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We've got a Bridge to Nowhere situation here in Southern Ohio. Only it's being perpetrated on us by a "Democrat," recently elected Mayor of Cincinnati John Cranley.

 photo crancel_bumper_sticker_sm_zps473a7845.jpg

To win election, Cranley spun the city's streetcar project as a wedge issue to pit the neighborhoods of Cincinnati against it's urban core. His cry: "Cancel the street car!"

Here's the rub. The streetcar is already under construction. Tracks have been laid, utilities have been re-routed, sites have been purchased, cleared and prepared, and contractors are at work building the streetcars.

Basically, a great deal of money has been spent and more will need to be spent to unwind the work under contract if the project is cancelled. John Deatrick, project manager for the streetcar, estimates that the costs to cancel are $108-125 million.

Yes, you heard that right. We cancel, we spend more than $108 million on nothing. It gets better though. The estimated cost for the entire project is only $132.5 million.

Or basically in the words of Lea Eriksen, Cincinnati budget director:

For a $8 million difference, you get a project - you get a streetcar.

Why is this important?

Democrats have a shot at winning back the governor's office in 2014. Ed Fitzgerald is currently in a virtual tie with Republican John Kasich.

A stealth conservative "Democrat" spending $100 million on nothing seems like an easy target for Kasich. I can hear the campaign commercials now:

Democrats had a chance to build something in Cincinnati. But inter-party squabbling lead them to flush millions down the toilet and get nothing in return.
Hell, everyone I talk to thinks it's insane once they understand the cost of cancellation- conservatives, liberals, zoo animals.

It's not too late though. Cranley can be stopped. If you have a couple minutes, here's how:  

Cincinnati City Council Has the Deciding Vote

The new council of 9 has three strong supporters and two members who are staunchly anti-streetcar. Of the remaining four people, Amy Murray is a newly elected Republican.

Here are the undecideds:

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat)

David Mann (Democrat) 

Kevin Flynn (Independent - Charterite) 

Write them and tell them not to get involved with John Cranley's plan to spend more than $100 million on nothing.

I don't think they see the potential for national embarrassment and how this could impact the Democratic race for governor in 2014.

Please share this information and help bring some outside attention to the potential impact. Especially if you are an Ohio Democrat. If conservatives want to cancel economic development projects, they should own it.

Other things you can do if you feel so inclined:

Thank you for your support! And remember, as Ohio goes, so goes the nation!

 photo cincy_streetcar_movement_zps2e79e8a3.jpg

A Quick Primer on John Cranley and His Conservative Support (if you're interested)

To provide a little background, Cranley's pitch was that if we cancel the streetcar we could re-prioritize the money on services for surrounding neighborhood communities.  

"We should not be taking from the neighborhoods to help downtown. We should be helping the neighborhoods by helping the neighborhoods" - John Cranley

Commercials like these blanketed the airwaves in Cincinnati.

From Cranley's campaign reports, we learned that 84% of donations identifiable by party came from Republicans. It's no secret where his support lies.

Here's a few things Cranley conveniently left out of his misinformation campaign:  

  1. $40 million of the funding comes from a Federal Transportation Agency grant and must be returned to the federal government if not used on the street car project.
  2. No existing services were going to be impacted. His claim about firemen and police officers was simply a lie- this money comes from operating funds, not capital expenditures.
  3. Economic development along the line would lead to $237 million in increased property tax revenues for the entire city

Basically, Cranley won the election on a wave of misinformation with support from the neighborhoods who bought into the fear and endorsements from Republican groups like COAST, the conservative Cincinnati Enquirer, and conservative talk radio outlets like 700 WLW.

Conservative Media Support

The Cincinnati Enquirer not only endorsed Cranley but uses the usual conservative media tactics to tell the conservative story.

Anti-streetcar stories are put on the front page and obscure any facts supporting development.

My favorite Enquirer story was the one in which they claimed $50,000 a day was being spent on the streetcar. OMG- $50,000 a day being spent on actual development of a project which has been in the works for years and voters approved twice!!!!

Where's the similar front page outrage when Cranley wants to spend a similar $50K a day and get NOTHING in return?  

 photo cincinnati_streetcar_costs_09a_zpsf0e9d023.jpg

Pro-streetcar stories are relegated to the Opinion page or Politics Extra Blog or Letters to the Editor and are often presented as "Democrats say:"

And if there's any doubt about conservative talk radio's opinion, just tune in to Willie Cunningham on 700 WLW when he's discussing the streetcar.

WLW's opinion can pretty much be summed up in the following title: Streetcar Czar Talking to Council.

No, John Deatrick is not from Russia. He's not a socialist "czar". He's a non-political project manager who you loved when he completed projects like The Banks and Ft. Washington Way on time and within budget.  

