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.
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
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.
by German Lopez
Economy could hurt Kasich, Cranley sustains attacks on streetcar, busy intersection to close
Ohio's weakening economy could hurt Gov. John Kasich and other Republican incumbents' chances of re-election in 2014, even if they don't deserve the blame for the state of the economy, as some economists claim. For Republican incumbents, the threat is all too real as groups from all sides — left, right and nonpartisan — find the state's economy is failing to live up to the "Ohio miracle" Kasich previously promised. Economists agree state officials often take too much credit for the state of the economy, but political scientists point out that, regardless of who is to blame, the economy is one of the top deciding factors in state elections. For Kasich and other incumbents, it creates a difficult situation: Their influence on the economy might be marginal, but it's all they have to secure re-election.Despite promising to move on after he failed to permanently halt the $132.8 million streetcar project, Mayor John Cranley continues criticizing the streetcar in interviews and social media. In a Sunday appearance on Local 12, Cranley threatened to replace the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) board, which manages local Metro bus services, in response to its offer to take up streetcar operating costs. (City Council sets SORTA appointments, not the mayor.) The interview, held within weeks of Cranley mocking and arguing with pro-streetcar critics on social media, comes despite Cranley's promises to move on after City Council agreed to continue the project. "As I tell my son when he doesn't get his way, it's time to move on," Cranley
said on Dec. 19. Streetcar track installation will force the busy intersection at Elm and Liberty streets to close between Jan. 16 at 9 a.m. to Jan. 21 at 7 p.m., city officials announced yesterday. One northbound lane will remain open on Elm Street, but traffic heading east and west on Liberty Street will be redirected.Commentary: "Bengals Loss Reminds of Terrible Stadium Deal."Police are investigating three homicides in Avondale and Over-the-Rhine this morning.Construction crews plan to turn the defunct Tower Place mall into Mabley Place, a new parking garage with several retail spaces on the exterior of the first floor. Across Race Street, other developers will turn Pogue's Garage into a 30-story tower with a downtown grocery store, luxury apartments and another garage.Hamilton County is dedicating a full-time deputy to crack down on semis and other vehicles breaking commercial laws.Ohio House Republicans' proposal to revamp the state's tax on the oil and gas industry would not produce enough revenue to cut income taxes for most Ohioans, despite previous promises. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the proposal would only allow for a very small 1-percent across-the-board income tax cut.Ohio's education system received five C's and an A on a private national report card. The state's middle-of-the-pack performance is largely unchanged from last year's score.The number of underwater residential properties is declining around the nation, but Ohio remains among the top six states worst affected by the housing crisis, according to real estate analysts at RealtyTrac.The state auditor's new app allows anyone to easily report suspected fraud.Macy's plans to lay off 2,500 employees and close five stores to cut costs.Cincinnati Children's is reaching out to to 10,000 children left without a health care provider after several clinics closed.Ohio drivers can expect lower gas prices in 2014, according to AAA and GasBuddy.com.A new glue that seals heart defects could provide an alternative to stitches.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Mayor threatens to replace SORTA board over streetcar debate
Despite promising to
move on after he failed to cancel the $132.8 million streetcar
project, Mayor John Cranley continues criticizing the
project in interviews and social media. Most recently, Cranley appeared on Local 12’s Newsmakers program and threatened
to eventually replace the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA)
board, which manages local Metro bus services, in response to board members’
defunct offer to take up streetcar operating costs. (City Council sets SORTA
appointments, not the mayor.) “The fact is they were
willing to cannibalize bus service,” Cranley said,
contrary to SORTA’s insistence that their offer would not have affected bus
services. “I just felt that was a huge violation of what SORTA is supposed to
be about and what Metro is supposed to be about and what public transportation
is supposed to be about.”
Throughout the 24-minute
interview, Cranley referenced the
streetcar project when discussing the city’s parking meters and other subjects
— a continuation of repetitive anti-streetcar tactics Cranley
deployed on the campaign trail and in mayoral debates against former Vice Mayor
“I think the project is
wasteful and not worth the investment,” Cranley said
when asked about the project. “I think we would have been better off making the
hard decision to cut bait.” Still, Cranley later added, “Obviously, since the supermajority of
council went against my wishes, I have to respect the process. So I’m not going
to try to sabotage the streetcar.”
The interview also
follows comments on social media. After the former head of the Cincinnati Art
Museum criticized the streetcar, Cranley tweeted on Dec. 27, “(N)ow some Orwellian commentators
will say art director not ‘progressive.’” The continued anti-streetcar rhetoric comes despite
promises to move on that Cranley made after Councilman Kevin Flynn announced he would provide the
final vote needed to veto-proof City Council’s decision to continue the
“As I tell my son when he doesn’t get his way, it’s time to move on,” Cranley
said on Dec. 19. But Cranley’s
heated rhetoric is nothing new in his campaign against the streetcar project. After the Nov. 5
election, Cranley told The Cincinnati Enquirer
the streetcar debate “is over.” Cranley’s comments
marked a high level of confidence after voters elected a mayor and council
supermajority that seemingly opposed the streetcar project, but his statement
to The Enquirer proved to be wrong after Council Members Flynn, David
Mann and P.G. Sittenfeld decided to continue the
project. Cranley also called city officials “incompetent” after
they projected that canceling the streetcar project would cost nearly as much as
completing it. Once again, Cranley’s comments proved
to be wrong — an independent audit found city officials were largely correct in
their assessment — but still showed the level of confident, heated rhetoric
that follows the mayor’s campaign against the streetcar project. At the very least, Cranley’s rhetoric proves
that while the policy debate over the streetcar is over for now, the public discussion is not. The
question is whether the messaging will work as the project moves forward and the streetcar becomes a reality of