WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Bad Budgets Show Bad Leaders

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Budgets are supposed to give elected officials at all levels of government a chance to show off their strengths and agendas, but recent issues have mostly raised questions about whether these people are actually capable of leading to begin with.  

City Council Committee Passes Parking Plan

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on March 4 approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port Authority in a 4-3 vote, but part of the plan was separated from the budget, leaving it open to referendum.    
by German Lopez 03.06.2013
at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Council to vote on parking, hospitals push Medicaid expansion, MSD upgrades coming

City Council will vote today on the controversial plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The plan would give up some control over the city’s parking meters and garages to generate revenue to fund downtown development projects and help balance the deficit for the next two years. Before the City Council vote, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. will hold a presentation on solving Cincinnati’s long-term structural deficit problems, which Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said was a remaining concern even if the parking plan passed. CityBeat previously covered the parking plan here, the city manager’s and John Cranley’s alternatives here, Councilman Chris Seelbach’s alternative here and the Budget and Finance Committee vote on the plan here. Hospital groups are telling lawmakers that the Medicaid expansion is “necessary” to preserve facilities that will face big cuts in the next year. Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), hospitals will lose funding from the federal government, but the cuts were supposed to be made up with the prospect of more customers. If the state doesn’t expand Medicaid, the hospitals will still lose funding, and they won’t get many of their potential new customers. As part of Obamacare, the federal government is carrying the full cost of the expansion for the first three years. After that, the federal government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased down to 90 percent. By some estimates, the Medicaid expansion would save Ohio money by shifting costs from the state to the federal government and generate more revenue through increased economic security. Gov. John Kasich suggested the expansion in his budget proposal, which CityBeat covered here. Cincinnati and cities all around the nation are facing new federal requirements to update sewer systems to better handle stormwater runoff, which can mix with sewage and spill into rivers. Tony Parrott, executive director of the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), says his agency has developed software to prioritize upgrade projects and make them more efficient. CityBeat previously covered some of MSD’s efforts here. A bill sponsored by Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, would limit the window for collecting additional signatures for a state ballot initiative to 10 days if the secretary of state deems the initial petition signatures short of minimum requirements. Seitz says the bill will eliminate a loophole that allows politically motivated petitioners to extend and abuse the state’s petitioning process, and Secretary of State Jon Husted says the bill “is on the right track.” Opponents are calling the bill “punitive” and saying it will weaken Ohioans’ rights to take up ballot initiatives and referendums. Supporters of Internet sweepstakes parlors are saying that a state ban on the establishments would be unconstitutional and would potentially face litigation. Luther Liggett, an attorney representing Internet Sweepstakes Association of Ohio, said a Toledo appeals court ruling found Internet cafe games are not gambling because the outcome is predetermined. He also said a ban would violate constitutional protections against retroactively negating contracts, which internet cafes hold with employees, real estate owners and computer vendors. Greater Cincinnati Walmart stores are installing rooftop solar panels as part of the retailer’s nationwide green initiative to completely power all its stores with renewable energy. The arrays on 12 Ohio Walmart stores will generate enough electricity to power 820 homes year-round and eliminate carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the output of 1,152 cars. The University of Cincinnati could get $30 million as a result of the reported settlement with seven schools breaking away from the Big East to form their own non-football conference. The average American severely underestimates how bad wealth inequality is, according to a YouTube video that went viral over the weekend. If the inequality trend is truly downplayed, that could have bad repercussions for Ohio: A previous report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found Ohio’s income gap — the income difference between the rich and poor — is wide and growing, and low-income and middle-income Ohioans have actually seen their incomes drop since the 1990s. How did you fare in the aftermath of the winter storm yesterday? Some southwest Ohio areas were reporting widespread power outages. Indiana lawmakers are considering changes to their state’s casinos to make them more competitive with Cincinnati’s newly opened Horseshoe Casino and other Ohio establishments. The Indiana Senate already passed a bill that would allow riverboat casinos to move on shore and racinos to replace electronic game tables with live dealers. The bill is now going to the Indiana House for approval. A gay couple was kicked out of a California mall for holding hands and kissing. Apparently, the security officer who kicked the couple out paid very close attention to the make-out session; in a recording, the officer said that he counted the couple kissing 25 times. A new study suggested Europa, Jupiter’s moon, could have salt water on its surface, which would be good for potential extraterrestrial life.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.05.2013
Posted In: News, Immigration, Budget, Economy, Privatization, Parking at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Senators push immigrant policy, JobsOhio gets funding, parking plan passes committee

