Cincinnati City Council

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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.

Democrat David Mann - a former Cincinnati mayor and congressman whose name hasn't been on the ballot since 1994 - is seriously considering a political comeback this year as a candidate for Cincinnati City Council.

"I've described myself as a recovering politician all these years; and maybe I am not,'' said Mann, with a laugh.

The 73-year-old lawyer told WVXU Wednesday that he still has "a passion for public service, which I think is a great privilege. And I think I have something to offer."

Mann said he will make a final decision "very soon."

Jay Hanselman / Melrose YMCA

Some members of the Melrose YMCA in Walnut Hills are asking Cincinnati officials to help restore hours at the facility.

About two dozen speakers, including Victoria Evans, voiced their concerns Wednesday to the weekly City Council meeting.

In decades of writing column, I don’t think I have ever started one on a personal note.
 

But with this most interesting year coming to a close, and a new one about to begin, I will, if you will indulge me.


For me, it has been quite a year.


After 29 years, six months and two days at the Cincinnati Enquirer, writing on politics and a myriad of other subjects, I took an early retirement offer from the Enquirer in April, leaving behind working on a daily basis with good friends and  opportunities to do interesting journalism too numerous to count.

In 2013, the Cincinnati mayor’s race is likely to suck most of the air out of the room, as it has since the city adopted direct election of the mayor in 2001.


But it is not the only important race in Cincinnati next year.


There is this little thing called a city council election; and it will be vastly different this year than any other since the city charter was created in the 1920s.


As of now, Cincinnati voters will be electing nine council members for four-year terms, instead of the two-year terms we have had since 1927.

Michelle Dillingham, a former aide to the late city councilman David Crowley, announced Friday she will be a candidate for Cincinnati City Council in 2013.

Dillingham, who is from Kennedy Heights, will seek the Democratic Party's endorsement in the council race.

She is currently working for a regional labor-management fund "to tackle industry issues of mutual interest" to business and labor, "such as transportation funding, family-supporting wages and workforce development," according to her campaign website, www.michelledillingham.com.

Jay Hanselman

Cincinnati Council will spend the rest of the week completing work on the 2013 city budget. 

About 40 people spoke during the final public hearing Monday night in Corryville.

There were again a number of speakers who asked Council to preserve funding for Media Bridges.  It operates several cable-access channels and a small radio station in the city.

Executive Director Tom Bishop said turnout for the group should show Council Members the value of the service.

Jay Hanselman

Could Cincinnati's massive general fund budget deficit be gone?  It could be, but it comes with a big if.

Earlier reports suggested City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. would have to close a $34 to $40 million deficit.  

But during council committee meeting last week at least a couple Council Members dropped hints his plan will again close the deficit with no layoffs for city workers.  

Reportedly the manager could close a large portion of the deficit with a sizeable up-front payment in a contract to lease the city's parking system to a private operator.  

Cincinnati Council is expected to vote Wednesday to approve the city’s first comprehensive plan in more than 30 years. 

The Livable Communities Committee approved the proposal Monday night. 

The document has been in the works for more than 3 years and focuses on what the city will look like in the future.  Specifically it has strategies that for the first time focus on economic development activities in the neighborhoods. 

Planning and Buildings Director Charles Graves described the plan this way.

Staff

Cincinnati Council's Budget and Finance Committee Tuesday approved a pay raise and a one-time bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr.

The committee passed the measure 6-2 and the full Council will vote on the issue Thursday. 

The proposal, distributed to Council Members minutes before the meeting started, would increase his annual salary to $255,000.  Right now Dohoney is paid $232,081.51.

The proposed ordinance would also include a one-time payment of $34,892.17.

With the presidential election over, you might think politicians would get a bit of a break, but that's not the case. WVXU Political Reporter Howard Wilkinson joins Maryanne Zeleznik to talk about the next election on many people's minds. Goo

Jay Hanselman

Cincinnati officials are continuing work on next year’s city budget.  The public could see it later this month.

City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. and his budget team are working on a spending plan to close a $40 million general fund deficit.  

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls was asked Wednesday when she expected to get the budget.  She responded November 26th.  Qualls also said public hearings on the proposal will be scheduled for early December.  

Jay Hanselman

People who supported longer terms for Cincinnati Council Members are celebrating.  

City voters narrowly approved a charter amendment Tuesday to change the Council term to four-years instead of the current two.  

Campaign co-chair Mike Allen said he's not concerned the issue only passed by a little more than two-thousand votes.

Tana Weingartner

Cincinnati voters Tuesday narrowly approved a charter amendment that will change city council members

terms in office from the current two-years to four.

Tana Weingartner

Cincinnati residents will vote next week on a charter amendment that would allow city council members to serve four-year terms instead of the current two.  

Both sides have been debating the issue since a council majority placed it on the ballot in August.  

The group Citizens for Common Sense is urging a “yes” vote and held a press conference Tuesday.  

Business owner and philanthropist Otto Budig supports longer-terms.

Four Democratic members of Cincinnati City Council plan to go to the Hamilton County Board of Elections this afternoon to cast their ballots for President Obama, in an event aimed at encouraging early voting.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and council members Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young and Laure Quinlivan will be at the board of election at 824 Broadway downtown at 4 p.m. today - only hours after GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney makes an appearance at a machine milling plant in Bond Hill.

Four Democratic members of Cincinnati City Council plan to go to the Hamilton County Board of Elections this afternoon to cast their ballots for President Obama, in an event aimed at encouraging early voting.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and council members Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young and Laure Quinlivan will be at the board of election at 824 Broadway downtown at 4 p.m. today - only hours after GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney makes an appearance at a machine milling plant in Bond Hill.

Cincinnati voters will decide next month if they want city council members to serve a four-year term in office instead of the current two. 

One group is urging a “no” vote on Issue Four. 

Former Council Member Chris Bortz dismissed the notion the group can’t get an serious work done in two-years.

Google maps

Cincinnati Council will likely approve a zoning change Wednesday needed for a mixed use development near the Xavier University campus. 

The 20-acre site is located at the corner of Dana Avenue and Montgomery Road in Evanston. 

Liz Blume is the Executive Director of the Community Building Institute, which is a partnership involving Xavier. 

She said the development will include apartment housing for students plus retail and office space.

Jay Hanselman reviews some of the stories that made news in Greater Cincinnati this past week, including City Council term limits, relocating utilities for the streetcar project, and levies for Hamilton County Senior and Mental Health Services.

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