In the past few days, local media outlets have reported heavily on a supposed conflict between Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and the city of Cincinnati. Essentially, SORTA wants the transit fund limited, while the city government says it doesn’t want to “undermine the city charter” with limitations.
At its heart, the argument is a political back-and-forth with little consequence. It’s two government agencies at a small divide over legalese in an intergovernmental agreement about how the streetcar will operate and how it will be funded.
The specific issue is SORTA, which runs the Metro bus
system and will operate the streetcar, wants to include phrasing in its
agreement with the city that makes it so the transit fund can’t be used
for the streetcar. In a 7-6 vote Tuesday, SORTA's board pushed its preferred wording along with an application for an $11 million federal grant that will help fund the streetcar.
But the city government claims the limitation would go against the spirit of the city charter, which says the transit fund can be used for “public transit purposes generally and without limitation.”
UPDATE: City Council on Wednesday passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the streetcar, although it has no legal standing preventing council from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar.
Still, Mayor Mark Mallory’s office has insisted time and time again that funding for the streetcar’s construction and operation is already allocated, so taking any money from the transit fund will be unnecessary. Specifically, the city will tap into casino revenue to operate the streetcar, on top of the $11 million federal grant.
In an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, Mallory said the real issue goes back to an ongoing lawsuit between SORTA and the city. In 2010, the city diverted money from the transit fund to pay for street lights. That prompted a lawsuit from SORTA, asking the courts to define the limits of the transit fund.
The mayor’s office sees the wording from SORTA as an attempt from the transit agency to score a minor victory in the legal battle. If the city government accepted the wording, it would be agreeing to a limited transit fund, which is essentially what SORTA wants.
SORTA’s wording also makes it so all transit fund money will continue going to the Metro bus system, which is the agency’s sole service today.
But even SORTA says the disagreement is getting blown out of proportion by media outlets and public officials. Sallie Hilvers, spokesperson for SORTA, says the wording in the approved agreement was the board’s attempt to ensure the transit fund isn’t used for the streetcar, but, for the most part, it’s “really just procedures.”
Hilvers insisted the disagreement over wording has plenty
of time to be worked out, and it will not hinder collaboration between
the city of Cincinnati and SORTA.
The agreement will need to be worked out before summer 2013 for the streetcar to stay on track.
Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, who rose to the governorship with the help of the National Rifle Association, says gun rights and gun control can co-exist. The claim is in light of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 children and six adults. Many have called for stricter gun control in light of the past year’s bouts of gun violence, but Republicans are typically opposed to such proposals. A recent poll from The Washington Post and ABC News found 59 percent of Americans support banning high-capacity ammunition clips, much like the ones used in the Newtown shooting. Another 52 percent back the ban of semi-automatic handguns.
Still, Gov. John Kasich isn’t changing his mind on the Second Amendment. He says he will sign a bill that allows guns in the Ohio Statehouse parking garage. The bill will also change the definition of an unloaded gun, allowing gun owners to carry loaded clips in their vehicles as long as they are in a separate compartment from the gun, and make concealed carry permits from other states easier to validate in Ohio.
Despite denials from city officials, mayoral candidate John Cranley and Councilman Chris Smitherman insist city government is trying to use the transit fund to fund the streetcar. But Mayor Mark Mallory in an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer said it will not happen. Mallory said the dispute dates back to a lawsuit filed by Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which runs the Metro bus system. The lawsuit demands transit funds be solely dedicated to SORTA.
Cincinnati’s U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot has vowed to continue trying to kill the streetcar. Even though voters have approved of the streetcar twice, Chabot, who also represents Warren County in district boundaries that were redrawn by Republicans, says he would rather focus federal funding on other projects, like the Brent Spence Bridge.
A conservative northern Kentucky lawmaker is supporting a bill that expands prisoners’ rights to DNA testing. The bill would allow a Cincinnati man to push for DNA testing that he claims will exonerate him of a 1987 rape and murder in Newport. Ky. Sen. John Schickel argued, “If DNA testing is good enough to send you to prison it should be good enough to get you out of prison.”
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank bought another $100 million in stock from Credit Suisse International. The deal is part of a larger program to buy back 100 million shares.
