I am writing to officially inform you that, in a meeting last week with Mayor Cranley, I submitted my resignation from the SORTA Board. It will be effective following our meeting on January 16. Mayor Cranley was gracious and appreciative of the good and valuable work that we all have done together in recent years.
I have truly valued my tenure as a Board member of SORTA and, in recent years, as its chair. The main reason for that is you! I am proud to have served with each and every one of you. It was the diversity of thought that made us productive, despite the perceptions that city and county appointees couldn’t work together. We proved those perceptions, to be false. I am proud of how we, as a Board, have professionally, strategically, thoughtfully, compassionately and honestly confronted the complex issues facing our public transportation system and the people who depend on it each and every day to fulfill their dreams.
As I know you are aware, tourism is one of this region’s leading employers and a catalyst for Cincinnati USA’s recognition as an established multicultural destination of choice. Of course, much of the workforce supporting this industry is dependent on public transit. As the Vice President of Multicultural Sales and Community Development for the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), my service on the SORTA Board has fueled my passion to improve the quality of life for those who depend on transit. As you may also be aware, the CVB’s longtime CEO, Dan Lincoln, has recently announced his resignation. He has championed Cincinnati as a multicultural destination, and this must continue. For this reason, my passion and energy needs to be fully focused on the CVB and our work to grow our regional economy through travel and tourism.
Please allow me a moment of reflection on just some of the outcomes of our work together in recent years. I am proud of what we have done and I know that you are, too. Of course, there is much more that we have done together, but this reflects the best of our collaborative and cooperative approach as SORTA Board members, an approach that I trust will continue.
We have been transparent and engaged as an organization:
Metro Futures Task Force: We empaneled the Metro Futures Task Force and received their detailed report confirming that METRO was no longer financially sustainable and, among other recommendations, that we should seek to change our source of public funding from the City of Cincinnati earnings tax to a Hamilton county sales tax. This has guided much of our work for the past two years.
Transparent: We made our SORTA Board meetings more transparent; put all Board materials, and much more, online; and, we initiated the State of Metro annual event to share annual progress.
Publicly Accessible and Engaged: We regularly listen to our riders through onboard and online surveys; we have met with countless organizations in their communities at times convenient to them; we have collaborated with business organizations; our CEO and General Manager was also available on-board for more rider interaction; we hosted on-line chats and coffee chats; we hosted the first-ever Women on the Move transit forums (4 in all) and even conducted an on board editorial board meeting with a local news outlet.
Diversity: Launching of The John C. Blanton Internship Program & offering domestic partner benefits positioning SORTA as an inclusive work place.
We have been efficient and fiscally responsible:
Most Efficient: Metro has become the most efficient bus-only transit system among our peer cities according to a study by the Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati. We also receive less public funding than nearly all those same cities.
10-year Operating and Capital Budgets: For the first time ever, we developed 10-year operating and capital budget projections. This has enlightened our community and its leaders about the financial unsustainability of our bus system.
Excellence in Financial Reporting: We received the State Auditor’s Award and our 26th consecutive Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association (2017).
Strategic Plan: We adopted our first comprehensive strategic plan in decades for SORTA. It has also guided our staff and Board for much of our decision-making in the past two years and developed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to inform operational planning, route restructuring and potential fare increases.
We have been forward-looking, always with an eye to growing our economy and improving the quality of life of the people we serve:
Reinventing Metro Plan: Just last week, and after more than three years of work, we introduced our Reinventing Metro Plan. This is the starting point for the vitally important decisions to be made in the coming months to change how public transportation is provided in this region. We demonstrated that maintaining a system funded via an earnings tax is not sustainable and introduced plans for Hamilton County sales tax increments of 0.5%, 0.6%, 0.7%, 0.8%, 0.9% and 1.0% which all assume the current public funding we receive from the City of Cincinnati earnings tax would no longer be used.
This plan has features, at varying levels, to:
1) better connect people to jobs and much-need services;
2) shorten bus wait times;
3) extend bus service both later in the evening and earlier in the morning;
4) enable riders to get across the county without travelling through downtown Cincinnati;
5) incorporate innovations and new technologies as they become available; and
6) to lay a foundation for broader regional public transportation throughout the tri-state. This plan can help grow our regional economy and provide more and better transportation services to those who need it most.
Of course, we’ve done much more together in the past several years which has brought us, and our community, to this moment. There are crucial decisions to be made. For our region to remain competitive in a global economy, our public transportation system must change. It must be reinvented. I really do believe the time is now.
I leave you with the attached column that appeared in yesterday’s Enquirer. It, too, is a bit of reflection on how far we have come and how far we have yet to travel. It also shares many things that fill me with pride for the work we have done together in recent years. Together, we have brought our community to this point. I trust that you will now take it further.