by German Lopez
Turnout much higher than mayoral primary
Early reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections indicate Election Day is proceeding with
minimal problems and voter turnout is considerably better than it was for the Sept.
10 mayoral primary.
“There’s always bumps in every election … but nothing
highly unusual,” says Sally Krisel, deputy director of the board of
Countywide voter turnout was estimated at 20 percent
around noon, with turnout in Cincinnati stronger than the rest of the
county, according to Krisel. But she cautions that the numbers are still
unclear and could completely change, particularly after work hours.
Turnout is particularly strong in wards one, four and five,
according to Krisel. That could be good news for mayoral candidate John
Cranley, who handily won all three wards in the primary against opponents Roxanne Qualls, Jim Berns and Sandra “Queen” Noble.
But since citywide voter turnout was an abysmal 5.74 percent in the
primary election, it remains uncertain how much primary results will
ultimately reflect on Tuesday’s election. Historically, Cincinnati’s mayoral primaries failed to predict the winner of the general election.
Cranley obtained nearly 56 percent of the vote on Sept.
10, while Qualls got slightly more than 37 percent. Both candidates received enough support to advance to Tuesday’s ballot, but the
Qualls campaign acknowledged the lopsided results were disappointing.
To obtain the Election Day numbers, the county is for the
first time tracking ballot usage. Krisel says the measure allows the
county to gauge countywide voter turnout and whether more
ballots are needed in different voting locations.
Tuesday’s votes come in addition to 20,500 absentee and early voters
across the county, about 90 percent of who already submitted ballots to the board of elections. Krisel claims that’s about half the amount of early
voters from two years ago, but she says she doesn’t know whether that
will reflect on the final turnout numbers.
The election is the first time Cincinnati voters will
elect City Council members for four-year terms, which means Tuesday’s
results will effectively set the city’s agenda for the next four years.
Voters are also deciding on a new mayor, the Cincinnati Public Schools board, two property tax levies for the local library and zoo, and a proposal that would privatize Cincinnati’s pension system for city employees.
Polls will remain open until 7:30 p.m. To find out where to vote, visit the board of elections website.
For more election coverage and CityBeat’s endorsements, go to the official election page here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities
Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on
Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as
mayor of Cincinnati.
Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the
kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins
his term on Dec. 1.
Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he
already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build
more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix
of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent
starting in December.
One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133
million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members
oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing
construction for the project.
“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some
point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,”
Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the
clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going
in a different direction.”
But in response to recent reports
that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown
costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a
final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley
acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.
Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.
Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter
that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by
placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.
On the current city administration’s plan to lease the
city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and
Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a
way to cancel the deal.
But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement
already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port
works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance
the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.
Cranley also promises to make various development projects
his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to
re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to
the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of
Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back
nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were
Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to
leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s
neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and
downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We
want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see
significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square
He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can
policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several
stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”
Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus
unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley
says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in
line, but no specifics on a plan were given.
by German Lopez
City looks at railroad sale, sex trafficking mapped, youth prisons combat sexual assault
Councilman Charlie Winburn, City Council’s new budget and
finance chair, suggested selling the Cincinnati Southern Railroad to
help pay for the city’s $870 million unfunded pension liability. But
other city officials, including Mayor John Cranley, Councilman Chris
Seelbach and Councilwoman Amy Murray, voiced doubts about the idea,
saying it would cost the city annual revenue when there are other
options for fixing the pension problem. Meanwhile, the city and state’s
retirement boards appear to be looking into what it would take to merge
Cincinnati’s pension system into the state system, although that
solution could face political and legal hurdles.
A new report from The Imagine Foundation found sex
trafficking in the Cincinnati area follows the region’s spine on I-75
from Florency, Ky., to Sharonville, I-275 through Springfield and
Fairfield and I-74 to Batesville, Ind. “This is real,” foundation
Executive Director Jesse Bach told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“There are women and girls who are being bought and sold for sex in the
Cincinnati area. The average person needs to take responsibility for
what they might see. To use a sports adage, the average citizen has to
be willing to say, ‘Not in our house.’ ”
Gov. John Kasich and other state officials yesterday
launched a public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking in Ohio
at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov. “We may not want to admit it — it’s
almost too horrific to imagine — but the fact is that human trafficking
is real and is happening across Ohio. Over the past two years we’ve
improved our laws to fight trafficking and begin getting victims the
help they need, but we must do more,” Kasich said in a statement.In light of the public awareness campaign, some activists say human trafficking should be addressed by going after the source of demand: men.The head of the Ohio Department of Youth Services told a
federal panel that his agency responded quickly and aggressively to
reports of high sexual assault rates at the state’s juvenile-detention
facilities. A June report found three of Ohio’s facilities had sexual
assault rates of 19 percent or above, with the Circleville Juvenile
Correctional Facility estimated at 30.3 percent — the second highest
rate in the nation. Since the report, the agency increased training,
hired a full-time employee devoted to the Prison Rape Elimination Act
and installed a tip line for prisoners, their families and staffers,
according to Director Harvey Reed.A northern Kentucky man was the first flu death of the season, prompting some tips from the Northern Kentucky Health Department.Some national Democrats see Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld as a potential
congressional candidate in 2022, assuming the next round of
redistricting makes the First Congressional District more competitive
for Democrats. The district used to be fairly moderate, but state
Republicans redrew it to include Republican stronghold Warren County in
the last round of redistricting.Billions of health-care dollars helped sustain Cincinnati’s economy during the latest economic downturn, a new study found.Downtown traffic came to a crawl this morning after burst pipes sent water gushing out of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel.
