Citizens For A Better Norwood

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Tim Burke says IJ “injected itself” into Norwood case, not entitled to fees

They weren’t invited by the holdons? They crashed the party?

Admittedly, we have a bias regarding the Norwood case and Tim Burke’s deep involvement in our city’s affairs. That said, Burke’s arguments, if quoted correctly, against the IJ receiving attorney fees and costs sound both thin and desperate to us.

The losers in this case never made a secret of their contempt for the holdons (one now departed councilperson famously and loudly blamed the Gambles for Norwood’s financial problems during at least one council meeting) and the law firm, the IJ, they asked to represent them. For Burke to now argue that the fact the IJ didn’t charge the holdons fees throughout the entire process is a reason for the winning law firm to be denied compensation from the losers sounds absurd to us, even laughable.

Do tell us, Mr. Burke, how litigants who can’t afford pay-as-you-go attorneys can ever hope to protect their constitutional rights in court with your argument? And the IJ “injected itself?” That’s funny. We’ve had the same feeling about you, especially in regard to the rush job you tried to pull on our urban renewal ordinance last year. You know, the one we’re probably going to have to pay you to rewrite one more time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A new poll: Is this a case of nepotism?

Below are the contents of two letters from Safety/Service Director Geers confirming the recent employment of his son in the Public Works Department, followed by an opinion poll.

Letter #1:
Mr. Bernie G. Naegele
Merit System Administrator
Norwood Civil Service Commission

Re: Jeff Geers - New Public Works employee

Dear Bernie:

I wanted to inform you that we have hired Jeff Geers as a laborer on the Street Crew for the Department of Public Works. Mr. Geers’ starting date is Monday, November 20, 2006.

Can you please re-certify the civil service list since Mr. Geers has been hired?

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Joe C. Geers, Director
Public Service-Safety

Letter #2:
Ms. Laura Zimmerman
Assistant Deputy Auditor
Auditor’s Office

Re: New Hire

Dear Laura:

This is to advise you that Jeff Geers has been hired at the Norwood Public Works Department effective November 20, 2006. He will be in the Street Department starting at Step A of local 914’s Contract.

Joseph C. Geers, Director
Public Service-Safety

If you’d like to weigh in on this, take our poll and base your answer on your understanding of what constitutes nepotism in the public sector. Feel free to leave a comment, too.

Question of the Week

Is this a clear-cut case of nepotism?

Not Sure

Breaking news: bomb threat closes I-71 near Norwood

Several closeby businesses, including Gold’s Gym have been evacuated.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hooray! Our new ambulance arrived last week!

Last Wednesday, in time for winter, the new ambulance was delivered to the Norwood Fire Department. It’ll be ready for service in just a few weeks after it’s fitted with equipment that wasn’t part of the order. Chief Goodman has talked about how hard winters are on these vehicles, especially on the two old models we were down to, so the timing on this new arrival is excellent news and should be a big relief to us all.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

This crack about Norwood is hilarious...or is it?

Okay, so it would be pretty ironic if Norwood ever used eminent domain against Jeff Anderson’s Rookwood Exchange. We get that. It’s one thing for us locals to take our city to task over this infamous episode, but it’s quite another to see outsiders making with the jokes, even one suffering from the daily horrors of “Rumpke’s dump.” We're probably just being a little too sensitive. Lighten up, right?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

So, with Anderson's $3.5 million banked, when will Norwood be out of fiscal watch?

If you guessed sometime in the first quarter of next year, you’re probably right. According to our source at the Ohio Auditor of State, their examination of the City’s 2-year forecast is underway, and in mid to late January of ‘07, an analysis similar to the one that resulted in fiscal watch will be performed to make sure the same financial conditions no longer exist. We were told it was “realistic” to expect some good news from the AOS the early part of next year.

Here’s a link to the conditions for fiscal watch:

A little fine tuning on this Enquirer article

This past Saturday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported the following:

The Institute for Justice of Washington, D.C., has filed a motion in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court asking Judge Beth Myers to order the Rookwood Partners, the developer of the proposed Rookwood Exchange office-retail-condo complex in Norwood, to pay the law firm $850,725.

Why, we wondered, wasn’t the IJ pursuing the City of Norwood for compensation, since it was Norwood, and not Rookwood Partners, that lost the eminent domain case? Without a doubt, Rookwood Partners lost a lot as a result of the Supreme Court decision, but they were not a party to the lawsuit. We dug around a little and discovered that technically, the IJ is pursuing attorney’s fees from the City, but under the terms of Norwood’s redevelopment contract with the developer, Rookwood Partners would have to pay the freight since they agreed to pay for all the costs of the litigation. If Judge Myers sides with the IJ, this would be just one more of those costs.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

November "Norwood News" show now on YouTube!

