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by German Lopez 11.12.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Mayor at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar Supporters Launch Campaign to Save Project

Residents, business owners rally to lobby new mayor and council

Dozens of residents and business owners gathered in Over-the-Rhine on Tuesday to launch a campaign that seeks to persuade Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council to support the $133 million streetcar project.

Attendees included Ryan Messer, who used his life savings to renovate his home in Over-the-Rhine; Derek Bauman, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress; Jean-Francois Flechet, owner of the Taste of Belgium; and Derek dos Anjos, owner of The Anchor.

“We’re here today to keep the conversation going outside of political rhetoric and partisan politics,” Messer said. “Simply put, the streetcar is a component of Cincinnati economic development, and it’s a project that grows the whole city — not just an urban core, which, by the way, is an important part of developing this region.”

The group intends to lobby Cranley and the newly elected council, which appear poised to cancel the project when they take office in December.

At least three of nine elected council members — P.G. Sittenfeld, David Mann and Kevin Flynn — have told media outlets that they want a full accounting of the project before making a final decision. Another three — Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young — are on the record as supporting the project. The final three — Christopher Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray — adamantly opposed the project in the past.

Members of the pro-streetcar group invited Cranley and all elected council members to join them at a town hall-style meeting on Nov. 14 at the Mercantile Library, where supporters will discuss their path forward. So far, supporters have publicly discussed a concerted lobbying effort, a referendum if council passes an ordinance undoing the streetcar project and possible legal action.

As CityBeat first uncovered, the costs of canceling the project are currently unknown, and some of the costs could actually fall on the operating budget that pays for police, firefighters and human services instead of the capital budget that is currently financing the streetcar project.

Much of the uncertainty falls on ongoing construction for the streetcar, which has continued despite the newly elected city government’s intent to stop the project. As of September, the city spent $23 million on the project and contractually obligated $94 million, some of which city officials say will need to be paid back even if the project were canceled.

The U.S. Department of Transportation also told city officials in a June 19 letter that nearly $41 million of nearly $45 million in federal grants would need to be returned if the project were terminated.

Supporters also claim Cincinnati would be giving up a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years if the city abandoned the streetcar now. That estimate is derived from a 2007 study conducted by consulting firm HDR, which was evaluated and supported by the University of Cincinnati.

Project executive John Deatrick says the HDR study is now outdated and the city is working on updating the numbers. Still, Deatrick says the project is intended to spur economic development, not just provide another form of public transportation.

The Nov. 13 issue of CityBeat will give a more in-depth look at the campaign to save the streetcar and some of the people involved in the movement.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 09.21.2011
 
 
seal_of_cincinnati,_ohio

Candidates On: Balancing the City's Budget

As CityBeat did in the 2007 and 2009 election cycles, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “With the city facing a potential $33 million deficit next year, what specific cuts and/or revenue enhancements would you propose or support to eliminate the shortfall?”

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 01.08.2014
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor, Streetcar at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
election_streetcaressay_juliehill

Cranley Continues Anti-Streetcar Rhetoric

Mayor threatens to replace SORTA board over streetcar debate

Despite promising to move on after he failed to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar project, Mayor John Cranley continues criticizing the project in interviews and social media.

Most recently, Cranley appeared on Local 12’s Newsmakers program and threatened to eventually replace the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) board, which manages local Metro bus services, in response to board members’ defunct offer to take up streetcar operating costs. (City Council sets SORTA appointments, not the mayor.)

“The fact is they were willing to cannibalize bus service,” Cranley said, contrary to SORTA’s insistence that their offer would not have affected bus services. “I just felt that was a huge violation of what SORTA is supposed to be about and what Metro is supposed to be about and what public transportation is supposed to be about.”

Throughout the 24-minute interview, Cranley referenced the streetcar project when discussing the city’s parking meters and other subjects — a continuation of repetitive anti-streetcar tactics Cranley deployed on the campaign trail and in mayoral debates against former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

“I think the project is wasteful and not worth the investment,” Cranley said when asked about the project. “I think we would have been better off making the hard decision to cut bait.”

