Cincinnati City Council

Update 12/18/13 @ 9:30 PM: 

Cincinnati Council will likely vote Thursday on whether the city's controversial streetcar project will continue. 

Construction has been on hold since December 4th.  Now the group will decide whether to let work resume or finally pull the plug on the plan. 

So far the city has spent $34 million on the streetcar project.  An independent audit firm reported Wednesday it will cost anywhere from $16 to $46 million to cancel the streetcar or about $69 million to complete it. 

Jay Hanselman / WVXU

A task force could soon be reviewing Cincinnati's city charter and coming up with recommendations to bring it up to date.  Council's Rules and Audit Committee approved the study Tuesday.  

Chairman Kevin Flynn said the action is long overdue.

“We always have approached the charter piece meal rather than comprehensively, so I think it is something will be good,” Flynn said.

  Cincinnati’s new mayor and city council were sworn in Sunday, and, as expected, most of their focus this week has been on the streetcar. Just yesterday, council voted to suspend construction while an audit is done to determine the costs involved in continuing or abandoning the project. We hear arguments for stopping the project from Vice Mayor David Mann and Council Member Kevin Flynn.

Cincinnati Council will go another week without a set of official rules to guide its activities.

Rules Committee Chairman Kevin Flynn delayed a vote Tuesday on a document he created and presented to council members Sunday.

"This is a first draft," Flynn said. "It's not the rules of Kevin Flynn, it's the result of Council. So I want all members of Council to weigh-in on these rules, to make suggestions to make them better."

Flynn said that how the group will "get the best rules to govern ourselves over the next four years.

Jay Hanselman / WVXU

Sunday was a day of celebration and promises of cooperation, as the new mayor, Democrat John Cranley, and nine city council members were sworn into office in dual ceremonies at City Hall and the National Underground Freedom Center.

Monday, the celebrating will be over and the spirit of cooperation that hung over Sunday’s event will be put to the test; as the new council confronts its most contentious issue – Cranley’s desire to stop the $133 million streetcar project.

It’s a truism in politics: Running for office is the relatively easy part; the governing part is where it gets a little tricky.

John Cranley, the Democrat and former councilman who is sworn into office as Cincinnati’s 69th mayor today, has been around long enough to know this.

He came out of the November 5 election with a big win – 16 percentage points over rival and fellow Democrat Roxanne Qualls.

And he came out like a ball of fire.

Scuttle the parking lease deal?

No problem.

Cincinnati  Mayor-elect John Cranley Friday released his list of city council committees and who will be the chairpersons of those committees.  The full Council could approve them Sunday. 

The new streetcar committee is scheduled to meet Monday at noon.  A press release said the group will "consider a proposal aimed at pausing streetcar spending and implementing a comprehensive, objective review of the project in order to determine the true cost of cancellation vs. continuation."

Jay Hanselman / WVXU

Workers at Cincinnati City Hall are getting ready for a new mayor and council to take office Sunday.

The Cincinnati Council session Tuesday was the last for Mayor Mark Mallory, City Manager Milton Dohoney and Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan and Pam Thomas.  Much of the meeting was devoted to goodbyes for each.

Mallory could not seek re-election this year because of term limits.  He spoke about his time in office.

Mann & Mann law firm

Newly-elected Cincinnati council member David Mann has held the mayor's office before, and now he will serve as new mayor John Cranley's vice mayor.

Cranley announced Mann as his vice mayor Monday afternoon in a press conference at Mann's downtown law office.

Mann served on council from 1974 to 1991, and had three years as mayor at a time when the mayor's office was mostly a ceremonial position.

Both Cranley and Mann are Democrats. Cranley said Mann is someone he can work well with.

Update 11/21/13 @ 5:20PM:  Cincinnati mayor-elect John Cranley is not being swayed by the city administration's cost estimates to cancel the streetcar project.

“It doesn’t cost $40 million to say stop,” Cranley said Thursday during a press conference.  “It doesn’t take a year to get out of this madness.  We’re going to immediately put a halt to this project.”

Cranley is still promising a Council vote the first week of December to temporarily stop the streetcar project.

Jay Hanselman / WVXU

Cincinnati Council will likely approve a modified chronic nuisance ordinance Wednesday that should settle a lawsuit filed against the city on the issue.  

“This is an agreement that the city and that particular property owner were able to work out,” said Wendell Young, chairman of Council’s public safety committee.  “It appears that the other property owners think this is also a good deal, so there should not be a lot of controversy about this.”

Light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second.

Cincinnati’s mayor-elect, John Cranley, has been pushing that speed limit in the 12 days since he won a landslide victory in a low-turnout election.

He has put together a seven-member majority of the new nine-member council to convince the Port Authority of Greater Cincinnati to back off issuing $85 million in bonds for the long-term lease of Cincinnati’s parking meters and five city garages – a deal that would have put that money into the city’s coffers as an upfront payment.

Jay Hanselman / WVXU

Cincinnati Council's Budget and Finance Committee holds one of its last scheduled meetings Tuesday before a new mayor and council take office on December 1st.  The group faces a busy agenda since many sessions in September and October were canceled.

The group is expected to approve several incentives packages that will bring new jobs and new housing to the city.  

  Cincinnati voters had their say on Tuesday, we get a rundown on the winners and losers in yesterday’s races from Howard Wilkinson and Jay Hanselman.

