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.
by Hannah McCartney
83 days ago
Main Street spot is being eyed for CitiRama 2014
Leaders of a quiet Over-the-Rhine civic garden that harvests produce like peaches, tomatoes, garlic and blackberries to sell at Findlay Market are worried they could be forced to relocate after calling the same spot home since 1998. CitiRama, a partnership between the Cincinnati Homebuilders Association and the city of Cincinnati that holds annual or biannual home shows on chosen urban plots
of land, has proposed that the lot at 1718
Main St. in Over-the-Rhine, which currently houses the Eco Garden
project (run by local nonprofit Permaganic), be amended to instead house
the site for its next event, which would force the garden to
relocate. The Livable Communities Committee yesterday was presented a memo
submitted by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls from City Manager Milton Dohoney
Jr., recommending that the Eco Garden lot, which is currently
subletted to Permaganics for its Eco Garden program by the Civic Garden
Association (CGA), be relocated to a larger area so the site can be procured for CitiRama. The parcel of land is actually owned by the city of
Cincinnati, but the city leases a number of parcels to the CGA for
their use. According to the memo, the lease between the city and
the CGA expires in 2015, but grants the city the power to terminate the
lease at any time if another use for the land arises. The area
containing the Eco Garden has been targeted as the next CitiRama site by
the city’s Department of Community Development (DCD), the main
controller of the property. According to Dohoney’s memo, should the Eco
Garden be forced to move elsewhere, the DCD would fund the garden's startup and
relocation costs. For Angela Ebner, executive director with Permaganic,
that’s not a sufficient compromise, but she’s hopeful the parties can
reach an agreement by demonstrating that the Garden's OTR existence is actually of value to CitiRama, which is seeking out forward-thinking potential homeowners invested in fostering positive urban cultural experiences. “We think they’re (CitiRama) interested in
working with us because we think they’re interested in working with that
demographic of eco-friendly people. I’m pretty certain they’ll be
accepting of the fact that we do a really good job of reflecting the
needs and values of people in the community,” she says. CitiRama's events are designed to attract potential homeowners and developers to pinpointed plots of land in hopes of reviving urban areas with new housing opportunities, but there's also a heavy focus on sustainability. The most recent CitiRama event, which opened at Virginia Place in Northside (located at the intersection of Virginia and Chase avenues), took place in Sept. 2012. The Eco Garden exists to “create experiential learning opportunities for inner-city youth to cultivate self-reliance, job skills and an entrepreneurial aptitude by cultivating a market garden to grow fresh, healthy vegetables and herbs for direct sales at Findlay Market," according to a Permaganic Facebook post. They recruit local at-risk teens for a unique job readiness program, which allows the teens to work in the garden in exchange for a stipend. Supporters of Permaganic and the Eco Garden are concerned that moving the garden would cause disrupt not just to the crops that have grown for the past several years, but also the fabric of the neighborhood, particularly the at-risk neighborhood youth who see the space as a "home away from home." Ebner and supporters are currently waiting for word from the city in hopes of moving forward on a compromise. “We want a green, peaceful, healthy world for everyone’s children,” says Ebner. “That’s the bottom line.”
by German Lopez
83 days ago
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
“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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 20, 2013
In a presentation to City Council Feb.
19, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled an unexpected parking
proposal that will solve a $25.8 million budget deficit for the 2014
fiscal year and avoid full privatization. The 30-year plan will also put
more than $100 million toward economic development in the city.
by German Lopez
98 days ago
More than 700 units being sold to New York company
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is asking the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to stop the sale of 748 housing
units to a New York company — potentially preventing a repeat of a
similar sale back to 2007 that led to dropping property values in the area.
In a press release Tuesday, Qualls argued that locals should be given the
opportunity to purchase the project-based Section 8 housing in Walnut
Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Currently, HUD is bypassing local
communities with plans to sell the housing to a corporation controlled
by the Puretz family of Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Cincinnati’s residents are still recovering from the
massive disinvestment that was allowed to occur with an eerily similar
situation in 2010,” Qualls said in the release, referring to a
similar sale that culminated in a huge drop in property values between
2007 and 2010.