Still, Cranley later added, “Obviously, since the supermajority of council went against my wishes, I have to respect the process. So I’m not going to try to sabotage the streetcar.”

The interview also follows comments on social media. After the former head of the Cincinnati Art Museum criticized the streetcar, Cranley tweeted on Dec. 27, “(N)ow some Orwellian commentators will say art director not ‘progressive.’”

The continued anti-streetcar rhetoric comes despite promises to move on that Cranley made after Councilman Kevin Flynn announced he would provide the final vote needed to veto-proof City Council’s decision to continue the streetcar project.

“As I tell my son when he doesnt get his way, its time to move on,” Cranley said on Dec. 19.

But Cranley’s heated rhetoric is nothing new in his campaign against the streetcar project.

After the Nov. 5 election, Cranley told The Cincinnati Enquirer the streetcar debate “is over.” Cranley’s comments marked a high level of confidence after voters elected a mayor and council supermajority that seemingly opposed the streetcar project, but his statement to The Enquirer proved to be wrong after Council Members Flynn, David Mann and P.G. Sittenfeld decided to continue the project.

Cranley also called city officials “incompetent” after they projected that canceling the streetcar project would cost nearly as much as completing it. Once again, Cranley’s comments proved to be wrong — an independent audit found city officials were largely correct in their assessment — but still showed the level of confident, heated rhetoric that follows the mayor’s campaign against the streetcar project.

At the very least, Cranley’s rhetoric proves that while the policy debate over the streetcar is over for now, the public discussion is not. The question is whether the messaging will work as the project moves forward and the streetcar becomes a reality of Cincinnati.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.23.2012
 
 
enquirer

Morning News and Stuff

In a move that's been expected for months, the parent company of The Enquirer informed investors Wednesday that all of its websites will implement a paywall model by year's end. Under the switch, online users will be able to access a limited number of articles for free every month, then must subscribe if they want to see additional digital content. Gannett Co. executives said it would probably offer between five and 15 articles for free per month, and compared the change to a system implemented by The New York Times last year. That newspaper, however, offers 20 free articles per month.

Hamilton County will soon have its first female coroner. The local Democratic Party's central committee will meet tonight to vote on the appointment of Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, a radiologist who lives in Indian Hill. She will replace Dr. Anant Bhati, who died last week from injuries sustained in a fall.

In a sign that the economy might be improving, local home sales increased in January. The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors says sales last month rose almost 11 percent over January last year.

The city manager and his staffers at City Hall seem to be keeping pertinent facts from Cincinnati City Council. First, council members said they weren't aware that a Hamilton restaurant in line to get almost $1 million in grants and loans to open a location at The Banks just paid off a delinquent property tax bill that was almost two years old on their eatery in Butler County. Then, council members learned the city's recently hired human relations director had to resign from her previous position in Detroit over a controversy involving a severance payment. Although Georgetta Kelly said she had nothing to do with a $200,000 payout to a woman who voluntarily left a county job to become CEO of an airport, her signature appears on some of the documents.

In news elsewhere, a Georgia lawmaker who is disturbed by Republicans' increasing attempts to pass new legislation involving abortion and birth control has offered a proposal of her own. State Rep. Yasmin Neal, a Democrat, wants to begin regulating vasectomies. If approved, her bill would ban the practice of male sterilization except in cases where a man faces serious health risks without one. It was crafted as a response to a so-called “fetal pain bill” proposed by Republicans, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks.

Even though he wants to end the Afghanistan war and impose a more isolationist foreign policy, Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has received more donations from members of the military than all of his GOP rivals and President Obama combined during 2011's fourth quarter. Paul raised more than $150,000 from active-duty military personnel.

As banks foreclose on an increasing number of properties nationwide, tenants are discovering many of those lending institutions are neglectful landlords, NPR reports.

The United Nations has a secret list of top Syrian officials who could face investigation for crimes against humanity for their violent crackdown against anti-government protestors, according to a U.N. report. The list includes Syrian President Bashar Assad, said London's The Independent. Sources tell the newspaper as many as 500 children have been killed in the violence.
 
 
by 02.25.2010
Posted In: Community, City Council, Neighborhoods at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Berding's Proposal Prompts Boycott Call

A long-simmering dispute about how much oversight should be imposed on a contractor that doles out city money for neighborhood projects is heating up again.

