by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 04:25 PM | Permalink
Cranley promises to cancel streetcar project and shift city’s priorities
Mayor-elect John Cranley invited reporters to his home in Mt. Lookout on
Wednesday to discuss his plan and priorities for his first term as
mayor of Cincinnati.
Cranley claims the invitation to his house represents the
kind of accessible, transparent leadership he’ll take up when he begins
his term on Dec. 1.
Speaking on his immediate priorities, Cranley says he
already contacted the nine newly elected council members and intends to build
more collaboration with all sides of the aisle, which will include a mix
of five Democrats, two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent
starting in December.
One of Cranley’s top priorities is to cancel the $133
million streetcar project, which Cranley and six newly elected council members
oppose. He also argues that the city should stop spending on ongoing
construction for the project.
“Seriously, look at who got elected yesterday. At some
point, this is a democracy. We shouldn’t be agitating voters like this,”
Cranley says. “Let’s not keep spending money when it looks like the
clear majority and the clear mandate of yesterday’s election was going
in a different direction.”
But in response to recent reports
that canceling the streetcar project could carry its own set of unknown
costs, he says he will weigh the costs and benefits before making a
final decision. If the cost of cancellation is too high, Cranley
acknowledges he would pull back his opposition to the project.
Canceling the streetcar project would also require an ordinance from City Council.
Mike Moroski, who on Tuesday lost in his bid for a council seat, already announced on Twitter
that he’s gathering petition signatures for a referendum to prevent the project’s cancellation. Cranley promises he won’t stop a referendum effort by
placing an emergency clause on an ordinance that cancels the project, but he expressed doubt that a referendum would succeed.
On the current city administration’s plan to lease the
city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port
Authority, Cranley says he will work with fellow lawyers David Mann and
Kevin Flynn, both of who won seats for council on Tuesday, to find a
way to cancel the deal.
But that could prove tricky with the lease agreement
already signed by the city and Port Authority, especially as the Port
works to sell bonds — perhaps before Cranley takes office — to finance
the deal and the $85 million payment the city will receive as a result.
Cranley also promises to make various development projects
his top priority, particularly the interchange for Interstate 71 and
Martin Luther King Drive. He says he will lobby White House officials to
re-appropriate nearly $45 million in federal grant money for the streetcar project to
the interchange project, even though the U.S. Department of
Transportation told the city in a June 19 letter that it would take back
nearly $41 million of its grant money if the streetcar project were
Cranley vows he will also work with local businesses to
leverage public and private dollars to spur investment in Cincinnati’s
neighborhoods — similar to what the city did with Over-the-Rhine and
downtown by working with 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
“We want to have some big early wins,” Cranley says. “We
want to get moving within a year on the Wasson Way bike trail, see
significant progress at the old Swifton Commons and see Westwood Square
He adds, “And we intend to reverse the one-trash-can
policy, which I think is a horrible policy. … There have been several
stories about illegal dumping that have resulted from that.”
Cincinnati’s pension system and its $862-million-plus
unfunded liability also remain a top concern for city officials. Cranley
says he will tap Councilman Chris Smitherman to help bring costs in
line, but no specifics on a plan were given.
