by German Lopez
Dohoney touts “public-public partnership”
In a presentation to City Council Feb.
19, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled an unexpected parking
proposal that will solve a $25.8 million budget deficit for the 2014
fiscal year and avoid full privatization. The 30-year plan will also put
more than $100 million toward economic development in the city.
The plan involves teaming up with the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and some private
operators to manage and modernize Cincinnati’s parking assets. Dohoney
called it a “public-public partnership” that will allow Cincinnati to
keep control over rates, operation hours and the placement of meters.
The money raised by the plan will be used
for multiple development projects around the city, including the
I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a
downtown grocery store.
The new parking plan will cap rate
increases at 3 percent or the cost of living, with any increases coming
in 25-cent increments. Private operators will not be allowed to change
operation hours, but hours will be initially expanded to 8 a.m. to 9
p.m. downtown and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in neighborhoods.
The proposal will not immediately
increase downtown’s $2-an-hour rates, but it will increase all
neighborhood parking meters to 75 cents an hour. Afterward, the rate cap
will make it so downtown rates can only be increased every four years
and neighborhood rates can only be increased every 10 to 11 years.
But the rate hikes will only come after
technological improvements are made to parking meters. The new meters
will allow users to pay with a smartphone, which will enable remote
payment without walking back to the meter. After the plan’s 30 years are
up, parking assets will be returned to the city with all the new
technological upgrades, according to Dohoney.
Some critics were originally concerned
that private operators will aggressively enforce parking rules to run
bigger profits, but Dohoney said enforcement standards will remain the
Enforcement will be done through booting
instead of towing, according to the plan. Booting will only be used
after the accumulation of three unpaid parking tickets, which is similar
to how towing works today. The boots will be automatically removed once
the tickets are paid, which will be possible to do remotely through a
The plan, which is a tax-exempt bond
deal, will provide the city with $92 million upfront cash and $3 million
in annual installments after that, although the city manager said the
yearly payments will increase over time. The city originally promised $7
million a year from the deal, but Dohoney said estimates had to be
brought down as more standards and limitations were attached to address
The money will first be used to pay for a
$25.8 million deficit in the 2014 fiscal year. Another $6.3 million
will be set aside for the working cap reserve and $20.9 million will be
put in a reserve to pay for a projected deficit in the 2015 fiscal year.
The rest of the funds will be used for
economic development. About $20 million will go to the I-71/MLK
Interchange, which would match $40 million from the state. The project
is estimated to create $750 million in economic impact, with $460
million of that impact in Hamilton County. Dohoney says the economic
impact will create 5,900 to 7,300 permanent jobs, and ultimately bring
in $33 million in earnings taxes, which means the plan will eventually
pay for itself. He also says the funding from the parking deal will
allow the city and state to complete the project within two to three
years, instead of the seven to 10 years it would take if the city waited
for support from the federal government.
If the state does not agree to take up
the I-71/MLK Interchange project, Dohoney promised a “mega job deal”
that will create 2,500 jobs.
With $12 million for development and $82
million in leveraged funds, the city will also take on massive
development projects downtown. Tower Place Mall will undergo a massive
conversion. The city will also tear down Pogue’s Garage at Fourth and
Race streets and replace it with a 30-floor high-rise that will include
300 luxury apartments, 1,000 parking spaces and a grocery store.
The plan will also use $3 million for the
Wasson Line right-of-way and $4 million for the next phase of Smale
Riverfront Park, which should be completed in time for the 2015 Major
League Baseball All-Star Game.
AEW, Xerox, Denison and Guggenheim will
partner with the city and Port Authority for the plan. AEW will manage
assets, Xerox will handle parking operations and on-street spaces,
Denison will operate off-street spaces and manage facilities and
equipment and Guggenheim will act as underwriter and capital provider.
After the City Council hearing,
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld released a statement that raised concerns
about expanded meter operation hours, which Sittenfeld fears could
burden certain neighborhoods. He also pointed out the plan will not fix
Cincinnati’s long-term structural deficit problems. Still, he said the
local Port Authority’s management could make the plan “worthy of
Sittenfeld has been skeptical of the
parking plan since it was first announced in October. In the past, he
warned privatization could cause parking rates to skyrocket. ©
by German Lopez
Petition against privatization, Kasich sales tax hurts many, USquare development criticized
Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is circulating a small
business petition to stop Cincinnati from privatizing parking services.
Sittenfeld threw his support behind the petition in a statement:
“Individual citizens have made clear that they are overwhelmingly
against outsourcing our parking system. Now we're going to show that
small businesses feel the same way. I hope that when council sees that
the small businesses that are the engine of our city are strongly
against outsourcing our parking, we can then nix the proposal
immediately.” The petition asks city officials “to find a smart,
resourceful, sustainable alternative to address the budget situation.”
