by German Lopez
Vice mayor talks immigration, parking plan, streetcar
For better or worse, Cincinnati will have
to deal with
another major election cycle in 2013. With a few hot-button issues
already grabbing the public spotlight, a lot could be at stake when
voters pull the lever on Nov. 5 — making a proper understanding of the
candidates all the more important.
Most people get to know candidates through fragments of information spread out in multiple stories and media outlets, but a comprehensive question-and-answer format provides candidates with a chance to speak on
their own terms. CityBeat already did a one-on-one with Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley, which can be read here.
Next up, CityBeat sat down with Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls, another Democrat who is running for mayor, to discuss her campaign and what
ideas she’s bringing to the table. Qualls has been a strong advocate of
the streetcar (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23) and parking plan (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), and she says she wants to continue
development in Downtown and Cincinnati’s neighborhoods to create
sustainable growth. We asked her about those issues and more, and the
extensive conversation (with some edits for clarity and brevity) can be
CityBeat: How do you feel about the campaign in general so far?
Roxanne Qualls: I’m very excited about the
campaign. You know, a mayor’s race is very different than a council
race. A mayor’s race has many more components to it: higher fundraising
goals and more intensive outreach. I’ve been very encouraged by the
folks who are volunteering and those who are stepping up and making
contributions. It’s still early, but I’ve been excited.
CB: What kind of support have you seen so far?
RQ: Support is good. A lot of neighborhood folks are
coming forward, partly because of the work I’ve been doing with them on
council to help them achieve their own visions for their
communities and neighborhoods. And I’m also getting support from
different groups of people who I’ve been working for a number of
years on major projects that help move the city and also the
CB: Before we get into parking and the streetcar,
one of the resolutions passed by City Council yesterday asked Congress to pass
comprehensive immigration reform. Do you think there’s anything the city
could do to be more inviting to immigrants?
RQ: Even though it was a resolution and is
therefore a symbolic act of the council, that symbolic act was very,
very important to the members of the immigrant community in Cincinnati
because many other communities are unwilling to say they even want
My own personal and professional belief is that if we’re actually going to grow as a city and really
thrive in the future in a sustainable way, we have to encourage
immigrants to come into the city of Cincinnati. If you look around the
country at cities that have increased their population significantly,
they don’t do it relying on baby boomers moving back to the city and Gen
Y-ers — those folks are important, but they’re not sufficient. You have
to have immigrants come into your community, buy up homes, buy up
stores and regenerate and rejuvenate the neighborhoods.
As a city that went from over 500,000 people to now under
300,000, we have to fill that gap. When I’m mayor, I will set a goal
that by 2025 we will increase our population by 100,000 people. We’re only
going to do that with immigrants.
CB: So what kind of programs do you think would help in that area?
RQ: A couple things, but there are things already
happening that many people are unaware of. For example, if you were to
go to Roberts Paideia at Price Hill, you would find 30
percent of the children there were
not speaking English in their households before attending school. So a very strong
Spanish-speaking community is growing up in Price Hill. First and
foremost, having an educational system that recognizes and responds is
The other thing is to be a very welcoming community,
particularly when it comes to issues of safety and security. We’re very
fortunate that District 3 has become very responsive, as is District 4,
to immigrants. The entire police department is sensitive, but we have a
very high concentration of folks who are Latinos in
District 3 — that’s why I focused on District 3 as very critical in
terms of the response.
The third thing that we need to do is work with organizations like
the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Chinese Chamber of Commerce to
really strengthen business relations and the support that’s
necessary for many of the small businesses that provide opportunities
and employment within those communities. As the city develops its small
business program, we need to pay attention to the fact that very small
businesses — under $100,000, let’s say, in terms of annual volume — are
those businesses that really are neighborhood-serving. They’re
businesses we should be encouraging within the immigrant community.
CB: One of the surprising statistics with public
safety is that a very small amount of the police force — 2 out of 981 —
speaks Spanish. Do you think there’s anything we could do to encourage
more Spanish speakers?
RQ: There’s an increasing recognition
that it’s important for people who provide services to speak more than one
language, so the police department can encourage its members to speak more than
But there are other things we can do in general, not just
that would impact the police. I’ve been trying to do something as simple
as multilingual signage.
The city could also aggressively promote simultaneous translation via its own
website and the information it puts out.
