by German Lopez
75 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
81 days ago
Critics say mayoral candidate’s proposal is flawed
In response to the March 28 announcement that City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. has begun implementing a plan that will lay off cops
and firefighters, mayoral candidate John Cranley released his own budget plan that claims to avoid layoffs and the implementation of the city’s parking plan. But critics say Cranley’s budget is unworkable.
Cranley’s budget uses casino revenue, parking meter
revenue and various cuts to raise nearly $33.8 million — more than the
$25.8 million necessary to balance the budget without a parking plan.
Cranley’s critics have taken to social media to claim
Cranley’s revenue projections are “fantasy.” They also claim the
across-the-board budget cuts ignore the city’s priority-driven budgeting
process, and there’s no certainty that such broad cuts can be carried
out without laying off city employees.
Whether avoiding layoffs is possible through Cranley’s proposal remains unclear, even according
to Cranley’s two-page budget plan, which reads, “We need to identify
only roughly $26 million to cover the 2014 deficit and will reduce some
of these cuts to ensure that there are no layoffs.”
Cranley says there is no certainty that the cuts could be
carried out without any layoffs, but he says he would do everything he
can to prevent personnel cuts: “I believe that people should take pay cuts. … If I
cut the office of the council members’ staff, I can’t force an
individual council member not to lay someone off, but I would certainly
encourage them to reduce salaries as opposed to layoffs.”
In government budget terms, a 10-percent cut to any
department is fairly large — particularly for Cincinnati’s operating
budget, which uses 90 percent of its funds on personnel. In comparison, the cuts from the 2013 sequester, the across-the-board federal
spending cuts that President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats say will
lead to furloughs and layoffs around the nation, ranged between 2
percent and 7.9 percent, depending on the department.
The cuts make up one-third of Cranley’s proposal, while the rest of the money comes from casino and parking meter revenue. For his casino revenue numbers, Cranley cites Horseshoe
Casino General Manager Kevin Kline, who told City Council he
expects the casino to raise $21 million each year, but city officials
have said they only expect $10 million a year.
Cranley insists the extra $11 million will come to fruition.
He says, “I would put my track record of being the chairman of the
budget committee for eight years, which balanced budgets without
layoffs, ahead of the people at the city that estimated the costs of the
Just in case, Cranley says his plan purposely overshoots the $25.8 million deficit to leave some leeway in carrying out cuts. But without the extra $11 million, Cranley’s plan would only raise about $22.8 million — $3 million short of filling the budget gap.
Jon Harmon, legislative director for Councilman Chris
Seelbach’s office, says the city and state were originally expecting a
lot more revenue from the state’s new casinos, but the legalization of
racinos, which enabled racetrack gambling, has pushed revenue projections down.
In February, Ohio’s Office of Budget Management estimated
the Horseshoe Casino will raise $75 million in tax revenue for the city,
state and schools, down from a 2009 estimate of $111 million, after
seeing disappointing returns from Ohio’s already-opened casinos. The
local numbers reflect a statewide revision downward: 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.
Even if Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino does much better
than the state’s other casinos, the way casino revenue is collected and
distributed by the state makes a $21 million windfall unlikely,
according to Harmon. Before the state distributes casino revenue to
cities, counties and schools based on preset proportions, the money is
pooled together, which means all the casinos would have to hit original
estimates for Cincinnati to get $21 million — an unlikely scenario,
according to Harmon.
The other major revenue source in Cranley’s budget is $5.2 million in parking meter revenue, which the city manager’s office told CityBeat in February
is usable for the general fund after months of insisting otherwise.
Some of that money is already used in the general fund under current law, but the parking plan would remove that revenue altogether and replace it with new revenue. Cranley says his plan would forgo the parking plan and secure the $5.2 million in the general fund.
