2 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I’ve been a longtime supporter of the
streetcar project, but I have to admit I’m a bit worried after finding
out the streetcar might be delayed once again because construction bids
for the project were way over budget.
How the new streetcar’s story will differ from the one that ended 60 years ago
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
After signing a utility relocation
agreement with Duke Energy on Feb. 1, Cincinnati City Manager Milton
Dohoney, Jr. declared, “The streetcar is happening.”
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 Hannah McCartney
Mallory announces construction to begin in April on track for 2015 completion
Another hurdle in the ongoing struggle to make the streetcar a reality was bypassed today, when Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. announced that after months entangled in a gridlock, Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati have finally reached an agreement over who will pay for the relocation of utility lines. Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.The city broke ground on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but the skirmish between Duke and the city delayed further development — Duke refused to begin any kind of construction before financial responsibility was determined. The reconciliation contains two separate agreements, one of which outlines how Duke will safely operate its utilities once the streetcar is in place. The other demarcates how Duke and the city will resolve the issue of financial responsibility; they've both agreed to abide by the court ruling after any appeals are exhausted. "The utilities' agreements are in place, the cars are being ordered and
the construction bids are coming in," announced Dohoney. Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016. In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a
challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of
meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and
effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and
allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain
Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.” At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs. CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.
Lynchpin of city budget plan has produced mixed results in other cities
1 Comment · Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The plan to balance Cincinnati’s budget
and its $34 million deficit seems to hinge on one thing — the
controversial plan to lease city parking facilities to a private
by German Lopez
Kasich lacks re-election support, budget faces scrutiny, city increasing green incentives
For the first time since inauguration,
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a positive approval rating, but a plurality
of registered voters say Kasich doesn’t deserve a second term. The
Quinnipac University poll attributed the increase in Kasich’s approval
rating to “high levels of satisfaction among Ohio voters with life in
the Buckeye State.” About 42 percent of respondents approved of Kasich,
while 35 percent disapproved. About 42 percent said Kasich doesn’t
deserve a second term, while 36 percent said he does. The poll surveyed
1,165 registered voters with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.
Last night, Cincinnati held its final public hearing
on City Manager Milton Dohoney’s proposed budget. About 40 people spoke
during the meeting, with many voicing concern about Media Bridges
funding, which CityBeat recently covered here. The budget has also come under scrutiny due to its privatization of parking services, but Dohoney says the choice is privatization or 344 layoffs.
Cincinnati plans to bolster its green building incentives.
City officials are trying to amend the city’s Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED) standards to encourage higher levels of
investment in green projects. Since LEED standards were first approved
in 2009, they have been criticized for only offering strong incentives
for lower levels of certification. The amendment seeks to make the
higher levels of certification more appealing.
University Hospital is being renamed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
An “anti-immigrant bill” proposed by Cincinnati’s Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz is not being received well by Innovation Ohio.
S.B. 323 seeks to limit workers’ compensation to illegal immigrants,
but the Ohio policy research group is not sure that’s a legitimate
problem. The organization is also worried the bill will impose a
regulatory burden on the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and Ohio’s
workers without providing extra funds and training to carry out the
Ohio is improving in its battle against human trafficking.
The state earned a “C” and it was labeled “most improved” in a new
report from the Polaris Project. But one state legislator wants to go
further by placing tougher standards on “johns” participating in the sex
trade. CityBeat previously wrote about the human trafficking problem in Ohio here.
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved enough credits to help create about 500 jobs in Greater Cincinnati.
Michigan may have recently passed its anti-union “right-to-work” law, but Gov. Kasich does not share a similar interest.
Kasich will announce
his changes to the Ohio Turnpike Thursday and Friday. The governor says
his proposed changes will unlock “greater wealth,” but critics are
worried Kasich is about to sell off a major public asset.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is still defending his decisions during the lead-up the election. Husted has now become infamous nationwide due to his pre-election record, which CityBeat wrote about here.Even Jesus would be jealous. Science can now turn human urine into brain cells.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
In his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager
Milton Dohoney suggested eliminating $300,000 in support to Media
Bridges, an organization that provides public access TV and radio
stations in Cincinnati.
by German Lopez
Qualls to run for mayor, city budget proposal raises taxes, local fracking control demanded
It will soon be official. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will announce her mayoral campaign on Thursday at 10 a.m. Qualls has already announced her candidacy and platform on her website.
