Chutzpah meets ignorance

In what may be the best letter-to-the-editor that the Enquirer publishes all year, former judge Mark Painter rips apart the Hamilton County commissioners for not even letting us vote on a plan to preserve two our our region’s most iconic buildings, Music Hall and Union Terminal:

The people of Hamilton County want to restore Music Hall and Union Terminal. But our good intentions have been frustrated. […]

But our commissioners won’t even let us vote on it. […]

Instead, in a breathtaking display of chutzpah compounded by ignorance, two Commissioners, Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann, at the last minute concocted a back-of-napkin alternate scheme that even they can’t explain. And Monzel is not even sure he will vote for his own plan!

Cincinnati Enquirer: Finish the streetcar

Even the Enquirer thinks it would be fiscally irresponsible to cancel the Cincinnati Streetcar project, which is very much under construction:

But now 200 construction workers are digging up Downtown streets, and 1,800 feet of rails are already in the ground. […]

Project manager John Deatrick estimates it will cost another $34 million to $47 million, and take up to a year, to stop it. There are streetcars under construction, tracks to rip up, streets and curbs to restore. By city estimates, we could spend $67 million to $80 million and have nothing to show for it.

And suddenly, the Enquirer understands that the streetcar will make Cincinnati more competitive with its peer cities:

A low cost of living is no longer enough to spur growth; we must also offer modern infrastructure and amenities, especially to the millennials and baby boomers interested in urban living. […]

To attract those kinds of jobs and workers, 20 streetcar systems are under construction or planned in the U.S., in addition to around a dozen in operation. They are in places like Charlotte, N.C.; Milwaukee; Austin, Texas; and Minneapolis –– places we compete with for people and jobs.

I wish the Enquirer would have considered these arguments years ago, instead of publishing ridiculous articles about Barry Horstman power walking the streetcar route.

And finally, what does the Enquirer say about their endorsement of John Cranley, who, uhh, ran on a promise to kill the streetcar?

In endorsing Cranley, we said he would “have to rein in his dictatorial tendencies and discipline himself to be diplomatic, respectful and collaborative.” What we’ve seen so far is a matter for concern. Hurling insults at professionals like streetcar project manager John Deatrick isn’t what we need.

Exploding the Myth of the Fiscally Conservative Republican Governor

Aaron Renn at The Urbanophile:

Kasich’s biggest investment is a $440 million bypass around Portsmouth, a town of 20,000 people. That’s almost $22,000 for every man, woman, and child in town. […]

It’s hard to take Kasich seriously as a conservative if this is the type of project he wants to champion. Unlike some urbanists, I like roads. I’m not ashamed to say that we need to build more of them, even some expensive ones. But we ought to at least build ones that make sense, in places where people actually live in numbers commensurate with the money spent, and where there’s a real cost/benefit to be had.

Millennial Cohort Will Have Oversized Impact on Retail, Real Estate

This is a really good article explaining how the U.S. will be impacted as Millennials gain influence.

A few quotes that might pique your interest:

  • “[Millennials] are far less skeptical of government programs. In fact, many echo boomers believe government should do more to solve their problems.”
  • “The internet is drawing echo boomers away from television—particularly costly cable subscriptions.”
  • “The automobile thrills echo boomers much less than it did—and still does—their parents. One reason is that many of the young who can afford an automobile prefer to live in cities or mixed-use suburban locations.”
  • “Many higher-income/highly educated echo boomers grew up in the suburbs, but have happily abandoned life there for life in the cities.”
  • “Target, Walmart, and Best Buy already have developed smaller prototypes and are locating them in cities and larger suburban agglomerations, while at the same time closing some of their suburban and exurban stores.”
  • “During the 1980s and 1990s, business owners and managers were usually in the driver’s seat of the labor market, and thus were able to locate their offices in suburban locations close to their homes. But the shortage of creative talent with tech skills has made it much more important to locate the offices of startup companies and the businesses that need to interact with them where the talent they seek wants to live.”

But you should read the whole thing.

Media Bridges Shutting Down

Media Bridges, “Cincinnati’s Community Media Center,” will be shutting down this year due to a lack of funding. The organization operates Cincinnati’s public access television stations, a radio station, and provides training and equipment to allow members of the community to create video and audio productions for these outlets.

This CityBeat article is a good summary, but I disagree with the phrasing of the following statement:

The organization’s demise is a result of the city eliminating funding for Media Bridges in its latest budget, which was passed by City Council in May.

