by German Lopez
25 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:49 PM | Permalink
Decision follows public outrage caused by misleading reports
Mayor Mark Mallory announced in a memo today that he will not be following through with previously planned salary raises for his staff, citing poor morale in light of recent — but misleading — press coverage. But the rest of his budget plan will remain.Mallory explained his reasoning in a statement: "I am rescinding the raises that I gave my staff and returning all salaries to the previous levels. Although the changes that I made in my office structure resulted in a saving of $66,000 to be used in next year’s budget, I realize that the perception has had a negative effect on the morale of other City Employees."I am the biggest promoter of the public servants who choose to work for the city, both on my staff and in all City Departments. I don’t want to see anyone lose their job. I have been successfully fighting to prevent layoffs throughout the recession. I supported the parking plan because it will ensure that no city employees lose their job. I plan to continue to fight for City Employees and to do everything that I can to minimize the reductions to our City Workforce. Every job that we save is a win for our community."The announcement comes after a misleading report from The Cincinnati Enquirer sparked public outrage. The Enquirer's original report neglected to say that the overall budget plan would save the city $66,000 for the year and $33,000 during the mayor's remaining time in office. CityBeat covered Mallory's budget changes and The Enquirer's misleading report here.
by German Lopez
27 days ago
'Enquirer' riles up angry readers with incomplete report
Even though some members of Mayor Mark Mallory's staff
are getting double-digit raises, the mayor's budget is actually being
downsized to rely on less staff members, ultimately shrinking the mayor's
office budget by $33,000 between July 1 and Dec. 1.Some
of Mallory's staff obtained raises because they will be taking up the
former duties of Ryan Adcock, who left earlier in the month to help lead
a task force on infant mortality and will not be replaced. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported
the raises earlier today, but the story at first did not mention that
the budgetary moves will ultimately save the city money. The "Enquirer exclusive" includes a "tell them what you think" section in which citizens can email the mayor's office and copy Enquirer editors. The story was later updated to include the overall savings, though The Enquirer posted a separate blog titled, "Mallory getting an earful on raises," which was a collection of angry emails to the mayor based on the original version of the story.CityBeat
acquired a memo written by Mallory that outlines the rest of the
plan, which will produce savings: "I will not replace Ryan Adcock on my
staff. Instead, I have divided his responsibilities among my remaining
staff. In addition, I will not hire the two part-time staffers that I
had considered hiring. The additional work in the office will be
supplemented by unpaid interns."In
addition, I have enacted internal savings in order to return $20,000
from my FY 2013 office budget to be used for the FY 2014 city budget.
Finally, in preparation of the Mayor’s Office Budget for FY 2014, I am
reducing my office budget by $33,000 for the remaining 5 months of my
spokesperson Jason Barron says the mayor will also not be replacing
staff that leaves from this point forward, which could produce more
savings down the line. As of 6:30 p.m., The Enquirer's homepage still prominently displayed the story out of context, suggesting that the raises will add to the city's $35 million deficit.Shawn Butler, the mayor's director of community
affairs, was given an 11-percent raise; Barron, the mayor's
director of public affairs, was given a 16-percent raise; and Arlen
Herrell, the mayor's director of international affairs, was given a
20-percent raise. Adcock also obtained a 20-percent raise briefly before
leaving, which Barron described to CityBeat as a budgetary technicality.Since
Mallory is term-limited, Barron says the savings will only apply to
Mallory's remaining five months. The mayor who replaces Mallory in
December will decide whether to keep or rework Mallory's policies.Last
year, Barron was paid $66,144 in regular pay, Butler was paid $71,349,
Herrell was paid $59,961 and Adcock was paid $66,049, according to the
city's payroll records. But Barron explained that those numbers were
higher because last year happened to have an extra payday. Under normal
circumstances, Barron is paid $62,740 a year, Butler is paid $67,760,
Adcock was paid $62,740 and Herrell is paid $62,031.
by German Lopez
27 days ago
Budget pushes conservative policy, moms demand action on guns, mayor shrinking budget
For this week’s cover story, CityBeat analyzed the Ohio House budget bill that would defund
Planned Parenthood, fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the
Medicaid expansion in favor of broader reforms. The bill passed the Republican-controlled Ohio House last week, but it still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich. Ohio Senate President Keith
Faber announced yesterday that the Ohio Senate will not move forward
with the Medicaid expansion — a sign the Ohio Senate is agreeing with the Ohio House on that issue.