Qualls will be joined by term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, which could
indicate support from the popular mayor. Right now, Qualls’ only known
opponent is former Democratic city councilman John Cranley, who has
spoken out against the streetcar project Qualls supports.
As part of City Manager Milton Dohoney’s budget proposal, anyone who lives in Cincinnati but works elsewhere could lose a tax credit. The budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rollback and moves to privatize the city’s parking services, which Dohoney says is necessary if the city wants to avoid 344 layoffs.
The mayor and City Council must approve Dohoney’s budget before it
becomes law. City Council is set to vote on the budget on Dec. 14.
Public hearings for the budget proposal will be held in City Hall
Thursday at 6 p.m. and in the Corryville Recreation Center Dec. 10 at 6
Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan are
pushing a resolution that demands local control over hydraulic
fracturing, or “fracking,” activity. But the resolution will have no
legal weight, so the state will retain full control over fracking
operations even if the resolution is passed. Qualls and Quinlivan will
also hold a press conference today at 1:15 p.m. at City Hall to discuss
problems with fracking, which has come under fire by environmentalist
groups due to concerns about air pollution and water contamination
caused during the drilling-and-disposal process.
Greater Cincinnati hospitals had mixed results in a new round of scores from Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog Group.
In an effort to comply with cost cutting, the Hamilton County recorder is eliminating Friday office hours.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is looking for feedback for the Tristate’s transportation and economic plans.
This year’s drought is coming to an end in a lot of places, but not southwest Ohio.
The Ohio Senate passed a concussion bill that forces student athletes to be taken off the field as soon as symptoms of a concussion are detected.
As the state government pushes regulations or even an outright ban on Internet cafes, one state legislator is suggesting putting the issue on the ballot.
State officials argue unregulated Internet cafes are “ripe for
organized crime” and money laundering. An Ohio House committee is set to vote on the issue today. If passed, the bill will likely put Internet cafes that use sweepstakes machines out of business.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich could be preparing for a 2016 campaign. Kasich was caught privately courting Sheldon Adelson,
the casino mogul who spent millions on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney’s
failed campaigns for the presidency. The early meetup shows how valued
super PAC funders are to modern political campaigns. State Democrats
criticized the meeting, saying it was Kasich “actively positioning to be
the next Ohio darling of the special interests.”
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had a bit of trouble
giving a speech on the federal debt yesterday. Hecklers repeatedly
interrupted Portman, a Republican, as he tried to speak. The final
protesters were escorted out of the room as they chanted, “We’re going
to grow, not slow, the economy.” Portman says his plan is to promote
growth. But both Democrats and Republicans will raise taxes on the lower
and middle classes, according to a calculator from The Washington Post. Tax hikes and spending cuts are typically bad ideas during a slow economy.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is facing the wrath of his tea party comrades.
The far right wing of the Republican Party is apparently furious
Boehner purged rebellious conservative legislators out of House
committees and proposed $800 billion in new revenue in his “fiscal
cliff” plan to President Barack Obama.To help combat fatigue at space stations, NASA is changing a few light bulbs.
Does this dog really love or really hate baths? You decide:
by Andy Brownfield
City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs
Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention
on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday
committee presentation on the 2013 budget.
It was the first opportunity council members had to
publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would
cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal
year starting in July.
Many council members expressed concern over the plan
to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking
meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.
“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities
net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about
$210 million over 30 years.
Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the
facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit,
for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.
Other council members expressed concern that whoever
leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas
“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.
Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue,
projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34
million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.
A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.
The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating
support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and
Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts
It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of
50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse
patrol would bring that closer to 40.
Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits
to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use
University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.
