Cincinnati City Council

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

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.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are ordering the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to suspend work until the City of Cincinnati changes a new hiring policy.

The County owns MSD but it's operated by the city.

On Wednesday, commissioners passed a resolution stopping work on all projects affected by the city's policy. The county argues the policy, which requires an apprenticeship program, unfairly excludes many non-union companies from bidding for construction jobs.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners still aren't happy with the City of Cincinnati's responsible bidder program for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) construction projects.

The board is drafting replacement language and, to show he means business, commissioner Chris Monzel is considering a restraining order forcing the city not to award any MSD contracts until the issue is resolved.

The key issue is a clause requiring companies bidding for sewer work to have certified apprenticeship programs with graduates.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners want Cincinnati to change some language in the city's hiring policies for companies bidding on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) construction projects.

The city wants all construction firms to have apprenticeship programs.

Groups like the Greater Cincinnati Building Construction Trades Council like the plan. However, some companies say it's not feasible for several reasons, including that apprentice programs for some specialized trades simply don't exist.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is rescinding raises he gave to several of his staff this week.

In a statement Mallory says:

“I am rescinding the raises that I gave my staff and returning all salaries to the previous levels.  Although the changes that I made in my office structure resulted in a saving of $66,000 to be used in next year’s budget, I realize that the perception has had a negative effect on the morale of other City Employees."

Michael Keating

This morning Howard Wilkinson talks about endorsements in the Cincinnati City Council race.

Sarah Ramsey

Opponents of Cincinnati's parking lease plan have enough valid signatures to place the city ordinance on the November ballot.

Hamilton County Board of Elections director Amy Searcy said election officials have checked about two-thirds of the 19,803 signatures submitted by opponents of the plan to outsource Cincinnati parking meters and garages and 8,727 signatures were from registered Cincinnati voters.

Opponents of the parking lease needed 8,522 signatures to place the ordinance on the ballot.

Campaign website

Within the span of about five minutes today Cincinnati Council accepted the resignation of one member and witnessed the swearing-in of a replacement.

Cecil Thomas ended his Council service after more than seven years.  He's leaving early because term limits prevent him from seeking re-election in November.  

Thomas’ wife, Pamula, was appointed to take his place and she'll be on the ballot this fall.  

She said she'll strive to represent the city with transparency, fortitude and integrity.

Jay Hanselman/WVXU

Democrat Cecil Thomas made official today what he told WVXU two months ago – that he will resign from Cincinnati City Council, have his wife, Pam Thomas, appointed to replace him, and run for the Ohio Senate in 2014.


His resignation will take effect after Wednesday’s council meeting.
 

Thomas, in a press conference this morning at the law office of Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke, said that his wife would be sworn in after the Wednesday meeting.
 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Opponents of Cincinnati's parking lease deal turned in more than 19,000 petition signatures Thursday. That means it's likely the the issue will be on the November ballot. They need 8,522 valid signatures.

Former council woman Amy Murray thanked those who signed and circulated petitions.

"The people have the right to ask for this, to have a referendum," says Murray. "And it's something that people feel so passionate about. It will have a huge impact on our business districts."

www.cincystpatsparade.com

People were outraged last week when the group that puts on the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade said a gay rights group couldn't march. Now at least seven Cincinnati Council members (two hadn't responded as of Friday afternoon) are prepared to approve a motion making sure that doesn't happen again.

Councilman Chris Seelbach's motion would require all parades receiving a financial subsidy from the city - and there are four - must agree in writing to adhere to the city's non-discrimination policy.

Michael Keating / WVXU

Cincinnati is going to federal court to try to overturn a Hamilton County judge's temporary restraining order on the city's parking lease plan. 

Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler issued his order Wednesday, just minutes after city council approved the parking lease agreement by a five-four vote. 

Jay Hanselman

Cincinnati officials and Avondale residents will likely have a chance to meet next week with the firm that wants to buy nearly 750 units of HUD-supported Section 8 housing in the neighborhood.  

City Council was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution opposing the sale.  But the item was held because of the planned meeting.  

Kathy Schwab is with the Greater Cincinnati Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

Hamilton County Commissioners feel they were left in the dark as the city and the Port Authority worked out Cincinnati's proposed parking outsourcing plan. They're drafting a letter to the city to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Commission President Chris Monzel says, "Making sure there's no risk exposure on the county's part for  what the Port's doing with the city and vice versa if we go off and do something with the county, could that hurt the city in any way. Those type of things, I think, need to be figured out in the future."

City of Cincinnati website

Cincinnati City Council member Cecil Thomas, who can't run for re-election this year because of the city's term limits law, told WVXU this morning he plans to leave council "within a month or two" and wants his wife, Pam Thomas, appointed to replace him.

"If (Pam Thomas) wants it, I would absolutely back that,'' said Thomas, a Democrat and former Cincinnati police officer.

Pam Thomas ran for Hamilton County clerk of courts last fall, winning 48 percent of the vote against Republican incumbent Tracy Winkler. She won the city vote overwhelmingly.

Michael Keating / WVXU

The ongoing dispute between Cincinnati and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority about the use of the city’s transit fund is still dragging on. 

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls spoke during a special Budget and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday.

"Members of the committee may remember that we passed a one-month budget for SORTA a number weeks ago," Qualls said.  "This is another one month budget for the period of February."

The city argues the fund can be used for any transit purpose. 

Slowly but surely, the 2013 race for Cincinnati City Council – the first in which council members will be elected for four years terms – is taking shape.


Not that there is any hurry. The filing deadline for council candidates is not until August.
 

But the city’s three political parties – and the candidates themselves – can’t wait that long to get campaigns up and running.
 

A Cincinnati City Council election is a non-partisan election – meaning that no party designations appear on the ballot next to candidates’ names.
 

Amy Murray - who served as an appointed Cincinnati City Council member in 2011 before losing her seat in that year's election - has become the first non-incumbent Republican to declare her council candidacy.

Murray, of Hyde Park, will kick off her campaign Wednesday with a 7 p.m. gathering at Price Hill Chili at 4920 Glenway Ave.

She first ran for council in 2009, failing to win one of the nine spots on council. But, in January 2011, after then-council member Chris Monzel became a Hamilton County commissioner, Murray was appointed to his council seat.

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