by German Lopez
34 days ago
New anti-streetcar majority faces unknown costs, hit to operating budget with cancellation
City officials on Wednesday reasserted that it remains
unknown how much it would cost to cancel the $133 million streetcar
project, and city spokesperson Meg Olberding and project
executive John Deatrick agreed the unknown costs are a big concern.
Voters on Tuesday elected John Cranley to the mayor’s office
and six council members — out of nine total — who oppose the streetcar
project, giving streetcar opponents enough votes to cancel the project
once the new government takes power on Dec. 1.
But, as first reported by CityBeat on Oct. 9,
cancellation could carry all sorts of costs with $94 million tied to
contractual obligations, including supply orders and other expenses
from contractors and subcontractors, and $23 million already
sunk on the project.
If the city were to cancel, it would also need to return
nearly $41 million in grants to the federal government, according to a
June 19 letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Canceling the project would cost jobs as well. About 150
laborers are currently working on the project, according to Deatrick. He
says there’s also management positions involved, but he couldn’t offer
an estimate for those jobs and whether they’re working on the project
full- or part-time.
Deatrick says that it’s difficult to pin down how much
cancellation would ultimately cost because the issue would likely
be worked through litigation as the city tries to minimize cancellation
costs and developers — such as Messer Construction, Prus Construction,
Delta Railroad and CAF USA — attempt to maximize what they recoup from the
Another concern, according to Olberding, is cancellation’s impact on the operating budget. She says the roughly
$2 million in federal grant money already spent on the project would have
to come out of the operating budget, and litigation costs would come from the operating budget as well.
The capital budget, which is financed through bonds and
other forms of debt, pays for capital projects like the streetcar. The
operating budget typically goes toward day-to-day operations, including
police, firefighters and human services.
The operating budget has been structurally imbalanced
since 2001. If millions in litigation costs and repayments to the
federal government are added to it, the city could be forced to cut services and jobs or raise taxes.
There are also concerns about how the federal government and
Cincinnati’s business partners would react to the cancellation of such a
major project. Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Cranley’s opponent in the
mayoral race, previously told CityBeat that pulling back on a
commitment could break the faith developers and the feds placed in
Cincinnati when they agreed to take on the streetcar project.
Cranley and other anti-streetcar elects argue the long-term costs — the $88 million in the capital budget for the current
phase of the project, the cost of future expansion and $3-4 million that
it would cost to operate the streetcar annually — outweigh even the
costs of cancellation.
Cranley previously told CityBeat that he would help developers involved in the project find other work in the
city to recoup the revenue lost from the project’s cancellation. He says
Messer and Prus in particular are based in and already work heavily in
Cincinnati, so it’s unlikely they would try to cut ties with the city.
Streetcar supporters aren’t convinced. If the city pulls out of such a
big commitment, officials argue both the federal government and
developers could be compelled to look for a more reliable source for
Meanwhile, Deatrick says current construction work is
progressing on time and within budget. He expects the track on Elm Street to
be laid down between 12th and Henry streets by the end of the year.
As for the next phase of the project, Deatrick says
there’s still no estimated cost. He attributes much of the project’s current
political problems to construction bids coming in over budget earlier in
the year — a turn of events that led City Council to put another $17.5
million to the streetcar project — so he says the city needs to be
really careful with future estimates if it decides to expand the
Despite the fresh political threats, the city still
intends to conduct meetings with businesses on Nov. 14 and 18 about the
benefits of the streetcar. Deatrick says those meetings should show the
economic benefits of the rail line that go beyond the streetcar’s use as
a transit network.
Supporters of the streetcar often point to those benefits as
their reasoning for backing the project. Citing a 2007 study from
consulting firm HDR that was later evaluated and supported by the
University of Cincinnati, supporters say the streetcar project would produce a three-to-one return on investment.
Deatrick acknowledges those projections are now outdated,
given all the changes the project has gone through since 2007. He says
the city has people working on updating the numbers and looking at
other economic effects the HDR study may have missed.
But opponents of the streetcar project say it’s simply too
expensive and the wrong priority for Cincinnati. Still, the potentially
high cost of cancellation could prove a bigger fiscal concern.
Either way, Cincinnati should find out the full consequences to the project in December.
by German Lopez
34 days ago
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 whom 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.
Over-the-Rhine businesses and residents fight back as newly elected city government threatens to cancel streetcar project
1 Comment · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Over-the-Rhine businesses and residents
are organizing with supporters of the $133 million streetcar project in a
last-stand effort to keep the project on track.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Mayor-elect John Cranley, the newly
elected City Council and the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Nov.