Facing the recent wave of deadly gun attacks around the nation, some moms have banded together to demand action. Moms Demand Action is using its political clout to push gun control legislation at a federal level, but it’s also promoting grassroots campaigns in cities and states around the nation.
Contrary to The Cincinnati Enquirer’s “exclusive” story, the mayor’s office is actually shrinking its budget
by $33,000 between July 1 and Dec. 1 despite plans to give some
employees raises. The mayor’s office says the raises are necessary
because the employees will be taken a bigger workload to make up for
reduced staff levels, but the budgetary moves will save money overall.
Originally, The Enquirer reported the raises without noting the savings in the
rest of the budget plan, inspiring a wave of angry emails from readers
to the mayor’s office through The Enquirer’s “tell them what you think” tool.
This week’s commentary: “Streetcar’s No. 1 Problem: Obstructionism.”
At the NAACP meeting today, members will ask independent Councilman Chris Smitherman to step down from his leadership position. The disgruntled members told The Enquirer
that Smitherman, who is an opponent of the streetcar and often partners
up with the conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), is using the NAACP for his “personal and political
agenda,” not civil rights. Smitherman told The Enquirer to focus
on the legitimate work of the NAACP instead of a potential coup that he
says isn’t newsworthy. Smitherman will not allow media into today’s
City Council unanimously passed a resolution
yesterday to oppose anti-union laws that are misleadingly called “right
to work” laws. The laws earned their name after a decades-long spin campaign from big businesses that oppose unions, but the laws’ real purpose is weakening unions
by banning collective bargaining agreements that require workers to join
unions and pay dues. The City Council resolution has no legal weight;
it simply tells higher levels of government to not pass the anti-union law.
Metro’s budget would need to increase by two-thirds
to implements the bus and public transportation agency’s long-range plan, which would add rapid
transit lines, other routes and sheltered transit centers with more
Two Cincinnati economic entities are getting federal funds:
The Cincinnati Development Fund will get $35 million to invest in
brownfield redevelopment, nutritional access and educational
improvements, and Kroger Community Development Entity will get $20
million to increase low-income access to fresh and nutritional foods and
fund redevelopment projects.
As expected, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald officially announced yesterday that he will run for governor against Kasich in 2014.
Kasich appointed former State Rep. John Carey to head the Ohio Board of Regents,
which manages the state’s public university system. Carey says his
biggest goal will be to better align higher education opportunities with
jobs that are available in Ohio.
Sen. Sherrod Brown is unveiling a bill that would effectively break up the big banks by imposing strict capital limits and other rules. CityBeat wrote about Brown’s efforts here.
In a blog post
yesterday, Rep. Steve Chabot, a Cincinnati Republican, criticized
President Barack Obama for not calling the Boston bombers “Islamic
jihadists.” Public officials typically do not publicly jump to
conclusions in the middle of an ongoing investigation.
A new app gives you an automatic nose job.
Researchers are developing a solar dish that produces electricity and fresh water at the same time.
by German Lopez
89 days ago
Mayoral candidate speaks on campaign, parking deal, streetcar
For better or worse, Cincinnati will have to deal with
another major election cycle for City Council and the mayor’s office in
2013. With four-year terms for City Council recently approved by voters,
the 2013 election could play one of the most pivotal, long-term roles
in Cincinnati’s electoral history.
But what most people know about the candidates and issues
is typically given through small fragments of information provided by
media outlets. At CityBeat, we do our best to give the full context of
every story, but just once, we decided to give the candidates a chance
to speak for themselves through a question-and-answer format. (Update: Since this article was published, CityBeat interviewed Democratic mayoral candidate Roxanne Qualls for another Q&A here.)
First up, mayoral candidate John Cranley, a former
Democratic council member, has been one of the most outspoken critics of
the recently announced parking plan (“City Manager Proposes Parking, Economic Development Plan,” issue of Feb. 20) and the Cincinnati streetcar (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23) in his mayoral campaign against fellow Democrat Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. CityBeat
talked with Cranley about these issues and how they relate to the
campaign to get his full take, all in his own words. The conversation
(with some edits for readability) is below.
