Friday, July 31, 2009

700 WLW's Tracy Jones says streetcar is a "horrible" idea.

Because we all know that a former mediocre baseball player with absolutely no transit experience knows best!

On July 29, 2009; Mayor Mark Mallory was a guest on 700 WLW's "Eddie and Tracy" show where he discussed the proposed Cincinnati streetcar system. Jones gave his trademark "it's a HOORRRRIIIBBBLLEE idea" catchphrase at the end of the interview. To hear the podcast, click here. Between talking over the mayor and reminding everyone listening that he "used to be a professional baseball player," I doubt Tracy had much time to ponder the idea of the streetcar before he drew his conclusion.

It's funny. Tracy Jones, a local radio host and former mediocre MLB player, thinks the streetcar is a bad idea, yet these experts on transit issues think the streetcar would reap great economic benefit for this city:

Sorry Trace, I think I'm gonna have to go with these opinions over yours. "It is what it is" pal!

Edit: Tracy also said "8 of the 9 council people are opposed to the streetcar." That is FALSE, 8 of the 9 council members are opposed to COAST's Anti-Passenger Rail Charter Amendment!

Portland Voted on Passenger Rail Transportation

Why aren't we?

In a recent post to their blog, COAST tries to make it seem like they're all the sudden "pro streetcar" and really just about "demanding a vote." However, just read a few posts below on their site and and you can see their true feelings and their immature anti-streetcar propaganda campaign (complete with pictures of a scantily clad Xenia Warrior Princess using a sword to kill a streetcar). 

It's true, the citizens and taxpayers of Portland, Oregon voted on the construction and subsequent expansion of their rail transit systems. Why? Because those projects required the raising of additional taxes. Will the construction of a Cincinnati Streetcar system require the raising of your taxes or will you even be taxed for it's construction? NO! If it was going to require a raise in taxes, the motion to construct such a system would be put forth the voters. The streetcar system will be paid for by capital funds (these funds can not be reallocated into the general budget to make up for the city's current deficit), private donations and federal stimulus dollars (if passed up, these dollars will go to other city's, not back to the citizens of Cincinnati). That's why this issue is not being placed on the ballot, because your tax dollars are not being touched to fund it.

COAST wants to claim that their charter amendment wouldn't "block" transit, it would "enable" it. Nothing could be further from the truth! The generally worded anti-passenger rail amendment would require any rail project in the city limits to be voted on in a taxpayer funded city election. That means, any project that would come forward would be delayed for months while a vote at taxpayer's expense was organized.

COAST had a vote, it was called "election day." Since they didn't like the outcome, they feel they can nitpick and chose what issues that want to vote on and amend. They don't care what the citizens want, they don't care about how democracy works, they only want to pass measures that benefit their special interest group! Say no to special interest, say no to the anti-passenger rail amendment!

Thank you to everyone who has written in with emails of support! We, the citizens of Cincinnati stand firmly against COAST's antiquated, stupid thinking!

Mallory: "Yes" Vote Would Kill Streetcar

COAST/NAACP continue to mislead the voters!

The folks over at COAST like to throw around the word "boondoggle" a quite a bit. They claim the proposed streetcar route, if built, would be a "boondoggle" to the taxpayers despite the fact that our taxes would not be raised, nor would our tax dollars be used to pay for it's construction (the construction of the system would come from already collected capital funds and private contributions). 

In their most recent post, COAST claims the citizens have suffered through three major "boondoggles" already: 
 - A "Union Terminal Boondoggle."  
COAST unfortunately failed to look into this one and realize that Union Terminal was built privately, costing taxpayers nothing. Today, after it had been abandoned and the taxpayers voted to save the building in 1986, it exists as the Cincinnati Museum Center, one of the most popular and highly attended tourist attractions in the region.

- A "Subway" Boondoggle
Voters in 1916 approved a six million dollar bond issue to approve the construction of a Rapid Transit Loop around our great city. We can go round and round about the politics and reasons for it's abandonment, but if the current COAST/NAACP anti-passenger rail amendment passes on election day, it would prevent the subway from ever being used for it's original purpose. 

