by German Lopez
93 days ago
Rush to rent underway, sales tax plan criticized, city's retirement system beats projections
A new report found “renters by choice” — those who
can afford to own a house but choose not to — and people returning to
the market in the Great Recession’s aftermath may be driving a rush to rent in Cincinnati, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer.
from CB Richard Ellis found the average apartment occupancy rate was
93.6 percent in 2012, underscoring the need for new apartments in
Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. News of the report came just one day after
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced his parking plan, which will add 300 luxury apartments to Downtown.
Gov. John Kasich and Ohio legislators are getting some bad feedback
on the governor’s plan to broaden the sales tax, reports Gongwer.
Numbers from Policy Matters Ohio found the sales tax plan would outweigh
sales and income tax cuts for the lower classes, but won’t be enough to
dent tax savings for the wealthiest Ohioans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in detail here.
Not much new information came from a special City Council meeting last night that covered Cincinnati’s public retirement system, reports WVXU. The one piece of new information was that preliminary
numbers show Cincinnati's Retirement System had an 11.9 percent return
on its investments in 2012 — higher than the 7.5 percent that was
Mayor Mark Mallory is using his plan to lower Cincinnati’s infant mortality rate to try to win the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. Mallory’s
proposal would create an Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which
allows pregnant women to enroll in First Steps, a care program that
maintains a secure database of new mothers and monitors pregnancies,
according to a press release from the mayor’s office. The program could be especially helpful in Cincinnati, which has a higher infant mortality rate than the national average. The Bloomberg challenge pits
mayors around the country against each other to win $5 million or one
of four $1 million prizes for their programs aimed at solving urban
problems and improving city life. With Mallory’s program, Cincinnati is
one of 20 finalists in the competition. Fans can vote on their favorite
program at The Huffington Post.
A local nun may have committed voter fraud,
reports WCPO. Rose Marie Hewitt, the nun in question, died Oct. 4, but
the Hamilton County Board of Elections still received a ballot from her
after she died. Hewitt apparently filed for an absentee ballot on Sept.
11 — less than one month before she died. In a letter to Board of Elections
director Tim Burke, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote there’s
enough probable cause to believe criminal activity occurred.
In 2012, 88,068 new entities filed to do
business in the state — making the year the best ever for new state filings, according to Secretary of State Jon Husted.
A new bill in the Ohio legislature that allows poll workers to help blind, disabled and illiterate voters file their ballots is getting widespread support,
but another bill that makes it more difficult to get issues on the
ballot is getting a stern look from Democrats, reports Gongwer.
Think your landlord is bad? An Ohio landlord allegedly whipped a late-paying tenant, reports The Associated Press.
The University of Cincinnati surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal for the Proudly Cincinnati campaign, reports the Business Courier.
President Barack Obama is coming back to Ohio to give the commencement speech at Ohio State University, reports the Business Courier.
Donald Trump is threatening Macy’s protesters with a lawsuit because they want the Cincinnati-based retailer to cut ties with Trump, who is currently contracted as a spokesperson, reports the Business Courier.
Popular Science has seven reasons coffee is good for you.
by German Lopez
94 days ago
Dohoney touts “public-public partnership”
In a presentation to City Council Feb.
19, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. unveiled an unexpected parking
proposal that will solve a $25.8 million budget deficit for the 2014
fiscal year and avoid full privatization. The 30-year plan will also put
more than $100 million toward economic development in the city.
The plan involves teaming up with the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority and some private
operators to manage and modernize Cincinnati’s parking assets. Dohoney
called it a “public-public partnership” that will allow Cincinnati to
keep control over rates, operation hours and the placement of meters.
The money raised by the plan will be used
for multiple development projects around the city, including the
I-71/MLK Interchange, Tower Place Mall and a high-rise that will house a
downtown grocery store.
The new parking plan will cap rate
increases at 3 percent or the cost of living, with any increases coming
in 25-cent increments. Private operators will not be allowed to change
operation hours, but hours will be initially expanded to 8 a.m. to 9
p.m. downtown and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in neighborhoods.
