New provision to Ohio transportation budget represents “unprecedented attack” on Cincinnati Streetcar

In an unprecedented action, Ohio Senate Transportation Committee Chair Tom Patton allowed a provision to be introduced to the latest amendment of the state’s biennial transportation budget that would “prohibit state or federal funds appropriated by the state from being used for the Cincinnati streetcar project.”

The action comes on the heels of recent news that newly elected Governor John Kasich (R) plans to strip the project of approximately $52 million in state appropriated funds. Such an action would go directly against the state’s laws and proceedings for appropriating state and federal transportation dollars, and could be subject to legal action from the City of Cincinnati.

“So if you suddenly don’t like the process established by law that has worked well for 14 years under Democrats and Republicans, you change the process,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “This is like saying we didn’t like who won the Super Bowl, so we’re going to re-write the record books.”

Provision SC-0257-1 was approved out of committee Tuesday evening as part of an omnibus amendment, and will then go to the full Senate and House. The omnibus amendment, according to Prendergast, could then either be accepted as is, or be assigned to a conference committee if the House finds the bill substantially different from the version it passed last week that did not include the anti-streetcar provision.

The unprecedented attack against the Cincinnati Streetcar, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) highest-ranking transportation project pending anywhere in the state, further exemplifies the cavalier attitude of the newly elected governor and Ohio General Assembly.

Prendergast notes that the Cincinnati Streetcar was ranked as the state’s top transportation project based on economic development, cost-effectiveness and environmental impact criteria by the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), a non-political review board established by state law in 1997. The TRAC, he says, was created, urged in part by then and current ODOT Director Jerry Wray, to remove politics from the state’s transportation project selection process.

Previous actions by the TRAC include unanimous votes in support of the funding appropriations for the $128 million Cincinnati Streetcar project.

“These are not state funds, but state-administered transportation funds. If they don’t go to the streetcar, they will go to a lower-ranking road project,” Prendergast emphasized. “If state officials really want to save taxpayers’ money, they should cut from the bottom-ranked projects, not from the top.”

Prendergast went on to say that in his nearly 30 years of transportation advocacy that he has never seen such a blatant attempt to discriminate against rail projects in such a manner. And he points to a November 2009 vote in Cincinnati that defeated a measure that would have singled out rail projects for public votes by 55 to 45 percent.

“As young Ohioans flee to vibrant cities that offer transportation choices, as Baby Boomers face a future of house arrest without options to cars, and as all Ohioans face immobility from worsening global petroleum constraints, this amendment by the Ohio General Assembly to punish a very specific transportation project is worse than counter-intuitive. It’s downright mean.”

  • Jason

    I’m really trying hard to come up with a reason to stay in this city and this state. At the moment, I am coming up empty.

  • Kyle

    I’m thinking the same thing Jason! I could care less about Ohio anymore….

  • http://quimbob.blogspot.com/ Quimbob

    This is juvenile as well as unethical & I cannot believe it’s not illegal.
    Whoever voted for this – Cincinnatians should boycott those communities.
    now
    I notice the committee is heavily weighted towards the north east AKA Kasichland.
    http://tinyurl.com/4zhjgf3

  • Matt Jacob

    “prohibit state or federal funds appropriated by the state from being used for the Cincinnati streetcar project.”

    Does this wording also limit future streetcar projects in Cincinnati as well or only the current project?

    Can they really discriminate against Cincinnati in this fashion?

  • CincyCapell

    There is no way that this illegal constraint on Federal funds will stand up in a United States Federal Court. Mallory is very likely have the City challenge this budget amendment, probably in front of Judge Susan Dlott. Also, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is hopping man about teabagger republican extremists interference with rail projects. LaHood could intercede on the City’s behalf and hold up funds to the State due to KKKasich’s antics.

  • Aaron

    Clearly this has become and will likely continue to be the GOP’s easy target to score points with an uniformed public. I cannot understand why people in the tristate are so against any type of rail project. Facts obviously do not play a part in their decision making process, its all based on ideology.

