Saturday, December 31, 2011

More on the sovereign debt crisis from Spain

This story keeps growing.  Here. the New York Times explores the depth of the crisis in Spain.  Debt is insidious. Vast, sometimes hidden, daunting.  Easily seductive; hard to dig out from. 

The Cincinnati Stereetcar is emblematic of the debt problem.  Almost 100% financed with debt, and an absolutely worthless project.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Story of 2011: Repeated sovereign debt crises

The story of 2011 that will live through the generations is repeated crises with sovereign debt, especially in Europe and America. 

Starting with Greece, extending to Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and finally to vaunted France, the accepted notion for the past 25 years that unlimited debt in each nation is without consequence was methodically demolished.

Interestingly, even in the face of irrefutable evidence of the disastrous end of such national policies, nation after nation in Europe and the USA have proved incapable of curing the problem retrospectively or even stopping the spending prospectively.

It is almost humorous watching essentially socialist governments from Washington DC to Rome and Athens, to cut spending in the face of the dire certainty of continuation of their irresponsible ways.  We say almost, because the pain that will be caused by their irresponsibility could be profound.

The reality of 2012, and certainly of the coming decade, is that time has run out for making the important fiscal and economic decisions. We all must either adopt totalitarian socialism, or once again free up the economic markets that made American and European economies the engines powering the world.   

COAST prefers the latter.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Streetcar hitting rough waters

At City Hall, Mayor Mallory and Milton Dohoney are singing a song of sweetness and light regarding Streetcar construction.  Indeed, they have promised to start construction now for more than a year.  But behind the scenes, engineers and planners are fretting that the project can't happen -- at least within budget.

There are loads of problems with building the system -- something COAST and others have been saying all along.  But now, the reality of budgets, law, and physics are such that the project is becoming more problematic by the day.

The biggest (but by far not only) obstacle: utility line relocation.  Underneath the streets of downtown Cincinnati lie miles of sewers, electric lines, gas lines, telephone lines, cable TV and internet lines, and even chilled water lines.

It is irresponsible from an engineering perspective to build improvements on top of such utility lines, other than simple paved surfaces that can be torn up such as parking lots or streets.  The City, in contrast, intends to build the continuous 18-inch concrete slab with embedded steel rail lines on top of these lines.

This will have several bad consequences:

(a) first, all of these utility lines will need to be maitained and eventually replaced.  This is a question of when, not if.  Further, with a 40-ton streetcar rumbling over the top of 100-year-old brick sewer lines, construction on top of the sewers may well accelerate their deterioriation.

(b) then, when they need to be repaired or replaced, repeatedly over the years, the operation of the streetcar (which cannot detour around the construction) will be disrupted.

(c) the cost of tearing up and replacing the streetcar improvements will be significant, and additional time for utility repair will be incurred.  This also means a prolonged period of disruption of vehicular street traffic.

(d) the cost of the repair and replacement of the utility lines will also rise, due to the additional work and time needed for the repairs.

It will cost between $20 and $40 million to relocate these utility lines to accommodate streetcar construction.  Of that, the City has budgeted only $6 million as part of the $110 million Streetcar budget.

The City's plan to pay for all of this?  They intended to shift the cost to the utility ratepayers, a hidden tax increase (extending outside the City) to subsidize this ill-conceived project.

However, that plan has not been well-received.  The Water works is controlled by City Council, so they will pay to relocate the water lines.  But Duke Energy has steadfastly maintained that the costs associated with electric lines, natural gas lines and chilled water lines simply will not be passed on to ratepayers -- the City must pony up the money, money the City does not have.  We understand that Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner have maintained the same position with respect to their utility infrastructure.

And bravely, the Hamilton County Commissioners, led by Chris Monzel, have instructed MSD not to spend a penny on sewer relocation costs.

So, Mayor Mallory and Milton Dohoney have a small hole in their budget for their beloved Streetcar.