Among other cuts, Cranley’s proposal would eliminate some of
the money that goes to software licensing. With the way the cut is
outlined in Cranley’s two-paged budget proposal, it’s unclear whether it
would hit all software licensing or just some of it, but Cranley says his plan is only reducing $531,554 of about $2.6 million, which he says
still leaves a $1 million increase over 2012’s software licensing
“I’m telling people what my priorities are: police, fire,
parks, recreation, garbage collection, health department (and) human
services,” he says. “I believe that elected officials should not be
paying consultants from Denver to tell people in Cincinnati what their
priorities are. I believe that elected officials should tell the voters
what their priorities are.”Cranley’s comments are critical of the the city’s priority-driven budgeting process, which ranked city programs based on feedback gathered through local surveys and meetings with Cincinnati residents.
With or without the parking plan, Cranley says the city is
facing structural deficit problems. He says his plan permanently
fixes those issues, while the parking plan would only eliminate the deficit for the next two fiscal years.
Cranley and Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns oppose
the city’s parking plan, while Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another
Democratic mayoral candidate, supports it.
The parking plan, which was approved by City Council on March 6,
would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati
Development Authority to help balance the deficit for the next two
fiscal years and fund development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
But the semi-privatization plan is being held up in court. Most recently, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler ordered a permanent restraining order on the plan pending a referendum effort. The extended injunction sparked criticism from city officials, who say delays will lead to fiscal and procedural problems.CityBeat’s coverage of other plans:“Parking Stimulus”: Explains the parking plan, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and supported by City Council.“City Manager Lists Alternatives to Parking Plan”: Explains Plan B, the alternative plan put forward by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. that would lay off 344 city employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions.“Seelbach Announces ‘Plan S’ Budget Alternative”: Explains Councilman Chris Seelbach’s proposed alternative to the parking plan.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Cincinnati, Hamilton County and Greater
Cincinnati experienced dramatic drops in the seasonally unadjusted
unemployment rate between January and February.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Ohio Democrats say Gov. John Kasich’s local government funding cuts are to blame for Cincinnati’s budget woes.
by German Lopez
77 days ago
Ruling kills project, council members ask for alternatives, Kasich's school formula scrapped
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler’s ruling last week has already led to the dissolution of one project,
according to Mayor Mark Mallory. The Kinsey Apartments project fell
through after City Council was unable to expedite a change in the
building’s classification that would have enabled access to state tax
credits. Winkler’s ruling effectively eliminated the city’s use of
emergency clauses, which the city used to remove a 30-day waiting period
on passed laws, by ruling that all Cincinnati laws are open to
referendum. The ruling means the city can no longer expedite laws even in extreme cases, such as natural disasters. The city is appealing the ruling.
Council members Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld are calling for a special session of City Council
to get the city administration to answer questions about budget
alternatives to laying off cops or firefighters. Mallory and other city
officials claim the only way to balance the budget is to carry out
Plan B, which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make cuts
to other city services. But Sittenfeld and Seelbach have proposed alternatives with casino revenue and cuts elsewhere.
The Ohio House may scrap Republican Gov. John Kasich’s school funding formula to use a “Building Blocks” model
championed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The legislators say the formula
will give more certainty to local officials by always providing a base
of funding based on the average cost to educate a student, but the
governor’s office says the approach neglects recent increases in school
mobility. Kasich’s formula has come under criticism for
disproportionately benefiting wealthy districts, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio’s per capita personal income rose at one of the fastest rates in the nation last year, according to an analysis from Dayton Daily News. The news is another sign of Ohio’s strong economic recovery, but it remains unclear whether the rise will bring down the state’s income inequality.
The Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus (ODWC) is criticizing
Attorney General Mike DeWine’s efforts to exempt more health providers
from providing contraceptive coverage based on religious grounds. “DeWine
wants to allow all employers to deny crucial health care services like
birth control, cancer screenings and vaccines if they disagree with the
services due to their personal or political beliefs,” Amy Grubbe,
chairwoman of the ODWC, said in a statement. As part of Obamacare,
health insurance companies are required to provide contraceptive
coverage — a measure that may save insurance companies money by
preventing expensive pregnancies, according to some estimates. But DeWine and other Republicans say the requirement violates religious liberty.
Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are partnering up
to use technology to crack down on fraud in the federal food stamp
program that costs the U.S. taxpayer millions of dollars a year.
A public Ohio school is taking down a portrait of Jesus after being threatened with a lawsuit for allegedly violating separation of state and church.