  • http://www.urbanindy.com Curt

    This sounds a lot like what COAST/NAACP is trying to get on the local ballot. Sounds like someone got to him…

    Sad really. Representative government is being shredded like toilet paper in a tornado

  • classicgrrl

    Best example ever of an industry-purchased politician. Kaisich isn’t working for us. He’s working for his benefactors.

  • Marshal

    I wish I could say that this was an Ohio-centric challenge and that leaving would solve the problem, but my friends in Florida and Wisconsin are struggling with even bigger issues than this. Florida’s loss of Tampa-Orlando HSR is an unprecedented blunder.

    Deep at the core of these issues is the Supreme Court decision to allow anonymous corporate powers to fund these politicians. I really believe it helped tip the balance of power to these three men who really didn’t deserve governorships on their own merit.

    I have some ideas of where to live other than Ohio, but they are mostly for better weather. As far as these breathtaking political movements, I don’t know what to say, and I don’t know where to go.

  • J

    Been thinking about leaving the city. This makes that decision a bit easier.

  • http://arecycledbin.blogspot.com Jenny K

    Don’t give up yet.

  • John

    The Enquirer will not report this. Kasich and his gang are hoping that Cincy and others will just stay silent about this.

    IT WONT HAPPEN

    The word needs to be spread state wide and nation wide. There are many media outlets that are unhappy with what some of these republican governors are doing.

    I suggest contacting them asap to get the word out

  • http://www.building-cincinnati.com Kevin LeMaster

    I heard about that — very well-written story. It’s the most up-to-date piece I’ve read on TRAC in quite a few days.

  • Aaron

    Wow and I really thought Kasich couldn’t become even more of a d-bag….

    No way this is legal (I hope?).

  • Ian Webster

    @ Jason and J: I’m with you guys. After my apartment lease ends early next year, I’m fleeing this god-forsaken city/state. What a travesty. I’ve given Cincinnati several chances, but this is the last straw.

  • Lindsay

    WTF is wrong with this state’s government? So frustrating. I hope that people organize and fight this mess next election. We need to be competing for jobs and citizens in the world, not trying to go back to 1900.

    I’m with everyone else. I just don’t know where else to move that isn’t 700,000 for a 1 bedroom place.

  • Ian Webster

    @ Lindsay: I’ll name you five right off the bat: Denver, Dallas (their light rail is “good enough”, in my opinion), Philly, Chicago (both of those have decent apartment prices IF you look in the right places), and Minneapolis (I have to look more into that one…). Not to mention, Minneapolis is one of the healthiest cities…as is Denver, I guess.

    Portland’s also alright, but the cost of living is increasing exponentially, because people are flocking there constantly…

  • Zack

    Hope MM doesn’t give up as quickly as some of you do. Yikes!

    Just frightening that more folks (or rather politicians) dont see the benefit of a 1-time $52M investment into one of Ohio’s big 3, that could very well propel it back into power and fiscal dividends back to the community and state, thus resulting in less lobbying for more funds for development in the future.

    For the record, its single digits for much of the winter season in Minny. good luck biking that!

  • Jim

    This is no the time to start planning your move out of town. This is the time to stand firm. If you really believe in the urban ideals being fostered by Mayor Mallory, John Schneider, 3CDC and the countless others who are trying to make this city all that it can and should be, then stay and work for the city. Cutting and running shows me that you were never that committed in the first place. And, I am old enough to know and have traveled sufficiently to understand that every city, every state has its own unique set of problems and arrogant, self-serving politicians. If you really believe, work to make the future match your vision.

  • Ian Webster

    I really despise the notion of “giving up”. We’re not giving up. In a way, we’re fighting our own battle of leaving and moving to what we view as “greener pastures”. We’d rather move to a place where the prospect of getting improved public transportation is a sure thing, and doesn’t develop into some time-wasting back and forth, that at the moment, looks like it will not come out in our favor.