Cincinnati State is in line to obtain $123,000 from the state government. The funding could create 51 new or expanded co-op jobs.
The United Way of Greater Cincinnati announced $50.7 million in investments for 2013, a slight increase from 2012. The increase will help boost funding to prepare children for kindergarten by 5 percent. It will also fund 288 programs at 146 agencies, with seven becoming new United Way agency partners.
The Prince Hall Shriners, which describes itself as “the world’s oldest African-American fraternal organization,” is returning to Cincinnati in 2015. The convention was in Cincinnati in 2011.
Duke Energy’s local management is being shaken up. Jim Henning will take over as president for Duke Energy Ohio and Kentucky.
Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro is retiring.
Did you know our solar system is sort of like a phoenix? It apparently rose from the cumulative ashes of countless stars, not one supernova.
A local conservative group is making a lot of use of member and lawyer Chris Finney. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was involved in two lawsuits filed this week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another regarding Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).
Criticism of the Blue Ash Airport deal is not new for COAST. The group has repeatedly criticized the deal, largely because as much as $26 million from the deal will be used to fund Cincinnati’s $110 million streetcar. In the past, COAST has repeatedly characterized the streetcar as a “boondoggle.”
The deal between Blue Ash and Cincinnati is not new, but it did get reworked earlier this year. In 2006, the $37.5 million deal had Cincinnati selling Blue Ash some land on the Blue Ash Airport property, which Blue Ash would then use to build a park. Blue Ash voters approved the deal, which contained a 0.25 percent earnings tax hike, in a two-to-one margin.
When Cincinnati couldn’t get a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the city stopped working on the airport as it became too costly. The city then tried to shift the proceeds from the deal to the Cincinnati streetcar, but the FAA said funding must be used for airports since the property is classified as an airport.
Eventually, Cincinnati asked Blue Ash to rework the deal. The plan was Blue Ash would rescind the deal, and then Cincinnati would officially close down the airport and resell the land to Blue Ash while it’s no longer classified as an airport.
At first, city officials said $11 million of the opened-up money would go to the streetcar and $26 million would go to municipal projects. Since then, the city has shifted $15 million of that municipal project funding — supposedly temporarily — to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route, at least until the city and energy company can work out an ongoing feud.
The reworked deal, which was approved by Blue Ash City Council in a 6-1 vote on Aug. 9, seemed like a win-win for both sides. Cincinnati would get more funding for ongoing projects, and Blue Ash netted $2.25 million from the deal — $250,000 to cover fees for Blue Ash’s new park and $2 million was subtracted from the deal since Blue Ash would no longer have to match the FAA grant.
But COAST does not approve. The organization doesn’t want any funding redirected to the streetcar, and it claims the reworked deal is not allowed. The lawsuit filed by Blue Ash resident Jeffrey Capell and Finney cites a section of the Blue Ash City Charter that disallows some contracts: “No contract shall be made for a term longer than five years, except that franchises for public utility services and contracts with other governmental units for service to be received or given may be made for any period no longer than twenty years.”
Mark Vander Laan, Blue Ash’s city solicitor, says the city charter section the lawsuit is referencing is irrelevant. He argues the deal is not a contract as the city charter defines it; instead, it’s a mortgage and debt instrument. In the Blue Ash City Charter, there’s another section that deals with debt instruments, and that’s what the rescinded deal falls under, according to Vander Laan. He says the city would not function as it does today if the lawsuit’s claim was correct: “If that were the case, all the bonds we’ve ever issued would have been incorrect.”
Vander Laan says the real issue here is disapproval of the streetcar, not any legal technicalities: “They may have a complaint about the streetcar, but that’s not the city of Blue Ash’s issue at all. We don’t think it’s even an appropriate basis to challenge this.”
He added, “Frankly, if somebody had an issue with (the deal), they should have taken that issue back in 2006 and 2007.” That’s when Blue Ash voters first approved the airport deal, but back then, the money wasn’t going to the streetcar, which didn’t even exist at the time.
In another legal battle, COAST filed a lawsuit against CPS over staff allegedly campaigning for Issue 42, a ballot initiative that will renew a CPS levy voters approved in 2008. The case goes back to 2002, when Tom Brinkman, chairman of COAST, sued CPS for “illegal and unconstitutional use of school property for campaign purposes,” according to the lawsuit. That case ended in a settlement, which forced CPS to enter into a “COAST Agreement” that says, “CPS will strictly enforce a policy of preventing … Other Political Advertisements on CPS Property.”
