Mayor, city manager warn of public safety layoffs, but some still weighing alternatives
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Speaking at a press conference on March
28, Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials did not mask their
contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold earlier in the
by German Lopez
57 days ago
City officials warn of budget cuts, budget woes pinned on Kasich, fracking causes earthquake
Yesterday, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler gave a ruling that effectively opened the parking plan to referendum, but city officials said the decision poses major fiscal and legal challenges to the city.
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the lack of
a parking plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance fiscal
year 2014’s budget in time for July 1, and City Solicitor John Curp said
the ruling, which concludes emergency clauses do not eliminate the
possibility of a referendum, greatly hinder the city’s ability to
expedite the implementation of laws. The parking plan, which was
previously approved by City Council, would lease the city’s parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the
budget for the next two years and fund economic development projects,
but the court ruling means the plan must be put on hold at least until a
referendum effort is complete.
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes. In a statement, Chris Redfern,
chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said, “Make no mistake, the only
reason Cincinnati has been forced to debate firing hundreds of police
and firefighters is because Gov. Kasich cut tens of millions of dollars
to the city in his last state budget. As communities like Cincinnati
struggle to deal with the last round of cuts, Kasich’s at it again,
proposing to steal another $200 million from local communities to help
pay for tax giveaways to the rich. If Kasich gets his way and passes his
proposed handout to his friends, more communities across the state will
see layoffs, skyrocketing local tax levies, and deep cuts to schools.”
Kasich’s local government funding cuts have caused Cincinnati to lose
$40.7 million in state funding over two years, according to Policy Matters Ohio. CityBeat covered Kasich’s local government funding cuts here and his budget proposal here.
A study found a wastewater injection well used for fracking caused Oklahoma’s largest-ever earthquake.
The findings echo fears from Youngstown residents, who experienced an
earthquake early in 2012 that was pinned on nearby wastewater injection
wells, which are used to dispose of waste produced during the fracking process. CityBeat
covered fracking, the relatively new drilling technique that injects water
underground to open up oil and gas reserves, in further detail here.
In private budget news, a survey by Card Hub found Cincinnati residents have some of the nation’s worst budgeting habits.
In the 30-city survey, Cincinnati ranked No. 28 for budgeting habits,
ahead of only Tampa, Fla., and Orlando, Fla. Boston was ranked No. 1 in
The Port Authority is carrying out a demolition in Jordan Crossing that will pave the way
for $75 million in redevelopment. Mayor Mark Mallory described his
experience with the development, “This has been a source of frustration,
but also a source of hope. … This area is prime for job creation and
State legislators are once again trying to get student members of schools’ board of trustees the ability to vote
— a move that would empower students in public universities. The bill
was introduced last year, but it died a slow death after facing
opposition from administrators at Ohio University and Bowling Green
State University. Gov. John Kasich and Ohio State officials reportedly
support the idea.
A Sunday school teacher at a local church near Dayton was fired after declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
Cincinnati Financial Corp. and Meridian Bioscience Inc. were named among the country’s most trustworthy firms.
Headline: Man accused of using fake penis for drug test.
New national science education guidelines say climate change should be in classrooms.
Caffeine-addicted bacteria die if they get decaf. Scientists say they want to use the bacteria to clean caffeine-polluted waterways.
by German Lopez
57 days ago
Posted In: News
at 01:15 PM | Permalink
City manager says he's already made preparations for layoff notices
Speaking at a press conference today, city officials did
not mask their contempt for the ruling that put the parking plan on hold
earlier in the day, saying it will force the city to make cuts and layoffs to
balance the 2014 budget and potentially eliminate the passage of
The press conference was in response to a ruling
from Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler, which opened the parking plan
to referendum and ordered a permanent injunction on the plan pending any referendum effort. City Solicitor John Curp said the city is appealing
Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
explained the city will now have to close a $25.8 million shortfall in
the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. Dohoney said he has already ordered city departments to begin
preparations for Plan B, which will lay off 344 employees, including 80
firefighter and 189 police positions, to balance projected deficits.
“Part of the irony is we're swearing in a recruit class tomorrow,” he said, then shook his head. “Too bad.”
In addition to meeting the July 1 budget deadline, the city has to expedite some layoff notices to meet union contracts, which typically require a notice 30 days in advance.
Curp said the ruling also poses significant legal challenges that will hinder the city’s ability to expedite legislation with emergency clauses. Emergency clauses are often used by City Council to remove
a 30-day waiting period on passed laws, and the city argues they also
remove the ability to referendum.