    When I was in Portland, last year in April, I talked to the bartender at the hotel I was staying at. He was a young kid, really nice, extremely helpful. We got into talking about the public transportation system, and how Cincinnati was looking at Portland’s as one of major influence. He said about Portland in general, “you see, we just don’t sit around and argue what we know will work, we just do it. That’s why you see such a (more or less) complete transportation system.”. Makes me seriously wish that was the case here…

  • http://urbancincy.com/author/randysimes Randy A. Simes

    A group of Cincinnatians traveled to Columbus today to sit in on TRAC’s meeting. The TRAC appears shocked by the pro-streetcar/Cincinnati turnout and is currently debating the topic. Follow @jenlkessler and the #TRACstreetcar hashtag on Twitter for all of the latest information.

  • http://tboondoggle.tumblr.com TBoondoggle

    Thank you to everyone attending the TRAC meeting! This really is a breath of fresh air. This is the first time I have seen the public actually fight for the streetcar in the midst of the recent budget problems from the state!

  • Zack

    My Bro-in-law is a former Portland resident, and while he loved the public-trans, he said that even the benchmarker of Portland had major flaws and issues, mainly due to the “build first – ask questions later” approach.

    Also helps to have a high income state like CA opening the faucet as retirees and transplants pour into your state, similar to NC right now.

  • J

    It’s not just the streetcar, it’s various things. Just growing tired of having to fight tooth and nail for every inch of progress in this city. Cincinnati is what it is. It can not provide the lifestyle I’m looking for, so time to be realistic.

    For Cincinnati it’s not “build it and they will come,” as it’s been mocked recently, it’s “build it and they *might* stay.”

  • Zack

    A tad bit curious as to how you may have fought tooth and nail for 3CDC and the Vine street projects, or Washington Park, or Walnut Street and the Aronoff, or the Banks, or the Casino, or Main St development.

    This is actually the FIRST opposition the development sector has faced in a few years other than the 3C rail.

  • Marshal

    In my opinion, “J” is right, even though he might not know why. There is a big difference between the changing winds of real estate development and the fundamental, immutable lines in the sand that are drawn by infrastructure and transportation policy.

    One cannot stress the importance of transportation policy and then downplay it as simply one component of revitalization. These big infrastructure projects are the skeleton upon which all meaningful change is developed. And the backbone of that is transportation infrastructure.

    The kind of urbanity and vitality that many of you hope for relies on mass transit. You will only get so far on building rehabs and new entertainment options alone.

  • Jim Caskey

    Actually, there was quite a bit of push back vs Fountain Square when 3CDC proposed that. It paralleled the arguments of the streetcar naysayers. People were howling about $44 million for the square, when actually the city put up $4m. That is about what it would have taken to waterproof the parking garage. People were griping without having any facts. Look at the economic spin off from that project. With the streetcar, they actually argue that the money could help to cover the budgetary shortfall. Not true. Again no facts. Or,”why not deck out a bus to look like a trolley.” Etc., etc. All empty arguments from those who fled to the suburbs and let neighborhoods in their current state.

  • Ian Webster

    @ Everyone: I thought the Banks had “pushback” for years on end? Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Ian Webster

    I was also informed recently that back in 2002 or 2003, light rail was voted down? Again, correct me if I’m wrong.

  • http://urbancincy.com/author/randysimes Randy A. Simes

    The TRAC meeting has ended in Columbus. The TRAC followed John Kasich’s marching orders and ended up recommending that all $51.8 million be stripped from the Cincinnati Streetcar which earned 88 points (the state’s highest rated project).

    The Brent Spence Bridge project (44 points) will get $35 million; a bus corridor in Canton (77.5 points) will get $15 million. Several TRAC members expressed concern with the state’s number one-rated project taking the brunt of the cuts.

    Interestingly enough, these are not cuts, but rather reallocations of funding. The money will still get spent, but just on something else. To compound things, the money will now more than likely go to these two projects which will increase the state’s operating costs due to road maintanence. The state would not have been on the hook for Cincinnati Streetcar operating costs.

    This was not a final vote, but rather a recommendation. The final vote and public hearing will take place on Tuesday, April 12 in Columbus. Evidently TRAC will hold a conference call this Friday to discuss the matter further, so please flood them with emails and phone calls urging them to stand by their previous unanimous votes in favor of the Cincinnati Streetcar, and to support the state’s highest-rated transportation project by far.

