WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Latest Blogs
by German Lopez 11.19.2013
Posted In: News, Education at 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cps offices

Report: Poverty Skews Urban School Funding

Study filters spending on poverty and other special needs to allow better comparisons

Urban schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than previously assumed after accounting for miscellaneous expenditures related to poverty, according to a Nov. 19 report from three school advocacy groups.

If it’s accepted by state officials and taxpayers, the report could give way to a reorientation of how school funds are allocated in Ohio — perhaps with a more favorable approach to urban and rural school districts.

The report’s formula acknowledges that some students, particularly those in poverty, take more resources to educate, typically to make up for external factors that depress academic performance. After those higher costs are taken into account, the report calculates how much money schools have left over for a typical student.

“If under-funded, districts with concentrations of poverty will not have the resources left over for the educational opportunities we want to see for all students,” said Howard Fleeter, the report’s author, in a statement.

The report finds urban school districts like Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and Lockland Schools spend considerably less on basic education for a typical student than wealthy suburban school districts like Indian Hill Schools and Sycamore Community Schools.

After weighing spending on poverty and other miscellaneous programs, major urban school districts lose more than 39 percent in per-pupil education spending and poor rural school districts lose nearly 24 percent, while wealthy suburban schools lose slightly more than 14 percent.

Following the deductions, CPS drops from a pre-weighted rank of No. 17 most per-pupil funding out of 605 school districts in the state to No. 55. Lockland Schools falls from No. 64 to No. 234.

The report similarly drops New Miami Schools, a poor rural district in Butler County, from No. 327 to No. 588.

Indian Hill actually gains in overall state rankings, going from No. 11 to No. 4. Sycamore Community Schools also rise from No. 22 to No. 14.

The Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials commissioned the report through the Education Tax Policy Institute, an Ohio-based group of researchers and analysts.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.19.2013
Posted In: News, Energy, Environment, Taxes at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
news1_angrypowerplant_ashleykroninger

Morning News and Stuff

Bill weakens energy standards, groups rally against global warming, county could cut taxes

Cincinnati’s State Sen. Bill Seitz says he will introduce a “compromise” bill that still weakens Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards but allows some of the current requirements for in-state renewable sources to remain for a few years. Environmental and business groups argue Seitz’s original bill would effectively gut the state’s energy standards and, according to a study from Ohio State University and the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, force Ohioans to pay an extra $3.65 billion in electricity bills over 12 years. But some utility companies, particularly Akron-based FirstEnergy, claim the current standards are too burdensome and impose extra costs on consumers.

Meanwhile, Ohioans on Nov. 16 rallied in front of the Ohio Statehouse to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming. The regulations are part of President Barack Obama’s second-term plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which Environment Ohio says are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary contributor to global warming. Although some conservatives deny human-caused global warming, scientists stated in the 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.

Hamilton County commissioners will vote on Wednesday on a plan that would increase the tax return received by property taxpayers. Republican Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s proposal would increase the rebate from $10 million to $12 million, or $35 for each $100,000 of property value in 2013 to $42 in 2014. But Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune, the lone Democrat in the three-member board, says he would rather focus on increasing the sales tax to make the stadium fund sustainable and not reliant on casino revenue, which could go to other investments.

Commissioners also agreed to not place a property tax levy renewal for the Cincinnati Museum Center on the ballot until there’s a plan to fix Union Terminal. The informal decision followed the recommendations of the Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee, which reported that it will only support the levy renewal if the city, county and museum develop a plan to transfer ownership of Union Terminal from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and locate public and private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable fashion.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced on Monday that he’s forming a heroin unit to tackle what he describes as a drug epidemic sweeping across Ohio’s communities. The effort, which is estimated at $1 million, will focus on education, outreach and law enforcement. David Pepper, DeWine’s likely Democratic opponent for the attorney general position in 2014, argues DeWine, a Republican, moved too slowly on the issue; Pepper says the problem began in 2011, more than two years before DeWine’s proposal.

Cincinnati council members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman yesterday reiterated their opposition to the city’s responsible bidder policy, which requires bidders for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) work to follow specific standards for apprenticeship programs. The law has caused an impasse between the county, which owns MSD, and the city, which is in charge of management. The conflict comes in the middle of a federal mandate asking MSD to retrofit Cincinnati’s sewer system — a project that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.

