by German Lopez
136 days ago
Streetcar delayed to 2016, unemployment steady, Boehner re-elected speaker
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Cincinnati streetcar is being delayed until 2016.
The streetcar has been delayed time and time again, much to the cheer of opponents. Some opponents have taken
the delay as yet another chance to take shots at the streetcar, but the
city says a lot of the delays have been due to factors out of the city’s
control, including ballot initiatives, the state pulling out a massive
$52 million in funding and a dispute with Duke Energy.The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent in December,
with November’s rate being revised upward to 7.8 percent as well.
Employers reported adding about 155,000 jobs last month, but about
192,000 entered the labor force, meaning the amount of people joining
the labor force outmatched the newly employed. The unemployment rate
looks at the amount of unemployed people in the civilian labor force,
which includes anyone working or looking for work.
U.S. Speaker John Boehner was re-elected U.S. House speaker.
Just moments after securing the top House seat, Boehner said he will
make the U.S. debt a top priority. But continuing to make the debt and
deficit top issues could hurt the economy, as the fiscal cliff and
recent developments in Europe have shown.
Uncle Sam is helping out Cincinnati firefighters. The Cincinnati Fire Department will be getting $6 million in federal grant money to hire 40 additional firefighters. The money will be enough to fund salaries for two years.
Cincinnati’s biggest cable provider dropped Current TV
after it was sold to Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Pan-Arab news network
has had a difficult time establishing a foothold in American markets,
largely because of the perception that it’s anti-American. But Al
Jazeera has put out some great news stories, and some of the stories won
awards in 2012.
If anyone is planning a trip through New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, Dayton International Airport now has that covered.A small town in Ohio is being accused of covering up an alleged gang rape to protect a local football team.
But KnightSec, a hacking group affiliated with the organization Anonymous, is
fighting back by releasing evidence related to the case.
Despite a solved fiscal cliff deal extending emergency unemployment benefits, Ohio’s unemployed will soon be getting less aid. The decrease was automatically triggered by the state’s declining unemployment rate.
Ohio’s universities are adopting more uniform standards for remedial classes.
The newest Congress is a little more diverse.
In what might be the worst news of the century, the Blue Wisp Jazz Club could close down. The club, which has the greatest spinach-and-artichoke dip in the universe, is facing financial problems.
People who recently obtained gift cards for Rave Motion Pictures may want to get a move on. The theater is being sold to AMC Theatres.
A new theory suggest Earth should have been a snowball in its early days, but it wasn’t due to greenhouse gases.
by German Lopez
DeWine calls for school staff training, Music Hall to be leased, bus money not for streetcar
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is proposing
training school staff and teachers to be first responders in the case
of an attack. The news comes in the wake of the massacre in Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which caused the deaths of 20
children and six adults. CityBeat proposed its own solution in this week’s commentary: Make this time different by focusing on mental health services and gun control.
Cincinnati will lease Music Hall for 75 years to the Music Hall Revitalization Company (MHRC). The lease
is part of a plan to renovate the iconic building to include more
comfortable seating, extra restroom capacity, heating, air conditioning,
improved plumbing and new escalator models. During the renovations,
Music Hall will be closed for 17 months.
City Council passed
a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money for the streetcar.
The supposed conflict between the city of Cincinnati and the Southwest
Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is being drummed up by the
media, but it’s really much ado about nothing.
Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up by 5 percent in early 2013.
The Cincinnati Health Department is pushing
recommendations from a lead hazard study. The recommendations would
prohibit lead-based paint hazards and require all properties to be free
of lead-based paint, dust and soil. City Council is asking the health
department to carry out the regulations, and it expects from a plan and
timetable from regulators within 60 days. One study found getting rid of lead would do wonders for school performance
A Brookings Institute ranking placed Greater Cincinnati among the worst areas in the country due to falling home prices.
Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank agreed
to a $16 million settlement in a securities fraud case. The
four-year-old lawsuit was brought in the onset of 2008’s financial
crisis, when the bank’s stock plummeted as it took several large
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino still needs to fill 450 positions in food and beverage, marketing, finance, security and more. A Washington Post analysis found casinos tend to bring jobs, but they also bring crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.
As expected, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is helping
Ohio’s economy. The state has 39,000 jobs attached to oil and gas this
year, and the number is expected to triple by the end of the decade. To
take advantage of the boom, Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he will push his oil-and-gas severance tax in 2013. But the plan faces opposition from liberals and conservatives.
If Ohio Republicans tried to push “right-to-work” legislation, it would lead to a very nasty public fight, The Plain Dealer reports. Kasich and Republican lawmakers didn’t rule out
using ballot initiatives to push conservative ideas like right-to-work
in a press conference yesterday, but he did say he’s like a horse with
blinders on, focusing on job creation.
The animal and robot takeover have been merged in the BigDog robot. It can now obey voice commands, follow and roll over.
by Andy Brownfield
Resolution promises no bus funds used on streetcar
In hopes of quashing rumors, City Council on Wednesday
passed a resolution promising not to use Metro bus money on the
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit authority had voted
Tuesday on an agreement with the city that contained a provision saying
money from the $42 million transit fund that pays for bus operation
can’t be used on the streetcar.
