A series of contradictory tweets and blog comments posted by members of an anti-transit group has observers wondering of there is dissension in its ranks — or whether one member simply has anger management issues.
Ever since an initiative put on the Nov. 8 ballot by the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was rejected by voters, someone with the group has vowed on various local blogs that it still would try to block Cincinnati’s streetcar project.
Last month COAST and the NAACP’s local chapter mounted their second ballot initiative in two years to stop the project. Under the proposal, city officials would’ve been prohibited from spending money on anything related to preparing any type of passenger rail transit, including the streetcar system, through Dec. 31, 2020. Further, it would’ve restricted the city from accepting federal grants for such projects, along with entering into public-private partnerships or even accepting private investment for a passenger rail project within the city’s rights-of-way.
The measure failed, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Earlier this month the Obama administration awarded a $10.92 million transportation grant to the project. The cash means a scuttled connection from downtown to the riverfront will be restored. Construction is expected to begin in the next few months.
The action prompted someone using COAST’s name to take to the Internet and allege the political and legal battles over the project weren’t over.
"We’re going to make sure this project sees delay after delay after delay until it is back down the toilet where it belongs," someone using the name “COAST” posted Dec. 14 on the UrbanCincy blog.
The next day, in the same stream of comments, COAST posted, “Horrible waste of taxpayer money.
Although it’s unclear who wrote the comment, Mark Miller, the group’s treasurer, writes many of COAST’s blog comments and tweets. Miller ignited public outrage and apologized after he tweeted on Sept. 11, “3% of FDNY died 10 yrs ago by terrorism. Today Cincinnati lost 17.5% of fire companies by brownout to pay for a streetcar. Which is worse?”
So, crazy, over-the-top invective is nothing new for the group.
On Dec. 21, after a fire at a Westwood apartment building killed 2-year-old Tristen Sanders, COAST tweeted, “2 year old dead in fire. City brown outs to blame; no doubt City Mgr will deny. Tragedy of misdirected funds continues.”
Kevin LeMaster, who operates the Building Cincinnati blog, checked with city officials and learned that the closest fire stations weren’t shut during the Westwood incident, making COAST’s tweet inaccurate.
During last fall’s campaign for Issue 48, COAST made multiple allegations on a near-daily basis of blaming the "browning out" of certain Fire Department companies on the streetcar project. It has made similar claims on the campaign trail. “Companies” is firefighter lingo for a ladder track, a pumper or a heavy rescue unit and the four people who work on each. During a brownout, those workers are transferred to other duties. City administrators have said the actions are needed to reduce the department's soaring overtime costs and help avoid a projected deficit for 2012 that could reach $33 million.
But the brownouts were unconnected to the streetcar project, city administrators said. The project is funded through state and federal grants, along with construction bonds from the city's Capital Improvements budget. The brownouts are needed to cut costs in the city's General Fund budget, which covers daily operations.
This week, after CityBeat published its annual “Year in Review” article that mentioned the streetcar project’s progress, someone using the name “COAST” posted online, “Forget Detroit. We are the next Moscow. Fountain Square is now Red Square with Liberal Marxist Communists running amuck fleecing the taxpayers to pay for amusement park rides through the ghetto. The Mayor's Trolley Folly will never see the light of day. We'll make sure of that Yups.”
“Yups,” apparently, refers to “yuppies.”
Less than 24 hours later, however, COAST posted the following comment, “We respect the outcome of the recent vote. We live in a democracy and the people have spoken. COAST wishes the City and its residents the best of luck as it builds the streetcar. While you won't see us turning shovels, we recognize what the people want and will get out of the way.”
We’re awaiting clarification from COAST on exactly what its plans are. If, in fact, members actually know.