But now that he's managing something you're not in favor of, conservative rage!

Not the End

By now, you get the picture about John Cranley. He's not acting like a Democrat. He's acting like a conservative rewarding the people who funded his campaign.

My ask of John Cranley- Either act like a Democrat or come out of the closet as a Republican and quit trying to fool people. Why not be proud of your support, John? What are you afraid of?

In the meantime, let's sway Cincinnati city council and not let Democrats take the heat for conservative idiocy.

8:04 AM PT: Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced  this morning that he will vote to continue the $133 million project.  

Originally posted to akadjian on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 06:57 AM PST.

Also republished by KasichWatch.

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Comment Preferences

  •  So Cranley is a DINO? (7+ / 0-)

    Or worse, a Republican in Dems clothing?

    The amount of stupid in US makes US easy targets.  When will intelligence emerge as good policy?

    I know, stupid question.  Lol

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 07:15:10 AM PST

    •  I hope he comes around (4+ / 0-)

      But looks so far like he is. It's hard to stomach the Enquirer coverage

      •  I rarely rec local issue diaries (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        unless they have national implications and this one certainly does, and I have rec'd it.  Also you did a great job reporting it here. (and I also recognize your name as the author of some other good diaries)

        I quickly glanced at the Enquirer article comments and determined that it's a very split issue, although the key to assessing the investment committed needs to be analysed in terms of lifetime ROI which apparently is estimated to be 3-1.  That is a no-brainer.  Finish the damned thing and start making money back.  Usually these things can be shot down if it is a case of  "throwing good money after bad".  But this is nothing of the kind.  This is basically bringing to fruition good money already spent.

        More power to you all, hope it gets done.

    •  Short answer: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      War on Error, Stude Dude, Skipbidder

      Yes. Cranley has gladly accepted tea party support and funding during the campaign, and has consistently parroted tea party talking points before and after the election.

      Sadly, DINOs and right-wing Dixiecrats are a fixture around here due to the ineptitude of the local Hamilton County Democratic organization, which rewards members of the local old boy's club like the Luken clan and Dusty Rhodes instead of supporting Democrats who actually believe in Democratic policies.

      "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis, 1935

      by Living in Gin on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 09:44:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Plus, of course, all of that 'spending' (5+ / 0-)

    is jobs for the people building the streetcar.

  •  i'm for public transit, definitely, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYFM, mikejay611

    and the project should go forward.

    But the $125 million figure is based on ignorance of some basic economics.  The amount already spent equals a sunk cost and should be irrelevant to decisionmaking.  (obviously, politically, people don't see it that way, because of behavioral economics, but that's a separate issue.)  The amount of subsidies foregone does not equal a cost to the city if it is not pursuing the project to begin with, although the costs to dig up tracks already laid or whatever remain significant.  

    Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

    by Loge on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 07:32:40 AM PST

    •  Much of the cost is the cost to unwind contracts (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nosleep4u, mikejay611

      Contractors entire into contracts with the expectation of getting paid for delivering services or goods.

      In the contract, there is typically a process for what happens if the contract is broken. Can purchased items be resold? Restocked? Etc. There is a future cost associated with unwinding the projects.  

      This is included in the estimate here.  

      Where I'm going with this is that much of the cost estimate is not sunk costs, but rather future estimates.

      And, I will also mention that litigation costs are not even included in the estimate. If any of the contractors sue for breach, the costs will be much higher.

      More importantly, what is being ignored by conservative media are the economic development benefits and revenue estimates generated from increased property values. In other words, the returns!

      It is an investment. When you invest, you do it for the expected returns. Which is why conservatives only focus on costs.

  •  I think that you should at least (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    akadjian, NYFM

    mention that some of the opposition to the streetcar comes from local residents in Over-the-Rhine who are concerned that this will only accelerate the gentrification of the neighborhood.  The displacement of the Drop Inn Center and the Anna Louise Inn were huge fights, and there's little doubt that the the sum impact of the streetcar would be to complete the demographic transformation of the neighborhood.


    by ManfromMiddletown on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 07:44:12 AM PST

    •  Well said. Anna Louse Inn ... (0+ / 0-)

      had little to do with the streetcar though. Western & Southern fought this fight to build a hotel complex. It would have happened with or without new public transportation.

      For the record, I was violently against this move as well as the Drop Inn Center. You hit my big gripe with council and in particular, 3CDC.  

      •  OTR is an open nerve in the (0+ / 0-)

        Queen City.  The politics and the policy are sometimes at odds.

        Take this streetcar, the downtown area (including OTR) is prone by geography to inversions, which trap pollution in.

