Federal grants for the $132.8 million streetcar project are on hold
until City Council votes to continue the project, according to a Dec. 2 email from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to Cincinnati officials.
The decision means Cincinnati can no longer tap into $44.9 million in federal grants until Mayor John Cranley and a majority of the newly sworn-in City Council, both of which have shown opposition to the streetcar project, agree to continue with ongoing construction.
“As per our telephone conversation, early last week, the Administrator decided to restrict further access to the Federal project funds until the FTA received an affirmative signal from the city’s newly elected officials that the city intends to proceed with the project on the agreed-upon schedule,” wrote Marisol Simon, FTA regional administrator in Chicago. “This measure was taken to protect the taxpayer funds not yet drawn down by the city from being subject to a potential debt collection action.”
The FTA’s decision shows Cranley and other streetcar opponents were in the wrong when they insisted they could lobby the federal government to reallocate the money to other projects, such as the interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive.
But the consequence should come as little surprise to elected officials. In two letters to former Mayor Mark Mallory and a phone conference with City Council, federal officials warned the city they would pull the funding if the streetcar project were canceled.
The news comes on the same day City Council plans to vote to pause the streetcar project as the costs of cancellation are weighed against the costs of continuing.
It also comes two days after streetcar builder CAF USA warned the city of substantial costs that would be incurred if the streetcar project were canceled.
Even if council only pauses the project, Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick says the path forward is unknown because it’s unclear how the city will fund costs associated with a pause.
The costs would presumably come out of the project’s contingency
fund, according to Deatrick, but pulling money out of the contingency
fund for a delay or pause changes the scope of the project and could face federal resistance.
On Nov. 21, Deatrick said the costs of canceling the $132.8 million streetcar project could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, a potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grant money that would be lost if the project were terminated.
Marking the beginning of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday is easily the most disgusting bastardization of what a holiday is.
Let’s start with a brief history of where Black Friday began. This day has been a grotesque part of the holiday season here in America for years. Notably, in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to an earlier date, stretching out the holiday shopping season. This change was brought on by retailers during the Depression Era, allowing people more time to go gift shopping or, more importantly, spend their money in the retailers’ stores.
Later in the 1950s and '60s, the day began to be viewed as a kind of worker-less void for shop owners as their employees started to not show up to work in order to go shopping.
Now, the day is a barbaric ritual for many people across America as they wait until store-doors open so they can grab a hodgepodge of items away from their competition and fight anyone who gets in their way.
Black Friday is like the Hunger Games but without all the talk about a rebellion against an oppressive regime. It’s just people fighting each other, and sometimes dying, for seemingly no good reason other than saving a buck or two.
Like back in 2011 when Walter Vance was trampled to death by other shoppers while trying to shop at his local Target in West Virginia. No one noticed they were literally running over a person to get their goodies.
Deaths do happen on this “holiday,” which is unsettling on its own, but the injuries far outnumber the deaths.
According to blackfridaydeathcount.com, there have been seven deaths attributed to Black Friday and a total of 89 injuries. This data only dates back to 2006, though, which means there are surely more from earlier years.
Just a quick look at this same website shows people are not afraid to pepper-spray, stab or even shoot each other, again, all in the name of savings.
What is even more unsettling is how ravenous customers are. The following compilation of Black Friday videos over the years shows just how crazy people can act on this unholy of days as people break down doors to enter stores, tear apart in-store kiosks and basically act like filthy animals.
Watching videos of Black Friday is simply depressing, and when you remember these are people and not zombies from The Walking Dead, it’s hard to think of this day as a holiday.
By definition, a holiday is when little to no work is done and people celebrate something, but more than that, holidays are meant to bring people together.
One clear example of what a holiday should be is the Christmas Truce of 1914 during the first World War. Both sides of the fighting had a ceasefire on Christmas Day along many points of the Western Front, and some points saw friendly and enemy soldiers alike exchanging gifts, food and good tidings.
That’s a holiday. Everyone put aside their differences for a short period and came together as humans.
If soldiers fighting a war can do this, why can’t shoppers perform these same acts of kindness and decency towards each other?
