Development News

Cincinnati Neighborhood Wins Major Preservation Award

In 2006, Over-the-Rhine was listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Today that very same neighborhood is celebrated as a tale of monumental historic revitalization and revival. That effort was honored yesterday at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C.

At a reception that is part of National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week, representatives from the City of Cincinnati’s Zoning Department, Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and the Over-the-Rhine Foundation were presented with the “Preservation’s Best” of 2016 award by the group.

The event is sponsored by Preservation Action, American Institute of Architects, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Trust Community Investment Corporation, Unico, Inc., and Center for Community Progress and aims to highlight significant projects developed through federal incentives such as Historic Tax Credits.

“Through federal incentives like the Historic Tax Credit, historic preservation drives economic development and community revitalization across the nation by taking historically significant buildings that are dated and abandoned and turning them into viable community assets for a 21st century economy.” spokesperson Rob Naylor said in a statement.

On hand from Cincinnati to receive the award was Kevin Pape of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, Zoning Administrator Matt Shad and Historic Conservator Beth Johnson from the city. West side Congressman Steve Chabot (R) also attended.

Naylor stated that the award, “highlights exemplary Historic Tax Credit projects that revitalize our cities and small towns and breathe new life into our communities. At a time when the future of the Historic Tax Credit is uncertain, these projects help to highlight the impact the program has had in communities across the country.”

Since 1981, federal tax credits have helped save over 377 buildings in Over-the-Rhine for a total of $267 million dollars. Despite losing 50% of its housing stock since the 1930’s the neighborhood is still considered the largest collection of 19th century Italianate architecture in the country and has been regarded  as “the coolest neighborhood in America.

Editors Note: Mr. Yung is a member of the Over-the-Rhine Foundation Board of Trustees.

Up To Speed

You can thank Congress for all those tolls that will soon hit the Cincinnati region

You can thank Congress for all those tolls that will soon hit the Cincinnati region.

This should be a wake-up call for not just the lawmakers who have failed to raise the gas tax since 1993 or peg it to inflation, but also every voter. Locally we hear constantly from the group opposed to the use of tolls to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge or I-75 reconstruction, but the Highway Trust Fund has been bankrupt for many years and surviving on bailouts from Congress year-after-year.

Yes, of course it’s far past time to raise the artificially low gas tax, but it is also time to change the way in which we collect funds to maintain our system and add to its capacity. Instead of a simple tax on gasoline consumption, we should move to a tax that charges people based on how much they use our roadways, not how much they consume gasoline. More from The Hill:

The Department of Transportation (DOT) on Tuesday moved up its projected bankruptcy date for the trust fund that is used to pay for road and transit projects, saying it will now run dry by the end of August. The DOT has warned that the transportation funding shortfall could force state and local governments to cancel infrastructure projects scheduled to begin this summer because federal money will not be able to assist with construction costs.

The Highway Trust Fund is normally filled by revenue collected by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax. The gas tax has not be increased since 1993 and infrastructure expenses have outpaced receipts by about $20 billion in recent years as Americans drive less frequently and cars become more fuel efficient. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that lawmakers will have to authorize $100 billion in new spending in addition to the $34 billion that is expected to brought in annually by the gas tax to approve a new six-year transportation bill, which is the length being sought by infrastructure advocates.

News Politics Transportation

Congressman Chabot leaving Cincinnatians voiceless in D.C.

Congressman Steve Chabot (R) campaigned on a promise of focusing on improving Cincinnati’s job climate and bringing jobs back to the region. An exclusive UrbanCincy analysis dives into representative Chabot’s Congressional record since rejoining the House of Representatives in 2010.

Since returning to Washington, D.C. in 2010 Congressman Chabot has sponsored 13 bills, nine of which received the support of co-sponsors. The majority of the bills sponsored by Congressman Chabot are rated by GovTrack as having very little chance of passage due to their polarizing nature. The four bills sponsored by Congressman Chabot that have no co-sponsor include his two largest legislative proposals to date – the Stop Wasting American Tax Dollars Act and the Section 8 Reform, Responsibility, and Accountability Act of 2012.

The Banks [LEFT] development and Smale Riverfront Park [RIGHT] received critical federal investment that paid for the construction of its parking garages and public infrastructure. Photographs by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

Stop Wasting American Tax Dollars Act:
House Bill 1345 was introduced on April 4, 2011 and has gone nowhere. The intent of the bill, according to the Library of Congress, was to “rescind any unobligated discretionary appropriations awarded to a state or locality by the federal government that are voluntarily returned to it.”

In a nutshell, Congressman Chabot’s proposal was an effort to accomplish want Republicans wanted to do with money refused by state’s like Ohio over the past several years. In particular, this would have allowed Ohio’s $400 million high-speed rail giveaway to go back to the federal government and be used to pay down the deficit.

The bill, however, would not have qualified for funds voluntarily returned by the Department of Defense or the Department of Homeland Security.

The intent of Congressman Chabot’s bill would have impacted the $53 billion high-speed rail program introduced by the Department of Transportation in 2009. For comparison, the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security had a combined 2012 budget of $599 billion, or approximately 1,030 percent greater than that of the entire high-speed rail program originally envisioned by the Obama administration.