Up until 2011, the organization was funded by Time Warner Cable, as required by the state of Ohio. After TWC lobbied the state to end this requirement, the City of Cincinnati picked up the tab and provided temporary funding for one year. According to the CityBeat article, “Media Bridges and its staff weren’t informed that the city funding was meant to be temporary,” but that doesn’t really change the equation.

Media Bridges was, unfortunately, a casualty of Ohio’s attack on local government. The state took away the organization’s funding source, leaving the city to pick up the tab. This is a reoccurring theme in communities all across the state.

In the city’s latest operating budget, they slashed funding to Media Bridges (as well as many city departments) in order to spare the police and fire departments from any significant cuts. Media Bridges was ranked as a low priority in surveys that were conducted as part of the city’s “priority-driven” budgeting process.

Media Bridges claims that the survey results were skewed and did not fairly represent low-income city residents, who rely more on the organization’s services. But if that’s the true, Media Bridges should have been reaching out to the low-income city residents — both through the organization’s internal communications and our city’s public access airwaves — to encourage them to participate in the surveys.

Tom Luken on Union Terminal

Former Cincinnati Mayor Tom Luken, now a member of anti-city group COAST, wrote an absolutely unbelievable letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Union Terminal was a “gift” to the city in the 1970′s, from the railroad barons who had been trying for a decade to get the city to accept this decaying “white elephant” (“Pledge broken: Museum wants tax” June 20).

During the sixties, Council colleagues Mayor Gene Ruehlman, Councilman Charlie Taft, and I – who didn’t always agree, to put it mildly – were united in not taking the already crumbling edifice off their hands. We agreed that there was not “enough money in the world to save it structurally,” and the city couldn’t afford it. Only the federal government can afford the Smithsonian.

Union Terminal is perhaps the most recognizable icon of the City of Cincinnati and one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture anywhere. It’s now home to the Cincinnati Museum Center, one of our region’s most important assets.

But Tom Luken says the city shouldn’t have taken it over. I guess he believes we should have let it decay and eventually meet the wrecking ball.

Even the conservative Enquirer announced their support of a levy to fund the maintenance of the iconic building:

The Museum Center levy could be taken off the books and taxpayers wouldn’t even know the difference. But if Union Terminal was damaged beyond repair, Cincinnati and Hamilton County would never be the same.

Tom Luken is frequently quoted as an opposing voice to the City of Cincinnati’s current leadership. But why should we listen to Luken? It’s clear that he doesn’t have the city’s best interests in mind.

Don’t let politics muddle parking

There’s been a lot of misinformation circulating about Cincinnati’s parking modernization plan. But even the Cincinnati Enquirer realizes that the plan is a win for citizens. In short:

  • A private company, Xerox, will spend the money up-front to upgrade all of the city’s parking meters. The new meters will accept credit cards, and you’ll also be able to pay via your smartphone.
  • Xerox will not be allowed to raise parking rates until they’ve upgraded every meter in the city. Rates can only raise by a quarter every three years downtown, and a quarter every six years in other neighborhoods.
  • Xerox will be responsible for maintaining the meters and garages during the duration of the lease. This is a huge weight off the city’s back, as many of the garages will be in need of expensive repairs over the next few years.
  • The city will receive an up-front payment that will be used to fund investments across the city, such as the next phase of the Smale Riverfront Park, a new I-71 interchange that will serve the University of Cincinnati and uptown neighborhoods, and the Wasson Way Bike Trail.
  • The city will also receive annual payments for the entire duration of the lease. (Opponents of the plan often leave out this fact, implying that the city is only getting one lump sum.)
  • The plan gets the government out of the parking business and puts a private company in control — that should make the conservatives happy, right?

What’s not to like about this plan?

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’

Privacy is rarely lost in one fell swoop. It is usually eroded over time, little bits dissolving almost imperceptibly until we finally begin to notice how much is gone. When the government starts monitoring the phone numbers people call, many may shrug their shoulders and say, “Ah, it’s just numbers, that’s all.” Then the government might start monitoring some phone calls. “It’s just a few phone calls, nothing more.” […] Each step may seem incremental, but after a while, the government will be watching and knowing everything about us.

What’s the matter with metadata?

[Former Sun Microsystems engineer Susan Landau] explained that the government can learn immense amounts of proprietary information by studying “who you call, and who they call. If you can track that, you know exactly what is happening—you don’t need the content.”

Ryan Singel puts it another way:

Think of it as how the Internet is built of links. There’s a lot of knowledge just in those links.