Thursday, December 9, 2010

Berding threatens suit to silence streetcar critics

Jeff Berding threatens to sue COAST and eight other groups to stop them from speaking out on streetcar
Broad coalition courageously continues

The events of this week in fighting the trolley have moved very quickly, so let us bring you up-to-date.  COAST asks for your immediate calls to Council member Berding.

COAST was invited last week to join a broad, unique and re-vigorated coalition to stop the wasteful Cincinnati Trolley.  Coalition members are the NAACP, the Baptist Ministers Conference, the Homeless Coalition of Greater Cincinnati, Westwood Concern, and three municipal labor unions: The FOP Local 69, the Fire Fighters Local 48, and CODE.  The umbrella organization for the group is called C.A.S.S - Citizens Against Streetcar Swindle, whose chairman is County Auditor Dusty Rhodes and whose treasurer is former Congressman Tom Luken.


At the first meeting of the alliance, the leaders of several groups reported that Jeff Berding promised to them during the 2009 Council election that he would oppose streetcar funding.  This year, with his vote for a $64 million bond issue for the trolley, Berding broke those promises.


As a result, the group decided to target Berding -- the needed 5th vote for wasteful trolley funding -- and to disclose his treachery in flip-flopping on the issue.  As a result, Tuesday, we launched this tabloid-sized brochure:
That circulation included the City budget hearings Tuesday night at which the Council and administration discussed layiong off some 500 City employees.  There, Berding lashed out angrily at FOP, CODE and Fire personnel for their speaking out on the trolley issue.
Wednesday evening, representatives of the nine organizaitons received this threatening letter from Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, the attorneys for Jeff Berding, threatening them with legal action for what they claimed were the allied organizations "unlawful behavior."  (Incidently the Taft firm is also the law firm for the Cincinnati Bengals, and negotiated the boondoggle stadium lease.  One might suggest they are "official legal counsel for Cincinnati boondoggles.")
Soon, one by one, the coalition members courageously told Berding and his attorney, politely, to "shove" their threat.

COAST's counsel rejected Berding's demands and told Berding's attorney:  

When one gets in between rapacious politicians and greedy contractors, legal threats usually follow shortly behind.  This is nothing unusual. 

Within minutes, the NAACP, CODE and Westwood Concern chimed in and rejected Berdings' threats.  CODE's response was the most amusing.  They said: "CODE repeats with major emphassis ....DITTO. We intend to kick some major ass."

So, COAST asks for you to help with this effort to hold Council member Berding accountable to his 2009 promise to oppose funding for the trolley.  Please call him at Jeff.Berding@Cincinnati-OH.gov or call his office at 352-3283 or his city-paid cell phone at 378-0245. 

Council member Berding was the campaign manager for the Stadium Sales Tax that has almost bankrupted our County.  Now, he has become the swing fifth vote for the trolley project that promises to bankrupt our City.  Budget-busting boondoggles appear to have become his signature career accomplishments. 

Our allied groups want to make everyone aware of Council member Berding's wasteful spending and treachery on the trolley issue.

Please join with COAST in this important thrust to stop this horribly wasteful project.

19 comments:

  1. OMG, you guys are so courageous!

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  2. COAST needs to grow up. You tried issue 9 and failed. You kept whining about how the 'people' needed to be heard. The people have spoken.
    The people want a streetcar. YOU may not want a streetcar, but others do and they voted.
    Time to grow up and move on.

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  3. The people of Cinti voted for a streetcar but I don't think it was in exchange of their safety. Eliminating police and fire departments in an already heavily burdened high crime area is not going to solve anything. You can put a streetcar but it will be a haven for criminal activity if you don't have proper patrols. Research Seattle.

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  4. Umm... are you able to provide any evidence that he was ever against the streetcar? I can't find any. I've only found articles showing he was for it (occasionally with some reservations related to funding). It looks to me like the only issue he has with you is that you are saying he flip-flopped. It doesn't look to me like he did at all. I'm certainly not for the streetcar, but I'm also not for lying about folks and then playing the victim which is what this escapade looks like so far.

