Saturday, May 24, 2008

Cincinnati Streetcar


I was pretty mad at the latest events and news regarding the streetcar from State funding and opposition of suburban lawmakers to the actions of the NAACP. I was just going to rant about it . . . But then I saw Chris Bortz wrote some comments to Urban Ohio and he says what I wanted to say, just much much better. Here is an excerpt:

"The failure of the State to include the Cincinnati Streetcar in the State Capital Budget is dissappointing, but not a knock out punch. There will be more opportunities for the State to play a role. As the Columbus plan moves further along, there will be more ears willing to listen that may help overwhelm our own delegation. In addition, as The Banks project gets moving and funding issues are resolved we may be more successful in arguing that the Downtown/Riverfront TIF District will not be needed to fully realize The Banks.

"I was actually more dissappointed that the NAACP voted in opposition. As many posters here know well, the Cincinnati Streetcar is designed to advance the City and its people by making us a more competetive destination for talented professionals thereby increasing the likelihood that local businesses will remain competetive and expand. That business expansion and concentration of talent will likely lead to more business starts and spin-offs (how many businesses were started by P&G people or were attracted here because of P&G?) That means more jobs. More jobs means more opportunity for Cincinnatians. More jobs means more income taxes collected, and that means more resources available to enhance city services and invest in all city neighborhoods. Seems like a great fit for the NAACP. It was mentioned during the meeting that it is really a question of priorities. To that I ask, is there some other capital project that comes anywhere close to producing the kind of long-term, sustainable economic development as a streetcar system? I have not heard one single example of a project that would cost the taxpayers $35M and be so transformative. What could be more important than developing an infrastructure that boosts our competetive advantage to attract and retain JOBS? (Disclaimer: Schools are more important, but that is the responsibility of CPS. Safety is more important, but we are spending millions on very effective policing strategies (about 20 murders this year compared to twice that last year at this time - most other cities our size have seen an increase this year in violent crime and murder) So the real question, is there a more important economic development opportunity? I'm still waiting to hear a better idea.)

"On the home front, the city is busy developing talking points, economic impact analysis, funding sources and strategies, and the like. The Streetcar forum being hosted by UC and other sponsors will be a great opportunity to find answers to difficult questions. From the invitation: "The Forum will be an opportunity for attendees to explore the benefits as well as the obstacles of creating a streetcar system. The Mayor and City Manager invited representatives from other cities (Charlotte, Little Rock, Portland, and Seattle) to share their strategies in developing a successful streetcar system that have fueled economic development, promoted transportation, and improved quality of life.

"Those in oppositon have mostly said there are better places to spend the money. Really? On what, exactly? Or they say it will fail, or simply will not produce any economic activity. One guy even told me that Streetcar advocates sound like those who pushed for the stadiums and the Freedom Center. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I realized most of the negativity has more to do with low community self-esteem than anything else. It is time for us to try new things, be bold, take risks. If we fail to do that, then how can we possibly expect anything to change?

"Cincinnati is a very special place. We just need to make some strategic investments to reach our brilliant potential. It is just within our reach. I really hope we can avoid shooting ourselves in the foot. Again."

Check out the full quote on Urban Ohio here.

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