by German Lopez
State fights for minor party restrictions, local judge disqualified, Oasis rail line draws critics
Ohio officials will appeal a court ruling that blocked
tougher requirements on minor political parties and allows them to run
in the 2014 primary and general elections under previous rules. The
Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich approved the
stricter rules last year. Democrats and Libertarians argued the new
law, which they labeled the John Kasich Re-election Protection Act, was
put in place to protect Kasich from conservative electoral challengers
upset with his support for the federally funded Medicaid expansion.The Ohio Supreme Court disqualified Hamilton County
Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Friday after she was indicted on eight
felony charges for, among other accusations, backdating and forging court
documents. The disqualification could further burden a court that’s
already known for a large backlog of cases. It remains unclear how long
Hunter’s case and disqualification will last and whether she’ll be
replaced while the legal battle unfolds.Many streetcar supporters oppose the Oasis rail line and
the rest of the Eastern Corridor project. Critics of the project point
to a recent study that found the Oasis line would generate
low economic development in seven of 10 planned stations. Instead of
supporting the Oasis line, Cincinnatians for Progress says local
officials should work to first establish a transit line — perhaps
through a piece-by-piece approach of the defunct MetroMoves plan that
voters rejected in 2002 — that could act as a central spine for a
broader light rail network. Opposition to the Oasis line is also rooted
in a general movement against the Eastern Corridor project, which some say
would expand and rework roads and highways in a way that could damage and divide the East Side and eastern Hamilton County. Officials are taking
feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at
EasternCorridor.org.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who might
challenge Democratic gubernatorial Ed FitzGerald in the May primary,
discussed the gubernatorial race in a nearly 40-minute interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board Friday. View the full interview here.The U.S. Supreme Court will hear whether groups have the
right to sue in a local case that could have broader
implications for free-speech rights and limitations. The legal fight
between former Rep. Steve Driehaus and the Susan B. Anthony List could
resolve whether political campaigns have the right to lie.As local and state officials work to address the opiate
epidemic, a drug history scholar from the University of Cincinnati
proposes alternatives to the failing war on drugs.One drug helps prevent opiate addicts from getting high.The Ohio Department of Health says flu activity in Ohio is now widespread.Ohio’s chief justice says it’s time to reform how judges
are elected. It remains unclear exactly how Chief Justice Maureen
O’Connor would reform the system, but she says she wants to uphold
courts’ attempts at impartiality.Reminder: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Find out more at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov.Ohio gas prices increased in time for the new workweek.Racism could accelerate aging among black men, according to a new study.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
HDR study finds low economic development along intercity line
At first glance, it might seem like a rail line between
downtown Cincinnati and the city of Milford would earn support from the
same people who back the $132.8 million streetcar project, but streetcar
supporters, including advocacy group Cincinnatians for Progress, say
they oppose the idea and its execution.
Critics of the overall project, called the Eastern
Corridor, recently pointed to a November study from HDR. Despite flowery
language promising a maximized investment, HDR found seven of 10
stations on the $230-$322 million Oasis rail line would result in low economic
development, five of 10 stations would provide low access to buses and
bikes, and the intercity line would achieve only 3,440 daily riders
HDR’s findings for the Oasis line stand in sharp contrast
to its study of Cincinnati’s streetcar project. The firm found the streetcar line in Over-the-Rhine and downtown would generate major
economic development and a 2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years.
Given the poor results for the Oasis line, streetcar
supporters say local officials should ditch the Oasis concept and
instead pursue the 2002 MetroMoves plan and an expansion of the
streetcar system through a piecemeal approach that would create a central transit spine through the region.
“To have (the Oasis line) be our first commuter rail piece in
Cincinnati … just doesn’t make
sense to me,” says Derek Bauman, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress.MetroMoves spans across the entire city and region, with
the rail line along I-71 from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky
International Airport to downtown Cincinnati to King’s Island fostering
particularly high interest.
Voters rejected the MetroMoves plan and the sales tax hike
it involved in 2002, but streetcar supporters say public opinion will
shift once the streetcar becomes reality in Cincinnati.
“That’s been proven in other cities, especially ones that
have not historically been transit-oriented,” Bauman says, pointing to
Houston and Miami as examples of cities that built spines that are now
being expanded.Opposition to the Oasis line is also more deeply rooted in a
general movement against the Eastern Corridor project. The unfunded
billion-dollar project involves a few parts: relocating Ohio 32 through
the East Side, the Oasis rail line and several road improvements from
Cincinnati to Milford.
Supporters of the Eastern Corridor claim it would ease
congestion, at least in the short term, and provide a cohesiveness in
transportation options that’s severely lacking in the East Side.
Opponents argue the few benefits, some of which both sides
agree are rooted in legitimate concerns, just aren’t worth the high
costs and various risks tied to the project.
“When it comes to widening roads and highways, it’s kind
of like loosening your belt at Thanksgiving. Somehow traffic always
fills to fit,” Bauman says. “Highway expansion, especially in urban
areas, is not the future. It’s not even the present in some areas.”
The big concern is that the relocation of Ohio 32 might do
to the East Side and eastern Hamilton County what I-75 did to the West Side, which was partly obliterated and divided by the massive freeway.
“It hurts the cohesiveness of our communities when you
create these big divides,” Bauman argues. “You would see that repeat
Officials are taking feedback for the Eastern Corridor and Oasis rail line at EasternCorridor.org.This article was updated to use more up-to-date figures for the cost of the Oasis rail line.
