by German Lopez
35 days ago
Cecil Thomas recommends Pam Thomas for replacement
Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas’ last City Council
meeting will be Wednesday, after which he will be replaced by his wife of
32 years, Pam Thomas.
“Her qualifications are impeccable,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “She will give this city a good representation.”
Thomas’ wife ran for Hamilton County clerk of courts last
year, ultimately losing to Tracy Winkler. But Thomas said she won 70
percent of the vote in Cincinnati, making her an obviously strong
contender as a local candidate.
Thomas’ recommendation has raised questions among critics about how council members are replaced upon resignation. Incumbents can only make recommendations to successor designees, who make the final decision, but as Councilman Wendell Young, one of Thomas’ designees, noted at the meeting, the designees typically give great weight to the incumbent’s recommendation. When asked whether council members should have so much
power in recommending appointees, Thomas said, “I just follow the
rules.” He said if City Council wants to change the rules, it can.
Thomas said he will now run for the
State Senate seat being left vacant by State Sen. Eric Kearney, who is
term limited. He acknowledged the State Senate may be a more
difficult place for Democrats, which are in the minority at the state
level, but he said he hopes to “bridge divides” if he serves.
Until then, Thomas said he is looking forward to his time
off, although he will miss having a role in local politics: “It's going
to be tough to not be able to have that direct hands-on.”
Thomas said he wanted to step down earlier in the year,
but he decided to stay in office to see if the city could avoid laying
off cops and firefighters by balancing the fiscal year 2014 budget through the parking plan
(“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), which Thomas strongly supports. With the parking plan now in legal limbo and the layoffs going through, Thomas is stepping down.
by German Lopez
35 days ago
Explosions shake Boston Marathon, council member could resign, sequestration hurts Ohio
Two explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday led to the deaths of at least three and injured at least 140 others,
with the deaths including an 8-year-old boy. So far, it is
unclear who carried out the bombings. Police said the two bombs
were set in trash cans, less than 100 yards apart, near the finish line
of the marathon. Officials said police also found two bombs in different
locations, but they were not set off. At least 134 entrants
from Greater Cincinnati were at the marathon, but none are believed to
be hurt, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The bombings were carried out on Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts-based
holiday that commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution,
and tax day. They were the first major act of terrorism on U.S. soil
since Sept. 11, 2001.
Councilman Cecil Thomas is set to make a major
announcement today at 11:30 a.m. The speculation is that Thomas will
officially announce he’s appointing his wife Pamula Thomas to replace him on City Council — a
move he’s hinted at for a couple months now. Thomas is term limited
from running again in City Council, but appointing his wife to his seat
could give her some credibility and experience to run in November.
Federal sequestration, a series of across-the-board budget cuts at the federal level, is already having an effect on Cincinnati and Ohio,
with cuts taking place for education, housing and the environment. In
Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans
to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping 200 kids from the Head
Start program, which helps low-income families get their children into
preschool and other early education programs. Wendy Patton, a senior
project director at Policy Matters Ohio, says the cuts are only the “tip
of the iceberg.”
David Pepper, a Democrat who previously served on City
Council and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, announced
yesterday that he will run for state attorney general. “I have been traveling
the state for years now listening to working and middle class Ohioans
and it is clear they want a change, a new direction at all levels,”
Pepper said in a statement. “I’m running for Ohio Attorney General
because Ohioans deserve better.” In the statement, Pepper touted his
experience working with law enforcement in Cincinnati and Hamilton
At least seven members of the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees are asking fellow member Stan Chesley to resign
after Chesley’s permanent disbarment by the Kentucky Supreme Court last
month. A letter to Chesley from his fellow board members cited the
Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, claiming he “engaged in conduct involving
dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”Greater Cincinnati housing permits increased by 41
percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to the Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati. The numbers are another sign the local economy is quickly recovering from the Great Recession.
Convergys plans to fill 1,000 work-at-home call jobs in 60 days.
DunnhumbyUSA is preparing for future growth in Cincinnati by building a new headquarters.
Solar panels may be used to make natural gas 20 percent more efficient and therefore pollute 20 percent less greenhouse gases.
Two new studies of mice and rat skin cells could be used to treat brain disease.
by German Lopez
40 days ago
Health-care transparency is low, Medicaid expansion to stand alone, streetcar job approved
In Cincinnati, an ankle MRI can range in price from $367.46 to $2,865.42, but weak transparency laws make it difficult for consumers to compare prices.
