by Andy Brownfield
Project would still open in 2015
Cincinnati City Council plans to move $29 million in funds to avoid further delays for the streetcar
project, but the city is still looking at a 2015 opening date. City officials announced Wednesday that a council
committee will vote Monday on three pieces of legislation to keep the
$110 million project in line with the recently announced delayed opening.One measure would front $15 million to help Duke Energy
move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar
route. That money comes from the recent $37 million sale of land near
the former Blue Ash Airport.
The city thinks it will get this money back once a dispute with Duke is resolved. The city contends that Duke is responsible for moving the
lines, which the utility estimates will cost $18.7 million. Duke
counters that the lines only have to be moved because of the streetcar
construction, so the city should foot the bill.
“We’re fronting money for the Duke work until we can work
out who pays for it with Duke,” city spokeswoman Meg Oldberding said.
“It’s to keep the project on time and on budget. Delays would escalate
Another ordinance would change the municipal code to
“confirm the city’s existing rights” and clarify that utilities pay for
the cost of relocating facilities unless otherwise negotiated, according
to a news release.
Oldberding said Cincinnati has always maintained that it is the
utility’s responsibility to relocate their facilities, so it is not a
change in the city’s position.
The final ordinance would change the funding source that
is repaying $25 million in bonds sold as part of the original plan to
fund the streetcar.
Those bonds were originally being repaid with money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area.
That area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected, so
the ordinance would have $14 million of the bonds repaid from a 1995
fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and
Oldberding said once the downtown district rebounds — it includes the Banks and the casino — it would repay the other fund.
The ordinances would not add to the project’s cost. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.
by German Lopez
Posted In: COAST
at 12:54 PM | Permalink
Reworking airport deal doesn't cost Blue Ash anything
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
(COAST) has long been known locally for its unwavering opposition to the
streetcar project, but the organization crossed the line into
dishonesty Monday with its call to action about the sale of the Blue Ash
In short, the statement claims that Cincinnati is trying
to force Blue Ash into rescinding the sale of the Blue Ash Airport so a
new deal can be worked that will funnel the sale money into the
The real story behind the sale of the Blue Ash Airport is
not as scandalous as COAST portrays. Some background: In 2006, the city
of Blue Ash agreed to a deal with the city of Cincinnati to buy out 130
of 228 acres owned by Cincinnati at the Blue Ash Airport. Blue Ash would
pay Cincinnati $37.5 million over 30 years, Cincinnati would move the
airport to the adjacent 98 acres and Blue Ash would build a central park on the 130 acres.
The deal was approved by Blue Ash voters in a two-to-one margin with a related 0.25 percent earnings tax to fund the new park.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as planned. As
part of the deal, Cincinnati had to apply for a $10 million grant from
the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The expectation was that
Cincinnati would get this grant, making the cost of moving and
maintaining the airport sustainable. But Cincinnati did not get that
grant, and it has since decided to close the airport to save money.
This is where it gets tricky. Under federal law, since the
land was sold as an airport, the money gained from the sale must be
used on airports. That severely limits how Cincinnati can use the sale
What Cincinnati wants to do is have Blue Ash rescind the
original sale and then officially close down the airport before re-selling the
land to Blue Ash. This would let Cincinnati sell the land when it’s not
classified as an airport, which would let Cincinnati use the $37.5 million
in sale money on non-airport projects. Cincinnati has said $11
million of that freed-up money would go to the streetcar, and $26
million would go to municipal projects.
Everyone wins here. Cincinnati shuts down an airport that is no
longer affordable, money is freed up for other projects and Blue Ash is
a good neighbor and doesn’t lose anything. It still gets the park its voters want and pays the same amount for the property.
Well, not according to COAST. Even though less than
one-third of the money is going to the streetcar, COAST insists Blue Ash
is getting screwed in the deal so Cincinnati can fund the streetcar. The organization
claims the new deal will result in “Blue Ash’s pockets” being “picked”
for streetcar funds.
But Blue Ash is not paying for the streetcar. It is paying
for the 130 acres of land to build a park. It has been paying for that
land for more than five years now. What Cincinnati does with the money
from the sale is of little relevance to Blue Ash.
That hasn’t stopped COAST from doing its very best to link
the deal to the streetcar. After all, when something is remotely
related to the streetcar, it’s a sure bet COAST will be there, trying to “hold the line” against the project, which the
organization sees as wasteful spending.