The layoffs could be retroactively pulled back if the city
wins in appeals courts or if the referendum effort fails to gather
“Don't sign the petition,” Mallory said. “If you sign a petition, you're laying off a cop or firefighter.”
Dohoney said the delays make the city look
sluggish — an image that he says the city has been trying to overcome.
“One of the criticisms I’ve gotten is that this city takes too long to
get deals done,” he said. “This complicates that.”
City Council approved the parking plan to lease the city’s
parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund
development projects around the city, including a downtown grocery store
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the plan argued that there were alternatives
that did not involve laying off cops or firefighters. Councilman Chris
Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would redirect $7.5 million in casino
revenue to help balance the deficit, cut $5 million based on the results
of the city's priority-driven budgeting process and put two charter
amendments on the ballot that, if approved, would include up to a
$10-per-month trash fee and increase the city's admissions tax by 2
At the press conference, Mallory called the alternatives
“unworkable.” He said Plan S in particular does not work because it
relies on a ballot initiative that would have to be voted on in
November. “We don’t have until November,” he said.
Opponents say they’re concerned the parking plan will
cede too much control over the city’s parking meters, which they say
will lead to a spike in parking rates.
The city says rate increases are initially capped at 3
percent or inflation — whichever is higher — but the rates can change
with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city
manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee
would be made up of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one
appointed by the city manager.
In the legal proceedings, the two sides are arguing whether emergency
clauses eliminate the ability to hold a referendum on legislation. Opponents of the
parking plan, headed by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and
Taxes (COAST), say the city charter is ambiguous with its definition of
emergency clauses, and legal precedent demands courts side with voters’
right to referendum when there’s ambiguity.
Supporters of the parking plan cite state law, which says emergency legislation is not subject to referendum. Terry
Nestor, who represented the city in the court hearings, said legal precedent requires the city
to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the
Winkler sided with opponents of the parking plan in his
decision. He wrote in his ruling, “If the people of Cincinnati had
intended to exempt emergency legislation from their referendum powers,
they could have done so when adopting Article II, Section 3 of the City
Mallory says the city is not disputing voters’ right to
referendum in a general sense; instead, he says the city needs to expedite
the budget process to balance the budget before fiscal year 2014.City officials say the parking plan is necessary largely because of Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts, which Dohoney previously said cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in annual revenues (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20). Opponents argue Cincinnati had structurally imbalanced budgets years before Kasich took office, but the city says Kasich’s policies have made the situation much worse.The parking plan is one of the few issues dividing Democratic
mayoral candidates John Cranley and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Cranley opposes the plan, while Qualls supports it.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 13, 2013
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a
presentation to City Council March 6 explaining how Cincinnati could
work to reduce its structural budget deficits.
by German Lopez
79 days ago
Long-term plan could swing City Council’s parking vote
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a presentation to City Council today that explained how Cincinnati could work to reduce its structural budget deficits. The presentation was presumably in response to
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who said Monday that she wanted to see a
long-term deficit reduction plan before she could approve the city
manager’s proposal to lease parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority.
Even with the parking plan’s one-time infusion of money (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), Cincinnati will need to make further changes to
balance budgets for the next three fiscal years. To help tame these
deficits, Dohoney says the city could reduce or eliminate lower-ranked
programs in the city’s Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, reduce
subsidies to health clinics that are getting more money from Obamacare,
semi-automate solid waste collection or introduce new or increased fees
for certain programs, among other changes.
But some council members said they were more concerned
about how the city will manage once it loses the parking plan’s one-time injection of funding after the 2016 fiscal year.
“I think this is a bit muddled,” Quinlivan said. “It doesn’t get to the systemic problem we have.”
Quinlivan, who has long argued for “rightsizing”
police and fire departments, says the city should draw down its public
safety spending to “sustainable” levels, but she says she would prefer
attritioning public safety forces over abrupt, short-term cuts. Dohoney
acknowledges attrition would help balance budgets, but he cautions
that even attrition “would have to be married” with a plan that reduces the public’s expectations for public safety services —
particularly if the city decides to not answer every 911 call by
dispatching officers, which is currently required.
Dohoney says City Council needs to be clearer with
its long-term budget policy. “If we’re going to make adjustments, I need
clear policy direction, and I do not feel that I have it,” he says.
“Give me a clear direction on where you want the police department to
be, and I can get it there.”
The city manager says the city will have to approve a tax
hike or cuts to government spending, which poses the possibility of
layoffs, if it’s serious about eliminating structural deficit problems.
