Morning News: Richardson drops first ad; streetcar still on budget; local government fund formula changeup could cost Cincy

Revenues from multiple sources have outpaced streetcar expenses by about $158,000, and the system saw ridership gains in February. Construction led to another ridership downturn in March, however.

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Hello all. Let’s talk news for a few.

Cincinnati’s streetcar is still in the black — despite some months of lagging ridership, late cars and service interruptions — the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority told Cincinnati City Council’s Transportation Committee Tuesday. Revenues from multiple sources have outpaced expenses by about $158,000, the transit authority told Council, and the system saw ridership gains in February. Those gains were dampened by a four-day closure of the downtown portion of the streetcar’s 3.6-mile loop for construction, but the transit system has still netted about $320,000 in fares as of the end of February, with 99 percent of riders paying fares. Service delays and other snags are still an issue but haven’t caused the streetcar to run a deficit yet.

• Former University of Cincinnati Board Chair Rob Richardson Jr. will launch his first TV ad next week promoting his mayoral primary bid. The ad features children, including Richardson’s adopted son, asking adult-sized questions about jobs, safety, education and poverty before Richardson intones, “Let’s start focusing on the future so that in 20 years, we’re not asking the same questions.” The 30-second ad doesn’t mention Richardson’s opponents, Mayor John Cranley and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, by name but hits several issues both his opponents have focused on during the campaign. Cranley has released two TV ads thus far in the race — a general ad promoting his record as mayor and another claiming that Simpson is soft on funding for public safety because she’s supported the streetcar. Simpson has yet to release a TV ad. The primary is May 2, and the top two vote-getters will move on to the November election.

• I am ecstatic about this news: Findlay Market will expand its hours on Wednesdays until 8 p.m. so shoppers can swing by after work to pick things up. I’ve been waiting for this day so I don’t have to go shopping there on my lunch break and keep my groceries in CityBeat’s weird little mini-fridge.

• Nine months into renovations on Cincinnati’s iconic Union Terminal, repairs are going as expected and should be finished on time and on budget, according to officials with the Cincinnati Museum Center. But don’t expect construction to be over soon: Crews expect to be working on the building through October 2018. The extensive overhaul of the Art Deco landmark, built when trains were still king, is costing $212 million, mostly coming from a Hamilton County sales tax increase.

• Let’s continue talking about Hamilton County news for a minute. County officials have finally selected a site for the new county crime lab and coroner’s office. The current lab, which is uptown near University of Cincinnati’s medical campus, is severely outdated. The new location in Blue Ash will be much larger and more modern. It will cost about $50 million to build.

• Moving on out to Butler County, a woman who was apprehended by immigration authorities will be deported next Wednesday after a federal court declined to hear an appeal on her case, authorities have said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Maribel Trujillo near her house in Fairfield last week. Trujillo has been living in the United States undocumented since 2002, but was recently awarded a legal work visa allowing her to stay in the country until July. Despite that visa, ICE detained her, sending her first to the Butler County Jail, then to a jail in Morrow County, and then to a facility in Louisiana. The next step, authorities say, is sending her back to Mexico.

• A new distribution formula for the state’s Local Government Fund could mean $1.2 million less a year for Cincinnati, even as Butler and Warren Counties get more money from the state. So, how does that work out? This story walks you through the complex tax formulas that could strip money away from the city as it faces a $25 million budget deficit.

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