by German Lopez
124 days ago
State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,”
according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new
plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax
structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some
are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost
$130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but
Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility
for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy
regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been
looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad
for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures
job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and
Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality.
Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not
require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world,
say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes
it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne
Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
by German Lopez
131 days ago
Strickland won't run in 2014, county reviewing MSD, freestanding restroom underway
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland will not run for governor in 2014. In a statement released today, the Democrat who previously served four years as governor did not
give a reason for why he won’t run. But he did promise his wife and him
will “continue to be politically active private citizens.” Strickland
also touted his accomplishments as governor, including energy, health
care, social services and property tax reform. In September, Strickland
faced criticism from the left for pushing for the Democratic platform
to include a mention of God and a proclamation that Jerusalem is the
capital of Israel. The platform amendment contradicts decades of U.S.
Hamilton County wants an efficiency review
of the Metropolitan Sewer District. Republican Commissioner Chris
Monzel ordered the review. He says he expects “things at the
Metropolitan Sewer District are being managed and operated in a highly
efficient and effective manner,” but he wants to make sure. MSD is
currently taking part in a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated upgraded
system. CityBeat wrote about MSD’s green initiatives here.
Findlay Market might soon host Cincinnati’s first freestanding restroom.
If it goes well, it could be the start of a much bigger city-wide
project, and freestanding restrooms will be built all around downtown
and Over-the-Rhine. The test facility is being touted by Councilman
Chris Seelbach and other city officials as they seek to provide better
access to restrooms throughout the city.Rep. Peter Beck, a Republican from Mason, is facing a possible ethics investigation from the Ohio House of Representatives. The controversy was prompted by a recently filed lawsuit, which alleges Beck participated in a fraud that cheated investors out of more than $1.2 million.
Some local educators are supporting the use of seclusion rooms in Ohio. The rooms, which are enclosed spaces used to calm or restrain children who become violent, have come under criticism after an investigation from StateImpact Ohio and The Columbus Dispatch
found the rooms were being abused for the convenience of staff. Ohio
does not currently regulate the use of seclusion rooms, but that is
likely to change in an upcoming Ohio Board of Education meeting.
On the bright side, Ohio has the 10th best education laws, according to a study from StudentsFirst.
Overall, Ohio got a C-, making it one of the 12 states to get a B or C.
No state received an A. StateImpact Ohio has more on the grade here.
State officials probably understand how I felt when I dropped out of a
college history class because the professor was too strict of a grader.
Then again, state education systems are probably more important than
Colonial History 101.
The Blue Wisp, home of the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is looking to renegotiate its lease.
Over the holidays, restaurant hero and Blue Wisp manager Ed Felson told
customers his jazz-themed restaurant and club is having financial
problems.The most emailed phrase while committing fraud at work is “cover up.”
One major problem with prolonged space missions: Humans become lazy and sleepy. It seems like being an astronaut isn’t different from any other job. Who can we rely on when aliens finally invade?
by Andy Brownfield
Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar
In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday
passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted
Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying
money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation
can’t be used on the streetcar.
The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in
order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the
streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds.
SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose,
but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any
At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.
Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city
administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the
“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any
contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that
we do it,” he said.
The resolution has no legal standing preventing council
from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but
Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their
Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The
Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the
He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s
meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money
for the operation of the streetcar.
Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.
Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to
flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out
the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He
questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the
transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the
Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.
However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to
pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer
money to sue the city.
City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in
the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are
used, not the city.
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
Loan would help move three homeless shelters out of Over-the-Rhine
UPDATE 11-8-12: An aide to Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls tells CityBeat that the $7 million loan will only go toward moving two of the shelters: the Drop Inn Center and a new women's shelter to be operated by the YWCA. Because the City Gospel Mission requires a religious component to is outreach to the homeless, it cannot receive federal funding. The original story follows below.City Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to apply for
federal loans to help move three Cincinnati homeless shelters to new
Council members voted with all but one approving the
application for $37 million in loans, $7 million of which would move the
Washington Park-area shelters.
If the loan is approved, the City Gospel Mission would
move to the West End, a new women’s shelter would be build in Mount
Auburn and the Drop Inn Center would move to a yet-undetermined
Cincinnati had pledged $10 million toward relocating the
shelters. The loan would be paid back at $532,000 a year for the next 20
Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole dissenting voice.
