by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 09:55 AM | Permalink
First anniversary of streetcar contracts, compost gone wild and shooting at helicopters
One year ago today, the city signed contracts to start construction on the streetcar. Fast forward 365 days, and the new transit loop through downtown and Over-the-Rhine is quickly taking shape. Roads are closed as major sections of track go in. Workers are constructing concrete slabs for the passenger stops. The cars themselves are being built. And the city recently named downtown-based Kolar Design to do branding work for the streetcar. The Business Courier has photos of the progress so far. Or you can just drive through Over-the-Rhine and see for yourself. Just don’t take Race Street if you’re hoping to get downtown — it's still closed at 12th Street.• We’ve all lived with roommates who don’t always take out their garbage. It’s gross. But I guess it could be worse. Like, tens of thousands of times worse. The city recently shut down a compost company called Cincy Compost in Winton Hills after two years of complaints from miles around about the ghastly smells emanating from what is effectively an 80,000 pound pile of rotting food, but things could get worse before they get better. The heap, which is piled two feet deep, needs to be cleaned up by the city now that the company is no longer in business. It seems the business didn’t get the correct balance of garbage for the compost process to work and was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of garbage it took in. It racked up 45 code violations while it was open. Now the city will have to spend $250,000 to kick-start the process and finish turning the garbage into soil. That involves stirring all that garbage around, basically, which is only going to make the smell worse in the short-term. Gross.• Community groups in the city will be holding a rally calling for an end to violence in the city at 7 p.m. in Piatt Park today. Last week, four people were shot, one fatally, in two separate but related incidents at the park. Cincinnati saw a surge in shootings early in the year, though that trend has slowed and the city may not see an increase over last year’s 75 murders. Forty-two people have been murdered in the city this year, many with guns. • One guy who will not be at that rally, I’d imagine, is this dude, who threatened to shoot down a University of Cincinnati Health Air Care helicopter yesterday. Angry that the helicopter was flying too low over his Green Township house, Leonard Pflanz is accused of driving to Mercy West Hospital and telling the helicopter’s pilot that he would shoot him if he did it again. Pflanz is appearing in court this morning over charges stemming from the threat.• General Motors may soon be in some big trouble with federal prosecutors, who are investigating whether the company made false statements about a defect in some of its cars that has killed at least 13 people. The defect relates to an ignition switch problem that has caused some GM cars to lose power while operating. The feds accuse GM of making misleading statements to the public about the defect, downplaying the dangers of the defective switches. The company has already been fined $35 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for dragging its feet in response to the problem. Some believe GM’s ultimate liability could end up being even more than the $1.2 billion Toyota was ordered to pay earlier this year over similar charges.• Finally, Smithsonian Magazine reports that skin cells may be able to detect odors and that some of these odors may aid the body in the healing process. Basically, this means the whole surface of your body is receptive to smells in one way or another. This is interesting, maybe even great news, unless of course you live near a failed composting facility or something.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: News
at 08:33 AM | Permalink
Streetcar cost confusion, Northside development and campaign finance questions
This morning, as it seems every morning, people are disagreeing on the streetcar. I know, big breaking news, right?Currently, the disagreement is as follows: Have cost estimates gone up for the always-embattled transit project’s eventual operations, or haven’t they? It depends on what you read, and which study you look at. The Enquirer yesterday ran a story reporting that the deficit the streetcar will run — the gap between operating costs and its revenues — will be $2.6 million in its first full year of operation and would then climb to $3.85 million by 2025. The story then compares those numbers to a study done in December by KPMG, an independent auditing firm, which found that operating deficit would top out at $2.4 million.So clearly the expected costs of the streetcar have gone up right? Not so fast, the city says. Streetcar project leader John Deatrick said yesterday that the city has always expected the deficit to end up around the $3.85 million figure, which were included in an earlier study of the project. The city isn’t sure exactly how the KPMG arrived at their numbers, but a spokesperson for SORTA told the Business Courier that the two estimates aren’t comparable.The KPMG study was commissioned by City Council during the December fight over possible cancellation of the streetcar project, and is a cost assessment of that proposed cancellation. The city’s numbers were developed by another group, called TRA, and they take into account staff and administrative costs. It’s unclear if the KPMG numbers do this as well.Deatrick did reveal that the start-up costs for the streetcar-- training staff, testing the project, and other details-- could cost $1 million more than originally anticipated. He asked council for that money, which will be needed by 2016, at the Transportation Committee meeting yesterday.