by Andy Brownfield
City Manager says without lease, 344 city workers would lose jobs
Cincinnati City Council members today focused a lot of attention
on a contentious plan to lease city parking assets during a Monday
committee presentation on the 2013 budget.
It was the first opportunity council members had to
publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would
cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal
year starting in July.
Many council members expressed concern over the plan
to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking
meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.
“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities
net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about
$210 million over 30 years.
Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the
facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit,
for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.
Other council members expressed concern that whoever
leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas
“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.
Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue,
projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34
million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.
A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.
The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating
support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and
Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts
It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of
50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse
patrol would bring that closer to 40.
Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits
to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use
University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.
He said the police department would also look for ways to
save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could
do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had
considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long
been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying
staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is
The proposed budget also includes investments in business
groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority,
Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American
Chamber of Commerce.
Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget
team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six
years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on
people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.
“There is a focus on helping people make more money that
are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that
aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
by Andy Brownfield
Outcry, national attention spurred removal of voter fraud displays
A Cincinnati outdoor advertising company announced Tuesday
that it will take down controversial billboards that opponents claim
are aimed at intimidating voters.
Norton Outdoor Advertising had been contracted to put up
about 30 billboards that read “Voter Fraud is a Felony!” The billboards
also listed the maximum penalty for voter fraud — up to 3 and a half years and a
Opponents of the billboards claim they were strategically
placed in predominantly low-income and black neighborhoods in Cincinnati
as a means to discourage those largely Democratic voters from going to
The billboards were funded by an anonymous “private family foundation.”
In a statement posted online, Norton Executive Vice
President Mike Norton said the displays would be taken down as soon as
possible. He wrote that the
foundation and Norton agreed after hearing criticism that the sentiment
surrounding the displays was contrary to their intended purpose.
The family foundation didn’t intend to make a political
statement, but rather make the public aware of voting regulations, he
“We look forward to helping to heal the divisiveness that has been an unfortunate result of this election year,” Norton wrote.
Norton had previously told CityBeat that the billboards were not targeted but distributed randomly throughout the city.
Several Cincinnati officials wrote to the company requesting the billboards be taken down.
ClearChannel Outdoor Advertising announced on Monday that it was removing similar billboards in Cleveland and Columbus.
The billboards throughout Ohio had garnered national criticism and media attention.
A rival outdoor advertising company is putting up 10 new billboards to rebut the voter fraud ones.
The new red, white and blue billboards will read “Hey Cincinnati, voting is a right not a crime!”
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in an
emailed news release that he reached out to Lamar Advertising
Company to ask if they would donate the billboards throughout
“We should be encouraging folks to participate in our
democratic process, not trying to scare them,” Sittenfeld wrote. “I
salute Lamar’s generosity and their support in encouraging citizens to
raise their voice and not be scared away.”
by Bill Sloat
Cranley’s ex-campaign manager quietly registers CranleyForMayor domain names
A Democratic operative who once served as former Cincinnati Councilman
John Cranley’s campaign manager already is staking out cyber turf in
advance of Cranley’s rumored run for mayor of Cincinnati. Two Internet domains have been registered for CranleyForMayor on GoDaddy.com. The domains were created three months ago. As yet, no active websites are operating on CranleyForMayor.org or CranleyForMayor.info.
Both sites are held in the name of Jay Kincaid, a longtime Democratic operative in Cincinnati. This
year, Kincaid has been working on the campaigns of Denise Driehaus, who
is seeking reelection to the Ohio House, and Steve Black, who is
running for Common Pleas Judge. (Kincaid is engaged to Black’s daughter.) Kincaid
ran Cranley’s successful 2007 campaign for reelection to Cincinnati
City Council and was paid about $26,000 for the work. Obviously, he and Cranley go back a long way. It’s doubtful Kincaid would have staked out the Internet domains for another candidate to double-cross Cranley. There have been instances where people have grabbed domains to shut out opponents, or set up spoof and decoys as dirty tricks. By all accounts, Kincaid is described as a trusted adviser.