He said the police department would also look for ways to
save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could
do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had
considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long
been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying
staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is
The proposed budget also includes investments in business
groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority,
Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American
Chamber of Commerce.
Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget
team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six
years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on
people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.
“There is a focus on helping people make more money that
are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that
aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 03:45 PM | Permalink
Massive cuts endanger local public access media
Mitt Romney was criticized for wanting to “kill Big Bird”
due to his proposed cuts to publicly funded media, and now City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. could face similar criticism. In his 2013 budget proposal,
Dohoney suggested eliminating $300,000 in support to Media Bridges, an
organization that provides public access TV and radio stations in
executive director of Media Bridges, called the cuts a “meteor” to
his organization’s budget. He described dire circumstances in which Ohio
originally cut funding to Media Bridges in June 2011, leaving the organization with
$198,000 from remaining money in the state fund and $300,000 from Cincinnati’s general fund. The state fund was provided by Time
Warner Cable, and lobbying from the cable company is what eventually led
to the fund’s elimination. The end of the Time Warner fund cut Media
Bridges’ budget by one-third, forcing the organization to change
facilities to make ends meet with less space.
With the city manager proposing to cut the city’s $300,000 in funding, Media
Bridges is essentially losing $498,000 in 2013. Bishop says that’s about
85 percent of the organization’s budget — a financial gap that would be
practically impossible to overcome. “If it’s a complete cut, we’re
looking at liquidation,” says Bishop.
When it was notified of the changes a few months ago, Media Bridges gave an
alternative plan to the mayor’s office that keeps $300,000 in funding
every year after a six-month transition period. But even that plan isn’t
ideal, according to Bishop. It would force Media Bridges to cut four
staff members, become more dependent on automation and charge
$200 a year for memberships with a sliding scale for low-income members.
Media Bridges will be reaching out to the public, mayor and
council members in the coming weeks to draw support in fighting the cuts.
At the government meetings, Bishop will make the plea
that public access outlets are important for low-income families. He
says it’s true that the Internet and cable television have expanded media
options for the public, but, according to the 2010 Greater Cincinnati
Survey, more than 40 percent of people in Cincinnati don’t have access
to broadband. That’s a large amount of the population that will be left
without a way to easily speak out in media if Media Bridges funding is
In a world of saturated media, Bishop rhetorically asked
why four TV channels that do a public service would need to be targeted:
“Does it seem so ridiculous that the people should have a tiny bit of
that bandwidth so that they can communicate with the community, share
cultural events, share what’s going on in the community and participate
He added the organization also provides educational access, which allows institutions like the University of Cincinnati,
Cincinnati Public Schools and various private schools to reach out to
Media Bridges also sees the cuts as a bit unfair relative
to other budget items. Bishop acknowledges “fiscal times are hard,” but
he pointed out CitiCable, which broadcasts City Council meetings and other educational services, is getting more than $750,000 in the proposed budget
to run one TV channel, while Media Bridges isn't getting $300,000 to run
four TV channels and a radio station. He praised CitiCable — “Those guys do a great job over
there; they provide a great service” — but he also says the disproportionate
cuts are “just not right.”
The cuts to Media Bridges are some of many adjustments in
the budget proposal by Dohoney. To balance Cincinnati’s estimated $34 million
deficit, Dohoney suggested pursuing privatizing parking services and
other cuts, including the elimination of the Cincinnati Police
Department’s mounted patrol unit and a $610,770 reduction to human services
funding.Update (Nov. 30, 3:45 p.m.): Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the city manager's office, called back CityBeat after this story was published. She explained Media Bridges was a target for cuts for two reasons: The program was ranked low in importance in public feedback gathered during the priority-driven budget process, and Media Bridges isn't seen as a core city service.Olberding also said that while some funding does flow through the city to CitiCable, that money has always come from franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner. In the case of Media Bridges, the city was not funding the program until it picked up the tab in 2011. Until that point, Media Bridges was funded through the now-gone Time Warner fund. Only after funding was lost did the city government provide a “one-year reprieve” in the general fund to keep Media Bridges afloat, according to Olberding.