Wednesday, December 15, 2010
What we found is that Cincinnati is already getting amazing “bang for our bucks” when compared to other cities.
The top chart shows our fire service offers the second highest ratio of first responders to population. We are very well protected indeed.
Some other cities elect not to maintain such a high staffing ratio. Those cities use overtime instead to compensate for lack of permanent staff. Unfortunately, this skews their budgets higher.
The bottom chart shows that Cincinnati is 4th lowest in terms of the amount of money we spend per firefighter. These figures are total budget divided by firefighters, including taxes, benefits, training, and department issued gear. Take home pay is much less.
Berding & Council spent the last 2 years buying new windows for City Hall for $5 million, radio recycle bins for $6 million, and “streetcar preparations” for $2.8 million.
Jeff Berding likes to spend your tax money. And he thinks your safety is more frivolous than those things. Tell Jeff to slither back to “the real world.”
Monday, December 13, 2010
The Enquirer reports that “A majority of Cincinnati City Council members say they’ll stop the layoffs of 275 police officers and firefighters if both unions agree to a total of $20 million in concessions.
$20,000,000 in concessions divided by approximately 1700 people means each and every cop and firefighter would give back about $12,000 a year or $1,000 a month. That's an awfully steep price to pay for a streetcar. Would you take that large a pay cut to keep your current job? Or would you move away for a better job?
The same Enquirer article said Council members “talked about it being time for unions to understand their contracts are too lucrative…” Councilmember Bortz said it was time for the unions “to join the real world.”
Is this true? Are we paying our safety personnel too much?
COAST decided to find out.
Using data from The Enquirer, it’s easy to see that Cincinnati’s cost per officer is the lowest of comparable cities. The lowest by far. More than $10,000 lower per officer. We’re already getting a bargain, and if the layoffs stand, our loss is liable to be these other cities’ gain.
Berding & Council have known about the current budget situation for the better part of a year, and maybe two. Yet they spent $5 million on new windows for City Hall, $6 million on radio recycle bins, and $2.8 million on streetcar preparations.
Jeff Berding likes to spend your tax money. And he thinks your safety is more frivolous than those things. Let’s send Jeff back to “the real world.”
Already announced as guests for the event are Ohio Auditor-Elect David Yost, County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou, Commissioner-elect Chris Monzel, and Dr. Brad Wenstrup. They join this year's event co-sponsors: Cincinnati Tea Party, Ohio Liberty Council, Americans for Prosperity (Ohio), the Center-Right Southwest Ohio, and numerous dignitaries and elected officials.
We will kick off the event with lite appetizers. We appreciate your efforts, so come and enjoy yourselves! There is no charge for this event, but it's buy your own food and beverages. Thank you for all that you do to help fight for limited government and lower taxes. Wishing you and your family a very Happy Holiday Season!
When: Thursday, December 16th at 6:30 PM
Where: The Great American Sports Café
8740 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
Friday, December 10, 2010
The overriding message in Jeff Berding's campaign materials and video appearances (like the one above) is that citizen safety comes first. And for a while he actually voted that way.
So what changed? Why is he now selling-out public safety and the same police and firefighters who fought for his election in favor of a streetcar that nobody needs and only a few people want?
FOP President Kathy Harrell asked him during a recent closed-door meeting specifically why he became the fifth vote for the streetcar after promising in his endorsement interview not to unless the project was completely funded by federal grants. He answered that Mayor Mallory strong-armed him into committing local dollars to the streetcar in exchange for bringing Berding's Port Authority give-away to a vote.
There you have it. Berding agreed to support Mallory's boondoggle, if Mallory would agree to support Berding's boondoggle. Berding auctioned of his principles, and financed the sale with your tax money.
Let Councilmember Berding know your safety isn't worth trading for a streetcar. Write him at Jeff.Berding@Cincinnati-OH.gov or call his office at 352-3283 or his city-paid cell phone at 378-0245.
Every City elected official has, at some point in their career, sought a higher office outside the city. Therefore it is important for all you county and suburban residents to weigh-in on this matter too. You can't vote against Jeff now, but you will have to someday. You might as well inform him of his future prospects while he can still rectify his mistakes.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
COAST was invited last week to join a broad, unique and re-vigorated coalition to stop the wasteful Cincinnati Trolley. Coalition members are the NAACP, the Baptist Ministers Conference, the Homeless Coalition of Greater Cincinnati, Westwood Concern, and three municipal labor unions: The FOP Local 69, the Fire Fighters Local 48, and CODE. The umbrella organization for the group is called C.A.S.S - Citizens Against Streetcar Swindle, whose chairman is County Auditor Dusty Rhodes and whose treasurer is former Congressman Tom Luken.
At the first meeting of the alliance, the leaders of several groups reported that Jeff Berding promised to them during the 2009 Council election that he would oppose streetcar funding. This year, with his vote for a $64 million bond issue for the trolley, Berding broke those promises.
As a result, the group decided to target Berding -- the needed 5th vote for wasteful trolley funding -- and to disclose his treachery in flip-flopping on the issue. As a result, Tuesday, we launched this tabloid-sized brochure:
Wednesday evening, representatives of the nine organizaitons received this threatening letter from Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, the attorneys for Jeff Berding, threatening them with legal action for what they claimed were the allied organizations "unlawful behavior." (Incidently the Taft firm is also the law firm for the Cincinnati Bengals, and negotiated the boondoggle stadium lease. One might suggest they are "official legal counsel for Cincinnati boondoggles.")