Our half-hour show is in three 10-minute parts:

Clip 1

Clip 2

Clip 3

Friday, November 17, 2006

NCS five-year forecast online here

The school district's five-year forecast is a must-read for those of us following the BOE's discussions about a possible new levy and the two renewal levies. (See our 11/9/06 blog, "10/26/06 BOE Finance Committee meeting re: levies.") This document is on the NCS website, but it's not easily located. Our thanks to the tipster who told us how to find it.

Also, here's the link to the "5-Year Projection Assumptions":

Today's Enquirer regarding jailed parole violator

Below is contact information for any of our readers who would like to email Gov. Taft, Sen. Eric Kearney and/or Rep. Tyrone Yates about the state's parole violation policy:

Gov. Taft:

Rep. Tyrone Yates:

Sen. Eric Kearney:

Thursday, November 16, 2006

September '06 Norwood Police call stats

A monthly feature

In October, we started a regular new feature of publishing the numbers the NPD provides for their total monthly call volume plus some of the more serious incident categories they track. Unfortunately, the report is too lengthy to publish all of the categories.

Total NPD calls:
August: 2,853 = 92 per day = 3.8 per hour
September: 2,688 = 89.6 per day = 3.73 per hour

We aren’t able to format with a chart. The first set of numbers below is for August, and the second set is for September in this partial breakdown by categories of calls:

Auto Accidents: 78-78
Criminal Damage: 58-54
Dom. Violence: 35-34
Fights: 40-42
Burglary: 34-16
Traffic Stops: 298-184
DUI: 6-5
Assault: 20-26
Noise Complaints: 50-71
Theft: 145-102
Theft/Motor Vehicle: 21-12
Rape/Attempted Rape: 4-2

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quick highlights from 11/14/06 council meeting

Last night council had the first of three readings of an ordinance authorizing a new contract with Rumpke for garbage/recycling/yard waste fees to replace the one that expires 12/31/06. Compared to what Safety Service Director Geers said other communities are paying, $15 to $17 per month, our increase from the current $9.80 to $12.25 per unit per month looks like a small bargain. The new rate doesn’t include the current administration fee of 50 cents, which may or may not increase 1/1/07. The city has been applying this fee to cover a tax the state imposed on landfill costs.

Council passed an ordinance to establish a fund to receive money from Hamilton County that can only be used for our dispatch costs. Mr. Geers said he doesn’t know the dollar amount yet, but the city will receive two years’ worth of revenue. The source is a 25 cents charge on cell phones for 911 that has been pouring into the Hamilton County coffers.

It sounds as though the city is going to go all out to educate us about the new mandatory earnings tax filings that are required for this tax year. Treasurer Molony said the cost of mailers to the public, including the forms, is in the range of $10,000. Informational cable shows are also being considered.

Update on fallout from the Norwood case

Sources close to the negotiations on the Rookwood Exchange parcels tell us there should be a court date with Judge Myers in a matter of weeks, not months, that will settle a few of the outstanding issues resulting from the Ohio Supreme Court decision on the use of eminent domain. On the issue of whether the City and/or Jeff Anderson is responsible for restoring utilities and streets to the Rookwood Exchange site, Ohio law lends nothing in the way of guidance. It’s strictly uncharted waters for all parties.

Rookwood Partners still holds title to the three properties. Sources also tell us that at least one of the three properties is uninsured because it is vacant and uninhabitable. Once titles are retuned to the hold-ons, they may be facing monumental obstacles trying to secure their own property insurance…yet another twist to the extremely complex aftermath of the Supreme Court decision. We'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Finance and Audit meeting Thursday

Chairperson Joe Sanker has called a meeting of the Finance and Audit Committee for this Thursday, November 16, at 6:00 p.m. in council chambers. If court hasn’t adjourned by 6:00, the meeting will move to Conference Room B in the basement.

On the agenda:
1. 2006 Appropriations
2. 2007 Appropriations

Does anyone besides us wish Mr. Sanker would arrange for NCT to televise his committee's meetings? And speaking of meetings, have there been any ward meetings since the '05 election?

Looking for a "no-ouch" $15.00 flu shot this year?

The Norwood Health Department’s first flu shot clinic this year is Thursday, December 7th from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2059 Sherman Avenue. Call 458-4600 to make an appointment - there are still time slots available. Folks on Medicare and Medicaid need to bring their cards for billing purposes. Health Commissioner Donna Laake says there’s ample vaccine this year, so we’ll try to keep you posted on future clinic dates. And, seriously, her nurses give the best shots you can ever hope to have.

And this is REALLY important - if you know anyone who can’t get transport to the clinic, is a shut-in, etc., one of the nurses will make a home visit to deliver the shot. Just have the individual call 458-4600 to make the arrangement. What a great service!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

This just in from our roving reporter...