CityBeat: I know your campaign kick-off was last night. How did that go? Did it have good turnout?
John Cranley: It was awesome. We had over 300 people there. Very diverse crowd. It was just great.
CB: How do you feel about the campaign in
general? It’s pretty early, but how do you feel about the local support
you’ve been getting?
JC: It’s been overwhelming. People are rallying
behind my progressive vision, and trying to stop privatization of
parking meters to Wall Street. And trying to get focus back on
neighborhoods, balance, equity, basic services for everyone, special
attention to those in need and broad opportunities for the working poor.
I think people are very excited for that message, and I’m finding
support in every neighborhood of town.
CB: I noticed that a theme of your
campaign is helping out neighborhoods by spreading the funding not just
to downtown, but neighborhoods as well. Are you hoping to build support
from those areas?
JC: I’m for fairness. I think that right now you
have a disproportionate amount of money — $26 million over budget on the
streetcar, yet they’re still proceeding with it — and the neighborhoods
are forgotten about. But I want to see downtown flourish too, so it’s
not like I’m one or the other. I want the whole city to do better. But I
think there needs to be equity and balance.
CB: You just think the playing field isn’t leveled right now?
JC: Absolutely not. Right now they’re trying to
raise parking meters in neighborhoods to build luxury apartments in
downtown. If that doesn’t show you their values are out of whack, I
don’t know what does.
CB: Speaking on that, the latest news is
the city manager’s parking proposal, which he calls a “public-public
partnership” that will boost economic development. What are your
thoughts on it?
JC: The PR campaign that they’ve been putting out
is very deceptive and willfully so. This is not a public plan; this is
privatization to a Wall Street company. The only elements that matter to
city control are control over rates and control over enforcement. The
city has said repeatedly, dishonestly, that the city will maintain
control over rates and enforcement, but neither one of those statements
The rates are guaranteed to go up 3 percent a year for 30
years on a compounded basis. Prior to the recent increases in parking
rates, the city hadn’t raised rates in 10 or 15 years. Right now, the
elected officials — we live in a democracy, for now. Right now, City
Council decides to raise rates, lower rates, maintain rates. If there’s a
recession in the future, City Council can choose to reduce parking
rates. There might be certain neighborhoods where you want to charge
different rates over others depending on economic demographics of those
areas. Right now, we have complete flexibility to change those rates.
This plan gives Wall Street the right to raise rates by 3 percent every
single year for 30 years. The second thing is enforcement. I’m old-school where I
believe that the government should be the one that has the potential of
putting you in jail. Because if you don’t pay your parking tickets, you
can be indicted and go to jail. Here, we’re giving away the power to
issue tickets to a Wall Street company for 30 years.
Not to mention due process concerns. What happens if you
don’t believe you were late back to your meter? Who do you appeal to?
You appeal to this company from Wall Street, who has a financial
incentive to make you pay. [Editor's Note: Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, told CityBeat the rate
increase cap could be circumvented, but the decision would have to be unanimously
approved by a board with four members appointed by the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
and one selected by the city manager, then affirmed by the city manager, then get a final nod from the Port Authority. The 3-percent rate increase is
also not automatic, and the Port Authority could decide to not
take it up every year.She also said Xerox, which is not a Wall Street company, would manage
enforcement based on standards set by a contract with the Port Authority. Guggenheim, a Wall Street financial firm, is acting as underwriter and capital provider for the parking plan.]On that point, how is it that there are public
hearings next week and they haven’t released any of the contracts or
documents for this transaction? They are going on a Power Point
presentation, which is their talking points. Everyone is writing it as
if it’s fact, yet the contract and the details haven’t even been
Roxanne is calling public hearings and expecting people to
weigh in on a 30-year decision before the details are released to the
public. How cynical is that?
CB: We might not know the details right now, but you think that shows a lack of transparency?
