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Eastern Railroad Discussion > 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to NS


Date: 09/18/23 11:16
2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to NS
Author: pt199

 Ahead of a Nov. 7 vote, dueling campaigns are seeking to reach voters in Cincinnati to persuade them to either approve or reject the sale of a rail line to Norfolk Southern.
The City of Cincinnati since the 1870s has owned a rail line between the Queen City and Chattanooga, Tennessee,
The line, known as the Cincinnati Southern, is currently leased to NS, but that lease expires later this year.

The city has agreed to sell the line to NS for $1.62 billion with the proceeds to be used to establish an infrastructure improvement trust fund.
The sale needs the approval of Cincinnati voters before it can be completed.
Now a group calling itself Derail the Sale has launched a campaign to persuade voters to reject the sale.
Derail the Sale argues that the city should retain ownership of the rail line and increase the rent.

One of the group’s leaders told a Cincinnati TV station, “If we’re playing Monopoly, you definitely don’t sell your most important asset, your most valuable asset.”
Another group calling itself Building Cincinnati’s Future is supporting the sale.
Its argument is that the money to be gained from the sale would enable the city to “climb out of a $400 million infrastructure hole” without having to raise taxes.
Also supporting the sale is the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council. That group represents more than 40,000 union workers.
Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval has touted the benefits of the infrastructure fund to be established by selling the rail line.

The mayor also said selling the line would benefit the city by getting it out of what he termed “a rail industry that is under-regulated, under-managed, and risky.”
On the latter point, Pureval cited the East Palestine derailment, saying if such an event occurred on the Cincinnati-Chattanooga rail line the city “could be on the hook for liability.”
Derail the Sale, though, argues the city is not trying hard enough to find alternative means to fund basic services.
“They’re looking at our [railroad] as something we can just toss out the door instead of sitting down and finding creative solutions to some of our problems,” said an officer of the group. From the akronrrblog



Date: 09/18/23 11:28
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: MEKoch

Derail the Sale is singing my song, if they will add a clause about having passenger service from CIN to Chattanooga.



Date: 09/18/23 11:39
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: ts1457

MEKoch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Derail the Sale is singing my song, if they will
> add a clause about having passenger service from
> CIN to Chattanooga.

Day or night?



Date: 09/18/23 12:52
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: BrynMawr

Absolutely want Cincy to retain ownership, and raise the rent.   Adding a requirement to make "slots" for passenger service is brilliant.    Call Brightline to operate/manage.



Date: 09/18/23 13:19
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: ts1457

BrynMawr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ...   Adding a requirement to make
> "slots" for passenger service is brilliant.   
> Call Brightline to operate/manage.

I doubt that the line has enough traffic potential for Brightline.



Date: 09/19/23 07:21
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: ts1457

rantoul Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Could NS let the lease lapse, reroute the traffic
> via other routes, abandon NS service, forcing the
> City to set up or lease to a short line to serve
> any on-line industry?

No.



Date: 09/19/23 07:58
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: NSDTK

What other route, Thats the backbone of the NS sytem for North to South traffic 

rantoul Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Could NS let the lease lapse, reroute the traffic
> via other routes, abandon NS service, forcing the
> City to set up or lease to a short line to serve
> any on-line industry?



Date: 09/19/23 18:51
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: march_hare

It certainly makes sense for the city to sell an asset which has long since lost its economic value to the city.  The boost to future infrastructure financing could be a big deal.

But in my fantasy world, having a clause in the sale that guaranteed slots for future passenger service would have been sweet.  This link is the reason that there can't be  a Midwest-Florida Autotrain service, for example.  Amtrak's Floridian, a notorious money loser, might have done a lot better if it had been able to serve Cincinnati and Atlanta en route.  

But asking a single municipality to bear the negotiation costs for what amounts to a national infrastructure issue, is a heavy lift.  And that route doesn't seem to offer any realistic possibility of future commuter use, so the city is likely to blow those off.



Date: 09/19/23 19:15
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: ts1457

march_hare Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> But asking a single municipality to bear the
> negotiation costs for what amounts to a national
> infrastructure issue, is a heavy lift.  And that
> route doesn't seem to offer any realistic
> possibility of future commuter use, so the city is
> likely to blow those off.

