June, it’s possible the project could continue even if council stands in opposition, according to Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness. Still, the decision from the Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee comes in the middle of a months-long controversy that has placed neighborhood activists and homeless advocates in a heated dispute. (CityBeat first covered the issue in greater detail here.) Independent Christopher Smitherman and Republican Amy Murray, the two present members of the committee, both voted to pull support from the project. The issue will now go to a nine-member City Council, which consists of five Democrats, and Democratic Mayor John Cranley. Smitherman, chair of the committee, claimed the project’s issues spawned from a lack of community engagement. “I want everybody to take a pause,” Smitherman said. “Respecting our city, in my opinion, means that you do the community engagement at the level that reflects the magnitude of what you want to do.” Smitherman’s comments followed testimony from neighborhood activists who oppose the facility and homeless advocates who support it. Opponents insist they support policies addressing homelessness. But they argue the “massive” facility would alter the neighborhood, worsen Avondale’s problems with poverty and damage revitalization efforts. Supporters claim the dispute stems from a not-in-my-backyard attitude that predominates so many supportive housing facilities. “In our society, we have a tendency to say we don't want ‘those people’ in our neighborhoods. And history dictates to us that conversations that start with ‘we don't want those people here’ don't typically end well,” said Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. Finn of Strategies to End Homelessness said the facility is part of his organization’s Homeless to Homes plan, which council previously approved to address Cincinnati’s struggles with homelessness. Finn’s organization aims to reduce homelessness in Hamilton County from more than 7,000 in 2012 to roughly 3,500 in 2017. The Avondale facility could also help reduce Cincinnati’s high levels of poverty. More than half of Cincinnati’s children and more than one-third of the city’s general population live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey.The full body of City Council could take up the issue as early as Wednesday. Smitherman advised both sides to attend the council meeting and state their cases.Updated with additional information from Kevin Finn, executive director of Strategies to End Homelessness.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.10.2013 131 days ago
Posted In: 2014 election, News, Streetcar, Homelessness at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

Morning News and Stuff

FitzGerald could replace running mate, streetcar supporters seek vote, winter shelter opens

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is preparing to replace running mate Eric Kearney, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Kearney, a state senator from Cincinnati, has been under increasing pressure to drop out of the race following multiple media reports that uncovered he, his wife and his business owe up to $826,000 in unpaid taxes. FitzGerald is running against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014.Streetcar supporters will seek a city charter amendment that would task Cincinnati with continuing the $132.8 million streetcar project. Supporters say the amendment will act as a back-up plan if Mayor John Cranley and City Council decide to strike down the project after completion and cancellation costs are reviewed through an independent audit. But the Federal Transit Administration says the city would lose up to $44.9 million in federal funding — roughly one-third of the streetcar project — if the city government doesn’t agree to continue with the streetcar before Dec. 19. If the charter amendment gets enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot, voters could decide on the issue as late as May.Cincinnati’s winter shelter opened today and will remain open through February, according to the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The opening comes after winter storms covered Cincinnati’s streets in ice and snow and sparked a citywide snow emergency over the weekend. The colder conditions will continue into the week, according to the National Weather Service. It was originally unclear whether the shelter would be able to open for its traditional two-to-three months, but a $30,000 contribution from City Council helped pave the way forward.The woman who was struck by a police cruiser in Over-the-Rhine last month filed a lawsuit alleging the officer deliberately deleted the dashboard camera video of the collision and lied when he claimed his emergency lights and siren were on. The camera stopped recording for about three minutes right before Officer Orlando Smith hit Natalie Cole with his cruiser. Police say the camera malfunctioned. But the incident was the second time Smith’s camera stopped working in the past year; previously, the camera failed to record during a shooting that left one suspect dead and another wounded. CityBeat covered the issues surrounding cruiser cameras in further detail here.Councilman Charlie Winburn says the city wastefully purchased and dumped 2,000 tons of road salt. Although other council members on the Budget and Finance Committee appeared cautious of Winburn’s accusations, he asked the city administration to investigate the issue. Ohioans can now enroll in an expanded Medicaid program, which covers anyone up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or an annual income of $15,856.20 or less. In October, a seven-member legislative panel accepted federal funds to pay for expanded Medicaid eligibility for two years despite resistance from the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature. The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber named a new president and CEO. The rover Curiosity found a former lake on Mars. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 12.09.2013 132 days ago
Posted In: News, Homelessness, City Council at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
Drop Inn Center

Winter Shelter to Open Tuesday

Shelter to remain open through February

Cincinnati’s winter shelter for the homeless will open on Dec. 10 and remain open through February, the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition announced on Friday. The announcement preceded a winter storm that covered Cincinnati’s streets in ice and snow and sparked a citywide snow emergency over the weekend. The snow flurries and colder conditions will continue into the week, according to the National Weather Service. It was originally unclear whether the winter shelter would be able to reach its $75,000 fundraising goal to open for its standard two-to-three months. But concerns were allayed after the previous City Council appropriated $30,000 to help the shelter open. For its run during the 2012-2013 winter, the shelter housed roughly 600 people. “It’s a relatively cheap program to run,” Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, previously told CityBeat. “To serve about 600 people with $75,000 is pretty good.” Although the shelter now expects to be open through February, it could still use additional contributions to remain open into March in case the winter is particularly cold and enduring. The shelter is made possible by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Drop Inn Center, Strategies to End Homelessness, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. It’s supported largely by private contributions. Contributions to the winter shelter and Drop Inn Center can be made at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”
 
 
by German Lopez 12.09.2013 132 days ago
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, city manager, Mayor at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
election_streetcaressay_juliehill