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  5. "The people of Cinti voted for a streetcar but I don't think it was in exchange of their safety. Eliminating police and fire departments in an already heavily burdened high crime area is not going to solve anything. "

    The people of Cincinnati never voted for a streetcar. The people of Cincinnati voted for council members who voted for a streetcar. This is called representative democracy. COAST/NAACP Proposed Issue 9 which as they say would've "stopped the trolley dead in it's tracks." It also would've restricted any other passenger rail project. It was poorly worded and struck down by voters who rejected it.

    Flash forward to now, the city is moving ahead with the streetcar. Police and Fire are not being eliminated for it. The city faces a budget deficit and has recommended laying off excess police and fire staff. These staff members are paid for out of the operating budget. At present the streetcar has received no money from the operating budget. All streetcar funds currently are from the capital budget and grants given to the streetcar from the feds and state can be used only for the streetcar.

    The police layoffs and streetcar project are not interchangeable as COAST keeps trying to have you believe. If the streetcar never existed, never came about and never received a single dime, we'd still be facing these police layoffs.

    It really is that simple.

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  6. Hi Gordon,

    Although I agree with you that the funds being used for the street car are not pulling funds away from operating costs such as police and fire, I still disagree with the project due to how it's being funded. I'm not against a streetcar in general.

    However, I think it's a stretch for a State government to be funding a city-specific project and completely out of line for the federal government to be contributing toward it. That, however, is a difference of opinion on the mandates of spending for different levels of government which I suspect you and I would disagree on.

    If the city had reserve cash and could purchase a streetcar I would say go for it. But going into debt and taking state and federal money (that neither really has) isn't acceptable to me.

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  7. calm down. They just want you guys to quit lying.

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  8. Bengal Berding liesDecember 9, 2010 at 9:10 PM

    The most interesting thing about this exchange is that Berding has been caught saying different things to different groups to get their support, and now he wants to sue everyone who's spilling the beans.

    When will everyone realize Berding is a slick, dishonest, chameleon of a politician? He says what people want to hear. Now he's been caught.

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  9. Anton says:

    Who was the stupid loser at the Taft firm who was assigned to make a fool out of himself. OMG, mischaracterizing a politician's stand on an issue. "Let's run to court." Are they that desperate for fees over there? It is truly embarrassing. Glad you shot them the bird.

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  10. Hi Michael,

    First and foremost: It's nice to finally discuss with someone on here in a polite way, especially someone that isn't hiding behind a screen name un-originally altered to poke fun at a politician or the numerous other backwards, anonymous names.

    "However, I think it's a stretch for a State government to be funding a city-specific project and completely out of line for the federal government to be contributing toward it. That, however, is a difference of opinion on the mandates of spending for different levels of government which I suspect you and I would disagree on."

    You raise a good point, and while we may disagree on funding options, I think it does make sense for the state to invest in something like this for one of its largest cities. Strong cities lead to a strong state.

    The problem at the current moment is, while many people have various opinions as to how/if the state or feds should be contributing money towards projects like these, if we turn away the money it doesn't get re-distributed back to the taxpayers. In an ideal world, that would be great, but at present, that's not how it works. If we have the opportunity, I think its time to seize it, especially for a project that has been proven to work in other cities and communities.

    Again, thanks for the polite and cool discussion. Nice to see some of that here.

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  11. Gordon Bombay is my real name.

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  12. Gordon Bombay is my real name tooDecember 10, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Let's all say it together: Streetcar operating LOSSES will come out of the general fun which is used to pay POLICE and FIRE.

    Sure, there is no streetcar currently operating, but the same people you knock for being shortsighted are smart enough to look a year or two down the line. The City currently has a $60 million operating deficit just this year, and has shown no serious interest in cutting its out of control spending. Let's not forget that they also have a Billion dollar pension problem that they've negligently ignored for years. The City's brave police and fire employees don't want to add several million more in streetcar operating losses on to that gargantuan debt because those losses will come from the general fund which threatens the JOBS of police and fire.

