Monday, August 31, 2009

Trolleyites Too Snooty for Buses

Downtown, Over-the-Rhine, and Uptown already have far better transit service than Cincinnati's other neighborhoods. Buses run every two minutes along Vine and Walnut streets for most of the day. So why would these neighborhoods possibly need yet another transit system that duplicates what we already have?

Chris Bortz spilled the real reason to reporter Barry Horstman in this Enquirer Article:
Bortz added that the streetcars are "envisioned to attract a different kind of rider" - so-called "choice riders" who use public transit more as a lifestyle choice than because of economic or logistical necessity. "To a large extent, I don't think the streetcars and buses would draw from the same passenger pool."
That's a nice way of putting it. Basically that code language means the streetcar will allow well-heeled professionals in these gentrified areas to elude their bus-bound inferiors. Think of it as "separate but equal" transit.

Here it is again in plain english:
"In a city where it's hard as hell to get reliable cab service and bootlegs can be found at any Kroger in the city - how does this help inner city families without cars get to better jobs in the suburbs? Or home with their groceries? Or to pick up kids from daycare or attend an evening school or church program?

It doesn't. The streetcar doesn't address ANY real issues with transportation that people need solved. That's why so many folks, particularly black folks are against it. To the working poor the streetcar IS seen as amusement or novelty item because it has no earthly use for them. Worse, it's also seen as a way for white people to avoid them altogether on "their" streetcar while the backwards and lackluster Metro system will never be improved or updated for the working poor.

These perceptions aren't going to go away - partly because they're true and partly because there is no way to make working poor folks see that they won't be stuck with the bill for something they won't use.

-ThatDeborahGirl comment on Urbanophile Blog
If we're going to spend public money on public transit, then it should benefit the public, not just a favored few. The best way to ensure this is to subject it to a public vote. Enact the streetcar charter amendment.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Precedent for Cincinnati's Anti-Boondoggle Law

UrbanCincy is falsely reporting that Cincinnati would be unique in having an anti-boondoggle law aimed at passenger rail. They claim the "unprecedented" nature of this measure gives them the right to trample on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by radically changing the petition language from what was signed by over 11,500 citizens. But it's far from unprecedented.

Section 451.071 of the Texas Transportation Code applies to principal cities having less than 750,000 population, which is essentially the capitol city of Austin. It outlines the referendum procedure for fixed rail transit systems. And it subjects the city's authority to the will of the voters:
"If less than a majority of the votes cast are in favor of the proposition, the authority may not expend funds of the authority to purchase, acquire, construct, operate, or maintain any form of a fixed rail transit system unless the system is approved by a majority of the votes cast at a referendum held by the authority for that purpose."
Does that sound familiar? It's very similar to Cincinnati's anti-boondoggle proposal:
"The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same."
Clearly, voting on passenger rail transportation isn't unusual or "unprecedented." So don't let "progressers" steal your right to vote, or make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution.

The citizens of Cincinnati are legitimately petitioning their government. An amendment has been proposed, and signed as required. Now it's time to vote on that amendment; not some "progresser's" bastardization of the amendment, but the amendment as written and petitioned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are You Smarter Than a "Progresser"?

Photo credit: Kaye Mastin Mallory / English-Zone.ComIn one of the most bizarre political stunts of this election season, "Progress" supporters claimed that the anti-boondoggle charter amendment petition was somehow defective because three of the 11,500 signatories failed to understand it, but signed it anyway.

One of those invoking the stupidity defense was Minette Cooper, City Council Member from 1995-2003. While on council, she chaired the Finance Committee, The Health, Children and Social Service Committee, and the Economic Development Committee, and served as Vice Mayor from 1997-2001.

Another Progresser claiming cluelessness was Barbara Howard, who is a lawyer and President of the Ohio State Bar Association. She is also past president of the Cincinnati Bar Association, serves on the Board of the Cincinnati Bar Foundation as well as the Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor. She has served in the American Bar Association House of Delegates since 1986, and is currently serving as a member of the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal.

Enquirer Politics Extra blogger Barry Horstman captured the essence of the failed stunt:
"Cooper and the two other regretful petition signers asked the elections board to rescind their signatures, but were told there is no mechanism for doing so. Moreover, proponents gathered more than twice the 6,150 signatures of registered voters needed, so the potential loss of a few names is both politically and statistically insignificant.

The few sentences on the petitions clearly stated that the measure would require public approval of expenditures “for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements” for streetcars and other passenger rail systems. So perhaps a better question for those at the press conference is whether they are in the habit of signing things without reading them.

Cooper at least earned some points for political candor in admitting that what the event was really about was publicity."
Over at the CincyStreetcar Blog, trolley supporters touted the 29th grade reading level of the petition language to reinforce the implication that voting on passenger rail transportation is somehow beyond the intelligence of the average citizen.

Interestingly, the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution has nearly the same reading level. Click below and see if you find it too overwhelming.

Cincinnatians for Progress will stoop to any depth to prevent you from voting on passenger rail transportation. They think you're too stupid, and don't trust you to get it right. Tell them how you feel about that this November by passing the pro-vote charter amendment.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Streetcar Right-of-Way Acquisition

In a comment to a recent Enquirer article on the anti-boondoggle charter amendment, rail advocate ProTransitDotCom wrote,
"They definitely wrote it to stop all types of rail here. I mean, think about it: streetcars run in the street. The City of Cincinnati owns all of our streets already. Streetcars don't require the purchase of any right-of-way, so it's obviously directed at something else.

On the other hand, light rail and inter-city passenger rail do require the purchase of right-of-way. Both will be killed here because of this Charter Amendment, leaving Cincinnati as the only Top 25 Metro in America besides San Antonio without light rail or streetcars. And San Antonio is planning a modern streetcar.

