by German Lopez
45 days ago
Council seeks budget options, city funds come with rules, parking petitions due today
City Council will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. today
to discuss alternatives to laying off cops and firefighters to balance
the budget, which CityBeat covered in detail here.
Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are pushing to use
casino revenue and cuts elsewhere in the budget to avoid cutting public
safety services. A spokesperson for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a
Democrat running for mayor, told CityBeat that Qualls will also
consider every option available. John Cranley, another Democratic
candidate for mayor, has long called the threat of layoffs “the boy
City Council unanimously passed a motion
yesterday that will require all parades receiving financial support
from the city to adhere to the city’s anti-discrimination policies. Council members cautioned that the measure won’t
require event hosts to invite fringe groups, but it will ensure
LGBT individuals, people of color and women are allowed to participate
in future events. The measure was inspired by a recent controversy surrounding
the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which barred an LGBT group from participating.
An appeals court will hear arguments
over the Cincinnati parking plan and the city’s use of emergency
clauses on May 6, even though the city had asked for a final decision by
May 1. Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s original ruling decided
emergency clauses do not remove the possibility of a referendum.
Emergency clauses are regularly used by City Council to remove a 30-day
waiting period on passed legislation, but the city says that power is
weakened by Winkler’s ruling since the city will now have to wait for
referendum efforts to safely begin implementation.
Meanwhile, referendum organizers against the parking plan are expected to drop off petitions at City Hall later today. Organizers previously
said they have more than 10,000 unverified signatures, but they’ll need 8,522
verified signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The parking plan, which CityBeat explained in further detail here,
would lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Development Authority to raise funds that would be used to help balance
the deficit for the next two fiscal years and launch development
projects, including a downtown grocery store.
This week’s CityBeat commentary: “Poor Messaging Holds Back Parking Plan.”
JobsOhio agreed to let State Auditor Dave Yost check their books — private funds and all — last month, but Yost says he’s still in talks
with the agency about future audits. JobsOhio is a publicly funded,
nonprofit corporation established by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio
legislature to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Kasich’s advice for opponents of the Medicaid expansion: “Kick them in the shins.”
As part of a broader budget proposal, the governor is seeking to take
advantage of Obamacare to expand Medicaid with financial support from
the federal government, but some Republican legislators fear the money
won’t be there in a few years. Independent analysts say the Medicaid
expansion will save Ohio money, which CityBeat covered alongside Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
The cost of Reds games has gone down since last season, according to one study.
Ohio’s improving economy is leading to less problem loans in the statewide mortgage market.
Headline: “Nobody Wants a Facebook Phone.”
A new laser zaps away cocaine addiction from rats.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
When Cincinnati found out about the city
manager’s parking plan, it was not through a press conference or a
widely dispersed announcement from the city; it was through a silently
released memo that media outlets stumbled upon almost by accident.
Mayor, city manager warn of public safety layoffs, but some still weighing alternatives
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Speaking at a press conference on March
28, Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials did not mask their
contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold earlier in the
by German Lopez
46 days ago
Ruling kills project, council members ask for alternatives, Kasich's school formula scrapped
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s ruling last week has already led to the dissolution of one project,
according to Mayor Mark Mallory. The Kinsey Apartments project fell
through after City Council was unable to expedite a change in the
building’s classification that would have enabled access to state tax
credits. Winkler’s ruling effectively eliminated the city’s use of
emergency clauses, which the city used to remove a 30-day waiting period
on passed laws, by ruling that all Cincinnati laws are open to
referendum. The ruling means the city can no longer expedite laws even in extreme cases, such as natural disasters. The city is appealing the ruling.
Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are calling for a special session of City Council
to get the city administration to answer questions about budget
alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Mallory and other city
officials claim the only way to balance the budget is to carry out
Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make cuts
to other city services. But Sittenfeld and Seelbach have proposed alternatives with casino revenue and cuts elsewhere.
The Ohio House may scrap Republican Gov. John Kasich’s school funding formula to use a “Building Blocks” model
championed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The legislators say the formula
will give more certainty to local officials by always providing a base
of funding based on the average cost to educate a student, but the
governor’s office says the approach neglects recent increases in school
mobility. Kasich’s formula has come under criticism for
disproportionately benefiting wealthy districts, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio’s per capita personal income rose at one of the fastest rates in the nation last year, according to an analysis from Dayton Daily News. The news is another sign of Ohio’s strong economic recovery, but it remains unclear whether the rise will bring down the state’s income inequality.
The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus (ODWC) is criticizing
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts to exempt more health providers
from providing contraceptive coverage based on religious grounds. “DeWine
wants to allow all employers to deny crucial health care services like
birth control, cancer screenings and vaccines if they disagree with the
services due to their personal or political beliefs,” Amy Grubbe,
chairwoman of the ODWC, said in a statement. As part of Obamacare,
health insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive
coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by
preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and other Republicans say the requirement violates religious liberty.
Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering up
to use technology to crack down on fraud in the federal food stamp
program that costs the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars a year.
A public Ohio school is taking down a portrait of Jesus after being threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating separation of state and church.
Duke Energy reached a settlement that will allow the company to raise the average electric bill for its Ohio customers by $3.72 per month.
Hamilton County’s SuperJobs Center and the Ohio Department
of Job and Family Services’ Veterans Program are partnering with 28
employers, ranging from the University of Cincinnati to Coca Cola, to host the
annual veteran hiring event at the SuperJobs Center, located at 1916
Central Parkway, on April 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Midwest Homeschool Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center will bring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and 15,000 visitors to Cincinnati.
President Barack Obama says he wants to fund a research project that would map the human brain.
By 2020, scientists estimate the world’s solar panels will have “paid back” the energy it took to produce them.
Scientists are growing immune cells in space to study how astronauts’ immune systems change in space.
by German Lopez
47 days ago
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.
by German Lopez
48 days ago
Opening Day today, BMV to offer licenses to DACA recipients, Cranley suggests budget plan
It’s Opening Day today, which means it’s time for a
citywide celebration of the Cincinnati Reds and baseball. At the City Council meeting
last week, Mayor Mark Mallory declared today a local holiday, so if you
need an excuse to sneak in a few beers while watching the parade at
work, say the mayor made you do it.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles will allow the children
of illegal immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) to obtain driver’s licenses.
DACA was signed by President Barack Obama to give recipients the
opportunity to remain in the country legally without fear of
prosecution, but until Friday, the BMV wasn’t sure that qualified
recipients for driver’s licenses.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his budget plan
Thursday that he says will avoid layoffs and the city’s plan to lease
its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but critics say the plan is unworkable and some of its
revenue sources are “fantasy.” Cranley’s proposal calls for $21 million
in casino revenue that Horseshoe Casino General Manager Kevin Kline
previously said will be available to City Council, but Jon Harmon,
legislative director for Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the number is
using an outdated model and the city’s estimate of $10 million is more
in line with recent turn of events. The budget proposal also claims to
make its cuts and raise revenue without layoffs, but even Cranley was
uncertain about whether that’s possible.
Opponents of the city’s parking plan say they’ve gathered more than 10,000 signatures
— more than the 8,500 required — but the signatures still need to be
verified before the plan is placed on the ballot. Last week, the
mayor told Cincinnati residents
to not sign the petition because he says it will force the city to make
budget cuts and layoffs. A ruling from Hamilton County Judge Robert
Winkler opened the parking plan to referendum by essentially striking
down the city’s use of emergency clauses.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is backing a wider religious exemption
for contraceptive coverage in health plans. As part of Obamacare,
health insurance plans are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a
measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies,
according to some estimates. But DeWine and 12 other Republican state attorney generals argue the mandate infringes on religious liberty.
It’s not just charter schools that do poorly under the state’s new report card system; most urban schools would flunk too.
An analysis by StateImpact Ohio found urban schools actually perform
worse in some areas, supporting arguments from charter school advocates
that the report cards’ harsh grades show a demographic problem in urban areas, not a
lack of quality in education. An analysis of old data by CityBeat in 2012 found Cincinnati Public Schools would fall under the new system.
A new study found bedbugs are afflicting less Cincinnati residents
— suggesting the reversal of a trend that has haunted local homeowners
for years. In the past few years, Cincinnati was marked as one of the
worst cities for bedbugs around the country.
The last two generations are falling behind their parent’s wealth. The trend shows a generational divide behind rising income inequality in the United States.
Ohio gas prices are starting to go down this week.
Scientists still don’t know what’s killing up to half of America’s bees.
by German Lopez
51 days ago
City officials warn of budget cuts, budget woes pinned on Kasich, fracking causes earthquake
Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city.
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of
a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal
year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said
the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the
possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to
expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was
previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects,
but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a
referendum effort is complete.
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern,
chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only
reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police
and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars
to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati
struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again,
proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help
pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his
proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will
see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.”
Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose
$40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.
A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake.
The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an
earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection
wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat
covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water
underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.
In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits.
In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits,
ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in
The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way
for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his
experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration,
but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and
State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote
— a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill
was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing
opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green
State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly
support the idea.
A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.
Headline: Man accused of using fake penis for drug test.
New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.
Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.
by German Lopez
52 days ago
Posted In: News
at 01:15 PM | Permalink
City manager says he's already made preparations for layoff notices
Speaking at a press conference today, city officials did
not mask their contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold
earlier in the day, saying it will force the city to make cuts and layoffs to
balance the 2014 budget and potentially eliminate the passage of
The press conference was in response to a ruling
from Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler, which opened the parking plan
to referendum and ordered a permanent injunction on the plan pending any referendum effort. City Solicitor John Curp said the city is appealing
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
explained the city will now have to close a $25.8 million shortfall in
the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. Dohoney said he has already ordered city departments to begin
preparations for Plan B, which will lay off 344 employees, including 80
firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance projected deficits.