Just when it looked like Cincinnati officials were about to restore a contract to Invest In Neighborhoods Inc. (IIN) to manage the city’s Neighborhood Support Program (NSP), a stumbling block has occurred.

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.14.2012
 
 
lizrogers

Morning News and Stuff

A recent vote by Cincinnati City Council to give nearly $1 million in grants and loans so a Hamilton restaurant could open a second location in The Banks district is again coming under scrutiny. Council's vote occurred after a week’s delay when members learned owner Liz Rogers owed more than $49,000 in back taxes to the federal government. As it turns out, Rogers turned herself in at the Butler County Sheriff's Office Tuesday on a warrant related to another debt. The warrant was issued after Rogers failed to appear at a December 2010 hearing on a $3,000 debt she owes to Queen City Computer Press of Blue Ash. Rogers was released on a $3,100 bond posted by her husband.

Although some City Council members expressed misgivings after the latest turn of events, Rogers told WCPO-TV (Channel 9) that City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. knew about all her outstanding debts before he recommended that she get city funding.

Meanwhile, Rogers' legal troubles are adding to the embarrassment over a recent feature in The Enquirer. When the newspaper published a high-profile, above-the-fold list of the “20 Professional Women to Watch in 2012” on Feb. 12, it was criticized in journalism circles for including its own editor, Carolyn Washburn, among the honorees. But the list also included Rogers as a person to keep an eye on. That sounds about right.

The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has dropped the case against a woman charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after viewing video from the dashboard camera of the Addyston police officer who stopped her vehicle. The video shows Officer Jeremie Keene pulling Tiffany Becker from her vehicle, pushing her to the ground and cuffing her on Feb. 10, after her van allegedly failed to come to a complete stop at an intersection. Keene's police report said Becker spat at him and refused to leave her vehicle, but the video footage tells a different story.

The Kroger Co. has hired Suzanne Lindsay as its director of sustainability, a new position responsible for reducing the firm's energy consumption and waste, and increasing its transportation efficiency. Lindsay previously held a similar position at PetSmart. Cincinnati-based Kroger is the nation’s largest grocery retailer with more than 2,400 stores in 31 states.

In news elsewhere, Tuesday night likely will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Newt Gingrich's presidential aspirations. Although the ex-House Speaker placed second in primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, outright victories in the two southern states near his native Georgia were considered crucial to proving the viability of his campaign.

Despite pouring massive amounts of cash into campaigning in the two states, Mitt Romney placed third in both primaries. Rick Santorum won both contests. He got 34.5 percent of the vote in Alabama, compared to Gingrich's 29.3 percent and Romney's 29 percent. In Mississippi, Santorum got 32.9 percent, compared to Gingrich's 31.3 percent and Romney's 30.3 percent.

An advocacy group that helps victims of pedophile priests said attorneys from the Roman Catholic Church are using legal tactics to harass it into silence. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) isn't a plaintiff or a defendant in the pending cases against priests, but it has been subpoenaed five times in recent months in Kansas City and St. Louis. Also, SNAP's national director, David Clohessy, was questioned by a battery of church attorneys for more than six hours in one case.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has cancelled a planned April trip to Toronto, stating that conditions in Canada are too dangerous. Cheney had planned on giving a speech about his time in office, but had second thoughts after a September incident in Vancouver. While speaking at a private club, protesters massed outside the front door and harassed ticket holders. Cheney reportedly was held inside the building for more than seven hours as police in riot gear dispersed the demonstrators. Maybe Dick should plan a trip to Baghdad instead?

A new medical study indicates the eyes and brains of astronauts who have spent long periods of time in orbit can develop abnormalities. Magnetic resonance imaging on 27 astronauts found effects similar to those of intracranial hypertension, which results in a build up of pressure within the skull, researchers said. I guess that explains why Capt. Kirk was always such a loose cannon.
 
 
by 10.28.2009
Posted In: 2009 Election, City Council at 05:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Candidates On: Evaluating Milton Dohoney Jr.