For every 1,000 residents, Cincinnati has less cops than
only two comparable cities: Cleveland and St. Louis. The fire department
has higher numbers, with Cincinnati equal to Pittsburgh and above
other comparable cities. The high levels of cops and firefighters per
capita comes despite downsizing in the police and fire departments in the past five years.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls says the city may have
drawn down its police force between 2000 and 2012, but the local police
department has also been reorganized in a way that actually puts more
cops out on patrol. Lea Eriksen, the city’s budget director, says street
strength has moved from 832 police officers out of 1,034 officers
available in 2002 to 864 out of 981 in 2012.
Between 2000 and 2012, the fire department was the only
city agency to see an increase in employment, while the city had slight
employment reductions overall. In the same time span, the General Fund increased by more than $30 million, and Cincinnati’s population fell by about 10 percent.
0 Comments · Wednesday, March 6, 2013
City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee on March 4 approved a plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking
assets to the Port Authority in a 4-3 vote, but part of the plan was
separated from the budget, leaving it open to referendum.
by German Lopez
81 days ago
Plan will fund development projects, help balance deficit for two fiscal years
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee today approved a
plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Cincinnati Development Authority in a 4-3 vote, but the plan will require five votes to become law in a final City Council vote on March 6.
Council members Roxanne Qualls, Yvette Simpson, Cecil
Thomas and Wendell Young voted for the plan, and council members Chris
Seelbach, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn voted against it.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was absent, and Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan
abstained, although she said she could vote yes if she sees more details about how the city will curb its long-term budget problems.
The plan, which CityBeat previously covered (“Parking Stimulus,”
issue of Feb. 27), would lease the city’s parking assets to
fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown
grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years.
The deal would produce a $92 million upfront payment, and the city
projects that additional annual installments would generate more than
$263 million throughout the lease’s duration.
Before the vote, several City Council members said the
parking plan would not solve Cincinnati’s structural deficit problems, but
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the plan would help reduce the deficit by
generating recurring revenues through long-term economic growth and
“The situation that we’re in requires that we accelerate
growth right now, not later,” he said. “If we do not do that, then we’re going to
have further negative ramifications to deal with.”
Still, Dohoney admitted the plan would not solve all the
city’s budget woes — just like he has repeatedly said in the past. Even
with the parking plan, the city projects a $10 million deficit in 2014,
$15.5 million deficit in 2015 and $20 million deficit in 2016.
The council members insisted there are alternatives to the
parking plan and Dohoney’s Plan B, which would lay off 344 employees,
eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers,
among other changes.
On March 1, Seelbach proposed Plan S, which would not
lease the city’s parking assets to balance the budget and would instead
use $7.5 million in casino revenue, cut $5 million based on the results
of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose
between a $10-per-month trash fee or a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax.
On the same day as the hearings, Winburn, the sole
Republican on City Council, proposed Plan C, which would reduce city
employees’ salaries across the board — with exemptions for police, ﬁre,
health, garbage, recreation, parks and road paving — and use casino and
parking revenue to clear the deficit.
At the City Council hearings, Quinlivan listed a few other
possibilities, including sharing public safety services with other
local communities. She also advised the city to put together a long-term deficit reduction plan. “We don’t want to kick the can down the road any more,” she said.
Thomas suggested putting an earnings tax hike of 0.1
percent or 0.2 percent on the ballot. He said, “It would solve this
(deficit) problem once and for all.”
Some council members also raised concerns about the
release of bond documents, which will further detail the framework of
the parking agreement. Dohoney and Laura Brunner, president of the Port
Authority, said the bond documents have not been crafted because a
lease agreement has to be approved by City Council first, but the
documents will be made public once they are put together.
Before the final committee vote, Smitherman successfully
motioned to separate part of the parking plan from the budget, which opens the plan to referendum. The motion was in response to City Solicitor
John Curp, who said appropriation ordinances, or ordinances that are essentially budgets, aren’t subject to
referendum, according to state law.
by German Lopez
81 days ago
Before Xerox buyout, audit found ACS improperly managed parking meters
The company that would operate Cincinnati’s parking meters
if the city passes its controversial parking plan this week was mired with audited problems and
complaints in the past. The issues surfaced years before Affiliated
Computer Services (ACS) was bought by Xerox in 2010, and Xerox now denies any wrongdoing.
A 2007 audit found ACS had failed to take care and keep track of parking meters it operated in Washington, D.C.
The audit claimed 35 percent of parking meters listed in ACS’s inventory
were missing, about 16 percent of the remaining meters were completely
inoperative and 65 percent had problems that ranged from defacing to
improper height and stability. ACS also failed to fix meters within the
72-hour period mandated by its contract, according to the audit.