12 agreed to eliminate the city’s parking plan once newly elected officials take
office in December.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 13, 2013
NKY Republican: Paul’s Plagiarism Is Liberal Media’s Fault: Those of us who thought the term “liberal
media” died sometime around the time Sarah Palin quit her job as a
politician to write books and say crazy stuff on TV were happy to
learn today that a Northern Kentucky Republican is still blaming those
bastards (wait, is that us?).
by German Lopez
27 days ago
Parking plan called off, Cranley flips on streetcar referendum, streetcar supporters rally
Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council announced on Tuesday that, upon taking office in December, they will terminate the city’s plan to lease its parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority,
following an agreement with the Port Authority to hold off on a bond
sale that would have financed — and effectively sealed — the deal. But
it remains unclear how much it will cost to terminate the plan, default
on the lease agreement with the Port Authority and allow the Port to
break its contracts with private companies that would have operated the
assets under the deal. The current city administration argues the
parking plan is necessary to help balance the budget over the next two
years, pay for economic development projects around the city and
modernize the city’s parking assets so, for example, parking meters can
accept credit card payments. Opponents argue the plan gives up too much
control over the city’s parking assets by outsourcing their operations
to private companies based around the country.
But some business leaders are upset with the death of the parking plan
because it leaves no visible alternative for funding major development
projects like the interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King
Cranley now says he will not allow a referendum on any ordinance undoing the streetcar project
and will instead try to work with supporters of the project to find
another way to put it on the ballot if they can gather enough petition
signatures. Cranley says blocking a referendum is necessary to avoid
spending money during a referendum campaign that could last months. But
for supporters of the streetcar, Cranley’s decision seems highly
hypocritical following his repeated praise for the “people’s sacred
right of referendum” on the campaign trail after City Council blocked a
referendum on the parking plan. If the project is placed on the ballot,
it will essentially be the third time it’s brought to a public vote;
opponents of the project in 2009 and 2011 pursued two ballot initiatives
that many saw as referendums on the streetcar.
Meanwhile, Over-the-Rhine businesses and residents yesterday officially launched a campaign to save the streetcar project
from Cranley and a newly elected City Council that appears poised to
cancel the project. Touting the project’s potential return on investment
and cancellation costs,
the group plans to lobby newly elected officials to vote in favor of
keeping the project going. The group invited Cranley and all elected
council members to join them at a town hall-style meeting on Nov. 14 at
the Mercantile Library, where supporters will discuss their path
forward. So far, supporters have publicly discussed a concerted lobbying
effort, a ballot initiative if council passes an ordinance undoing the
streetcar project and possible legal action against the city.
The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial board is apparently unpleasantly surprised
that Cranley undid the parking plan, even though the board endorsed
Cranley for mayor after he ran in opposition to the parking plan for
nearly a year.
An Ohio Senate bill caps the spending ability of the Controlling Board, a seven-member legislative board that previously approved the federally funded Medicaid expansion
despite the Ohio legislature’s opposition. Gov. John Kasich angered
many Republican legislators when he decided to go through the
Controlling Board to get the Medicaid expansion, which is a major part
Meanwhile, the Ohio legislature is working on changes to Medicaid
that would cap future cost increases and employ professional staff for a
Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee that would have the ability to
review Medicaid programs and agencies. The bill also includes a portion
that clarifies its passage “shall not be construed with endorsing,
validating or otherwise approving the (Medicaid) expansion.”
Despite attempts from city officials and local business leaders, Saks Fifth Avenue is leaving downtown to open a store at Kenwood Collection.
Kentucky’s state auditor will look at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport board’s spending policies and expenses, following reports from The Enquirer that the board spent exorbitant amounts on travel, dining and counseling.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Milford-Miami Advertiser’s request to appeal a 2012 ruling
that charged the Gannett-owned suburban weekly with defamation and
ordered the paper to pay the defamed plaintiff $100,000 in damages. In a
story titled “Cop's suspension called best move for city,”
the newspaper wrongly implicated a Miami Township police officer who
was previously accused but later exonerated of sexual assault.
Attorney General Mike DeWine warns that some typhoon relief requests could be scams.
Not satisfied with the mere wonder of beginning to exist, some stars explode in a rainbow of colors when they’re born.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy• News: @CityBeat_News• Music: @CityBeatMusic• German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
28 days ago
Residents, business owners rally to lobby new mayor and council
Dozens of residents and business owners gathered in
Over-the-Rhine on Tuesday to launch a campaign that seeks to persuade
Mayor-elect John Cranley and the newly elected City Council to support
the $133 million streetcar project.
Attendees included Ryan Messer, who used his life savings
to renovate his home in Over-the-Rhine; Derek Bauman, co-chair of
Cincinnatians for Progress; Jean-Francois Flechet, owner of the Taste of
Belgium; and Derek dos Anjos, owner of The Anchor.