The proposal will not immediately
increase downtown’s $2-an-hour rates, but it will increase all
neighborhood parking meters to 75 cents an hour. Afterward, the rate cap
will make it so downtown rates can only be increased every four years
and neighborhood rates can only be increased every 10 to 11 years.
But the rate hikes will only come after
technological improvements are made to parking meters. The new meters
will allow users to pay with a smartphone, which will enable remote
payment without walking back to the meter. After the plan’s 30 years are
up, parking assets will be returned to the city with all the new
technological upgrades, according to Dohoney.
Some critics were originally concerned
that private operators will aggressively enforce parking rules to run
bigger profits, but Dohoney said enforcement standards will remain the
Enforcement will be done through booting
instead of towing, according to the plan. Booting will only be used
after the accumulation of three unpaid parking tickets, which is similar
to how towing works today. The boots will be automatically removed once
the tickets are paid, which will be possible to do remotely through a
The plan, which is a tax-exempt bond
deal, will provide the city with $92 million upfront cash and $3 million
in annual installments after that, although the city manager said the
yearly payments will increase over time. The city originally promised $7
million a year from the deal, but Dohoney said estimates had to be
brought down as more standards and limitations were attached to address
The money will first be used to pay for a
$25.8 million deficit in the 2014 fiscal year. Another $6.3 million
will be set aside for the working cap reserve and $20.9 million will be
put in a reserve to pay for a projected deficit in the 2015 fiscal year.
The rest of the funds will be used for
economic development. About $20 million will go to the I-71/MLK
Interchange, which would match $40 million from the state. The project
is estimated to create $750 million in economic impact, with $460
million of that impact in Hamilton County. Dohoney says the economic
impact will create 5,900 to 7,300 permanent jobs, and ultimately bring
in $33 million in earnings taxes, which means the plan will eventually
pay for itself. He also says the funding from the parking deal will
allow the city and state to complete the project within two to three
years, instead of the seven to 10 years it would take if the city waited
for support from the federal government.
If the state does not agree to take up
the I-71/MLK Interchange project, Dohoney promised a “mega job deal”
that will create 2,500 jobs.
With $12 million for development and $82
million in leveraged funds, the city will also take on massive
development projects downtown. Tower Place Mall will undergo a massive
conversion. The city will also tear down Pogue’s Garage at Fourth and
Race streets and replace it with a 30-floor high-rise that will include
300 luxury apartments, 1,000 parking spaces and a grocery store.
The plan will also use $3 million for the
Wasson Line right-of-way and $4 million for the next phase of Smale
Riverfront Park, which should be completed in time for the 2015 Major
League Baseball All-Star Game.
AEW, Xerox, Denison and Guggenheim will
partner with the city and Port Authority for the plan. AEW will manage
assets, Xerox will handle parking operations and on-street spaces,
Denison will operate off-street spaces and manage facilities and
equipment and Guggenheim will act as underwriter and capital provider.