With these realities, what will they do?  Some say they will just scrap the project.  Others believe they will proceed irresponsibly to build on top of these utility lines.  Still others contend that they will simply start construction and announce, of course to their shock and disappointment, 80% of the way through the project, that they have run out of money, necessitating a tax increase or taking on more debt to complete it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bye bye, Sen. Ben Nelson, Bye Bye

U.S. Senator Ben Nelson, of the Corn Husker Kickback fame, will be retiring from the Senate, another victim of Obamacare.  Good riddance bad apple!

Great News for Ohio’s 27th District!

Many of you are aware that our COAST Co-Founder, Tom Brinkman, is running for the 27th House District in the March 6th primary. As you recall, Tom has proven himself time and time again during his eight years in representing the 34th District. 

COAST is, of course, once again pleased to endorse Tom Brinkman, Jr. for State Representative.

Primaries are expensive and that is just the first battle.  COAST asks that you stop what you are doing now and write a check to the Brinkman Campaign Committee. My forceful request comes as we reach the end of 2011. If you donate this year, you will be able to help again in 2012.

The State of Ohio has a $100 per couple/$50 per person income tax credit which makes your contribution of that amount FREE to the Brinkman Campaign Committee!

COAST views this in two ways:

1) As a loan that you will get back against my massive State of Ohio income tax bill
2) The only time I am able to direct exactly where and for what my Ohio tax dollars are being

Tom needs your help!   

Please do not let him down. He has never let us down. And, all of you who know Tom know that he will work to become the most effective Representative in the State of Ohio. For more information on Tom, please visit:

Please make your checks payable to: 
Brinkman Campaign Committee and mail them to:

Brinkman Campaign Committee
P.O. Box 9714
Cincinnati, OH  45209

On behalf of Tom, we thank you for your support and, Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cincinnati Business Courier covers Streetcar Utility Relocation Cost issue exceptionally well

The Cincinnati Streetcar project is bad for all kinds of reasons: It's impractical, serving no transportation need, it is expensive, far more expensive than any benefit obtained, and, most importantly, Cincinnati cannot afford it, especially right now.

Further, what will inevitably unfold over the coming months is that Cincinnati politicians, bureaucrats and taxpayers will be overwhelmed with predicted and unpredicted cost overruns from the Streetcar project.

Because our local politicians and bureaucrats are committed to proceeding with this project despite all practical reality -- and are willing to saddle taxpayers with the adverse consequences of those decisions -- the role of the "fourth estate," the media, in exposing their misdeeds and holding them accountable is utterly critical.

Thus, COAST has been appreciative of the willingness of Lucy May and Dan Monk at the Cincinnati Business Courier to expose the failings in Streetcar planning, despite a secretive City Hall that refuses to address the problems head on.

As background, City planners to date have willfully ignored the costs of utility relocation in their streetcar budgeting.  How can they do that, when someone has to pay these costs?  City planners apparently either (a) intend to start construction and spring the "surprise" cost overruns on taxpayers when it is "too late" to say "no" or (b) have Duke Energy, MSD, Water Works, Cincinnati Bell and others pass the costs onto ratepayers, a hidden Streetcar tax hike.

Well, after the Cincinnati Business Courier exposed this flaw in Streetcar planning this summer, County Commissioner Chris Monzel introduced a motion to prevent spending MSD funds on relocating utilities for the Streetcar project (Commissioners control the MSD budget, although the City runs MSD day-to-day).  The resolution passed unanimously.

This action by Commissioners basically check-mated Mayor Mallory's carefully laid plans, as no rational planner would build the Streetcar on top of existing sewer lines, and the City can't afford to move then without shifting the costs to MSD ratepayers.

Well, City planning went from bad to worse, with the entirely irresponsible decision to actually do that -- build the Streetcar on top of sewer lines, many of them more than 120 years old and constructed of brick. 

Then MSD engineers did a "what if" study -- what if MSD did pay the cost of utility relocation to accommodate the Streetcar?  Lo and behold, the cost came in at $7.9 million, 31% higher than the previous $6 million estimate and 260% above the $3 million the City is willing to put towards the cost.

And that's just the MSD portion of the utility relocation cost equation.

Duke Energy says the cost just for their lines will range from $9 to $15 million more than the City has budgeted, Cincinnati Bell's numbers range between a $3 and $8 million overrun, and the folks at Water Works (controlled entirely by the City) have already agreed to pass onto ratepayers $6 million in cost overruns.  So far, Duke Energy has joined with MSD in saying "over our dead body," in terms of willingly passing these expenses on to ratepayers.

Thus, the utility relocation cost component of the project is turning into a $20 million+ disaster for the City's taxpayers, and construction has not even started.  It is also an engineering catastrophe of significant importance that the City has planned.

The Cincinnati Business Courier has been on top of all of these developments that have mostly been ignored by the rest of Cincinnati media.  (WXIX recently covered a portion of this developing story as well.) 

Cincinnati taxpayers and utility ratepayers throughout the region stay tuned for developments in this saga.

COAST Top 10 best acts of 2011

On the topic of naughty and nice, COAST also wants to celebrate the nice deeds of voters and our elected officials in 2011.  Warm "presents" of thanks for their vision and leadership:

10)  Governnor Kasich's cutting $52 million in fund for the streetcar.  Great way to start the year.

9)  Senator Shannon Jones bold legislation to prevent all state funding for the Cincinnati Streetcar boondoggle.  The legislation passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor.

8)  Commissioner Chris Monzel for his resolution modifying the MSD budget to stop ratepayers from footing the bill for sewer relocaiton costs associated witht he Streetcar project.

7)  Cincinnati City Council for preserving the property tax rollback, at least for one more year.

6)  Cincinnati voters for outlawing a trash tax by the passage of this year's Issue 47.

5)  Judge Steve Martin for stopping Laure Quinlivan in her tracks from spending tax dollars for her re-election campaign.

4)  The Cincinnati Business Courier for their dogged coverage of the Streetcar boondoggle.

3)  Ohio voters for their passage of Issue 3, our State's resounding rejection of ObamaCare.

2)  The Ohio legislature's passage of an historic repeal of the Ohio Estate Tax, and the leadership of Dan Regenold, Ron Alban and Jack Boyle that made it happen.

And the number one "gift" of thanks goes to....

drum roll please.....

1)  The thousands of activists throughout Ohio who have participated in these and other battles for limited government, COASTers, Tea Partiers, 912ers, those from Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Freedom Works and dozens of other groups that are stopping the hoards of "occupiers" in Congress, our statehouses, Court Houses and City Halls across the nation from further enslaving us to their big-government agenda.

Merry Christmas everyone!

COAST's Top 10 Naughty Acts by politicians and voters in 2011

As Santa delivers presents on Christmas Day, we hope he takes into account the naughty acts by politicians and voters throughout the year. For your reading pleasure, COAST has assembled its Top 10 instances of foolish excesses of the voters and politicians in 2011:

10) The voters electing to Cincinnati City Council a liberal, left-wing, big-spending cabal led by Roxanne Qualls, and including big-spending newcomers of P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach and Yvette Simpson. Council's more rational members, Wayne Lippert, Amy Murray, Chris Bortz, and Leslie Ghiz were sent packing.

9) The City Manager and Mayor trying for the third time to implement a trash tax. This expense is already included in your property tax and earnings tax...a little case of double dipping by Dohoney and Mallory. Not only did the Council not approve it, but the voters in November added a Charter Amendment outlawing this form of taxation.

8) The City Manager and Mayor trying for the fourth time to repeal the City's Property Tax Rollback. Tsk, tsk, tsk. This cash grab from homeowners trying desperately to avoid foreclosure in this depressed economy failed to pass Council.

7) City Council and Mayor Mallory failing for the sixth year of the Mallory mayor-ship to seriously cut spending at City Hall or implement a structurally balanced budget. As we have seen nationally and internationally, debt comes back to bite you. Someday soon, the day of reckoning is coming.

6) Mayor Mark Mallory taking home $500 per month for a car allowance for his Lincoln Towne Car that was never approved by the Council. COASTer Mark Miller has a suit pending in front of Judge Marsh on the topic.

5) The Hamilton County Commissioners for reducing the property tax rollback that was promised as a part of the stadium tax deal cut in 1996.