That’s where irony comes in. The organization is adamantly
against any new spending and taxes. That is its basic purpose. But in
this case, the organization is so blinded by its disapproval of the
streetcar that it is actually opposing a deal that saves Cincinnati
money. By freeing up $37.5 million in funds and closing down the
airport, Cincinnati is stopping unnecessary spending and gaining a new,
temporary revenue stream. That will let the city continue funding other
projects without higher taxes or raising overall spending.
In other words, the deal is doing the exact kind of thing
COAST promotes. But if there’s anything COAST is more determined to stop
than extra spending and higher taxes, it’s the streetcar. Screw any
principles and standards. If something is slightly related to the
streetcar, COAST will be there to oppose it.
That’s why COAST’s Twitter feed is filled with these kind
of petty retweets (from @GOCOAST): “Coming soon to Cincinnati. RT @lzzbott:
Got punched in the back and five dollars stolen from me at the trolley
station...yay.” This kind of flimsy connection is how the organization
opposes the streetcar.
COAST says it is not alone in its opposition. In the Blue
Ash Airport statement, the organization claimed that the City Council’s
streetcar “boondoggle” has been blocked at “every turn,” citing the
pulling of funds by Gov. John Kasich, Hamilton County commissioners
Chris Monzel and Greg Hartman and Congressman Steve Chabot.
The statement leaves out one important group of people
that has approved the streetcar: Cincinnatians. Just like the park
deal was approved by Blue Ash voters, Cincinnati voters have approved
the streetcar twice — once in 2009 and most recently in 2011.
For an organization that claims to want to protect
taxpayer money, COAST seems out of touch with the proven interests of
taxpayers in both Blue Ash and Cincinnati.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Cincinnati voters will decide in November whether to double the length of their council members’ terms.
by German Lopez
Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner announced Saturday that he will be resigning. An Inspector General report released Thursday found Heffner abused his position when he testified in front of the Ohio legislature in favor of legislation that benefited his employer. Heffner also allegedly misused state resources by using his state-issued cell phone and office email to get in contact with his employer. Heffner will officially step down on Aug. 10, and Deputy Superintendent Michael Sawyers will take Heffner’s position until the Board names a new state superintendent.Greg Landsman is running for City Council. Landsman has previously worked for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi. He promises to focus on “jobs and growth.”A report from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio revealed some Ohio schools — including some local schools in the Greater Cincinnati area — use seclusion rooms to punish children with disabilities. Most research has shown seclusion rooms do not benefit children and, in fact, hurt them. The report claims the rooms are often used as a “convenience for frustrated employees.” Critics are calling the practice “primitive and traumatic.” However, some educators say seclusion rooms can be good for dealing with violent tantrums.Ohio gas prices are up sharply this week. Apparently, problems at Great Lakes refineries have increased prices for the region.Cincinnati officials are looking into a plan to make trains quieter. The plan could help residents in neighborhoods with a lot of train traffic get better sleep.Gov. John Kasich will be speaking at the Republican convention this month. He’s expected to talk about Ohio’s relatively low unemployment rate and stronger economic growth.Mitt Romney has been caught lying again. On Friday and Saturday, Romney and aides said President Barack Obama’s lawsuit to restore all early voting in Ohio is trying to take away in-person early voting from military personnel. The lawsuit is actually trying to make it possible for everyone, including military personnel, to vote early.Obama’s team released a tax calculator that calculates a person’s taxes under Obama’s plan and under Romney’s plan. Obviously, the calculator might be biased in Obama’s favor, but the important takeaway is that Romney’s plan would cut taxes for the wealthy, while Obama’s plan would cut taxes for the middle class. Romney’s tax plan has been criticized by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center for being “mathematically impossible.”U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was attacked by bees Monday.Charlie Sheen gave $50,000 to a Cincinnati Reds charity fund after seeing Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman shave his head on Friday as part of a fundraising campaign that also raised $50,000.The Curiosity rover has touched down on Mars. The Curiosity’s mission is NASA’s most ambitious Mars mission yet.Soon, we could all be like Wolverine. Scientists have come up with experimental spray-on skin that could promote wound healing.
