WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 12.13.2013 127 days ago
Posted In: News, Homelessness, City Council at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
avondale housing

Study: Supportive Housing Doesn't Hurt Neighborhoods

Report questions fears raised by opponents of Avondale housing project

Although some members of City Council appear ready to rescind support for a supportive housing project in Avondale, a previous study commissioned by the group in charge of the Avondale project found supportive housing facilities cause no negative impact to neighborhoods in which they’re located. The study, conducted by Arch City Development and the Urban Decision Group, was commissioned by National Church Residences (NCR) to gauge the neighborhood impact of five permanent supportive housing complexes in Columbus for the chronically homeless, disabled and poor. The study found crime increases in most of the areas surrounding the facilities, but the increases were roughly the same as or less than demographically similar areas in Columbus. After interviewing Columbus residents located around the facilities, researchers also reported general agreement that the facilities had a positive effect or no impact on the areas. Although three of the facilities are located near four Columbus City Schools, researchers wrote Anne Lenzotti, director of facilities for Columbus City Schools, "has received no complaints about any Central Ohio permanent supportive housing project at the district or individual school level." The study, with its generally positive findings, calls into question many of the complaints voiced by opponents of the Avondale project. Two members of a City Council committee on Tuesday agreed to advance a resolution that would rescind support for state tax credits going to the 99-unit supportive housing facility in Avondale.But since the project already received state tax credits in June, it’s unclear whether council’s vote would have any effect on the project’s fate. Opponents of the facility argue it will worsen Avondale’s problems with poverty, alter the look of the area and damage revitalization efforts. They also complain that NCR failed to conduct thorough community engagement prior to proceeding with the project. Proponents claim the dispute stems from a not-in-my-backyard attitude that follows so many supportive housing projects prior to their completion. They say more community engagement, beyond what’s already occurred with Avondale Community Council, will begin deeper into the planning process and shape the project’s parameters. The full body of City Council could take up the resolution rescinding support for the Avondale project on Dec. 18.Read the full study below:This article went through some technical difficulties and temporarily disappeared as a result.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.17.2013 123 days ago
Posted In: News, Mayor, City Council, Streetcar at 05:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
streetcar

Private Groups Back Plan to Pay for Streetcar Operations

Foundation lists more than a dozen business, philanthropic leaders in support

More than a dozen business and philanthropic entities support the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority’s (SORTA) offer to develop a private-public partnership to fund the streetcar’s operating costs, Eric Avner, vice president of the Haile Foundation, told CityBeat on Tuesday.If enough private contributors agree to finance the streetcar’s operating costs, they could address a major concern raised by streetcar opponents and provide the clearest path forward for the $132.8 million streetcar project since the new mayor and City Council took office early this month. The Haile Foundation already contributed $1 million to an operating reserve fund for the streetcar, but Avner cautions that his organization’s donation is only the beginning, given all the other entities interested in moving the streetcar forward. Avner says 14 other business and philanthropic leaders supported the SORTA concept in person or through writing in time for SORTA’s board of trustees meeting on Tuesday. Among other community leaders, Avner cites Otto Budig, Cathy Crain of Cincinnati State, William Portman of the University of Cincinnati, Jeannie Golliher of the Cincinnati Development Fund, Rick Greiwe of Greiwe Development and Jack and Peg Wyant of Grandin Properties. In a letter to SORTA, the Haile Foundation offers to recruit and financially establish a commission of community leaders that will work with the agency to create an operating and revenue plan that will require no funds from the city of Cincinnati. The letter also promises to leverage the initial $1 million investment to secure additional contributors and build a fund that would pay for a full year of operating costs. Mayor John Cranley called SORTA’s offer “woefully insufficient” in a press conference on Tuesday. Cranley said the city will need financial assurances far above the Haile Foundation’s $1 million to cover $3.4-$4.5 million in annual operating costs for the streetcar over 30 years. Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of two potential swing votes on City Council, agreed with Cranley’s assessment, but he said the proposal could become a viable option if the city receives more assurances from SORTA and private entities that show the groups are serious in their offer.At this point, private contributors might be necessary to save the streetcar project. Cranley and Flynn said on Dec. 12 that operating costs must be written off the city’s budget if the project is to move forward. SORTA already agreed to help operate the streetcar if the project is completed, but its decision to take up the operating costs shows an additional commitment to the project. The agency claims bus services will not be impacted by its increased commitment to the streetcar. City Council expects to vote on Thursday on whether to restart the streetcar project. Council paused the project on Dec. 4 while the city audits the project’s completion, cancellation and operating costs. Read the Haile Foundation’s full letter below:
 
 
by German Lopez 12.17.2013 123 days ago
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor, Streetcar at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