So far, there’s been no official announcement that Cranley is running for mayor. Yet there have been plenty of rumors. Cranley
recently positioned himself as an opponent of Mayor Mark Mallory’s
efforts to finance the streetcar project, a move that put him back in
the news. Registering Internet domains is likely to add to the speculation. All
candidates these days have websites, and the portals are central to
fundraising, getting out the word on issues and scheduling events.
might be running to succeed Mallory, who is term-limited out of office
next year? Among the D’s, names being mentioned include Vice Mayor
Roxanne Qualls, Democratic State Sen. Eric Kearney and Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld. Kearney is the highest-ranking Democrat in the Ohio Senate, and can’t run for reelection due to term limits. He’s reportedly told people he wants to move into the mayor’s office, but he’s also said to have recently changed his mind. The word from Democratic insiders about Kearney: Stay tuned. Qualls, who served as mayor in the 1990s, is said to be a definite. Sittenfeld is called a complete question mark.On the GOP side, Charlie Winburn might run again. And Chris Smitherman is considered a possibility as either a Democrat, Republican, under a Third Party flag or an independent.
by Andy Brownfield
City Council approves ballot measure for non-staggered option
Cincinnati voters will decide in November whether to double
the length of their council members' terms.
City Council voted 6-3 on Wednesday to put the ballot
initiative before voters. The measure would have all nine members run at the
same time, instead of a competing ballot initiative that would have staggered
“We are the only major city in Ohio that still has two-year
terms for its leaders, and the cities that we compete with are also moving to
four-year terms, including Louisville and as far as St. Louis, Minneapolis,
Denver and Atlanta,” said Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who spearheaded the
If approved by voters, the change wouldn’t affect
council members serving currently and would go into effect in 2013.
Not every council member was thrilled with the idea.
“I think accountability is paramount, and I don’t see going
from two-year terms to four-year terms as increasing the accountability
citizens want,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who was one of three new
faces to join council in last year's election, which saw four Republican incumbents booted from
“I’m sure it’s not lost on my colleagues that last November
the electorate was craving change and wanted change, and if we had been in the
middle of a four-year cycle they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make that
change and a substantial portion of this council … wouldn’t be sitting up here
Sittenfeld equated an election to a job evaluation. He,
along with councilmembers Chris Smitherman and Charles Winburn, voted against the
Quinlivan has said her rationale for pushing four-year
terms would be to eliminate the cycle that currently has sitting council members
spending half of their terms campaigning.
Councilman Cecil Thomas said four-year terms would allow council members
to focus on longer-term projects as well.
“Four years gives us plenty of time to gel together, to work
together,” Thomas said.
Councilman Chris Seelbach attended all four public hearings
council held throughout the city and called the number of people who support
four-year terms “unbelievable.” Seelbach said he himself was “semi-conflicted”
over the proposed changes, but was not conflicted over whether voters should
have that choice: He voted in favor.
Mayor Mark Mallory was sure to remind councilmembers before
their vote that they are forbidden from using city resources to campaign for a
City Council to determine which proposal for four-year terms voters will see in November
1 Comment · Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Cincinnati voters will decide in November
whether their City Council members will serve four-year terms instead of
the current two-year ones — councilors just haven’t decided which
proposal to send to voters.
by Jac Kern
night’s Reds opener against the Cubs was postponed due to that nasty storm, so Bronson Arroyo and Chicago's
Jeff Samardzija will face off tonight at 7:10 p.m. A makeup game for
last night has not been announced yet.
you’re downtown for the game or just hanging out, stop by the Moerlein Lager
House at The Banks for their first seasonal Keg tapping. Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld will tap the Christian Moerlein Dubél Double IPA, available only at
the Lager House, at 6 p.m.
if you’re far from a modern dance buff, you’re probably familiar with
contemporary dance company Pilobolus. Besides touring across more than 64 countries,
Pilobus performed a tribute to the nominated movies at the 2007 Oscars,
collaborated with OK GO for the group’s “All Is Not Lost” music video
and were featured on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2008.
cool, right? Pilobolus is in town tonight and Thursday, performing at the
Aronoff Center as part of Contemporary Dance Theater’s Guest Artist Series. Go
hosts staff favorite author Veronica Roth and their Rookwood location tonight.
The New York Times bestselling author will discuss and sign the second book in
her popular Divergent series tonight
from 7-8:30 p.m. Insurgent is “another intoxicating thrill
ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful
insights about human nature.”
May is Bike Month so be sure
to check our our new issue, out today, for tips on traversing city streets,
options for trail lovers and a lots of pedal-rific events all month long.