But to make up for the lack of transparency, some companies are
providing compiled price and quality data to paying employers. A
previous report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care
Incentives Improvement Institute gave 29 states an “F” for health-care
price transparency, Ohio and six other states a “D” and only New
Hampshire and Massachusetts an “A.”Ohio House Republicans killed Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plan, but Ohio Democrats are planning to introduce the expansion as a standalone bill.
The expansion, which was one of the few aspects of Kasich's budget that
Democrats supported, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000
Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of Kasich’s budget proposal here.
In two 5-4 votes yesterday, City Council approved the
executive director position for the streetcar project and a repeal on a
“double dipping” ban. The city says it needs the measures to
hire John Deatrick, the current manager of The Banks project, to head
the streetcar project, but critics argue the city should not be making
hires when it’s threatening to lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters to
balance the budget — even though the hire is through the capital budget
used for the streetcar project, not the general fund that is used to
employ cops and firefighters. CityBeat wrote more about the new position and the double dipping ban here.
This week’s commentary from CityBeat: “Religious Birth Control Exemptions Are a Double Standard.”
City Council also approved the Music Hall lease, which will enable extensive renovations. CityBeat covered some of the original details of the renovation plan when it was first announced here.
StateImpact Ohio has some information on how Ohio House Republicans’ plan for school funding differs from Kasich’s proposal.
The big difference is Kasich’s plan was based on property taxes, which
ended up being regressive, while the House plan is based on the average
cost to educate each student, which makes it so less schools,
particularly poor and rural schools that fell under Kasich’s plan, have their funding reduced. The House plan also expands performance-based pay and
school choice, which Policy Matters previously found may hurt students and teachers. CityBeat covered Kasich’s proposal in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio posted an interactive map
showing the county-by-county benefits of a state earned income tax
credit. The credit, which mostly benefits low- and middle-income earners
with children, is already used by the federal government and some
states to progressively reward employment.
Freedom Ohio and Equality Ohio will debate the Family
Research Council today over whether Ohio should legalize same-sex
marriage. The debate will be streamed here. CityBeat covered Freedom Ohio’s same-sex marriage legalization efforts here.
The U.S. Postal Service will drop its threats to stop delivering on Saturdays after Congress denied the action.
A new study found humans tend to think strangers are staring at them.
Headline: “Why Are Monkey Butts So Colorful?”
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee on April 8 moved forward with two controversial measures that
will create an executive project director position for the streetcar
project while allowing the city to rehire retirees while still paying
by German Lopez
41 days ago
Posted In: Health
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling
Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies.
The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas
severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state
income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The
amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school
funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House
plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting
too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s
proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal
funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL
Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47
percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link
between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided
false information about the connection between breast cancer,
infertility and abortion, among other findings.
The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling
so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City
Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case
of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need
to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency
clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but
Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum,
effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city
now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The
ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets
to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic
With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study
youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city
policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will
look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime,
poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the
study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.
Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely
limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will
co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a
bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.
Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting
to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton,
campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s
developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics
and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic
Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting,
McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as
“unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile,
recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.
As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.
Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.
by German Lopez
42 days ago
Comprehensive surveys, profiles to be mostly privately funded
About 48 percent of Cincinnati’s youth are in poverty — a
statistic that has haunted Cincinnati and landed the city in third place
for the nation’s highest poverty rates. Now, Councilwoman Yvette
Simpson is trying to figure out the underlying causes to better
prioritize city programs.
At City Council’s Livable Communities Committee today,
Simpson and her staff gave a presentation supporting a citywide study
that would give an in-depth look at the city’s youth and their issues,
including crime, poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. It
would be the first comprehensive study of the city’s youth.
The $175,000 study, which Simpson says would be mostly
funded through private donations, will work through three phases: Look
at existing data to set goals and expectations, conduct surveys with 500
parents and 1,500 youth and gather 40 in-depth youth profiles.
Simpson told CityBeat the study would help the city
establish better budget priorities for youth programs: “If resources
were abundant, how much would it take for us to really be able to make a
significant impact? But also understanding that resources aren’t
abundant, where should we put the resources in order to make maximum
With better priorities, Simpson says the city would also
be able to create better collaboration between the city’s many
individuals, agencies and organizations that currently work to address youth issues.
“When you work together, you’re going to be better,” she says.
