Written By: Ishton W. Morton -June 21st, 2019
On Wednesday June 19th, 2019 Cincinnati City Council approved a $1.2 million for the streetcar budget deficit. Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman called the streetcar’s funding “a farce.”
Let’s define farce. Generally, in , a farce is a theatrical comedy that aims at entertaining the audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, and thus improbable. Moreover, farce is characterized by physical humor, or the use of deliberate absurdity, or ridiculousness, or nonsense, and broadly stylized performances.
However, the emergency ordinance was passed by a 6-3 vote. Thusly Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, Council Members Amy Murray and Jeff Pastor opposed it.
Looking back on the history of the streetcar, admittedly, Smitherman is enormously right. On Wednesday prior to the vote, he was downright exasperated over the prospect of passing this ordinance.
Smitherman added, “The streetcar assumptions from the beginning have not come to fruition. Citizens were promised that no general fund money would be used to operate the streetcar as were indicated during both streetcar campaigns. And today, as predicted, general fund money is being used.
He continued to say; “The Streetcar has been running in the negative since the beginning. The money that was borrowed to operate the streetcar has been used. They’ve been slowly using that money over time and so now what has happened is the operation of the streetcar and its expenses don’t match up and so instead of reducing operations in order to meet the demand, they decided to throw more money – more taxpayer money – at the streetcar.”
Accordingly, the city plans to increase the fee for several parking violations, including the fine for parking on the streetcar tracks; lower the overhead budget for Cincinnati Metro, which oversees the streetcar and use money from a new digital advertising program, city officials said this week.
Smitherman was extremely adamant when he said; “It’s a mad grab. They are trying to find money everyplace they can find it.”
At the inception of the streetcar project, it was former City Council Member Winburn who said; “The streetcar is going to bankrupt the city of Cincinnati.”
Nevertheless, city officials has make public some numbers showing that there has been a backlog of $10.3 million reaching into the past six years of unpaid parking tickets and penalties: $5.1 million from unpaid tickets and $5.2 million in late payment penalties. If all these funds were paid the streetcar would have no deficit.
According to the report, “That’s real money. Why not have a whole team in the city just working to get our $10 million? Those would be good paying jobs where we bring a team in that we pay to go out and collect that money.” It continues to be extremely confusing. And the point, these funds are not coming from the operation of the streetcar.
Meanwhile, city officials continues to argue, cutting streetcar service will not cover the deficit. it will cut by approximately 50% and may only save $388,828 a year. The point is a colossal parasite on the taxpayers of Cincinnati.
However, Smitherman responded and say; “That’s not the issue! They didn’t do any of that and the bottom line is the streetcar is running empty at times and why are you running streetcars empty?
Moreover he added; “The only reason they are saying that is it’s not their money. The problem here is the first step should have been to reduce the services of the streetcar, have open conversation with the federal government about the streetcar instead of having the taxpayer shoulder the burden.”
Smitherman believes that the streetcar budget deficit will just keep going up each year. “We are using precious general fund money they promised we wouldn’t use during the streetcar campaign. Those are precious dollars to support things like sanitation, fire and police services, our basic services. Now it’s clear our streetcar is competing against our basic services and for me that’s a problem.”
Subsequently, city officials must operate the streetcar for more than 20 more years due to $45 million in federal grants they received to pay for the route’s construction and manufacture of vehicles.
Additionally, Smitherman warned that there are talks Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority wants to end the agency’s agreement to oversee operations of the streetcar, “Look for the SORTA board to divorce itself from the streetcar to pass a countywide levy for bus service next year. Bus service is their core operation and what they should be doing.”
Let us review our history on the streetcar. In time pass we brought this matter before to citizenry of Cincinnati for a vote and Cincinnati City Council Members convinced the voters that streetcars will self-sufferance. They lied to the voters. It was Smitherman who led those initiatives and everything he said then continues to come to pass.
Again, Smitherman continues to make a very strong and important argument. He said;“What we should be doing is reducing our streetcar service to allow more money and service for buses and to extend bus service in the urban core. Why would we give money to a streetcar that goes around 3.5 miles when our citizens are having trouble taking multiple bus transfers to get their to daycare and then get to work?” Extremely meaningful!!!