Council brakes on streetcar, cameras
Mayor’s proposals need more public input, members say
Wednesday, April 16, 2008 7:48 AM
By Robert Vitale
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Is the Columbus City Council still relevant?
Some council members say they feel overlooked by Mayor Michael B. Coleman, who is asking them to approve money for a streetcar line and neighborhood surveillance cameras before they’ve passed judgment on the merits of either idea.
“These are huge dollars we’re talking about to be obligated by the city of Columbus,” Councilwoman Charleta B. Tavares said of the mayor’s requests. He is asking for $2 million on design and engineering for a streetcar line and $1.45 million to study how the Division of Police should deploy the cameras.
“These are taxpayer dollars,” Tavares said. “I would think we’d want the public’s input on it.”
The two requests were included in a $1.1 billion capital budget that Coleman submitted yesterday to pay for roadwork, sewer improvements, building renovations and other long-term improvements he wants started this year.
The mayor’s cabinet presented the plan to City Council members last night and defended Coleman’s request to pay for projects on which lawmakers have yet to sign off.
“On cameras and streetcars, it’s just false that there hasn’t been public input,” said chief of staff Michael D. Reese, who listed groups that have endorsed Coleman’s plan to spend $103 million for a streetcar line between Downtown and Ohio State University.
…No legislation has been drafted for either initiative — Reese said a streetcar financing plan that includes new taxes on parking and admission fees is still being “tweaked” — and the council has hosted no public hearings on the issues.
“I’d like to hear from the public on these projects,” Tavares said. “The mayor has had his process. We have the responsibility, I believe, to have our process.”
…Boyce, who chairs the council’s finance committee, said he wants to schedule a vote on the mayor’s capital budget for early May.
Plenty of lively debate on Columbus Underground too.