Check out our To Do page for
more arts and theater happenings and follow our music blog for nightly club
shows and concerts.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Cincinnati officials are hoping to give property owners more of an incentive to clean up their yards. City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has
proposed changing Cincinnati’s litter laws to allow for a full refund of
fines for first-time violators if they remedy the problem within 10
days of being cited.
by Kevin Osborne
Councilman will mow lawn of contest winner
Cincinnati officials are
about to give property owners more of an incentive to clean up their yards.
City Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld has proposed changing Cincinnati’s litter laws to allow for a full
refund of fines for first-time violators if they remedy the problem within 10
days of being cited.
Currently, when the city
issues citations for littered properties, owners can recoup half their money if
they clean up the property within that time period.
The proposal already has the
signatures of six other City Council members, giving it enough support for
is an acknowledgement that illegal dumping is widespread in Cincinnati, he said, and the
problem isn’t always the fault of the owner.
Of all customer service
requests to the city in 2011, more than 9,000 — or 14.2 percent of all requests
— were related to litter, making it the single most frequent complaint.
Sittenfeld timed the proposal’s
introduction to coincide with the Great American Cleanup and Earth Day, both
of which happen this weekend.
To increase the public’s
interest, Sittenfeld is asking residents to take a before-and-after picture of
the area they clean up over the next week, and send the photos to his council
office no later than April 27. Sittenfeld will then personally mow the lawn of
whoever has the most dramatic cleanup.
The photos may be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Kevin Osborne
Councilman: It’s needed to offset retirements
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld wants his colleagues to approve a police recruit class for next year, the first since June 2008.There currently are 1,022 sworn officers in the Cincinnati Police Department, along with 115 non-sworn staff. The high-mark during the past decade occurred in 2008, when there was a total of 1,148 sworn officers and 229 non-sworn staff.By November 2013, based on department retirement projections and without the addition of a new recruit class, the Police Department's complement will be down to 964 sworn officers — 184 fewer sworn officers than in 2008.“By the end of 2014, without the addition of a recruit class, our police force will be 197 officers below the authorized complement level,” Sittenfeld wrote in a memo to his colleagues.“The Police Department has communicated the importance of a recruit class as a simple reflection of the numbers,” he added. “In the same way that council has needed to be realistic about our highest police staffing levels being financially unsustainable, we must also be realistic about how low we can allow staffing levels to fall and still provide the service that is expected.”Other council members haven’t yet weighed in on the issue, which is a topic that likely will be brought up during budget hearings later this year.
by Kevin Osborne
Two Cincinnati City Council members will unveil a proposal Wednesday to require banks to take better care of foreclosed properties.Councilmen P.G. Sittenfeld and Cecil Thomas want city administrators to gauge the feasibility of launching a pilot program to improve vacant and blighted properties, which they said would help stabilize neighborhoods.If ultimately deemed feasible and approved, the proposal would create a mandatory registry for vacant foreclosed properties and enact stiffer civil offense charges for properties that aren’t properly maintained. Also, it would require point of sale inspections prior to sheriff's sales, and assess the costs for code violation corrections to lenders.The program would be tried on a one-year trial basis in Westwood, Price Hill, College Hill, Madisonville and Mount Airy. If successful, it could be expanded to other neighborhoods.When foreclosed properties are left vacant, they often become targets of crime and sources of blight, and can ultimately end up in the hands of absentee landlords, Sittenfeld said."Our efforts are all about demanding accountability," Sittenfeld said. "Banks and lenders must maintain the properties they own, just like the rest of us."He added, “We must all care about this issue because all of us are affected by it. If you live next to a vacant foreclosed house, your property values go down and your quality of life deteriorates. This pilot program provides an important step toward stabilizing our neighborhoods."Sittenfeld and Thomas will formally announce the plan at a press conference Wednesday morning at a foreclosed home at 1540 Ambrose Ave. in College Hill. The property is owned by mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has had 188 building code enforcement cases in Cincinnati during the past five years.The proposal also has the support of Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmembers Chris Seelbach, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young. That gives it enough votes for passage, which means administrators will report back to council on the costs for such a program and whether it would be effective.Community activists and advocates from Working In Neighborhoods and the Legal Aid Society also support the proposal.