Morning News and Stuff

Cranley sets agenda, streetcar cancellation costs still unknown, Kasich limits minor parties

Mayor-elect John Cranley

laid out his plans and priorities for his first term

at his first press conference yesterday. Cranley says two of his top priorities are undoing the $133 million streetcar project and parking plan, which would lease the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority. He also spoke on some of his more positive ideas, including the interchange project at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive, 3CDC-style public-private partnerships to revitalize neighborhoods and development of the Wasson Way bike trail, old Swifton Commons and Westwood Square.

It

remains unclear

how much it would cost to actually cancel the streetcar project. As of September’s monthly progress report, $94 million is tied to contractual obligations, $23 million is already spent and nearly $45 million in federal grants is still attached to the project. And if contractors, subcontractors and taxpayers sue the city to complete the project, it could impose litigation costs on the operating budget instead of the capital budget currently financing construction. Supporters of the streetcar also say cancellation could tarnish relationships with the federal government and contractors, which have a stake in the project’s completion. At his press conference yesterday, Cranley said he’d weigh the costs and benefits of cancellation and would continue the project if he deems it cheaper.

Meanwhile, Cranley might travel to Washington, D.C., to

discuss reprogramming nearly $45 million in federal grants

from the streetcar project to the I-71/MLK interchange project. In a June 19 letter, the U.S. Department of Transportation claimed it would take back nearly $41 million of the grant money if the streetcar project were canceled. City officials say they’ve already spent $2 million from the grants on the streetcar project, and, according to city spokesperson Meg Olberding, that would need to be repaid through the operating budget if the project were terminated.

Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature

passed a bill

that imposes new restrictions on minor political parties trying to get on the state ballot. The requirements force minor parties to meet higher petition signature and voting thresholds to get and remain on the ballot. Ohio Libertarians say they plan to sue to block the changes from becoming law in 90 days. Democrats and minor parties say the changes are meant to protect Kasich’s chances of re-election in 2014; they argue that, without the new requirements, tea party challengers upset with Kasich over his support for

the federally funded Medicaid expansion

could take away enough votes and spoil the election in favor of a Democrat. CityBeat covered the Senate version of the bill in further detail

here

.

Hamilton County commissioners yesterday

unanimously approved

the first budget in six years that didn’t require major cuts or revenue increases to achieve balance, but the budget also had very little in terms of new policies. Commissioners also approved a separate plan from the Port Authority, a city- and county-funded development agency, to expand its borders; the Port now needs to work out agreements with other jurisdictions before the expansion becomes official.

Janitors in Cincinnati are

striking against New York City-based ABM

in a push for wage hikes and health benefits. In supporting the efforts, Councilman Chris Seelbach says the strike and media attention surrounding it should hopefully put pressure on Cincinnati’s Fortune 500 companies that hire ABM to clean their buildings.

Commentary: “Republicans Continue Denying Social Progress

.”

After only 28.8 percent of registered Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral and City Council elections, The Cincinnati Enquirer

asked those who didn’t show up to vote to explain themselves

. The answers ranged from total apathy toward the streetcar project to disdain and distrust for the city’s government and political system.

Voters on Tuesday approved more than half of Ohio school levies

.

The University of Cincinnati yesterday

signed an agreement

that will increase collaboration with NASA.

Blockbuster is

closing down

its remaining company-owned stores in the United States.

Biking in traffic

can have some complicated results

as bikers breathe in traffic exhaust.

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