Duke Energy reached a settlement that will allow the company to raise the average electric bill for its Ohio customers by $3.72 per month.
Hamilton County’s SuperJobs Center and the Ohio Department
of Job and Family Services’ Veterans Program are partnering with 28
employers, ranging from the University of Cincinnati to Coca Cola, to host the
annual veteran hiring event at the SuperJobs Center, located at 1916
Central Parkway, on April 4 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
The Midwest Homeschool Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center will bring former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and 15,000 visitors to Cincinnati.
President Barack Obama says he wants to fund a research project that would map the human brain.
By 2020, scientists estimate the world’s solar panels will have “paid back” the energy it took to produce them.
Scientists are growing immune cells in space to study how astronauts’ immune systems change in space.
by German Lopez
77 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:43 PM | Permalink
City officials frame budget debate with two choices, but there are more options
Councilman Chris Seelbach says Mayor Mark Mallory and other city officials are wrong to claim Plan B,
which would lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters and make other cuts to
city services, is the only solution to the city’s budget deficit if the
parking plan isn’t implemented.Seelbach and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld called for a
special City Council session on April 4 to get the city administration
to answer questions about alternatives to laying off cops or
Seelbach, who opposes the parking plan, has pointed to
casino revenue and cuts in programs ranked poorly by the city’s
priority-driven budgeting process as two potential alternatives to
eliminating at least 269 public safety positions.
“We spent $100,000 on the priority-based budget process to
give the public and a diverse cross-section of the entire city input on
what the Council and the city should be spending money on,” Seelbach
says. “We should be using those results when deciding where we should
In the midst of the parking plan debate, 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.
At a press conference on March 28, Mayor Mark Mallory
implied the plan is unworkable because it relies on November ballot
initiatives. “We don’t have until November,” he said.
But Seelbach says City Council could pass a stub budget that
would sustain the city financially until the ballot measures are voted
on. If both the measures are rejected, City Council would then be
required to make further adjustments to balance the budget.
Even without the ballot initiatives, Seelbach’s
suggestions for casino revenue and cuts based on the priority-driven
budgeting process could be approved by City Council to avoid at least
two-thirds of the $18.1 million in public safety cuts outlined by
Dohoney’s Plan B memo. Seelbach says further cuts could be made through
the budget-driven priority process if necessary.
“It worries me that these threats of 344 layoffs is just
an attempt to sell the parking plan,” he says. “Every option should be
on the table.”
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, previously told CityBeat that City Council could choose its own cuts and use other revenue, including casino revenue, to balance the budget.
“Council can use whatever revenue sources they want,” she
said. “That’s why the memo … says we can either use this plan or another
In the 2013 mayoral race, the threat of laying off cops
and firefighters has played a prominent role in the parking plan debate.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley has repeatedly said the
threats are “the boy crying wolf.” On Friday, he proposed his own budget plan that he says would avoid layoffs, but critics say Cranley’s casino revenue estimates ignore recent trends.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another Democratic candidate
for mayor, said the city will have to lay off cops and firefighters if
the parking plan doesn’t go into effect, echoing earlier comments she
made in a blog post Sunday.
On March 6, City Council passed a plan that would lease
the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Development Authority
to help balance the budget for the next two fiscal years and fund
development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27). But the plan is being held up by a referendum effort after a ruling from Judge Robert Winkler on March 28.
by German Lopez
79 days ago
Opening Day today, BMV to offer licenses to DACA recipients, Cranley suggests budget plan
It’s Opening Day today, which means it’s time for a
citywide celebration of the Cincinnati Reds and baseball. At the City Council meeting
last week, Mayor Mark Mallory declared today a local holiday, so if you
need an excuse to sneak in a few beers while watching the parade at
work, say the mayor made you do it.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles will allow the children
of illegal immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) to obtain driver’s licenses.
DACA was signed by President Barack Obama to give recipients the
opportunity to remain in the country legally without fear of
prosecution, but until Friday, the BMV wasn’t sure that qualified
recipients for driver’s licenses.
