Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Driehaus' Big Dig?

Closed Door Meetings. Swanky Fundraisers. Unanswered Questions...
Steve Driehaus met with Congressman James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in a closed door meeting at the local offices of Parsons Brinkerhoff earlier this month.  But many questions surrounding the true nature of this meeting, and visit, have been left unanswered.

Parsons Brinkerhoff is a planning, engineering and construction management firm connected to many local projects.  They are a member of the Cincinnati Streetcar Development Team, Project Manager for Governor Strickland's pet 3-C Rail project, as well as the Project Manager for the failed Riverfront Transit Center.  Parsons Brinkerhoff is most well known for the most expensive highway project in U.S. history, the "Big Dig."  This Massachusetts transit project ended up well over budget at $12 billion, was finished nine years late, and was the cause of a tragic death.

Apparently, Oberstar appeared at a fundraiser for the Driehaus campaign following the closed meeting.  So the question remains, was this meeting used as leverage by Driehaus to raise money from a contractor that stands to benefit from federal funding for local transportation projects, and who from Parsons Brinkerhoff contributed to his campaign in conjunction with this event.  COAST is calling on Driehaus to disclose what was discussed.

"Driehaus tries to make Oberstar's visit appear to be beneficial to the community," said COAST Chairman Jason Gloyd.  "But if it were so beneficial, I'm a little confused as to why Oberstar's entire visit was closed to the public."  Gloyd continued, "This is exactly what is wrong with Washington.  You have an influential member of Congress visit, you hold private meetings where government contracts could be discussed with the very contractor that may benefit from these government contracts, and then you turn around and possibly raise money from these contractors?"

"This entire visit reeks of pay to play.  Steve Driehaus should disclose what was discussed and who was involved with the fundraiser," Gloyd said.  "If the Driehaus campaign is using local transportation projects as leverage for fundraising, then they need to be held accountable for their actions."

Monday, August 23, 2010

High speed rail destroys residential property values

Rail junkies frequently promise increased property values along the boondoggle's route. The whole myth of "transit oriented development" is predicated on that assumption. Reality is altogether different.

Between London and Birmingham, England, people living in the path of a proposed high-speed rail link say their homes are already impossible to sell. Carol Clark, whose end-of-terrace cottage in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, is just 100 yards from the proposed line, told Sky News that even if her home is saved from demolition, its value has been wiped out. "I am in limbo, I can't move forward with my life," said the 60-year-old, who moved into her house in 1998. "I am now in a situation where the house is completely unsellable. I thought I would end my days here."

But the complaints are not just in the Chilterns - there are campaigners in towns and villages all along the route to the Midlands. Antony Chapman, who is among the campaigners rallying locals in Wendover, told Sky News: "The benefits of high-speed rail have been exaggerated and the costs have been underestimated."
That's putting it mildly.

Last year eastern Cincinnati residents successfully fought to keep the 3C Snail Rail Boondoggle from travelling through their neighborhood. They understood all too well that rail proximity is not an asset, but simply a community nuisance to be avoided. Cincinnati's 3C station is now planned to be at a suburban industrial park instead.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anti-rail-boondogglism is spreading

Our favorite word is becoming quite popular. John Kasich is riding his opposition to the 3C Snail Rail Boondoggle straight into the governor's mansion. After hovering within a few points of Strickland for months, recent polling pushed him up from “toss-up” to “leans Republican” in Rasmussen's Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard. Snail killers are in high demand.

Up in Wisconsin, their Republican candidate for governor issued a similar proclamation against their "high speed" rail boondoggle (see below). He's now favored to win too, and the boondogglers feel threatened.

Over at the Capitalist Tool, Steve Forbes says all this high speed rail nonsense is nothing more than Railroading the Taxpayer.
"Bottom line: All of these rail projects couldn't pass even a laugh test in the private sector, yet they will soak up capital that otherwise could be used for productive purposes. And it's not just the capital. Almost all high-speed rail schemes around the world operate at a loss. Even those touted as turning a profit are usually helped with off-balance-sheet government subsidies.

The mission of the next Congress is clear: Tear up all of this pork-laden, misbegotten track."

