Citizens For A Better Norwood

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just in...Superintendent’s letter to Mayor asking for 3 City properties

The first 40 minutes of last week’s 1/23/07 council meeting brought forth several revelations regarding the proposed TIF at Linden Pointe:

1.) Starting 7/7/06, the developer’s representative started meeting with Superintendent Collier, former school treasurer Rabe and a school attorney regarding two proposals under consideration but has not yet been able to make a pitch to or communicate directly with the full BOE. NCS has two options from which choose. We understand them to be:

A. No TIF for a public garage, enhancements for the Montgomery Road overpass, etc. This would result in a half-sized project of 300,000 sq. ft. of office space with ½ the number of parking spaces for a total value of $48 million on the total project. The developer would get a 100% tax abatement from Ohio EPA on Phase I (currently under construction and valued at over $20 million), i.e. would not pay any real estate taxes on
this phase, but would pay full taxes on the other two phases that would be built. This option would provide NCS with $17,142,000 over 30 years.

B. A TIF that would result in a public garage, etc. and a full 600,000 sq. ft., $100 million project. The developer would forego the EPA tax abatement on Phase I and 25% payment would be made to the school district. This option would provide NCS with $25,526,000 over 30 years.

2.) Mayor Williams called attention to a letter he had just received from Superintendent Collier asking the City to deed three properties to the school district in order for the BOE to reach an agreement on the TIF.

We thought publishing Mr. Collier’s letter to Mayor Williams would be a good place to start with what is probably going to be our first of several blogs on the topic of the Linden Pointe TIF. Oh, and if there are any TIF junkies reading this, please feel free to correct/expand on our stated understanding of the two options above from which NCS has to choose.

P.S. Please post comments on this page and not the page where Mr. Collier's letter is posted.

Local eminent domain expert to chair state Dem. association

Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Norwood’s attorney in the Norwood eminent domain case, has been elected chairman of the Ohio Association of Democratic Chairs, “a position that will make him a close adviser to the state party Chairman Chris Redfern…” Norwood’s State Rep. Tyrone Yates was elected president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

27th Anniversary Concert clips now playing on YouTube

Rick videotaped last night's concert (see 1/25/07 blog below) at the middle school and just got them installed for our listening and viewing pleasure:

Clip A

Clip B

Clip C

Monday, January 29, 2007

Todd Portune takes on Enquirer’s “incendiary” headlines and content

In yesterday’s guest column at the Cincinnati Beacon, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune writes, “ The new business model for the Enquirer is to drive as many “hits” as they can to their website for purposes of their on-line advertisers” and cites the recent headline “Jail plans would need taxes” as proof their headlines are written to “drive interest - not necessarily to inform the reader.”

He also addresses an inflated cost the reporter used for the new jail: “Last, Howard discusses that this is for a $230 Million jail. We have never said that. That was the Heimlich figure. In contrast I have stressed to county administration that we must bring in any new build facility at or below $150 Million for 1800 new beds and that we need to look to using other existing facilities or buildings as a first option in order to further drive costs down.”

Friday, January 26, 2007

Judge rules Institute for Justice entitled to attorneys fees/expenses!

The Enquirer is reporting Judge Beth Myers based today’s decision on Ohio Law that “permits non-profit agencies that represent property owners in eminent-domain cases” to be compensated. It remains to be worked how much Rookwood Partners will have to pay of the $850,000+ the IJ is seeking.

1/26/07, 6:30 p.m., UPDATE
: This clarifying email just in from IJ attorney Scott Bullock: “Just looked at the blog and comment and noticed that the commenter said we are funded by major corporations. Of course, this is total nonsense. Less than 1% of our funding comes from corporations, and no one person or entity gives us more than 6% of our budget.”

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Norwood Music Department's 27th Anniversary Concert

Got the winter blahs from being stuck in the house with nothing to do? Want a low cost way to get some culture in your life? How about taking your little lady (or your man or just yourself) out for a night of special entertainment? Norwood City Schools has a treat for you. On Monday, January 29, starting at 7:30 P.M., the Norwood Music Department will be performing their 27th Anniversary Concert featuring the Norwood Orchestra playing Bellingrath Gardens, Simple Gifts, and From the New World. In addition, the Celtic Band will be playing various tunes. By the way, if you don’t have their latest CD, see the director Joel Greenburg - it’s great stuff. The opening act will be performed by the 6th through 8th grade strings programs. The performance will be in the middle school auditorium at 2060 Sherman Avenue and should conclude at about 8:30.