For some residents, the broken meters led to unfair
tickets, with 6,888 tickets, or nearly 1 percent of parking meter
tickets, being improperly issued at unfixed meters, according to the audit. The audit also found a 903-percent increase in overall parking meter complaints under the privatization contract with ACS.
The audit also questioned the financial gains for Washington, D.C., which had to pay $8.8 million, or 33.4
percent, more under privatization than projected trends under public
The bad audit wasn’t enough for Washington,
D.C., to cut its contract with ACS, which still manages the city’s
parking meters today.
The audit was among a few other problems tipped to multiple media outlets by Tabitha
Woodruff, an advocate at Ohio Public Interest Research Group. In 2007, ACS was accused of bribing police officers in Edmonton, Canada, but a judge ruled in favor of ACS, stating there wasn’t sufficient evidence. In 2010, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged
ACS with backdating and falsely disclosing stock options between 1996
and 2005, and ACS consented to a permanent injunction without admitting or
denying the charges.
All the discovered problems occurred before 2010, when Xerox bought ACS.Kevin Lightfoot, a spokesperson at Xerox, says the audit’s findings were based on “faulty information.” He says Xerox and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation found ACS had saved Washington, D.C., money. He also claims the auditor had misunderstood the parking meters’ screen displays, which he says led to the improper identification of inoperative or malfunctioning meters.CityBeat previously covered the parking proposal,
which would lease the city’s parking assets to fund deficit reduction
and economic development, in detail.
Mayor Mark Mallory and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls have endorsed the
plan, and it’s currently expected to have the five votes necessary to
pass a possible City Council vote today.
On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach revealed Plan S,
an alternative proposal that would not lease the city’s parking assets and would instead use
$7.5 million in casino revenue, cut $5 million based on the results of
the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow voters to choose between a
$10-per-month trash fee or a 2-percent increase in the city's admissions tax. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. also put forward
his “Plan B,” which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human
Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other
changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own
plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to
“non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and
Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget,
while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years.
by German Lopez
82 days ago
Council may vote on parking today, GOP criticizes Kasich's budget, casino's grand opening
City Council may vote today on the controversial plan to lease the city’s parking assets to fund economic development and temporarily balance the deficit. On Friday, Councilman Chris Seelbach put forward Plan S,
which would redirect $7.5 million in casino revenues, cut $5 million
based on the results of the city's priority-driven budgeting and allow
voters to choose between a $10-per-month trash fee or increase the
city's admissions tax by 2 percent. Previously, City Manager Milton
Dohoney unveiled Plan B
to the parking plan, which would lay off 344 employees, eliminate Human Services Funding and close pools and recreation centers, among other changes. In response, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his own
plan, which would use casino revenue, parking meter revenue and cuts to
“non-essential programs” to tame the deficit. Plan B, Plan S and Cranley’s plan all fix the structural deficit in the city’s budget, while the parking plan only fixes the deficit for two years. The parking plan was
unanimously approved by the Cincinnati Planning Commission Friday, and it appears five council members are ready to give the plan the go-ahead.
Members of Gov. John Kasich’s own party are beginning to show skepticism
toward the governor’s budget proposal, which would expand the sales tax
to apply to more services, increase the oil and gas severance tax and
make more Ohioans eligible for Medicaid — mostly at the cost of the
federal government. Republicans are likely to propose alternatives
before a mid-April vote. In a Quinnipiac University poll, a majority of
Ohioans approved of the Medicaid expansion but not Kasich’s tax plan. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget plan in detail here.
Police are taking measures to prevent traffic problems at the Horseshoe Casino’s grand opening tonight. Meanwhile, Indiana casinos are preparing for downturns as the Horseshoe Casino promises a major alternative to tri-state
gamblers. During the soft opening last week, Ohio’s casino regulator found
the Horseshoe Casino would have to fix its security and surveillance before the grand opening. Previous studies found casinos bring job growth at the cost of crime, bankruptcy and even suicide, and a Dayton Daily News report also found the state’s casinos are falling short of job projections.
On Friday, the sequester, a series of across-the-board federal budget cuts, kicked in, and it could mean big funding reductions for Ohio’s schools. The blunt cuts are largely because Republicans refuse to negotiate with President Barack Obama and Democrats — to the point that Republicans don’t even know what the president is proposing.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is asking the state’s Department of Education to expand its seclusion room rules to apply to charter schools.
