Hello Cincy. Hope you got down to Oktoberfest this weekend and ate too many bratwursts and drank just enough dunkel (or whatever your brew of choice may be). Now it’s time to shake off our bleary sausage hangovers and get to some news.
Mayor John Cranley and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson squared off again Friday in their second debate in a week. In the previous debate hosted by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and The Cincinnati Business Courier, they attempted to tout their business credentials but got caught up on the recent controversy around a $500 million plan to expand Children’s Hospital. This time around, another topic was front and center — how to expand the city’s supply of affordable housing.
Cranley is floating a plan that would put voluntary contributions from developers receiving tax abatements into an affordable housing fund via the same mechanism that is contributing funds to the city’s streetcar. Those arrangements are called voluntary tax incentive contribution agreements, though you’ll often seem them abbreviated as VTICA. Generally, developers pay a quarter of their potential tax bill on improvements they’ve made to property in the city and get the rest written off for a decade or more. Under a VTICA, a developer agrees to another 15 percent contribution to a fund that pays for streetcar operations. Similar arrangements in other neighborhoods could be used for affordable housing, Cranley says.
Simpson, meanwhile, talked about her efforts to jump start seed money that could be used to fund more affordable housing via public-private partnerships. Her bid to get $400,000 into the city budget as the beginning of a housing trust fund earlier this year didn’t make it through Council. Simpson says she believes that fund needs hundreds of millions of dollars in it as affordable housing in Cincinnati continues to dwindle.
The candidates also returned to a subject they wrangled about in the previous debate — how to address the looming funding shortfall and inadequacies of the city's Metro bus system. The Business Courier has a pretty good breakdown of that conversation here.
• Hamilton County Commissioners will meet with Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County trustees this morning at 11 a.m. to discuss the pending closure and potential sale of the north building of the library’s downtown campus. You can read the backstory here — the library is set to take a big financial hit on the sale of the building, and there are questions about conflicts of interest in the deal — but suffice it to say county commission president Todd Portune had strong words for the board last week about the plan, which didn’t involve public input before the seven-member library trustee board voted on it.
• Cincinnati City Council and school board candidates saddled up yesterday and joined a group ride to tour the city’s bicycle infrastructure. A number of Council incumbents including Vice Mayor David Mann, Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld made appearances on or after the ride, as well as Council hopefuls Derek Bauman, Tamaya Dennard, Michelle Dillingham, Tonya Dumas, Manuel Foggie, Henry Frondorf, Brian Garry, Greg Landsman and Laure Quinlivan. The ride, organized by Tri-State Trails and Queen City Bike, was intended to highlight the city’s bike infrastructure and the city’s need for more of it while giving candidates a chance to talk about their positions on funding for such projects. It went from Smale Riverfront Park up the Central Parkway bike lane to Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., where a new bike path is under construction, and then back down to Washington Park.
• Cincinnati Parks have had a rough couple years. It faces $59 million in deferred maintenance, recently weathered a controversial failed levy attempt fronted by Mayor John Cranley and questions from the state auditor about improper spending by park board leadership and financial dealings between the Parks Board and a private foundation that raises money for the parks. So how will incoming Parks Director Wade Walcutt reboot the beloved Cincinnati institution? He’d like to bring in an outside accountancy agency to improve financial oversight, he says, and has begun making spending cuts. He’s also negotiating with the city about the power balance between the city, the parks board and the nonprofit Cincinnati Park Foundation. He also doesn’t get a $12,000 car allowance his predecessor Willie Carden received, nor is the park’s finance manager Marijane Klug receiving a similar, though smaller, allowance. You can read more about changes to the parks here.
• Should the Bengals ditch Andy Dalton and sign Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback? Dalton’s off to a rough start this year, as the Bengals have scored just nine points in two games. Meanwhile, Kaepernick has found himself out of a job after high-profile protests in which he refused to stand for the National Anthem as a response to racial inequities in the U.S. justice system. Some Bengals would like to see the team bring Kaepernick on, according to NBC’s Profootballtalk.com.
• When it comes to local politics, you don’t get much more high-profile than Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. So what happens when the 60-year-old prosecutor moves on to another position? The GOP would like to have someone lined up in case Deters leaves his perch — he’s rumored to have his sights set on a federal court of appeals seat — and some insiders say they may have found someone in Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou. Earlier this month, the county GOP leader learned he wasn’t in the running for a U.S. District Court seat, freeing him up for another role — possibly Deters’ should he leave. Triantafilou hasn’t commented about that possibility, but Republicans will need someone of his stature if a high-profile Democrat like Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval jumps into a race to replace the long-running Deters.
• Will the Ohio House of Representatives try again to overturn Gov. John Kasich’s veto rolling back the state’s Medicaid expansion? Apparently, GOP House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger was testing fellow Republicans’ appetite over the weekend for another shot at it. Removing the state from the Affordable Care Act program could eventually cost more than 700,000 Ohiioans who gained coverage under the expansion their insurance. A memo circulating among GOP House members sought to measure willingness for another vote on rolling back Kasich’s veto on earlier budget legislation that would have removed the state from the expansion. The federal government paid for most of that expansion at first, but states must shoulder increasing amounts of the expense in coming years. Kasich fought his own party tooth and nail to bring the expansion to Ohio, saying it should be considered separately from the ACA as a whole.