After the City Council hearing,
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld released a statement that raised concerns
about expanded meter operation hours, which Sittenfeld fears could
burden certain neighborhoods. He also pointed out the plan will not fix
Cincinnati’s long-term structural deficit problems. Still, he said the
local Port Authority’s management could make the plan “worthy of
Sittenfeld has been skeptical of the
parking plan since it was first announced in October. In the past, he
warned privatization could cause parking rates to skyrocket. ©
by German Lopez
99 days ago
Council resolution embraces Cincinnati’s past clean energy successes
With a resolution passed Wednesday, City Council is urging state legislators to maintain the energy efficiency standards that helped drive Cincinnati’s clean energy growth.State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, sent out a memo
Feb. 1 that suggested “a meaningful review” of the state’s energy
efficiency standards, which were previously established by Senate Bill
221 in 2008 and Senate Bill 315 in 2012. In the memo, Seitz wrote he was open
to freezing and weakening some of the established standards.Environmental groups responded by calling on local governments to defend the standards. In Cincinnati, the
call was picked up by Councilman Chris Seelbach, who touted
the city’s past clean energy efforts in a statement: “Cincinnati has
made great strides in energy efficiency by seeking cost savings while
boosting our city’s green image. Energy efficiency is helping Cincinnati
support a double bottom line of environmental and economic
sustainability, and we endorse full implementation of our state
efficiency law.”The city estimates it saves $1 million a year on energy bills
because of the law’s efficiency programs, which includes upgrades and
Christian Adams, a clean energy associate of Environment Ohio,
praised Cincinnati for passing the resolution in a statement: “From
efficiency to solar, Cincinnati [is] a state leader on clean energy, and it’s
proving to be a win-win-win for consumers, the environment and the
economy. If state lawmakers want to change our clean energy law, they
should follow Cincinnati’s lead and double-down on wind, solar and
energy efficiency.”In a previous report, Environment Ohio claimed Cincinnati could become the solar energy capital of the region. CityBeat covered the report and Cincinnati’s — particularly the Cincinnati Zoo’s — success with solar energy (“Solar Cincinnati,” issue of Dec. 19).
by German Lopez
129 days ago
New restrooms stalled, Medicaid expansion saves money, there is no “climate debate”
City Council wants to do more research
before it proceeds with freestanding public restrooms in downtown
and Over-the-Rhine. The vote has been delayed. Critics say
the restrooms are too expensive at $130,000, but supporters, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, insist the
restrooms will not be that expensive. A majority of City Council argues
the restrooms are necessary because increasing populations and growth in
downtown have made 24-hour facilities necessary.
A new report found Ohio’s budget would benefit from a Medicaid expansion.
The expansion would mostly save money by letting the federal government
pick up a much larger share of the cost for Ohio’s population, particularly prison
inmates. A previous study
found Medicaid expansions were correlated with better health results,
including decreased mortality rates, in some states. Another study from
the Arkansas Department of Human Services found the state would save
$378 million by 2025 with the Medicaid expansion. Most of the savings from the Arkansas study
would come from uncompensated care — costs that are placed on health
institutions and state and local governments when uninsured patients
that can’t and don’t pay use medical services.
The Dayton Daily News has a wonderful example of how not to do journalism. In an article on the supposed “climate debate,”
the newspaper ignored the near-unanimous scientific consensus on global warming and decided to give credence to people who deny all
scientific reasoning. To be clear, there is no climate debate. There’s the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists and data on one side, and there’s the
pro-oil, pro-coal lobby and stubborn, irrational conservatives who will
deny anything that hurts their interests on the other side.
The Ohio Board of Education approved policies for seclusion rooms.
The non-binding policy requires parents to be notified if their
children are placed in a seclusion room, and the Ohio Department of
Education can also request data, even though it won’t be made public. More
stringent policies may come in the spring. Seclusion rooms are supposed
to be used to hold out-of-control kids, but an investigation from The Columbus Dispatch and StateImpact Ohio found the rooms were being abused by teachers and school staff for their convenience.
If the city wants to buy Tower Place, the mall will have to be cleared out, according to City Manager Milton Dohoney.
Last week, the remaining businesses at Tower Place were evicted, and
Dohoney said the city did not sign off on the eviction orders. Apparently, the
city really didn’t agree to or enforce eviction orders, but the city’s buyout requires
evictions. Dohoney said the eviction notices should signify the
deal to buy Tower Place is moving forward.
Dohoney appointed Captain Paul Humphries to the assistant chief position
for the Cincinnati Police Department. Humphries has been on the force
for 26 years, and he currently serves as the chief of staff to Chief
Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP) is targeting Mt. Airy and Carthage.
Starting March 1, police, businesses and civic groups will begin
putting together accelerated revitalization and reinvestment plans for
the communities. NEP emphasizes building code enforcement, crime,
neighborhood cleanup and beautification.
Good news, everyone. Cincinnati is no longer the bedbug capital.