The U.S. economy added a measly 74,000 jobs in December in a particularly weak end to 2013.
Dayton Daily News: “Five things you need to know about butt selfies.”If the law catches up, robot ships could soon become reality.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Economy could hurt Kasich, Cranley sustains attacks on streetcar, busy intersection to close
Ohio's weakening economy could hurt Gov. John Kasich and other Republican incumbents' chances of re-election in 2014, even if they don't deserve the blame for the state of the economy, as some economists claim. For Republican incumbents, the threat is all too real as groups from all sides — left, right and nonpartisan — find the state's economy is failing to live up to the "Ohio miracle" Kasich previously promised. Economists agree state officials often take too much credit for the state of the economy, but political scientists point out that, regardless of who is to blame, the economy is one of the top deciding factors in state elections. For Kasich and other incumbents, it creates a difficult situation: Their influence on the economy might be marginal, but it's all they have to secure re-election.Despite promising to move on after he failed to permanently halt the $132.8 million streetcar project, Mayor John Cranley continues criticizing the streetcar in interviews and social media. In a Sunday appearance on Local 12, Cranley threatened to replace the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) board, which manages local Metro bus services, in response to its offer to take up streetcar operating costs. (City Council sets SORTA appointments, not the mayor.) The interview, held within weeks of Cranley mocking and arguing with pro-streetcar critics on social media, comes despite Cranley's promises to move on after City Council agreed to continue the project. "As I tell my son when he doesn't get his way, it's time to move on," Cranley
said on Dec. 19. Streetcar track installation will force the busy intersection at Elm and Liberty streets to close between Jan. 16 at 9 a.m. to Jan. 21 at 7 p.m., city officials announced yesterday. One northbound lane will remain open on Elm Street, but traffic heading east and west on Liberty Street will be redirected.Commentary: "Bengals Loss Reminds of Terrible Stadium Deal."Police are investigating three homicides in Avondale and Over-the-Rhine this morning.Construction crews plan to turn the defunct Tower Place mall into Mabley Place, a new parking garage with several retail spaces on the exterior of the first floor. Across Race Street, other developers will turn Pogue's Garage into a 30-story tower with a downtown grocery store, luxury apartments and another garage.Hamilton County is dedicating a full-time deputy to crack down on semis and other vehicles breaking commercial laws.Ohio House Republicans' proposal to revamp the state's tax on the oil and gas industry would not produce enough revenue to cut income taxes for most Ohioans, despite previous promises. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the proposal would only allow for a very small 1-percent across-the-board income tax cut.Ohio's education system received five C's and an A on a private national report card. The state's middle-of-the-pack performance is largely unchanged from last year's score.The number of underwater residential properties is declining around the nation, but Ohio remains among the top six states worst affected by the housing crisis, according to real estate analysts at RealtyTrac.The state auditor's new app allows anyone to easily report suspected fraud.Macy's plans to lay off 2,500 employees and close five stores to cut costs.Cincinnati Children's is reaching out to to 10,000 children left without a health care provider after several clinics closed.Ohio drivers can expect lower gas prices in 2014, according to AAA and GasBuddy.com.A new glue that seals heart defects could provide an alternative to stitches.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Mayor threatens to replace SORTA board over streetcar debate
Despite promising to
move on after he failed to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar
project, Mayor John Cranley continues criticizing the
project in interviews and social media. Most recently, Cranley appeared on Local 12’s Newsmakers program and threatened
to eventually replace the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA)
board, which manages local Metro bus services, in response to board members’
defunct offer to take up streetcar operating costs. (City Council sets SORTA
appointments, not the mayor.) “The fact is they were
willing to cannibalize bus service,” Cranley said,
contrary to SORTA’s insistence that their offer would not have affected bus
services. “I just felt that was a huge violation of what SORTA is supposed to
be about and what Metro is supposed to be about and what public transportation
is supposed to be about.”