This will definitely kill the prospects for having passenger rail here. Enjoy your commute.
How soon trolley people forget. The Cincinnati Beacon covered this topic at length back on May 2nd. See their story here. Michael Earl Patton correctly points out that the streetcar can't make the turn from north-bound Elm St. to McMicken St. within the 60' minimum turn radius published in its specifications. Unless of course the buildings in the way are demolished.

The Beacon wondered whether the buildings would be acquired for streetcar right-of-way either by purchase, or through eminent domain. City officials have thus far been non-responsive to public records requests on this matter.

But the point remains crystal-clear. Even passenger rail transportation that runs primarily in city streets still requires right-of-way acquisition.

It would be nice if city leaders asked us before they go knocking down even more of our historic buildings in OTR, bringing us closer to the 50% threshold where we lose our historic status. The pro-vote charter amendment requires them to do exactly that.

COAST corrects and clarifies its school levy article

Cincinnati Board of Education has placed on this November’s ballot a 9.11 mill levy. COAST characterized this as an “increase” in a headline in this newsletter article.

COAST did so for two reasons. First, every levy is a tax “increase” if one considers what the taxes would be in the ensuing year if the governmental agency had simply let this levy expire. This new tax rate on an expiring tax is called the “base” and the new taxes would be higher than the base if the tax levy did not pass. So, each election year when a slick campaign commercial says “it won’t raise your taxes,” smile, laugh and say “um hum, sure it won’t.” The fact is your taxes will be higher with the new levy passing than it would be without, and COAST calls that a tax increase. We are glad to allow others to call it what they want.

Second, COAST called it a tax increase because as it understands tax levy terminology, most “renewals” are in fact levies with constant (from the prior taxing period) millage rates. When those constant millage rates are multiplied times new, higher real estate valuations (as most Cincinnati homeowners experienced in 2009), the actual taxes paid increase. COAST incorrectly argued that this tax was also such an increase. In fact, according to David Nurre from the Hamilton County Auditor’s office, this levy is an unusual one in that it generates the same amount of money as the expiring levy – i.e., constant dollars. This means – roughly – that if your home value went up, on average, the same as the City school district average your taxes would stay roughly the same in dollars as the last levy period, and your rate (dollars per thousand) might even go down.

So, COAST admits it – we were wrong, and desire to engage in some self-flagellation to make things right. Fortunately, this act of cleansing allows us to go forth and oppose the oppressive rates of taxation foisted upon us by CPS and redouble our efforts opposed to their confiscatory levy – and point out the piss-poor results they get from the gobs of money the spend mis-educating the youth of Cincinnati. Now, other than picking that crow gristle out of our teeth and that nasty crow aftertaste, we feel so much better.

Winburn calls upon city council to give up questionable taxpayer funded health and pension benefits

Former Cincinnati City Councilman and current candidate Charlie Winburn is calling upon city council members to not wait until November to take action to prevent the scheduled public safety employee layoffs. Winburn is suggesting council immediately give up their health and pension benefits, which he says could be illegal.

Winburn noted that a recent review of the city charter revealed that current benefits paid for council members' health care and pension may not be allowed. Article II, Section 4 of the City Charter states in part:
Each member of council shall receive annual compensation in an amount equal to three-fourths (3/4ths) of the annual compensation payable to the county commissioners of Hamilton County, Ohio, as the same is from time to time established by the Ohio General Assembly. Such compensation shall be payable semi-monthly.
"At some point in the past, the city administration decided to start paying these expenses, possibly without proper authority," Winburn said. The former councilman is calling on the current council to review the apparent oversight and misinterpretation of what they are entitled to under the term "compensation."

Winburn noted that this option is certain and can be done immediately because it does not require council to have six votes in order to place it on the ballot, as does the charter amendment. Nor will it need voter approval in November in order to cut council salaries.

Winburn also pointed out that taxpayers are paying city council a full-time salary for a part-time job, especially at a time when full-time city workers are being laid off. City council members currently receive the following compensation:
  • $65,670 annual salary (equal to 75% of county commissioner compensation)
  • $9,198 annual pension benefits
  • $5,000 - $8,000 annual health benefits
  • $83,268 approximate total of annual compensation
Current city policy for part time employees who work less than 30 hours per week does not provide health care benefits. This decision to cut benefits would put all part time employees, including council members, on the same playing field as it applies to health care benefits.

Winburn said Councilwoman Ghiz's proposal to cut council pay doesn't go far enough in reforming the total council compensation package for city council members and that's why he is calling upon the mayor and city council on September 1, 2009 to consider the following proposal:
The mayor and city council should pass an ordinance immediately rescinding the health insurance and pension benefits of all current and future city council members and make additional budgetary changes that relate to the following:
  • The city council should reimburse the taxpayers for unauthorized benefits received through current budget expenditures.
  • The city council should restrict giving out council staff bonuses at the end of each year.
  • The city council should cut all city council office expense budgets by 15%.
Winburn believes that his plan to stop the health and pension benefits of city council members can save taxpayers enough money to rehire many of the public safety employees scheduled for layoffs.

"If you cut council salaries in half, plus cut their health and pension benefits, and cut all council office budgets by 15%, it could result in saving approximately $1 million over a two year period that could go a very long way to prevent some of the police layoffs and fire company brownouts," concluded Winburn.

Winburn concluded by stating that as the city council works to reform the city's budgetary priorities, they should lead by example by reforming their own tax payer funded benefits and office operations first. "Most every public and private entity is struggling with these issues today and this is definitely an opportunity for our council to truly be a public servant," Winburn said.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Is the Streetcar a Superhero?