Our roving reporter called this in from a late evening shopping expedition:
Today, at the “Wall That Heals,” the big story circulating around was how the City of Norwood phone lines lit up when the humongous 3-story military plane flew over Dorl Field during Thursday‘s Opening Ceremony. It seems lots of folks panicked at the sight of this low-flying big bird in the sky, as well as the deafening noise it made. You can see and hear it in Clip A of our Opening Ceremony blog below.

Kudos to Victory Park Veterans and Rep. Steve Chabot for all their efforts on the “Wall That Heals.”

November "Norwood News" playing on Channel 23

Here’s the local cable Channel 23 schedule for the latest edition of the “Norwood News” show. We’ll have it up and running on YouTube, too, in a few days.

Sat @ 2:30pm

Tues @ 7:30am
Wed. @ 8:30pm
Fri .@ 1:00 am

For those who haven’t seen the September “Norwood News” yet on YouTube, the links are in the "Media Advisory..." blog below. At last count, Part I has had about 70 views. We don’t know if that qualifies as a hit or not, but we do know we appreciate all who have taken the time watch.

10/14/06 UPDATE: After a little over a week on YouTube, Part I has logged 108 views. Next most viewed is Part III at 71 then Part II with 49.
Thank you one and all!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Vietnam Veterans "Wall That Heals" opened yesterday

Video scenes now on YouTube

Rick was able to attend the Opening Ceremony of the half-size replica of the Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial and captured some scenes for us. It will be on display until dusk this Sunday, November 12, at Dorl Field, corner of Beech and Robertson. Below are the links to the videos:

Clip A

Clip B

Clip C

10/26/06 BOE Finance Committee meeting re: levies

Sorting through the revenue confusion

Susan attended the meeting and reported she came away with more questions than answers about the revenues. Before we get to that, though, Ken Miracle, then Debi Gay, said early on they’re opposed to a new levy, despite the fact the approved 5-year forecast shows a $3.1 million deficit in ‘09. Scott Faulkner shares their view, so that means a majority agrees there’s ample time between now and then to cut expenditures, which, by the way, will be the topic of the next Finance Committee meeting.

Regarding renewal levies, Susan is about 97% sure Treasurer Rabe, who is prone to whispering, said a renewal levy generating $687,000 per year expires in ’07 and would go on an ‘08 ballot for renewal. He also mentioned a second renewal collecting $1,758,000 yearly, but she did not hear him ever clearly state what year it would go before voters. Mr. Rabe mentioned this second renewal levy would actually be $1.4 million, but he didn’t elaborate - at least, not that she could hear.

We called the Board of Elections to clear this up and get the facts. According to their records and the actual levy language, the following is accurate information:

1. On 5/7/02, a 5-year, emergency levy for 5.1 mills, collecting $1,758,000 per year passed. It expires in ’07 and must go on the ballot in ’07 in order to continue it.

2. On 5/3/05, a 5-year, emergency levy for 6.63 mills, collecting $2,468,000 per year passed. It expires in ‘10 and would have to go on the ballot in that year in order to continue it.

We don’t know where Mr. Rabe got the $687,000 levy amount and the ‘08 renewal year above, but we’re going with the Board of Elections‘ levy info at this point. We were also told by the Board of Elections that school districts don’t have to put levy renewals back on the ballot but, instead, can change the millage/amounts collected annually up or down and put them on as brand new levies.

Other revenues discussed:

1. Mr. Rabe said ‘09, the year of the deficit, is when revenue from the Linden Point development will start coming in, but he didn’t plug that figure into the 5-year forecast. Perhaps it isn’t known yet. Also, because of a new 1/1/06 state statute, the district will be able to keep all of the money Linden Point generates, which was not the case on Cornerstone and Rookwood Exchange.

2. Jeff Anderson and the school district have a “gentlemen’s agreement” (If true, we wonder why it‘s oral and not written.) that he pays $87,000 yearly on the Rookwood Exchange parcels, a figure that represents what the previous homeowners would be paying.

3. With enrollment down, revenues from the state are flat.

4. Remember the $5.5 million Rickenbacker loan taken out for building repairs/renovations following the $3 million loan for the Shea Stadium project? Some of it hasn’t been spent (Mr. Rabe didn’t say how much), and the unused portion is collecting interest. We understand the money is sitting in the general fund.

5. Mr. Rabe said they were able to cut the 25% increase in health insurance costs down to 6%.

We plan to report on the next Finance Committee meeting, which will cover the district’s expenditures. For now, we’re very pleased to tell you Mr. Faulkner, Mr. Miracle, and Ms. Gay want to cut and not tax.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Breaking News...Mayor and councilperson hosting cable show!

We’ve just learned that Mayor Tom Williams and veteran TV show host Councilperson Keith Moore are hosting a live call-in program this Thursday, November 9 beginning at 7:00 p.m. on local cable channel 4. They look forward to answering lots of questions from the public.