by German Lopez
The audio for the 911 call Councilmember Chris Seelbach made to report being assaulted has been released to the public. During the call, Seelbach admits to drinking alcohol that night. Apparently, people are shocked that Seelbach is a human being that drinks alcohol.City Council voted yesterday to put a ballot initiative before voters that, if approved, would let councilmembers remain in power for four years, up from two years under current law. The initiative would let local policymakers worry more about passing good policy and less about getting reelected every other year. City Council also approved an ordinance that bans wastewater injection wells, which are used to dispose of wastewater produced during fracking, within city limits. But the ordinance is little more than politics at this point, considering the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has received no permit requests for injection wells in southwestern Ohio, and ODNR spokesperson Heidi Hetzel-Evans says southwestern Ohio’s geology makes injection wells unfeasible.There are more benefits to legalizing same-sex marriage than just giving a bunch of people basic rights without hurting anyone. A new study found that Ohio could gain $100-126 million in economic growth from same-sex marriage legalization. The study is being used by Freedom to Marry Ohio to promote the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, which the organization hopes will be on the November 2013 ballot.Comair Inc. disclosed that 1,194 employees will be losing their jobs when the airline halts operations on Sept. 29. The airline, which is owned by Delta, is headquartered at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.Mayor Mark Mallory and local attorney Stan Chesley announced yesterday that 10 Cincinnati pools will remain open for one whole extra week — keeping them open until the beginning of the school year. Since the city can’t pay for the entire extra week, Chesley raised $25,000, which the Cincinnati Recreation Foundation matched with another $25,000, to keep the pools open. All pools but one will also have free admission for the rest of the year. The one exception is Otto Armleader Pool at Dunham, which will have $2 admission, down from $5.In a surprising show of bipartisanship, the Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich passed the “second chance” law. The law will make it easier for convicted criminals to continue on with their lives after their time is served.More good news for Ohio Democrats: A new poll says Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is leading challenger Josh Mandel, Ohio’s state treasurer, by 12 points. Mandel is known for excessively lying in campaign attacks.President Barack Obama was in Akron yesterday.Glenn Beck says he is planning a big event in Ohio for the week of Sept. 12. Beck is known for literally crying on national television and disapproving of most of what Obama does.In completely unsurprising news, temperatures in July broke heat records.But worries about excessive heat may be a thing of the past. Scientists have invented a shirt that can lower a person's body temperature.
by Andy Brownfield
City Council approves ballot measure for non-staggered option
Cincinnati voters will decide in November whether to double
the length of their council members' terms.
City Council voted 6-3 on Wednesday to put the ballot
initiative before voters. The measure would have all nine members run at the
same time, instead of a competing ballot initiative that would have staggered
“We are the only major city in Ohio that still has two-year
terms for its leaders, and the cities that we compete with are also moving to
four-year terms, including Louisville and as far as St. Louis, Minneapolis,
Denver and Atlanta,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who spearheaded the
If approved by voters, the change wouldn’t affect
council members serving currently and would go into effect in 2013.
Not every council member was thrilled with the idea.
“I think accountability is paramount, and I don’t see going
from two-year terms to four-year terms as increasing the accountability
citizens want,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who was one of three new
faces to join council in last year's election, which saw four Republican incumbents booted from
“I’m sure it’s not lost on my colleagues that last November
the electorate was craving change and wanted change, and if we had been in the
middle of a four-year cycle they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make that
change and a substantial portion of this council … wouldn’t be sitting up here
Sittenfeld equated an election to a job evaluation. He,
along with councilmembers Chris Smitherman and Charles Winburn, voted against the
Quinlivan has said her rationale for pushing four-year
terms would be to eliminate the cycle that currently has sitting council members
spending half of their terms campaigning.
Councilman Cecil Thomas said four-year terms would allow council members
to focus on longer-term projects as well.
“Four years gives us plenty of time to gel together, to work
together,” Thomas said.
Councilman Chris Seelbach attended all four public hearings
council held throughout the city and called the number of people who support
four-year terms “unbelievable.” Seelbach said he himself was “semi-conflicted”
over the proposed changes, but was not conflicted over whether voters should
have that choice: He voted in favor.