Back when Over the Rhine was given the dubious distinction of "most dangerous neighborhood in America," we said that nobody would be stupid enough to seriously consider streetcars as an effective antidote to crime. Evidently we were wrong.

Since then all sorts of blue-sky claims have been made about the streetcar. Reading some local blogs, you'd think the only thing standing in the way of world peace and curing cancer, is lack of a trolley. But the most outlandish of these claims is that streetcars are somehow an investment in public safety.
"The benefits for the rest of the city will be considerable. A cleaner, safer Over-the-Rhine..."
-CAAST Blog, Why go through Over-The Rhine?

"The streetcar will attract more residents, transport over a million people a year through the neighborhood, and increase the number of eyes on the street, further reducing crime."
-CincyStreetcar Blog, Over-the-Rhine and the Streetcar

"The streetcar will cause less car use and will promote a dense, walkable neighborhood. Buildings will be more vertical, and there will be more customers for street-level merchants. And the streets will be safer."
-John Schneider comment on CityKin, Findlay Market Needs Streetcar

"How do you explain to the common Joe, in a soundbyte, economic development, perceived permanence, crime reduction through occupancy,..."
-Quimbob, Blogging isn't Cool
Moreover, the City Council majority seems to have embraced the magical crime fighting powers of streetcars over the more conventional cop solution. The two biggest issues facing this council during this election season are police layoffs and trolleys. Here's a summary of their public postions on each:
Mark Malloryanti-coppro-streetcar
David Crowleyanti-coppro-streetcar
Jeff Berdingpro-coppro-streetcar
Greg Harrisanti-coppro-streetcar
Chris Monzelpro-copanti-streetcar
Cecil Thomasanti-coppro-streetcar
Laketa Coleanti-coppro-streetcar
Chris Bortzpro-coppro-streetcar
Leslie Ghizpro-copanti-streetcar
Roxanne Quallsanti-coppro-streetcar

Perhaps we should nickname our first streetcar "Shadow-hare." Or maybe it's time we bypass our hopelessly out-of-touch council and cast our ballots directly. Enact the pro-vote charter amendment.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

COASTer Scott Ross Discusses Traffic Cameras on Conklin Show

This week on Conklin and Company, Bill Hormann sits down with Scott Ross to discuss the Red Light cameras. Scott gives 7 reasons why to oppose the cameras:
1. Erosion of civil liberties
2. Cameras are money grabs
3. Fines more expensive
4. Shortened yellow-light times
5. Don't increase public safety
6. Owners (not driver) liable
7. Presumption of guilt
Bill also talks with Joe McNamara about the city budget and tax hikes, and Tom Crothers about the new downtown development including the new downtown arena.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

John Banner Blows Whistle on Prevailing WASTE at CPS

Absolutely no reason for new policy except to waste money

Candidate for Cincinnati School Board, John Banner

On August 19, the Cincinnati School Board voted to require a "prevailing wage" for all construction workers involved in the current massive school construction project. COAST calls it "prevailing waste." School Board candidate John Banner has blown the whistle on this foolish new policy.

It is estimated that this change in Board policy will result in an additional $20 million in labor costs, and will unnecessarily limit the pool of bidders and raise overall costs.

Prevailing wage rules were previously banned for school buildings, until appointees of Governor Ted Strickland to the Ohio School Facilities Commission made them optional in 2007.

In a statement released by COAST member and school board candidate John Banner, he calls the vote: "a sellout of the students, parents, and taxpayers of the District, in exchange for union campaign contributions and endorsements. Its vote represents the Board's failure to place the interests of its students before its own."

Banner continued: "It provides further evidence that change is needed in the composition of the Board. Just last week, it approved the hiring of an additional 55 employees and granted administrative raises in the midst of our economy's financial crisis. Apparently, the Board has not received the memo the we are in a recession."

Banner is seeking one of the four slots on the Board in the November elections. He is a Clifton resident, practicing attorney, and Cincinnati Public School parent.

You may e-mail John Banner here, or call him at 513.221.5510 to learn how to help his campaign.

Also, please call or e-mail your school board members (listed below. Since they do not list individual phone numbers or e-mail addresses on the CPS web site, please e-mail them here or call them at 513.363.0040. The School Board is:
PresidentEileen Reed
Vice PresidentMelanie Bates
MemberEve Bolton
MemberSusan Cranley
MemberMichael Flannery
MemberCatherine D. Ingram
MemberA. Chris Nelms

Some are running for re-election this year, and they have placed a whopping 9.11 mill levy on this fall's ballot (more on that soon). If they refuse to listen, maybe this fall will be time to send them a message or two.

Streetcar Tweets: Is This What We Can Expect?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Volunteers turn in Toledo Red Light Camera Petitions

Press Conference at 2:30 PM at City Hall Clerk of Council's office

Today at 2:30 PM, volunteers from WeDemandAVote.Com/Toledo turn in petitions at Toledo City Hall for a Charter Amendment to ban the use of Red Light and Speeding Cameras in the City of Toledo. WeDemandAVote.Com/Toledo will turn in more than 8,400 signatures to the Toledo Clerk of Council. This is nearly twice the 4.625 signatures required to attain ballot access for the proposal.

COAST is proud a member of the WeDemandAVote.Com/Toledo coalition and proud partner of the many Toledoans who have together forced this issue to a vote this November.

In November of 2008, Cincinnati voters became the first in the nation to ban the use of Red Light and Speeding Cameras within City limits. Because Toledo City Council will not repeal these oppressive devices on their own, COAST came to Toledo in January to launch this drive, which has culminated in this accomplishment.