On my own personal website, one of the things that we use is the Google
Translator. So anyone who wants to read anything on the
website, all they have to do is press the Google Translator and
have it translate to any language.
CB: The other thing that was covered in City
Council yesterday was the parking plan. You supported it. What
do you think it will do for the city?
RQ: There are a couple things it’s going to do.
Simply on the level of parking, it’s going to provide the resources to
modernize the system. For the garages, that means all the capital
improvements that are necessary. For the meters, that’s everything
everybody has heard about in terms of putting in electronic meters,
allowing the use of smartphone apps, making it much more convenient for
people and giving us the ability as technology evolves over time to
adapt. For example, we shouldn’t assume that 30 years from now there
will be such things as meters in existence. We need to be able to adapt
in that environment. Already in other countries, you don’t have meters,
but you do have sensors and you do have means of paying, but it doesn’t
involve a physical object to do it with. It’s all oriented toward
customer service and staying up with the times.
The second thing is it gives us the resources to invest in things
like the MLK/I-71 Interchange, which everybody, I believe, at this point
agrees is a major economic development investment and will pay off in
significant job growth in the medical-university area of uptown.
It also allows us to invest in some critical pieces of downtown
development that involve garages and residential development that will
help us capture the market. I think if you read all the papers,
everybody should realize that there’s no available product to meet the
demand for downtown housing. Any time something comes into the market,
it is either rented out or sold out. So we need to
bring residential online at a much faster pace in Downtown.
And we get to increase our reserves, so that the rating
agencies will be encouraged that we’re taking steps to ensure that we
can responsibly manage our budget. And for the moment, for fiscal year 2014,
it will help us reduce the deficit.
So there’s, one, modernization itself and, two, the
ability to invest in opportunities over the long term that will grow our
revenues and help us become more sustainable as a city.
CB: With the modernization part, do you think it’s
necessary to make this deal because the city can’t otherwise afford to
RQ: If you look at the money that
comes into the
current parking system and look at the needs of the parking system, the
current parking system can’t support the level of investment required
for modernization. By doing this lease agreement, those upgrades can
CB: On the deficit-reduction side, how do you think
the city will solve its structural deficit once the one-time money does
RQ: In fiscal year 2014,
obviously a portion of the money is there to help balance the budget.
Other members of council and I feel very strongly that this, starting
now, is the opportunity to bring the structural deficit under control.
Between June 2013 and July 2014, we
need to put in place a deficit reduction plan.
Now, the city manager has begun to talk about some of
that, but that needs to be accelerated. Among the things that we need to
do to make it a realistic possibility is we need to bring certain
players to the table: the folks who represent our collective bargaining
units, fire, police and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees). They have as much of an interest in figuring
out how to deal with this issue as I do as an elected official, as the
city manager does, as anybody does. So they really need to be at the
table, talking — not in negotiations, but just talking — about how we’re
going to begin to approach this in a way that ensures what we all want,
which is a safe community that provides good quality jobs, great
quality service and great quality of life.
The other people that can come to the table is the
business community because they can bring their expertise, help and
resources, but also the civic community and neighborhoods who are the
ones who live and breathe the effects of anything that we do.
The other thing is that we already can begin to identify
certain areas that we should be exploring. Something very simple, for
example, is one of the major expense items is gas. We are buying new
vehicles for the police department that are better for gas mileage, but
we’re not doing that fast enough.
CB: Do you think any of the deficit reduction could involve attrition?
RQ: The bottom line for either police and fire is
there are minimal service levels. For police, how many of the officers
are actually available for the street? For the fire department, how do
you make sure that the response time is within acceptable parameters and
that the consequence of falling below a certain level isn’t such
extensive brownouts that you end up endangering people’s lives?
My own personal feeling is there’s a lot of professional
judgment that needs to be involved in this discussion and decision. I
would be incredibly hesitant to fall below the minimum staffing levels
without the support of Police Chief James Craig or Fire Chief Richard Braun.
CB: How do you feel about the controversy surrounding the emergency clause?
RQ: I think it’s nothing but a political
controversy that’s generated for political gain and for political
purposes. Council passes many of its ordinances with emergency clauses.
In fact, the other candidate for mayor himself consistently voted for
The emergency clause is necessary so that we can proceed to construct the budget for fiscal year 2014 by July.