That’s particularly important in Cincinnati, which Simpson
says is “very disparate” in terms of wealth and resources. Simpson says
she would like to leverage the city’s centers of wealth in a way that
would better benefit some of the poorer, needier areas.
Simpson says the study is necessary because there is a lack of local data for the city’s youth, with Cincinnati
Children’s Child Well-Being Survey being the only comprehensive local
study in recent years.
To Simpson, the importance of understanding the city’s youth and how their
situation can be improved has been validated by her personal experience.
“I was supposed to have a student shadowing me yesterday,
who’s a very, very capable young man, but he’s homeless,” she says. “He
didn’t show up yesterday because he slept outside the night before.”
Carrying out the study and recalibrating the city’s
programs to provide more consistency, whether it’s through education or
simply providing more permanent shelter, will have huge effects on the
city’s youth, Simpson says.
The Youth Commission of Cincinnati was formed in the
spring of 2012 to help local government establish better priorities and
policies for youth programs. The study, which has been under planning
and development since July, is meant to help accomplish those goals.
by German Lopez
42 days ago
Local casino tops revenue, streetcar could get new director, Medicaid expansion to fail
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino topped state casino revenues last month,
translating to $1.4 million in casino tax revenue for the city in
March. If the trend holds — a huge if, considering March was opening
month for the Horseshoe Casino — the city would get $16.8 million a
year, which would be above previous estimates from the state and city
but below estimates presented in mayoral candidate John Cranley’s budget plan.
Cranley and other city officials say casino revenue could be used to
avoid laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, but the
city manager’s office says it wouldn’t be enough.Two City Council decisions yesterday will allow the current project manager for The Banks to take over the streetcar project.
The two 5-4 decisions from City Council came in the middle of a tense
budget debate that could end with the layoff of 344 city employees,
including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But John Deatrick, who could be
hired as executive director of the streetcar project as a result of the
measures, says his salary would come from the capital budget, which is
separate from the general fund that needs to be balanced in light of
structural deficit problems.
House Republicans are poised to reject
Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion. The expansion, which
was part of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, would have saved the
state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health
Policy Institute of Ohio. But it would have done so mostly with federal
funds, which state legislators worry will not be there years down the
line. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few aspects of Kasich’s
budget that state Democrats supported. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
PolitiFact Ohio gave Kasich a “Pants on Fire” rating
for his claim that his transportation budget and Ohio Turnpike plan “would make sure we have lower tolls than we’ve had through the history
of the turnpike.” PolitiFact explains: “Yes, the bill aims to keep tolls
from rising faster than the pace of inflation -- a practice that would
stand in contrast to KPMG’s findings from the past 20 years. And, yes,
the bill freezes tolls for 10 years on a small, targeted cross-section
of turnpike users. But not only are higher tolls a part of Kasich’s
plan, they are integral to the concept. The increased revenue will allow
the state to issue bonds to finance other projects. Furthermore, the
inflation cap is not written into the law, and the state has an out from
the local EZ-Pass freeze.”
Melissa Wegman will be the third Republican
to enter the City Council race. Wegman is a first-time candidate and
businesswoman from East Price Hill. She will be joining fellow
Republicans Amy Murray and incumbent Charlie Winburn.The struggling Kenwood Towne Place will be renamed Kenwood Collection as part of a broader redesign.
One program in President Barack Obama’s budget plan would task NASA with pulling asteroids to our moon’s orbit,
where the asteroids could then be studied and mined. The Obama
administration says the program will only involve small asteroids, so
big, killer asteroids will not be purposely hurled towards Earth.
New evidence suggests some two-legged dinosaurs were strong swimmers, further proving that unless we have extra asteroids to cause an extinction event, we might want to leave them dead.
by German Lopez
47 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:34 PM | Permalink
Still no budget deficit-solving consensus in sight
If Cincinnati does not lease its parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, it will have to pay
off a $35 million deficit in the fiscal year 2014 budget through other means, but
those means were disputed at a special session of City Council today.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and other
administration officials say the city will have to carry out Plan B,
which would lay off 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80
council members Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and
Chris Smitherman claim there are other ways — casino revenue and cuts
elsewhere — to balance the budget.
The meeting got testy after a few council members called
the city administration “disingenuous” for framing Plan B and the
parking plan as the only two budget options, prompting Mayor Mark Mallory to
slam council members for attempting to pin the city’s budget woes on the
“I don’t think anyone in the administration wants to see
their colleagues laid off,” Mallory said. “The administration makes a
recommendation to this mayor and to this council. The final decision
makers are the elected leaders.”
