This past Thursday evening, the Cincinnati chapter of the American Institute of Architects held a traditional debate discussing Issue 9. Arguing for Issue 9 was former SORTA board member Stephan Louis, as a representative for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes (COAST). University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees member and Cincinnatians for Progress chairman Rob Richardson argued against Issue 9. UC Professor Terry Grundy acted as moderator, and did a fantastic job in moving the points right along and keeping things official.
Nearly 50 students, professors, architects and concerned citizens filled the lecture hall, each one interested in what the two men had to say for and against Issue 9. Mr. Louis opened the debate stating that Cincinnati had already built three transit failures (the subway, Union Terminal, and Riverfront Transit Center), and pulled out the ever popular phrase “boondoggle.” Sitting calmly up at the front of the room, Mr. Lewis seemed very straightforward and full of “facts,” which were later completely debunked by Gordan Bombay, writing for the Phony Coney (read his fantastically detailed write up here).
Rob Richardson was an entirely different story in practically every way. Hardly had Professor Grundy given him the floor than Richardson was up out of his chair, coming down off the stage to look students in the eye and speak to us directly. He spoke passionately of Cincinnati’s future, stating quite frankly that our fair Queen City will face serious setbacks in practically every way if Issue 9 passes. The language is too broad and too over-reaching. The point of a representative democracy is to elect officials you trust to make decisions, and Mr. Richardson warned the room of what could happen if Cincinnati allowed Issue 9 to convert our current system into a California style government.
There were several excellent questions coming from various people in the audience, directed toward both debaters. Overall it was interesting to note that the general overtone of the “Yes on 9” conversation was incredibly accusatory and negative. Mr. Louis was not able to state how in fact he supported public transit, or what he saw for Cincinnati in the next 5 years concerning rail. He was only able to repeat sound bites intended to affront and astound – warning of the horrors of public money being spent, and even once comparing the streetcar to abortion. It’s okay if you’re confused – I was there and I didn’t quite understand the reference, much less comprehend why he thought it was okay to compare the two in the first place.
The overriding theme of Rob Richardson’s tone and message when voting against Issue 9 was one of hope and promise for Cincinnati. He spoke with conviction on how passenger rail will bring development and retain talent in our community, and how it can only help Cincinnati, not diminish its value. The difference in demeanor and attitude between the two debaters was incredibly palpable, and it’s an important difference.
Urban Cincy Volunteer Night!!
Tonight a few of the staffers at UrbanCincy will be gathering at the Cincinnatians for Progress office located on 1344 Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine. We will be making phone calls from 6pm to 8pm, and tentatively going out to grab a drink and/or food afterwards. Be sure to bring your own phone, or laptop computer (using Skype-$3) from which to make phone calls. If you’re interested in helping but don’t want to do it alone, tomorrow night will be a great opportunity to help this cause and hang out with some like-minded people!