3 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Voters saddled Hamilton County with debt just to watch the Cincinnati Bengals lose year after year in a publicly funded stadium.
by German Lopez
Streetcar decision today, Preschool Promise coming together, uptown interchange advances
The city would save just $7.8-$52.6 million in capital costs if it takes on tens of millions in additional expenditures to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar project, an independent audit revealed yesterday. The news appeared to throw another potential lifeline for the streetcar, which can now claim a five-member majority of supporters on City Council. But with Mayor John Cranley's veto threat, council will likely need six votes to continue the project. Council expects to make a decision today, prior to a Friday deadline for federal grants funding roughly one-third of the project.Some city leaders are trying to ensure all of Cincinnati's 3- and 4-year-olds attend quality preschool programs through Cincinnati’s Preschool Promise. Citing swaths of studies and data, Greg Landsman, executive director of the education-focused Strive Partnership, says the policy could reach all corners of the city and hugely benefit the city’s economy in the long term. But supporters of the proposal first must find a means to fund it, which Landsman says will likely require some sort of voter-approved tax hike in 2014. Before the Preschool Promise campaign gets there, Landsman vows supporters will heavily engage the community to gather feedback and determine the scope of the proposal.City Council yesterday unanimously approved $20 million in capital funding for the $106 million uptown interchange project, which will allow the project to move forward with the state and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments filling the rest of the funding gap. The capital allocation means property taxes will remain higher than they would without the project, as revealed at Monday's Budget and Finance Committee. Mayor Cranley and council members argue the cost is worth it because, as a study from the University of Cincinnati's Economics Center previously found, the project will generate thousands of jobs and other economic gains in the uptown area.Commentary: "Anti-Streetcar Logic Should Stop Uptown Interchange Project."The Democratic majority on City Council yesterday dismissed legislation that would have repealed controversial bidding requirements for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects. Council's decision could put Cincinnati and Hamilton County on a collision course over rules governing a federally mandated revamp of the city's inadequate sewer system. A majority of council members support the bidding requirements as a way to foster local jobs and local job training, while opposing county officials say the rules favor unions and impose a huge burden on MSD contractors. Councilman Chris Seelbach says he's working with Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann to get both parties in mediation talks and end a county-enforced hold on sewer projects before the federal government begins enforcing its mandate.The city of Cincinnati is allowing residents to put out extra trash bags next to approved trash containers between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3 in a "trash amnesty."Gov. John Kasich's 2014 wish list: More infrastructure funding, measures that curb health care costs, new anti-drug and anti-poverty initiatives, and another tax cut.Ohio's May ballot could include a measure that would tap into existing revenues to boost funding for infrastructure projects around the state.Seventeen non-U.S. citizens allegedly cast illegal ballots in Ohio's 2012 general election, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.Two Democrats in the Ohio Senate proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples to file joint tax returns. But Republicans control both chambers of the Ohio legislature, so it's unlikely the bill will pass.Four Ohio libraries, including the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, are collaborating to preserve historical documents, photographs and more.Those who want health care coverage on Jan. 1 and don't get insurance through an employer have five days to sign up for Obamacare at HealthCare.gov.Congress passed a bipartisan budget deal that will avoid a federal government shutdown and ease previously planned across-the-board spending cuts.A new study found the Milky Way has four arms, not two as previously believed.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Democratic council members stand together against repeal of "responsible bidder" law
Council on Wednesday dismissed legislation that would have repealed
controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD)
projects.Council's decision could put Cincinnati and Hamilton
County on a collision course over rules governing a federally mandated
revamp of the city's sewer system. The city and county jointly manage
MSD.Democrats David Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette
Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young voted to move the repeal
ordinance back to committee. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn,
Charterite Kevin Flynn and Independent Christopher Smitherman voted to
keep the ordinance in front of council.
Hamilton County commissioners previously halted most
of the $3.2 billion, 15-year sewer revamp in protest of the city's
"responsible bidder" law. As long as the hold remains in place, the city and county risk violating a federal mandate to revamp Cincinnati's inadequate sewer system.The city rules
require contractors to follow stricter standards for apprenticeship
programs, which unionized and nonunion businesses use to train workers
in crafts, such as electrical work or plumbing. The rules also ask
contractors to put 10 cents for each hour of labor into a
pre-apprenticeship fund that will help train newcomers in different
Supporters of the law claim it will foster local
jobs and local job training. Opponents claim the law favors unions and
places a costly burden on MSD contractors.The
city already gave various concessions to resolve its conflict with the county, including
exemptions for small businesses and contracts worth less than $400,000. But the county has so far refused to budge.Smitherman, who opposes the law, argued the issue will end up in court and the city will lose."What was passed on May 1 is not constitutional," he said.But the city's law department says the law is legal and could be defended in court.Seelbach,
who spearheaded the law, said he's in talks with Hamilton County
Commissioner Greg Hartmann to bring both parties into mediation and
resolve the conflict.