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed his budget plan
Thursday that he says will avoid layoffs and the city’s plan to lease
its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development
Authority, but critics say the plan is unworkable and some of its
revenue sources are “fantasy.” Cranley’s proposal calls for $21 million
in casino revenue that Horseshoe Casino General Manager Kevin Kline
previously said will be available to City Council, but Jon Harmon,
legislative director for Councilman Chris Seelbach, says the number is
using an outdated model and the city’s estimate of $10 million is more
in line with recent turn of events. The budget proposal also claims to
make its cuts and raise revenue without layoffs, but even Cranley was
uncertain about whether that’s possible.
Opponents of the city’s parking plan say they’ve gathered more than 10,000 signatures
— more than the 8,500 required — but the signatures still need to be
verified before the plan is placed on the ballot. Last week, the
mayor told Cincinnati residents
to not sign the petition because he says it will force the city to make
budget cuts and layoffs. A ruling from Hamilton County Judge Robert
Winkler opened the parking plan to referendum by essentially striking
down the city’s use of emergency clauses.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is backing a wider religious exemption
for contraceptive coverage in health plans. As part of Obamacare,
health insurance plans are required to provide contraceptive coverage — a
measure that may save insurance companies money by preventing expensive pregnancies,
according to some estimates. But DeWine and 12 other Republican state attorney generals argue the mandate infringes on religious liberty.
It’s not just charter schools that do poorly under the state’s new report card system; most urban schools would flunk too.
An analysis by StateImpact Ohio found urban schools actually perform
worse in some areas, supporting arguments from charter school advocates
that the report cards’ harsh grades show a demographic problem in urban areas, not a
lack of quality in education. An analysis of old data by CityBeat in 2012 found Cincinnati Public Schools would fall under the new system.
A new study found bedbugs are afflicting less Cincinnati residents
— suggesting the reversal of a trend that has haunted local homeowners
for years. In the past few years, Cincinnati was marked as one of the
worst cities for bedbugs around the country.
The last two generations are falling behind their parent’s wealth. The trend shows a generational divide behind rising income inequality in the United States.
Ohio gas prices are starting to go down this week.
Scientists still don’t know what’s killing up to half of America’s bees.
by German Lopez
81 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
82 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.
by German Lopez
85 days ago
Posted In: News
at 09:22 AM | Permalink
Sheriff wants more staff, businesses get tax credits, Ohio Senate to look at gambling bill
Even as it faces budget cuts, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office says it wants more staff
to keep up with higher jail populations — especially in light of a new
measure that will keep more people detained until they appear in court.
The measure is in response to some people never showing up to court
after being released from jail. Staff are crediting the feasibility of the measure to Hamilton
County Sheriff Jim Neil encouraging them to think “outside the box.”
Still, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel
says the cost of the program might require Neil to think “inside the
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is giving tax breaks
to 13 businesses around the state in hopes of creating 1,417 jobs and
spurring $83 million in investment. Seven of the projects are in the
Hamilton, Butler and Clinton counties, with one in Cincinnati.
The Ohio House easily passed a bill that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, but the Ohio Senate is including the measure in a more comprehensive gambling bill.
Senate President Keith Faber says there are a lot of issues related to
gambling in Ohio, and the cafes are just one part of the problem.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is one of many being targeted
by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control ad campaign. Bloomberg is a
leader in supporting more restrictive gun measures, and he’s planning
on airing the ads in 13 states during the ongoing congressional spring
break to push for stricter background checks and other new rules.
Ohio failed to show improvement
in the latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of
Civil Engineers (ASCE). In both 2009 and 2013, Ohio got a C- for its
infrastructure, which translates to 2,462 structurally deficient bridges
and puts about 42 percent of roadways as “poor” or “mediocre” quality.
But the report might not be as bad as it sounds. The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer argues that the ASCE is notoriously too harsh.
A study from NerdWallet found Cincinnati is the No. 1 city in the nation for consumer banking.
Duke Energy rolled out a new logo yesterday.
A former Miami University student is facing charges for allegedly changing his grades.
More options aren’t always a good thing, according to some science. A new study found more choices can lead to bad, risky decisions.