Interesting analysis. You're right that the City of Cincinnati needs to get everything it can for itself.

If the sale fails and the two parties come to an impasse over a lease, I see one out for Cincinnati though it could be risky.

Cincinnati could say very well, we will keep the railroad and will operate it as an open access railroad. Any company care to make a proposal about being the fixed plant operator?

One possibility would be that we would have a renaissance for railroading in the USA and Cincinnati would be the hub for that.



Date: 09/19/23 20:46
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: scraphauler

Everyone is having these wild fantasies about open access, NS being forced out, passenger service, etc. Just stop. This is not a continuous relationship. NS has always wanted to buy. City has long toyed with idea of selling. Young politically ambitious mayor sees dollar signs and how he could use this to springboard his career onto a national stage. If it gets voted down, they’ll just continue the lease and start working on a back room deal that removes the voter from the equation. As for passenger rail, neither Ohio nor Cincinnati has shown any interest in passenger rail since Kasich torpedoed Strickland’s 3C program.

It’s sad the political shenanigans associated with this deal. Ohio law needed changed to allow the City to sell the line. Since they failed to sneak this thru in the lame duck session last year, certain interests in Scioto County (Portsmouth) blackmailed NS into “donating” the out of service portion of the N&W Cincinnati District (Peavine) to the county as a trail. Give us the Peavine and we’ll make sure to get your law change tacked on as a rider on the State budget. No trail, no support, no law change, no sale.

Other than the obvious loss of a rail corridor, the biggest problem this creates is that these well connected interests in Portsmouth have already made it clear that they have no interest in a trail to nowhere ending in wide spot in the road Rarden OH. They want their trail to continue east onto in service CCET tracks are willing to pursue any means necessary to get it. Sure, they SHOULDN’T prevail, but with beholden landlord in NS and deep pockets, they’ll be able to outspend the CCET should any legal fight erupt.

Posted from iPhone



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/19/23 20:47 by scraphauler.



Date: 09/19/23 21:14
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: ts1457

scraphauler Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Everyone is having these wild fantasies about open
> access, NS being forced out, passenger service,
> etc. Just stop. This is not a continuous
> relationship. NS has always wanted to buy. City
> has long toyed with idea of selling. Young
> politically ambitious mayor sees dollar signs and
> how he could use this to springboard his career
> onto a national stage. If it gets voted down,
> they’ll just continue the lease and start
> working on a back room deal that removes the voter
> from the equation. As for passenger rail,
> neither Ohio nor Cincinnati has shown any interest
> in passenger rail since Kasich torpedoed
> Strickland’s 3C program.

Sorry for engaging in a little fantasy. Also I hate to see the Peavine get broken up as a result of the politics.

If the sale gets voted down, while the city and NS come up with another scheme, do you think the parties will agree to the current lease payment or will Cincinnati seek more? How high could Cincinnati go before NS balks? NS does not have many options. Loss of the Cincinnati Southern would probably cost it more than the sale price each year in lost business.

I don't see any viable passenger service that could operate Cincinnati - Chattanooga, unless an auto-train route between Cincinnati and Florida could be cobbled together. As discussed before, routing south of Cincinnati would be problematic and I think the freight train density on the CS would be murder for any  schedule reliability of such a train. It is not happening unless a third party brings megabucks to the table and NS gets its share.

Any predictions on which way the vote is leaning?



Date: 09/20/23 09:16
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: scraphauler

ts1457 Wrote:

> If the sale gets voted down, while the city and NS
> come up with another scheme, do you think the
> parties will agree to the current lease payment or
> will Cincinnati seek more? How high could
> Cincinnati go before NS balks? NS does not have
> many options. Loss of the Cincinnati Southern
> would probably cost it more than the sale price
> each year in lost business.

> Any predictions on which way the vote is leaning?

The lease is not up.  There is no renegotiation.  Current lease expires 12/31/26, with NS exclusively having an automatic renewal option for 25 years to 12/31/51.  Current rate is $26 million a year.  Rate essentially increases 4% annually.  So if sale does not happen, unless NS decides they don't want it anymore, there is no renegotiation happening until sometime in the late 40s early, early 50's.  