But COAST now says that agreement has been broken, and the
lawsuit cites emails as evidence. The emails show staff promoting voter
registration drives, which aren’t directly linked to Issue 42, and
staff offering to contribute and volunteer to the campaign. In the
emails, there are a few instances of Jens Sutmoller, Issue 42’s campaign
coordinator, asking CPS staff to give him personal emails, which shows
he was trying to avoid breaking any rules.
In CityBeat’s experience, CPS officials have been pretty strict with following the settlement with COAST. In a Sept. 20 email, Janet Walsh, spokesperson for CPS, told CityBeat she could not provide some levy-related information during work hours: “Yes, but due to constraints about doing levy-related work on work time (we can't), it may have to wait until I can get on my home computer.”
COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. In CityBeat’s
in-depth look into CPS and Issue 42 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue
of Oct. 3), Brinkman defended COAST’s position by saying they’re not
necessarily against the school getting funding. COAST is more
interested in holding the school accountable: “It’s a five-year levy.
The reason we have five-year levies is so the public can gauge after
four or four and a half years how the entity where the taxes are going
to is doing with the money.” In that sense, for COAST, it’s important to
bring the levy renewal to voters as late in the game as possible —
November 2013 in this case. CityBeat this week endorsed a "Yes" vote on Issue 42 here.
Criticism of CPS levies is also not new for COAST. The group campaigned against last year’s new, permanent $49.5 million levy, which CPS said it needed to meet new technology needs and keep some buildings open.
In an ad accusing Josh Mandel, a Republican, of lying, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign team may have lied, according to PolitiFact. The U.S. senatorial campaign for Ohio’s senate seat has been filled with dishonesty, but it usually comes from Mandel. The dishonesty seems to be hurting Mandel more than Brown; Mandel is currently down 7.5 points in aggregate polling numbers.Mandel is being taken to court by liberal blog Plunderbund. The blog claims Mandel has made it extra difficult to get public records.
Preliminary data for Ohio schools was released yesterday. Some data is still being held back while an investigation into fraudulent reporting from some schools is finished, but the data gives some insight into how schools performed during the 2011-2012 school year. The data can be found here. From a local angle, the data shows Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) did not meet “adequate yearly progress,” a federal standard that measures progress in student subgroups, such as minority groups; but CPS did meet standards for “value-added growth,” which measures the expected progress in state testing for all students between the third and eighth grades.
City Council approved the $29 million financing plan for the streetcar yesterday. The plan will use $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal to move utility lines and pipes. The city claims the $15 million, which was originally promised to neighborhood projects, will be reimbursed by Duke Energy once the city settles a conflict with the energy company. Duke and the city are currently arguing over who has to pay to move the utility lines and pipes.
An Ohio state representative is asking the federal government to monitor the election more closely. Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to send monitors to the state to ensure no funny business goes on in voting booths on Nov. 6. The request is partly in response to a recent court ruling that forces Ohio to count provisional ballots if the ballots were brought around by poll worker errors.
Ohio’s ability to stop political lies was upheld yesterday. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) tried to put an end to the government power, which COAST claimed was censorship, by taking it to court, but a U.S. judge upheld the ability. The judge, who is a former chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said COAST did not properly display that its speech was held down by the law. Considering some of COAST’s tweets, the judge is probably right.
E.W. Scripps Co. will host a job fair in Cincinnati Oct. 10 to fill 100 digital jobs.
The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the rights of lesbian ex-couples to set visitation times. The court said non-parents are allowed to participate in visitations during child custody proceedings.
Ohio might expand Medicaid, but not to the extent asked for by Obamacare. That’s what the state’s Medicaid director said yesterday, anyway. A previous study found Medicaid expansions improved and might have saved lives in other states, and other studies have found Medicaid expansions may save the state money by cutting uncompensated costs.