Bob Castellini, owner of the Reds, was named the region’s master entrepreneur by Northern Kentucky University.
The Ohio Department of Transportation released a website that has real-time traffic information.
Some people really suck at political slogans.
Oh, science. Apparently, particle physics could improve Netflix’s suggestions.
0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council Dec. 19 passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar.
0 Comments · Thursday, December 27, 2012
A lot happened in Cincinnati and Ohio in
2012, and, for the most part, the year was good to progressives around
the nation and in Cincinnati.
by German Lopez
DeWine calls for school staff training, Music Hall to be leased, bus money not for streetcar
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is proposing
training school staff and teachers to be first responders in the case
of an attack. The news comes in the wake of the massacre in Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which caused the deaths of 20
children and six adults. CityBeat proposed its own solution in this week’s commentary: Make this time different by focusing on mental health services and gun control.
Cincinnati will lease Music Hall for 75 years to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC). The lease
is part of a plan to renovate the iconic building to include more
comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning,
improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations,
Music Hall will be closed for 17 months.
City Council passed
a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money for the streetcar.
The supposed conflict between the city of Cincinnati and the Southwest
Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is being drummed up by the
media, but it’s really much ado about nothing.
Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up by 5 percent in early 2013.
The Cincinnati Health Department is pushing
recommendations from a lead hazard study. The recommendations would
prohibit lead-based paint hazards and require all properties to be free
of lead-based paint, dust and soil. City Council is asking the health
department to carry out the regulations, and it expects from a plan and
timetable from regulators within 60 days. One study found getting rid of lead would do wonders for school performance
A Brookings Institute ranking placed Greater Cincinnati among the worst areas in the country due to falling home prices.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank agreed
to a $16 million settlement in a securities fraud case. The
four-year-old lawsuit was brought in the onset of 2008’s financial
crisis, when the bank’s stock plummeted as it took several large
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino still needs to fill 450 positions in food and beverage, marketing, finance, security and more. A Washington Post analysis found casinos tend to bring jobs, but they also bring crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
As expected, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is helping
Ohio’s economy. The state has 39,000 jobs attached to oil and gas this
year, and the number is expected to triple by the end of the decade. To
take advantage of the boom, Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he will push his oil-and-gas severance tax in 2013. But the plan faces opposition from liberals and conservatives.
If Ohio Republicans tried to push “right-to-work” legislation, it would lead to a very nasty public fight, The Plain Dealer reports. Kasich and Republican lawmakers didn’t rule out
using ballot initiatives to push conservative ideas like right-to-work
in a press conference yesterday, but he did say he’s like a horse with
blinders on, focusing on job creation.
The animal and robot takeover have been merged in the BigDog robot. It can now obey voice commands, follow and roll over.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Cincinnati City Council approved a budget
Dec. 14 that relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34
million budget deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.
by German Lopez
More on Newtown massacre, City Council passes budget, Dillingham to run for council
By now, most of you have heard there was another horrible
mass shooting, this time in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the death
of 20 children and six adults. While everyone is hoping this is the last
time the nation has to deal with an event of unspeakable horror, it is
only a possibility if we agree to do something about it. That means
remembering the heroes
who risked their lives and, in some cases, died that day. That means
not letting the media and public drop the issue, as has been the case in the past. That means looking at more than just gun control, including mental health services. The Washington Post analyzed what “meaningful” action on gun control would look like, and the newspaper also disproved
the idea Switzerland and Israel are “gun-toting utopias.” President
Barack Obama also spoke on the issue at a vigil Sunday, calling for the
nation to do more to protect people, particularly children, from
violence. The full speech can be watched here.
City Council approved
its 2013 budget plan Friday. The budget relies on the privatization of
city parking assets to help plug a $34 million deficit and avoid 344 layoffs.
The budget also nixed the elimination of a tax reciprocity for people
who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both
cities, and it continued funding the police department’s mounted unit.