• A new development broke ground yesterday at one of Northside’s most prominent intersections. The Gantry building will hold 130 apartments and first-floor retail and dining at the corner of Blue Rock and Hamilton Avenue. The $13 million project is expected to finish next year. Check out this story for illustrations of the building, which looks to be a big departure from the aesthetics of the neighborhood now.• Gov. John Kasich, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine have all received those special invitations to a party you never want to go to: court hearings over alleged campaign finance improprieties. The three Ohio GOP leaders received subpoenas related to millionaire and big GOP funder Ben Suarez. The North Canton businessman is accused of funneling illegal contributions to two other Republicans, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and Rep. Jim Renacci, a Republican from Wadsworth, after they sent letters on his behalf over a California false-advertising lawsuit. Prosecutors charge that after the letters were sent, Suarez channeled $100,000 from his employees to each politician. Both later returned the donations.Kasich, Husted and DeWine are trying to RSVP a “no, thanks” to the whole mess, fighting the legal standing of the court summons. Suarez wants the Republicans to testify that letters from politicians on constituents’ behalf are normal and legal.• A new study by Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business found that Ohio is ranked 38th in the nation in terms of job growth. That’s not that great, really. On the upside, we beat Michigan by one spot and New Jersey by several. Hey guys, we’re not New Jersey!• ICYMI: American Apparel kicked their founder to the curb recently after years of allegations that he’s, well, super creepy. Dov Charney has weathered a number of sexual harassment lawsuits and other scandals during his time leading the company. None of that was a big deal for the label, which is famous for its racy ads featuring scantily clad models, until it started losing money. Like, lots of money. Now the company is looking to distance itself from Charney’s weird sideshow in order to clean up its image a bit.* Finally, and really relevant to nothing in particular in the news today, here's a pretty awesome map someone recently did of America's tribal nations as they existed before contact with Europeans. NPR has a great story on the map here.
by Nick Swartsell
Posted In: Development
at 04:10 PM | Permalink
City and county seal the deal, offer sweet incentives
General Electric is officially moving 1,800 employees to The Banks, the entertainment and retail complex on Cincinnati's riverfront. But it took some deal-sweetening by the city to make it happen. City Council and Hamilton County Commissioners on Monday approved a landmark deal that incentivizes the company to consolidate some administrative and finance jobs at the site, which will be 10 stories tall and cost about $90 million to build.The city's bid beat out Norwood and other locations, though the city and county had to offer one of the most generous deals in the region's history. The company will receive a 75-percent property tax abatement for the next 15 years, with the other 25 percent of those taxes going to Cincinnati Public Schools. Eighty-five percent of employees' city earnings taxes will also flow back to the company over that period of time.GE said the incentives are needed because moving to The Banks will be about 15 percent more expensive than other bids it considered. The city hopes the deal will lead to a long-term payoff. County officials tout studies showing big benefits. The Economics Center for Education and Research at UC ran the numbers on the deal and suggest that the project could bring in $1 billion in overall economic activity. The site should reach full capacity by 2018.The estimated average salary of an employee at the site will be about $79,000, company officials say.Despite some questions about how quickly the deal came together, both council and county commissioners passed it unanimously during an unusual joint meeting at Great American Ball Park. Council member P.G. Sittenfeld praised the project but noted the city will need to remember to balance fairness and overall impact in the future. Council member Chris Seelbach used the occasion to tout the streetcar, tweeting that it was a big factor in GE's choice to move to The Banks.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Believe in Cincinnati, the grassroots
group that played a big role advocating for the Cincinnati streetcar
during and since the infamous City Hall pause, is expanding its focus
3 Comments · Wednesday, March 5, 2014
This is my last article as a staff writer at CityBeat.
At the end of the week, I will be leaving Cincinnati for Washington,
D.C., to join a new journalistic venture.