JC: Of course. I hope you guys will editorialize
about that and stand up against privatizing and outsourcing the city to
CB: In the past, you and I talked about
the next phase of the Smale Riverfront Park not having funding, which
you pinned on the streetcar taking tax revenue that could be used for
it. I couldn’t help but notice that it’s one of the things funded in the
city manager’s parking proposal. Do you see that as evidence to your
JC: Well, of course. They don’t have funding for the Riverfront Park. That’s why they’re selling the city’s parking meters.
The bigger issue is it’s just fundamentally wrong to take
an asset that is a recurring revenue stream for 30 years and try to
monetize it today at the expense of the future generations. It’s
giving Roxanne the ability to try to buy votes by playing Santa Claus
before the election at the expense of the next generation.
CB: Another part of the plan is it’s expanding hours. Do you think that might hurt nightlife in Downtown?
JC: Of course it’s going to hurt restaurants,
nightlife and the Cincinnati Reds, not to mention the neighborhoods —
Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, Clifton. They’re going to pay higher meters so
they can pay off their friends to build luxury apartments in downtown.
The equity of this is awful.
CB: Would you be willing to bring up a referendum on this deal?
JC: Absolutely. It’s such a selling-out of the city on a long-term basis, but I think the people should have the final say.
CB: I want to move onto the streetcar.
Even for supporters of the streetcar, the delays are unnerving. The
latest news is these construction requests came way over budget and they
might cause more delays. How do you feel about it?
JC: It’s what we’ve been saying for a long time. A
lot of people’s reputations have been attacked for having said that this
thing would be over budget. I think a lot of people, including Roxanne,
need to fess up that they’ve been misleading the public about this deal
But the real issue is it’s $26 million over budget, it’s
the tip of the iceberg, and it’s going to get worse. And Roxanne is
continuing to spend money on the streetcar. She’s continuing to move
forward. She still says she wants to get it done by the (2015 Major
League Baseball) All-Star Game. She still says that she wants to pay for
future phases. So it doesn’t really matter, from Roxanne’s standpoint,
if it’s $26 million over budget. I think it’s too expensive, we can’t
afford it, we shouldn’t be raising property taxes, etc. We should stop
now and we should try to get our money back.
CB: One of the issues you’ve told me you
have with the streetcar before is a lack of transparency. Do you think
that’s catching up to the city in these budget surprises?
JC: Of course the lack of transparency is catching
up to them. Not only is it the right thing to do what you’re doing with
their money and government; it’s always the right way to manage money.
When you hide problems, it always leads to greater expense later.
CB: We’ve thoroughly covered what you’re against. What positive visions do you have for the city and neighborhoods?
JC: I have lots. On my website, JohnCranley.com,
I have my 10-point plan, which goes in great deal over my positive plan
for the city. We need to focus on jobs and opportunities for the
future. We need to partner with the venture capital and university
entrepreneurship efforts in the city, and I’ll do everything in my power
to help that. We need to work to improve our schools; what we need to
do is get communities involved to adopt under-performing inner-city
schools to improve the standards and opportunities. Third, we need to
adopt my plan to reprogram existing federal dollars into job training
and job opportunities to put people to work in building city’s
infrastructure projects now. Those are probably the three major ones.
The good thing about Cincinnati is we have momentum, which is great. But we’re not getting better fast enough.Update: This story was updated with comment from the city manager’s office to clarify how the parking plan’s rate cap will work and Guggenheim's role.
by German Lopez
75 days ago
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
75 days ago
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
96 days ago
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).
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
With 2012 in the past, it’s time to start
preparing for a brand new year of politics and policy. From what’s been
hinted at so far, progressives could have another big year in 2013, but
only if they work for it.
by German Lopez
More on Newtown massacre, City Council passes budget, Dillingham to run for council
By now, most of you have heard there was another horrible
mass shooting, this time in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the death
of 20 children and six adults. While everyone is hoping this is the last
time the nation has to deal with an event of unspeakable horror, it is
only a possibility if we agree to do something about it. That means
remembering the heroes
who risked their lives and, in some cases, died that day. That means
not letting the media and public drop the issue, as has been the case in the past. That means looking at more than just gun control, including mental health services. The Washington Post analyzed what “meaningful” action on gun control would look like, and the newspaper also disproved
the idea Switzerland and Israel are “gun-toting utopias.” President
Barack Obama also spoke on the issue at a vigil Sunday, calling for the
nation to do more to protect people, particularly children, from
violence. The full speech can be watched here.