    Email: TRAC@dot.state.oh.us

    Mailing Address:
    Ohio Department of Transportation
    Attn: Ed Kagel, PE
    1980 West Broad Street
    Columbus, Ohio 43223

    Phone:
    (614) 466-7170

  • Ron

    This is but one example of the reasons I left Cincinnati and Ohio years ago. While I have great admiration and respect for Randy and other young people who continue to fight the good fight for the Queen City, I fear that they will meet the same frustrations and disappointments we did a generation ago.

    Atlanta and Charlotte have nothing to offer that Cincinnati doesn’t except a view of the future and a determination to meet it. For as long as I can remember, Cincinnati has focused on touting its past while ignoring those aspects of its history that once made it a thriving metropolis. The Queen City is a dowager at best, a widow merely holding on to what was bequeathed her with no aspirations or vision.

  • Nina

    I’m a native Ohioan. After a couple of post-college years working in another challenged area of the midwest, I had a chance to go anywhere I wanted, and narrowed it to two choices: home to Cleveland or the East Coast. But even after just a couple of years, I was tired of being chained to my car. I sold it and moved to New York.

    But I can’t say I never looked back. Several years later, I had another opportunity to move. I spent a few months living and working in downtown Cleveland (where I’d love to be, for family reasons). I loved my job and company, but, without a car, I was a second-class citizen. I’ve now been in New York for 11 years, putting my dual graduate degrees to work for that city. Due to the cost of living, I’ve effectively taken a large pay cut to live here, but Ohio was not an option. I can only hope that Ohio will one day be able to fight over a first-class bike lane, as Brooklyn is doing now. Ohio isn’t ‘failing to keep/attract young professionals’ it is actively kicking them to the curb. Plenty of us are outside, still waiting for a sign we might be welcomed back one day.

  • Nina

    Probably should have mentioned – I’ve been very encouraged by Cleveland’s efforts with respect to concentrating growth and fostering urban agriculture on its excess land. I even started shopping for houses as a result! But I’m nervous about a place that can still build a bridge that can only be crossed by car and is somewhat helpless against state transportation policies – and apparently funding.

  • http://urbancincy.com/author/randysimes Randy A. Simes

    These comments represent a major problem facing Ohio. It is one thing to be losing your population on a positive note (someone leaving for a better or unique opportunity). Those people move on in their lives and continue to sing the praises of their hometown and state.

    In Ohio’s case, the vast majority of people leaving are leaving because they can’t find work or no longer feel welcome (in the case of young people). These people are moving on with their lives and speak poorly about their hometowns and state.

    It would be a good thing if Ohio was exporting talent and resources, but what is happening is Ohio is running its talent and resources out the back door and locking it behind them. When, or if, the state will ever get it is a question to which I do not have the answer…but it is clear Govnernor John Kasich couldn’t care less about the state’s future.

  • Ian Webster

    Given that TRAC goes through with its recommendation/suggestions, is there a way that we can aim at the large companies of Cincinnati, attacking from the angle that this will attract young, skilled workers to their companies, and see if they can put some money from their large fortunes forward, for this? Maybe that would in turn make Kasich think twice…

  • Bbrown

    Anyone know if Ray LaHood’s office is being notified about the misuse of federal funds?

    Where will the TRAC meeting be on April 12th? I live in Columbus so I am intending on going.

  • Dale Brown

    Let’s see, no one really protested the stadiums, that turned out to be a debacle. Almost everyone protested the Freedom Center, and that was built anyway and has been a disaster. Fountain Square? Maybe the only one of these projects that hasn’t been significantly delayed or under-performed.

    Here’s the solution; since all of this “talent” will leave without a streetcar, go to city hall and promise to buy $52,000,000 in bonds (on top of the $64,000,000 already needed) and let the city pay for it itself. I mean, the ROI is 15:1, shouldn’t be a problem paying that off.

  • Marshal

    Dale Brown, I would point out one major distinction for you: The stadiums were, in a sense, trophies places on the riverfront by themselves, at the behest of suburban voters. The Fountain Square rehab was about investing in the fabric of the city, some suburbanites called it a waste, but it’s something woven into the city that people can use every day.

    Which sounds more like the Streetcar project?