If Toledo City Council does as the Ohio Constitution requires, they will check the sufficiency of the petitions through the Lucas County Board of Elections and vote before September 3 to place the issue on this November's ballot. If they refuse, COAST's attorneys promptly will litigate to force them to do as they are required by the Constitution.

COAST's Toledo coordinator, Scott Ross said: "More than 8,400 Toledoans have demanded that the pernicious and confiscatory policies of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and this City Council be put to a vote this November. Thanks to these volunteer circulators and signers, voters will have the chance to seize back a small part of their liberties taken by these invasive devices.

"COAST's seven reasons to oppose Red Light and Speeding Cameras may be read here.

CFP Screwing With Ballot Language

Feeling screwed?
You should.

Cincinnatians for "Progress" treasurer, Don Mooney, is attempting to undermine democracy itself by changing the language of the proposed anti-boondoggle charter amendment. See details here.

Hundreds of petition forms were presented to, read by, and signed by over 11,500 people. Every one of them contained exactly the same language:
"The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same."
The language is simple, straightforward, and crystal clear. Some voters objected to the language, and didn't sign the petition. But enough voters agreed with it to bring it to a vote this November. And therein lies CFP's problem.

The last thing in the world the "Progress" movement wants is a vote on passenger rail transportation. They don't even want a vote on the notion of voting on passenger rail transportation. Why? Progressers are fully aware they are pushing something the people don't want, and the only way they are going to get it, is to steal your right to say no.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Council Candidate Lamarque Ward Signs No Tax Pledge

Independent Council challenger Lamarque (pronounced la-MAR-kay) Ward has signed COAST's pledge against raising taxes and against new fees during the coming Council term, bringing to seven the number of signers of the pledge. Please e-mail Lamarque to thank him for taking the Pledge.

Lamarque Ward joins Chris Monzel, Leslie Ghiz, Amy Murray, Charlie Winburn and George Zamary, and Brad Wenstrup in promising not to raise taxes during the coming Council term.

As COAST reports here, City Council has dug itself a huge budgetary hole exceeding $40 million per year starting in 2010. City Manager Dohoney has signalled his intention to levy new fees and taxes to fill the projected $40M deficit.

COAST thanks Lamarque Ward for his leadership in taking the Pledge and his fellow Council candidates who are also committed to fiscal restraint.

The text of the pledge is:

2009 Cincinnati Mayoral and Council Candidate
Taxpayer Protection Pledge

I, Lamarque Ward, pledge to the taxpayers of the City of Cincinnati and all of the people of this City that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes and create new fees during the 2010-2011 term of Cincinnati City Council. This includes without limitation, any increase in the City earnings tax or property tax, and the imposition of new fees such as a garbage collection fee.

/s/Lamarque Ward___________August 6, 2009____________

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cincinnati’s Baptist Ministers Conference backs Trolley Charter Amendment

COAST welcomes them aboard

Baptist Minister Conference of Greater Cincinnati and Vicinity has announced its endorsement of the Charter Amendment that will stop the trolley and give citizens the right to vote on passenger rail transportation in the future. Read the full press release here.

The Baptist Ministers Conference is one of the most influential organizations in the City and particularly in Cincinnati’s African American community. The NAACP has led this Charter Amendment campaign, which COAST has supported from its inception. COAST welcomes the Baptist Ministers Conference as a full partner in this campaign!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brad Wenstrup takes COAST pledge

Seventh City candidate to commit to voters:
No tax increase

Brad Wenstrup is only candidate for
Cincinnati Mayor to take COAST pledge

Brad Wenstrup, candidate for Cincinnati Mayor, last week signed COAST’s pledge against raising taxes in the coming term as Mayor.

COAST encourages you to call or write Brad Wenstrup for this courageous stand. You can e-mail him here or call him at 513-378-2716.

The pledge, modeled on the pledge for Presidential candidates, and candidates for Congress, and State Legislatures of Americans for Tax Reform, is a promise from Council candidates and the Mayor not to raise property taxes, earnings taxes or add new fees such as a garbage tax during the coming term for which they are running.

To date, Council incumbents Leslie Ghiz (R) and Chris Monzel (R), and challengers Charles Winburn (R), George Zamary (R), Amy Murray (R) and Lemarque Ward (I) have all signed the Pledge.

Mayor Mark Mallory and the remainder of Council’s incumbents have refused to sign the pledge so far. Please encourage them to do so.

Boycott Government Motors?

COAST polls readers on whether to join

One way for consumers to protest the massive government subsidy of General Motors and its subsequent bankruptcy and sweetheart deals cut for the labor unions is for conservatives to boycott the new company. In doing so, those advocating limited government could both show their displeasure with this outrageous conduct of our government and at the same time help the new entity to fail more quickly.

Those advocating a boycott include Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt.

COAST ponders, should it join the boycott? Cast your vote to the right of this window. COAST will decide at its September membership meeting. Please only vote once.

Mark calendars for 3rd annual North COAST picnic

Sunday, October 4 at 4 PM at
Blue Ash Recreation Center/Park
COASTers will be gathering on Sunday, October 4 at 4 PM at Blue Ash Recreation Center/Park, 4343 Cooper Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242 to celebrate their 2009 successes, plan for the November elections and thank their volunteers and Board members.

COAST provides the fried chicken and beverages. Attendees are asked to bring side dishes and desserts.

Please mark your calendar and plan on attending this annual and fun COAST function. There will be a charge of $5 per person to cover the cost of the chicken and beverages.

Call or e-mail COAST Board member Kim Grant at 513-479-8475 to make your reservations, for directions, or for more information. Be there!