CB: So you don’t think the referendum part of the emergency clause could be separated from the part that expedites the process?
RQ: No, because it is going to take until at least
June to get everything in place. We would like to move as quickly as
possible, so before we actually approve the budget by July 1, we actually have the money to balance it. If that doesn’t happen, the city manager will have to start
sending out layoff notices. By law, we would be required to do that
because we would not have that money in place.
CB: So not having the money would force Plan B or something like it?
RQ: Yes, a referendum would result in Plan B or
something similar. Regardless of whether you want to call it Plan B or
Plan Z, people should not be foolish enough to think that there would
not be layoffs. You cannot balance a budget deficit of $25 million
without personnel reductions.
other big item in the mayor’s race is the streetcar. I’ve talked to you
about this in the past, and you said you will push through the next
during your mayor’s term. How exactly do you envision that?
RQ: Currently, there are studies that are being
undertaken that are looking for alternatives in streetcar circulation in
the uptown area.
If we can connect the streetcar into uptown and have it
circulate up there, you have it benefiting these institutions and
immediately adjoining neighborhoods. One of the greatest pressures in
very dense neighborhoods is that we want to take the pressure off of
both the streets in terms of the volume of traffic and parking because
parking garages are very expensive and consume a lot of land. We can
create an environment in the uptown area that would have a
great synergy that would result in the redevelopment of these
neighborhoods. Once people get that as the vision, I think the
streetcar, even for folks who will never use it, becomes more
CB: One of the recurring problems with the streetcar project has been delays. What would you do as mayor to
have the streetcar ready in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball
All-Star Game, which you previously said you would like?
RQ: I have said I want it ready in time for the
2015 All-Star Game, but that was before the three construction bids came in much higher than expected. The big issue
immediately is how to get those costs under control. We have yet to hear
from the administration; they’re still reviewing the bids and
approaches to handling the cost issues.
As mayor, my approach to it would be to insist that the
administration value engineer this project to ensure that for what is
being invested, we are actually getting results that we want.
I am a firm supporter of the streetcar, but I also want
people to be very clear that this is not an open checkbook. I don’t
think anyone — supporter or opponent — has ever believed it’s an open
checkbook. Within the budget that we have given, we should be able to
build this system.
CB: What do you mean by value engineering?
RQ: Look at what the actual proposed design is.
This is kind of standard in all major projects. You have all the
designers and engineers who have put together the original designs for
the system. Then what you do is have other eyes who are also experts sit
down and start looking at it to ask if there are other things we can do to start saving money.
CB: Do you think the framework of the original bid process was off?
RQ: I think very strongly that it was probably off.
We saw that reflected when over 80 contractors downloaded the bid
documents and only three bids were received. That says something about
those bid documents.
CB: A lot of the mayor’s race has focused on the
streetcar and parking deal, but can you give a rundown of some other
ideas you have for the city?
RQ: Absolutely. Well, we already talked about one
(increasing the population of the city by 100,000). There are a variety
of ways to do it — one of which is to be an opening, welcoming city to
everybody, but particularly opening and welcoming to immigrants.
The second thing we need to do is look at the tax
structure. Currently, there is a commission, which I helped establish,
called Investing in the Future Commission, which is examining that and
will be making recommendations on specific things that we can do to
reward people for making the choice to live and work in the city. That’s
When looking at job creation, we know that we are very
fortunate to have Children’s Hospital, the University of Cincinnati and
all of the research coming out of the uptown area. We are very
competitive as a region when it comes to patents, but we are laggards
when it comes to commercialization of research. Given the institutions
we’re blessed to have within city limits, we need to financially support
the environments where commercialization can actually occur to make
sure we are retaining startup businesses so that they don’t just start
here, they stay here. Again, looking at the tax structure would
encourage those startups to stay in a way we’re not doing right now.
When you’re looking at neighborhoods, redevelopment of
neighborhoods is a critical piece of anybody’s agenda. The good news is
we have a lot of good things happening, but neighborhoods need
financial support. Part of the $92 million from the parking deal
is to provide financial support to some neighborhoods. More importantly,
there’s using the casino revenue to actually support transformative
developments in neighborhoods. We’ve started to do that, but we have to
Another area is a stronger partnership with the Cincinnati
Public Schools (CPS) system. There are many people who like to
criticize CPS, but the reality is they have some great-performing
schools. We need to make sure that we capitalize on that relationship by
working in partnership with CPS to ensure that community learning
centers are in enough schools so that any young family with kids has
access. Right now, there are about 600
families on the waiting list because there’s not enough room. That’s a
specific thing we could be doing right now that would really encourage
young families with children to stay in the city.
