STREETCAR PROJECT: Last week was a good one for Cincinnati’s long-discussed streetcar project. Not only did City Council approve issuing $66.5 million in bonds to help pay for construction, but the OKI Regional Council of Governments approved $4 million in funding and state officials approved another $15 million. For those keeping score at home, that totals $86.5 million committed toward the $128 million price tag. Project supporters believe the actions will spur the Obama administration into approving some federal grants. In a time of economic doldrums, the streetcar system is one of the best investments for creating new jobs and sparking redevelopment in blighted neighborhoods.
LOCAL JUDGES: Hamilton County’s judges — dominated by the GOP — rejected nearly $40,000 in federal money to pay for the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, operated by the U.S.
Marshals Service. The program converts an off-site location into a courthouse for a few days and allows non-violent felons to turn themselves in and clear up hundreds of outstanding arrest warrants. In other cities that have used the program, it’s saved police officers from having to track down fugitives and unclogged court dockets. Judges didn’t want the program, which was intended for this summer, implemented until after Election Day so their opponents couldn’t use it for political purposes. Of the 30 county judges, 22 are Republican.
MAYOR & CITY COUNCIL: Despite supposed security upgrades, Club Ritz in Roselawn was the scene of violence again this week — this time the shooting death of Dexter Burroughs, 22. It’s the third violent crime at the site since February. Council thought about asking the state to revoke the club’s liquor license in 2005, but didn’t when the owner promised improved security. Council thought about it again this year, but after a visit to the club by Mayor Mark Mallory and resistance from Councilmembers Laketa Cole and Cecil Thomas, the objection was shelved a second time. Enough is enough. If any other club in the city had the Ritz’s record, it would’ve been closed long ago.
CITY PENSION FUND: A committee’s proposed solutions for the city’s troubled pension fund look bleak. The Retirement System account is severely underfunded with a long-term shortfall estimated at $2 billion, caused mostly by soaring healthcare costs and a declining pool of active workers to pay into the fund. As a result, the city must either dramatically increase its annual contribution to the fund — which would require cutting some services to residents — or sell some city assets and issue bonds to pay for a one-time cash infusion. City Council can no longer avoid a tough decision to deal with this long-festering problem, and should work with City Hall unions to handle it. All sides need to agree on some sacrifices.