Tuesday's Law & Ordinance Committee meeting to be televised

And what an agenda!

Chairperson Keith Moore has this committee’s meetings televised as a rule. Other members are Brigid Kelly and Victor Schneider. Law Director Rick Gibson suggested during the 1/9/07 council meeting that council ought to consider a sexual predator ordinance along the lines of what Cincinnati City Council was doing, i.e. restrictions on the proximities predators could live to parks, swimming pools, day cares, etc.

Date: January 30, 2007
Time: 6:30 PM
Place: Council Chambers
Televised: Local government channel 4

1. Amending Council Rules
2. Sexual Predators **
3. Draft Ordinance Re: Budget
4. Vacant Property
5. Zoning
6. Chapter 105 – Ward Boundaries***

** Related story in today’s Enquirer, “Portune: Where will sex offenders go?” . He’s afraid the new and stricter Cincinnati law will result in a migration to the suburbs.

***Added to agenda 1/29/06

1/30/07 UPDATE: The meeting wasn't broadcast live, apparently because of technical problems. We'll post the Channel 4 replay schedule as soon as we're able to obtain it.

1/31/07 UPDATE: Per NCT, here's the Channel 4 replay schedule for the L & A Committee meeting:

Thursday @ 3:00 p.m.
Friday @ 8:00 a.m.
Saturday @ 7:00 p.m.
Monday @ 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Another unscientific poll: Should Finance & Audit Committee meetings be televised?

Chairperson Joe Sanker rarely makes arrangements with NCT for his Finance & Audit Committee meetings to air on local government access Channel 4. The last meeting known to have been televised was over 2 1/2 years ago in May, 2004. The fact that Community Development Committee meetings haven’t aired since around that time, either, we’ll leave for another day.

We’ve installed 3 clips from the 1/11/07 Finance Committee meeting on YouTube, compliments of a Norwood resident who videotaped most of the 2-hours+ it lasted. If you've never attended one of these meetings, our clips will give you a taste of the proceedings; and, if you're a "not sure," viewing them may even help you decide how to cast your vote in our poll below.

Clips A and B feature Mr. Molony leading a discussion about some of the details of the new mandatory tax filings and the increased staffing his office needs to handle the extra work involved in tracking residents’ earnings taxes accounts.

Clip C is a rather vigorous debate between Councilperson Schneider and Treasurer Molony about whether Mr. Molony and other department heads should attend regular council meetings to defend/explain ordinances increasing staffing in their offices.

Clip A Mandatory filing

Clip B Mandatory filing cont'd

Clip C Debate

Copy of Copy of Question of the Week

Should Finance & Audit Committee meetings be televised?

Not sure

Tonight’s council meeting may be another “must-see TV”

The Rentway furniture rental store ordinance is back on the agenda for a second reading. As we reported in our 1/10/07 "How much did..." blog below, an informative discussion followed a hearing on this matter at the 1/9/07 council meeting. Rentway is located at the Norwood Plaza, which is, if we may say so, quickly becoming a blight on our community. Norwood’s Planning Commission has recommended denying Rentway’s request to expand. Mayor Williams, who serves on the commission, stated, “We’re not going to assist certain kinds of businesses.” (That would be check-cashing, gambling, and furniture rental establishments and the like.)

Rentway’s request is for interior changes only and would not affect the façade. The attorney for the Plaza’s management company argued that this is a sort of test case to see if the City is going to cooperate before the company moves ahead with further improvements and/or exercises its option to purchase the entire property. Is Mayor Williams on the money with his concern that this request represents an “it’ll-get -piecemealed-out” approach to the Norwood Plaza? This looks like a tough call council is going to have to make on this ordinance:


1/24/07 UPDATE:
This turned out not to be a tough call at all last night. With not much discussion, council voted 6-1 to pass the ordinance after the 2nd and 3rd readings. Mr. Schneider was the dissenting vote.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Just in...Nonpartisan campaign workshop for local candidates