There are 3 groups opposed to the sale, and one for it.  Those opposed are a rag-tag collection of poorly funded, grass-root, social media type organizations.   

SAVE OUR RAIL is the most organized, most funded group.   The describe themselves as a "Grassroots confederations of progressives, conservatives, and civic-minded Cincinnnatians".  Their main issues is that the City of Cincinnati can not be trusted to do the right things with their new found money if sale goes through.  It's led by former council member and anti-corruption champion Kevin Flynn,  former mayoral candidate Adam Koehler, and 98 Degrees band member and social justice activist Justin Jeffre.   They are a registered PAC

CITIZENS FOR A TRANSPARENT RAILROAD VOTE   Not as well funded as Save Our Rail, but championing many of the same talking points as Save Our Rail - basically, you can't trust the city, and this deal stink of backroom deals.  This organization ls led by retired Inspector General of the US Department of Commerce, and certified fraud examiner Todd Zinser.  They too are a registered PAC

DERAIL THE SALE.  Ironically, the AkronRRBlog piece that started this thread chose to focus on this group.  They have no funding - this is simply a Facebook, Instagram, and X social media group led by democratic activists Abby Friend and Michelle Dillingham.  Essentially, their argument boils down to "Norfolk Southern Bad".  There are NOT a registered PAC

In favor of the sale is BUILDING CINCINNATI'S FUTURE.  It's stance is a "YES vote is a vote to repair streets and sidewalks and improve city emergency services while creating thousands of job - all without raising taxes for the city's capital improvements".  This is a well funded PAC ran by JS Strategies - Jens Sutmoller.  Suttmoller is a profession campaigner with close ties to the mayor.  He has a very successful record of running Political Issue campaigns, including successful school levies, library levies, zoo levies, etc, etc.   This PAC is very well funded by Norfolk Southern with TV, radio, social media, print media, and any other media campaigns being ran, outpacing the combined opposition10 fold or more.

I have not seen any recent polls.  But keep in mind, only the voters in the very blue CITY of Cincinnati get to vote.  They outlaying very red areas surrounding the City that make up most of the population and are the most vocal opponents you hear on talk radio reside don't get a say.  (While Cincinnati metropolitan area has a population on nearly 2.3 million people, 831K of which reside in  Hamilton County  -location of Cincinnati,  the actual city itself is small with only 310K).  If I had to guess, it passes.  Too many trinkets and shiny bobbles are being handed out for it to fail.   Hope I'm wrong simply because I don't want to spend the next couple years fending off trail advocates trying to shut down the east end of the CCET.  But from of my meetings at the State level, I don't think I am.  



Date: 09/20/23 09:37
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: ts1457

scraphauler Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The lease is not up.  There is no
> renegotiation.  Current lease expires 12/31/26,
> with NS exclusively having an automatic renewal
> option for 25 years to 12/31/51.  Current rate is
> $26 million a year.  Rate essentially increases
> 4% annually.  So if sale does not happen, unless
> NS decides they don't want it anymore, there is no
> renegotiation happening until sometime in the late
> 40s early, early 50's.  
>
> There are 3 groups opposed to the sale, and one
> for it.  Those opposed are a rag-tag collection
> of poorly funded, grass-root, social media type
> organizations....

Thanks for clearing up things. I know that you have been trying, but I think this time you really did.

Since the lease renewal will kick in and NS is not in danger of loosing the rights over CS, perhaps kicking the can down the road a few years is the best outcome.

The City of Cincinnati could be a big loser or big winner based on what happens with the overall economy in general and the railroad industry in specific. In the current times, I am also doubtful that any city could resist dipping too far into a big pot of money such as what the CS sale will bring.
 



Date: 09/20/23 11:16
Re: 2 Groups Try to Persuade Cincy Voters on Nov. 7 Rail Sale to
Author: Lackawanna484

Professional issues managers can be extraordinarily good at getting out the vote for some very unlikely topics.  Find the right buttons and push them, have enough money and spread it around.

It doesn't really matter what the topic is...



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