Stadium Sales tax rollback:

Tax? Cut? Pepper and Portune vote to add more debt

When Hamilton County voters passed the stadium sales tax in 1996, a key part of the bargain was that 30% of the revenue from the ½ cent sales tax would be devoted to property tax reduction. As the Business Courier and Enquirer report, because of continuing over-spending, including new spending on the Banks project, the fund available for bond repayments are going broke, requiring either a general fund subsidy or elimination of the promised property tax rebate.

Last week, County Commissioners were faced with a vote on the shortfall. Would they decide to finally cut over-spending? Would they reverse the firmly promised tax rebate? Rather, the Commissioners decided to take on an additional $5.5 million in debt and postpone the hard decisions until January.

Now that’s leadership!

Treasury Secretary Geitner:

Will taxes be raised?:
"Absolutely right."

Although we were firmly promised during the Presidential campaign that there would be no tax increase on the middle class, administration officials are hedging. Last week, Treasury Secretary Geitner was asked on ABC’s This week whether it was right to suggest it is a matter of when, not if, taxes will be raised, Geithner responded, "It is absolutely right." So much for that promise!

Trolley Amendment submitted for November ballot

WeDemandAVote.Com places issue in voters’ hands

On August 3, 2009, the WeDemandAVote.Com coalition submitted more than 11,530 signatures on petitions to the Clerk of Cincinnati City Council to force a vote against the poorly-timed and poorly-planned trolley proposal of Mayor Mallory and Cincinnati City Council.

The petitions, already pre-checked by the Hamilton County Board of Elections, require City Council to place the proposal before Cincinnati voters on the November ballot. The amendment to the Cincinnati City Charter will prevent expenditures on passenger rail for right of way acquisition or capital improvements.

The WeDemandAVote.Com coalition is a unique banding of the NAACP, COAST, the Green Party of Ohio, the Libertarian Party of Ohio and the Hamilton County Business Owners Association that was originally formed to fight the Super-Sized Jail Tax of Todd Portune and David Pepper in 2007. The Trolley proposal is the fourth proposal the coalition has placed before the voters in three years.

Mayor’s P.R. junket to Portland backfires

Channel 5 lambastes misplaced priorities in midst of City’s fiscal crisis
July’s public relations stunt of a junket to Portland by Mayor Mallory and other City staffers to promote the City’s wasteful and ill-timed trolley proposal backfired with the media lambasting Hizzoner for wasting money the City simply does not have to spend.

The day the Mayor returned from his public relations junket on the taxpayer dime, the City announced layoffs of City employees, that resulted in the reduction of 138 persons from the police force.

One example of the media coverage of the junket was this great Channel 5 piece on the wasteful spending and wrong direction of the City.

COAST estimates that the City spent more than $10,000 in tax dollars on the junket that served no purpose other than promoting the trolley proposal that is opposed by 65% of City voters.

Enquirer: stop trolley proposal dead in its tracks

Mayor and Council still refuse to listen

It’s a rare day when the Enquirer editorial pages even consider a limited government approach to our region’s problems, much less get it right. However, this great editorial tells Council and the Mayor to stop, now, their spending and promotion of the trolley.

Unfortunately, as evidenced by the Mayor’s and Council’s stated priority of pushing the trolley, they still are not listening. Fortunately, and thanks to the NAACP, COAST and the WeDemandAVote.Com coalition, voters will have the last say on this topic.

Cincinnati lays off 138 police officers; discontinues four fire companies

Foolish over-spending remains the problem

After years of wasting monies, the chickens have finally come home to roost on the policies of Cincinnati City Council last Monday when the City Manager announced layoffs of 138 police officers and the closure of four fire companies.

If Council would limit their role to the basic functions of government,” said COAST Chairman Jason Gloyd, “there would be now and for the foreseeable future, more than enough funds to police the streets and provide adequate fire protection.

However, for decades, Cincinnati City Council has spent hundreds of millions on non-priority projects such as subsidizing the Film Commission and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, operating a City environmental protection, inspections of nursing homes and day care centers, all of which are duplicative of state and federal agencies, and squandered limited city resources on ill-considered mega-projects such as the $42 million squandered on the Riverfront Transit Center. Currently it is spending money planning and promoting a trolley plan that will never happen.

COAST believes that City Council intends to foist a massive property or earnings tax increase on Cincinnatians shortly after the November 4 elections to pay for these foolish spending policies.

Cincinnati Public Schools seek yet another 9.11 mill property tax increase this November

School board believes it hasn’t hammered taxpayers sufficiently

Immediately on the heels of a massive 14% property tax increase in 2009, Cincinnati voters are facing a similarly massive 9.11-mill property tax levy on November 3. Meanwhile, CPS just added 55 new employees. Huh?

Driehaus sides with big-spenders with votes on stimulus, cap and trade and health care

Removes any doubt about liberal leadings

Freshman Congressman Steve Driehaus takes a sharp left turn

Freshman Congressman Steve Driehaus has clarified any question about whether he would be a lockstep liberal in Washington or reflect the conservative values of his district. In nation-changing vote after vote in Washington, he has consistently sided with the Nancy Pelosi left-wing of the democrat Party.

During the 2008 campaign, Steve Driehaus campaigned as a fiscal conservative; however his voting record thus far in Congress has been an abysmal display of his true values as a tax-and-spend liberal.

In February, Driehaus voted in favor of the trillion-dollar “stimulus” package that was supposed to keep unemployment below eight percent. What are the current results of this bill? How about a national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent coupled with an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent in Ohio… so much for those shovel-ready, job-creating projects.