Throughout the 24-minute
interview, Cranley referenced the
streetcar project when discussing the city’s parking meters and other subjects
— a continuation of repetitive anti-streetcar tactics Cranley
deployed on the campaign trail and in mayoral debates against former Vice Mayor
“I think the project is
wasteful and not worth the investment,” Cranley said
when asked about the project. “I think we would have been better off making the
hard decision to cut bait.” Still, Cranley later added, “Obviously, since the supermajority of
council went against my wishes, I have to respect the process. So I’m not going
to try to sabotage the streetcar.”
The interview also
follows comments on social media. After the former head of the Cincinnati Art
Museum criticized the streetcar, Cranley tweeted on Dec. 27, “(N)ow some Orwellian commentators
will say art director not ‘progressive.’” The continued anti-streetcar rhetoric comes despite
promises to move on that Cranley made after Councilman Kevin Flynn announced he would provide the
final vote needed to veto-proof City Council’s decision to continue the
“As I tell my son when he doesn’t get his way, it’s time to move on,” Cranley
said on Dec. 19. But Cranley’s
heated rhetoric is nothing new in his campaign against the streetcar project. After the Nov. 5
election, Cranley told The Cincinnati Enquirer
the streetcar debate “is over.” Cranley’s comments
marked a high level of confidence after voters elected a mayor and council
supermajority that seemingly opposed the streetcar project, but his statement
to The Enquirer proved to be wrong after Council Members Flynn, David
Mann and P.G. Sittenfeld decided to continue the
project. Cranley also called city officials “incompetent” after
they projected that canceling the streetcar project would cost nearly as much as
completing it. Once again, Cranley’s comments proved
to be wrong — an independent audit found city officials were largely correct in
their assessment — but still showed the level of confident, heated rhetoric
that follows the mayor’s campaign against the streetcar project. At the very least, Cranley’s rhetoric proves
that while the policy debate over the streetcar is over for now, the public discussion is not. The
question is whether the messaging will work as the project moves forward and the streetcar becomes a reality of
4 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Bill Nye to debate anti-science creationist, Chris Finney gets kicked out of law firm and more in the worst week ever.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:28 PM | Permalink
Gang-related activity driving increase in violence, according to police
Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department testified in
front of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Monday to
address the local increase in homicides.
The city’s homicide rate hit 25 per 100,000 residents in 2013, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.7 per 100,000 in 2012, following a spike in homicides in
Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati, according to
“The concern has been the sheer number of homicides we
experienced in 2013 and the number of juvenile victims we had this
year,” said Assistant Chief Dave Bailey.
Councilman Christopher Smitherman also highlighted the
high levels of black-on-black crime, which Chief Jeffrey Blackwell
agreed are unacceptable across the country.
“My fear is that my son, who’s African-American … is
going to be killed by another African-American,” Smitherman said.
“That’s what those stats are saying.”
The key driver of the increases, according to police, is
gang-related activity, particularly activity involving the Mexican drug cartel that
controls the heroin trade.
“If our theory is correct, most of these homicides involve narcotic sales, respect and retaliation,” Bailey said.
Chief Blackwell explained the increase in homicides
appears to be particularly related to disruptions in criminal organizations and their
“Criminal territories have been disrupted, and we’ve seen
an increase in turf wars and neighborhood situations between young
people,” he said. “Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two
known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature.”
Councilman Kevin Flynn asked what council could do to help remedy the situation.
“We are significantly short of police officers, so we
desperately need a recruit class,” Blackwell responded. “We need to
improve our technology platform here in the police department.”
Blackwell cautioned that there’s not a direct correlation
between more police officers and less homicides, but he said another
recruit class could help the city meet basic needs.Flynn claimed council is very willing to meet those needs, given the importance of public safety to the city’s prosperity. “If we’re not safe and we don’t have the perception that
we’re a safe city, none of the rest of the great things we do as a city
are going to help,” he said.How council meets those needs while dealing with fiscal concerns remains to be seen, considering Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council members ran on the promise of structurally balancing the city’s operating budget for the first time in more than a decade. City officials have vowed to avoid raising taxes and cutting basic services, which makes the task of balancing the budget all the more difficult. Advancing promises of more spending for the police department further complicates the issue, even if it’s politically advantageous in a city seriously concerned about public safety.Cincinnati Police will hold several town hall meetings in
the next week to hear concerns from citizens. The meetings will span
across all local districts:• District 2: Jan. 7, Medpace, Inc., 5375 Medpace Way.• District 3: Jan. 8, Elder HS Schaeper Center, 3900 Vincent.• District 1 and Central Business District: Jan. 9, River of Life Church, 2000 Central Parkway.• District 5: Jan. 13, Little Flower Church, 5560 Kirby Ave..• District 4: Jan. 14, Church of the Resurrection, 1619 California Ave.Correction: The local homicide rate for 2013 was 25 per 100,000 residents, contrary to the 15.5 per 100,000 rate cited by police officials to City Council.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Cincinnati might not be facing an
operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts
to state aid for local governments.