Previous reports found seclusion rooms, which were originally intended
to hold out-of-control kids until they calm down, have been largely used
for convenience by educators, leading to stricter policies from the
Ohio Department of Education. But the regulations currently apply only
to traditional public schools, not charter schools.
Reminder: On top of putting everyone around you in danger, texting while driving will now result in a fine up to $150.
The Cincinnati Zoo has confirmed it has terrible taste in names with its choice for the new four-week-old gorilla: Gladys Stones. Still, the zoo does have that whole environmentally friendly thing going on. Maybe the pros outweigh the cons.
U.S. researchers are claiming they have “functionally cured” an HIV-infected infant
after extensive treatments left the virus’s presence in blood at such
low levels that it can no longer be detected by standard clinical tests.
Scientists are ostracizing what Popular Science calls the “world’s sexiest octopus.”
If you can watch BigDog, the four-legged robot, toss cinder blocks with ease and not fear the robot apocalypse, you’re not prepared.
by German Lopez
86 days ago
Parking plan's final public hearing, officials list Plan B, governor's approval hits highs
The tone was negative once again in the final public hearing
for the city manager’s plan to lease the city’s parking system. Of the
two dozen speakers, only four were positive. Tabitha Woodruff,
who is with the Ohio Public Interest Research Group, voiced mixed feelings about the plan: “As we feared it provides a short-term solution
to a long-term budget problem, raises hours and rates on citizens, and
has the potential to incur high transaction costs. … We’re encouraged,
however, by the selection of a public entity, the Port Authority and by
numerous proposed provisions of the lease intended to insure the city
maintains control of details like rates and hours.” CityBeat wrote about the plan in detail here.
If City Council does not agree to lease Cincinnati’s parking system, the city manager’s office says the city will be forced to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions, and eliminate Human
Services Funding, but critics argue there are better alternatives.
Mayoral candidate John Cranley says casino and parking revenue and cuts
to non-essential programs could help clear the deficit without the plan.Gov. John Kasich’s job approval rating has risen above 50 percent for the first time,
and he’s beating all the potential Democratic gubernatorial
candidates in theoretical match-ups, according to a Quinnipiac University
poll. CityBeat covered the governor’s budget plan, which will set the state’s policy blueprint for the next two years, here.
The Ohio House will vote on Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan today, which leverages the Turnpike for a statewide infrastructure program.
With the approval of Metro’s operating budget, City Council and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) have ended their dispute
over streetcar funding. Council members had been approving monthly
budgets as they worked things out with SORTA, which manages the region’s
bus system. SORTA filed a lawsuit disputing the limits of the transit fund, but it dropped the suit
after the city said it will not use the money for maintenance of streets, sidewalks
and streetlights. (Correction: This previously said the city will “only use the money for streets, sidewalks and streetlights” when the opposite is true.)The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) says the state’s schools are making improvement, but they still “have room to grow.”
In the latest state report cards, Ohio schools improved in 14 of 26
categories and met the state’s performance goal on 21 out of 26, with
particularly strong gains in math and science, but ODE says, “The
performance of Ohio’s economically disadvantaged students and minorities
remains unacceptably low.” The state auditor has a problem with how Ohio’s schools report data through what he calls a “just-trust-me” system.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a 40-year agreement
with the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) that
will lease the county-owned Memorial Hall and provide renovations to the
105-year-old building. County officials have long said the building,
which is used to host concerts, shows and speaking events, is in dire
need of upgrades, particularly overhauls to its roof, windows, facade
work, floors, air conditioning and bathrooms — all of which will now be
financed by 3CDC with the help of tax credits.The commissioners also approved a two-year policy agenda, which generally outlines their plans for county finances and taxes, infrastructure and economic development.
The Over-the-Rhine Eco Garden could be forced to relocate
if the city approves CitiRama’s development proposal. The move would be
fully funded by the city’s Department of Community Development, with
startup and relocation costs paid for.
Ohio’s concealed weapon carry permits reached record highs in 2012 with more than 76,000 permits issued.
Fewer Ohioans are starting their own businesses, and the state’s level of self-employment is one of the lowest in the nation, according to a report from Dayton Daily News.
With Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino set to open March 4, gambling addiction could be one of the downsides to the casino’s glitz and job creation, but extra funds for the state’s treatment programs and special training for casino employees could help combat the problem.
A medical marijuana amendment could be on Ohio’s 2013 ballot, but anti-drug groups are already speaking out against it.
Think the 114-year-old Japanese woman has reached an impressive age? Guffaw. Popular Science lists six much older animals.