Saturday, September 13, 2014

Whining, Chris Seelbach tries to change the topic from his poor choice on the Streetcar

The subject of this post is a September 3, 2014 Facebook Post of Council member Chris Seelbach, and his letter to the editor in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Before we offer our commentary, we want to note that the topic of the Seelbach post is important, and certainly worthy of debate as a community priority.  We believe a thorough discussion of the reasons and cures for infant mortality and Ohio's #1 role in this scourge is entirely appropriate. 

But what Seelbach does in his FB Post is complain the Enquirer is "writ[ing] another story on the Streetcar" and declaring that the topic of infant mortality "should be running on the front page."

Interesting...he wants to change the topic.

It is an ancient truism that "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," Matthew 6:19.  

Now Chris Seelbach is one of nine members of the "Board of Directors" of a "corporation" with an annual operating budget of $362 million.  The mission of the City is public service, and Chris Seelbach's votes set public policy.  He, unlike the City's other 300,000 residents, gets to decide how we will spend that money.

And he made a choice in December of 2013 to proceed with the Cincinnati Streetcar.  Indeed, for his entire time on Council, he has insisted that the Streetcar proceed in vote after vote.  It was his considered choice.

And that choice, as with all choices, has consequences.  

That choice was where to place the City's treasures and thus he declared for all of Cincinnati what our true community priority (where our "heart") was.  

Now at the time of that vote, he could have devoted $3.8 million per year from the City's operating funds to the issue of infant mortality.  He chose not to.  He also could have put $3.8 million towards police and fire protection.  He chose not to.  He could have devoted $3.8 million towards tax relief.  He chose not to.  Our City's "heart" was given to the Streetcar. 

In the newspaper, on television and on radio at the time of Seelbach's whining was this story: "Officials still hunting for Streetcar operating money."  This article highlighted the fact that one year after vague promises that the Streetcar operating deficit would be fully funded privately, and not be a burden on Cincinnati taxpayers, not a single additional penny had been committed, and no source of funding identified.  Zero.  Zilch.  Zip.  Nada.

The "consequence" of that Streetcar decision of Council member Seelbach, one of nine men who set Cincinnati's spending priorities, then, is that at least $3.8 million annually -- and perhaps as much as $8 million annually in operating deficit (COAST's estimate) will come right out of the general fund of the City.  That means, as a matter of simple math, that as we fund that $3.8 million either (i) we de-fund other priorities or (ii) we raise taxes on the citizenry.  The result is simply inexorable.

So, within that very simple context, Chris Seelbach hurls barbs at the Enquirer for -- ah hem -- doing its job, and pointing out the consequences of Seelbach's poor policy choices.   

Because of Seelbach's votes, Cincinnati has embarked upon a 30-year devotion of spending on operating losses, and (we hope) continuous public accountability for that decision.  To blame members of the media or the community for continuously pointing out the consequences of that epochally poor choice is similtaneously immature, irresponsible, naive, insulting, and diversionary.

As they say, "Chris Seelbach, you 'own' the Streetcar" and all of the consequences that naturally flow therefrom.  

He can't "change the topic."

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