    Its really not rocket science. The choo choo will actually threaten the jobs of public safety employees in a real way. Why else would they be taking this stance? Is this just for fun and giggles? Open your eyes rail fanatics before its too late.

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  13. Please,

    At present, the streetcar isn't threatening the police and fire layoffs. Claiming that there will be layoffs in the future or that there has to be is nothing but pure speculation on your part. Pent up in their hate for the streetcar, they're "taking this stance" because they lost Issue 9. Now, they gotta try and warp and spin it into a public safety issue which it's not.

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  14. I'm the only Gordon BombayDecember 10, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    Follow me here:

    - As you note, current streetcar operating expenses are zero.

    - If the streetcar is built, operating expenses will rise to at least $3 million/year and likely more.

    - Now the operating budget of the city is already strained, so much so that hundreds of police and fire layoffs are likely.

    Therefore, it does not require much speculation to understand that the streetcar will only further strain the operating budget. That is money that we need to protect the policemen and firemen who will still have jobs next year.

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  15. "That is money that we need to protect the policemen and firemen who will still have jobs next year"

    Next year when the streetcar operating expense will still be 0 and our over sized police force will be reduced to a properly sized one that no longer has overpaid desk jockies protected by Krazy Kathy and her corrupt police union.

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  16. will the reall gordon bombay go fuck himself

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  17. Hi Gordon,

    I've enjoyed dialogging with you as well.

    "You raise a good point, and while we may disagree on funding options, I think it does make sense for the state to invest in something like this for one of its largest cities. Strong cities lead to a strong state."

    I will go with you to an extent on that one. I think that on a case by case basis I could see State funding to a city or township with aid that would bring in a project larger than that city or township could normally handle on their own. However, I will condition that with the point of view that some projects are "too big to be true". As in, they promise more that is likely to happen and ask far too much for that potential benefit.

    Having said that, I would like to address what I think is a larger hard question we must face. It's based on your comment:

    "if we turn away the money it doesn't get re-distributed back to the taxpayers. In an ideal world, that would be great, but at present, that's not how it works. If we have the opportunity, I think its time to seize it, especially for a project that has been proven to work in other cities and communities. "

    Let me start by saying that I completely understand where you are coming from and struggle with this issue continually. I know that especially the Federal government right now is throwing money and everything and anything hoping that one of those things happens to magically be "the right thing" to get the economy back on track. To this end our government continues on a historic spending spree that will likely not be matched again for decades. So, one could say this is a great time for new projects. And I would agree.

    However, at the same time, if all of us as citizens are waiting for someone else to be responsible with the money before we will say no and do what we know is right then this policy of borrowing money to make ends meet will continue until it can't, which will be a dark day in this country.

    There is a second fundamental difficulty that I have with this particular project.Although I will admit to not having done particularly deep research on this subject recently, I am under the impression that most transit authorities are run by governments because they are in the long run "loss leaders". Meaning that the actual transportation system costs money to run. There is implied benefit in having a public transportation system which I think has true economic value. However, This appears to be a very targeted and costly solution that could be better served by other solutions. The heart of the argument for the streetcar appears to be that laying tracks will make the transportation have added value to show businesses that there will be people going by their stores. I'm not, nor without reading an extensive analysis with real-world examples will I be, convinced that the added cost of laying tracks will be returned over the cost of simply providing better over-all bus transportation.

    Our current bus system doesn't even show on Google Maps yet, but RAMP does. If our public transportation system can't get the basic needs and cost points down properly then I don't have faith in the proper running of a literally "set in stone" trolley system.

    I have been in a city where tourism of their revitalized downtown core was spurred on by providing a free bus service around a set track with prominent businesses on the route. My family and I traveled that free bus and hit all the tourist traps and enjoyed ourselves a great deal. Something like that would far more appeal to me (when we have the funds to run it) than a set in stone track system trolley.

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion. I doubt we can agree but I certainly heard and understand your points. If this project goes forward to negative net effect I'll just move on and fight the next unproven gamble with borrowed money. ;) BTW, anyone know how that Riverfront is coming along? ;)

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