Cincinnati City Council

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.