Coverage of the non-incumbent candidates for Cincinnati City Council continues with their thoughts about the job performance of the man who oversees City Hall’s daily operations and its roughly 6,000 municipal employees.

The question is, “Do you think the current city manager, Milton Dohoney Jr., is doing a good job?”

Read More

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.23.2012
 
 
winburn

Morning News and Stuff

The sole Republican and independent members of Cincinnati City Council have called a special meeting of the group tonight to address black on black crime. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican, and Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an independent, want their colleagues to allocate an extra $300,000 for CrimeStoppers, which offers cash rewards for tips leading to the arrest of suspects in crimes. Winburn and Smitherman, both of whom are African-American, say more needs to be done to help quell shootings and violence in Avondale and elsewhere. The special session is at 6 p.m. at City Hall, located at 801 Plum St., downtown. Smitherman also is president of the NAACP's local chapter.

Winburn, however, was part of a council faction that voted two years ago to dramatically reduce funding for the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). The program involves using “violence interrupters,” usually ex-offenders, to intervene with gang members and offer advice for leaving their lives of crime. City Council cut CIRV's budget from $861,000 in 2010 to $184,000 for 2011, which reduced the number of street advocates from 16 to five. Councilman Cecil Thomas, an African-American and a retired police officer who heads council's Law and Public Safety Committee, opposed the cuts and said CIRV needs more support.

The unexpected death of attorney and real estate investor Lanny Holbrook in January has led to an awkward legal battle over a promised donation to a Catholic high school. In fall 2001 Holbrook pledged $500,000 to McAuley High School in College Hill, in return for renaming a section of its building The Nancy & Lanny Holbrook Art Wing. A few payments were made, but Holbrook fell behind before his death. Now the school is seeking the $430,000 that was never paid.

A well-known Cincinnati chef who once had his own television show on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) was arrested in March for drunken driving. Officers stopped Jean-Robert De Cavel on March 16 in Fairfax. De Cavel refused a Breathalyzer test, and eventually was convicted of a reduced charge of reckless operation. He served three days in a driving program and got his license suspended for six months with limited driving privileges. De Cavel owns Jean Robert's Table, and is a former executive chef at The Maisonette.

Sunday was Earth Day, and Kemba Credit Union marked the occasion a day early by offering free paper shredding services at its locations in Bridgetown, West Chester and Florence, Ky. More than 100,000 pounds of paper were shredded and recycled, using special equipment donated by Cintas Corp.

In news elsewhere, George Zimmerman was released early this morning from the Seminole County Jail in Florida. Zimmerman, the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February, posted $150,000 bail and left the Sanford jail fitted with an electronic monitoring device that the Sheriff's Office and Seminole County probation officers will use to keep track of him while he awaits trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

The trial of one-time vice presidential candidate John Edwards begins today in Greensboro, N.C. Edwards is accused of accepting more than $900,000 in illegal contributions during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to pay the expenses of his mistress and hide the extramarital affair. Edwards rejected a plea deal in the case, which would've required him to admit wrongdoing and serve some time in jail.

What liberal bias? President Obama received more negative coverage from the mainstream media than GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, according to a new study. The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington nonprofit that examined 52 key newspaper, television, radio, and Web outlets from Jan. 2-April 15, found Romney’s coverage was 39 percent positive, 32 percent negative and 29 percent neutral. That compares to Obama’s coverage, which was 18 percent positive, 34 percent negative and 34 percent neutral.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to lure Far Right voters after losing narrowly to his Socialist rival in the presidential election's first round. Francois Hollande came top with 28.6 percent of the vote, compared to Sarkozy's 27.1 percent. It's the first time an incumbent president in France has lost in the first round. The second round of voting will be held May 6.

Syrian government troops reportedly stormed the Damascus suburb of Douma early Sunday, with soldiers shooting at an armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad. A United Nations team of observers has arrived in Syria to try to get both sides to abide by a cease-fire agreement.
 
 
by 05.13.2010
Posted In: City Council, Public Transit, Ethics at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

City Solicitor Seeks Streetcar Opinion

In an attempt to end the controversy about whether some Cincinnati City Council members might financially benefit from the proposed streetcar project, the city solicitor today sent a letter to the Ohio Ethics Commission asking for a specific opinion about the project.