City Manager Milton Dohoney says parking privatization is necessary to avoid laying off 344 city workers.
Gov. John Kasich’s expanded sales tax is going to hurt a lot of people.
The tax is being expanded to apply to many items included in households’ monthly budgets, such as cable television, laundry services and
haircuts. The revenue from the sales tax expansion will be used to cut
the state income tax by 20 percent across the board, lower the sales tax
from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and slightly boost county coffers.
City Council and local residents are not impressed
with the USquare development. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Vice
Mayor Roxanne Qualls described the development: “I have to say that it
is underwhelming. And that’s about the kindest thing I can say about it.
And also really repeats, on many different levels, virtually all of
the mistakes that have ever been made in the city and in neighborhoods
when it comes to creating public spaces.” But architect Graham Kalbli
said he’s excited about the plan: “Because we’ve taken a vacant strip of
land and really made kind of a living room for the Clifton Heights
community. We wanted to do that, that was one of our overriding goals.”
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is subpoenaing
19 voters who are suspected of voting twice in the November election.
Most of the voters being investigated filed provisional ballots then
showed up to vote on Election Day.
David Mann is officially running for City Council. The Democrat has served as a council member, mayor and congressman in the past.
Traffic congestion isn’t just bad for drivers; it’s also
bad for the environment and economy. The Annual Urban Mobility Report
from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found
traffic congestion cost Cincinnati $947 million in 2011 and produced
an an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide.
Leslie Ghiz is taking the judge’s seat a little early.
The former city council member was elected to the Hamilton County
Common Pleas Court in November, but she was appointed to the seat early by Gov. John Kasich to replace Dennis Helmick, who
retired at the end of 2012.
The magic of capitalism: Delta is already matching a low-cost carrier’s fares to Denver at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
The U.S. Postal Service is ending Saturday mail delivery
starting Aug. 1. The Postal Service has been dealing with financial
problems ever since a 2006 mandate from U.S. Congress forced the mail
delivery agency to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees.
Riddled with gridlock, Congress has done nothing to help since the
mandate was put in place. This will be the first time the Postal Service
doesn’t deliver mail on Saturdays since 1863.
It’s unlikely zombies could be cured by love, but it’s possible they could be cured by science.
The next Michael Jordan has been discovered:
by German Lopez
Violence at private prison, JobsOhio gets liquor funds, Kasich's budget blueprint
There’s even more bad news coming from Ohio’s newly
privatized prison. Violence last week forced Corrections Corporation of
America (CCA) to call in
the state’s special response team, according to Plunderbund. Two teams
from the Ohio Department of Correction and Rehabilitation were
dispatched. Gov. John Kasich pushed prison privatization in his 2012-2013 budget to save costs. CityBeat covered private prisons and the shady connections CCA had to the current state government prior to the sale here.
There might be a court case disputing JobsOhio’s
constitutionality, but that hasn’t stopped the state government from
moving forward with implementing the private, nonprofit agency. On
Friday, the state announced it transferred $500 million
in state liquor funds to JobsOhio. The Ohio Supreme Court recently
agreed to take up a case from ProgressOhio disputing whether state funds
can be used for the private agency. Kasich established the
agency in an effort to encourage job growth in Ohio.
Kasich will reveal the blueprint for his 2014-2015 budget plan later today. According to Gongwer, his proposed budget will cut personal income taxes across the board
and offset the cuts by closing loopholes and broadening the sales tax
base. The governor has long been eying an income
tax cut. He previously suggested raising the oil and gas severance tax
to help pay for a tax cut, but the plan faces bipartisan opposition.
In the 2013 mayoral race, John Cranley is currently outraising
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, but both Democrats are fairly close. Qualls has raised $134,188, while Cranley
has raised $170,877. Most of the race has focused on the streetcar so far, with Qualls supporting and Cranley against the twice-voter-approved transit project.
The city of Cincinnati and Duke Energy have reached
a limited agreement to
meet in court to settle who has to pay for moving utility lines to
accommodate for the streetcar’s tracks. As part of the agreement, Duke will begin moving lines in the next few weeks, even while the city and Duke wait for courts
to decide who will pay for moving the lines. Mayor Mark Mallory also announced the city will try to finish
the streetcar project in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball
All-Star Game, but he added there are no guarantees. For more on the
streetcar and how it relates to the 2013 mayoral race, check out CityBeat’s cover story.Libertarian Jim Berns recently forced a mayoral primary by entering the race.
Community leaders around Greater Cincinnati are mapping out veteran services programs.