Pundits really dug into Mitt Romney the past few days over his poor poll numbers in Ohio. The Business Courier asked if Romney has already lost Ohio. Politico said Romney’s biggest hurdle to the White House is Ohio. The New Republic ran an article with six theories as to what led to Romney’s losses in the state. The Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out both presidential candidates were stumping at a pivotal time in northern Ohio yesterday. Aggregate polling paints a consistently bad picture for Romney in Ohio; he is currently down four points.
But Romney probably isn’t helping matters. In an Ohio
rally Tuesday, he admitted President Barack Obama didn’t raise taxes in his
Gov. John Kasich signed a series of bills shoring up Ohio’s public pension system yesterday. The laws will cut benefits and raise eligibility requirements, but state officials insist the new laws will mostly affect future retirees.
NASA wants samples from Mars, and it has a plan. The new plan may require a robot-to-human hand-off in space.
The three measures set up $15 million to front to Duke Energy to move utility lines out of the proposed path; changes the source of funding to repay some $25 million in bonds used to pay for the streetcar; sells $14 million in bonds for streetcar improvements; and changes the municipal code to clarify that it is the responsibility of a utility to relocate its structures.
The $15 million comes from the $37 million sale of city-owned land near the former Blue Ash Airport.
Council voted 6-3 to approve the front money, improvement bonds and bond repayment, a vote that largely mirrored a Monday Budget and Finance Committee vote. Councilman Chris Smitherman was the sole “no” vote on the ordinance to change the municipal code.
Councilmembers Cecil Thomas, Wendell Young, Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson voted to pass funding, while Councilmembers Smitherman, P.G. Sittenfeld and Charles Winburn voted against.
“My concern with all of these votes … in particular the Blue Ash Airport dollars, these were promises that you made to the neighborhoods and I don’t have the confidence that the legal battle against Duke Energy is going to yield a 100 percent win for the city of Cincinnati, so there’s no assurance that these dollars are going to come back,” said Councilman Chris Smitherman, one of the most vocal opponents of the streetcar.
“I want to be clear that it’s something that I don’t support.”
The $15 million would be fronted to Duke to move its lines while the city and utility work out who is responsible for funding the move.
Duke estimates the full cost at $18 million and argues
that the lines would not have to be moved if the streetcar wasn’t being
built. The city maintains that it has always been the responsibility of
utilities to move or upgrade their structures — which the third measure
clarified in the municipal code. If the city loses a legal battle against Duke, it will not
recoup the $15 million.
The second proposal switches the source of funding for
streetcar bonds from money coming into city coffers from southern
downtown and the riverfront area to a 1995 fund set up to collect
service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks. The measure wouldn't use any additional new money for the streetcar.
That downtown area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as
expected but the city hopes to repay the other fund once the downtown
district — which includes the Banks and the casino — rebounds.
City Council’s budget committee voted 6-3 Monday to use $29 million from other projects in part to move utility lines and pipes to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The plan will use $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal and $14 million from a new financing plan to ensure the streetcar’s opening is not delayed further from the current 2015 deadline.
The city claims it will eventually get the $15 million back. That money, which was originally promised to neighborhood projects, will be used to move utility lines and pipes. The city is currently trying to resolve a dispute with Duke Energy over who has to pay to move utility lines and pipes. If the city wins out, Duke will reimburse the costs. If Duke wins out, the money will be lost in the streetcar project.
At the public meeting that preceded the vote Monday, neighborhood officials and streetcar supporters clashed. Opponents to the plan claimed the money should stay in neighborhood projects as originally promised, while streetcar supporters pointed to the benefits of the streetcar for neighborhoods and insisted the money will eventually come back.
Chris Smitherman, Independent; Charlie Winburn,
Republican; and P.G. Sittenfeld, Democrat, voted against the plan.
Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas, Wendell
Young and Chris Seelbach — all Democrats — approved the plan.
Jason Barron, spokesperson for Mayor Mark Mallory, says the mayor is in favor of the plan moving forward.
Although the vote included all City Council members, it was not the formal City Council vote. Instead, it was only the budget committee vote. The City Council vote will take place Wednesday.
CORRECTION: This story originally said the entire $29 million plan will be reimbursed by Duke. Only the $15 million from the Blue Ash airport deal will be reimbursed if the city wins in the dispute.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be stopping by Greater
Cincinnati next Tuesday. The campaign stop is part of a three-day bus
tour across Ohio. The state is considered a must-win for Romney’s
presidential campaign, but aggregate polling is not friendly to his
prospects in Ohio.