Cincinnati’s Department of Public Services will expedite the delivery of bigger trash carts. The deliveries are part of Mayor Mark Mallory’s controversial trash policy, which limits each household to one trash cart that can be picked up by automated trucks in an effort to save money and avoid workers’ injuries. Mayor-elect John Cranley says the policy is too limiting and causing people to dump trash in public areas.

Cincinnati’s Metro is the most efficient bus service compared to 11 peer cities, but it ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to level of service, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center. Metro plans to announce today that it will balance its operational budget without fare increases or service cuts for the fourth year in a row.

For Thanksgiving Day, Metro will run on a holiday schedule. The sales office will also be closed for Thanksgiving and the day after.

Ohio will receive nearly $717,000 in a multi-state settlement involving Google, which supposedly overrode some browsers’ settings to plant cookies that collect information for advertisements.

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday disbarred Stan Chesley, which means the local attorney can no longer practice law in front of the nation’s highest court. The controversy surrounding Chesley began more than a decade ago when he was accused of misconduct for his involvement with a $200 million fen-phen diet-drug settlement.

Some organisms might evolve the ability to evolve.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 11.18.2013
Posted In: News, Environment, Energy at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
environment rally

Ohioans Rally for Global Warming Regulations

Environmental groups call on Sen. Brown to show support

More than 200 Ohioans gathered at the Ohio Statehouse on Saturday to call on U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman to support federal regulations that would attempt to curtail human-caused global warming.

The regulations would impose stricter pollution limits on power plants across the nation, which Environment Ohio says are responsible for 41 percent of U.S. carbon emissions — a primary contributor to global warming.

The new rules are part of the climate plan President Barack Obama proposed in June to skip legislative action from a gridlocked Congress and slow down global warming by using the already-established regulatory arm of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Our message today is clear. The time is now to act on climate,” said Christian Adams, state associate with Environment Ohio, in a statement. “Global warming threatens our health, our environment and our children’s future. Ohioans support President Obama’s plan to clean up the biggest carbon polluters.”

The Obama administration proposed regulations on new power plants on Sept. 20 that effectively prevent any new coal power plants from opening up if they don’t capture and sequester carbon pollution. Experts argue those limits will have little effect on future carbon emissions because new coal power plants are already being phased out by natural gas.

But the statehouse rally asked Ohio’s senators to support incoming regulations that will impose further restrictions on existing power plants and — if they’re effective — reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere.

The regulations could have large implications for Ohio. A previous report from Environment Ohio found Ohio’s power plants pollute more than those in any state except Texas.

Coal companies warn the regulations could cost jobs. St. Louis-based Patriot Coal says “burdensome environmental and governmental regulations” have already “impacted demand for coal and increased costs.”

But the regulations could simply shift jobs to cleaner energy sectors. A 2012 report from Environment Ohio found Cincinnati could become the regional capital of solar power and help revitalize its economy with new jobs in the process.

Scientists have historically called for reducing global warming to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst effects of climate change. That would involve greatly reducing the amount of carbon that goes into the atmosphere over the next few decades, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In the IPCC’s 2013 report, scientists said they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.

Many economists argue a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system are better ways to tackle climate change than regulations. But those policies would require legislative action that is unlikely in the current political climate, especially since many Republican legislators deny the science behind human-caused global warming.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.18.2013
Posted In: News, JobsOhio, Taxes, Commissioners at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

JobsOhio benefits Columbus, property tax return could grow, museum levy gets conditions

JobsOhio, the state-funded privatized development agency, grants more tax credits around Columbus, the state capital, than anywhere else in the state. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, the discrepancy might be driven by Columbus’ high growth rate and the city’s proximity to the state government, which could make Columbus officials more aware of tax-credit opportunities. But Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann also blames local governments in southwest Ohio for failing to act in unison with a concerted economic plan to bring in more tax credits and jobs.

Hartmann today plans to introduce a partial restoration of the property tax return that voters were promised when they approved a half-cent sales tax hike to build Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium. The return was reduced when there wasn’t enough money in the sales tax fund to pay for the stadiums last year, but there might be enough money now to give property taxpayers more of their money back. It was unclear as of Sunday how much money someone with a $100,000 home would get back under Hartmanns plan.

Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Committee will recommend a tax levy for the Cincinnati Museum Center only if a few conditions are met, including transfer of ownership of the Union Terminal from the city to a new, to-be-formed entity and allocation of public and private funds to renovate and upkeep the terminal in a sustainable fashion.

City Council last week asked the city administration to find and allocate $30,000 for the winter shelter, which would put the shelter closer to the $75,000 it needs to remain open between mid-to-late December and February. The shelter currently estimates it’s at approximately $32,000, according to Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. The city administration now needs to locate the money and turn the transaction into an ordinance that needs City Council approval and would make the allocation of funds official. To contribute to the winter shelter, go to tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati and type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional)” before making a donation.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced Thursday that it plans to cut about 500 jobs in Akron, Ohio. State officials were apparently aware of the plan in October but underestimated how quickly Lockheed Martin would carry out the cuts. Ohio Democrats jumped on the opportunity to mock JobsOhio for failing to move at the “speed of business,” as Republicans claim only the privatized development agency can, to develop an incentive package that could have kept Lockheed Martin in Akron. But state officials say they were led to believe Lockheed Martin’s move would take months longer.

Intense storms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest over the weekend, killing at least six.

Ohio has issued a record-breaking amount of concealed-weapons licenses this year. The state issued 82,000 licenses in the first nine months of 2013, more than the 64,000 in 2012 that set the previous record. About 426,000 permits have been issued since the state began the program in 2004.

This week, Ohio gas prices jumped back up but remained lower than the national average.

Popular Science looks at how artificial meat could “save the world.”

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 11.15.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Homelessness at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
Drop Inn Center

City Council Seeks $30,000 for Winter Shelter

Money would put shelter closer to $75,000 minimum goal

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Thursday called for the city administration to locate $30,000 to help fund the winter shelter, which would push the shelter closer to the $75,000 it needs to remain open from mid-to-late December through February.

The shelter currently estimates it’s at approximately $32,000 in contributions, according to Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.

The city administration now needs to locate the money and turn the transaction into an ordinance, which will officially allocate the funds. Spring says that should go in front of the Budget and Finance Committee in the next couple weeks.

Although the $75,000 is often cited as the shelter’s goal, Spring emphasizes that it’s only the minimum. If early March turns out to be a particularly cold, the shelter would prefer to stay open for some extra time, which would require money above the $75,000 minimum.

But without the city’s contribution, the shelter won’t have enough money to stay open beyond even 30 days.

Spring says the program is necessary to keep Cincinnati’s homeless population from freezing to death. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld echoed the sentiment at Thursday’s committee meeting, saying it would be shameful if the city allowed people to die due to winter conditions.

The winter shelter aims to house 91 people each night and kept roughly 600 people from the cold throughout the 2012-2013 season, according to Spring.

“It’s a relatively cheap program to run,” Spring previously told CityBeat. “To serve about 600 people with $75,000 is pretty good.”

Still, Spring says money has been more difficult to collect this year. He attributes that to reduced enthusiasm as the concept becomes more commonplace.

“When we started doing this three years ago, it was sort of a new thing,” Spring explained. “It’s not so new anymore, which makes bringing in dollars more difficult. But the need hasn’t changed.”

The shelter is put together by the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, Drop Inn Center, Strategies to End Homelessness, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. It’s supported largely by private contributions.

Anyone can donate to the winter shelter — and Drop Inn Center — at tinyurl.com/WinterShelterCincinnati. To contribute specifically to the winter shelter, type in “winter shelter” in the text box below “Designation (Optional).”

 
 
by Danny Cross 11.15.2013
Posted In: Government, Media, Media Criticism, Streetcar at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)
 
 
enquirer

How The Enquirer Got Today’s Anti-Streetcar Story

Someone divided $1.5 million by 30

Most Cincinnatians don’t view The Cincinnati Enquirer as a beacon of journalistic innovation, but today’s homepage headline pointing out that streetcar construction is costing the city an average of $50,000 a day was a reminder of how interested our Sole Surviving Daily is in drumming up negativity about the project.

Hundreds of streetcar supporters packed the Mercantile Library last night outlining the several different ways they plan to campaign to save the project — including various forms of litigation The Enquirer typically enjoys playing up as potentially costly to taxpayers — a story similar in concept to the anti-streetcar protests The Enquirer gave attention to leading up to the election.  