Mayor John Cranley and the new City Council were sworn in yesterday. Two days prior to the ceremony, Cranley announced his appointments for council committees that play a crucial role in passing legislation through City Hall, but the choices were not without controversy as Cranley, a Democrat, snubbed members of his own party for the two most powerful committees. Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican, will head the Budget and Finance Committee, and Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, will take control of the Law and Public Safety Committee. Democratic council members Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young also didn’t receive any appointments; both supported former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in her bid against Cranley for the mayor’s office. CityBeat covered the new City Council’s priorities in further detail here.
Among the new city government’s first priorities is canceling the $132.8 million streetcar project, but not if supporters of the project have anything to say about it. Hundreds of streetcar supporters yesterday gathered in Washington Park and walked the planned streetcar route to show their solidarity. They’re threatening a referendum on any action council takes to pause or cancel the project, but some are concerned council will attach a funding measure to legislation that would allow a cancellation or pause ordinance to go into effect immediately, even if the project makes it onto the November 2014 ballot.
Meanwhile, the company in charge of building the actual streetcars wrote a letter to former Mayor Mark Mallory on Nov. 30 threatening substantial costs if the project were canceled. The letter explains that, on top of the sunk expenses on design work, cancellation would require CAF USA to pull back on various established deals with subcontractors, which would spur further costs. For streetcar supporters, the letter renews fears that canceling the streetcar could lead to litigation from contractors and subcontractors as they seek their full payday. The legal costs for such lawsuits would fall on an already-strained operating budget that pays for day-to-day services such as cops and firefighters instead of a capital budget that finances capital projects like the streetcar, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding.
Councilman Smitherman told The Business Courier that he wasn’t aware his brother’s construction company, Jostin Construction, was involved with the streetcar project, but a 2009 press release from the local branch of the NAACP shows Smitherman acknowledging his brother’s ties to the project. Still, a Nov. 21 letter confirms that Jostin pulled out of the project. The connection is important because it presents a potential conflict of interest for Smitherman, a streetcar opponent who will likely act as one of the five necessary votes to pause and potentially cancel the project. It also raises questions about the validity of Smitherman’s anti-streetcar votes in the past few years.
Ohio is one of five states whose economy worsened in the past three months, according to an index from the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia that combines four economic indicators to gauge states’ economic health.
A Republican and Democrat in the Ohio House proposed using the $400 million in savings from the federally funded Medicaid expansion to boost the local government fund, but it seems most of the Republican leadership in the Ohio Senate intends to use the savings on a tax cut. The savings are a result of the Controlling Board’s controversial decision to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program with federal funds, which should shift some Medicaid expenses from the state to the federal level.
More women will get access to maternity leave under Obamacare.
The federally run Obamacare website relaunched in the past week, but it’s unclear if the fixes will make it easier for Ohioans to obtain health insurance.
Coming off the Thanksgiving holiday, gas prices dropped across the state.
Michelle Dillingham, who lost in her bid for City Council, started her own progressive blog: The Cincinnati Forum.
So far, the videos released from The Queen City Project’s series of clips from The MidPoint Sessions (a day party that took place at the Art Academy during September’s MidPoint Music Festival) have showcased three great Ohio acts — Athens’ The Ridges (also the curators of the Sessions), Cincinnati’s The Happy Maladies and Columbus’ Indigo Wild. Today you can check out the final clip from the performances, this one featuring another Cincinnati artist — intriguing singer/songwriter Molly Sullivan. While the previous performances were acoustic, Sullivan strums an electric guitar and utilizes loops to create a haunting effect.
Click here for more about Sullivan. And you can see/hear her live this Thursday at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine as she opens for Lexington, Ky.’s Ancient Warfare, which also played this year’s MidPoint Music Festival. Find details on the free show here.
The company in charge of building Cincinnati's streetcars says the city would incur substantial costs if it cancels the streetcar project after it's already gone through some construction and design work.
The Nov. 30 letter from CAF USA Vice President Virginia Verdeja to former Mayor Mark Mallory arrived just one day before Mayor John Cranley, who opposes the streetcar project, and an anti-streetcar majority were sworn in.
"CAF will have to recover all the incurred expenses as well as all the additional cost of cancelling the contract, which would be substantial too," Verdeja writes in the letter.
The letter explains that, on top of the sunk expenses on design work, cancellation would require CAF to pull back on various established deals with subcontractors, which would spur further costs.
For streetcar supporters, the letter renews fears of litigation that could crop up if the project were canceled and contractors decided to pursue their full payday. Those legal costs would fall on the already-strained operating budget that pays for day-to-day services like police and firefighters instead of the capital budget that finances big capital projects like the streetcar, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding.
