Friday, January 22, 1999

City OKs $14.6 M addition to budget

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Outside City Hall, councilman Phil Heimlich used a 13-foot plaster pig as a prop in denouncing $14.6 million in spending as "pure pork."
(Glenn Hartong photo)

| ZOOM |
        Cincinnati City Council passed a $14.6 million spending package as part of the city's two-year budget Wednesday one councilman said was “pork” and another called “misdirected.”

        But the seven members of the nine-member council who voted for the package insisted all the projects in the $14.6 million package will benefit the city.

        The $14.6 million in additional spending was cobbled together by the seven council members last week and was passed quickly at council's session. In all, the 1999-2000 budget calls for spending $1.8 billion.

        The extra spending includes money for the Cinergy Children's Museum, various job training programs, a fitness center for overweight children, a memorial for slain children, a riverfront park to honor former Mayor Theodore Berry and money to buy a Pleasant Ridge beauty school.

        Republican Phil Heimlich and Democrat Todd Portune voted against the budget resolutions because of the $14.6 million — money the city is carrying over from 1998 — but they did so for different reasons.

        Mr. Heimlich called the spending package “pure pork” and said spending the money “will push this city into a deficit situation within two years.”

        Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Finance Committee chairwoman Minette Cooper disputed


        Earlier in the day, Mr. Heimlich and Republican council candidates Pat DeWine and Diane Goldsmith dragged a 13-foot-long plaster pig in front of City Hall to protest the budget additions.

        Mr. Portune said he had no objections to the specific programs, saying “every one of them is intended to do good and fulfill a need in the community.”

        But the money should not be spent on those programs, Mr. Portune said, “while other needs of the city are under-addressed, such as infrastructure repair.”

        In addition to Ms. Qualls and Ms. Cooper, council members Tyrone Yates, Jim Tarbell, Paul Booth, Jeanette Cissell and Charles Winburn voted for the plan.

        Minutes after voting for the $14.6 million spending plan, Mr. Winburn introduced a motion recommending $30 million in budget cuts — after the biennial budget had been passed.

        Council rejected the motion, with Mr. Portune telling Mr. Winburn, “You can't have it both ways.”

        One of the most controversial aspects of the $14.6 million spending package was the inclusion of $150,000 to buy the Moore University of Hair Design in Pleasant Ridge and operate it as a “welfare-to-work” plan to teach hair care and salon management.

        Ms. Cooper promoted the idea, saying it would “bring an economic development tool to this city.”

        Marvin Gentry, whose company will buy and operate the school, argued the expenditure is justified because “cosmetology has been a way out for millions who didn't want to go to college. They turn out to be good, taxpaying citizens.”

        But former Hamilton County Commissioner Norman Murdock, a lawyer representing several other barber and beauty schools, said the expenditure is “an unwise use of taxpayers' money for a service that is already being provided.”

        Mr. Gentry has set up a non-profit corporation to run the salon school and a for-profit corporation to sell salon products.

        Mr. Heimlich asked the Office of Municipal Investigation to look into whether the relationship between the school and Mr. Gentry's for-profit corporation is proper.

        City council's $1.8 billion for 1999-2000 includes:

        • New and increased programs and projects for neighborhoods, including new recreation centers in College Hill and Madisonville.

        • Increased public safety services, including 18 additional police officers, two additional firefighters and enhanced advanced life support. • Enhanced affirmative action/equal opportunity programs, including Fort Washington Way work-force development.

        • $5 million a year to honor a commitment to the Cincinnati Public Schools.

        • More than $1 million for initiatives to clean up neighborhoods.


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