This is surely a first in Norwood. We’ve just learned that Councilperson Victor Schneider is independently hosting a 2-hour February workshop for Norwood residents, regardless of political party affiliation, who are thinking about running for local city offices this year. A veteran candidate of campaigns for both mayor and council, Mr. Schneider will do a presentation and answer questions covering topics such as the filing deadline; campaign finance reporting; recruiting support volunteers; campaign signs and literature - almost everything you ever wanted to know about running for office but didn’t know who to ask. It’s free, of course, and here are the particulars:

Date: Saturday, February 10, 2007
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Location: Norwood Health Dept. at 2059 Sherman Avenue

2007 Norwood races:
city auditor
law director (thanks to our commenter for reminding us to add this one)
president of council
wards 1 through 4 council seats
3 council-at-large seats

1/21/07 UPDATE: Dean over at the Cincinnati Beacon is so impressed with Councilperson Schneider’s nonpartisan workshop for Norwood candidates that he's made it the subject of today’s editorial. He's even posted the letter he’s sent to Cincinnati council members urging them to follow Mr. Schneider’s lead.
Will at least one of them take the challenge? Maybe this is an idea whose time has come. Read all about it at:

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ohio group pushing for November school funding amendment

Today’s Enquirer reports The Getting it Right for Ohio’s Future group has collected five times the number of signatures needed to get a constitutional amendment on the November 6 ballot that will change how public schools are funded. Backers include the Ohio Education Association teachers union.

Key features:

1.) Shift much of the tax burden from local property owners to the state, but did not specify how that money would be raised.

2.) Determine levels of funding based on student classroom needs, location and demographic circumstances of pupils.

3.) Exempt seniors and disabled citizens from paying property taxes on the first $40,000 market value of their homes.

4.) Create a nine-member commission, appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, to oversee the school funding system.

The article adds, "The Ohio Supreme Court, in four separate decisions, has ruled that Ohio's system of funding public school districts is inequitable and unconstitutional. But the legislature has not come up with a new way to finance schools, including what critics say is the system's overreliance on property taxes."

Is it too much to hope this amendment could simultaneously solve Ohio's school funding dilemma and provide homeowners with some property tax relief?

1/23/07 UPDATE: Talk about opposing this amendment! The Enquirer’s Peter Bronson says this “Education petition is poison” in today’s editorial:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

November '06 Norwood Police call stats

A monthly feature

The November NPD call report showed a significant drop in total call volume from previous months.

Total NPD calls:
August: 2,853 = 92 per day = 3.8 per hour
September: 2,688 = 89.6 per day = 3.73 per hour
October: 2,850 = 91.9 per day = 3.83 per hour
November: 2,407 = 80.2 per day = 3.34 per hour

Below are the number of calls for some of the more serious incident categories the NPD tracks. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to format with a chart. The first set of numbers below is for August, followed by September, October, and November, in this partial breakdown by categories of calls:

Auto Accidents: 78-78-70-75
Criminal Damage: 58-54-47-42
Dom. Violence: 35-34-39-20
Fights: 40-42-43-37
Burglary: 34-16-26-15
Traffic Stops: 298-184-317-287
DUI: 6-5-11-7
Assault: 20-26-29-14
Noise Complaints: 50-71-49-36
Theft: 145-102-139-125
Theft/Motor Vehicle: 21-12-14-7
Rape/Attempted Rape: 4-2-4-1

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Did the Mayor miss an ORC deadline?

As we mentioned in our blog directly below, Councilperson Schneider read from Title VII of the Ohio Revised Code at the 1/9/07 council meeting. Curious, we decided to take a look at ORC 705.18 ourselves and also publish it here in its entirety:

§ 705.18. Annual appropriation ordinance; supplemental appropriation.

“An annual appropriation ordinance shall be prepared by the legislative authority of a municipal corporation from estimates submitted by the mayor, (our emphasis) the chairman of the commission, or the city manager, as the case may be, in the manner provided in section 705.17 of the Revised Code for the annual tax ordinance. The annual appropriation ordinance shall be submitted to the legislative authority at its first meeting in January, (our emphasis) and the total of any appropriation ordinance passed by such legislative authority shall not exceed the total balances carried over from the previous year plus the estimated revenue of the current year. Supplemental appropriations shall not be made during the current year except from a contingent fund regularly set aside by the legislative authority in the annual appropriation ordinance or unless by an ordinance passed as an emergency measure.”