        Relying on fossil fuels for public transport only exacerbates this.  The truth of the matter is that an electric trolleybus system, as in Dayton could solve this issue at a fraction the cost.  But that would not mesh with the new hipster chic of OTR, because it would require overhead wires..........

        by ManfromMiddletown on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 11:09:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cranley is a tool (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mikejay611, NYFM

    The way he played up his election as a mandate to stop the project is bullshit.
    The guy won with a 28% turnout ( compared to the 5.68% turnout for the mayoral primary a few months earlier). It's so embarassing. Makes people in Cincinnati look like a bunch of rubes.

    Just another day in Oceania.

    by drshatterhand on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 08:01:57 AM PST

    •  I disagree w/ your comment about Cincinnatians (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stude Dude

      Once the facts are laid out, people here get it. Most people simply don't understand though where the project is and the costs to cancel.

      It may appear different to outsiders, but on the contrary I find people here to be quite smart. They're just often making decisions based only on what they hear in the media.

      If John Deatrick had a show on WLW, trust me, no one would be talking about 'cancel'. But they don't give radio shows to engineers and project managers. Just pundits.

      That's why we have to write these things. To get the word out!

  •  He ran on it and won. I don't like the idea (0+ / 0-)

    of canceling the project but my opinion is irrelevant. He made this a major part of his platform and voters elected him. No matter how stupid the idea is, he has a right to implement it.

    •  Let's put it up for referendum & we can decide (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM, FG, stevemb, decisivemoment

      Cranley won but he also ran as a Democrat when he's not really a Democrat. He won on lies.

      The vote for Cranley says nothing about how people would vote for a streetcar. Especially given the facts.

      BTW, our city has had two previous citywide votes to try to block the streetcar. Neither were successful.

      Specific streetcar votes. Do neither of these matter?

    •  No, this wasn't the only issue (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, Skipbidder, akadjian

      He bashed his opponent's insane idea for privatizing the parking meters.  That looks to me like it was a very big part of the election.  Seems to me as though Cincy voters had a horrible choice -- someone who wanted to give millions away to a parking concessionaire versus someone who wanted to flush millions down the drain by walking away from a project that's already under construction.

      •  I think you are right (0+ / 0-)

        I'm a bit north of Cincy, and the small bit of attention I paid to this was solely because I'm a politics geek.

        But what I heard in the runup to election had me thinking "With friends like this..."

        The plural of anecdote is not data.

        by Skipbidder on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 12:12:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not a fan of the parking meter issue (0+ / 0-)

        Here's the rub. Do you remember when John Kasich repealed the estate tax?

        Or when he cut the local government fund in half?

        This left a $22 million hole in the Cincinnati budget. Council was looking for alternatives to raise revenue in an environment where anything labeled 'tax' is virtually a capital offense.

        So yeah, I'm not a fan. But I know why they did it. It is also the reason why you will be seeing local governments across Ohio doing things like installing traffic cams and looking at privatization options.

        •  Traffic cams going up all over NE Ohio (0+ / 0-)

          Soaking some of its poorest citizens with gigantic tickets. Lots of them are being installed in what are frankly speed traps — wide boulevards with no residential where the speed limit is 25 and any rational person would think it was 35, so you get a ticket for going 37. Ojo West 25th between Detroit and the West Side Market.

          Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

          by anastasia p on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 02:28:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Oh puhleeze (0+ / 0-)

    I get that this is a pretty contentious issue in Cinci, although I barely know anything about it at the other end of the state.

    But I GUARANTEE this won't matter to anyone north of Dayton, which is most of the state. The melodrama of saying "Democrats could lose Ohio" over this sabotages some good points.

    I get a tad tired of people latching onto their one pet issue that matters very little to most people and claiming that is the silver bullet that's going to kill Democrats. I notice we never think ANYTHING can kill Republicans.

    Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

    by anastasia p on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 02:25:33 PM PST

    •  Why this is important beyond Cincinnati (0+ / 0-)

      1. It is about electing better Democrats (and making sure those elected act like Democrats). Isn't this the mission?

      2. A large part of what is going on all across Ohio is that these local issues have been caused by a) the loss of estate tax funds, b) a 50% cut to the local government fund. This is not unique to Cincinnati as you mentioned in your comment about cameras. This impacts all local communities. They are being told the austerity message of cut or find your own revenue. And since raising taxes is often a political non-starter, some communities are experimenting w/ alternative ways.

      3. Ohio's media by and large does not cover this issue in any meaningful way. So people don't see cause and affect.

      4. I'd like to see Ed Fitzgerald hammer this local impact as much as possible. Local communities are suffering because our current governor chooses to provide tax breaks to those who least need tax breaks. He upwardly distributes wealth.

      I don't want to see any Democrats supporting these types of policies. Period.

      I want Democrats who act like Democrats.

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