The agreement needs to be signed by the city as well in
order to release millions of dollars in federal grants to help fund the
streetcar. The city has pledged to match those grants with local funds.
SORTA wants to make sure the transit fund isn’t used for that purpose,
but the city wants to have the freedom to use that money on any
At least one council member questioned the necessity of passing the resolution.
Chris Seelbach said that nobody on council or in the city
administration had proposed or would propose using transit money on the
“I don’t understand why we would need a provision in any
contract that would make us not be able to, when nobody’s proposing that
we do it,” he said.
The resolution has no legal standing preventing council
from later coming back and using transit funds for the streetcar, but
Qualls said she hoped it put citizens’ minds at rest regarding their
Mayor Mark Mallory on Monday published an editorial in The
Enquirer promising that the transit money wouldn’t be used for the
He went further on Wednesday and said during council’s
meeting that he as mayor would never approve the use of transit money
for the operation of the streetcar.
Council also passed a one-month budget for SORTA, requiring that they come back next month to pass another one.
Councilman Chris Smitherman accused Mallory of trying to
flex political muscle in the budget to strong-arm SORTA into taking out
the provision disallowing the use of transit funds for the streetcar. He
questioned the timing of passing a SORTA budget the day after the
transit authority voted to prevent transit funds being used for the
Councilman Charlie Winburn — council's sole Republican — walked out of a Budget Committee meeting in advance of the vote.
However Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said it made sense to
pass the one-month budget because it forbid SORTA from using taxpayer
money to sue the city.
City Solicitor John Curp said it was SORTA’s position in
the lawsuit that it should be the one deciding how transit funds are
used, not the city.
by German Lopez
SORTA wants to limit transit fund, Mallory refuses
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’s wording also makes it so all transit fund money
will continue going to the Metro bus system, which is the agency’s sole
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
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.
by German Lopez
Strickland calls for gun control, Kasich to loosen gun rules, Mallory rebuts streetcar claims
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
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
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.
COAST files two new lawsuits over old issues
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 7, 2012
The Coalition Opposed to Additional
Spending and Taxes (COAST) is making a lot of use of member and lawyer
Chris Finney these days. The group was recently involved in two lawsuits
filed within one week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and
another accusing Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) of campaigning for
by German Lopez
Conservative group involved in two lawsuits related to streetcar, CPS levy
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
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
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
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.
by German Lopez
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
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.
by German Lopez
City Council approved a $29 million plan that will shift $15 million
from the Blue Ash airport deal to
move utility lines and pipes in order to accommodate for streetcar
tracks. The money will be reimbursed if a conflict with Duke Energy is settled in the city’s favor. The city is currently trying to resolve the conflict over who has to pay for moving utility lines
and pipes. If the city wins out, Duke will have to pay up, and the money
from the Blue Ash airport deal will be put back
where it belongs. If Duke wins out, that money could be lost forever — a
worry Chris Smitherman voiced in the public City Council session.
Smitherman, Charlie Winburn and P.G. Sittenfeld voted against the plan,
and Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas,
Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach voted for it.CORRECTION: This blog 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.Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted received a failing grade from Voters First Ohio and the Ohio Unity Coalition for the way he's handled the 2012 election. The left-leaning groups criticized Husted for taking away in-person early voting hours that were available in 2008 and issues regarding provisional ballots, wrongful terminations and misleading language on the November ballot.Stan Heffner, former state superintendent of public
instruction, won’t face criminal charges. Heffner stepped down after an
investigation found he improperly lobbied legislators in favor of
legislation that benefited a private company Heffner was employed under.
Prosecutors claim Heffner acted inappropriately, not criminally.The Controlling Board unanimously approved $4 million Monday to conduct a study to determine possible funding for the Brent Spence Bridge. The study will look at tolls and the viability of various public-private partnerships to see how the bridge will be paid for.Jungle Jim's is opening an Eastgate location today, and people are apparently really excited for it.The state launched a new website to connect Ohio job seekers and
opportunities in the energy industry. The website presents opportunities in
advanced energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency and gas and oil.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will be in southwest Ohio today,
and Obama will be in other parts of the state. The state is typically
considered a must-win for Romney and Ryan, but aggregate polling has looked worse lately for the Republican duo.
Speaking of Romney, he indirectly admitted he’ll have to raise
taxes on what he considers middle income. Remember when Republicans ran
on tax cuts?Another problem with global warming: Hotter days make people less productive, which greatly hurts economic output.
A Cincinnati research team found NFL players die
often to Alzheimer’s disease and Lou Gehrig's disease. The two
diseases kill NFL players four times more often than the average U.S. population, and
other neurodegenerative diseases kill them twice as often as the norm.Having sex once a week instead of once a month is the
“happiness equivalent” of making an extra $50,000 a year. Do not try
that line at home.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:49 PM | Permalink
Budget committee agrees to shift $29m to keep streetcar on track
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.