Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The great Streetcar mystery

Oh, the Cincinnati Streetcar, the source of endless drama on Plum Street. 

For almost the entire eight years of the Mayoral tenure of Mayor Mark Mallory, City Hall has been distracted from the real business of running the City by the Streetcar.  The mystery now, as was the same from the beginning: how will they ever pay for the thing?

Last night, Milton Dohoney kept them guessing with a glowing presentation on the benefits of the Streetcar, and the punishing consequences of abandoning the project.

Because the City has all but maxed out on its borrowing capacity, has a massive operating deficit, has a $750 million debt in the pension fund, and has already robbed every Peter in City Hall to pay for the Paul of Streetcar planning and implementation, Roxanne Qualls and the City Administration have rapidly shrinking options to finance what currently is a $17.4 million deficit for the project.

Basically, they can try to convince other local government entities, like OKI and Hamilton County to subsidize the boondoggle, they can get more federal funding, or they can pay for it out of other pots of money at the City.  The Parking Plot referendum has very significantly limited the third option.

So, last night Roxanne Qualls called a public hearing "to receive an update from the city administration regarding the 'Street Car.'"  They got an update alright, but that was it.  Even the administration did not offer any options for how the City would fund the $17.4 million cost overruns.  (The Manager did promise to run the project up Vine Street hill and to several other neighborhoods. [Ha!])

So, despite the City Manager's admonition that the feds will yank DOT funding for the project it its not timely commenced, as of last night, the Mayor, the Manager, Council finance Chairman Roxanne Qualls, and the five other sycophants on Council still have utterly no clue as to what to do, or if they do know, they are not talking.

However, our sources in the City budget office indicate that Dohoney has adopted an acceleration of the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach to magically fill the budget gap, and proceed with the project once again.  That means capital funding for community centers and potholes will be robbed even further, and perhaps more debt (and thus higher taxes) for the boondoggle.  That plan will be announced as early as today.

It's one hell of a way to run a railroad!

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