Ohio is expanding its foreclosure prevention program.
The maximum benefit possible has increased from $25,000 to $35,000, and
the highest annual household income allowed to participate in the
program is now $112,375.
The Ohio Board of Regents finished moving to the Ohio Board of Education building.
Looks like Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich’s Twitter account was hacked.
Smokers will pay higher prices under Obamacare.
Physicists have created crystals that are nearly alive.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Private prison critics have been proven
right once again. Smuggling incidents are on the rise around Lake Erie
Correctional Institution, which Ohio sold to the Corrections Corporation
of America (CCA) in 2011.
by German Lopez
Fiscal cliff averted, Boehner uses naughty word, private prison penalized
Happy new year! Yes, planet Earth made it through another year. Welcome to an “extra saucy” Morning News and Stuff.
U.S. Congress managed to narrowly avert the “fiscal cliff,”
a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in at the beginning
of 2013. If the fiscal cliff had not been prevented, economists and the
Congressional Budget Office warned the United States would have plunged
back into recession. The final deal keeps tax hikes for those making
more than $450,000 a year, and most Americans will see their taxes
increase as the payroll tax break passed with President Barack Obama’s
stimulus package expires. It’s important to remember that the passing of
a deal is not some show of bipartisan heroism; instead, it’s Congress barely preventing an entirely self-inflicted problem.
But the deal did not come smoothly. Not only did Congress wait until the very last moment, but U.S. Speaker John Boehner used a naughty word.
At a White House meeting, the Ohio politician shot at unfavorable
comments from Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s by telling Reid, “Go f—
yourself.” In fact, Boehner actually used the naughty word twice! Reid
replied, “What are you talking about?” Boehner once again said, “Go f—
yourself.” Who knew U.S. Congress would turn out to be so much like high
When Corrections Corporation of America’s (CCA) Lake Erie
prison received an unfavorable audit, the Ohio Department of
Rehabilitation and Correction reacted by cutting payments to CCA by $573,000. CityBeat covered the audit and its troubling findings here. CityBeat also covered private prisons in-depth here.
On the bright side, Ohio’s minimum wage went up,
like it’s required to do so every year. Policy Matters Ohio says the
increase will bring in $340 per year for 215,000 low-wage workers around
Cincinnati-based Kroger is looking mighty tempting this year. Stock-wise, anyway. I don’t think many people like grocery shopping.
A court ruled Ohio overcharged 270,000 businesses for workers’ compensation premiums and must repay them. The ruling could cost the state millions of dollars.
In case anyone was worried, the national standards Ohio adopted for schools do not ban The Catcher in the Rye. Book cliff averted.
Allstate is hiring in Ohio. I’m not sure why this is news, but it’s on multiple newspapers today, so there it is.
Gays are now marrying in Maryland. Is the apocalypse near?
Intel could be looking to revolutionize the cable industry by allowing people to subscribe to individual TV channels.
That’s not a medieval weapon; it’s a space rover! The new rovers planned by top universities and NASA could visit Mars’ moon Phobos or an asteroid. It’s, like, whatever.
Recaps of six cover stories people talked about in 2012
1 Comment · Thursday, December 27, 2012
CityBeat covered a variety of topics in 2012. Here are the stories that really stuck through, from the former pit bull ban to the Anna Louise Inn to private prisons.
by German Lopez
DeWine calls for school staff training, Music Hall to be leased, bus money not for streetcar
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is proposing
training school staff and teachers to be first responders in the case
of an attack. The news comes in the wake of the massacre in Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which caused the deaths of 20
children and six adults. CityBeat proposed its own solution in this week’s commentary: Make this time different by focusing on mental health services and gun control.
Cincinnati will lease Music Hall for 75 years to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC). The lease
is part of a plan to renovate the iconic building to include more
comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning,
improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations,
Music Hall will be closed for 17 months.
City Council passed
a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money for the streetcar.
The supposed conflict between the city of Cincinnati and the Southwest
Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is being drummed up by the
media, but it’s really much ado about nothing.
Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up by 5 percent in early 2013.
The Cincinnati Health Department is pushing
recommendations from a lead hazard study. The recommendations would
prohibit lead-based paint hazards and require all properties to be free
of lead-based paint, dust and soil. City Council is asking the health
department to carry out the regulations, and it expects from a plan and
timetable from regulators within 60 days. One study found getting rid of lead would do wonders for school performance
A Brookings Institute ranking placed Greater Cincinnati among the worst areas in the country due to falling home prices.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank agreed
to a $16 million settlement in a securities fraud case. The
four-year-old lawsuit was brought in the onset of 2008’s financial
crisis, when the bank’s stock plummeted as it took several large
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino still needs to fill 450 positions in food and beverage, marketing, finance, security and more. A Washington Post analysis found casinos tend to bring jobs, but they also bring crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
As expected, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is helping
Ohio’s economy. The state has 39,000 jobs attached to oil and gas this
year, and the number is expected to triple by the end of the decade. To
take advantage of the boom, Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he will push his oil-and-gas severance tax in 2013. But the plan faces opposition from liberals and conservatives.