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
COAST and the NAACP pursued a ballot initiative in 2009 that would have stopped the trolley dead in its tracks by requiring a public vote on it. Voters rejected that initiative, but the fight against wasteful spending continues.
Copies of the "Not ONE MORE CENT" brochure are available here (front) and here (back).
See also a letter written by a broad spectrum of community leaders imploring City Hall to stop their wastfull streetcar spending here.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Must Consider Chapter 9 Bankruptcy
Yesterday the Hamilton County Commissioners unanimously agreed to support a property tax increase to provide more taxpayer money to the stadium fund. The property tax rollback was promised to the voters as a condition for passing the 1996 Stadium Sales Tax increase, but the Commission has stated they will break this promise when they meet tomorrow. Not only is COAST extremely disappointed by this development, but The Cincinnati Enquirer has also condemned the plan, stating that, "It is poor policy that has the effect of raising property taxes on homeowners during a tough economy - not to mention reneging on the promise the county made to voters in order to get the stadium deal passed in 1996."
Part of the Commissioners' stadium plan relies on the teams accepting a ticket surcharge - their approval is required under terms of their lease agreements with the county. The Bengals have made it clear they will not approve such a charge. The Commissioners stubbornly proclaim confidence that the teams will ultimately agree to it regardless, prompting The Enquirer editorial to ask, "In which parallel universe exactly?" This lack of cooperation will burden taxpayers greatly. The less money the teams contribute to the stadium shortfall, the more that the Commissioners will raise our taxes.
COAST is disappointed that the Commission has chosen to hit the easy button and raise property taxes instead of fully investigating all options to modify a lease agreement that is extremely abusive to the taxpayers. The lease provides $8.5 million/year to the Bengals for football operations, charges the Bengals no rent, guarantees a certain amount of ticket sales, requires a payment of nearly $11 million/year to the Cincinnati Public Schools, and as noted earlier, requires team approval for ticket surcharges. In addition, any money that would be earned from naming rights would go to the Bengals.
The lease was negotiated by an effete group of former Commissioners Bob Bedinghaus, John Dowlin, and Tom Neyer. The lead negotiator was Bedinghaus, who now happens to be employed.......by the Bengals. It can be argued that the Bengals occupied both sides of the negotiation. If this lease was negotiated at fair market terms, we would be facing, at most, a small stadium fund deficit, if one at all. The current Commission would rather raise taxes than take the steps necessary to reform this crooked lease.
Hamilton County can declare a Chapter 9 Municipal Bankruptcy, which can be used to significantly modify or possibly even end the lease agreement that is the source of our financial troubles. The purpose of this section of the bankruptcy code is to allow financially-distressed municipalities to reorganize and adjust its debts and other obligations, so as to spare the taxpayers and local economy from the significant harm that is caused by higher taxes and/or big service cuts that would be required to repay these obligations.
In order for Chapter 9 to help our county, it would have to be able to include the Bengals lease agreement in the filing. Based on the information in the government's Chapter 9 bankruptcy site, it is rather clear that not just debts, but other agreements are allowed to be included: "The municipal debtor has broad powers to use its property, raise taxes, and make expenditures as it sees fit. It is also permitted to adjust burdensome non-debt contractual relationships under the power to reject executory contracts and unexpired leases, subject to court approval, and it has the same avoiding powers as other debtors. Municipalities may also reject collective bargaining agreements and retiree benefit plans without going through the usual procedures required in chapter 11 cases."
The bankruptcy plans are subject to court approval, but it is also stated in multiple points of the Chapter 9 website that the court plays a minimal role in the process. "Due to statutory limitations placed upon the power of the court in a municipal debt adjustment proceeding, the court is far less involved in the conduct of a municipal bankruptcy case (and in the operation of the municipal entity) while the debtor's financial affairs are undergoing reorganization."
It further states, "Indeed, due to the severe limitations placed upon the power of the bankruptcy court in chapter 9 cases (required by the Tenth Amendment and the Supreme Court's decisions in cases upholding municipal bankruptcy legislation), the bankruptcy court generally is not as active in managing a municipal bankruptcy case as it is in corporate reorganizations under chapter 11. The functions of the bankruptcy court in chapter 9 cases are generally limited to approving the petition (if the debtor is eligible), confirming a plan of debt adjustment, and ensuring implementation of the plan."
Chapter 9 Bankruptcy gives Hamilton County its only option of fixing its stadium fund deficit and crooked lease agreement without raising taxes on Hamilton County residents. As of last week, the Commission has not as much as consulted with an attorney who is a Chapter 9 expert. It is shocking to us that the Commission would refuse to fully investigate this option to solve our county's financial problems. We do not dispute that Chapter 9 bankruptcy carries its own problems, but how can the Commission reject an idea without properly investigating it?
COAST calls on the Hamilton County Commissioners to fully investigate the possibility of a Chapter 9 Bankruptcy filing. To do this, the county needs to consult an attorney who has performed this work in the past. While this would incur the expense of hiring a good attorney for several hours of consulting, it's a small and worthwhile expense compared to the $700 million of higher taxes that we face otherwise.
Considering the size of the stadium fund shortfall, Hamilton County Commissioners owe it to their constituents to leave no stone unturned. They must fully investigate all options that spare us another Stadium Tax increase. The County does not necessarily have to file Chapter 9 to make it work for them. By issuing a credible threat to declare Chapter 9 and end the lease, the teams would then have strong incentive to negotiate with the county and try to preserve some of the sweetheart provisions they currently enjoy. Otherwise, the teams have no incentive to compromise. COAST strongly encourages the current and incoming County Commissioners to put the taxpayers first for once and fully investigate all options to fix the stadium fund deficit.