Thursday, July 24, 2008

City County Cleanup Partnership: The details

Numerous media outlets covered our kick-off today of the City County Cleanup Partnership, which is expanding the successful inmate clean-up details in OTR across the County. A couple excerpts:

This initiative, which kicks off next Monday, marks great progress for several reasons:

- most importantly, cleaner neighborhoods mean safer neighborhoods

- something that worked so well in one neighborhood, Over the Rhine, will now benefit sixteen--eight in the City, eight in the County; from Lincoln Heights and Colerain Township, to Forest Park and Price Hill, and a lot of places in between, each neighborhood will have a cleanup every two weeks

- the City will use its cleanups to focus on the major corridors of the City--those larger roads that run through the heart of our neighborhoods (Reading Rd., Glenway, Hamilton, Harrison, etc.). By lifting each corridor, which too often today are the most blighted parts of our communities, we will lift the livability and perception of entire communities.

- amid our budget crisis, the cost of the program (essentially, paying the Deputies who oversee the inmate crews) does not come from the County's general fund, but from grants from 3CDC, the HC Solid Waste District, and the City's Public Works Department.

- Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will augment the cleanup crews with litter and recycling awareness and prevention efforts, so we sustain the clean-up efforts by preventing litter in the first place.

This is a win in so many ways.

If you have locations in these communities you'd like to see cleaned up, please let me know through comments.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Exciting Announcement: UPDATE

Look for a pretty exciting announcement tomorrow--one that builds off successful work in Over the Rhine, brings the City and County together on yet another partnership, and is being done without any impact on the County's general fund . . .

Stay tuned . . .

UPDATE: The Enquirer has a preview . . .

We're taking the clean-up model that worked so well in Over the Rhine and expanding it across the County. I heard again and again in 2007 . . . why does only one neighborhood get this help? That was a good question, and this is our answer. More details tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who Pays?

There's nothing like a budget crunch to push good ideas forward. Sometimes, unfortunately, these ideas should have been acted upon long ago.

Yesterday, I received from the public defender's office a 2006 opinion from the Prosecutor's Office that makes very clear that the county should not be spending county/state dollars paying for the defense of indigent suspects for violations of municipal ordinances (as opposed to state statutes). Those costs should be borne by the municipality, either directly (if they have their own public defenders), or through a contract between that municipality and the County public defender's office. Here's the opinion:

It appears that this clear advice has not been followed up until now. (I have no idea why not).

I have asked the County Administration to immediately remedy the situation, and work out a contract with the City of Cincinnati, and any other municipality where this has been occurring.

This could save us hundreds of thousands per year in such costs.

It's also important for another reason. Just as when we restarted billing jurisdictions for jail stays due to the violation of municipal ordinances, this approach puts the full cost-benefit calculation of new laws directly on the municipality that passes them, as opposed to asking taxpayers from other jurisdictions to pay those costs.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Good News on Court Security

Thanks to Clerk of Courts Greg Hartman and the other County officials who, despite the difficult budget, are digging deep into available funds to pay for important services like court security. I commend them for their leadership and continued cooperation:

Today's Enquirer also provided a good analysis of our budget situation:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reducing Jail Costs, Reducing Recidivism, Part II

A week ago, I raised the issue of Medicaid, and the federal/state policy of cutting off otherwise eligible incarcerated individuals from Medicaid coverage even before their trial. ( This policy shifts the cost of inmate medical care directly to County taxpayers, and also has a very negative impact on our efforts to lower recidivism.

Many readers were startled that such a practice was even taking place, particularly when people are being denied benefits before they have been found guilty of any crime.

The good news: We've made a lot of progress on this issue.

Last week, myself, Todd Portune and Sheriff Simon Leis sent a letter to our Congressional delegation (Senators Brown and Voinovich, and Representatives Chabot and Schmidt), asking them to support H.R. 5698--Restoring the Partnership for County Health Care Costs Act. This Act would continue Medicaid coverage for all pre-trial inmates. Here's a link to our letter:

This legislation presents a great opportunity for our federal elected officials to help us tackle one of our most serious challenges as a County, not to mention save millions of dollars in local property taxes. It should help that both local Democrat and Republican leaders are calling for this change, and its benefits are many: local property tax relief, basic fairness, and a safer community. I'll keep you posted on their response.

At the same time, the working group I mentioned in my previous post has already met, and is making progress. Through our County contract with the Free Store to increase Medicaid enrollment generally, we are putting a process into place that will aim to reinstate every eligible inmate into Medicaid at the time they complete their sentence and re-enter the community.

Without this coverage to pay for medical help, some--particularly those with mental illnessess that demand costly medicine--will quickly re-engage in behaviors that will bring them right back into our jail. Hopefully, the new process will help end that cycle. And again, all this will save local taxpayers potentially millions of dollars over time.

Next step . . . talking to state leaders about changing the state approach to this, which some readers correctly noted was a significant part of the problem.

I'll continue to provide updates as we move forward.

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