CB: That covers everything I had to ask. Is there anything you would like to add?
RQ: This election for mayor is about vision,
leadership and results. It’s also about looking to the future and
saying yes to the future. Lots of decisions will have to be made by the
next mayor that will be tough decisions, will require resources and will
require investment. Cincinnati needs a mayor that is willing to say yes
and work with people and organizations to move the community forward.
by German Lopez
Federal unemployment down, state joblessness up, Tower Place Mall renovations detailed
In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent,
from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of
the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government
employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of
across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive
about the report.
In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent,
from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in
the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before.
Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government
saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation,
utilities, financial activities, professional and business services,
leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In
January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in
A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan.
A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for
parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage,
but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The
parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.
Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley.
Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan
and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking
plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.
A Hamilton County court ruled against
the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio
legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his
ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists
aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a
for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in
nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that
motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to
prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.
JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants,
even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for
startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because
legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were
originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State
Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing
Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about
the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been
Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut,
with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some
targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing
depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools
found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much
less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.
Fountain Square will be getting a new television
from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank
and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new
video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it
will also come with more screen space for sponsors.
Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.
In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.
by German Lopez
Before Xerox buyout, audit found ACS improperly managed parking meters
The company that would operate Cincinnati’s parking meters
if the city passes its controversial parking plan this week was mired with audited problems and
complaints in the past. The issues surfaced years before Affiliated
Computer Services (ACS) was bought by Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing.
A 2007 audit found ACS had failed to take care and keep track of parking meters it operated in Washington, D.C.
The audit claimed 35 percent of parking meters listed in ACS’s inventory
were missing, about 16 percent of the remaining meters were completely
inoperative and 65 percent had problems that ranged from defacing to
improper height and stability. ACS also failed to fix meters within the
72-hour period mandated by its contract, according to the audit.
For some residents, the broken meters led to unfair
tickets, with 6,888 tickets, or nearly 1 percent of parking meter
tickets, being improperly issued at unfixed meters, according to the audit. The audit also found a 903-percent increase in overall parking meter complaints under the privatization contract with ACS.
The audit also questioned the financial gains for Washington, D.C., which had to pay $8.8 million, or 33.4
percent, more under privatization than projected trends under public
The bad audit wasn’t enough for Washington,
D.C., to cut its contract with ACS, which still manages the city’s
parking meters today.
The audit was among a few other problems tipped to multiple media outlets by Tabitha
Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. In 2007, ACS was accused of bribing police officers in Edmonton, Canada, but a judge ruled in favor of ACS, stating there wasn’t sufficient evidence. In 2010, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged
ACS with backdating and falsely disclosing stock options between 1996
and 2005, and ACS consented to a permanent injunction without admitting or
denying the charges.
All the discovered problems occurred before 2010, when Xerox bought ACS.Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit’s findings were based on “faulty information.” He says Xerox and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation found ACS had saved Washington, D.C., money. He also claims the auditor had misunderstood the parking meters’ screen displays, which he says led to the improper identification of inoperative or malfunctioning meters.CityBeat previously covered the parking proposal,
which would lease the city’s parking assets to fund deficit reduction
and economic development, in detail.
Mayor Mark Mallory and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls have endorsed the
plan, and it’s currently expected to have the five votes necessary to
pass a possible City Council vote today.
On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach revealed Plan S,
an alternative proposal that would not lease the city’s parking assets and would instead use
$7.5 million in casino revenue, cut $5 million based on the results of
the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a
$10-per-month trash fee or a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. also put forward
his “Plan B,” which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human
Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other
changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own
plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to
“non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and
Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget,
while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years.
