Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Streetcar blank check

The news media report that City Council, led by Finance Chairman Roxanne Qualls, voted today to provide an additional $17.4 million for the Cincinnati Streetcar.  And as an immediate matter, they are correct.  But in the bigger picture, the Council did far more than that.
  • They gave the administration the go-ahead for a project for which no one knows the cost.  This is so because there are a multitude of variables in the construction that are unknown, and the very bid off of which the overruns were originally based was from Messer Construction, and that bid has expired.
  • After the City's rejiggering of the project scope -- value-engineering -- to bring the over-runs down to "only" $17.4 million, the U.S. Department of Transportation gave the City $5 million more in grants, but required that major components of the "rejiggering" be restored to the project, driving the costs right back up again. Council also committed to that.
  • Thus, before they drive their first spike in the ground and lay their first steel rail, the City is already over the $17.4 million in cost overage.  Council also committed to that.
  • Then, the City still faces suits from Duke Energy over who pays he cost of utility relocation and from COASTer Jeff Capell over the propriety of the sale of the Blue Ash Airport from which $11 to $30 million of the construction costs will be derived.  Council also committed to those costs.
  • Further, the City has made the open-ended promise to take the project up the Vine Street hill with no idea of the cost of that venture, no federal, state or local funds to pay that piper, and no hope of doing that within any of our lifetimes.  Council also claims to have committed to that.
  • Finally, after six years of planning, City Budget Director Leah Erikson Monday admitted that the City still has not run a budget for the income and expenses of operating the Streetcar, an admission of breathtaking fiscal irresponsibility. Council also committed to those open-ended and unknown costs.
So, allow us to go on the record right now to say that the $17.4 million is the latest of money, many very expensive surprises to come on the Streetcar.  And we won't be surprised with those surprises.

Welcome to the world of Roxanne Qualls.  May it be lived short-lived.

1 comment:

We follow the "living room" rule. Exhibit the same courtesy you would show guests in your home.