  • Zack

    Furthermore, what has been brought to support the stadiums after their construction? Teh Banks now (only 10 years late, after bickering from the same folks who backed the stadiums).

    Who will pay for the commerce around the streetcar? the businesses themselves who locate along the lines, and cater to riders, similar to….. Fountain Square.

    I don’t know if im more upset about the potential loss of a progressive project, or that I’m watching the state govt totally go against regulation and take away funding as they pick and choose without recourse. What if they pulled UC funding and gave it all to Kent St? Whats the difference in these two situations? Two peer projects; one gets the cheese as decided by Kasich, and those who want to get in good with him.

  • Nina

    Dale, you’re so right! As long as your rule is evenly applied so as not to discriminate against a particular form of transportation – except perhaps with the goal of avoiding ‘debacles’ and ‘disasters’, like, for example, if one form turned out to be the leading cause of death among young people – I’m sure we could all agree that would be a disastrous way to spend our public funds.

    The streetcar should be treated the way we currently treat highways (or better, since it’s more truly usable by the public, without the high barriers to entry that effectively privatize its use) rather than like an optional recreational (stadium) use.

  • http://jenlkessler.carbonmade.com Jenny K

    I was just at the meeting, and will be updating a new story for this evening.

    TRAC did NOT vote this money to go through. This was a working session (as I tweeted) and the TRAC simply listened to reccommendations from the ODOT staff for various measures they proposed. The brunt of the cuts the ODOT staff proposed were for the streetcar project.

    Two TRAC members vocally opposed voting through the cuts to the streetcar, and two more visually nodded assent. This fight is not over, and the vote is not through til April 12th.

  • Robert Croswell

    Requiem for a dream. The city gets sucker-punched again. First by Kasick, next by Jeff Berding.

  • Jim

    You can say what you want about Ohio. I never cared much for the state anyway. And, I never felt like Cincinnati was anything but an afterthought in Columbus since Stan Aronoff retired. However, the leadership in this city has dared to dream. From the mayor and city manager on down, there is a new sense of positive thinking. The progress fundraiser at Grammer’s, the enthusiasm of new urbanists, the remarkable OTR & downtown revitalization. We need to lead and spread the word.

  • Ian Webster

    So, who’s all in favor of recalling Kasich? Anyone want to start a petition?

  • Aaron

    Ian – I would love to if Ohio law allowed it. We need to keep fighting and prepare for the next election. I really thing that much of the republican agenda has been out of the mainstream and we should not have too much trouble winning back the state.

  • Scott

    What we need is to stay angry. and to vote angry. The Republican majority on council cannot survive this November.

  • http://urbancincy.com/author/randysimes Randy A. Simes

    Cincinnati City Council is reliably blue. There is absolutely zero chance that Berding’s rogue appointment maintains his spot on council. He will be voted off and a new streetcar supporter will be voted on.

    At the state level, Kasish’s approval rating now stands at a shocking 30% with registered voters saying they would now elect Ted Strickland into office by a 15pt spread or more. These boldly stupid actions by Kasich will cause huge problems for the GOP in Ohio at the local, state and national level…and it probably will result in Ohio going for Obama once again in 2012.

    These are short-term wins for conservatives in Ohio. Their ridiculous public policies will be revoked and cleaned up over the next few years as they are swiftly voted back out of office.

  • Bbrown

    Here are the emails for all the TRAC members excluding Wray.

    William Brennan – Commissioner, Division of Building Inspection, City of Toledo- william.brennan@toledo.oh.gov

    Robert Clarke Brown Treasurer for Case Western Reserve University – robert.c.brown@case.edu

    Patrick Darrow – Secretary/Treasure & Business Manager for Teamsters Local 348 – patdarrow@sbcglobal.net

    Bill Dingus – Executive Director, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce – bill@ledcorp.org

    Ray Di Rossi = raydirossi@gmail.com

    Antoinette A. Selvey-Maddox – Senior Management Advisor, Management Partners, Inc – this page will take you to her email http://www.managementpartners.com/asp/emailform.asp?ID=36

    Patrick J. Ungaro – Former Mayor of Youngstown, Ohio – ungaro@libertytwp.com