We’ll do an update if/when we have more details.

11/8/06 UPDATE: Tomorrow night’s call-in show will run an hour. The number to call with questions is 396-7509, which will also be displayed on the screen. No word yet on whether the show will be a regular series, but our guess is if the phone lines are jammed with callers, they won’t be able to resist some encores.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Media Advisory: "Norwood News" show now playing on YouTube!

Citizens group breaks new ground, joins 21st century

Norwood, OH - Today, Citizens for a Better Norwood announced their September '06 "Norwood News" cable news show is now installed in 3 ten-minute segments on the wildly popular #1 web video site, YouTube. The half-hour show is in 3 segments because YouTube restricts videos to 10 minutes. Future editions of "Norwood News" will also be installed for viewing.

When asked how a citizens group not known for its technical skills was able to accomplish this feat, Co-Chair Rick Hursh, reaching for another quart of Gatorade, replied, "You've heard of a lick and a promise? Let's put it this way - there was so much licking, we're still drinking this stuff."

Co-Chair Carmen McKeehan said the show will continue to air on local cable channel 23 at its regularly scheduled times but added, "I'm pleased. Who could have imagined seeing "Norwood News" would ever be as easy as clicking 1-2-3? Now if our secretary Susan Knox would only get up to speed. She thinks YouTube is a plumbing pipe. She's not lying, is she?"

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A new week and a new poll

Our straw polls for 3 local races had to close because of corruption that couldn’t be overcome. Not to be deterred from having a little unscientific polling fun, we’ve engaged a new poll provider, hoping this is the fix.

At the 8/8/06 Norwood city council meeting, an ordinance was passed creating a parttime budget analyst position with no benefits to advise city officials on the finances. To date, we’re not aware of any announcement that the position has been filled.

Question of the Week

Does the city need a budget analyst?

Not Sure

Friday, November 03, 2006

NCS financial news...

How a playground mat became a spending cap

An interesting exchange took place at the June ‘06 BOE meeting during an agenda item called “Board Announcements.” After Debi Gay announced that student performances were playing on cable access and Board President Rick Guy congratulated Brian at NCT for his Blue Chip cable award, Ken Miracle called Treasurer Rabe’s attention to a $42,500 expenditure the BOE had never voted on. Board President Rick Guy quickly suggested Mr. Miracle’s topic wasn’t exactly suitable as a Board Announcement and that a phone call would be more appropriate rather than ambushing Mr. Rabe. Mr. Miracle diplomatically persisted and then asked how the school district could purchase a $42,500 rubberized playground mat without first getting BOE approval.

Mr. Rabe explained the $42,500 playground mat for Allison Elementary was purchased without a BOE vote because a state statute doesn’t require a board vote for materials that aren’t attached to school buildings. Let’s go over that again. Mr. Rabe cited an Ohio state statute that stipulates boards of education don’t have to approve any purchases, regardless of their costs, that aren’t attached to buildings. (See? That wasn’t an ambush of Mr. Rabe. He had a ready answer. Besides, he’s the one who lawfully wrote the check.)

Okay, so no board vote required since it‘s not attached, but surely an expenditure that large would have to be put out for bid, right? No, wrong. The state statute doesn’t require sealed bids on unattached items. Mr. Rabe said they got 3 quotes, though, and chose the least expensive. And speaking of quotes, our favorite quote of the meeting was when Scott Faulkner looked squarely at the treasurer and said, “That’s a lot of money to throw at a playground just to make it look nice.” To add context, Mr. Faulkner said the wood chips the PTA donated for the playground had worked just fine and said he’d like to have known about the purchase in advance.

Now for the good news: at a recent BOE meeting, we think it was September, the BOE voted 3 to 2 that all purchases not attached to buildings must have BOE approval if they cost $15,000 or more. Guess who voted against this and why. Ken Miracle and Scott Faulkner tried but were unable to persuade the other 3 board members to make the starting figure needing approval a much lower figure of $5,000 because, as Mr. Miracle said on the record when he voted no, there are too many purchase orders between $5,000 - $15,000 that never get a BOE vote. (We bet there are.)

So, fellow Norwood taxpayers, that's how two new board members turned a mat into a cap, and we thank them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Introducing our new Haloscan comments box

commenting has been installed because we like the format and think it provides an easier read. When you click on “comments,” you’ll see three fields in the pop-up, all of which can be left blank when you want to publish a post. Leaving “Name” blank will make “Anonymous” appear with your comment.

1. Name
2. Email
3. URL

Again, none of the 3 fields above is required. As always, you can post anonymously, using either your own name or a handle. We welcome feedback on this new feature, so please feel free to comment on it or ask questions, if you have any.