Reason Magazine summed it up pretty well in Why Cities Are Broke or, There is Something Tragic About a Train...
"... or a light rail system or a streetcar boondoggle that just makes people (well, pols and their civilian enablers) wet their pants over the prospect of tossing 19th-century technology and 21st century debt obligations at cities and states and countries that are already dead broke."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

COAST, AFSCME and NAACP join against Water Works sale

COAST joined with AFSCME and the NAACP last week at a public hearing called by City Manager Milton Dohoney on the sale of the Water Works.  The objections:

1)      Ratepayers are being asked to pay $475 million to the City of Cincinnati for assets we already own “because they need the money.”
2)      The new entity created in the transfer would have eminent domain powers
3)      The new entity created in the transfer would have new taxing powers (in unelected officials!)

Once again, COAST has reached across the left-right divide to create powerful coalitions against wasteful spending and excessive taxation.

A copy of the COAST/AFSCME/NAACP brochure is attached.
Would You Pay $475 Million for Assets You Already Own

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Portland becomes (slightly) more business-friendly

Stops harassing 7 year old girl

"It's hardly unusual to hear small-business owners gripe about licensing requirements or complain that heavy-handed regulations are driving them into the red.

 So when Multnomah County shut down an enterprise last week for operating without a license, you might just sigh and say, there they go again.

 Except this entrepreneur was a 7-year-old named Julie Murphy. Her business was a lemonade stand at the Last Thursday monthly art fair in Northeast Portland (prostrate yourself when you say that). The government regulation she violated? Failing to get a $120 temporary restaurant license."

Local citizens were outraged, but officials managed to extract their craniums from their rectums before the situation degenerated into insurrection. They're leaving little Julie alone now.

Another Reason to Vote for Kasich

He promises to kill the 3C Snail Rail Boondoggle!

"I don't support a 39 mph train, OK? It's not going to happen if I'm governor, OK?" Kasich said to reporters gathered for the occasion, according to published reports. "If you want the train, I hope you can get over that and vote for me anyway. But you're not going to get that train. It's a white elephant, we can't afford it, we can't pay for it. And who's riding it?"

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that the 3C Snail Rail Boondoggle is a good idea for Ohio because the number of freeloaders riding other inter-city choo-choos has increased a little bit recently. Just like Ohio's train, these others also lose more money per ticket than passengers pay. LaHood fails to grasp that the last thing you want when selling at a loss is more customers.

Thankfully, Kasich gets it. We need a governor who will stop wasting our money.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fire Department Money Burn

Budget hearings are coming up in September, and it's not going to be pretty. Cincinnati's budget deficit will be north of $65 million, and they will claim there's no choice but to layoff 110 police, 75 firefighters, and raise the earnings tax to 2.5%. To make sure that's the only choice, council and the mayor are burning up every dollar they can scrounge right now.

Fire department training personnel and arson investigators currently lease space at Longworth Hall for $15,000/month. Seven years ago the city spent big bucks to move them there. There's a vacancy in the city-owned II Centennial Building next to City Hall, so the city wants to move them again. The problem is it's going to cost upwards of $900,000 to make the move. Longworth Hall's landlord has already offered a $1000/month rent reduction if they stay.

Even if the city could save 100% of the rent cost, that's a 64 month payback ($900k/$14k) on the cost of the move. In short, we would actually lose money for the next five and a half years before generating any savings. Are they aware there's a recession? We don't have this money to burn.

Like most sensible people, Councilman Charlie Winburn finds this wasteful spending obscene, and has introduced a motion to stop it. His commonsense proposal is to simply lease the space at II Centennial to somebody else, and let the city collect $14,000/month in rent. There are plenty of hungry realtors who would love to have that listing. It avoids having to move fire staffers into a less suitable space. And best of all, it saves the city nearly a million bucks, which can avoid having to layoff 15 cops.

Call or email the other councilmembers today and tell them to stop burning through your money.
513-352-3604 Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls
513-352-3283 Councilmember Jeff Berding
513-352-3249 Councilmember Chris Bortz
513-352-3344 Councilmember Leslie Ghiz
513-352-3640 Councilmember Chris Monzel
513-352-5303 Councilmember Laure Quinlivan
513-352-3499 Councilmember Cecil Thomas
513-352-3466 Councilmember Wendell Young