City Council approved
its 2013 budget plan Friday. The budget relies on the privatization of
city parking assets to help plug a $34 million deficit and avoid 344 layoffs.
The budget also nixed the elimination of a tax reciprocity for people
who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both
cities, and it continued funding the police department’s mounted unit.
As a separate issue, City Council voted to increase the property
tax by about 24 percent, reversing a move from conservatives in 2011. CityBeat wrote about budgets at all levels of government and how they affect jobs here.Michelle Dillingham, who was an aide to former city councilman David Crowley, will seek Democratic support in a run for City Council.
Dillingham promises to tackle “industry issues of mutual interest" to
business and labor and “transportation funding, family-supporting wages
and workforce development.”
At a recent public hearing, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed a “very easy” plan for the city budget. Only problem: His plan doesn’t work.
In an email, Cranley said he stands by his ideas, but he added he was
working with limited information and his statements were part of a
two-minute speech, which “requires brevity.” He also claimed there are
cost-cutting measures that can be sought out without privatizing the
city’s parking assets and gave modified versions of his ideas regarding
casino and parking meter revenue.
Judge Robert Lyons, the Butler County judge who sealed the Miami rape flyer case, is standing by his decision.
The Greater Cincinnati area is near the top for private-sector growth.
Jedson Engineering is moving
from Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, thanks in part to an
incentive package from City Council that includes a 45 percent tax
credit based on employees earnings taxes over the next five years and a
$300,000 grant for capital improvements. The company was a Business
Courier Fast 55 finalist in 2008 and 2009 due to its high revenue
Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan is getting some support from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, but others are weary.
They fear the plan, which leverages the turnpike through bonds for
state infrastructure projects, will move turnpike revenues out of
northern Ohio. But Kasich vows to keep more than 90 percent of projects
in northern Ohio.
Gas prices are still falling in Ohio.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is making some concessions in fiscal talks. In his latest budget, he proposed raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year.One beagle can diagnose diseases by sniffing stool samples.
by German Lopez
Mayor candidate’s budget suggestions are inadequate, impossible
Former Democratic city council member John Cranley is kicking off his 2013 mayoral campaign by getting involved in budget talks. In a public hearing at City
Hall last week, Cranley tried to provide an alternative to privatizing the
city’s parking assets, which City Manager Milton Dohoney has suggested
to pay for $21 million of the city’s $34 million deficit.
“It’s not the citizen’s job to balance the budget, but let
me make it very easy for you,” Cranley said. “You have $12 million in
casino money that can be used but is currently being used on pet
projects, like street sculptures. The parking meters themselves produce
$7 million a year. That’s $19 million. And $5 million for garbage cans.
That’s $24 million. You only need ($21 million) to cancel the parking
privatization plan, so I got you $3 extra million to spare.”
In short, Cranley's alternative to parking privatization is using $12 million from
casino revenue, $7 million from keeping parking meters under city ownership and $5
million saved from not purchasing trash carts.
So how viable are Cranley’s ideas? In a memo, Dohoney’s
office responded. The memo points out that casino revenue is currently
estimated at $7.2 million, not $12 million, and $1.3 million is already
included in the budget for Focus 52, a neighborhood redevelopment project. That leaves casino revenues $6.1 million short of what Cranley proposed.
Regarding parking meters, Dohoney’s office says revenue
from parking meters is restricted to fund “operations and maintenance in
the right-of-way.” The memo says City Council could authorize using the money to plug the deficit, but it would then have to find
alternatives for funding operations and maintenance.
Even the trash cart proposal doesn’t work. Not buying trash carts would only
save $4.7 million, not $5 million. And the plan, which is part of the city’s effort to
semi-automate trash collection, is in the general capital budget,
not the general fund operating budget that’s being debated. The memo
concludes, “If the trash carts are not purchased, the funds would not be
available to close the gap because this is a capital budget expenditure
and resources supporting the capital budget cannot be used in the operating budget.”
In other words, Cranley’s “very easy” budget plan isn’t just difficult; it’s a mix of inadequate and impossible. If CityBeat was PolitiFact, Cranley’s suggestions would probably get him a “Pants on Fire” label.