There was no “annual appropriation ordinance” before council at the “first meeting in January” this past Tuesday, apparently because council did not receive the required estimates from Mayor Williams in time. Attorneys we aren’t, but after reading this statute, we can understand why Mr. Schneider called attention to it. If there’s been a violation, where does it rank on the scale of seriousness?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How much did last night’s council meeting rock?

So much that somebody forgot to hit the record button

This meeting was 'must-see TV.' They talked, asked pertinent questions, they were cogent, they debated,…and they were civil to one another throughout. The hearing about the Rentway expansion at the Plaza, the discussion that followed, including the Mayor’s input, was informative almost beyond belief. Instead of quickly rubberstamping the Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny Rentway’s request to expand, council decided to take more time to consider the ordinance denying it and settled on one reading only.

Law Director Gibson was there to help explain a few things, especially the ordinance tying pay increases for appointed (unclassified) employees to those in the new AFSCME contract. Ms. Kelly was first to question the AFSCME reference as “murky,” followed by Mr. Gabbard objecting to it as a “me, too” clause like the one council voted against recently in one of the labor contracts, and Mr. Gibson agreed with both of them. One reading only on this one, too. Mr. Schneider read from Title VII of the ORC as part of his effort to get the Mayor’s office back to generating a yearly budget instead of council doing the heavy lifting. Oh, and Mr. Gibson seems to think council might want to revisit the topic of sexual predators and how far they should live from parks and swimming pools, not just schools.

Interruptions (we need to remember to turn our phones off at home when Jane Grote issues the order in council chambers) caused us to miss some of the meeting, so we’ll catch tonight’s Channel 4 replay at 9:30 and remember to record. But first impressions tell us we might be feeling another unscientific poll coming on, maybe two. If you can’t catch tonight’s replay, you can see it Monday at 8:00 p.m. and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Monday, January 08, 2007

COAST’s media release in advance of Enquirer article

It opens with, “Recently, COAST received an inquiry from Kimball Perry, County reporter from the Cincinnati Enquirer, asking questions about COAST. We thought it would be appropriate for COAST to share directly with its members its response, rather than reading a filtered version in the morning’s Enquirer.”

Apparently, an article is forthcoming soon, and apparently, this media release is a preemptive strike in the event the Enquirer doesn’t coast along with COAST’s version of events. There's also a gossipy editorial about this on the home page at the Beacon if you can bear reading about the Whistleblower.

1/14/07 UPDATE: But wait, there’s more…the Beacon reports on a very different list of COAST “accomplishments” as published in the Community Press recently. Guest columnist Carrie Davis has declared war on COAST, blaming them for a host of social ills, including putting children and the elderly at risk:

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lordy, this Enquirer article about school funding makes our heads hurt.

Dusty says he'll "bite it."

It’s a very long and detailed article, and, no, we’re definitely not going to try to explain what the Oak Hills Local School District is considering doing about “transferring some property tax revenue from one fund to another in a move that officials say will protect more revenue from being lost to the disrict through annual tax rate adjustments.” Even Dusty Rhodes said it “is almost impossible for the average person to understand.” Maybe some of our readers can explain it to us. Maybe we’ll start reading the article again (and again and again) earlier in the day tomorrow. Even though Dusty said he’s going to “bite it” if he can, if he can’t and the Oak Hills District plan gets the approval of the county budget commission (Rhodes, Goering, and Deters), could this method of a school district bypassing voters to increase revenue ever become widespread, as in coming Norwood's way? How we wish homeowners everywhere could get some relief from school levies and school personnel from spending their time promoting them.
1/10/07 UPDATE: The Enquirer reports Oak Hills school board unanimously approved their tax revenue transfer plan. Dusty, who lives in the O.H. School District, says, "My intention is to prevent it on the Budget Commission. The question is how much discretion we've got..."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back to Norwood's new mandatory tax filing

While on hiatus, we saved a short Enquirer blurb about Norwood’s new mandatory earnings tax ordinance. Treasurer Malony is now on the record with a figure by which he expects to increase earnings taxes for the City:

Tax law applies to all over 15
As of Jan. 1, every Norwood resident over 15 years old must file a city earnings tax return for 2006 - even if no taxes are due. Norwood City Council approved the new law this past year. Norwood has a 2 percent earnings tax.