As self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, one would have thought that Steve Driehaus would have opposed the $3.6 trillion budget that was passed in April. Well, that hope would have been misplaced as Driehaus voted for the budget and help set our country on a course for the biggest deficit in our nation’s history.

As if the stimulus vote and the budget votes weren’t enough, Driehaus again caved to the pressures of Nancy Pelosi by voting in favor of the Cap and Trade bill that passed the House in June. Driehaus even admits that this bill will cause the local consumer at least a 5-10 percent increase in their energy bills.

Steve Driehaus has lost all credibility as a fiscal conservative and we have a good feeling that voters will take notice of this next November. His own constituents hammered by his own constituents at this Town Hall meeting. Maybe a one-termer?

Toledo Red Light campaign charges forward; Tiny little Heath is already submitted

Pernicious devices under attack from Ohio voters

COAST staffer Scott Ross and volunteers traveled to Toledo in July to spur the petition drive for a Charter Amendment against Red Light Cameras in that City to the November ballot. Activists in tiny Heath Ohio quickly collected their required number of signatures to assure ballot access there.

COASTers Kim Grant, Dan Regenold, Chris Finney and Scott Ross joined Americans for Prosperity staffers Jack Boyle and Jonathan Petrea in Toledo in July to spur efforts there over the top. At the same time, in a matter of days, activists in tiny Heath Ohio printed their petitions and gathered the required number of signatures to assure ballot access there.

As of the publication of this newsletter, the Toledo effort has reached 6,250 signatures against a needed 4,750 valid signature requirement. Toledoans have until approximately August 13 to finish their signature-gathering efforts to attain ballot access for the November 4 election.

COAST was proud to provide important volunteer resources for petition campaigns in both Heath and Toledo,” said COAST Chairman Jason Gloyd. “In addition to advancing the cause of liberty in those cities, we have identified local leaders for the future legislative and political battles throughout Ohio.

Already, Heath volunteers have indicated a willingness to help with petition campaigns in nearby Columbus and its suburbs.

NAACP, AFSCME submit City petitions to force water works sale to a vote

Would charge ratepayers $475 million for assets they already own

Would you pay good money to buy something you already own? That’s what the City Manager is proposing with the sale of water works assets to a new public entity. Under the Manager’s proposal, the City of Cincinnati would follow Ohio statutory procedures to form a “Regional Water District.” A Charter Amendment advanced by the NAACP and the labor union AFSCME would force that proposal to a City vote.

Under the Manager’s proposal, after the formation of the new water works entity, the City would enter into an agreement to transfer to it assets of the Cincinnati Water Works in exchange for a payment of $475 million.

Who pays that $475 million under Dohoney’s proposal? The very ratepayers who already own the water works assets. As explained by Dohoney at a June presentation, the sale is proposed “because the City needs the money.” In other words, the sale is a hidden tax increase to feed the City’s unrestrained habit of over-spending.

In response, Cincinnati’s NAACP and AFSCME have circulated a petition requiring that any sale of City waterworks assets be submitted to a public referendum.

Using the legacy of 100 years of asset purchases by Cincinnati water ratepayers to fund the City’s operating deficit is the height of fiscal irresponsibility,” said Christopher Smitherman, Cincinnati NAACP President. “We cannot allow Council to mortgage our future and our children’s future in this manner to finance nothing other than their open-ended spending addiction.

COAST will be considering an endorsement of the Waterworks amendment at its September Board meeting.

Jennifer Miller & Arnie Engel seek re-election

COASTers encouraged to help them with money, time

Loyal COASTers Jennifer Miller of the Mason City Board of Education and Arnie Engel of the Fairfield City Board of Education are each seeking re-election this November. Both have given of themselves selflessly and repeatedly in COAST activities. It’s time for COASTers to recriprocate generously.

The web sites and contact information of these two fine candidates are below. COAST will be arranging volunteer weekends to help each of these two fine candidates. Please plan on volunteering and helping them both.

Jennifer Miller for Mason Board of Education
4579 Angeline Lane
Mason, Ohio 45040

Arnold Engel for Fairfield City School Board
6237 Firestone Drive
Fairfield, Ohio 45014

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bonehead of the Week: All Aboard Ohio

AllAboardOhio is a rail advocacy organization based in Delaware, Ohio. They recently issued a denouncement of the anti-boondoggle charter amendment that contained this:
"...prospects for building a new, city-owned train station in Cincinnati will be severely complicated and even the smallest future improvements – e.g. adding non-slip surfaces to handicapped ramps, replacing conventional light bulbs with high-efficiency bulbs, etc. – to such a station in the future might all be subject to a public vote;"
Forget for a moment that we already have two or three train stations that are barely used. How does AllAboardOhio expect anybody to take them seriously with such a blatant nonsensical over exaggeration?

Let's review the language again:
"The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same."
It only requires a vote prior to spending for two things:
  1. right-of-way acquisition, and
  2. construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation.
It doesn't limit maintenance, repairs, studies, design, operations, or anything to do with freight, and certainly not changing light bulbs. It reasonably restricts local government from encumbering citizens with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, without their permission.

Let's deal with the real problem. What is AllAboardOhio really afraid of? Delays? Rail projects aren't impulse purchases. They take years and years to plan and construct. There's plenty of time to utilize the normal election cycle. No, they're afraid of the vote itself. Because voters examine the benefits they stand to receive from rail, and carefully weigh them against the costs. And most times rail projects come up woefully short. That's why rail advocates think voting=death.

Unfortunately their solution isn't to design better projects, but to subvert your right to vote. Don't let them insult your intelligence with boneheaded statements. Enact the pro-vote charter amendment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

DC Doesn't Vote on Passenger Rail Transportation

Now they're stuck with a boondoggle.