City manager’s new parking plan attempts to limit private influence, boost development
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 27, 2013
On Feb. 19, City Manager Milton Dohoney
Jr. announced what he called a “public-public partnership” that would
give control of Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority to fund more than $110 million in
economic development and help balance the city’s budget for the next two
by German Lopez
State of the State today, Ohio's next superintendent, fire safety legislation underway
Gov. John Kasich will give his State of the State address today in Lima, where he is expected to cover his
budget plan, jobs and tax reform. It will air live at The Ohio Channel at 6:30 p.m. During his last State of the State speech, the
governor lacked focus, imitated a Parkinson’s patient and called Californians
“wackadoodles,” leading outlets like The Hill to call the speech “bizarre.”
The next state superintendent of public instruction could be
Richard Ross, Gov. John Kasich’s education policy adviser, or acting
superintendent Michael Sawyers, according to StateImpact Ohio. Ross
apparently has Kasich’s support, making him a favorite. Stan Heffner,
the previous state superintendent, was forced to resign after misusing state resources.
New legislation will be introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld to City Council today to require all rental properties to be equipped with photoelectric smoke detectors.
The photoelectric detectors have better protection against smoldering,
smoky fires, which cause more fatalities than the flaming, fast-moving
fires picked up by ionization form of detectors, according to the vice
mayor’s office. Qualls and Sittenfeld are introducing the legislation
after hearing stories from Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull of Fathers for
Fire Safety, who both lost children to house fires.
The Horseshoe Casino’s parking plan was revealed
yesterday, reports WVXU. Parking will be free for guests on opening day
from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It will also remain free on weekends. Weekday
parking will be free for guests who play slots or table games for 30
minutes, play an hour of poker or spend at least $25 in a restaurant or
gift shop. Otherwise, parking will cost $1 for the first hour, up to a
daily maximum of $14.
Restaurants around the country are discovering that fewer calories brings better health and business, according to Dayton Daily News.
Ohio gas prices are continuing their movement up, according to the Associated Press.
Glass was found in Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries cereal, prompting a recall, reports WCPO.
Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked yesterday, which
raises all-important questions: How did anyone notice? Why are people
following fast food chains on Twitter?
Popular Science has an in-depth report on how neuroscience will allow scientists to rewire the brain to
battle seizures, dementia, blindness, paralysis and deafness.
by German Lopez
Council members want photoelectric detectors in every rental property
New legislation will be introduced by Vice Mayor Roxanne
Qualls and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on Feb. 19 to require all rental
properties to be equipped with photoelectric smoke detectors.
Photoelectric detectors are supported by fire safety
advocates because they better detect smoldering, smoky fires.
According to the vice mayor’s office, these kinds of fires have been
linked to more fatalities than the flaming, fast-moving fires picked up
by the more traditional ionization smoke detectors.
The ionization detectors also pose another risk: They are
often set off by cooking fumes, leading many homeowners and tenants to
simply pull out the batteries to turn the detectors off. In some cases,
people forget to put the batteries back in, putting them at greater risk
of a fatal fire.
Ionization detectors are more common in homes because they
are typically cheaper. Their ability to pick up fast-moving fires also
makes them better suited for catching fires that can spread more
Qualls and Sittenfeld are introducing the legislation
after hearing stories from Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull of Fathers for
Fire Safety, who both lost children to house fires. “After meeting with
Dean and Doug, hearing their story and learning more about photoelectric
alarms, we knew we had to do something locally to better protect
citizens,” Qualls and Sittenfeld said in a joint statement.
The legislation has been endorsed by the Cincinnati Real
Estate Investors Association and the Greater Cincinnati Northern
Kentucky Apartment Association. Representatives from both organizations
will join Qualls, Sittenfeld, Dennis, Turnbull and Fire Chief Richard
Braun in a press release unveiling the legislation at 10 a.m. on Feb.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends the use of both
kinds of detectors. Hybrid detectors with both photoelectric and
ionization technologies can be purchased, but they are more
expensive than their individual counterparts.
by German Lopez
GOP questions Medicaid expansion, Qualls' streetcar concerns, council backs efficiency
State legislators, particularly Republicans, have a lot of questions regarding Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion.
Legislators are worried the state won’t be able to opt out of the
expansion if the federal government reneges its funding promise, raising
potential financial hurdles. As part of Obamacare, the federal
government pays for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first
three years, and the share phases down to 90 percent after that.