For more information, call the city's earnings tax department at 513-458-4590 or see Norwood's Web site,

The mandatory filing is expected to increase Norwood's annual earnings tax revenue by as much as $200,000 to $300,000, said Tim Molony, city treasurer.
The filing deadline is April 15.”

A lively November debate about this among our readers, linked in the headline above, uncovered some interesting information from the Performance Audit. If Mr. Molony’s estimate of an additional $200,000 to $300,000 is plausible, that probably means he expects to identify around 1,000 “new” taxpayers owing the City an average of $222 each. Is that realistic - adding 1,000 previously unidentified, non-paying (shame on them) Norwood residents to the earnings tax rolls, or is Mr. Malony using his own formula apart from the Performance Audit? Frankly, we’re skeptical about his forecast of the potential return on the City’s investment in this endeavor, especially if one of our November debaters was correct about it being in the neighborhood of an extra $100,000 expense (per year, apparently) to collect it. Down the road, we’ll be looking for some cold hard numbers from Mr. Molony proving this is a worthwhile venture for Norwood taxpayers.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Results of our unscientific nepotism poll

It wasn’t even close. A clear 69% majority (27 “yes“) of 39 total voters said Safety Service Director Geers hiring his son in Public Works was a clear case of nepotism. So what does this tell us? For one thing, 39 is more than twice the number that voted on our previous poll question, “Does the city need a budget analyst.” Perhaps that’s because we simply may have more visitors than we had during the earlier poll, or maybe it’s because strong opinions about nepotism/what looks like nepotism drove more of our visitors to cast votes. Speaking strictly unscientifically, we think it’s probably some combination of the two. Do the results tell us nepotism is a burning issue in Norwood? We’re encouraged they might indicate a trend, but for that answer, we’ll have to see if nepotism gets even a mention during this year’s campaigns for city office and then wait, of course, for the results of the only poll that matters in November. Okay, we're done with nepotism...until the next time it happens. Thanks to everyone who voted!

1/7/07 UPDATE: We're glad to see two more votes have come in on the poll: 1 each for "yes" and "no." That brings the majority down slightly to 68%.

Taxpayers will fund Simon Leis' "nonsense"

We got a little out of sorts Saturday morning reading about Judge Ruehlman granting Leis’ request to hire tax-funded private attorneys to sue the county commissioners, especially that he “did not elaborate on his reasons.” Fortunately, a county source close to the action was available to give us some clarification about this ruling, and here’s how it goes:

“Ruehlman had no choice in allowing the sheriff access to counsel.”

There it is, “no choice.” Hardly as mysterious as the Enquirer made it seem. Our source went on to explain that that doesn’t necessarily mean the sheriff’s attorneys will actually sue because “there are absolutely no grounds to do so. That is the also the Prosecutor’s (Deters) opinion and one the Prosecutor shared with Leis.” Was Leis listening?

So, Norwood taxpayers, are we ready to fund private attorneys for the sheriff and possibly the commissioners, too? Does the brand new Hamilton County Commission need the threat of a Leis lawsuit before they’ll come up with an alternative jail (tax) plan? From the looks of it, no, since the commissioners may be revving up a new jail task force as soon tomorrow. We welcome any insight our readers may have on this because from where we sit right now, this looks like some really bad theatre on the sheriff’s part, or rather, “nonsense” as the County Administrator Thompson called it.

1/3/07 UPDATE: There’s an investigative piece on this at Court documents tell an intriguing story about the attorney fees.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bessie’s Mad COW report for January

January 2nd meeting cancelled, not rescheduled

After cancelled COW meetings for November and December, January arrives with no pressing issues, or so said COW Chair Mumper at the 12/28 council meeting when he cancelled tomorrow night’s meeting because City Hall is closed. No reschedule date? Oh, that’s right, there are no pressing issues for COW after not meeting since October 3. That’s three whole months. Hey, I’ve got a pressing issue. I make a motion we dock some council pay. Do I hear a second?