WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 05.20.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Transportation at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pirg report

Research Group: U.S. Driving Boom Is Over

As local officials struggle with streetcar and interchange, report demands new direction

Americans are driving less, and fewer Americans are driving, according to a May 14 report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG), an advocacy organization. For Cincinnati, the trend might justify a recent shift in public policy that embraces more transportation options, including more bike lanes and a streetcar. “Americans drive fewer total miles today than we did eight years ago, and fewer per person than we did at the end of Bill Clinton’s first term,” the report reads. “The unique combina­tion of conditions that fueled the Driving Boom — from cheap gas prices to the rapid expansion of the workforce during the Baby Boom generation — no longer exists. Meanwhile, a new generation — the Mil­lennials — is demanding a new American Dream less dependent on driving.” The report also says U.S. transportation policy “remains stuck in the past” and needs to “hit the ‘reset’ button.” The report, which uses U.S. Department of Transportation data from 2012, found Americans were driving about 9,000 miles a year per person in 2012, down from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 2004. Until the peak, Americans had been driving more miles each year since the end of World War II. The report finds the driving trend at odds with other means of transportation: “On the other hand, Americans took nearly 10 percent more trips via public transportation in 2011 than we did in 2005. The nation also saw increases in commuting by bike and on foot.” The report attributes much of the shift to millennials, members of the generation born between 1983 and 2000, which the report says are more likely to demand public transportation and urban and walkable neighborhoods. The new expectations are largely driven by Internet-connected technologies, which are “rapidly spawning new transportation options and shifting the way young Americans relate to one another, creating new avenues for living connected, vibrant lives that are less reliant on driving,” according to the report. PIRG finds the trend will likely stick as gas prices continue to rise, fewer Americans participate in the labor force and Americans demands less time spent in travel. Even if millennials begin driving more in the future, the report’s findings show Americans are going to be driving much less in 2040 than federal agencies currently assume. “This raises the question of whether changing trends in driving are being adequately fac­tored into public policy,” the report reads. The report concludes local, state and federal governments should react to the new trend by planning for uncertainty, accommodating millennials’ demands, reviewing the need for more highway projects, adapting federal priorities, using transportation funds based on cost-benefit analyses and conducting more transportation research. For Cincinnati, the trend could have implications for two major transportation projects: the MLK/I-71 Interchange and the streetcar. The streetcar project uses capital funding sources — some uniquely tied to mass transit projects — that some opponents argue should be reallocated to support the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. But the report’s findings seem to support the city’s current plans to push forward with mass transit projects like the streetcar, even while local funding for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project remains uncertain. After making changes based on feedback from public meetings, the Ohio Department of Transportation priced the interchange project at $80 million to $102 million, or $10 million to $32 million higher than the previous estimate of $70 million. The higher price didn’t lead to the same outcry that resulted from the streetcar project’s $17.4 million cost overrun, likely because of the interchange project’s broader support, secure state funding and feedback-driven circumstances. Still, the city could share some of the higher cost burden for the MLK/I-71 Interchange project. Previously, the city planned to use funds raised by leasing its parking assets to the Port Authority for the interchange, but that plan is currently being held up in court. In 2012, the city adopted Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980. The plan advocates for more alternative methods of public transportation, particularly light rail and bike lanes. But the master plan does not establish means of funding, so City Council will have to approve funding over time to implement the plan.
 
 

City Council Scrutinizes Streetcar Budget Fixes

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
At a Budget and Finance Committee meeting on May 13, City Council members grilled City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on how the city will fix the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap.  

Worst Week Ever!: May 8-14

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
WEDNESDAY MAY 8: Some people would rather go to jail than have to set foot inside a mall. Thanks to a recently announced event by the Springdale Police Department and several other local agencies, the two experiences will become more alike starting next week.  