Kasich’s budget includes a trigger — called a “circuit breaker” — in
case the federal government ever funds less than currently promised. A
study from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found
the Medicaid expansion could insure nearly 500,000 people and generate
$1.4 billion by raising revenue and shifting funding burdens from the state to federal
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a longtime supporter of the streetcar, is getting concerned
about some of the problems surrounding the project. In a memo to the
city manager, Qualls suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and
timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League
Baseball All-Star Game. The memo was in response to streetcar
construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget — a
setback that could cause further delays or more funding problems.
With Councilman Chris Seelbach’s strong support, City Council passed a resolution urging the state government to maintain its energy efficiency standards.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public
Utilities Committee, sent out a memo Feb. 1 that pledged to review the
state’s standards, causing much concern among environmental groups.
Tolls for the Brent Spence Bridge could be as low as $2,
according to financial consultants involved with the project. The tolls
will help pay for the massive rehabilitation project, which gained
national attention when President Barack Obama visited Cincinnati to support rebuilding the bridge.
State Democrats and Republicans have some questions
about the governor’s Ohio Turnpike plan. Some Democrats are concerned
the state government won’t actually freeze toll hikes at the rate of inflation for
EZPass users. Others are worried
about language in the bill. The plan leverages the Ohio Turnpike to fund a statewide construction program.
The man accused of dumping fracking waste into the Mahoning River in Youngstown was arrested and charged with violating the Clean Water Act.
Dayton wants to help
illegal immigrants who are victims of crime. The Dayton City Commission
approved a $30,000 contract with a law firm to help potential
victims. CityBeat previously covered the recent struggles of children of illegal immigrants in Ohio.
A Dayton Daily News report found Ohio overpays unemployment compensation claims by millions of dollars.
The University of Cincinnati is launching a technology incubator for mobile apps.
In his State of the County address yesterday, Commission President Chris Monzel said Hamilton County is “on the move and getting stronger.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine and officials from other states announced a $29 million settlement with Toyota over the unintended acceleration debacle. Ohio will get $1.7 million from the settlement.
A meteor flew over Russian skies and exploded with the strength of an atomic bomb Friday, causing a sonic blast that shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people.
Scientists engineered mice that can’t feel the cold. Certain people on CityBeat’s
staff would probably do anything for this superpower, but scientists
are probably going to use it to make better pain medication.
by German Lopez
More than 700 units being sold to New York company
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is asking the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to stop the sale of 748 housing
units to a New York company — potentially preventing a repeat of a
similar sale back to 2007 that led to dropping property values in the area.
In a press release Tuesday, Qualls argued that locals should be given the
opportunity to purchase the project-based Section 8 housing in Walnut
Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Currently, HUD is bypassing local
communities with plans to sell the housing to a corporation controlled
by the Puretz family of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Cincinnati’s residents are still recovering from the
massive disinvestment that was allowed to occur with an eerily similar
situation in 2010,” Qualls said in the release, referring to a
similar sale that culminated in a huge drop in property values between
2007 and 2010.
In 2007, HUD sold 618 subsidized housing units to NY Group
OH 1 LLC, a company with no previous housing experience in Cincinnati,
according to Qualls’ release. As the 2008 financial crisis and Great
Recession pulled down the global economy, property values dropped all
around the nation, but things went particularly south in NY Group’s
Cincinnati buildings. The owner eventually defaulted on the housing
units, and Fannie Mae foreclosed in 2010. Property values went from $21.5
million to $7 million between 2007 and 2010, when the units were sold in a sheriff’s sale. In that time period, the
buildings blighted, with residents complaining about
deteriorating structures, broken lighting, bed bugs, cockroaches and mold. In one case, an
apartment’s restroom ceiling reportedly collapsed.
Qualls is focused on preventing more blighted buildings:
“Preservation of the housing in good condition is vital to the
improvement of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods cannot afford to
have more blight brought on by an absentee owner. Because these
properties are supported by government funding, it is vitally important
that HUD get public input from the City of Cincinnati and Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale residents and stakeholders about this proposed
new transfer of HUD funded properties before making any further
Qualls has invited the local HUD field office director to
the Feb. 26 Livable Communities Committee meeting to discuss the sale.
She has also written to other HUD officials, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Sen.
Rob Portman and Rep. Steve Chabot to prevent the sale.
by German Lopez
Streetcar construction bids come over budget
The latest batch of bad streetcar news provoked a harsh
memo to the city manager’s office from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who has long supported the $125
million transit project. In the memo, Qualls wrote about “serious
concerns” regarding the project’s costs and timetable.