Michael Keating

This week WVXU Political Reporter Howard Wilkinson talks about the money being spent in the Cincinnati Mayor and Council races.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Could a Metropolitan Sewer District stalemate between Cincinnati and Hamilton County be coming to an end?

The sides have been at odds over city-enacted hiring policies. The county specifically doesn't like a responsible bidder provision requiring contractors to graduate apprentices (at least one per year for five years).

Councilman Chris Seelbach is proposing a solution he thinks the county will like. He says he's willing to throw out the apprentice graduation requirement in favor of an incentive program.

A group that wants to change the pension system for city of Cincinnati employees has enough valid signatures to place a charter amendment on the November ballot, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

The group, Cincinnati Pension Reform, turned in 16,116 signatures and 9,726 turned out to be valid signatures of Cincinnati voters. They needed 7,443 to make the ballot.

The group paid nearly $70,000 to a California firm that specializes in putting paid petition circulators on the ground in Cincinnati and gathered the signatures within a few weeks.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials continue to hash out a compromise on several hiring and bidding policies related to the Metropolitan Sewer District.

An August 1 deadline has come and gone, meaning a city moratorium on the policies has expired. That led County Commissioners Wednesday to halt the bidding process for an upcoming project.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The path is now clear for demolition of a historic Clifton landmark.

A Cincinnati council committee is siding with the owners of Lenhardt's restaurant against a bid to designate it a historic building. The neighborhood group CUF sought the designation after the Windholtz family shuttered the restaurant in December and announced plans to sell to a developer who intends to tear it down.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are expected to vote Wednesday morning on re-opening the bidding process on some Metropolitan Sewer District projects.

The board initiated the moratorium to force renewed talks between the county and the city, which runs the sewer district. At issue are several city initiated hiring policies and practices the county dislikes, and in some cases says are illegal.

The county is re-opening the bid process following a city council vote two weeks ago to suspend the hiring policies until August.

Michael Keating / WVXU

Cincinnati Council Members will have some extra time to campaign for re-election this fall.  The group voted Wednesday to cancel half of its scheduled meetings for the rest of the term which ends on December 1st.  

There will only be seven sessions in the next five months.  That compares to the 14 that would ordinarily be held.  

Council will meet as follows:  August 7th, September 11th, September 25th, October 9th, November 13th, November 20th and November 27th.

Member P.G. Sittenfeld was the only one voting “no” on the plan.

Sarah Ramsey

City and county officials now have about five weeks to try to work out a compromise on several Metropolitan Sewer District policies (MSD).

Council voted unanimously Wednesday to suspend its local hiring policy until August 1. Until then the sides will try to reach an agreement on it and a portion of a responsible bidder policy that requires apprenticeships.

Sarah Ramsey

Just days after announcing a compromise, county and city leaders could be heading back to square one.

Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel had planned to lead a vote Wednesday to reopen the bidding process for Metropolitan Sewer District projects. The board instituted a moratorium several weeks ago when Cincinnati City Council refused to scrap its local hiring and responsible bidder requirements.

The draft of a letter Ohio Auditor Dave Yost apparently plans to send to Cincinnati city officials says that they should consider using the "bulk" of the $92 million in up-front money from the parking lease agreement to help bolster the city's troubled pension system.

City council recently received a report saying the unfunded liability of the pension system had grown by another $133 million last year.

We learned something about Cincinnati City Council this week.

The mayor is not the absolute monarch inside city council chambers.

Except, that is, when he is.

Since December 2001, Cincinnati has had a directly-elected mayor who is not a voting member of council but chairs the meetings and controls the agenda. If a council member tries to raise an issue on the floor of council that the mayor doesn’t want to deal with, he or she can simply rule the council member out of order, proclaiming that it was a subject not on the council agenda and that was that.

Mayor Mark Mallory used some parliamentary wrangling at Wednesday's Cincinnati Council meeting to successfully knock down an attempt to repeal the city's controversial parking lease agreement.

Council member P.G. Sittenfeld, a Democrat, came into the council meeting believing he had five votes to scuttle the agreement, which city manager Milton Dohoney signed Monday.

City Manager Milton Dohoney signed the parking lease agreement Tuesday afternoon that will bring a $92 million up-front payment to city coffers, but council may still make some changes to the agreement.

Tuesday, two Cincinnati council members - Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Yvette Simpson - were circulating motions  asking the city administration to come up with a new plan for use of the $92 million in up-front money from the parking lease agreement.

The Ohio First District Court of Appeals has refused to issue a stay in its decision on the Cincinnati parking lease case, possibly clearing the way for the city administration to move forward with the controversial plan.

But Curt Hartman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who brought the original lawsuit against the parking lease ordinance passed by council in March, says they will ask the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case "as soon as possible."

When Cincinnati City Council passed its new budget, it also combined two departments. The Community Development and Economic Development offices will now be one Department of Trade and Development.

The head of the Former Economic Development office, Odis Jones, will head the new office.

Former Community Development head, Michael Cervay, will take a position in the Finance Department.

The changes take effect July 1.

While Cincinnati City Council looks into its emergency communications operations following a recent television news investigation, Hamilton County is offering one possible solution.

Commissioners Wednesday approved a resolution supporting a joint city/county emergency communications center.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann says this is a great opportunity for shared services.

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