Jul 22 2013

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Cincinnati City Council has a Responsibility Deficit

skyline CityCincinnati has never had a greater need for competent leadership on City Council than during these difficult financial times. The city is at a crossroads that can lead to economic vitality or long-term financial decline and hardship for those businesses and residents that remain.

For decades, Cincinnati has chosen to follow bad examples set by progressive strongholds like Detroit.  Cincinnati City Council and  Mayor Mallory have enjoyed a progressive majority and the free rein that comes from pandering to their voter base with hard-earned tax revenue.  Everyone who works in private business knows the end result of such fiscal ignorance and irresponsibility is bankruptcy – Detroit filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy on July 18.

Unlike Detroit, Cincinnati’s problems can still be solved without an enormous bailout, if swift action is implemented by fiscally competent members of City Council (Spoiler alert! – seven of the current Council members don’t fall into that category). The biggest problems are poor spending priorities and a persistent lack of transparency. The city must get serious about securing the funding for pensions, shelving ill-fated, high subsidy projects like the Cincinnati Streetcar line, revising allocation of funds from the Parking contract and offering a plan to repair iconic city-owned structures like Music Hall and Union Terminal.

Regarding city pensions — the problem is summarized in a June 10 column by Chris Wetterich of the Cincinnati Business Courier, “The city of Cincinnati’s pension fund investments saw a 12 percent return in the 2012 fiscal year, but the amount of money the city owes and should contribute continues to go up.”  Funding past promises, not with unrealistic return projections, should be a high priority.

Council also passed, and City Manager Milton Dohoney signed the “Parking Plan,” collecting a hefty $92 million dollar windfall.  A study commissioned between the city and Walker Parking Consultants determined that the fees charged by Xerox Corp. to manage the Parking assets are exorbitant compared to similar deals in other cities (Read the entire report here).  Nonetheless, the city took the quick cash to the detriment of all who use parking meters and facilities as the cost of parking and tickets will go up.  As Mayoral candidate John Cranley stated, “It’s a 100 percent hidden tax increase on the citizens of Cincinnati.”  Small businesses and their cash-strapped customers will suffer, while the city ignores the key priorities mentioned above, instead looking to implement a new wish list including, an East side bike trail and a park carousel, while only partially funding an interchange at Martin Luther King and Interstate 71.

Much has been written about the notorious Cincinnati Streetcar line. Pie-in-the-sky projections of development have been offered by proponents, when abundant evidence shows the absurdity of spending well over the $133 million allocated so far for a luxury item that will require endless subsidy and costly policing, while failing to realize the anticipated development.  There are cheaper ways to get a Starbucks on every block in Over-the-Rhine.

Cincinnati deserves better than the current city leadership.  Those bureaucrats in DC who put us $17 trillion dollars in debt learned their craft in our cities and townships.  The best service any citizen can perform is to keep the big spenders away from your local council seat.

About the author

Ed Bell

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