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar gets Dec. 19 deadline, mayor could veto project, city manager search back on

The Federal Transit Administration on Friday gave Cincinnati until Dec. 19 to make a final decision on the $132.8 million streetcar project before it pulls up to $44.9 million in federal grants. The decision gives the city less than two weeks to finish its audit of the project’s completion and cancellation costs, which should be conducted by global auditing firm KPMG. The streetcar project would presumably die without the federal grants, which are covering roughly one-third of the project’s overall costs, even if a majority of council or voters decide to continue with the project. Mayor John Cranley might veto legislation continuing the streetcar project, even if a majority of council agrees to restart the project after its costs are reviewed through an independent audit, said Jay Kincaid, Cranley’s chief of staff, on Friday. If Cranley vetoes, council would need a supermajority — six of nine votes on council — to continue the project, which could be difficult since there are only two perceived swing votes on council. The veto threat presents a bait-and-switch for many streetcar supporters: Only five council members voted to pause the project on Dec. 4 while the city reviews completion and cancellation costs, but six members might be needed to continue the project if Cranley reviews the audit and decides it is still too expensive. Cincinnati Parks Department Director Willie Carden, Mayor John Cranley's choice for city manager, withdrew from consideration on Friday. In making the announcement, the mayor’s office said it will keep Acting City Manager Scott Stiles in his current role while the city conducts a national search for a permanent replacement. Carden’s nomination was initially well received by council members, but it grew somewhat controversial after Carden insisted he will continue to live outside Cincinnati — a violation of the city charter — and The Cincinnati Enquirer uncovered an ethics probe that found Carden wrongfully took pay from the city and private Parks Foundation. The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) fell short on recommendations from a previously undisclosed 2012 survey of the region’s business needs. In particular, CVG most likely won’t be able to meet the key recommendation to land Southwest Airlines, a discount carrier that could help bring down fares and increase travel destinations. Cincinnati turns 225 on Dec. 28. Ohio gas prices spiked to $3.24 for a gallon after briefly dropping to around $3. Major companies are feeling increasing pressure to move or at least establish alternative facilities in the urban core as young workers flock to cities, according to The Wall Street Journal. About 99 percent of U.S. exterminators encountered bed bugs over the past year, up from 11 percent a decade ago. Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 12.06.2013 135 days ago
Posted In: News, Mayor, City Council, Streetcar at 02:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Might Veto Ordinance Continuing Streetcar Project

Decision means City Council might need a supermajority to continue streetcar project

Mayor John Cranley might veto an ordinance continuing the $132.8 million streetcar project, even if a majority of City Council wants the project to continue after its costs are reviewed through an independent audit, said Jay Kincaid, Cranley’s chief of staff, on Friday.The decision means six of nine council members — a supermajority — might be required to overturn a mayoral veto and continue the streetcar project. With only two perceived swing votes on council, that could prove a considerably higher hurdle than a simple majority of five council members.“Of course he reserves the right to veto the legislation,” Kincaid said. If Cranley reviews the numbers and decides that the project is too costly, he will use the veto powers provided to him through the city charter, Kincaid explained.Kincaid’s response came after CityBeat confirmed with City Solicitor John Curp that continuing the streetcar project would require a new ordinance that, in theory, could be vetoed by the mayor. City Council can overcome a mayoral veto with a supermajority, or six of nine total council votes.When CityBeat talked to Kincaid the day before he confirmed Cranley’s willingness to veto, Kincaid speculated that Cranley would not veto legislation continuing the streetcar project.“I have not talked to (Cranley) about it. I assume that he would let it go forward since he gave (Councilman) David Mann his word that he would give this time to review it, and he gave the same assurance to (Councilman) Kevin Flynn,” Kincaid previously said.Five of nine council members on Wednesday agreed to allocate $1.25 million to indefinitely pause the streetcar project and pay for an independent study that will gauge how much it will cost to continue or permanently cancel the project.Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick previously warned the costs of completely canceling the streetcar project could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grants that would be lost if the project were terminated.Almost immediately, a majority of council voiced distrust toward Deatrick’s numbers. In a press conference following Deatrick’s presentation, Cranley called city officials in charge of the streetcar project “incompetent.”Council members Flynn and Mann vocally opposed the streetcar project on the campaign trail. But both said they’ll make a final decision on the project once the cancellation and completion numbers are evaluated through an independent review.Mann previously told CityBeat, “If they do hold up, that’s fairly persuasive.”Flynn wouldn’t speculate on what stance he will take if the numbers stand to scrutiny. He said a pressing concern for him is how the city will pay for $3.4-$4.5 million in annual operating costs for the streetcar, which could hit an already-strained operating budget.If Cranley vetoes an ordinance continuing the streetcar project, both Flynn and Mann would likely need to agree to continue — or at least overturn a mayoral veto — to keep the streetcar alive.City officials estimate the review will take at least two weeks. Once the audit is finished, council members are expected to announce their final positions on continuing or canceling the project.Update: Mayor John Cranley on Friday announced the federal government is giving Cincinnati until Dec. 19 to make a decision on the streetcar project. Read more here.This story was updated to better explain that Jay Kincaid’s second direct quote came from a separate conversation on Thursday, the day before he announced Mayor John Cranley’s willingness to veto.
 
 

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