“Whether people support or oppose the streetcar project,
everyone has a vested interest in getting the most for our public
dollars and in having the highest confidence in the management of the
project,” Qualls wrote. “While a council majority has continued to
support the project, council has not given the administration a ‘blank
The memo suggested putting the streetcar project through
“intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in
line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major
League Baseball All-Star Game.
The memo is in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over
budget. Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the bids leave the city with
two options: The city could take up the current bids, which could have their costs brought down upon further review, or the city could reject the
bids and rebid the project, which would cause delays. But Olberding also cautions that the administration is still working on fully reviewing the bids — a process that could take weeks or longer.
Qualls is running for mayor against John Cranley, a former
Democratic council member. Cranley has been a vocal opponent of the
streetcar project — creating a strong contrast between the two candidates that has placed the streetcar
in the center of the 2013 mayoral race.
Earlier today, Cranley held a press conference asking the
city to halt the streetcar project. In a statement, he argued it is “irresponsible” to continue work on the streetcar in light of the higher
CityBeat previously covered the streetcar and how it relates to the race between Qualls and Cranley (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
by German Lopez
Obama gives State of the Union, archdiocese defends LGBT firing, Qualls against HUD sale
President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union speech
yesterday. During the speech, Obama outlined fairly liberal proposals for the economy, climate change, gun control and immigration. He also suggested raising the minimum wage to $9 and attaching it to rising cost of living standards. The Washington Post analyzed the proposals here. To watch a bunch of old people clap too much while the
president outlines policy proposals that will likely never pass a
gridlocked Congress, click here.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is standing firm
in its firing of Purcell Marian High School administrator Mike Moroski.
The termination came after Moroski publicly stated his support for
same-sex marriage on his blog — a position that contradicts the Catholic
Church’s teachings. CityBeat covered Moroski’s case in this week’s news story, and gay marriage was covered more broadly in a previous in-depth story.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls wants to stop
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from selling
768 housing units in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Qualls says
the sale is “eerily similar” to a sale dating back to 2007, which
resulted in dropping property values and blighted buildings. She argues local buyers should get a chance to take up the properties before HUD makes the sale to a New York company.
State Treasurer Josh Mandel is up to his old tricks again. In a letter to Ohio legislators Monday, Mandel, a Republican, opposed the Medicaid expansion,
claiming, “There is no free money.” But for the state, the Medicaid
expansion is essentially free money. The federal government will cover
all the costs of the expansion for the first three years, then phase down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020 — essentially, free
John Kasich, another Republican, has backed the Medicaid expansion, claiming it makes
financial sense in the long term. In 2012, Mandel lost the race for Ohio’s Senate seat after he ran
a notoriously dishonest campaign against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Financing details for the Brent Spence Bridge are due in March.
The details will provide much-wanted information for local residents
cautious about the new tolling scheme, which will help pay for the bridge’s
Cincinnati officials and residents celebrated
the work completed near the Horseshoe Casino at an event yesterday.
Mayor Mark Mallory highlighted the infrastructure improvements made to
accommodate the casino, calling the work a successful collaboration
between city government, the casino and residents.
The Ohio Resource Center has a new website for K-12 digital content. The website, ilearnOhio, is supposed to provide parents and students with the tools needed for online distance learning.
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is being sued
for not paying rent. The restaurant claims it’s financially viable, but
it’s holding the rent in escrow after its landlord allegedly violated the
leasing agreement. The establishment was one of the first to open at
A public Ohio school district is fighting a lawsuit in order to keep its portrait of Jesus.
The school district claims the portrait is owned by a student club and
is “private speech,” but opponents argue the portrait violates
separation of church and state.
Update on the Alamo situation at Tower Place Mall: Only one tenant remains.
The unofficial spokesman of Heart Attack Grill, the infamous Las Vegas restaurant, died of a heart attack.
Americans expect a human mission to Mars in the next 20 years, but that’s probably because they don’t know how little funding NASA gets.
An asteroid will barely miss
Earth on Feb. 15. If it were to hit, it would generate the explosive
equivalent of 2,500 kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the nuclear bomb
that hit Hiroshima during World War 2 generated a measly equivalent of
17 kilotons of TNT.