- A "Riverfront Transit Center" Boondoggle
Opened in 2002, the Riverfront Transit Center, lays beneath 2nd street currently run by System Parking who has a contract with the city. COAST considers the transit center to be a boondoggle because of it's underutilization, however their very own charter amendment would help keep the transit center from ever being utilized for it's fully intended purpose. 

As Mayor Mark Mallory said on July 28, the proposed charter amendment would end "all talk about rail" in this city. Not only would a "yes" vote kill the streetcar, but it would work to prevent Cincinnati from ever having rail as an alternative to fix it's traffic problems, but keep Cincinnati out of the proposed high speed rail network and 3C corridor, which would connect our city with other major cities! 

Do you really think the federal government when planning this project is going to sit back and say "well we'd like to include Cincinnati, but we have to put off planning for another year while they vote on it?" No, they won't even bother asking the question, they'll just pass us over or let some other nearby city take our opportunity. Don't let Cincinnati miss out on a great opportunity to make progress and become a competitive major American city yet again!

Kill the Charter Amendment!
Vote 'No' on the anti-passenger rail charter amendment.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CAAST Launches "Who is Chris?" Contest.

CAAST today launched the "Who is Chris?" contest. Cincinnati NAACP President Chris Smitherman, is one of the leading proponents of the "Anti-Passenger Rail Charter Amendment," claiming the building of the Cincinnati Streetcar is not in the best interest of the citizens of Cincinnati. Unfortunately, Chris Smitherman is playing the citizens of Cincinnati. You see, Smitherman assumed he and his cronies would be receiving a good amount of  proceeds from the sale of the Blue Ash airport for the boondoggled Glencoe Housing Project (which has been stalled since 2002). When the Streetcar plan came to fruition, Smitherman lost any chance of ever getting the money he had already promised. However, despite his vocal opposition to the streetcar proposal, Chris Smitherman wouldn't mind seeing it built as his own family would greatly benefit from the construction of the streetcar.

Chris was silent about "demanding a vote" and opposing the "trolley" as his brother stood behind Mayor Mark Mallory on Thursday, June 11, 2009 while the Streetcar Development Team was announced. Smitherman's family concrete company, Jostin's Concrete, is part of the development team and would no doubt profit from the streetcar's construction. If the streetcar is built, it could greatly benefit the citizens of Cincinnati and provide a contract for Smitherman's family company, yet if the proposed "Charter Amendment" passes and the streetcar plan fails, Cincinnati and it's citizens would be kept further in the past with none of the plan's financial resources being diverted back to them, but instead back to Smitherman and his support of the failed 'Glencoe Hole' development.

No matter what, Chris wins, yet the citizens of this city stand to lose a lot. So, all in good fun, "Who is Chris?" Which business minded, money oriented comic book villain reminds you most of Chris? Lex Luthor or King Pin? Feel free to gives your own suggestions as well!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Newsbreak: Governor Concerned Charter Amendment Could "Exclude Cincinnati."

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland

Ben Fischer of the Cincinnati Enquirer did a great job blogging about the Governors recent speech in Loveland, Ohio. Strickland, When asked about the charter amendment ballot initiative being pushed by COAST and the NAACP, Strickland had this to say: “I think Cincinnati and Cincinnatians would have to obviously make the decision if they want to be excluded from a system that will be interconnective, not only with Columbus and Dayton and Cleveland, but Chicago and other major, major cities as well."

Acknowledging the people's right to vote on the issue if and when the petition is verified, Strickland also added that he hopes voters in Cincinnati realize the COAST/NAACP charter amendment could "potentially have a detrimental effect upon the city." Strickland also acknowledged he "would have to look at the legal implications" of the amendment, but let's take a look at the current ballot language: 
The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same.
With that kind of ballot language, Cincinnati could be delayed from or potentially kept out of consideration for not only the proposed Ohio "3C" High Speed Rail project, but a national high speed rail network connecting it to other major cities. Even if Cincinnati was featured in those networks, an amendment to the city's charter like this could further complicate and delay Cincinnati's involvement in maintaining and improving the project, making other cities and locations nearby better candidates. Apparently this charter amendment isn't just about the streetcar, it affects all passenger rail projects. Maybe we should heed the Governor's warning and take a good hard look at the legal implications?