"I'm asking for some more time," he said.
by German Lopez
Big week for streetcar, council OKs interchange funds, emergency jobless aid to expire
Major events for Cincinnati’s streetcar project this week:
Today, supporters will turn in petitions to get the issue on the
ballot; late today or early tomorrow, KPMG will turn in audit of the
project’s completion, cancellation and operating costs; tomorrow,
council will take public comment on the project at 1:30 p.m.; and on
Thursday, council will debate and make the final decision on the streetcar. Other streetcar news:• Mayor John Cranley is asking streetcar opponents to speak up during the public comments section of Wednesday’s council meeting.• Supporters collected more than 9,000 signatures
to get the streetcar project on the ballot. Nearly 6,000 signatures need to be
verified to allow a vote in the coming months.
City Council’s budget committee yesterday advanced funding
for the $106 million uptown interchange project at Martin Luther King
Drive and Interstate 71. The capital funding set by council will be
backed through property taxes, which, according to the city
administration, will prevent the city from reducing property taxes in
the future as originally planned. Still, proponents of the project,
including a unanimous body of council, say the project is worth the investment; the
University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center found in a May 2012 study
that the interchange will generate 5,900 to 7,300 permanent jobs, $133
million in economic development during construction and another $750
million once the interchange opens.
Congress appears ready to pass a bipartisan budget deal
that will not extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed
through 2014, which could leave more than 36,000 unemployed Ohioans
behind in December and 128,600 Ohioans without aid through 2014. The
emergency benefits were originally adopted by Congress to provide a
safety net for those worst affected by the Great Recession.
Conservatives, touting the $25.2 billion annual cost, say the economy
has improved enough to let the costly benefits expire, but liberals,
pointing to the high numbers of long-term unemployed, say the benefits
are still needed and would help keep the economy on a stable recovery.The Cincinnati area’s economy could overtake the Cleveland area in 2015.Six men were taken into custody after a SWAT team
responded to a home and engaged in a gun battle that left a
three-year-old critically injured.A Union Township trustee says he can’t believe Chris Finney would
hurt his credibility for a $850-a-year tax break to open a law firm in Clermont County.
As a member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes,
Finney repeatedly spoke against tax breaks for businesses in the past.Medicaid expansion supporters announced yesterday that
they’re no longer pursuing a ballot initiative after actions from Gov.
John Kasich and the Ohio Controlling Board effectively enacted the
expansion, which taps into federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility
to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.The Kasich administration expects to hand out education
grants from the “Straight A” fund on Wednesday in an attempt to reward
innovation at the state’s schools. The grants will go to more than 150
of Ohio’s 614 school districts, according to state officials.Someone hacked The Cincinnati Enquirer’s online streetcar polls.
The Mega Millions jackpot hit $586 million yesterday.A new study finds “blind as a bat” isn’t blind at all.Watch giraffes clash in a surprising, epic one-on-one:Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Property taxes to remain at current rate as a result of project
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday
unanimously agreed to allocate $20 million in capital funding for the
$106 million interchange project at Martin Luther King Drive and
The funding will be backed through property taxes, which, according to the
city administration, will prevent the city from
lowering property taxes in the future as originally planned.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld argued the focus should be on the project’s economic potential, not its possible impact on property taxes.
“If the city stopped spending money and stopped investing
in things, indeed people’s taxes would go down, but I don’t think it’s a
very fair frame to think about making this very important investment,”
But Councilman Chris Seelbach said the public should know the full effects of the project.
“Believe me, I support this, and I support this through
the property tax, but I just don’t want us to be able to pass this
without saying what it is,” he said.
Council members said they support the interchange project because
of the positive economic impact it will have on the uptown area, which
includes the University of Cincinnati and surrounding hospitals.
According to a May 2012 study from the University of
Cincinnati’s Economics Center, the project will produce 5,900 to 7,300
permanent jobs. The same study found the economic impact of the project
will reach $133 million during construction and $750 million once the
interchange opens, which would lead to higher tax revenues.