1 Comment · Wednesday, February 26, 2014
WCPO's anti-streetcar story speaks to the sheer desperation local reporters must feel in
their attempts to attract TV ratings and Internet traffic.
by German Lopez
Group protests gentrification, streetcar fares revealed, FitzGerald supports death penalty
An anti-gentrification organization says development in
southern Over-the-Rhine and downtown is leaving out low- and
middle-income residents. The People’s Coalition for Equality and Justice
(TPCEJ) cautions it’s not against development, but it supports policies
that would seek to help more people take advantage of the
revitalization of Over-the-Rhine and downtown, such as more affordable
housing, protections for renters’ rights, rent control and the
formation of tenants’ unions. The agency behind much of the development
in Over-the-Rhine and downtown, 3CDC (Cincinnati Center City Development
Corporation), says “people tend to over-romanticize what this
neighborhood was” and points to some examples of 3CDC-developed
affordable housing as evidence the agency is trying to keep the neighborhood
mixed-income.Related: Some studies found gentrification could benefit longtime residents.A two-hour streetcar pass could cost $1.75, and a 24-hour
pass could cost $3.50, according to a new model unveiled yesterday by
Paul Grether, Metro’s rail manager. The same model set streetcar
operating hours at Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 6
a.m.-midnight. Under the model, city officials expect 3,000 daily
boardings, but Grether cautioned that’s a very conservative estimate
and excludes special events, such as Reds and Bengals games.But the City Council-enforced streetcar delay could cost
more than expected after the steel company originally contracted for the
$132.8 million project took another job while council members decided
the fate of the project. Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick told
council the company’s decision could push construction of a maintenance
facility by two months if the city doesn’t hire a steel supplier from
outside the region.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald yesterday
clarified he supports the death penalty, which aligns him with his
Republican opponent, incumbent John Kasich, on the issue. FitzGerald’s
remark comes after the debate over the death penalty re-ignited in Ohio following the execution of convicted killer and rapist
Dennis McGuire, who took 26 minutes to die after state officials used a
new cocktail of drugs never tried before in the United States. The Ohio
Department of Rehabilitation and Correction told CityBeat it’s reviewing McGuire’s death, as it does following every execution.Commentary: “Death Penalty Brings More Costs than Benefits.”After receiving support from family planning services and abortion
provider Planned Parenthood, Democrats running for Ohio’s executive
offices re-emphasized their support for abortion rights.Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will announce
today whether he’ll challenge FitzGerald’s gubernatorial campaign in a
Democratic primary. (Update: Despite previously telling The Cincinnati Enquirer he already made up his mind, Portune canceled his announcement and said he has no final decision yet, according to Carl Weiser, politics editor at The Enquirer.)Hamilton County commissioners showed openness to keeping
some early voting downtown even if the county moves its Board of
Elections to a Mount Airy facility. Moving the board along
with the county’s crime lab would allow commissioners to consolidate
government services.Cincinnati’s economy should grow faster than previously expected, one economist says.Plan Cincinnati, the city’s master comprehensive plan, won a national planning award. CityBeat previously covered the master plan in further detail here.Ten major projects worth more than $1.4 billion are in the
planning stages or underway in Greater Cincinnati and Northern
Kentucky.Ohio meets voting standards set by President Barack
Obama’s bipartisan election commission, with the one exception of
online voter registration, according to Republican Secretary of State
Jon Husted.Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday announced the creation of a statewide taskforce to combat heroin abuse.Virtual reality could help people see what gender swaps would be like.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
City officials project 3,000 daily boardings
Riding the streetcar will cost $1.75 for two hours and $3.50 for 24 hours, according to a model unveiled Wednesday by Paul Grether, Metro’s rail manager.
The model also set streetcar operating hours at Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m.-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday 6 a.m.-midnight. Under the model, the streetcar should sustain 3,000 daily boardings, Grether said. But that estimate is very conservative and excludes special events, such as Reds and Bengals games, he cautioned. Grether presented the projections during a presentation at City Council’s Major Transportation and Regional Cooperation Committee. Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick also released numbers that show the project remains on budget and time. But Deatrick warned council members of one potential hurdle: The originally contracted steel supplier took another job after City Council delayed the streetcar project for three weeks, which could force the city to delay construction of a maintenance facility for two months or hire a steel supplier outside the region. City officials also said they are looking at potential funding avenues for the next phase of the streetcar project, which would establish a rail line from Findlay Market up the Vine Street hill. The goal, they said, is to clear up any misconceptions about what the next phase of the project would cost.
The latest federal budget allocated $600 million in TIGER grants and $2 billion in Federal Transit Administration New/Small Starts grants that could go to a future phase of the streetcar project.
City Council would need to approve the next phase of the streetcar project before it could move forward.
City appears ready to pause streetcar project
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Mayor John Cranley and a majority of City
Council appear ready to halt Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar
project on Dec. 4.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Major supporters of the streetcar project oppose the Oasis rail line and the broader Eastern Corridor project.