Concerns raised as property values drop and city leaders push new projects

Some people are questioning whether city leaders need to set aside hopes for special projects and get back to basics after the latest assessments show property values took a five billion dollar hit in the county.

"I think the biggest problem that government faces today is the fact that they're out of money," Hamilton county Auditor Dusty Rhodes said. Rhodes says the drop in property values was no shock.

"You could see this coming, it wasn't a big surprise," Rhodes said. "I think eventually things are going to reach a point and then come back perhaps the biggest problem in all of this is government interference."

Taking a broad look over the area, Rhodes is concerned about government subsidized programs like The Banks, the stadiums, and potentially the streetcar.

"With all of the great ideas, where's the money going to come from to fund them?" Rhodes questioned. "They have exacerbated the problem and maybe now that the government has less resources they may be backing off some and let the market place work."

With Cincinnati Mayor Mallory publicly declaring his continued support for the streetcar despite the state dropping its funding, the project will likely be on the Mayor's agenda again Thursday night.

"These visionaries and folks can dream and scheme all they want to do but if the money isn't there it's not there," Rhodes said. "To most people applying common sense that street car is the dumbest thing since the Cincinnati Subway."

Rhodes says Cincinnati's budget woes cannot be answered by new projects looking to draw a new crowd.

"It's got to come from the bottom up rather than the top down," Rhodes argued. "You cannot pass laws to force this kind of thing. Once you start giving things away like tax abatements it never ends."

Rhodes believes Thursday's address is no time to place hopes on a streetcar track.

"I think it's time for some plain talk," Rhodes said. "I don't know if he's going to do that. I don't know what he's going to say but I can't paint a rosy picture if it's not there."

At the same time, however, Rhodes says he does not envy local politicians who are forced into making difficult budget calls, often as a result of their predecessors' decisions.

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