Two Ohio senators, including Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney of Cincinnati, are pushing a bill that will require the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles to grant driver’s licenses to the children of illegal immigrants. The senators claim state BMV offices are inconsistently applying President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the country without fear of prosecution, but the Ohio Department of Public Safety says the issue is still under review. CityBeat originally broke the story after hearing of Ever Portillo’s experiences at a Columbus BMV office here, and a follow-up story covered the internal conflict at the BMV over the issue here. Ohio officials have said the state has only put $1 million toward JobsOhio, but records recently acquired by The Columbus Dispatch show $5.3 million in funding has been directed to the program so far, and the public investment could be as high as $9 million. State officials said the funding is necessary because constitutional challenges, which the Ohio Supreme Court recently agreed to take up, have held up the program’s original source of funding — state liquor profits. JobsOhio is a nonprofit company established with the support of Gov. John Kasich that’s meant to attract investment and bring jobs to the state. Kasich says he wants to replace the Ohio Department of Development with the nonprofit company in the future. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority in a 4-3 vote yesterday, but the plan will require five votes to become law in a final City Council vote tomorrow. The plan, which CityBeat previously covered, would lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit. The deal would produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city projects that additional annual installments would generate more than $263 million throughout the lease’s duration. Critics are worried the city will give up too much control of its parking assets as part of the deal, and concerns about the city’s long-term deficits remain. The alternatives — plans B, C and S — would fix structural deficit problems, while the budget only helps balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. The company that will operate Cincinnati’s parking meters if the parking deal is approved by City Council had problems in the past, according to a tip received by multiple news outlets from Tabitha Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. The issues surfaced years before Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) was bought by Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing. One of the issues is a 2007 audit, which found ACS mismanaged parking meters in Washington, D.C. Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit was based on “faulty information,” and a lot of the problems found were because the auditor improperly read parking meter screen displays. An approved commitment by the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District (HCTID) may ensure a rail service is ready for Cincinnati in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune is pushing for local and state governments to break down any barriers for Oasis Rail Transit, which will carry passengers from Downtown to Milford. The Ohio Board of Education will decide between two candidates for state superintendent next week: acting Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Sawyers or Dick Ross, Gov. John Kasich’s top education adviser. After years of development and anticipation, Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino opened yesterday. The casino comes with the promise of jobs and economic development, but it also poses the risk of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide. State and local legislators are also looking forward to extra government revenue from the casino, even though casino revenue around the state has fallen short of projections. For Over-the-Rhine residents, the grand opening, which culminated in a fireworks display, was sort of like being in the middle of a thunderstorm. Livability.com named Cincinnati the No. 10 spring break destination because of the Cincinnati Zoo, Botanical Garden, IKEA, Cincinnati Art Museum, the 21c Museum Hotel, Newport Aquarium and the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, among other places and family-friendly activities. Science doesn’t want pregnant women to be capable of anything. Here are two pictures of Venus from Saturn’s view.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
Posted In: Budget, Economy, Privatization, Parking, News at 05:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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City Council Committee Approves Parking Plan

Plan will fund development projects, help balance deficit for two fiscal years

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee today approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority in a 4-3 vote, but the plan will require five votes to become law in a final City Council vote on March 6. Council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young voted for the plan, and council members Chris Seelbach, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against it. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was absent, and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan abstained, although she said she could vote yes if she sees more details about how the city will curb its long-term budget problems. The plan, which CityBeat previously covered (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), would lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. The deal would produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city projects that additional annual installments would generate more than $263 million throughout the lease’s duration. Before the vote, several City Council members said the parking plan would not solve Cincinnati’s structural deficit problems, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the plan would help reduce the deficit by generating recurring revenues through long-term economic growth and development.  “The situation that we’re in requires that we accelerate growth right now, not later,” he said. “If we do not do that, then we’re going to have further negative ramifications to deal with.” Still, Dohoney admitted the plan would not solve all the city’s budget woes — just like he has repeatedly said in the past. Even with the parking plan, the city projects a $10 million deficit in 2014, $15.5 million deficit in 2015 and $20 million deficit in 2016. The council members insisted there are alternatives to the parking plan and Dohoney’s Plan B, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes.  On March 1, Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would not lease the city’s parking assets to balance the budget 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. On the same day as the hearings, Winburn, the sole Republican on City Council, proposed Plan C, which would reduce city employees’ salaries across the board — with exemptions for police, fire, health, garbage, recreation, parks and road paving — and use casino and parking revenue to clear the deficit. At the City Council hearings, Quinlivan listed a few other possibilities, including sharing public safety services with other local communities. She also advised the city to put together a long-term deficit reduction plan. “We don’t want to kick the can down the road any more,” she said. Thomas suggested putting an earnings tax hike of 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent on the ballot. He said, “It would solve this (deficit) problem once and for all.” Some council members also raised concerns about the release of bond documents, which will further detail the framework of the parking agreement. Dohoney and Laura Brunner, president of the Port Authority, said the bond documents have not been crafted because a lease agreement has to be approved by City Council first, but the documents will be made public once they are put together. Before the final committee vote, Smitherman successfully motioned to separate part of the parking plan from the budget, which opens the plan to referendum. The motion was in response to City Solicitor John Curp, who said appropriation ordinances, or ordinances that are essentially budgets, aren’t subject to referendum, according to state law.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
Posted In: Privatization, News, Parking, Budget, Economy at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Parking Meter Company's Past Problems Resurface

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 management. 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.
 
 
by German Lopez 03.04.2013
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening

City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, 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 increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton Dohoney unveiled Plan B to the parking plan, 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. The parking plan was unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead. Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here. Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections. On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools. Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only to traditional public schools, not charter schools. Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150. The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons. U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests. Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.” If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.
 
 
by Hannah McCartney 03.01.2013
 
 
news_chris_seelbach

Seelbach Announces "Plan S" Budget Alternative

Third proposal would include ballot amendments, $5 million in spending cuts

City Councilmember Chris Seelbach this afternoon released a third alternative to City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.'s budget plans, both of which have received negative feedback from the public. Like Dohoney's "Plan B" (read about that here), Plan S would not lease the city's parking system to a private operator, a solution that citizens and officials are concerned would cause parking rates to skyrocket and ultimately not serve as a sustainable solution to the city's budget problems. Instead, Plan S would involve redirecting $7.5 million in casino revenue to help balance the city's $25 million deficit, $5 million in spending cuts based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and two charter amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a $10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Plan S is Seelbach's alternative to Dohoney's Plan B, which also does not privatize parking. Under Plan B, the city would be forced to lay off 344 public employees, including 80 firefighters and 189 police positions, and close three community centers and six pools.Instead, the $5 million in spending cuts would include reductions to city administrative services, council and the mayor’s office, some recreation and health programs and consolidation of some police and fire services. It would also freeze 20 vacant city positions and reduce car allowances for city employees. Seelbach says he determined who would suffer these cuts by exploring city services citizens valued least during last fall's Priority-Driven Budget Initiative. If council were to approve pursuing Seelbach's Plan S, there's a possibility it could send the city back to the drawing board, should voters choose not to approve the proposed charter amendments. "To me it seems like the public is overwhelmingly against parking, but we still have to balance our budget. ... I'm providing the public an alternative. If [the charter amendments are] something the voters would reject, I respect that and then we’d have to go back to the table and either do the leasing of parking or layoff 300 police and fire officers," Seelbach says. The parking plan is expected to be voted on during the Budget and Finance Committee's meeting at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 4.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.28.2013
Posted In: 2013 Election, Governor at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan's final public hearing, officials list Plan B, governor's approval hits highs

The tone was negative once again in the final public hearing for the city manager’s plan to lease the city’s parking system. Of the two dozen speakers, only four were positive. Tabitha Woodruff, who is with the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, voiced mixed feelings about the plan: “As we feared it provides a short-term solution to a long-term budget problem, raises hours and rates on citizens, and has the potential to incur high transaction costs. … We’re encouraged, however, by the selection of a public entity, the Port Authority and by numerous proposed provisions of the lease intended to insure the city maintains control of details like rates and hours.” CityBeat wrote about the plan in detail here. If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, and eliminate Human Services Funding, but critics argue there are better alternatives. Mayoral candidate John Cranley says casino and parking revenue and cuts to non-essential programs could help clear the deficit without the plan.Gov. John Kasich’s job approval rating has risen above 50 percent for the first time, and he’s beating all the potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates in theoretical match-ups, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. CityBeat covered the governor’s budget plan, which will set the state’s policy blueprint for the next two years, here. The Ohio House will vote on Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan today, which leverages the Turnpike for a statewide infrastructure program. With the approval of Metro’s operating budget, City Council and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) have ended their dispute over streetcar funding. Council members had been approving monthly budgets as they worked things out with SORTA, which manages the region’s bus system. SORTA filed a lawsuit disputing the limits of the transit fund, but it dropped the suit after the city said it will not use the money for maintenance of streets, sidewalks and streetlights. (Correction: This previously said the city will “only use the money for streets, sidewalks and streetlights” when the opposite is true.)The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) says the state’s schools are making improvement, but they still “have room to grow.” In the latest state report cards, Ohio schools improved in 14 of 26 categories and met the state’s performance goal on 21 out of 26, with particularly strong gains in math and science, but ODE says, “The performance of Ohio’s economically disadvantaged students and minorities remains unacceptably low.” The state auditor has a problem with how Ohio’s schools report data through what he calls a “just-trust-me” system. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 40-year agreement with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the 105-year-old building. County officials have long said the building, which is used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire need of upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade work, floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.The commissioners also approved a two-year policy agenda, which generally outlines their plans for county finances and taxes, infrastructure and economic development. The Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden could be forced to relocate if the city approves CitiRama’s development proposal. The move would be fully funded by the city’s Department of Community Development, with startup and relocation costs paid for. Ohio’s concealed weapon carry permits reached record highs in 2012 with more than 76,000 permits issued. Fewer Ohioans are starting their own businesses, and the state’s level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to a report from Dayton Daily News. With Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino set to open March 4, gambling addiction could be one of the downsides to the casino’s glitz and job creation, but extra funds for the state’s treatment programs and special training for casino employees could help combat the problem. A medical marijuana amendment could be on Ohio’s 2013 ballot, but anti-drug groups are already speaking out against it. Think the 114-year-old Japanese woman has reached an impressive age? Guffaw. Popular Science lists six much older animals.
 
 
by German Lopez 02.27.2013
 
 
downtown grocery

City Manager Lists Alternatives to Parking Plan

Plan B would lay off 344 city employees, eliminate Human Services Funding

If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, but critics argue there are better alternatives.In a memo dated to Feb. 26, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. wrote that the city will also have to close three community centers and six pools; eliminate Human Services Funding, which aids the city’s homeless and poor; and reduce funding for local business groups, parks, nature education for Cincinnati Public Schools and environmental regulations, among other changes. In total, the cuts would add up to $25.8 million — just enough to balance the deficit that would be left in place without the parking plan. In addition to the cuts, failing to approve the parking plan, which leases the city’s parking meters for 30 years and lots and garages for 50 years to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, would displace plans to convert Tower Place Mall, construct a 30-floor tower with a grocery store downtown, accelerate the the I-71/MLK Interchange project, acquire the Wasson Line right-of-way for a bike trail and add $4 million to the next phase of Smale Riverfront Park (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27). Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who’s running for mayor, has come out in favor of the parking plan, but John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, says he opposes the deal because it will hurt downtown businesses. “It’s the boy who cried wolf,” Cranley says. “In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 … they threatened to lay off police and firefighters, and it never happened.” Cranley says he would rather take $10 million from projected casino revenue and $7 million from current parking revenues to help clear the deficit. For the remaining $8.8 million, he would cut non-essential programs, which would exclude police, fire, garbage collection, health, parks and recreation, street pavement and Human Services Funding, across the board by 10 to 15 percent. If that wasn’t enough, he would then move to the essential programs, which he says make up about $300 million in the $368.9 million budget, with a 1-percent across-the-board cut. He says his solution would have the upside of fixing structural deficit problems in Cincinnati’s General Fund, whereas the one-time lease of the city’s parking assets will only take care of the deficit for the next two years. Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says City Council could use the casino revenue to pay for the deficit, but $4 million of it is already set for the Focus 52 program, which funds neighborhood development projects. “Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” Olberding says. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another plan.” Cranley says he would not do away with the Focus 52 program, but he would instead find funding for it in the Capital Budget, which is separate from the General Fund. Olberding says City Council could approve the use of about $3 million in parking meter revenue for the General Fund, but the rest of the parking money, which comes from lots and garages, is tied to an enterprise fund, which, by state law, means the city would have to sell its parking lots and garages before it could obtain money for the General Fund.Cranley, who also opposes the streetcar project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23), says it would be possible to pay for the I-71/MLK Interchange and other projects if the streetcar wasn’t taking up funds. If it was up to him, he says he would remove streetcar funding and use it on other development projects “without batting an eye.” In the Feb. 27 City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls said the Budget and Finance Committee will likely vote on the city manager’s parking plan on March 4 or March 11.
 
 

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