Friday, May 9, 2008

Cincinnati City Council approves trolley boondoggle

On April 23, Cincinnati City Council approved a claimed $185 million plan (click here) for a trolley plan to run passenger rail cars from the Riverfront to Over-the-Rhine and then to the "uptown" area. In 2002, Hamilton County voters rejected a broader proposed light rail plan by a 68% - 32% margin, with more than 58% of Cincinnati voters rejecting that plan.

"Politicians never seem to learn," said COAST Chairman Jason Gloyd. "The voters have spoken and said as clearly as they can, they do not want passenger rail transportation in Cincinnati."

Already over-priced, COAST projects that the plan will cost Cincinnati more than $1 billion in tax dollars for capital and operating costs over its first ten years.

Voting against this profligate waste of money were Council members Monzel and Cranley. Voting in favor were Ghiz, Thomas, Qualls, Berding, Bortz, and Crowley.

Portune mocks Tax Freedom Day

Todd Portune's record as a tax-and-spend politician has been firmly established, particularly (but by no means exclusively) by his attempted end-run around the voters last year with the Super-Sized Jail Tax.

However, even COAST was suprised when Portune openly mocked "Tax Freedom Day" at an official meeting of the Commission in April. (click here to listen to Portune's rant) Portune, responding to Commissioner Pat DeWine's concerns of more wasteful spending policies by the Commissioners launched into a 5-minute diatribe against "conservative talk show hosts" and COAST for promoting Tax Freedom Day. Portune also belittled those who criticize pork barrel earmarking.

Tax Freedom Day has been commemorated annually by the National Tax Foundation to mark the day each year when taxpayers, devoting all of their earnings to their government burdens, would have paid their obligations to the government.

Portune, decrying the occasion, said: "Today is, I think I heard on some of the radio stations, National Taxpayer Freedom Day or something like that ... so all the conservative talk show hosts are out there drumming up anti-tax this and anti-tax that and all are opposed to earmarks."

COAST appreciates Portune so clearly showing his big-tax, big spending stripes. Usually we have to work to reveal his big-government proclivities.

Portune and Pepper appoint pigs to divide up feed at the hotel-motel tax trough

With a projected excess of more than $3 million in the hotel-motel tax annually for the next 20 years, the County Commission has made a decision to waste the money on new programs, rather than retire the convention center expansion bonds early. You may recall that last year Pepper and Portune opposed efforts to dedicate the surplus to their stated priority - public safety. Instead, they funded pet programs for their cronies such as a $75,000 grant to the Film Commission.

To ascertain how to spend the surplus in future years, Portune and Pepper have appointed a new panel to divvy up the cash. Who's on the panel? Everyday taxpayers, businessmen, factory workers and secretaries? Of course not.

Rather, Pepper and Portune appointed their campaign donors and friends, including representatives of the Cincinnati and Sharonville convention and visitors' bureaus, the very recipients of the tax monies.

It's politics as usual by these liberal democrats. Is anyone surprised?

Despite denials, Freedom Center is greasing legislators' palms in Columbus

As reported in this Enquirer blog, on April 15 (tax day!), the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center hosted a cocktail reception at the offices of its high-priced lobbyists in Columbus to lubricate legislators for inclusion in upcoming the State Capital Budget Bill.
The Freedom Center has $3.75 million in pending requests, including an astounding $1.4 million to relocate its front door.
Last week, the Blue Chip Young Republicans joined the opposition to further NURFC tax funding, prompting this blog item in the Cincinnati Beacon.
Surprisingly, Paul Bernish the official spokesperson for the NURFC replied to that blog entry, challenging the Blue Chippers stating that the Blue Chippers press release essentially accused them of trying to "buy a legislator," which was "close to accusing the Freedom Center of commiting [sic] a criminal act."
So, COAST decided to research campaign finance records to see how much money NURFC executives and Board members are spreading around to powerful legislators. What we found was nothing short of astounding. The entire COAST compilation is here.

NURFC executives and Board members donated a total of more than $80,000 over the past three years to the Governor and key members of the Ohio House and Senate.

Of that amount, these executives gave more than $45,500 to Democrat Ted Strickland's campaign for Governor alone, including $20,000 from ultra-wealthy NURFC supporter John Pepper and his wife. NURFC executives have pinned their Capital Bill hopes on the Governor's insistence on including it in the bill.

They gave an additional $6,300 to Democrat State Senator Eric Kearney, who is the chief legislative champion for funding this year, going so far as to organize a Black Legislative Caucus bus tour of the NURFC all the way from Columbus.

Republican Michelle Schneider, who carried the NURFC's water for 2006 Capital Funding received $3,750 for her efforts. Not a bad return for the NURFC - the raked in $2 million in state funds that year.

Bill Seitz, who is working behind the scenes in the State Senate for NURFC funding at present has received more than $2,800.

The only local elected official to openly champion NURFC funding, liberal democrat Todd Portune, received more than $28,705 from a fundraiser hosted at the home of John Pepper. How did the Peppers' obtain this favor for their failed project? Perhaps from the contributions they helped funnel to Portune?

Bernish concluded his blog entry by challenging Blue Chip President Jeff Cappel about the claimed implication of illegality: "Surely that's not what you intended."
Well, COAST does not know what Capell intended, but it suggests to its readers that the actions of the NURFC speak for themselves.
URGENT, the capital budget bill will be released any day: Please contact your legislator soon to tell them you oppose further taxpayer funds for the NURFC:

Senator Gary Cates
Senator Bob Schuler
Senator Bill Seitz
Senator Eric Kearney
Senator Tom Niehaus

Representative Jim Raussen
Representative Lou Blessing
Representative Bob Mecklenborg
Representative Steve Driehaus
Representative Tyrone Yates
Representative Tom Brinkman, Jr.
Representative Michelle Schneider
Representative Courtney Combs
Representative Bill Coley
Representative Joseph Uecker
Representative Shannon Jones
Representative Danny Buhp

Finally, please send an e-mail to COAST to let us know you contacted your legislator and their response on NURFC funding. Thank you.