On today's date in The Beacon archives, we published:•One day in the email life of Vlasta Molak (2010)
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Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati
Both sides of the streetcar debate are, as best I can tell, playing politics with the future of our region in terms more broad than the issue of streetcars alone. This is a complete failure of leadership, on all fronts—a failure of our elected leaders and a failure of leadership on our grassroots front. City leaders should have put the issue of a streetcar for public vote. They failed. The NAACP and COAST have failed by writing a so-called anti-streetcar petition that is actually much more. So now, I am faced with the prospect of a vote that will affect three things: the streetcar, Obama’s intercity rail plan, and the Eastern Corridor. I support those two rail projects—which is a majority of what the ballot initiative will seek to delay and/or prevent (which is totally in line with COAST’s history of being anti-transit).
Cincinnatians for Progress have this recent blog entry, mentioning both of the projects. I’d like to round up more details for readers, but let me say that I believe constantly waiting for a vote would create an “electoral roadblock” that could affect the willingness of partners to team with Cincinnati.
Interestingly, the NAACP and COAST have not yet threatened a petition drive over the proposed Kennedy Connector, with a price tag of over $19 million. Unlike the issue of fixing existing structures, this is about building a brand new road. It is unlikely COAST will object to roads, either, as they have a long history supporting anything with cars and opposing everything else. (These are the people likely to complain about Amtrak being subsidized federally, while saying nothing about the tax subsidies that drive down the costs of gas at the pump artificially. )
This article showcases lots of the various components of the Eastern Corridor—only one of which is rail:
Cox said the planning team is in the sixth phase of a 14-step process to design and build more than $1 billion in road improvements, transit solutions, bike paths and rail lines to improve commuter travel from downtown to Milford. The $20 million will enable planners to identify preferred routes for new roads, bridges and rail systems by 2010. And it should pay for much of the preliminary engineering in phase seven.
“Our partners had identified funding … to get to the end of step six,” said Cox.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said the stimulus grant “puts us on track to introduce passenger rail service to our region in seven years.” He traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby House leaders to write the project into the next transportation bill.
“The project has the full support of the governor, lieutenant governor, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation,” Portune said. “It’s a major shot in the arm for us getting the Eastern Corridor written into the T-bill.”
Do we need to vote on building roads? What about bike paths? Then why rail? Where is the line that makes one of these in need of public voice, but not the others?
I still think the streetcar differs because it doesn’t really have the same sense of scale. Even supporters, like Chris Bortz, have reportedly told OKI that the streetcar is a development project and not a transit project. There are so many weird things about the streetcar, with such a relatively high price tag, I don’t object to that particular vote. At least not right now. City leadership has failed to be specific with that plan, and that, in part, has fueled the opposition against it. For all I know, the advocates will be able to address the final concerns I have, and maybe I’ll end up changing my mind completely, supporting all three of the issues enveloped by the badly written petition from COAST/NAACP. (I doubt it, though. Cincinnatians for Progress have ignored all three emails I’ve sent them. Seems a weird strategy for gaining support. Another failure of leadership. )
This article also shows the difference between the local streetcar, versus participating on a larger scale with rail projects:
ODOT also continues to partner with Ohio’s eight major Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) which were directly sub-allocated $161.5 million in transportation infrastructure stimulus funds. To date, FHWA has authorized $20.2 million in projects sponsored by the MPOs in Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown.
So this is another difference. Taking away Cincinnati’s ability to participate with the rest of the state without electoral roadblocks designed by anti-transit activists like those in COAST is a consequence blatantly ignored by petition supporters. The NAACP and COAST do not discuss these other projects. The call their issue an anti-streetcar issue, and in so doing they ignore the bulk of what they seek to stop. That is dishonest, and a failure of grassroots leadership.
Therefore, I will be voting against the NAACP and COAST’s petition, should it make it to the ballot, even if I don’t change my mind about streetcars. Two beats one, and this broadly written petition includes two things I’m not interested in opposing. So by default the badly written language will force me to vote for streetcars.
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