As a separate issue, City Council voted to increase the property
tax by about 24 percent, reversing a move from conservatives in 2011. CityBeat wrote about budgets at all levels of government and how they affect jobs here.Michelle Dillingham, who was an aide to former city councilman David Crowley, will seek Democratic support in a run for City Council.
Dillingham promises to tackle “industry issues of mutual interest" to
business and labor and “transportation funding, family-supporting wages
and workforce development.”
At a recent public hearing, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed a “very easy” plan for the city budget. Only problem: His plan doesn’t work.
In an email, Cranley said he stands by his ideas, but he added he was
working with limited information and his statements were part of a
two-minute speech, which “requires brevity.” He also claimed there are
cost-cutting measures that can be sought out without privatizing the
city’s parking assets and gave modified versions of his ideas regarding
casino and parking meter revenue.
Judge Robert Lyons, the Butler County judge who sealed the Miami rape flyer case, is standing by his decision.
The Greater Cincinnati area is near the top for private-sector growth.
Jedson Engineering is moving
from Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, thanks in part to an
incentive package from City Council that includes a 45 percent tax
credit based on employees earnings taxes over the next five years and a
$300,000 grant for capital improvements. The company was a Business
Courier Fast 55 finalist in 2008 and 2009 due to its high revenue
Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan is getting some support from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, but others are weary.
They fear the plan, which leverages the turnpike through bonds for
state infrastructure projects, will move turnpike revenues out of
northern Ohio. But Kasich vows to keep more than 90 percent of projects
in northern Ohio.
Gas prices are still falling in Ohio.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is making some concessions in fiscal talks. In his latest budget, he proposed raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year.One beagle can diagnose diseases by sniffing stool samples.
by Andy Brownfield
Council also approves 2014 property tax increase
Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a budget that
relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34 million budget
deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.
Mayor Mark Mallory opened up the council meeting with a
moment of silent prayer for the 27 students and adults killed at an
elementary school in Connecticut.
“I want us all to take a moment and put into perspective what we’re doing today,” he said.
Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24
percent, from 4.6 mills (a mill is equal to one-tenth of a cent) to 5.71
mills. That means Cincinnatians would pay an additional $34 for every
$100,000 of their home’s value.
The vote reverses a move made last year by conservatives on council, who reduced property taxes.
Council also passed a budget that relies on $21 million
from a proposed lease of the city’s parking facilities — a deal that is
expected to be voted on in March. Of the proposals submitted to the city
so far, Cincinnati stands to gain $100 million to $150 million in an
upfront payment and a share of the profits over the 30-year lease.
“My concern about balancing this budget with a onetime
revenue source by selling our parking system seems to be ill advised,”
said Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman. “We don’t know how council
will vote in March … but we have tied not only the budget to this one
time revenue source, but we have also tied reciprocity.”
Council nixed a plan to eliminate tax reciprocity for
people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax
in both cities.
Though the budget doesn’t mention parking privatization, council hasn’t mentioned other options to close the budget deficit.
If opponents of parking privatization want to keep
facilities under city control, they would have to come up with $21
million in revenue elsewhere or make $21 million in cuts.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld suggested using casino revenue,
cutting travel expenses, downsizing the ratio of managers to workers,
sharing services with nearby jurisdictions and downsizing the city’s
fleet as ways to cut down the budget.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, long an advocate of
downsizing the police and fire departments, voted against the property tax increase
in protest of what she said was bloated spending on departments that
were outpacing population growth.
The budget also requires Cincinnati to accept police and
fire recruit classes in 2014, regardless of whether the city gets a
federal grant to fund the classes.
The budget also restores the Cincinnati Police
Department’s mounted patrol, which patrols downtown on horseback. The
city will use $105,000 from off-duty detail fees from businesses that
hire off-duty officers. Council also voted to start charging those
businesses an extra $1.64 on top of the off-duty pay.
Council also voted to shift $50,000 for repairs and
upgrades to the Contemporary Arts Center to pay for maintenance and
beautification at Washington Park, which is operated by 3CDC.