“We’re here today to keep the conversation going outside
of political rhetoric and partisan politics,” Messer said. “Simply put,
the streetcar is a component of Cincinnati economic development, and
it’s a project that grows the whole city — not just an urban core,
which, by the way, is an important part of developing this region.”
The group intends to lobby Cranley and the newly elected
council, which appear poised to cancel the project when they take office
At least three of nine elected council members — P.G.
Sittenfeld, David Mann and Kevin Flynn — have told media outlets that
they want a full accounting of the project before making a final
decision. Another three — Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell
Young — are on the record as supporting the project. The final three —
Christopher Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and Amy Murray — adamantly
opposed the project in the past.
Members of the pro-streetcar group invited Cranley and all
elected council members to join them at a town hall-style meeting on
Nov. 14 at the Mercantile Library, where supporters will discuss their
path forward. So far, supporters have publicly discussed a concerted
lobbying effort, a referendum if council passes an ordinance undoing the
streetcar project and possible legal action.
As CityBeat first uncovered, the costs of canceling the project are currently unknown,
and some of the costs could actually fall on the operating budget that
pays for police, firefighters and human services instead of the capital
budget that is currently financing the streetcar project.
Much of the uncertainty falls on ongoing construction for
the streetcar, which has continued despite the newly elected city
government’s intent to stop the project. As of September, the city spent
$23 million on the project and contractually obligated $94 million,
some of which city officials say will need to be paid back even if the
project were canceled.
The U.S. Department of Transportation also told city
officials in a June 19 letter that nearly $41 million of nearly $45
million in federal grants would need to be returned if the project were
Supporters also claim Cincinnati would be giving up a
2.7-to-1 return on investment over 35 years if the city abandoned the
streetcar now. That estimate is derived from a 2007 study conducted by
consulting firm HDR, which was evaluated and supported by the University
Project executive John Deatrick says the HDR study is now
outdated and the city is working on updating the numbers. Still,
Deatrick says the project is intended to spur economic development, not
just provide another form of public transportation.
The Nov. 13 issue of CityBeat will give a more in-depth look at the campaign to save the streetcar and some of the people involved in the movement.
by Hannah McCartney
32 days ago
John Cranley had only a few unsullied hours of golden time on social media to celebrate his mayoral win on Wednesday before he became the subject of at least two Twitter accounts created solely to troll him, and they're worth a follow if you'd describe your sense of humor as somewhat to very immature or are still totally salty about Cran-man's victory. So far, we know of @CranleyVille and @MayorCranley, both of which have taken to creating alternate, highly egotistical and cartoon-like depictions of our new mayor. While whoever is behind CranleyVille clearly has more time on his or her hands (whoever it is tweeted 90 times in three days), both provide some pretty amusing fodder for 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Why social media has quickly taken to poking fun at Cranley in every way possible — or whether or not a Qualls victory would have brought something like an "Afghan Girl Qualls" to life — we'll never know. And while CityBeat holds a great deal of respect for the mayoral position and for Cranley, that doesn't mean we're not allowed to be immature and laugh a little bit. Oh, and here's the real deal, too.
by German Lopez
32 days ago
Posted In: News
at 11:29 AM | Permalink
Project executive says third shift would help minimize disruptions to public and traffic
Officials working on the $133 million streetcar project
are considering taking up extra shifts to speed up delivery of new
rail and minimize disruptions caused by construction, project executive
John Deatrick told CityBeat on Friday.
If it goes as planned, the extra shifts would reduce the
time needed to deliver and install rails around Findlay Market and
Liberty Street from one week to a couple days at each location. That would allow the city
to avoid closing down surrounding streets for more than a weekend or a
Monday and Tuesday, according to Deatrick.
“The main reason isn’t to speed it up,” he says. “The main
reason is it would minimize the impact on the motoring public, walking
public and biking public.”
Deatrick insists the move is absolutely not related to
recent election results that have called the project’s survival into
One of Mayor-elect John Cranley’s top priorities upon
taking office in December is canceling the streetcar project, which he
says isn’t worth the cost and the wrong priority for Cincinnati. He says
the outgoing city administration is continuing construction of the
streetcar in “a political manner” and running up the bill to make
canceling the project more difficult.
But Deatrick claims the 24-hour shifts won’t add much in
the way of new costs. He says contractors currently bill the city about
$1.5 million each month and that should continue into the future.
As of September, the city had already spent $23 million
and contractually obligated another $94 million to the project. The
obligations, along with the threat of litigation from contractors
involved in the project and taxpayers and businesses along the streetcar
track, have raised concerns about how much canceling the project would cost — and whether it’s even financially prudent at this point.