On Nov. 21, Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick warned the costs of canceling the $132.8 million streetcar project could nearly reach the costs of completion after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, a potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grant money that would be lost if the project were terminated.
Earlier on Sunday, hundreds of streetcar supporters rallied in Washington Park and walked the planned streetcar route in support of the project. They're threatening a referendum if the new City Council moves to pause or cancel the project.
City Council plans to vote on pausing the project on Monday. Because of threats from the federal government that a mere delay could lead to the loss of federal grants, streetcar supporters claim a pause would equate to cancellation.
Read the full letter below:
Updated at 6:13 p.m. with the PDF of the letter.
Several hundred people from various local neighborhoods on Sunday gathered at Washington Park and walked along the planned streetcar route to show their support for Cincinnati's $132.8 million streetcar project.
The rally preceded a City Council vote planned for Dec. 2 that would pause the streetcar project as the freshly sworn-in city government reviews the costs of cancellation versus the costs of completion.
On Nov. 21, Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick announced canceling ongoing construction for the project could nearly reach the cost of completing it after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, a potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grant money that would be lost if the project were terminated.
Supporters at the rally vowed to hold a referendum on any council action canceling or pausing the streetcar project. If they do, construction could be forced to continue until voters make the final decision on the project in November 2014.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld on Nov. 26 announced his support for continuing the streetcar project, which gave streetcar supporters the four of nine council votes necessary to block an emergency clause that would make a pause or cancellation ordinance effective immediately and insusceptible to referendum.
But Ryan Messer, leader of the "We Believe in Cincinnati" group backing the streetcar project, warned that council could attempt a special legislative maneuver, such as attaching some sort of funding measure to a bill, to immunize a cancellation or pause ordinance from referendum.
Supporters of the streetcar project claim even a pause in the project could effectively act as cancellation. Federal Transit Administration Chief Counsel Dorval Carter on Nov. 25 told council members that the federal government could consider a delay in the project grounds for pulling federal funds.
Streetcar supporters argue the 3.6-mile loop, which will span from The Banks to Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, will produce economic development along the route and a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years — an estimate conceived through a 2007 study from consulting firm HDR that was later validated by the University of Cincinnati.
But opponents of the project, including Mayor John Cranley and at least five of nine council members, say the project is far too costly and the wrong priority for Cincinnati.
Streetcar supporters will hold a press conference the day after council's vote to announce their steps forward.
Mayor John Cranley and the new City Council were officially sworn in on Sunday after nearly a month of contentious political battles that effectively doomed the parking privatization plan and put the $132.8 million streetcar project in danger.
Cranley was joined by three newcomers to City Council — Kevin Flynn, David Mann and Amy Murray — and six re-elected council members — Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Christopher Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young — as they were sworn in on Dec. 1 at 11 a.m., as required by the city charter.
Already, the new mayor and council plan to move decisively on the streetcar project and parking plan. On Dec. 2, council will hold committee and full meetings to consider pausing the streetcar project as the costs of cancellation are weighed with the costs of continuation.
Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick on Nov. 21 revealed that cancellation costs could nearly reach the the costs of completion, even before considering the cost of potential litigation from contractors already committed to ongoing construction of the project.
Council is expected to have five of nine votes to pause the project. But with Seelbach, Simpson, Sittenfeld and Young on record in support of the streetcar project, council might not have the six votes for an emergency clause that would make a pause or cancellation ordinance immediately effective and insusceptible to referendum.
If streetcar supporters successfully place a council action on the November 2014 ballot, construction could be forced to continue on the streetcar for nearly a year until voters make a final decision.
Supporters of the streetcar project argue pausing the project would effectively act as cancellation, given the federal government's warnings that any delay in the project could lead the Federal Transit Administration to yank $40.9 million in grants that are funding roughly one-third of the overall project.
A larger majority of council and Cranley also plan to quickly terminate the parking plan, which would outsource the city's parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority and private companies. The previous administration pursued the deal to obtain a lump sum payment of $85 million that would have paid for various development projects around the city and helped balance the city's operating budget.
On Friday, Cranley announced his appointments to the committee chair positions that play a crucial role in deciding what legislation comes before the full body of City Council.
The appointments for two of the most powerful council committees became particularly contentious after Cranley, a Democrat, snubbed members of his own political party to build what he calls a bipartisan coalition. Winburn, a Republican, will take the Budget and Finance Committee chair, and Smitherman, an Independent, will take control of the Law and Public Safety Committee.
Mann, a Democrat who will also act as vice mayor, will lead the newly formed Streetcar Committee. He opposes the streetcar project.
Sittenfeld, a Democrat, will lead the Education and Entrepreneurship Committee; Simpson, a Democrat, will run the Human Services, Youth and Arts Committee; Murray, a Republican, will head the Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee; Smitherman will chair the Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee; and Flynn, an Independent, will preside over the Rules and Audit Committee.
Democrats Seelbach and Young won't be appointed to any committee chair positions. Both publicly supported former Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in her bid against Cranley for the mayor's office.
Cranley on Wednesday also unveiled Willie Carden, current director of Cincinnati Parks, as his choice for the next city manager. With council's approval appearing likely, Carden will replace City Manager Milton Dohoney, who, during his more than seven years of service, fostered Cincinnati’s nationally recognized economic turnaround, the streetcar project and the parking plan.
Beyond the streetcar project and parking plan, a majority of the new council is determined to structurally balance the operating budget without raising taxes. Some council members argue that's much easier said than done, especially since specific proposals for budget balance are few and far between.
OK, the holidays are officially here. If you have any strength left after shopping last night and all day today, there are numerous theatrical offerings to consider.
CityBeat’s German Lopez noted on Twitter the irony of The Enquirer now supporting both the streetcar and parking plan while the candidate it endorsed attempts to unravel both — Cranley already stopped the parking plan. The comment drew a response from Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn, who is on the newspaper’s editorial board along with Publisher Margaret Buchanan and Editorial Page Editor David Holthaus.
The editorial includes the following paragraph: “In endorsing Cranley, we said he would ‘have to rein in his dictatorial tendencies and discipline himself to be diplomatic, respectful and collaborative.’ What we’ve seen so far is a matter for concern. Hurling insults at professionals like streetcar project manager John Deatrick isn’t what we need. Deatrick enjoys a good reputation as someone who has managed The Banks project and the rebuild of Fort Washington Way. He needs to stay on the streetcar project.”
The editorial was published the same day City Council put completing the project into law and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced his decision to support the project’s completion, which Lopez pointed out leaves Council short of the six votes required for an emergency clause that would immediately halt the project without leaving it open to referendum. Without the emergency clause, streetcar supporters could gather the required signatures to put a 5-4 cancellation vote to referendum, which would force the city to continue working on the project until voters decide on it in November.
Mayor-elect Cranley will hold a vote to stop the project on Monday. With Sittenfeld set to vote against halting the project, Cranley will need either newly elected David Mann or Kevin Flynn to vote in favor of stopping it. Both are on the record as being against the project but have left room to consider the financial realities before making their final decisions.
Cranley announced this morning that he will name the new city manager at 2 p.m. today. Cranley removed former city manager Milton Dohoney last week.
A story by The Enquirer’s Mark Curnutte yesterday detailed life expectancy disparities among Cincinnati’s poor neighborhoods, finding a 20 year difference at times between citizens of predominantly black or urban Appalachian neighborhoods and people of wealthy white neighborhoods like Mount Lookout, Columbia Tusculum and Hyde Park. The Cincinnati Health Department will release more statistics Tuesday and a community discussion on the issue is set for Jan. 10.
Pope Francis yesterday criticized the world’s growing wealth disparity, mentioning things like “idolatry of money” and “a new tyranny” in a 50,000-word statement that sharply criticized trickle-down economics.
The Pope via The Washington Post:
"Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. … Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."
OTR restaurant Kaze will begin offering lunch hours starting on Black Friday.
Away from home and tired of “Friends-giving” gatherings? Here’s a bunch of restaurants serving good stuff on Thanksgiving day.
Skip Black Friday craziness and use CityBeat’s Gift Guide to shop local this holiday season. There are also plenty of local retailers you can hit up online if you don't wait until the last minute!
If you’re traveling to some stuck-up East Coast city for Thanksgiving, charge the iPad or whatever because there are going to be some storms.
And high winds might cause the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to take all the air out of the Snoopy balloons so no one flies up into the air like in movies.
The NSA reportedly considered revealing the “porn-browsing history” of certain people considered to have ties to terrorist activity in order to discredit them.
Great, now America’s durable goods orders are down. Thanks a lot, government shutdown!
At least the country’s jobless claims are back to pre-recession levels. Thanks, Obama?
The University of Cincinnati Bearcats beat UMass Lowell in basketball last night and senior forward Justin Jackson jammed one in the hoop hard.
Cincinnati five-piece Zebras in Public has released some propaganda to promote its new single and sophomore album.
Actually, it’s a new single and accompanying music video for the group’s strong new song “Propaganda,” an ear-grabbing AltRock track that is slated for the new Zebras in Public full-length, Paradise Leg. The follow-up to the eclectic band’s 2010 debut album Scars & Stripes is due early next year.
A new channel has found a coveted spot on my television’s favorites list. The Esquire Network replaced Style in late September, but it took me a few months to discover the new channel’s diverse entertaining offerings. The network’s original series feature everything from cooking to travel to style — lots of culture-y (pop and otherwise) bits. Esquire also airs reruns of popular shows like Party Down,Top Chef and Parks and Recreation. Find the channel here.
Searching for a new computer game without Facebook notifications, digital farming or “Crush” in the title? Look no further than Kanye Zone. The object of the game? Like the song says, don’t let him into his zone.
Speaking of Kanye’s zone, you know it’s officially the holiday season when the Kadrashians emerge their krypts to kreate their annual Kristmas kard.
Not really sure why they’d spring for a photographer like David LaChapelle, because every square inch of this piece is so heavily ‘shopped. I bet they even inserted Kourt’s baby into her empty arms in post-production. And it goes without saying that this image of Bruce (sealed in glass on the far right) will haunt all of our nightmares until the end of time.
Move over, Macaulay — "Pug Puppy Home Alone" is even better than the original.
The entertainment gods blessed us with not one but two Major Television Events recently: The Sound of Music Live! And the Bonnie & Clyde miniseries presented by A&E, History and Lifetime. People everywhere have been crying, “Blasphemy!” over these two reboots of classic stories but, because we’re a masochistic society, everyone and their mama tuned into both. B&C was deemed historically inaccurate (Gasp! A Lifetime movie?! Surely not.), and SoM was decidedly awkward as hell, but damn if they didn’t both attract huge audiences.
NBC’s live production of The Sound
of Music was a hot ass mess. I’m no musical theater connoisseur, so I
totally forgot all the Nazi shit in there, along with the fact that Vampire
Bill was starring in this show alongside Carrie Underwood. I mean, Carrie can sing for sure, but
the 21.3 million viewers
were pretty much all tuning in the same way
they’d watch a train wreck, which is why Carrie says she's praying for all of us haterz. Keep the prayers comin’, Carrie, because apparently we’re in for another live musical here
Here’s probably every movie you meant to see this year but didn’t:
“I Love It” and “Ho Hey” were noticeably absent, despite being in EVERY PREVIEW EVER this year. Thankfully (said no one), they didn’t skimp on the dub-step.
In other end-of-the-year news, it’s time again for Pantone to announce the official color of 2014. Get your eyeballs ready for lots of “Radiant Orchid” next year, whatever the hell that means. If you’ll recall (as if this important selection hasn’t been ingrained in your brain), 2013’s color was emerald.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the book series of spooky tales and illustrations every ‘80s and ‘90s kid shared around campfires, on the bus and at sleepovers, is becoming a movie. CBS Films is working with two Saw writers on the adaptation. For those in the dark (muahahaha), the Scary Stories themselves weren’t all that terrifying — it was all about the eerie, detailed, seriously dark images that accompanied the tales. There’s no word yet on how or if these illustrations (by Stephen Gammell, who I can only assume is Satan’s nephew) will be incorporated in the film, and that will truly be a make-or-break decision. If Hollywood decides to ruin SSTTITD like everything else and go with a live-action take, I guess they could just call up Bruce Jenner.
There’s no other way to say it: Bitches lose their shit over Benedict Cumberbatch. The star of Sherlock, who portrayed Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness and is voicing the titular dragon in the upcoming Hobbit film, has a loyal legion of fans — ahem, “Cumberbitches.” Here’s what happened when we read some lyrics off R. Kelly’s new album (which is freaking titled Black Panties, btw).
As captivating and alienesque as Benny may be, like a male Tilda Swinton, the ladies truly give him the One Direction treatment. And I love me some Cumberbatch, but can we throw some love/panties Martin Freeman’s way, too?