Will Romney dye his face for the Ohio events? Gawker was among a few outlets and individuals that noticed Romney dyed his face brown for an event on a Latino television network.
Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7.2 percent, the same as July and June. The state made gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, financial activities and government, but it had losses in trade, transportation, utilities and educational and health services. Still, Ohio’s unemployment rate remains far below the national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.
City Council is taking action to prevent further delays for the streetcar, but the city says the delay to 2015 is still set. By moving money around, the city will be able to front money to pay for moving utility lines and pipes, but it expects to get the money back eventually. The city says Duke Energy is responsible for moving the lines to accommodate for the streetcar, but Duke says it’s the city’s duty since the streetcar is the city’s project. If the city is right, it gets the fronted money back. If it’s wrong, the money is on the taxpayer dime.
The Cincinnati Park Board struck down Park Rule 28, a rule that had come under fire by homeless advocates. The rule allowed the city to put up signs that would immediately enact rules as law. Homeless advocates said the signs allowed Washington Park to make rules that discriminated against the homeless and poor. The dispute led to a lawsuit, which three Over-the-Rhine residents filed on Sept. 4. The city countered by saying they took down the signs weeks before the lawsuit and that the rules were never truly enforced on any individual
The Anna Louise Inn won a zoning appeal yesterday. The
appeal gives way to the $14 million renovation at the Anna Louise Inn.
But Western & Southern will continue its opposition to renovation of the historic
building, even though it could have avoided all its problems by simply
buying the Anna Louise Inn when it had the chance. In related news,
Western & Southern commissioned a study from the University of
Cincinnati to see how replacing the Anna Louise Inn with a hotel would
work, which prompted laughter from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls because the building isn't theirs.
The Cincinnati Hispanic Center is launching an initiative to connect bilingual and multilingual people around the region. The initiative will help multilingual individuals flaunt their skills to employers and anyone else in need.
In Butler County, fewer teens are using alcohol and tobacco, but more are using marijuana and prescription pills.
Procter & Gamble and a local manufacturing contractor are getting sued for religious discrimination. The dispute began when P&G and its contractor allegedly fired a Muslim employee after she was humiliated by another employee.
Bioscience looks to be a rising star in Ohio’s job market, according to a new study.
An Ohio woman unknowingly married her dad.Your next leather wallet may be grown in a petri dish.
Cincinnati City Council plans to move $29 million in funds to avoid further delays for the streetcar
project, but the city is still looking at a 2015 opening date. City officials announced Wednesday that a council
committee will vote Monday on three pieces of legislation to keep the
$110 million project in line with the recently announced delayed opening.
One measure would front $15 million to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route. That money comes from the recent $37 million sale of land near the former Blue Ash Airport.
The city thinks it will get this money back once a dispute with Duke is resolved. The city contends that Duke is responsible for moving the lines, which the utility estimates will cost $18.7 million. Duke counters that the lines only have to be moved because of the streetcar construction, so the city should foot the bill.
“We’re fronting money for the Duke work until we can work out who pays for it with Duke,” city spokeswoman Meg Oldberding said. “It’s to keep the project on time and on budget. Delays would escalate the cost.”
Another ordinance would change the municipal code to “confirm the city’s existing rights” and clarify that utilities pay for the cost of relocating facilities unless otherwise negotiated, according to a news release.
Oldberding said Cincinnati has always maintained that it is the utility’s responsibility to relocate their facilities, so it is not a change in the city’s position.
The final ordinance would change the funding source that is repaying $25 million in bonds sold as part of the original plan to fund the streetcar.
Those bonds were originally being repaid with money coming into city coffers from southern downtown and the riverfront area.
That area wasn’t bringing in as much cash as expected, so the ordinance would have $14 million of the bonds repaid from a 1995 fund set up to collect service payments from the Westin/Star, Hyatt and Saks.
Oldberding said once the downtown district rebounds — it includes the Banks and the casino — it would repay the other fund.
The ordinances would not add to the project’s cost. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year.