He added, “What’s disingenuous is to create a crisis and then
criticize the administration for its response to the crisis when those
responsible for dealing with the crisis are the elected leaders. It
would be like an arsonist setting a building on fire and then
complaining about how long it took the fire department to get there and
what equipment they used to put out the fire.”
Lea Eriksen, the city’s budget director, said the ideas
she heard at the special session today would not be enough
to close the budget gap.
Throughout the discussion, the city administration
repeatedly dismissed ideas presented by council members as not enough to overcome the city’s $35 million deficit and avoid layoffs. By the city
administration’s admission, even Plan B would only close about $26
million of the projected deficit.
How that budget gap is closed may come with additional
expenses. Eriksen said the budget gap may reach $45 million if the city carries
out Plan B because the city would also be forced to pay for accrued
leave and unemployment insurance.
Still, Assistant City Manager David Holmes
city could balance the deficit without Plan B or the parking plan, but
the numbers must “add up” and would require direction from City Council.
When the discussion came to casino revenues, Holmes said
the city administration feels “uncomfortable” projecting casino revenue
because the state’s projections have trended downward in the past few
years. In 2009, the state government estimated Ohio’s casinos would take
in $1.9 billion a year, but that projection was changed to $957.7
million a year in February.
Eriksen said the city estimates between $9
million and $11
million in casino funds will be available to the city. She said even if
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino hits its $100 million goal, the city
will not be able to get the $21 million previously touted by Horseshoe
Casino General Manager Kevin Kline because the money is pooled with
money from other casinos around the state, which has fallen far below
projections, before it’s distributed to cities
When asked about shifting parking
meter revenue to the general fund to help balance the budget, Eriksen
said doing so would ultimately be a “wash” because of expenses currently
attached to parking meter revenue.
Seelbach suggested making more cuts through the
priority-driven budgeting process. Eriksen explained Plan B does cut
programs that were poorly ranked by the process — the mounted patrol
unit, arts funding and recreation centers were a few examples she cited. But
only relying on programs ranked poorly by the priority-driven budgeting process would “decimate” departments and
programs that the city deems essential, she said.
In the original 2013 budget proposal put forward by the city
manager, mounted patrol was cut, but Seelbach lobbied for the
Multiple council members brought up traveling and training
costs as potential areas to cut, but Eriksen said the city
administration had not considered further cuts in those areas because
the leftover expenses are currently used to get certifications that city
employees “need to do their jobs.”
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, asked the city administration
if they tried to balance the budget without layoffs. Eriksen replied,
“Yeah, that was called the parking plan.” She added without the parking
plan, it would be “mathematically impossible” to balance the budget
When Winburn suggested city employees should take salary
cuts, Eriksen said such cuts would require extensive negotiations with
unions because about 90 percent of the city’s employees are unionized.
In November, Winburn was one of the prominent supporters of giving the city manager a raise and bonus.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat running for mayor,
said she would be open to using any revenues possible for reducing the
budget gap, but she said City Council must acknowledge the harsh budget
realities facing the city — further re-emphasizing points she made in a blog post Sunday.
John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, has said
in the past that the threat of layoffs is “the boy crying wolf.”
Cranley released his own budget plan
on March 28 that he says would avoid layoffs and balance the budget
without the parking plan, but some critics say the budget’s revenue
estimates are unrealistic.Eriksen said Cincinnati has run structurally imbalanced budgets since 2001, but city officials say deficits have been made much worse by state cuts in local government funding carried out by Gov. John Kasich and the Republican legislature since 2010 (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on
March 6 that would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority
to raise funds that would help balance the deficit for the next two
fiscal years and pay for new development projects, including the
construction of a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the parking plan, who say they fear it will
lead to rate hikes, filed their petitions for a referendum effort today.
It is so far unclear whether they have the 8,522 verified signatures
required to put the issue on the November ballot.
by German Lopez
47 days ago
Council seeks budget options, city funds come with rules, parking petitions due today
City Council will hold a special meeting at 2 p.m. today
to discuss alternatives to laying off cops and firefighters to balance
the budget, which CityBeat covered in detail here.
Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are pushing to use
casino revenue and cuts elsewhere in the budget to avoid cutting public
safety services. A spokesperson for Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a
Democrat running for mayor, told CityBeat that Qualls will also
consider every option available. John Cranley, another Democratic
candidate for mayor, has long called the threat of layoffs “the boy
City Council unanimously passed a motion
yesterday that will require all parades receiving financial support
from the city to adhere to the city’s anti-discrimination policies. Council members cautioned that the measure won’t
require event hosts to invite fringe groups, but it will ensure
LGBT individuals, people of color and women are allowed to participate
in future events. The measure was inspired by a recent controversy surrounding
the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which barred an LGBT group from participating.
An appeals court will hear arguments
over the Cincinnati parking plan and the city’s use of emergency
clauses on May 6, even though the city had asked for a final decision by
May 1. Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s original ruling decided
emergency clauses do not remove the possibility of a referendum.
Emergency clauses are regularly used by City Council to remove a 30-day
waiting period on passed legislation, but the city says that power is
weakened by Winkler’s ruling since the city will now have to wait for
referendum efforts to safely begin implementation.
Meanwhile, referendum organizers against the parking plan are expected to drop off petitions at City Hall later today. Organizers previously
said they have more than 10,000 unverified signatures, but they’ll need 8,522
verified signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The parking plan, which CityBeat explained in further detail here,
would lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater
Development Authority to raise funds that would be used to help balance
the deficit for the next two fiscal years and launch development
projects, including a downtown grocery store.
This week’s CityBeat commentary: “Poor Messaging Holds Back Parking Plan.”
JobsOhio agreed to let State Auditor Dave Yost check their books — private funds and all — last month, but Yost says he’s still in talks
with the agency about future audits. JobsOhio is a publicly funded,
nonprofit corporation established by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio
legislature to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Kasich’s advice for opponents of the Medicaid expansion: “Kick them in the shins.”
As part of a broader budget proposal, the governor is seeking to take
advantage of Obamacare to expand Medicaid with financial support from
the federal government, but some Republican legislators fear the money
won’t be there in a few years. Independent analysts say the Medicaid
expansion will save Ohio money, which CityBeat covered alongside Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
The cost of Reds games has gone down since last season, according to one study.
Ohio’s improving economy is leading to less problem loans in the statewide mortgage market.
Headline: “Nobody Wants a Facebook Phone.”
A new laser zaps away cocaine addiction from rats.
by German Lopez
54 days ago
Posted In: Budget
at 10:43 AM | Permalink
City may have to make cuts to balance 2014 budget
In a ruling today, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler
said the city will have to allow for a referendum on the parking plan
and imposed a permanent injunction pending the outcome of a referendum.
The ruling means the city may be unable to rely on the
parking plan to balance fiscal year 2014’s budget, and the city may be forced to find cuts elsewhere by July 1, when the new budget will kick in.The ruling may be appealed, but City Solicitor John Curp says he is not aware of any filing yet. He says Mayor Mark Mallory and the city administration plan to hold a press conference later this afternoon to discuss the ruling in further detail.For opponents of the parking plan, the ruling comes as a
big victory that will allow them to put the parking plan on the ballot if they gather enough eligible petition signatures by April 5.
For the city, the ruling potentially leaves a $25.8 million hole in the 2014 budget. When the restraining order was extended for two weeks on March 20, city spokesperson Meg Olberding told CityBeat the delays were causing the city to approach a “pressure point”: “We respect the court's right to do that (the
extension), and know that every day that we cannot make the parking deal
happen is a day that we are closer to having to lay people off.”In the past, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the plan will force the city to lay off 344 employees,
including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions. But opponents argue
there are ways to solve the budget without laying people off. As an alternative to the parking plan, 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 percent.
City Council approved the parking plan on March 6 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 more than $100 million in development projects, including the
creation of a downtown grocery store and more than 300 luxury apartments
("Parking Stimulus," issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the parking plan say they’re concerned the
city will cede too much control over its parking assets and cause
parking rates to skyrocket. 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 comprise of four people
appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager.
The ruling comes after the city and opponents of the parking plan met in court on March 15 to discuss whether the plan is subject to referendum.
Curt Hartmann, an attorney who represents the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) and opponents of the
parking plan, said the city charter is vague on its definition of
emergency clauses, and legal precedent supports siding with voters’
right to referendum when there is ambiguity.
The city cited state law to argue emergency clauses, which
remove a 30-day waiting period on legislation, eliminate the
possibility of referendum. Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said
legal precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state
law is not contradicted in the city charter.
With his decision, Winkler sided with opponents of the
parking plan. He wrote in the 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
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.