(To clarify: the 2010 Commission on a 2-1 vote reduced the promised rollback for tax year 2011. In recent weeks, the 2011 Commission maintained the rollback on a 2-1 vote for tax year 2012)

4) Council member Laure Quinlivan using her office staff and equipment to run her Council re-election campaign. Thanks to a COAST taxpayer action, Judge Martin has ordered her to pay back the City $1,500 for stealing City resources and enjoined her from ever doing it again.

3) The approval by City Council of $4.1 million to enclose the atrium at City Hall. COAST will explore this boondoggle further, but suffice it to say they pissed this money away.

2) Spending by Mayor Mark Mallory of $8 million this year from for streetcar planning and engineering. Even worse, it's bad engineering, calling for the 40-ton leviathons to rumble ON TOP of 100-year old brick sewer lines. Freaking brilliant!

Drum roll, please.....

And the single, number one foolish act of 2011 belongs to ....

1) The voters who rejected Senate Bill 5 at the polls, the one proposal that could have righted state government and brought into control union contracts for the State of Ohio and thousands of local government units throughout the state.

So, big lumps of coal for Mayor Mark Mallory, City Manager Milton Dohoney, and Laure Quinlivan for abusing their offices shamelessly. Smaller lumps of coal for the voters, who did a few good things this past year as well.

City's MSD woes for Streetcar continue to grow

For those who believe the Streetcar is a "done deal," do not yet dispair.

As Dan Monk at the Business Courier reports each of the last two weeks, there are very significant - perhaps insurmountable - obstacles remaining, particularly that nagging issue of more than $20 million in utility relocation costs.

Read this week's installment here:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Triantafilou misses the mark....again

Standard disclaimer: This blog entry represents my thoughts and anyone who agrees with me. It may or may not represent COAST as a whole.

Alex Triantafilou; December 3, 2011 - "Things would probably run better if we all just got along and disagreed respectfully."

Alex Triantafilou; December 7, 2011 - "I think Tom Brinkman just needs a job."

Is it any wonder why a growing number of Republican activists have tuned out Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou? Speaking for myself, I don't believe a word that comes out of his mouth, and hypocritical statements like these are just one exhibit that explains why.

Earlier today former State Representative Tom Brinkman announced he is running for his old seat. As an American and Ohioan he has every right to run for office and let the voters decide whether he is the best choice. Triantafilou should welcome the entry of a good conservative into a race instead of making juvenile (and false) personal attacks, particularly after decrying such conduct just four days earlier.

When Triantafilou talks about people who need a job, could he be referring to his ex-wife Jennifer Triantafilou who magically got a taxpayer-funded job in Green Township that she is completely unqualified to hold? This position required a 4-year degree or five years local government experience. Jennifer Triantafilou has no local government experience and her highest level of education was completing an Electrocardiography certificate at Cincinnati State. Yet somehow she got the job over candidates who were actually qualified - even though she applied 11 days after the application deadline.

One elected official who played a key role in this blatantly corrupt hiring was then-Green Township Trustee Tracy Winkler. Lo and behold, when there was an opening for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Alex T's GOP selected the thoroughly unqualified Tracy Winkler for the position in an obvious quid pro quo. The full extent of Winkler's relevant experience is a short stint as a disrespectful and inept Trustee, whose township workforce is loaded with examples of nepotism and cronyism. Perhaps Winkler could also be who Alex T meant when referring to people needing a job.

Whether the party boss likes it or not, there will be a primary for 27th District State Representative. We can only hope this race will focus on issues that matter to Ohioans and not on petty personal attacks from a Chairman whose job performance as of late has been embarrassing at best.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

TSA strip searches and injures 84 year-old flyer

An 84 year-old lady on a defibrillator was strip-searched by TSA and injured during the process. Feel safer?

Candidate Barack Obama: "There should be no contradiction between keeping America safe and secure, and respecting our Constitution."

Yet under the Obama Administration, TSA has grown into a monster that is ineffective at protecting airline passengers and offensively violates our rights. Obama's support for civil liberties ended the day he was sworn in as President.

In reality TSA is counterproductive, focusing most of its efforts on "security theatre" instead of trying to detect and thwart actual threats. Like most of what Obama does, his leadership of TSA is expensive, ineffective, and a gross violation of civil liberties.