“Part of the irony is we're swearing in a recruit class tomorrow,” he said, then shook his head. “Too bad.”
In addition to meeting the July 1 budget deadline, the city has to expedite some layoff notices to meet union contracts, which typically require a notice 30 days in advance.
Curp said the ruling also poses significant legal challenges that will hinder the city’s ability to expedite legislation with emergency clauses. Emergency clauses are often used by City Council to remove
a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, and the city argues they also
remove the ability to referendum.
The layoffs could be retroactively pulled back if the city
wins in appeals courts or if the referendum effort fails to gather
“Don't sign the petition,” Mallory said. “If you sign a petition, you're laying off a cop or firefighter.”
Dohoney said the delays make the city look
sluggish — an image that he says the city has been trying to overcome.
“One of the criticisms I’ve gotten is that this city takes too long to
get deals done,” he said. “This complicates that.”
City Council approved the parking plan to lease the city’s
parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund
development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the plan argued that there were alternatives
that did not involve laying off cops or firefighters. Councilman Chris
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
At the press conference, Mallory called the alternatives
“unworkable.” He said Plan S in particular does not work because it
relies on a ballot initiative that would have to be voted on in
November. “We don’t have until November,” he said.
Opponents say they’re concerned the parking plan will
cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say
will lead to a spike in parking rates.
The city says rate increases are initially capped at 3
percent or inflation — whichever is higher — but the rates can change
with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city
manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee
would be made up of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one
appointed by the city manager.
In the legal proceedings, the two sides are arguing whether emergency
clauses eliminate the ability to hold a referendum on legislation. Opponents of the
parking plan, headed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), say the city charter is ambiguous with its definition of
emergency clauses, and legal precedent demands courts side with voters’
right to referendum when there’s ambiguity.
Supporters of the parking plan cite state law, which says emergency legislation is not subject to referendum. Terry
Nestor, who represented the city in the court hearings, said legal precedent requires the city
to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the
Winkler sided with opponents of the parking plan in his
decision. He wrote in his ruling, “If the people of Cincinnati had
intended to exempt emergency legislation from their referendum powers,
they could have done so when adopting Article II, Section 3 of the City
Mallory says the city is not disputing voters’ right to
referendum in a general sense; instead, he says the city needs to expedite
the budget process to balance the budget before fiscal year 2014.City officials say the parking plan is necessary largely because of Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts, which Dohoney previously said cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in annual revenues (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20). Opponents argue Cincinnati had structurally imbalanced budgets years before Kasich took office, but the city says Kasich’s policies have made the situation much worse.The parking plan is one of the few issues dividing Democratic
mayoral candidates John Cranley and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Cranley opposes the plan, while Qualls supports it.
by German Lopez
54 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:22 AM | Permalink
Sheriff wants more staff, businesses get tax credits, Ohio Senate to look at gambling bill
Even as it faces budget cuts, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office says it wants more staff
to keep up with higher jail populations — especially in light of a new
measure that will keep more people detained until they appear in court.
The measure is in response to some people never showing up to court
after being released from jail. Staff are crediting the feasibility of the measure to Hamilton
County Sheriff Jim Neil encouraging them to think “outside the box.”
Still, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel
says the cost of the program might require Neil to think “inside the
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is giving tax breaks
to 13 businesses around the state in hopes of creating 1,417 jobs and
spurring $83 million in investment. Seven of the projects are in the
Hamilton, Butler and Clinton counties, with one in Cincinnati.
The Ohio House easily passed a bill that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, but the Ohio Senate is including the measure in a more comprehensive gambling bill.
Senate President Keith Faber says there are a lot of issues related to
gambling in Ohio, and the cafes are just one part of the problem.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is one of many being targeted
by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control ad campaign. Bloomberg is a
leader in supporting more restrictive gun measures, and he’s planning
on airing the ads in 13 states during the ongoing congressional spring
break to push for stricter background checks and other new rules.
Ohio failed to show improvement
in the latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of
Civil Engineers (ASCE). In both 2009 and 2013, Ohio got a C- for its
infrastructure, which translates to 2,462 structurally deficient bridges
and puts about 42 percent of roadways as “poor” or “mediocre” quality.
But the report might not be as bad as it sounds. The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer argues that the ASCE is notoriously too harsh.
A study from NerdWallet found Cincinnati is the No. 1 city in the nation for consumer banking.
Duke Energy rolled out a new logo yesterday.
A former Miami University student is facing charges for allegedly changing his grades.
More options aren’t always a good thing, according to some science. A new study found more choices can lead to bad, risky decisions.