Mayor Mark Mallory was sure to remind councilmembers before
their vote that they are forbidden from using city resources to campaign for a
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: News
at 01:00 PM | Permalink
Health professionals organizing city-wide effort to reduce rates
Cincinnati babies don't get the same chance at seeing their first birthday as do infants in other states across the country, and area health professionals believe it's time to become more proactive about it. On Wednesday, Noble Maseru, Cincinnati health commissioner, and Dr. Elizabeth Kelly, a maternal-infant health specialist at University Hospital, presented statistics to City Council in support of expanding city-wide efforts to reduce infant mortality rates (IMRs) and reconsider infant care and public health strategies. Infant mortality rates are typically measured by the number of deaths of babies under
one year of age per 1,000 live births. Statistics show that the overall
IMR rate in counties across Cincinnati from 2006-2010 was 13.3. In 2010, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.8 — just a little more than half of Cincinnati's alarming statistic. According to the City of Cincinnati Health Department, infant mortality rates are currently the highest in the 45202 zip code; the rate between 2007-2009 was 24.2. Other Hamilton County zip codes with high IMRs include 45203 (20.1), 45229 (17.5), 45214 (19.2) and others. Zip codes with the lowest rates included 45218 (0), 45226 (0), 45248 (3.7) and others. Click here to access a complete map with data for all Cincinnati zip codes. Pinpointing causes for discrepancies in IMRs is difficult, but the following are common causes of death in infants under one year old, according to the Ohio Department of Health: • Prematurity/low birth weight (prematurity is the No. 1 cause of infant death) • Congenital anomalies• Sudden infant death syndromeThese abnormalities are distributed differently across demographics, especially varying across race brackets. According to Maseru, the key to reducing rates locally is uniting area hospitals in an effort to provide a comprehensive continuum of care, beginning with monitoring prenatal development and spanning across the delivery experience into post-partum care. That continuum should encompass post-partum home visits, psycho-social counseling and education on nutritional support, domestic violence, etc., especially focusing on families in "high-risk" zip codes. For the past several years, the Cincinnati Health Department has teamed up with University Hospital for the Maternal/Infant Health Improvement Project, a partnership uses that continuum of care to meld public health strategies and medical expertise to reduce IMR rates in University Hospital, and according to the data presented to the Rules and Governance Committee on Wednesday, the system is working. Maseru says that over the five-year span from 2006-2010, the Health Department/University Hospital partnership yielded a 10.6 IMR rate, which marks about a 20 percent difference from Cincinnati's overall rate. The next effort, Maseru says, will be expanding that partnership into a network that applies the strategies the Improvement Project has been using to other local area hospitals, such as Good Samaritan and Christ Hospital, who account for 85 percent of Cincinnati deliveries annually. "It's all about achieving health equity," says Maseru. He hopes a successful parternship could bring IMR rates across every Cincinnati zip code down to single digits by 2014.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Pit bulls can legally put their paws on
Cincinnati ground for the first time in nine years. After a long,
arduous battle for dog lovers and Cincinnati animal welfare advocates,
Cincinnati City Council on May 16 voted 8-1 to officially repeal the
breed-specific language in Cincinnati’s vicious dog ordinance, which
previously made ownership of pit bulls within city limits illegal.
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: City Council
at 02:33 PM | Permalink
Breed-specific legislation repealed after nine years
Pit bulls can legally put their paws on Cincinnati ground today for the first time in nine years. After a long, arduous battle for dog lovers and Cincinnati animal welfare advocates, success has arrived. Today, Cincinnati City Council voted 8-1 to officially repeal the breed-specific language in Cincinnati's vicious dog ordinance, which previously made ownership of pit bulls within city limits illegal. Read CityBeat's coverage about the old ban here. "It's fantastic. It's been a long effort, but we've had some great supporters from all across the country ... that's had an overwhelming affect on Council. Dog owners, of pit bulls or not, have flooded Council with requests to change the law," said Jim Tomaszewski, SPCA Cincinnati trustee and one of the main forces lobbying for the removal of the breed-specific language. The amendments to Section 701-1-V of the Cincinnati Municipal code completely remove breed-specific terminology, meaning today marks the first day since 2003 in which ownership of pit bulls within Cincinnati city limits is officially legal. Today, City Council also assigned the following members to the Task Force for the Humane Treatment of Animals, which will recommend future amendments and strategies to further promote responsible animal care and humane animal treatment in city limits: • Veterinarian - Dr. Tamara Goforth, Veterinarian for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)• Representative from SPCA Cincinnati - Jim Tomaszewski, SPCA Cincinnati Trustee• Representative from the animal rescue community - Elizabeth Johnson, Executive Director, Ohio Alleycat Resource & Spay/Neuter Clinic• Representative fro the City Prosecutor's Office - to be chosen by John Curp, City Solicitor• Representative from the Cincinnati Police Department - to be chosen by Chief James Craig