Streetcar: New position to manage project sparks debate

Current Banks Project Executive John Deatrick
Current Banks Project Executive John Deatrick

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council voted Wednesday to officially create the position of Executive Project Director for the streetcar project, two days after a vote by the City Council Budget and Finance Committee.

Council approved the job title in a 5-4 vote, and also set an annual salary between $139,000-$188,000.

Current Banks Project Executive John Deatrick is a name that has been thrown around for the position, who says he was interviewed and tells FOX19 he would like to take it if it's offered.

Supporters of the streetcar project say would like to see Deatrick in the role because of his success with The Banks.

However, those who voted against the position did not mince words in their opposition.

"They're saying we're hiring 'streetcar czars' for $188,000 a year. I don't understand the narrative. It's either we have a financial crisis or we don't," said City Councilman Christopher Smitherman.

Smitherman also says he doesn't think much of Deatrick's track record.

"They're reassembling the same team that put together one of the greatest boondoggles in the region, which was this $48 million tunnel that's under the stadium," said Smitherman.

Smitherman is referring to the Cincinnati Riverfront Transit Center, a project managed by John Deatrick. City officials insist Deatrick's salary won't come from the general fund, but some council members are skeptical.

"I don't think the city administration is telling the truth, and I would hope you quote me on this as we go on air. The city administration is not telling the whole truth," claimed Council member Charlie Winburn.

On the other side of the streetcar tracks, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls says the new position won't be connected with general funds.

"This position would be paid for out of project funds. It does not come out of the general fund. It will not have any implications for the deficit," said Qualls.

The growing cost of the streetcar project has intensified criticism, but supporters say that makes it crucial to bring in a strong manager.

"Myself and many others are concerned about the escalating costs of the streetcar. One of the reasons I like having a person on it like a construction manager who can oversee this project is that the gentleman they have in mind has a record of doing these kinds of things under budget and on time," said City Councilman Wendell Young.

Meanwhile, critics question the wisdom of hiring a director for the streetcar, while at the same time threatening to layoff police and firefighters.

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