A Streetcar Named a Failure

6 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Forget the bickering, back-and-forth and ballot measures. What we’re now doing — and I use “we” to mean whomever accesses city coffers or pulls capital and/or operating budget purse strings — is putting the streetcar before public good and public interest.   
by German Lopez 05.14.2013
Posted In: Anna Louise Inn, Streetcar, News, Police at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
jamescraig

Morning News and Stuff

Police chief leaving to Detroit, council scrutinizes streetcar, Anna Louise Inn sold

The city confirmed today that Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig will be leaving Cincinnati to take a job in Detroit. During Craig’s time, the city experienced a significant drop in crime. City officials praised Craig for his attempts to forge better ties between the Cincinnati Police Department and local communities, particularly by establishing the External Advisory Committee, a group of active local community members and business leaders that gives advice on the police department’s policies and procedures. City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the city will begin a nationwide search for Craig’s replacement tomorrow. Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB) is selling the Anna Louise Inn to Western & Southern for $4 million, and CUB will be relocating the Inn’s services to Mount Auburn. Many Anna Louise Inn supporters are taking the sale as a sign Western & Southern won, while others are glad the extensive legal battles are finally over. The sale came after years of Western & Southern obstructing the planned renovations for the Anna Louise Inn through court battles and other legal challenges, which CityBeat covered here. In a Q&A with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Western & Southern CEO John Barrett reflected on the events, saying his company took the “high road” throughout the controversy — a claim many Anna Louise Inn supporters dispute. City Council grilled Dohoney yesterday over fixing the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap and whether paying for the cost overruns to save the project is worth it. Supporters of the streetcar pushed questions and comments that touted the streetcar project’s return on investment, which was further supported by Dohoney’s testimony and previous studies from HDR, a consulting firm, and the University of Cincinnati. Opponents suggested the cost overruns were too much and the project, which now stands at $133 million, is too expensive. A final decision is expected by the end of May. The streetcar project’s funding comes from the capital budget, which can’t be used to fix the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit because of limits established in state law. The city and county governments are clashing over the city’s hiring policies for companies bidding on the Metropolitan Sewer District’s (MSD) construction projects. The city’s laws require construction firms to have apprenticeship programs, which the city says promotes job training on top of employment. But the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners claims the requirements aren’t feasible and put too much of a strain on companies. Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune questioned why the city’s policy only applies to MSD and not other local government agencies. The Duke Energy Garden is the latest addition to the Smale Riverfront Park. A Catholic teacher union will not support Carla Hale, a gay Columbus-area teacher who was fired after she named her girlfriend in an obituary for her mother. Hale says she was fired over her sexuality, but the Catholic Church says she was fired for revealing a “quasi-spousal relationship” outside of marriage. The Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage, which means all gay couples are in a non-marital relationship under the Church’s desired policies.The Internal Revenue Service scandal, which involves IRS officials unfairly scrutinizing conservative groups, is now nationwide. Previous reports pinned the practice on a Cincinnati field office, but numerous IRS offices around the country, including one in Washington, D.C., were found to be guilty of the practice in documents acquired by The Washington Post. Headline from The Columbus Dispatch: “Man who killed wife, then self: ‘I couldn’t take her mouth anymore.’” The brain catches grammar errors even when a person doesn’t realize it.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.13.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Streetcar at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Council Scrutinizes Streetcar Budget Fixes