City Solicitor John Curp sent a four-page letter to the Ethics Commission, along with five pages of diagrams about the streetcar project’s likely route.

Read More

 
 
by German Lopez 12.12.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Open to Private Sector Paying Streetcar Operating Costs

Haile Foundation working with private-sector leaders to find solution

The streetcar project’s chances of survival grew on Thursday after Mayor John Cranley announced he’s willing to allow the $132.8 million project move forward if the annual operating costs for the streetcar are underwritten by private contributors.

But streetcar supporters might have as little as one week to provide assurances to Cranley that the operating costs can be underwritten by the private sector, given the federal government’s Dec. 20 deadline for up to $44.9 million in grants financing roughly one-third of the project.

Still, a representative of the Haile Foundation, a major private contributor to city projects, said private-sector leaders are already working on meeting Cranley’s offer and solving the issue.

The concern for Cranley — and even some streetcar supporters — is that annual operating expenses for the streetcar would hit the city’s already-strained operating budget, especially if the annual operating expenses are higher than the previous estimate of $3.4-$4.5 million.

Although the city wouldn’t need to pay for the full operating costs until the streetcar opens for service in 2016, Cranley and some council members are concerned finishing the project now would force the city to make payments it won't be able to afford in the future.

“We know the streetcar is a very expensive project,” Cranley said. “This community cannot afford a new, ongoing liability that goes on forever.”

Streetcar supporters argue Cranley’s view misses the streetcar’s potential for economic development, which could bring in more city revenues as more people move and work in the city.

The streetcar project would produce a 2.7-to-1 return on investment, according to a 2007 study from consulting firm HDR that was later verified by the University of Cincinnati.

Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of the two potential swing votes on council, said Cranley’s offer could provide “a way forward.” He previously told CityBeat that the operating costs remain a prominent concern for him because they could translate to cuts in the city’s budget, particularly to police and firefighters.

Eric Avner, vice president and senior program manager of community development at the Haile Foundation, called the deal “an olive branch” to streetcar supporters. He said he’s “very, very confident” the private sector will be able to find a solution.

“I don’t think we can solve it in a week. What I heard is he needs assurances,” Avner said.

Cranley said he doesn’t expect someone to come to city leaders next Wednesday with a check paying for 30 years of operating costs, but he said the commitment has to be serious and long lasting for the city to move forward with the streetcar.

Avner discussed bringing together a commission of private-sector leaders with some long-term assurances.

In what he described as an “organic” movement, Avner said he’s heard from various private-sector leaders that they want to keep the project going, but he claimed most of them don’t want to engage in a public “food fight” that could hurt their relations with the mayor and other city officials.

For Avner, it’s a matter of sticking to a project that’s already well into development and construction.

“We don’t have the luxury to waste that kind of money in this town,” he said.

Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick on Nov. 21 told council members that canceling the streetcar project could save only $7.5-$24.5 million in capital costs after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grants that would be lost if the project were stopped.

After Cranley’s announcement, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson questioned Cranley’s motives and said the solicitation might be very difficult to meet in just one week.

Cranley said he’ll reach out to the Federal Transit Administration to try to get an extension, perhaps until the end of the year, on the deadline for federal grants.

“It’s obviously a huge, huge hurdle to try to pull this together in seven days,” Cranley said.

Cranley cautioned he wouldn’t be upset if his offer fell through. Flanked by union representatives for police, firefighters and other city workers, Cranley reiterated that his priorities still lie in basic city services.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld previously proposed setting up a special improvement district to pay for the operating costs. But Cranley called the approach unworkable because it would require property owners to opt in — an effort that would presumably take much longer than one week.

Cranley’s announcement came as streetcar supporters move to place a city charter amendment in support of the streetcar project on the ballot. The campaign vowed to gather 12,000 signatures by the end of the week.

 
 

 

 

 
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