If Ohio Republicans tried to push “right-to-work” legislation, it would lead to a very nasty public fight, The Plain Dealer reports. Kasich and Republican lawmakers didn’t rule out
using ballot initiatives to push conservative ideas like right-to-work
in a press conference yesterday, but he did say he’s like a horse with
blinders on, focusing on job creation.
The animal and robot takeover have been merged in the BigDog robot. It can now obey voice commands, follow and roll over.
by German Lopez
City will lease Music Hall to private company for 75 years
Cincinnati’s Music Hall will be getting renovations, but
the project will be much smaller than anticipated. Instead of the
previously estimated $165 million, the project, which involves the city
leasing the iconic building to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) for 75 years, will only
cover approximately $95 million.
At a joint press conference Wednesday, Mayor Mark Mallory
and Otto Budig, president of MHRC,
officially announced the plan, which City Council will take up early
Not many details or a timeline were announced at the press
conference, but some information did come to light. The renovations will
include more comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air
conditioning, improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations, Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet, will be closed for an estimated 17 months.
“We will do this in a manner that carries with it the
surety that the project will be complete,” Budig said. “The worst thing
we could do is start this project without the natural resources and
On top of the leasing agreement, the city will also help fund the project through tax credits.
The lease continues the trend of public-private
partnerships city government has used to revitalize Over-the-Rhine and
downtown Cincinnati in recent years. From the Banks to Washington Park, the city of
Cincinnati has pushed to be seen as a more attractive, business-friendly
However, that has come with some push back. The Cincinnati
Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and city have previously
faced criticisms from homeless advocates for allegedly discriminatory
rules at Washington Park, which were later voted down by the Cincinnati Park Board.
Some public officials have also raised concerns about the
city giving away too many of its public assets. The 2013 budget
currently relies on a proposal that will privatize Cincinnati’s parking
assets, a plan that has faced heavy criticism from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and mayoral candidate John Cranley. City Manager Milton Dohoney argues the privatization plan is necessary to avoid 344 layoffs.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Cincinnati City Council approved a budget
Dec. 14 that relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34
million budget deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.
by German Lopez
Mayor candidate’s budget suggestions are inadequate, impossible
Former Democratic city council member John Cranley is kicking off his 2013 mayoral campaign by getting involved in budget talks. In a public hearing at City
Hall last week, Cranley tried to provide an alternative to privatizing the
city’s parking assets, which City Manager Milton Dohoney has suggested
to pay for $21 million of the city’s $34 million deficit.
“It’s not the citizen’s job to balance the budget, but let
me make it very easy for you,” Cranley said. “You have $12 million in
casino money that can be used but is currently being used on pet
projects, like street sculptures. The parking meters themselves produce
$7 million a year. That’s $19 million. And $5 million for garbage cans.
That’s $24 million. You only need ($21 million) to cancel the parking
privatization plan, so I got you $3 extra million to spare.”
In short, Cranley's alternative to parking privatization is using $12 million from
casino revenue, $7 million from keeping parking meters under city ownership and $5
million saved from not purchasing trash carts.
So how viable are Cranley’s ideas? In a memo, Dohoney’s
office responded. The memo points out that casino revenue is currently
estimated at $7.2 million, not $12 million, and $1.3 million is already
included in the budget for Focus 52, a neighborhood redevelopment project. That leaves casino revenues $6.1 million short of what Cranley proposed.
Regarding parking meters, Dohoney’s office says revenue
from parking meters is restricted to fund “operations and maintenance in
the right-of-way.” The memo says City Council could authorize using the money to plug the deficit, but it would then have to find
alternatives for funding operations and maintenance.
Even the trash cart proposal doesn’t work. Not buying trash carts would only
save $4.7 million, not $5 million. And the plan, which is part of the city’s effort to
semi-automate trash collection, is in the general capital budget,
not the general fund operating budget that’s being debated. The memo
concludes, “If the trash carts are not purchased, the funds would not be
available to close the gap because this is a capital budget expenditure
and resources supporting the capital budget cannot be used in the operating budget.”
In other words, Cranley’s “very easy” budget plan isn’t just difficult; it’s a mix of inadequate and impossible. If CityBeat was PolitiFact, Cranley’s suggestions would probably get him a “Pants on Fire” label.