City manager, council members discuss streetcar funding

At a Budget and Finance Committee meeting today, City Council members grilled City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on how the city will fix the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap and whether paying for the cost overrun to save the project is worth it. Supporters of the streetcar pushed questions and comments that suggested the streetcar will provide the city with a large return on investment, which was supported by Dohoney’s testimony and previous studies from HDR, a consulting firm, and the University of Cincinnati (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23). Opponents suggested the cost overruns were too much, and the project, which the city manager said now stands at an estimated $132 million to $133 million, is too expensive. In a memo issued April 30, Dohoney recommended various capital funding sources to fix the streetcar budget gap, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall renovation funds and money that would have otherwise gone to infrastructure projects around the Horseshoe Casino. Dohoney clarified that funding for Music Hall is not being permanently pulled; instead, his recommendations would delay Music Hall funding until 2016, which is when the Music Hall project will need the funds, and use currently allocated funding on the streetcar project. Dohoney added that Otto Budig, president of the Music Hall Revitalization Company, raised no concerns about the streetcar plan after it was explained to him. Dohoney also clarified that his recommendations would not raise taxes. A few council members, particularly Councilman Chris Seelbach, asked whether the streetcar project could face future cost overruns. Dohoney said it’s possible, based on the project’s scope. “For major projects like this … there is usually an anticipation that something other than the exact plan may occur somewhere along the line,” Dohoney said. For the streetcar project, there are a few remaining uncertainties. Dohoney said he doesn’t know for certain whether Messer Construction, which responded to the city’s bid process with the lowest construction bid, is still willing to contract with the city under the terms it previously offered. He said Messer officials have indicated they are still interested, but it remains an uncertainty until a contract is in place. Another uncertainty is exactly how much laying down the tracks will cost. Dohoney said it won’t be possible to gauge the exact cost until Messer or any other company contracts with the city and begins actual work on the project. But for those situations, Dohoney said the streetcar project has a $10 million contingency fund available, as required by the federal government. Councilman Chris Smitherman, who opposes the streetcar project, asked whether there’s a funding ceiling that, if breached, would make Dohoney stop supporting the streetcar project. Dohoney said he could not provide a number without further thought and analysis. When Smitherman later asked if the streetcar should be built at any cost, Dohoney said no. When asked what would happen if the project’s cost overruns were not covered, Dohoney said the project would effectively end. Smitherman asked how the city administration can be pushing forward with the project, given the cost overruns: “How is the administration continuing to move forward with a project that without a vote of council is dead?” Dohoney responded by saying the city administration does not have to stop by law until it is directed to do so by City Council. Ending the project would come with its own costs of about $72 million, according to Dohoney: $19.7 million that was already spent, $14.2 million in close-out costs and $38.1 million in federal grants that would have to be returned to the federal government.Dohoney said stopping would also make the federal government reluctant about working with Cincinnati in the future: “They’ve let us know they would not be pleased if we did it.”The city administration is currently working with the federal government to obtain another $5 million that could be used for contingency or to undo some of the overrun fixes being looked at, but federal officials are waiting to see how the city government reacts to the current cost overrun problems before a decision is made, according to Dohoney. Much of the City Council discussion focused on the streetcar’s merits, particularly whether the first phase of the project, which would run from The Banks to just north of Findlay Market, could be successful on its own. The city plans to eventually expand the route to the University of Cincinnati and hospitals uptown — a route originally part of the first phase of the streetcar project that was cut after Gov. John Kasich pulled $52 million in state-distributed federal funding in 2011. “If the intent of the streetcar would only be to go from The Banks to just north of Findlay Market, then I never would have said it's a project worth doing,” Dohoney said. “The intention has always been to connect the two major employment centers of the city and go beyond that.” But Dohoney later clarified that the first phase of the project would help invigorate hundreds of vacant lots and buildings in Over-the-Rhine, which he said would make that phase of the project a success by itself. Some opponents of the streetcar have incorrectly attempted to tie the streetcar project to the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit, which will likely be closed in part by laying off cops, firefighters and other city employees. But the streetcar project’s funding comes from the capital budget, which can’t be used to balance the operating budget because of limits established in state law.
 
 
by German Lopez 05.13.2013
Posted In: News, Education, Streetcar, LGBT Issues at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
streetcar

Morning News and Stuff

Council to discuss streetcar, bills would protect LGBT, CPS to prevent data scrubbing