The Enquirer’s cursory wrap-up of the event was removed from the cincinnati.com homepage this morning, and it's currently not even listed on the site's News page even though it was published more recently than several stories that are. Left behind on the homepage is a real joke of analysis: the fact that the $1.5 million monthly construction cost divided by 30 days in a month amounts to $50,000 per day, assuming workers put in the same amount of time every day in a month and the city gets billed that way, which it doesn’t. 

The $1.5 million figure has been known for weeks, but $50,000 per day sounds dramatic enough that concerned taxpayers everywhere can repeat it to other ill-informed people at the water cooler. If these math whizzes wanted to really piss people off they would have broken it all the way down to $34.70 per minute, 24 hours a day. Man, fuck that streetcar!

At least the story’s third paragraph offered a piece of recent news: Halting construction will still cost the city $500,000 per month because it will be on the hook for workers who can’t be transferred and costs of rental equipment that will just sit there. (For Enquirer-esque context: It will still cost $16,667 per day or $11.57 a minute to temporarily halt the project.)

Also, the note in the headline (“Streetcar, which Cranley plans to cancel, still costing $50K a day”) reminding everyone that Cranley plans to cancel the project that is currently costing money seems unnecessary considering THE ONLY THING ANYONE HAS HEARD ABOUT SINCE THE ELECTION IS THAT CRANLEY PLANS TO STOP THE STREETCAR. It does nicely nudge readers toward the interactive forum they can click on and publicly lament how people who don’t pay taxes have too much control over our city.

(Additional professional advice: Consider changing the subhed from, “It'll be costly to stop, and costly to go on, but work continues until Cranley and new council officially stop it” to something that doesn’t sound like you have no idea what the fuck is going on.)

For context, the following are the streetcar stories currently presented on the website homepages of local media that have more talent/integrity than The Enquirer:

WVXU: Streetcar supporters will remain active to keep project going

WCPO: Federal official: Cincinnati will forfeit $40M in grants if streetcar project is canceled

WLWT: Standing-room-only crowd attends Cincinnati streetcar meeting

Cincinnati Business Courier: Feds: If you kill the streetcar, we want our money back

CityBeat: Streetcar supporters pack Mercantile Library, Fountain Square

CityBeat: Streetcar cancellation would cost Cincinnati federal funds

CONSERVATIVE MEDIA BONUS: 700WLW even has a relevant piece of streetcar news, although you have to scroll past a video of Russian kids wrestling a bear and an article suggesting that Obamacare is the president’s Katrina (whatever that means): Feds: Use money for streetcar or pay it back.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.15.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, City Council, Mayor at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar supporters pack event, federal funds threatened, Dohoney to get severance pay

Supporters of the $133 million streetcar project packed Mercantile Library and Fountain Square last night to start a two-week campaign to prevent Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council from halting the ongoing project. The goal is to convince at least five of the nine newly elected council members to support the project. So far, streetcar supporters have at least three pro-streetcar votes: Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young. Now, they’re trying to convince another three — Kevin Flynn, David Mann and P.G. Sittenfeld — to support continuing the project; all three spoke against the streetcar on the campaign trail, but they’ve recently said they want a full accounting of the project’s completion costs, cancellation costs and potential return of investment before making a final decision. CityBeat covered the campaign and the people involved in greater detail here.

Hours before the event began, Mayor Mark Mallory released a letter from the Federal Transit Administration that explicitly stated canceling the project would cost Cincinnati nearly $41 million in federal funds and another $4 million would be left under the discretion of Gov. John Kasich, who could shift the money to other parts of Ohio. Cranley previously stated he could lobby the federal government to re-appropriate the money to other city projects, but the letter makes it quite clear that’s not in the plans right now. On the elevator ride up to the Mercantile Library event, Sittenfeld commented on the letter to CityBeat, “I will say that today's news is a big gain in the pro-streetcar column.”

City Council yesterday accepted the resignation of City Manager Milton Dohoney, just one day after Cranley announced Dohoney’s leave and his support for it. Although council members acknowledged they had to accept the resignation in lieu of the Nov. 5 election results, they said they were unhappy with the behind-the-scenes approach that was taken by Cranley throughout the process. For the year following his resignation, Dohoney will receive $255,000 in severance pay and health benefits through the city, which will cost an already-strained operating budget that’s been structurally imbalanced since 2001.

Flaherty & Collins, the Indianapolis-based developer that’s building a downtown apartment tower at Fourth and Race streets, said it’s interested in the retail space being left vacant by Saks Fifth Avenue.

Northern Kentucky residents last night got a look at a regional strategy to fight the growing heroin problem in the area. The report, put together by substance abuse and medical experts, law enforcement officials, governmental leaders and business representatives, calls for more physicians and long-term treatment options to address the issue. “We cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the problem,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, director of the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department. “The success of this plan really hinges on having sufficient treatment options and resources available so that everyone seeking and wanting treatment can easily access it.”

Union Township Rep. John Becker introduced a bill in the Ohio House this week that would ban most public and private health insurers from providing abortion coverage. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee. Becker describes himself as one of the most conservative members of the Ohio legislature. He’s also supported the Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected; called needle-exchange efforts part of the “liberal media agenda”; and lobbied for the impeachment of a judge who allowed the state to recognize the same-sex marriage of Jim Obergefell and John Arthur, who recently passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted urged the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission to address politicized redistricting. Under the current system, the political party in charge — the last time around, Republicans — can use demographic trends to redraw congressional district boundaries to maximize the votes of supporters and split and dilute the votes of opponents. Although Husted is now calling for reform to make redistricting more representative of the state’s actual political make-up, he opposed a ballot initiative in 2012 that would have placed an independent committee in charge of redistricting.

Speaking at a Cleveland steel mill, President Barack Obama talked up U.S. manufacturing and its potential for economic growth.

The Christmas holiday tree arrives at Fountain Square tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also the day of the One Stop Drop recycling event, where anyone can drop off electronic and other waste — TVs, computers, cellphones and chargers, No. 5 plastics such as butter tubs and yogurt containers, single-use grocery bags and used writing instruments like pencils and pens — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Whole Foods Market in Rookwood Commons, 2693 Edmondson Road.

Five crashes in Covington, Ohio, left six horses dead and one injured.

More Ohioans also died on the road in 2012 than the year before.

The world’s oldest animal — a mollusk — missed Christopher Columbus landing in the Americas by 14 years.

Follow CityBeat on Twitter:
• Main: @CityBeatCincy
• News: @CityBeat_News
• Music: @CityBeatMusic

• German Lopez: @germanrlopez

 
 
by German Lopez 11.14.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Streetcar at 09:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar Supporters Pack Mercantile Library, Fountain Square

Supporters hold town hall-style meeting in effort to stop cancellation of project

Supporters of the $133 million streetcar project on Thursday night packed Mercantile Library and Fountain Square to start a two-week campaign that seeks to prevent the incoming mayor and City Council from canceling the ongoing project.

Turnout was particularly strong as supporters reached the 200-person capacity at Mercantile Library before the event started. Another 200 watched the event from the Jumbotron screen at Fountain Square, according to the event's organizers.

In attendance were several Over-the-Rhine business owners and residents; council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young; and several supporters of the project from around the city.

The goal of the event was to organize supporters and begin a lobbying campaign to convince the three perceived swing votes in the incoming council — Sittenfeld, David Mann and Kevin Flynn — to support continuing the project. All three have spoken against the streetcar in the past, but they told CityBeat they want to fully account for the project's cancellation costs, completion costs and potential return on investment before making a final decision.

Speakers urged supporters to contact the nine newly elected council members and raise awareness about the streetcar's benefits before Mayor-elect John Cranley, who opposes the streetcar project, and the new City Council take office in December.

Ryan Messer, a lead organizer of the effort to save the streetcar, spoke about the advantages of the streetcar project for much of the event. "This is a good economic tool that helps all of Cincinnati," he repeatedly stated.

Supporters have some empirical evidence to base their claims on. A 2007 study from consulting firm HDR found the streetcar project would generate a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years. The HDR study was later evaluated and supported by the University of Cincinnati.

Project executive John Deatrick acknowledges the 2007 study is now outdated and the city is working on updating the numbers. But he says the streetcar project is supposed to be viewed as an economic development vehicle, not just another transit option.

Supporters also warned of the potential costs of canceling the streetcar project. Hours before the gathering, Mayor Mark Mallory released a letter from the Federal Transit Administration that explicitly stated the city would lose nearly $41 million in federal grant dollars if the project were canceled, and another $4 million would be placed in the hands of Gov. John Kasich to do as he sees fit.

City spokesperson Meg Olberding previously told CityBeat that the city already spent about $2 million of the federal funds. If the project were canceled, she says the money would have to be repaid through the operating budget that funds police, firefighters and human services instead of the capital budget currently financing the streetcar project.

The operating budget has been structurally imbalanced since 2001, so adding millions in costs to it could force the city to cut services or raise taxes.

The FTA letter might already be playing an influence for at least one of the swing votes on City Council. On the elevator ride up to Mercantile Library, Sittenfeld told Seelbach and CityBeat, "I will say that today's news is a big gain in the pro-streetcar column."

Another threat for the city is potential litigation from contractors, subcontractors, taxpayers and Over-the-Rhine residents and businesses who invested in the project or along the streetcar line with the expectation that the project would be completed.

Litigation costs would also come out of the operating budget, according to Olberding.

"As a trial lawyer, this is actually appealing," said Democratic attorney Don Mooney. "For the city, not so much."


Supporters also outlined the potential damage that pulling from the project could do to the city's image, given that developers, businesses and the federal government have put their support and dollars toward the streetcar.

"Is Cincinnati that city that will dine you and wine you and leave you alone at the altar?" Young asked.

But if the lobbying effort, cancellation costs and threat of litigation aren't enough, supporters also presented one more option to save the streetcar: a ballot initiative. Mayor-elect John Cranley on Thursday told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he would be open to allowing some sort of streetcar referendum on the ballot.

The ultimate goal for supporters of the streetcar, beyond ensuring sustainable growth in the urban core, is to connect all of Cincinnati through a vast transit network, much like the streetcar lines that ran through Cincinnati before the city government dismantled the old system in the 1950s.

That provides little assurance to opponents of the streetcar project. Cranley and at least three hard-liners in the incoming City Council — Amy Murray, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman — claim the project is too expensive and the wrong priority for Cincinnati. Discussing more phases makes the project appear even costlier to opponents who are already concerned with costs.

In its comprehensive plan for 2040, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments put the cost of various extensions — to the University of Cincinnati and surrounding hospitals, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Broadway Commons area near the Horseshoe Casino — at more than $191 million, or $58 million more than the estimated cost for the current phase.

But if Cincinnati never completes the first phase of the streetcar project, supporters say it could be decades before other light rail options are considered.

 
 
by German Lopez 11.14.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Mayor at 05:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
news1_streetcar_jf2

Streetcar Cancellation Would Cost Cincinnati Federal Funds

Federal Transit Administration letter confirms previous warnings

Cincinnati could lose up to $45 million in federal funds if it cancels the $133 million streetcar project, according to a new letter from the Federal Transit Administration released on Thursday by Mayor Mark Mallory.

The letter confirms much of what was stated in a previous June 19 letter to Mallory, and it presumably acts as a warning to Mayor-elect John Cranley, who intends to permanently cancel ongoing construction on the streetcar project once he takes office in December.

Cranley previously said he could lobby the federal government to re-appropriate the money to other projects, but the FTA letter unequivocally states the money is only for the streetcar project.

“FTA’s oversight contractor for the Project informs me that the City’s expenditures plus committed costs on the Project as of this date exceed $116 million, which is approximately 88 percent of the total project cost,” wrote FTA administrator Peter Rogoff. “These commitments include many construction activities that cannot be easily reversed — the City has relocated utilities, embedded rail in City streets, and purchased streetcars. Should the City choose to prematurely terminate the Project, all cost associated with closing down the project, including any claims from the contractors, will not be eligible for any federal reimbursement.”

The letter confirms that, as CityBeat originally reported, canceling the streetcar project carries its own costs.

Should the city cancel the project, it would first need to return nearly $41 million in federal grant money. The remaining $4 million in federal funds would fall under the discretion of Gov. John Kasich, who could shift the money to other parts of Ohio.