Cincinnati plans to avoid a streetcar delay. Despite what the city told CityBeat Monday, it seems the delay was due to the ongoing conflict with Duke Energy, and the city wants to put an end to it. City officials are seeking to set aside $15 million from the recent sale of the Blue Ash Airport to ensure the streetcar stays on track by initially paying for moving utility lines and pipes to accommodate for the streetcar. The money is expected to be recovered once issues with Duke Energy are settled. Expect more details on this story from CityBeat this afternoon. CityBeat previously covered the connections between the Blue Ash Airport sale and streetcar here.
Cincinnati’s economic recovery is coming along. In August, Greater Cincinnati home sales hit a five-year high. The 2,438 homes sold were a nearly 16 percent increase from August 2011.
Voters First is suing the Ohio Republican Party for what the organization says are false claims over Issue 2. The complaint, filed to the Ohio Elections Commission Tuesday, points out three allegedly false accusations about the redistricting amendment. A hearing on the complaint is today. Also, it seems Ronald Reagan, who modern Republicans claim to greatly admire, would have supported Issue 2:
Natalie Portman was in Cincinnati yesterday. She talked
about her support for President Barack Obama’s reelection and women’s
issues. She did not mention the awful Star Wars prequels that ruined childhoods. Other speakers attended as well, and they all echoed the message
of Obama being better for women voters.
Kroger recalled bags of fresh spinach in 15 states, including Ohio, yesterday. The spinach, which was supplied by NewStar Fresh Foods LLC, may hold listeria monocytogenes, which could make a pregnant woman or anyone with a weakened immune system very sick. The specific product was a Kroger Fresh Selections Tender Spinach 10-ounce bag that had a “best if used by” date of Sept. 16 and the UPC code 0001111091649.
More than 450 apartments are being planned for downtown West Chester.The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) is looking for advice. Every four years, the department hosts the Child Support Guidelines Advisory Council, which revises the state child support program, and gets citizen feedback on how the program can improve. The public meeting will be at 10 a.m. on Oct. 19 at the former Lazarus Building at 50 W. Town Street in Columbus. The council will report its findings and conclusions to the Ohio General Assembly in March 2013.
An underused plane at the could save the Ohio Department of Transportation $3 million, a new state audit found.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is reaching out to victims of fracking. With a new program, it will provide legal and other protections for individuals, communities and governments affected by fracking.
Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are planning an Ohio bus tour next week. The state is considered a must-win for Romney, but recent aggregate polling puts him in a fairly grim position with less than two months to Election Day.
How do nuclear explosions affect beer? The U.S. government apparently found out.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, attributes the delay to “a number of scheduling issues.”
“There’s so many moving pieces,” she says. “There are issues with utility and we have to order the cars. We have to get a contractor on-board for the work. So we still have a couple of things that are taking longer than we thought.”
The delay, which was announced Sept. 10, is
the latest in a history of plan and schedule changes for the Cincinnati
streetcar, which saw $52 million pulled by Gov. John Kasich last year and forced
the city to abandon its Uptown connector lines. Kasich, who has been against other rail projects in the state, claimed the move was necessary to balance the 2012-2013 budget.
Today, a feud between the city and Duke Energy is causing more trouble. The city and utility company disagree over who should pay for moving utility lines to accommodate the streetcar. On Aug. 29, the city said it was considering a lawsuit to resolve the issue. Olberding says the conflict played a role in the delay.
“We need to resolve that quickly because, obviously, the longer we can’t get utility work done, it’ll cause delays and cost overruns,” she says. “So we want to get that done as soon as possible.”
Before the current spat, the city and Duke could not agree on whether manhole covers and utility lines should be eight feet from streetcar tracks or three to four feet. The city claimed the smaller number was fine, but Duke disagreed, citing fears for its workers. In a previous look at the issue, CityBeat found the city’s standard was supported by experiences in other cities (“The Great Eight Debate,” issue of March 6). The city eventually won out, and manholes will only be required to be three to four feet from streetcar tracks.
The streetcar has faced consistent opposition from other Republicans besides Kasich. U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot of Cincinnati successfully amended the 2013 transportation bill to ban federal funding from going to the streetcar and other light rail projects. Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on Cincinnati City Council, said the city should stop its threat of lawsuit against Duke Energy.