by German Lopez
State cuts hit local budget, police explain homicides, Democratic primary heats up
If it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments, Cincinnati might not face an operating budget gap in 2015. The city has lost roughly $26 million in annual state aid since 2010, according to city officials, while the budget gap for 2015 is estimated at nearly $21 million. The reduction in state aid helps explain why Cincinnati continues dealing with budget gaps after years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. Still, some council members argue Democratic council members should stop blaming Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for the city's problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department yesterday explained the local increase in homicides to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. Police officials said gang-related activity, particularly activity related to the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade, is to blame for the spike in crime in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati. In particular, it appears disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories led to turf wars and other violent acts. Police also cautioned, "Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature."The Democratic primary election for governor heated up yesterday after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's commitment to blacks "appalling" in an email obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prominent Democrats at the state and local level responded to the criticisms as more evidence Portune shouldn't continue to run and threaten Democrats' chances of a clean gubernatorial campaign. Portune announced his intention to run last week, despite calls from top Democrats to stay out of the race. Cold weather led many area schools to close for another day. For developing weather
information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.The weather also slowed down streetcar construction.Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld: "Five Lessons From Cincinnati's Little Engine That Could."The Cincinnati Board of Education chose its veteran members to head the school board in 2014.Cincinnati-based Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Humana and U.S. Bank gained perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign's index for gay-friendly companies.About 34 percent of Ohio third-graders could be held back if they do not improve their scores on the state's reading assessments. The chairs of the Ohio House and Senate's education committees argue the aggressive approach is necessary to improve the state's education outcomes. But the National Association of School
Psychologists found grade retention has "deleterious long-term effects" both academically and socially.Kentucky is spending $32 million for substance abuse treatment to tackle the heroin epidemic.Ohio Democrats named a new executive director for the state party: Liz Walters. The Silver Lake, Ohio, native began her political career with the Girl Scouts when she worked for the organization as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.Typically allies on other issues, liberals and the scientific community disagree on genetically modified crops.A pill normally taken as a mood stabilizer could help people acquire perfect pitch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Republican state officials slashed local government funding in previous budgets
Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.Following cuts approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and
the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature, Cincinnati officials estimate
the city is getting $26 million less in state funding in 2015 than the
city did in 2010.
At the same time, the city is facing a $21 million operating budget gap in 2015.
The reduction in state aid helps explain why the local
budget gap remains after several years of council-approved spending cuts
and tax hikes.
“It sounds like the city is doing a good job,” said
Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach at Monday’s Budget and Finance
Committee meeting. “Where we’re seeing these obstacles is these outside
Independent Councilman Christopher Smitherman countered
that the cuts to the local government fund and the elimination of the
estate tax, both of which drove the reduction in state aid, have been
known since 2011 and 2012.
“Public policy makers have, in my opinion, continued to
make decisions as if those public policy decisions from the governor’s
chair or from the state … weren’t in play,” Smitherman said. “This is
not new information.”
Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn agreed. He said it’s
time to stop blaming the governor for the city’s problems and face the reality of
reduced revenues.Still, Winburn acknowledged he would be willing to meet with state officials to bring more revenue back to Cincinnati.“Maybe Republicans will be willing to meet with a
Republican like me and see if we can bring some money back to
Cincinnati,” Winburn said.
Republicans at the state level passed cuts to the local
government fund as a way to balance the 2012-2013 budget, which faced a
projected gap of nearly $8 billion in 2011. They then approved the
elimination of the estate tax — often labeled the “death tax” by
opponents — in 2012.
But with Ohio’s economy slowly recovering from the Great
Recession, the state budget looks to be in much better shape. The
2012-2013 budget ended with a $2 billion surplus because of
Ohio Democrats point to the surplus as evidence the
Republican-controlled state government could undo the $1 billion in cuts to local
government funding. They argue the cuts have hurt local governments and
forced cities to slash basic services, including public safety.