He said he supports the homeless, but he is wary of the risks of the
loan and the city’s ability to pay it back.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, who said he moved to
Over-the-Rhine shortly after the 2001 riots, voted to approve applying
for the loan, but also voiced some concern.
“The reason I moved is because I loved it; I fell in love
with the diversity of the neighborhood,” he said, noting
income diversity as well as racial and ethnic.
“I would hope that we could find a location for the Drop
that is in Over-the-Rhine and there isn’t a continued effort to push low
income people out of Over-the-Rhine.”
Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati
Homeless Coalition, said the shelters the city has now are perfectly
adequate and the money could be spent better developing affordable
housing and creating jobs to help eliminate homelessness.
“Historically a majority of shelters started between 1982
and 1990 because in that era we cut dollars to housing and employment,”
“Shelters were never created to end homelessness. Shelters
were created for people to have a safe place once everything else had
failed them. We shouldn’t let everything else fail them.”
by Andy Brownfield
Posted In: 2012 Election
, Barack Obama
, LGBT Issues
, President Obama
, Mitt Romney
at 02:52 PM | Permalink
On National Coming Out Day, Obama campaign releases new ad featuring LGBT activist
On National Coming Out Day, Cincinnati’s only openly gay
city councilman told CityBeat that equality for America’s Lesbian Gay
Bisexual and Transgendered people would take a hit under a President
“On day one (of his presidency) he (Romney) could hurt gay
families by reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hurt security for our
country,” Seelbach said. “We need as many people serving as possible.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to CityBeat as he waited to vote early outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Proponents of the measure that prevented openly gay
service members from serving in the military have said repealing Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell would damage the country’s combat-readiness.
A study published by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School in September found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.
Seelbach said there would be a stark contrast for LGBT
people under President Barack Obama and his GOP rival. He pointed to the
Obama administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in
court; his vocal approval of same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination
measures signed by the president that, among other things, give same-sex
partners the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make
He said the next president would also likely have the
opportunity to appoint new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court
will likely decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which
outlawed gay marriage."If you care about equality, you've got to vote," Seelbach said. "The easiest way to vote is to vote early."
The Obama campaign in Ohio plans to release a new online ad touting the president’s accomplishments for LGBT people.
The ad, made available to CityBeat, features Zach Wahls, a
gay-rights activist born to a lesbian couple via artificial
insemination. Wahls is known for his testimony before the Iowa House
Judiciary Committee against a constitutional amendment that would ban
gay marriage in that state.
In the ad, Wahls touts the president’s accomplishments and exhorts Ohioans to reelect Obama.
“We want to make sure that we’re all doing everything we
can this fall to get out, register voters, canvass, knock on doors, get
our family members and friends out to the polls so that we can re-elect
the best president this country has ever seen on LGBT rights,” Wahls
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Democrats have had a strange election
cycle regarding same-sex rights. The party went from shying away from
the same-sex marriage issue in 2010 to President Barack Obama embracing
same-sex marriage rights in June and the official Democratic platform
embracing same-sex rights last week.
by Andy Brownfield
Group threatens referendum of Blue Ash Airport resale
The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes
(COAST) has threatened to block a move that would allow Cincinnati to use $37.5 million from the 2007 sale of the Blue Ash Airport for projects other than aviation, $11 million of which would go to the Cincinnati streetcar.
The Blue Ash City Council voted Thursday to re-do the sale of 130 acres at the Blue Ash Airport to the City of Cincinnati. COAST
says it wants to put the matter before voters in a 2013 referendum,
which would halt the sale and re-instate the original agreement made in
2007 when Cincinnati made the sale.
The two cities decided to re-work the $37.5 million sale
because a federal rule requires proceeds from the sale of an operating
airport to be used for other aviation projects. The money would be
returned, airport shut down and then the property re-sold to Blue Ash
for the original amount.
“When they originally sold it they were stupid, which is
typical of the City of Cincinnati, and did not realize that the proceeds
on the sale of the airport have to go to other aviation-type things,” says COAST Chairman Tom Brinkman. “Now that they want to get the
streetcar, they want to crack that money.”
Brinkman openly admits he doesn’t want the money to go to
the streetcar (“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that
boondoggle doesn’t occur”) but says COAST is working with a group of local
pilots who want money from the sale to go to Cincinnati’s Lunken
Blue Ash is confident that the ordinance they passed approving the re-sale isn’t subject to referendum.