In 2007, HUD sold 618 subsidized housing units to NY Group
OH 1 LLC, a company with no previous housing experience in Cincinnati,
according to Qualls’ release. As the 2008 financial crisis and Great
Recession pulled down the global economy, property values dropped all
around the nation, but things went particularly south in NY Group’s
Cincinnati buildings. The owner eventually defaulted on the housing
units, and Fannie Mae foreclosed in 2010. Property values went from $21.5
million to $7 million between 2007 and 2010, when the units were sold in a sheriff’s sale. In that time period, the
buildings blighted, with residents complaining about
deteriorating structures, broken lighting, bed bugs, cockroaches and mold. In one case, an
apartment’s restroom ceiling reportedly collapsed.
Qualls is focused on preventing more blighted buildings:
“Preservation of the housing in good condition is vital to the
improvement of our neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods cannot afford to
have more blight brought on by an absentee owner. Because these
properties are supported by government funding, it is vitally important
that HUD get public input from the City of Cincinnati and Avondale,
Walnut Hills and Millvale residents and stakeholders about this proposed
new transfer of HUD funded properties before making any further
Qualls has invited the local HUD field office director to
the Feb. 26 Livable Communities Committee meeting to discuss the sale.
She has also written to other HUD officials, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, U.S. Sen.
Rob Portman and Rep. Steve Chabot to prevent the sale.
by German Lopez
97 days ago
Obama gives State of the Union, archdiocese defends LGBT firing, Qualls against HUD sale
President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union speech
yesterday. During the speech, Obama outlined fairly liberal proposals for the economy, climate change, gun control and immigration. He also suggested raising the minimum wage to $9 and attaching it to rising cost of living standards. The Washington Post analyzed the proposals here. To watch a bunch of old people clap too much while the
president outlines policy proposals that will likely never pass a
gridlocked Congress, click here.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is standing firm
in its firing of Purcell Marian High School administrator Mike Moroski.
The termination came after Moroski publicly stated his support for
same-sex marriage on his blog — a position that contradicts the Catholic
Church’s teachings. CityBeat covered Moroski’s case in this week’s news story, and gay marriage was covered more broadly in a previous in-depth story.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls wants to stop
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from selling
768 housing units in Walnut Hills, Avondale and Millvale. Qualls says
the sale is “eerily similar” to a sale dating back to 2007, which
resulted in dropping property values and blighted buildings. She argues local buyers should get a chance to take up the properties before HUD makes the sale to a New York company.
State Treasurer Josh Mandel is up to his old tricks again. In a letter to Ohio legislators Monday, Mandel, a Republican, opposed the Medicaid expansion,
claiming, “There is no free money.” But for the state, the Medicaid
expansion is essentially free money. The federal government will cover
all the costs of the expansion for the first three years, then phase down to paying 90 percent of the costs by 2020 — essentially, free
John Kasich, another Republican, has backed the Medicaid expansion, claiming it makes
financial sense in the long term. In 2012, Mandel lost the race for Ohio’s Senate seat after he ran
a notoriously dishonest campaign against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Financing details for the Brent Spence Bridge are due in March.
The details will provide much-wanted information for local residents
cautious about the new tolling scheme, which will help pay for the bridge’s
Cincinnati officials and residents celebrated
the work completed near the Horseshoe Casino at an event yesterday.
Mayor Mark Mallory highlighted the infrastructure improvements made to
accommodate the casino, calling the work a successful collaboration
between city government, the casino and residents.
The Ohio Resource Center has a new website for K-12 digital content. The website, ilearnOhio, is supposed to provide parents and students with the tools needed for online distance learning.
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill is being sued
for not paying rent. The restaurant claims it’s financially viable, but
it’s holding the rent in escrow after its landlord allegedly violated the
leasing agreement. The establishment was one of the first to open at
A public Ohio school district is fighting a lawsuit in order to keep its portrait of Jesus.
The school district claims the portrait is owned by a student club and
is “private speech,” but opponents argue the portrait violates
separation of church and state.
Update on the Alamo situation at Tower Place Mall: Only one tenant remains.
The unofficial spokesman of Heart Attack Grill, the infamous Las Vegas restaurant, died of a heart attack.
Americans expect a human mission to Mars in the next 20 years, but that’s probably because they don’t know how little funding NASA gets.
An asteroid will barely miss
Earth on Feb. 15. If it were to hit, it would generate the explosive
equivalent of 2,500 kilotons of TNT. In comparison, the nuclear bomb
that hit Hiroshima during World War 2 generated a measly equivalent of
17 kilotons of TNT.