City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is set to discuss the plan to close the streetcar budget gap today, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. on April 30. The plan borrows funding from various capital funding sources, including a temporary reallocation of Music Hall funds and money from infrastructure projects surrounding the Horseshoe Casino. None of the funding pulled can be used to balance the city’s $35 million operating budget deficit, which is leading to cop and firefighter layoffs, because of limits established in state law between capital budgets and operating budgets. A group of bipartisan Ohio legislators proposed bills in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate that would change the state’s anti-discrimination law to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The measures would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s anti-discrimination law, joining 21 other states and the District of Columbia, which already have similar laws.The bills have to be approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. John Kasich to become law. Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is making changes to prevent attendance data scrubbing following an audit in February that criticized CPS for the practice. The school district says internal investigations found no employees intentionally scrubbed data, but the changes being made should help prevent further problems in the future. The state auditor’s February report seemed to blame state policy over individual school districts for the findings. Attendance data scrubbing can make schools look much better in state reports, which could lead to increased funds or less regulatory scrutiny from the state. An audit revealed that the IRS targeted tea party groups that were critical of government and attempted to educate people on the U.S. Constitution. The extra scrutiny originated at a Cincinnati field office. Most Ohio public university presidents are paid more than the nationwide median salary for the job. The two brothers of the Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade say they have no sympathy for him. One of them called his brother a “monster.” Ohio gas prices are down this week. A new study found people can better calm themselves down by watching their brains on scanners. Participants learned how to control activity in a certain brain region after just two sessions. Watch a Canadian astronaut perform David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in space:
 
 
by German Lopez 04.30.2013
Posted In: News, Gun Violence, Streetcar, Development at 09:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
milton dohoney

Morning News and Stuff

City manager defends streetcar, student who shot himself identified, city to sell defunct mall

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. defended the streetcar project at a special four-hour session of City Council yesterday, but the city manager did not reveal any specifics over how the project’s $17.4 million budget gap could be closed. Dohoney revealed the price of halting the project would be $72 million: the project has already cost the city $19.7 million, the city would have to spend another $14.2 million in close-out costs and another $38.1 million in federal grants would have to be returned to the federal government. Most of Dohoney’s presentation focused on the streetcar’s economic benefits, but opponents say the budget gap proves the streetcar project is unsustainable and its costs are too high. The Cincinnati Enquirer identified the 17-year-old honors student at LaSalle High School who tried to commit suicide in front of a classroom of 22 other students yesterday, even though parents asked press to provide privacy. The student remains alive and in critical condition this morning. No other students were physically hurt, and classes are resuming as normal. (Update: The student’s name was removed from this post upon the family’s request.) The city is moving to sell Tower Place Mall for $1 to Brook Lane Holdings, an affiliate of JDL Warm Construction, so the construction company can pour $5 million into the defunct mall and convert it into a garage with street-level retail space. Financing the project at Pogue’s Garage, which is across the street from Tower Place Mall, is still being worked out now that the parking plan has been delayed by court battles and a referendum effort. Cincinnati’s police and firefighter unions are filing a lawsuit over the city’s health care dependent audit. The city is asking employees to verify whether spouses and children are legitimately eligible for health care benefits by turning over documents such as marriage licenses, birth certificates and tax returns. The unions’ attorney told WVXU the unions are willing to provide the necessary documents, but he said they’re concerned the process is too intrusive and difficult. Two firms are getting tax credits for creating jobs in the Greater Cincinnati area: 5Me, which creates manufacturing software, and Festo Americas, which specializes in factory and process automation. Altogether, the credits could create 312 jobs in the region. A Democratic state senator hinted yesterday at letting voters decide whether Internet sweepstakes cafes should be allowed in Ohio. State officials, particularly Attorney General Mike DeWine, claim Internet cafes are hubs for criminal activity. The Ohio House already passed a measure that would effectively ban the cafes, but some are cautious of the ban as the Ohio Senate prepares to vote. An intelligent headlight makes raindrops disappear. Some people may prefer death to being saved by this terrifying robot snake.
 
 

City Manager Defends Streetcar in Light of Budget Gap

0 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
Convening in packed City Council chambers on April 29, Cincinnati officials discussed the costs and benefits of the streetcar project in light of a $17.4 million budget gap revealed by the city administration on April 16.  

Death by a Thousand Budget Cuts

1 Comment · Thursday, May 2, 2013
Politicians here are like helicopter parents, mishandling the city in the same blatantly narcissistic manner as parents who bear children for the sole purposes of shaping those children in their images.  

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