Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cincinnatians For Progress at the DRC

Tuesday evening the Downtown Residents Council invited representatives from Cincinnatians For Progress and COAST to give presentations for and against the proposed acquisition and passenger rail charter amendment. Knowing this is a hotly debated topic with passions running high on both sides, DRC saved the presentations for last, allowing only 20 minutes before a vote allowing the meeting to continue another 15 minutes.

This amendment is not only about the streetcar. If the amendment passes, each and every rail project would be subject to a public vote, increasing a project's cost and causing delays. This includes a public vote on projects that don't have tax increases attached. The DRC notes that the first project most likely to be affected is the proposed inter-city rail that would connect Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. If this amendment succeeds, we could be left out of the economic loop and all the dollars that entails. There are plans for the inter-city rail to extend all the way to Indianapolis and Chicago. I can actively see myself taking high speed rail to all the cities listed. Passenger rail could offer another alternative means to come to Cincinnati other than through our high-cost airport. John Schneider of Cincinnatians for Progress noted there are only two cities in the top 25 that don't have rail transportation: San Antonio and, you guessed it, Cincinnati. Mark Miller of COAST admitted passenger rail is a good thing in some cities (but apparently not ours, in his opinion).

Mr. Miller said his organization is going after city councilMEN to take a no tax pledge. Ms. Cole, Ms. Ghiz and Ms. Qualls, are you listening? You won't have to worry about being targeted for a no-tax pledge since, apparently, COAST must think only men are on city council. But why have a representative government in the first place? Miller stated city government "Doesn't trust the voters (and) wants to deceive the voters". Miller further claims he's "Not opposed to transit" but his group was formed specifically to defeat this ballot issue. He also believes taxes will go up for transit initiatives, he has no trust in city government but nothing to back up his belief. By the way, the president of Miller's organization lives in Blue Ash (well outside the city limits) and most members don't even live in the city limits.

Now let's bring up the 'S' word since that's what so many people think that's what this initiative is about. 8 of 9 city council members support the streetcar initiative as do 16 of 18 council candidates. Have you been downtown during rush hour? Or on a Friday or Saturday night? The streetcar would reduce some of this congestion since it would run seven days a week and every 10 minutes during peak traffic periods. Construction of the initial streetcar line would spur economic development along and adjacent to the route including residential construction or renovation, shops, businesses, restaurants and the like. Over the course of the first 15 years, the initial Downtown Loop would help create $1.5 billion in new economic development. Cincinnati would see $17 million each year in new consumer spending because of the streetcar. All this economic activity results in earnings, property and sales taxes which would help decrease the burden on state and local government as well as help out Cincinnati Public Schools.

Please take some time to critically assess this initiative as a whole and how it could critically affect the future and potential economic growth of our city and consider voting 'no' on the initiative.

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