Washington, DC's former transportation director went to Portland and drank the streetcar kool-aid. It impaired his judgement tremendously. He returned and immediately set about designing the Anacostia line.

On November 13, 2004, Metro broke ground in Anacostia on a light rail line that would explore the usefulness of streetcars in ferrying people to the main Metro line. The line consists of 2.7 miles (4 kilometers) of dedicated right-of-way and six stations. Service was expected to begin in 2006.

District transportation officials had negotiated a $16 million payment to CSX Transportation for use of the right-of-way. But they later discovered that CSX was not the sole owner of the right-of-way; the city, for one, owned part of it. In April 2005, they put the project on hold and began to plan an alternate 2.2-mile route on city streets.

The new plan received neighborhood opposition and remains on hold. But none of this stopped officials from purchasing three brand-new trolleys just like Portland's. For over three years now, they've been gathering dust over in the Czech Republic at the Skoda-Indecon factory where they were made.

It seems the historic area this streetcar line was supposed to serve has a ban on overhead wires like those needed to power the trolley. Details like that tend to get noticed under the intense public scrutiny of a vote.

Now they're stuck with a $10 million white elephant which they are desperately trying not to waste. Sound familiar? Hey DC, we have some unused subway tubes and an empty riverfront transit center you can store your trolleys in! Might as well let the boondoggles keep each other company.

Don't let this happen (again) to us. Enact the anti-boondoggle charter amendment.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fox19: Streetcars are Optional

So take a stand for a safer neighborhood. Tell City Council to cancel the streetcar, not cops. Vote for the anti-streetcar charter amendment.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

COAST Helps Cincinnati Dodge 14,865 Bullets

Heath, Ohio suffers full onslaught of government enforcement cyborgs.
Heath is close-knit community of 8,527 people, 3,403 households, and 2,375 families. Its total land area is 10.4 square miles, making it the same size as Bright, Indiana if you include Hidden Valley Lake.

The mayor wanted photo enforcement to reduce accidents. Last July they had 35. This July that dropped to 30. But during that same month, 10 traffic robots monitoring 6 intersections, wrote a whopping 14,865 tickets! That's right folks, more than four tickets per household in the first month of operations. If all those tickets are paid, it will represent 12% of the entire budget for the whole county. Government officials still insist they never dreamed of using them for revenue enhancement. Yeah right.

Outraged residents turned to and COAST for help. Our General Counsel drafted a charter amendment that bans the use of speed trap spy cams forever. Activists in Heath demanded a vote, and turned in more than twice the required signatures to gain ballot access. This November the citizens of Heath, OH will decide whether to continue living under the omnipotent "protection" of Big Brother.

Recall that last year Cincinnati became the first city in the country to ban red light and speed enforcement cameras after COAST, NAACP and their coalition partners successfully amended our city charter. Just think, those could just as easily have been our traffic tickets. Whew!

2008-08-11 UPDATE: Revised breakdown is 12,555 speed violations, and 303 red light violations, about 8600 of which were issued by two speed-only cameras.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Stupidest City Council EVER

$3.5 million for radio-equipped wheeled recycling carts
-- majority supports while $28 million deficit swells --
New Council member Greg Harris addresses Council budget
deficit with $3,500,000 in high-tech recycling carts
This is just too good; we can’t make this stuff up!

We know this is disrespectful to our elected officials. We know we should restrain ourselves. We know this is the time when we are all supposed to be lowering the vitriol and learning how to get along – right?

But is there any other way to respond to Monday’s Committee vote? As the Enquirer reports here, City Council was supposed to meet Monday to put the finishing touches on painful cuts and layoffs to balance the City budget that is $28 million out of whack.

Instead, a majority of the nine fine fools voted to spend $3.5 million to lease high-tech recycling carts with radio transmitters. We are not kidding. We could not make this stuff up if we tried.

The radio-equipped recycling bins are designed to report automatically on who is recycling and who is not, allowing the City to incentivize those who recycle and punish those who do not. (It’s both weird and “Big Brother” all over again.)

Let’s briefly review the history of how we got into this ridiculous budget position. First, in late 2008, in the midst of the worst economic downturn in recent memory, bureaucrats backed by UC economists projected the City would see an increase in revenue of 8%. By May, City officials realized their error, projecting instead a 4% decline, resulting in a $20 million deficit. By July, that 2009 deficit had grown to $28 million and the projected 2010 deficit was over $45 million.

Instead of making real cuts, in June a Council majority violated their own rules to spend down reserves by $10 million and promised savings from furloughs of an additional $4.5 million.

Over the coming few weeks, the City’s four major labor unions sequentially rejected the furlough idea, showing that all of the City’s budget savings were illusory.

Then, since Council could not impose any fiscal discipline of its own, the City Manager announced he would unilaterally decide on the $28 million in budget cuts, primarily through layoffs. That layoff plan was first supposed to be unveiled two weeks ago, and then again this week. On Monday, as the Big Brother recycling bin plan received preliminary Council approval, the City Manager again deferred identifying layoff announcements.

Each day that passes without layoffs, the City’s budget picture worsens.

Supporting the ridiculous proposal were Council members Greg Harris, Roxanne Qualls, David Crowley, Cecil Thomas, and Laketa Cole. Standing against the almost indescribably stupidity were Council members Chris Bortz, Chris Monzel, Leslie Ghiz and Jeff Berding.

For no reason other than that we want to single him out for ridicule over his foolish budget votes, and now this ridiculous expenditure on self-monitoring recycling bins, please e-mail or call (352-5303) Council member Greg Harris. Tell him your thoughts.

