Hows does a politician justify spurning millions in federal grants out of supposed concern for the city’s budget?
John Cranley, Cincinnati’s new mayor, handled that contradiction by telling voters there was some chance that if the city cancelled its federally-funded streetcar project, the money could be used for other things, like rebuilding an interchange.
It was always a dubious claim, and the Federal Transit Administration just confirmed that Cranley will not be able to use the unspent portion of the $45 million federal grant on whatever he wants. A letter FTA chief Peter Rogoff sent to Cranley this week demanded “unequivocal assurances” by December 19 that the city will proceed with the project under the “FTA-approved” timeline, or the FTA will “immediately terminate all of its grant obligations for the project and initiate a debt collection action to recover money owed.”
The big question is whether an independent audit will show that halting the project will cost the city of Cincinnati more than continuing it would. John Yung at Urban Cincy says Rogoff’s letter will compel quick action on that front:
Strong words. It is no wonder Mayor Cranley jumped out in front of the media early on Facebook Friday morning to spin the letter as a positive development for his administration.
But what it also means is that the City of Cincinnati must complete its third financial audit of the project, with KPMG, no later than that date and should make a decision FTA finds satisfactory in order to avoid the loss of $40 million from the Federal government and debt collection on another $5 million of Federal money already spent.