SORTA Agrees to Take on Streetcar Operating Costs

Mayor, council members argue offer falls short of demands

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) on Tuesday indicated its willingness to pursue a public-private partnership to cover the streetcar’s operating costs, estimated at $3.4-$4.5 million a year. The announcement could provide an avenue for business and philanthropic leaders to help fund streetcar operations through SORTA in an attempt to meet demands from the mayor and some council members.“SORTA’s willingness is based upon assurances from the Cincinnati business and philanthropic communities that they will work with SORTA in public-private partnership to secure the funds required to cover the short and long-term operating costs of the streetcar to the extent other sources of streetcar revenue, such as fares, advertising, sponsorships, etc., are inadequate,” the agency said in a press release. But in a press conference following the announcement, Mayor John Cranley called SORTA’s offer “woefully insufficient.” He argued SORTA’s assurances aren’t enough to pull streetcar operating costs completely off the city’s books. Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of two potential swing votes on City Council, agreed with Cranley’s assessment. But he cautioned the commitment could become a viable path forward for the streetcar project if SORTA provides more assurances in the next couple days, before a council vote on the streetcar. SORTA’s commitment comes less than one week after Mayor John Cranley said he’d allow the $132.8 million streetcar project to move forward if private contributors agree to cover the streetcar’s operating costs for 30 years. Flynn and Vice Mayor David Mann, the two swing votes on City Council, approved of Cranley’s proposed compromise.In support of the announcement, the Haile Foundation also announced a $1 million commitment in seed money to spur further contributions to an operating reserve fund for the streetcar. “We are committed to seeing the streetcar through to completion and beyond. SORTA has stepped up and is more than qualified to serve in this role. This is another great example of community collaboration helping move to region forward,” said Eric Avner, vice president of the Haile Foundation, in a statement. Avner told CityBeat on Dec. 12 that private-sector leaders are working to meet the mayor’s demand with some financial assurances for the streetcar’s operating costs. SORTA’s announcement could act as that assurance. If the streetcar project is completed, SORTA already agreed to help operate the 3.6-mile loop in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. But the public-private partnership would increase the agency’s commitment to the streetcar. SORTA cautioned that bus service will not be affected in any way by the commitment. It’s unclear whether SORTA’s assurances will be enough to sway Cranley, Mann and Flynn. If Cranley threatens to veto a continuation of the streetcar project, both Mann and Flynn would likely need to vote in favor of the streetcar to overcome a veto and restart the project. The streetcar project is currently on “pause” while KPMG, an auditing firm, reviews completion, cancellation and operating costs. City officials expect to receive the audit late Tuesday or early Wednesday, with a council vote scheduled for Thursday.Updated at 3:23 p.m. with details from Mayor John Cranley’s press conference.
 
 
by German Lopez 12.12.2013 128 days ago
Posted In: News, City Council, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
john cranley

Cranley Open to Private Sector Paying Streetcar Operating Costs

Haile Foundation working with private-sector leaders to find solution

The streetcar project’s chances of survival grew on Thursday after Mayor John Cranley announced he’s willing to allow the $132.8 million project move forward if the annual operating costs for the streetcar are underwritten by private contributors.But streetcar supporters might have as little as one week to provide assurances to Cranley that the operating costs can be underwritten by the private sector, given the federal government’s Dec. 20 deadline for up to $44.9 million in grants financing roughly one-third of the project.Still, a representative of the Haile Foundation, a major private contributor to city projects, said private-sector leaders are already working on meeting Cranley’s offer and solving the issue. The concern for Cranley — and even some streetcar supporters — is that annual operating expenses for the streetcar would hit the city’s already-strained operating budget, especially if the annual operating expenses are higher than the previous estimate of $3.4-$4.5 million. Although the city wouldn’t need to pay for the full operating costs until the streetcar opens for service in 2016, Cranley and some council members are concerned finishing the project now would force the city to make payments it won't be able to afford in the future. “We know the streetcar is a very expensive project,” Cranley said. “This community cannot afford a new, ongoing liability that goes on forever.”Streetcar supporters argue Cranley’s view misses the streetcar’s potential for economic development, which could bring in more city revenues as more people move and work in the city. The streetcar project would produce a 2.7-to-1 return on investment, according to a 2007 study from consulting firm HDR that was later verified by the University of Cincinnati. Councilman Kevin Flynn, one of the two potential swing votes on council, said Cranley’s offer could provide “a way forward.” He previously told CityBeat that the operating costs remain a prominent concern for him because they could translate to cuts in the city’s budget, particularly to police and firefighters. Eric Avner, vice president and senior program manager of community development at the Haile Foundation, called the deal “an olive branch” to streetcar supporters. He said he’s “very, very confident” the private sector will be able to find a solution. “I don’t think we can solve it in a week. What I heard is he needs assurances,” Avner said. Cranley said he doesn’t expect someone to come to city leaders next Wednesday with a check paying for 30 years of operating costs, but he said the commitment has to be serious and long lasting for the city to move forward with the streetcar. Avner discussed bringing together a commission of private-sector leaders with some long-term assurances. In what he described as an “organic” movement, Avner said he’s heard from various private-sector leaders that they want to keep the project going, but he claimed most of them don’t want to engage in a public “food fight” that could hurt their relations with the mayor and other city officials. For Avner, it’s a matter of sticking to a project that’s already well into development and construction. “We don’t have the luxury to waste that kind of money in this town,” he said. Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick on Nov. 21 told council members that canceling the streetcar project could save only $7.5-$24.5 million in capital costs after accounting for $32.8 million in estimated sunk costs through November, $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and up to $44.9 million in federal grants that would be lost if the project were stopped. After Cranley’s announcement, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson questioned Cranley’s motives and said the solicitation might be very difficult to meet in just one week. Cranley said he’ll reach out to the Federal Transit Administration to try to get an extension, perhaps until the end of the year, on the deadline for federal grants. “It’s obviously a huge, huge hurdle to try to pull this together in seven days,” Cranley said. Cranley cautioned he wouldn’t be upset if his offer fell through. Flanked by union representatives for police, firefighters and other city workers, Cranley reiterated that his priorities still lie in basic city services. Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld previously proposed setting up a special improvement district to pay for the operating costs. But Cranley called the approach unworkable because it would require property owners to opt in — an effort that would presumably take much longer than one week. Cranley’s announcement came as streetcar supporters move to place a city charter amendment in support of the streetcar project on the ballot. The campaign vowed to gather 12,000 signatures by the end of the week.
 
 

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