Pendleton residents lament developer’s plan to replace former SCPA building’s greenspace with a parking lot
6 Comments · Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The three acres
of greenspace she sees every day from her front window surrounding the
old School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) building, is facing
serious threats of extinction.
Once-stalled Banks Project wins development award; leaders look ahead to new phases
1 Comment · Wednesday, January 16, 2013
John Deatrick seems genuinely
excited and proud to be part of the riverfront project receiving the
American Planning Association’s (APA) 2013 National Planning Excellence
Award for Implementation, announced Jan. 9.
by German Lopez
City will lease Music Hall to private company for 75 years
Cincinnati’s Music Hall will be getting renovations, but
the project will be much smaller than anticipated. Instead of the
previously estimated $165 million, the project, which involves the city
leasing the iconic building to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC) for 75 years, will only
cover approximately $95 million.
At a joint press conference Wednesday, Mayor Mark Mallory
and Otto Budig, president of MHRC,
officially announced the plan, which City Council will take up early
Not many details or a timeline were announced at the press
conference, but some information did come to light. The renovations will
include more comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air
conditioning, improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations, Music Hall, home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati Ballet, will be closed for an estimated 17 months.
“We will do this in a manner that carries with it the
surety that the project will be complete,” Budig said. “The worst thing
we could do is start this project without the natural resources and
On top of the leasing agreement, the city will also help fund the project through tax credits.
The lease continues the trend of public-private
partnerships city government has used to revitalize Over-the-Rhine and
downtown Cincinnati in recent years. From the Banks to Washington Park, the city of
Cincinnati has pushed to be seen as a more attractive, business-friendly
However, that has come with some push back. The Cincinnati
Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and city have previously
faced criticisms from homeless advocates for allegedly discriminatory
rules at Washington Park, which were later voted down by the Cincinnati Park Board.
Some public officials have also raised concerns about the
city giving away too many of its public assets. The 2013 budget
currently relies on a proposal that will privatize Cincinnati’s parking
assets, a plan that has faced heavy criticism from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and mayoral candidate John Cranley. City Manager Milton Dohoney argues the privatization plan is necessary to avoid 344 layoffs.
by Andy Brownfield
Council members urge city to investigate worker wages
Some members of city council agreed that the city needs to
take a hard look at the way it inspects projects done with taxpayer
money, but they took no action during a special joint committee meeting
Thursday to discuss allegations that workers were being underpaid at the
University Square development in Clifton.
Council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell
Young presented a video investigation they conducted, which included interviews
with workers on the project who claim they were being taken advantage of
by the University Square developers.
Under Ohio and Cincinnati law, workers on projects funded
by taxpayers must be paid a so-called “prevailing wage” (the same as a
unionized worker) and be given benefits.
In Cincinnati, that wage is $23.17 an hour for the carpentry work done by the workers interviewed for the video.
The workers in the video claimed they were paid $500 for working a 60-hour week.
“Five-hundred dollars a week to me when you don’t have a
job, that’s a lot,” said Garrick Foxx, a construction worker on the
“But actually when you average it out, it’s not. Like to
the hour-wise it’s probably like 9-something, so like I could actually
make that working at McDonalds.”
The University Square developer — a collaboration between
Towne Properties and Al. Neyer, Inc. — is building a complex with a
parking garage, residential units and retail space.
The City of Cincinnati has $21 million invested in the
parking garage. The State of Ohio recently ruled that the prevailing
wage provisions apply only workers constructing the garage that the city
has money invested in.
Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said the controversy was
ginned up by unions and it hasn’t been proven that workers are being
“All of this was started by the unions themselves because
they became very unhappy when the State of Ohio said a sizeable portion
of our project was not subject to prevailing wage,” Bortz said. “They
tried then to discredit and intimidate anyone who is on the other side
of the table.”
Bortz said he agreed to pay a prevailing wage even to
workers who worked on parts of the project not subject to the law. He
said he cuts a check to the subcontractors based on that agreement.
“Whether any of those subcontractors might have been
unfair to the workers, we do not know,” Bortz said. “If they were, they
should be made to be fair.”
Deputy City Solicitor Aaron Herzig said if the contract
required a particular wage be paid and it wasn’t, the city can bring a
breach of contract action against the developers. But to start an
investigation, a complaint must first be made.The council members asked that their investigation be considered a formal complaint.