Section 8 Reform, Responsibility, and Accountability Act of 2012:
Congressman Chabot’s controversial House Bill 4145 was introduced on March 6, 2012, and aimed to amend the United States Housing Act of 1937. According to the Library of Congress, the bill would have “prohibited Section 8 rental assistance, including tenant- and project-based assistance, from being provided to any family that includes a convicted felon or illegal alien.”

Furthermore, the bill would have placed a five-year limitation on Section 8 rental assistance, and would have prohibited any assistance for any family with family members 18 years of age or older who were not performing at least 20 hours of work activities per week.

A third substantive legislative effort was made by Congressman Chabot in the form of House Bill 6178, Economic Growth and Development Act. The bill received bi-partisan co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

According to the Library of Congress, H.R. 6178 directs the President to establish an interagency mechanism to coordinate United States development programs and private sector investment activities, among other things.

The Brent Spence Bridge project will require millions of dollars of federal assistance to become reality.

Depending on what comes out of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, H.R. 6178 may turn out to be the only bill sponsored by Congressman Chabot that has any chance at creating jobs. Whether these jobs would impact Cincinnatians would be another matter.

Congressman Chabot has repeatedly scolded President Barack Obama (D) and Democratic members of Congress since being reelected in 2010 about not doing enough to spur the economy. According to his own record, however, Congressman Chabot has done nothing himself to improve economic conditions or create jobs for Cincinnatians.

“Our economy remains stagnant and unemployment is unacceptably high,” Congressman Chabot writes on his campaign website. ”This Administration has proliferated a hostile environmental that is sustaining that stagnation and high unemployment numbers…we must end the uncertainty small businesses face and start pushing common-sense policies to spur innovation, development and job creation.”

Based on Chabot’s own record, there is no telling what these “common-sense policies” might be, but we do know they will not come in the form of direct federal investment. That would be because Congressman Chabot’s staunch position on not accepting any federal earmarks places Cincinnati at a unique disadvantage to the rest of the country when it comes to receiving critical federal investment that immediately creates local jobs and energizes the local economy.

Such projects that have received such federal help over the past several years include infrastructure at The Banks, Smale Riverfront Park, Cincinnati Streetcar, Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, Interstate 75, Waldvogel Viaduct, Ohio River Trail, and the Millcreek Greenway.

Of course, none of these projects were funded through any help of Congressman Chabot. And as representative Chabot panders to voters about redirecting funds from the Cincinnati Streetcar to the Brent Spence Bridge project, he himself has made no effort whatsoever to help win much-needed federal funding for the $3 billion project.

News Opinion Politics

Steve Chabot Attempts to Overturn the Will of Cincinnati Voters

There they go again. After two failed initiatives (Issue 9 and Issue 48) to defeat fixed rail public transportation at the ballot boxes, enemies of the Cincinnati Streetcar project are once again moving to bar the city from completing what has been billed as crucial to the economic development of Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This time they found an ally at the congressional level.

Last week, Representative Steve Chabot (R), Ohio’s District One representative, and native of the west side of Cincinnati coyly inserted an amendment into the Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill that would bar the use of federal dollars in funding any project in Cincinnati that is on a “fixed guideway” system. The bill is currently in the Senate where it will be voted on and forwarded to the President for his signature should it pass.

The amendment, which reads, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to design, construct, or operate a fixed guideway project located in Cincinnati, Ohio,” is designed as an attempt to stop the Cincinnati Streetcar project. The amendment’s language mirrors that of both Issue’s 9 & 48 but has even broader and more far reaching consequences than either of the two failed ballot initiatives.

According to the Federal government, a fixed guideway is defined as:

Any transit service that uses exclusive or controlled rights-of-way or rails, entirely or in part. The term includes heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, monorail, trolleybus, aerial tramway, inclined plane, cable car, automated guideway transit, ferryboats, that portion of motor bus service operated on exclusive or controlled rights-of-way, and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes.

This broad definition means that not only would the amendment preclude that no federal funding go towards the streetcar project but that federal funds would also be barred from being used towards any improvement of the following city projects:

  • Upgrading the city’s overcrowded freight rail system: The city has previously asked for state and federal funding to add a “fourth main” freight rail line expanding the regions freight rail capacity and reducing the impact of an existing freight rail bottleneck along the three main freight lines adjacent to the Mill Creek. The City can’t even ask for this solution if the amendment goes forward.
  • Development of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system: SORTA and the City have been conducting studies on implementing BRT on several streets in Cincinnati including Reading Road and Montgomery Road. This amendment will make it impossible for the project to utilize much needed federal funds to buy buses and construct stops and street improvements.
  • Development of the Eastern Corridor and Wasson Line for light or commuter rail: Both of these rail lines would connect downtown to the east side of the city. Without federal funds neither project can even be studied. This includes any study on the possibility of a “Rails and trails” combined bicycle path on the Wasson Line.

This amendment is a poison pill meant to punish the progress of Cincinnati and its revitalizing urban core and overrules and ignores the will of the city electorate. It serves only the shortsighted will of vocal minority and threatens to leave our entire metropolitan region at a competitive disadvantage against other regions as we move towards a 21st century economy.

We strongly urge supporters of transportation infrastructure to write Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) to remove this overly restrictive language from the THUD bill. Additionally, we encourage supporters of transportation infrastructure in Ohio’s First Congressional District to give Representative Chabot an earful over this callous disregard towards voters in his home district.

Happy Independence Day!