City spokesperson Meg Olberding previously told CityBeat the city already spent $2 million of the federal funds. Olberding said the $2 million in repayments would need to come out of the operating budget that pays for cops, firefighters and human services instead of the capital budget that’s currently financing the streetcar project.

Since the operating budget has been structurally imbalanced since 2001, adding millions in costs could force the city to cut additional services or raise taxes.

Upon cancellation, the city would also need to pay back some of the $94 million in standing contractual obligations for the streetcar project. In many cases, the obligations reflect supply orders and other expenses contractors and subcontractors already took on but haven’t officially billed to the city. If the project were canceled, city officials say the already-spent money would need to be paid back, along with extra costs to close the project — to repave torn-up streets, for example.

Project executive John Deatrick previously told CityBeat that paying back the contractual obligations could involve litigation, which would also be paid for through the operating budget, as the city tries to minimize cancellation costs and private contractors try to recoup as much as they can from the project.

All of that is on top of the $23 million that’s already been billed to the project as of September, which should grow by $1.5 million each month as contractual obligations are turned into official bills, according to Deatrick.

The final decision on the streetcar project rests on City Council. Cranley told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday that he’ll pursue a 30-to-90-day time-out on the project as the city conducts a full accounting of cancellation costs, completion costs and the potential return on investment of the project, following requests from Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld and incoming council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn — three crucial swing votes in the newly elected council of nine — for more information before placing a final vote on the project.

The talk of cancellation already spurred some Over-the-Rhine residents and businesses to launch a campaign to save the streetcar. Cranley insists it’s too expensive and the wrong priority for the city, but supporters tout independent studies and their own experiences to argue it would spur economic development. The pro-streetcar group will meet on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St. #1100, downtown Cincinnati.

The full letter:


 
 
by German Lopez 11.14.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

City Council Accepts City Manager's Resignation

Dohoney to get one year of severance pay following mayor-elect’s request

City Council on Thursday accepted City Manager Milton Dohoney’s resignation, setting the stage for the end of more than seven years of service that fostered Cincinnati’s nationally recognized economic turnaround, the $133 million streetcar project and the controversial parking plan.

The request comes just one day after Mayor-elect John Cranley announced Dohoney’s resignation. Cranley says he will appoint an interim city manager once Dohoney officially steps down on Dec. 1 and then begin a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.

For the year following his resignation, Dohoney will receive $255,000 in severance pay — the same as his current annual salary — and health benefits through the city. The extra costs will go to an already-strained operating budget, which has been structurally imbalanced since 2001.

Although council members acknowledged that they had to accept the resignation in the aftermath of the Nov. 5 election, some said they were unhappy with the behind-the-scenes approach Cranley took to finalize Dohoney’s leave.

“It’s certainly not the process I would have liked,” said Councilman Chris Seelbach.

Others praised Dohoney’s work for the city, which lasted through both the Great Recession and the beginnings of Over-the-Rhine and Cincinnati’s economic revitalization.

“He has served the city very well. He has been a leader in terms of economic development across the city,” said Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who lost in her bid against Cranley for the mayorship.

Cranley and Dohoney differ on both the streetcar project and parking plan, which would have outsourced the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and private operators. Cranley opposes and plans to do away with both policies, while Dohoney helped establish both.

Cranley announced on Tuesday that he, newly elected council members and the Port Authority agreed to call off the parking plan once the new city government takes office on Dec. 1, but it remains unclear how much it will cost the city to break from the plan and its numerous contractual obligations.

Similarly, Cranley told The Cincinnati Enquirer in a livestreamed interview on Thursday that he will try to put an estimated 30-to-90-day time-out on the streetcar project as the city conducts a full accounting of how much it would take to cancel the project versus continuing with ongoing construction and the potential return on investment of completion.

The talk of cancellation already spurred some Over-the-Rhine residents and businesses to launch a campaign to save the streetcar. Cranley insists it’s too expensive and the wrong priority for the city, but supporters tout independent studies and their own experiences to argue it would spur economic development. The pro-streetcar group will meet on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Mercantile Library, 414 Walnut St. #1100, downtown Cincinnati.

If the streetcar goes the way of the parking plan, Cranley will effectively unravel two major milestones of Dohoney’s seven years of service.

 
 

 

 

 
Close
Close
Close