Monday, July 13, 2009

City Names Project Team for Proposed Streetcar

City Manager Milton Dohoney hires same firm that planned and designed Riverfront Transit Center.

Parsons Brinkerhoff is the preferred City vendor for the proposed streetcar project.

Well, seems the city is at it again: That's right, moving forward with the proposed streetcar project. On June 11, 2009 Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney announced the Cincinnati Streetcar Development Team. The engineering frim of Parsons Brinkerhoff was awarded the contract to help build the streetcar project. You may remember that name, it's the same company that built and designed the Riverfront Transit Center.

Some local groups have gone so far as to call the Riverfront Transit Center an "Epic Failure." According to Urban Dictionary, an "Epic Fail" is a term often used by pre-teen's on the internet that can be described as: "The highest form a "fail" known to man."  Was the Riverfront Transit Center that much of a letdown, though? Upon doing some basic research it seems that the Transit Center is actually a sound design that could easily be adapted for various forms of rail and by planning ahead it would save the taxpayers millions by not having to front the cost of tunneling to build a new underground station/hub or an expensive above ground one. Not to mention, the right-of-ways at the entrances to the center are secured for future use. The city also leases the center and it's adjoining parking areas to System Parking, allowing them to collect a share of the revenue from the parking operations which fill up anytime there's a large event downtown like Oktoberfest, Taste of Cincinnati, Reds games, Bengals games etc.

As far as the criticism of Parsons Brinkerhoff goes, it seems they have a good amount of experience, if we're going to build a streetcar looks like this firm knows what they're doing. Some of their work includes:
  • - Caliornia Amtrak/Acela High Speed Rail Study and Planning
  • - Eastside Light Rail Corridor, Los Angeles
  • - Fort Washington Way Reconfiguration
  • - Salt Lake City Light Rail configuration
  • - Reconstruction of the World Trade Center site and the Freedom Tower
A full list of their work can be found here. So we have a firm who has done work with successful transportation and rail projects all across the world and a city who used this firm to plan ahead and design a transit station that could potentially save tax payers millions in the future, yet the charter amendment being pushed forward by COAST and the NAACP would significantly prevent this transit center from ever being utilized and the money that would no longer be used for the streetcar wouldn't go back to the citizens of Cincinnati, but to other city's eager to take in federal rail dollars. Seems like the taxpayers and citizens would be the real losers if that charter amendment passes...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ohio Senate: No Funding for Freedom Center

Local Museum will not receive requested additional funding in state's 3rd interim budget.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial March is held at the Freedom Center every year.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a museum on the Cincinnati Riverfront, will not receive it's requested additional funding from the Ohio State Senate. This was just one of many cuts made to the state's third interim budget recently ratified by Governor Strickland. Three million dollars might have been allotted to help fund the often criticized attraction, but local activists credit themselves for taking action:

COASTers calls and letters worked,” said Jason Gloyd, chairman of COAST (The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, not to be confused with the Coalition AGAINST Additional Spending and Taxes (CAAST)). COAST called out to their blog readers and urged them to contact their elected officials and voice their displeasure over additional spending for the center. This was nothing new, the center had been criticized since it's opening year for failing to produce projected attendance numbers and revenue. 

The center had been seeking funding for the construction of a new entrance and research and development on "Copper Sun," a new exhibit for the museum. Despite it's budget criticisms, local leaders still pledged for support of the center. I have been concerned about the depth of the content of the center,said Chris Smitherman, President of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP.  “It must be expanded."

Smitherman, despite having been an advocate for increased funding and expansion of the Freedom Center, now opposes the Cincinnati Streetcar plan on the grounds that it will be too great a cost to the taxpayers. Even though any federal grants received for rail transit would just be awarded to other cities and in no way returned or reinvested in the citizens of Cincinnati. 

Smitherman has partnered with COAST to support the Anti-Rail Charter Amendment as part of their "We Demand a Vote" campaign.