Last week, Mayor John Cranley, flanked by new Council member Kevin Flynn and representatives of the City’s labor unions, and with the announced support of new Council member David Mann, announced that he was considering supporting the Streetcar project if the operating costs for thirty years could be raised from private funds.
It’s a reasonable proposition, because – on the one hand – without such commitments, City taxpayers invariably will be saddled with these expenses that will eat into available funds for police, fire and road maintenance. On the other hand, if they can in fact raise the funds, the economics of streetcar operations are significantly improved from the taxpayer perspective – at least as it relates to Phase I of the project.
Cranley estimated the costs would be $80 million for that 30-year stretch. COAST believes that number is low. But let’s assume it is correct. What is the track record of private industry supporting the Streetcar project with their own checkbooks? Not good; not good at all.
COASTers may remember that back in 2009, we exposed the folly and fiction of claimed massive private support for the Streetcar. Read here and here.
When the Streetcar project was first announced in 2007, we were told the City’s share of the capital expense for Phase 1 would be $32 million, and every nickel of it would come from private contributions (sound familiar?). Thus, voters and the Council were initially lulled into pursuing the Streetcar on the promise of a shiny new toy that was absolutely without local budgetary consequence.
Then, Mayor Mallory and Milton Dohoney set about with marketing materials, and City staff, for an entire year. They sent mailings and set personal meetings with corporate titans in Cincinnati. And these powerful men put their entire credibility behind fundraising for the project.
And after an entire year of beating the bushes they raised how much? Nada, Nothing. Goose egg. Zilch. Zip.
Shortly after the close of the year, a young couple asked their wedding guests to donate to the Streetcar instead of giving the gifts, raising a whopping $2,935. In addition, the City sold their light fixtures to Duke Energy, generating a few million dollars more. Other than these contributions, the City fundraising failed entirely.
So, comparing this experience to the present circumstances, wherein we need $80 million raised in a week, it looks shall, we say, unlikely that private funds will be raised to pay for the failed dream of Roxanne Qualls and her departed ilk.
We shall see in just a few days!