“Blue Ash believes everything enacted was lawful and would
survive any challenge,” says City Solicitor Brian Pachenco. He declined
to discuss specifics
The city wants the airport land to build a park.
Pachenco said the ordinance wasn’t written specifically to
exempt it from referendum attempts, but nevertheless it falls under a
section of the city’s charter that makes voters unable to recall it.
COAST isn’t so sure.
Chris Finney, legal counsel for COAST, said the buying and
selling of land under the Blue Ash charter is subject to referendum. He
said the ordinance was written to avoid using that language, but what
was happening was in reality a sale.
For its part, Cincinnati doesn’t seem too concerned with the threatened referendum.
“We’re not going to talk 'what ifs' at this point,” city
spokeswoman Meg Olberding said. “The streetcar has had two previous
referendums that have been shot down.”
She pointed out that only $11 million of the sale was
going toward the streetcar, and the remaining money would be available
for other projects.
Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach was also unconcerned.
“COAST and groups like COAST have tried to put up every
obstacle possible to prevent the streetcar from happening and we have
overcome all of them,” Seelbach said. “I am 100 percent positive if this
comes to a vote we will overcome it again and the streetcar will be
by Hannah McCartney
Posted In: bikes
at 09:00 AM | Permalink
Urban-friendly team sport swaps out horses for bikes
Klutzes beware — today marks the opening of the Coy Bike Polo Court in Clifton. If you've never heard of bike polo, it's when people ride around on bikes using mallets to push a ball across a court into a goal. Scared yet? Don't be. It just takes some practice. Bike polo is one of the world's up-and-coming sports, already highly popular in India and across Europe. According to the League of Bike Polo, U.S. bike polo was born in Seattle in the '90s, when a group of bike messengers were playing with a ball and some homemade mallets. “This bike polo court is one
the few official bike polo courts in the country,” says Steve Pacella,
Cincinnati Recreation Commission superintendent, according to a press
release. Several other cities across the U.S., including San Francisco, are scheduled to open official bike polo courts later this year. Aside from the rise in U.S. cycling culture, its popularity is attributed, in part, to its flexibility — courts can be parking lots, roofs or grassy areas, meaning it's easy for urban-dwellers to find spots to pay. The new bike polo court is located at the end of Joselin Avenue off Clifton Avenue, near the University of Cincinnati, and will be opened and dedicated today at 3 p.m. Councilman Chris Seelbach will be present to celebrate the court's opening, and the ceremony will also feature a bike polo demonstration for those unfamiliar with the game. Watch a game of bike polo and learn the rules: The opening of the bike court comes during Bike Month, a country-wide celebration of all things bike. Click here for a comprehensive list of Cincinnati bike happenings.
by German Lopez
Trend follows other cities, states, countries and a majority of Fortune 500 companies
Cincinnati inched closer to
equality after moving forward Monday with a measure that would allow city
employees in same-sex and other partnerships to receive health insurance
With a push by Chris Seelbach,
the first openly gay councilman in Cincinnati, the measure passed the finance
committee with the support of all council members except Charlie Winburn, who
The approval came after a city
report found that same-sex benefits could cost as much as $543,000 a year if 77
partners took advantage of the benefits.
The report suggested City Council
mimic a system already in place in Columbus, which requires partners to prove
financial interdependency and that they have been together for six months.
If the measure passes City
Council, Cincinnati would be more caught up with other cities, states,
countries and companies that already grant health benefits to same-sex
couples. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign estimated that 60 percent
of Fortune 500 companies offer health benefits to same-sex couples, including
Procter and Gamble and Fifth Third Bank.
Altogether, it seems like a small
step toward equality. What’s unfortunate is none of it would be required if
same-sex marriage was legal in Ohio. If it was,
same-sex couples could get marriage benefits, including health-care coverage.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday approved
the petition language for an amendment that would overturn Ohio’s 2004 ban on
gay marriage. The new amendment would define marriage as “a union of two
consenting adults, regardless of gender.”
The amendment now moves forward
to the Ohio Ballot Board. If approved, it will then require 385,253 signatures
from registered voters and, finally, voter approval.Ohio banned same-sex marriage in
2004 with a majority vote of 62 percent. But Ian James, co-founder of the
Freedom to Marry Coalition, told the Huffington Post that he is optimistic
things will be different this time, citing recent polls that show the nation is
moving toward support of gay marriage.