The city is carrying roughly one-fifth of the cost for the
interchange project. The rest will be financed through the state and
Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.
by German Lopez
ProgressOhio loses case against privatized development agency
The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously dismissed a request to compel JobsOhio to disclose various documents. The court argued the Republican-controlled General Assembly largely
exempted JobsOhio from public records law and therefore allowed the agency to keep most of its inner workings secret.The decision was a major loss
for advocacy group ProgressOhio, which claims the documents should be on the
The Republican-controlled legislature, with the support of
Republican Gov. John Kasich, in 2011 established JobsOhio, a privatized
development agency, to replace the Ohio Department of
Development. The JobsOhio Board of Directors is chaired by wealthy Ohio businessmen.
Republicans argue JobsOhio’s secretive, privatized nature
is necessary to quickly foster economic development deals across the
state. Democrats say the anti-transparency measures make it far too difficult to hold
JobsOhio accountable as it recommends how to spend taxpayer dollars.An Oct. 23 report criticized JobsOhio and other privatized development agencies around the country for consistently displaying conflicts of interest and other scandalous behavior. The report came from Good Jobs First, a
research center founded in 1998 that scrutinizes deals between
businesses and governments.
Kasich previously touted JobsOhio as one of the reasons
Ohio’s economy quickly recovered following the Great Recession, but
recent indicators show the state’s economy is now slowing down. 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.
Others have more directly questioned the Kasich administration’s claims to success. An Oct. 29 investigation from The Toledo Blade found
jobs numbers from the Ohio Development Services Agency are vastly inflated,
indicating that the state government isn’t producing nearly as many
jobs as it claims.
by German Lopez
Drop Inn Center to move, sewer and water rates set to rise, CVG's losses cost region
The Drop Inn Center and 3CDC (Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation) on Friday announced a deal
to move the region’s largest homeless shelter from its current location
in Over-the-Rhine to Queensgate. The Drop Inn Center says the new
location represents “most of the things on our wish list, which is
fantastic.” And 3CDC has been pushing the shelter to move since it began
its efforts to revitalize the Over-the-Rhine and downtown area, which
some label gentrification. Josh Spring, executive director of the
Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, said in a statement that
government officials and developers should be helping maintain
affordable housing in all parts of the city instead of moving poor
people to other neighborhoods.
Local sewer rates could rise by 6 percent
and local water rates will skyrocket by 22.6 percent following proposed
price hikes from the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD). The higher
sewer rates are needed to help pay for a federally mandated sewer upgrade
that will cost $3.2 billion over 15 years, according to MSD officials.
MSD says the spike in water bills is necessary because water use is
declining and treatment costs are increasing.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has lost more flights and seats since 2005
than any other major airport across the country, which effectively cost
the Cincinnati area 33,000 jobs and nearly $1 billion in annual
economic activity in the same time span, according to an analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The 78-percent drop in flights — far higher than the national average
of 19 percent — comes even as CVG’s average fares increased by 26 percent,
which were also above the national average of 4 percent.
Commentary from The Business Courier: “(Mayor-elect John) Cranley doubles down on streetcar cancellation.”
Supporters of Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project
will meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Cincinnati Hyatt Regency Ballroom
to discuss their options to prevent Cranley from stopping the streetcar
project. Supporters were recently reinvigorated by the current city
administration’s projections that canceling the streetcar project could cost nearly as much as completing it.
As Ohio’s Republican legislators move to adopt a stand-your-ground law, the research shows the controversial self-defense laws might increase homicides and racial disparities in the U.S. justice system.
Economists generally agree that state officials don’t play
a big role in changing the economy in the short term, but political
scientists say the economy will still play a major role in deciding Ohio’s 2014 gubernatorial elections.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald argues Republican Gov.
John Kasich deserves the blame for Ohio’s economy, given that Kasich
initially credited his policies for Ohio’s brief economic turnaround
early on in his term. But now that the economy is beginning to stagnate,
Kasich refuses to take the blame and points to congressional gridlock at the federal level
as the reason for Ohio’s slowdown.
Ohio paid nearly $1.2 million
for a string of charter schools that closed weeks after they opened.
The schools, which all operated under the name Olympus High School, are
now facing an audit and have been ordered to pay back some of the money.
A state job program for disabled Ohioans could lose millions in federal funds
after the U.S. Department of Education warned the state it is
improperly spending the money on case management and other
administrative activities. But the head of Opportunities for Ohioans
with Disabilities insists the state program is under compliance.
Ohio’s number of uninsured children is below the national average, according to a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is fast tracking business permits to outpace neighboring states.
With Thanksgiving looming, Ohio gas prices rose in the past week.
Migraine sufferers who also deal with allergies and hay fever might suffer from more severe headaches, according to a study from three medical centers that include the University of Cincinnati.Would you ride the world’s tallest water slide?Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez