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.
Council Member Chris Seelbach says he’s getting impatient with streetcar delays. During a series of complaints aired on Twitter, Seelbach wrote the deadline for streetcar operation should be the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2015. This week’s CityBeat cover story explains some of the delays and how the streetcar relates to the 2013 mayor’s race.
The Pentagon is planning to lift the ban on women in combat situations. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the decision came after a recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of Staff. Between the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and this decision, President Barack Obama’s administration has been one of the most inclusive when it comes to the military.
The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case questioning the constitutionality of JobsOhio. Policy group ProgressOhio says it might be illegal to use state liquor profits to fund JobsOhio, a private nonprofit organization Gov. John Kasich set up to drive economic growth in the state.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game could bring $60-$80 million to Cincinnati, according to Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center. It was recently announced Cincinnati will host the game in 2015.
Gov. Kasich said he won’t oust State Board of Education President Debe Terhar after she made a Facebook post comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler. Kasich is happy she admitted it was a mistake, and he said he will leave it at that. Democrats called for her ousting Tuesday.
American Military Partner Association, a national organization that supports LGBT veterans, endorsed FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment. If voters approve the amendment this November, gay marriage will be legalized in Ohio. CityBeat wrote more about FreedomOhio’s ballot initiative here.
Cincinnati Public Schools is piloting an after-school program focusing on the arts. The high-energy sessions are apparently proving to be a hit among students so far.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, says President Barack Obama is out to annihilate the Republican Party. I’m not seeing the problem here.
Moody’s doesn’t have confidence in U.S. nonprofit hospitals.
New science makes it possible to detect brain damage in football players that previously couldn’t be seen until a victim was dead. CityBeat covered how head trauma relates to former Bengals players' workers' comp claims here.
Popular Science explains how to make the perfect snowball.
The FBI has been investigating the long-stalled Kenwood Towne Place development for the past year, and a grand jury will determine whether crimes were committed involving the improper use of funding for the project, according to The Enquirer. CityBeat on May 16 reported that Nathan Bachrach, host of local radio show Simply Money, was among those in heat over the development's debt.
The city of Cincinnati used eminent domain to secure a piece of Over-the-Rhine property to build its streetcar maintenance facility.
So, uh, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan rewrote the lyrics to John Fogerty’s “Proud Mary” (“Rolin' on the River”) as part of a promotion for the World Choir Games. Celebrities such as Bootsy Collins, Nick Lachey and Jerry Springer participated. Cool? Awkward? The city does look pretty nice — shots were filmed at Fountain Square, Great American Ballpark, Findlay Market, the School for Creative and Performing Arts and the Serpentine Wall.
John Edwards is basically off the hook after jurors returned from nine days of deliberations believing that the government did not prove its case. Edwards was found guilty one one charge of accepting illegal campaign contributions to hide his pregnant mistress, but a mistrial was declared on five charges.
President Obama and Mitt Romney
reportedly spoke on the phone yesterday. Romney says they exchanged
pleasantries and congratulations. Obama apparently gave Romney some credit for his health care bill, which sounds kind of passive aggressive.
The nation's unemployment rate is up to 8.2 percent; apparently a third month of disappointing payroll led to the addition of only 69,000 jobs.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being called “Nanny Bloomberg” in response to his proposed ban on extra large sodas by people such as 18-year-old Johnny Ojeda of Kansas City, who reportedly pounded a 21-ounce soda and its 240 calories in front of Kansas City Star reporters.
“A lot of teenagers get them,” said Ojeda,
On the other hand, today is National Donut Day.
And cancer is expected to increase worldwide by 75 percent by 2030, partly due to poor nations adopting unhealthy Westernized lifestyles.
DC Comics' Green Lantern is revealed to be gay in an issue that comes out next week. Green Lantern is one of the comics' oldest heroes and the latest in a growing number of out superheroes. From the San Jose Mercury News:
In May, Marvel Entertainment said super speedster Northstar will marry his longtime boyfriend in the pages of "Astonishing X-Men." DC comics has other gay characters, too, including Kate Kane, the current Batwoman.
And in the pages of Archie Comics, Kevin Keller is one of the gang at Riverdale High School and gay, too.
Some groups have protested the inclusion of gay characters, but Robinson isn't discouraged, noting that being gay is just one aspect to Scott.
"This guy, he's a media mogul, a hero, a dynamic type-A personality and he's gay," Robinson said. "He's a complex character."
In June, City Council approved an extra $17.4 million and
accountability measures for the streetcar project, which require the city manager to publicly update council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an
operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.
During discussions for
the funding and accountability proposals, some council members, particularly Councilman P.G.
Sittenfeld, raised concerns that Messer would require more money than
the city could afford. Sittenfeld said he was especially concerned Messer would have all the leverage going forward, considering the city supposedly needed the lower construction bid to keep the project within its new budget.
Messer was the lowest bidder for the project’s construction work, but even that bid came $26 million higher than the city’s original estimates, forcing the city to close a budget gap if the project was to continue.
With the construction bids taken care of, the only known funding concern for the streetcar is who has to pay $15 million for moving utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. Duke Energy argues the cost burden is on the city, while the city says the energy company has to pay up. The issue is currently being decided in court.
Ever since Cincinnati began pursuing the streetcar project, it’s been mired in misrepresentations and political controversy, which CityBeat covered in further detail in this week’s cover story.
New details regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal have found that Blue Ash will gain $2.25 million from the deal. The new details means both Blue Ash and Cincinnati benefit from the deal by having extra funds, potentially benefiting budgets without having to make cuts or running to taxpayers for more money. The number also puts a damper on COAST’s campaign to stop the new deal, which is spurred by their extreme disapproval of all things streetcar.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted yesterday directed county boards of election to set uniform in-person early voting hours. Before the decision, Democrats were accusing state Republicans of extending early voting hours in predominantly Republican districts and keeping early voting hours shorter in predominantly Democratic districts. However, Democrats are still not pleased by the new directive because they claim it’s limiting voting hours.
Supporters of redistricting reform now have a ballot issue to get behind: Issue 2. Issue 2 is the redistricting amendment supported by Voters First. If voters accept Issue 2, the redistricting process will be placed in the hands of an independent citizens commission that will be void of lobbyists and politicians. If voters reject Issue 2, the process will continue being placed in the hands of politicians, who have abused the system in a process known as “gerrymandering” to redraw districts in politically beneficial ways. In the latest redistricting process, the Republican-controlled committee redrew Cincinnati’s district to include Warren County, giving Republicans more voters in the district. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting issue at length here.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) are adjusting to new, tougher academic standards. CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan says schools will have to develop new methods of teaching and learning to comply with the academic standards.Democrats and Republicans clashed in court yesterday as they argued over Ohio’s early voting rules. The debate focused on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day. Under current law, only military personnel and their families are allowed to vote on those days. The Democrats and President Barack Obama want everyone to be allowed to vote on those days, and Republicans do not. The judge said he will hold off on a decision.
Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, was at Miami University yesterday. During his speech, Ryan did not shy away from bringing up the Medicare issue, and he claimed Obamacare will cut $716 billion. However, Ryan included the same cuts in his own budget plan, and they’re actually savings, not cuts. The architect of Obamacare also said recently that repealing Obamacare, which Romney and Ryan advocate, would cut benefits to seniors.
Two Hamilton County commissioners are running unopposed in what some suspect was part of a deal between Republicans and Democrats. Hamilton County Democratic Chairman Tim Burke says there was no deal.
U.S. House Republicans are freaking out over the Ryan pick. Apparently, they’re worried Democrats will bring
up the fact Ryan’s budget plan tried to end Medicare as most
Americans know it. House Speaker John Boehner tried to calm Republicans.
Scientists have discovered a galaxy that gives birth to more stars in a day than our galaxy does in a year.
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.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for Cincinnati's long-awaited streetcar project will occur next Friday, Feb. 17, in front of Memorial Hall on Elm Street in Over-the-Rhine.
Mayor Mark Mallory announced the ceremony this afternoon. It will launch the first phase of construction, which involves relocating water lines under city streets.
Opening of the streetcar line’s first phase, a 3.9-mile loop between The Banks riverfront district and Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine, is scheduled for late 2013.
City Council today approved funding and accountability measures for the Cincinnati streetcar project, allowing the project to move forward.
On Monday, the Budget and Finance Committee approved the measures, which CityBeat covered in further detail here. The funding ordinance closes the streetcar project's $17.4 million budget gap by issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects, including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino.
The accountability motion will require the city manager to update City Council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.
Council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris
Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young voted for the measures.
Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn
voted against both. Councilwoman Pam Thomas voted against the funding
ordinance, but she voted for the accountability motion.
City Council also unanimously approved funding for a development project on Fourth and Race streets, which includes a downtown grocery store, luxury apartment tower and parking garage to replace Pogue's Garage. CityBeat covered that project in further detail here.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls responded to Rep. Steve Chabot’s Wednesday attempt to block federal funding for Cincinnati’s streetcar construction by calling it “an outrageous interference in local government decision-making.” The Enquirer today recapped the situation, which involves Chabot adding the following amendment to a massive federal transportation bill: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to design, construct, or operate a fixed guideway project located in Cincinnati, Ohio.” The amendment has little chance at being included in the final passage of the bill, as the Senate and President Obama would both have to approve and sign it.
A parody video of a Western & Southern PR representative explaining why the insurance company should build condos at the site of the century-old women’s shelter has earned a response from W&S. The company’s VP of public relations told The Enquirer: “Whoever created the video, we think it’s unfortunate that they’ve taken this approach,” he said. “We think it’s a distraction from finding a win-win for all involved.” The video is no longer available on YouTube, however, due to “a copyright claim by Canipre inc.”
Speaking of funny videos, MSNBC posted this video of Rep.
Jean Shmidt apparently reacting to someone incorrectly telling her that
President Obama’s health care law had been struck down. Schmidt can be
seen twisting around and making strange screaming sounds.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati streetcar is being delayed until 2016. The streetcar has been delayed time and time again, much to the cheer of opponents. Some opponents have taken the delay as yet another chance to take shots at the streetcar, but the city says a lot of the delays have been due to factors out of the city’s control, including ballot initiatives, the state pulling out a massive $52 million in funding and a dispute with Duke Energy.The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December, with November’s rate being revised upward to 7.8 percent as well. Employers reported adding about 155,000 jobs last month, but about 192,000 entered the labor force, meaning the amount of people joining the labor force outmatched the newly employed. The unemployment rate looks at the amount of unemployed people in the civilian labor force, which includes anyone working or looking for work.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner was re-elected U.S. House speaker. Just moments after securing the top House seat, Boehner said he will make the U.S. debt a top priority. But continuing to make the debt and deficit top issues could hurt the economy, as the fiscal cliff and recent developments in Europe have shown.
Uncle Sam is helping out Cincinnati firefighters. The Cincinnati Fire Department will be getting $6 million in federal grant money to hire 40 additional firefighters. The money will be enough to fund salaries for two years.
Cincinnati’s biggest cable provider dropped Current TV after it was sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Pan-Arab news network has had a difficult time establishing a foothold in American markets, largely because of the perception that it’s anti-American. But Al Jazeera has put out some great news stories, and some of the stories won awards in 2012.
If anyone is planning a trip through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Dayton International Airport now has that covered.
A small town in Ohio is being accused of covering up an alleged gang rape to protect a local football team. But KnightSec, a hacking group affiliated with the organization Anonymous, is fighting back by releasing evidence related to the case.
Despite a solved fiscal cliff deal extending emergency unemployment benefits, Ohio’s unemployed will soon be getting less aid. The decrease was automatically triggered by the state’s declining unemployment rate.
Ohio’s universities are adopting more uniform standards for remedial classes.
The newest Congress is a little more diverse.
In what might be the worst news of the century, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club could close down. The club, which has the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is facing financial problems.
People who recently obtained gift cards for Rave Motion Pictures may want to get a move on. The theater is being sold to AMC Theatres.
A new theory suggest Earth should have been a snowball in its early days, but it wasn’t due to greenhouse gases.