COAST & Brinkman Win Injunction Against Ohio

Today, United States District Court Judge Susan Dlott issued a Preliminary Injunction against the State of Ohio, temporarily preventing it from enforcing restrictions preventing former State Representative Thomas E. Brinkman, Jr. from representing COAST before the Ohio legislature on legislative matters.

Under the present law, Brinkman's volunteer activities in lobbying for COAST were made a crime. In contrast, former state representatives who went to work for state agencies for pay were permitted to lobby for greater government spending legally. The federal district court ruled that the free nature of the services provided by Brinkman undermined the state's argument that the regulation "protected the integrity of state government," and further that the unequal treatment of private organizations such as COAST, as compared to state agencies, was unconstitutional.

The decision may be accessed here. Enquirer article here.

"COAST is pleased that this egregious abuse of power by the State of Ohio was enjoined by Judge Dlott," said COAST Chairman Jason Gloyd. "Now taxpayers are on a fair footing when approaching their legislators to reduce the size and scope of government."

Seattle Votes on Passenger Rail Transportation

Why Can't We Vote Too?

Cincinnatians for Progress thinks you must be some kind of crack-head if you believe in voting on passenger rail tranportation. Who do you think you are, wanting to participate in charting the future course of your own city? You're supposed to leave that to the experts...their experts. And they'll tell you what to like and what not to like. They don't think you're smart enough to have your own opinion.

Seattle doesn't have that problem. Their leaders respect the citizens and consult them about major public policy beforehand.
  • In November 1996, 57% of Puget Sound voters approved a $3.9 billion mass transit plan including light rail, commuter rail, and regional express bus network. This was Seattle's fourth try at winning approval for rail transit development.
  • A 1968 heavy-rail proposal for Seattle's King County attracted a 51% "yes" vote, but state law requires a 60% majority for bond issues.
  • A similar plan in 1970 received only 46% in favor.
  • King County voters endorsed rail development in 1988 by 69% in favor, but this advisory referendum had no specific plan or financing proposal.
  • RTA, created in 1993, attempted to secure approval for a regional LRT, commuter rail and express bus plan in March 1995, but this attracted only 47% of the vote. A revised, scaled-down version of this plan was successful.
  • In July 2006 Seattle constructed their 1.3 mile, $52.1 million "South Lake Union Trolley" (commonly known by its acronym) which required no money from the general fund for either capital or operating expenses. Property owners adjacent to the line paid more than half the costs through a special property tax assessment, with the balance from Federal, State and other sources. The city consulted all 750 property owners about the proposal. All but 12 had no objection. It wasn't a formal ballot, but a vote by any other name accomplishes the same thing; the people were involved.
  • In November 2008 Seattle voters approved Proposition 1 to build the $140 million "First Hill" streetcar line, which is planned to open in 2012.
Clearly, voting on passenger rail transportation isn't unusual, or dysfunctional, doesn't hinder state or federal funding, and it won't lead to Timothy McVeigh-style truck bombs. So tell CFP to shove their so-called "progress" up their crack-pipe and smoke it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Petitions Submitted to City Council

Today we formally issued our demand for a vote on passenger rail transportation to Cincinnati City Council. Hundreds of petition forms containing 11,530 signatures were officially transmitted to the Clerk of Council, who will have them verified according to the statutory procedure, eventually causing the anti-boondoggle charter amendment to be placed on the November 3rd ballot.

Media coverage of the event was very thorough from WCPO, Local12, Fox19News, and News5.

The entire coalition, comprised of the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP, COAST, Southwestern Ohio Green Party, and Cincinnati Libertarian Party, would like to thank the many volunteers who circulated the petition.

We would especially like to thank the thousands of citizens who participated in the democratic process by either signing our petition, or by listening with open minds to the merits of our case. Widespread common sense and vigorous debate leave us more convinced than ever that voters should decide passenger rail transportation matters, not politicians.

A few notes from the field:
  • We expected to find more support in far-flung neighborhoods than along the planned route. Neighborhood anger at the ridiculous trolley plan was as expected, but we were pleasantly surprised at how productive signature gathering efforts were at Findlay Market and Fountain Square. City leaders noticed too, and forced us to sue them in Federal Court to halt their harassment. 1st amendment wins again.
  • Some of COAST's LGBT members had been telling us how prevalent fiscal conservatism is among their community, so we made a concerted effort to saturate the Pride Parade and Northside 4th of July Parade. We certainly weren't disappointed. These two events out-produced many church festivals. We had no luck recruiting LGBT leaders to "come out" in support of our cause, but community members were some of the most knowledgeable and budget-savvy voters we encountered. Thanks, let's find more ways to work together.
  • Special thanks goes out to Councilmember Roxanne Qualls. Her insistence that uptown be included on the route introduced tremendous uncertainty into the proposal. City planners scrambled to figure out how, and indeed if they could get up the hill, and struggled with a near-doubling of the cost. All of that gave us the time we needed to conduct a rather relaxed signature drive. If not for that, the streetcar might be underway by now.
  • The biggest boon to petition production, however, was Mayor Mallory. His mishandling of the budget, frequent junkets, and utter obliviousness to the plight of the beleaguered taxpayer engendered a rage among the electorate that had people yanking petitions out of our hands to sign them.
Today the campaign also enters the second phase. Now we have an opponent. Cincinnatians for Progress will try to convince voters to trust city leaders to do their thinking for them. They'll ridicule the act of voting. And in their heart of hearts, they'll be thinking, "These rubes aren't smart enough to decide whether this is a good plan." The CFP message reflects the attitude of the current administration. To them, "progress" is condescending contempt for voters.

This November, voters will say, "right back at you."