Special hearing geared to test supporters of Cincinnati’s streetcar plan

Three Republican members of Cincinnati City Council have requested a special meeting to review the Cincinnati Streetcar project, in order to get further clarification from city administrators about the project in its revised form.

Council members Charlie Winburn, Wayne Lippert and Amy Murray have requested the meeting. Despite previous opposition to the original plan, the council members now want clarification on the new route that will not initially connect Downtown and Uptown.

Lippert admitted that the original plan had great economic implications, and is now voicing concerns about the reduced route. This new view contradicts other Republican members of Council who expressed their doubts about the original plan’s economic impact.

At a press conference last week, Mayor Mallory emphasized that the revised version of the streetcar route is a phased implementation, with the line reverting back to its original state once there is more funding in place. The governor’s office pulled all state funding for the project, and even this week the federal government passed over Ohio when reallocating two billion dollars from another high speed rail project. This move was presumably due to Kasich returning money for the 3C Corridor project at the beginning of 2011.

The meeting will be held at 6pm in Council Chambers at City Hall (map). There will be an open comment period, and any available streetcar supporters are strongly encouraged to come early, fill out a comment card, and give a short, prepared statement explaining why they are in favor of the project.

Streetcar supporters march in the 2010 Bockfest Parade. Photo by Sherman Cahal.

  • At this point I think Lippert will say anything. Winburn is just looking to grandstand. Why did neither attend the Transportation & Infrastructure meeting Tuesday where a scheduled report on the streetcar was delivered?

  • Can Chris Bortz vote on the streetcar now that it doesn’t go up to the new Towne Properties development University Square at the Loop? All of his other properties are 2+ blocks from any streetcar line, and depending on where the stops are located, could be more than two blocks from any streetcar stops too.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    If anyone had any doubt about the motives of streetcar opponents, they shouldn’t now. The streetcar is an excuse for local inbreds to indulge in shameless identity politics. There is no reasoned opposition to the streetcar based on financial or economic developments grounds. The oppositon is solely interested in using this to bolster their flagging political support and tribal senses of identity. This is merely a convenient symbol of the forces of economic globaliztion for those who fear that they can’t survive without their entrenched social and political connections in this brave new world. If it weren’t they would have alternative plans to offer for cincinnati’s future. They don’t because they don’t care about cincinnati’s future and they fear that they don’t even have futures as individuals if they don’t keep out the larger world even when it appears in the form of cute little neighborhood streetcars. This intense level of paranoia is THE problem for economic development in cincinnati. How can those who want to work for cincinnati’s future best handle such powerful gut emotions?

  • Clover

    @TBoondoggle
    I had the same thought on the Chris Bortz situation. I understood why he couldn’t vote on the streetcar running up to Clifton, but now I don’t see a reason why he shouldn’t be able to vote.

  • Republicans think the streetcar would be more economically viable if it went up to UC, as was first planned.

    Okay. So support additional bond funding to make it happen.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    I don’t think most republicans have ever considered any public transportation as ‘viable’. For them it is only an expense. Their ideology completely blinds them to the expense of roads and cars. If we are to make a case for the economics of streetcars, we have to explain the economics of roads too.

  • The comments about Chris Bortz are intriguing. I do wonder if he would now be allowed to vote on streetcar-related issues as if they don’t pertain to the Uptown portion.

    With that said, make sure you all show up this evening at City Hall to show and voice your support for rail transit in Cincinnati.

  • Howard

    Take a look at the Towne Properties(synonymous with the Bortz family) website. They own a lot of residential property downtown—The Gramercy, Groton Lofts, Lofts at Shilito and the Greenwich apartments. They also seem to own a lot of commercial space downtown so some bars/restaurants/retailers/businesses should be paying their rent to the Bortz family. They have also developed condos near downtown. Moreover, they seem to own a lot property near downtown too—Mt. Adams and Covington(i.e. Roebling Row apartments just across the bridge) and who knows what else. If this information is wrong, please correct it. If not, see a conflict of interest?

    Hmmm. I wonder why Chris is running for council again. Does anyone think that one of the reasons has something to do with the recently revised streetcar route? Sure he won’t be able to vote on anything down the road dealing with taking the route up the hill to Clifton(where I believe the Bortz family plans to develop the University Square project) but I guess his non vote is better than risking someone else’s no vote. Who knows.

  • If any of the naysayers are going to argue that Chris Bortz shouldn’t vote on the streetcar, then they are admitting that it will increase property values and provide economic benefits for the city. So why are you against the project?

  • @Howard: Towne Properties’ land ownership is on the west side of downtown where the streetcar does not run. Any land interests in Mt. Adams, Covington, East End or Uptown would be no where within walking distance of the proposed streetcar line. And given that economic activity is being judged within a 2-4 block radius, I don’t see how these properties would be considered a conflict of interest.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    They aren’t against the project because it won’t lead to economic development,because they know it will. They are against it because it won’t help THEM.

  • Mark Kinne

    Great to see all the streetcar supporters that packed the house last night. Matt, while identity politics certainly has played a role and many council people have used this bit of political theatre to exploit divides within our community, I can see where many of the NAACP supporters are coming from.

    They see this as a selfish bid by the entitled predominately white young urban professionals to use resources that they feel could be put to better use in low income predominately African American neighborhoods. While this view is certainly a bit off the mark it is based on a history of failed promises and mistrust between the so called establishment and low income communities. This also fits well into the narrative of gentrification that has come to define the debate for many in the black community.

    If we are going to win over these opponents, which we may very well need to do if there is another referendum we’ll need to do a better job engaging low income communities and communicating the fact that the economic development generated by the street car will help fund essential services in all neighborhoods and benefit every citizen regardless of income or race. Only by bringing this city together will we be able to move it forward.

  • Juan De Bonia

    The myopia on here is really unbelievable. So if I’m understanding everyone…those who question the prudence of putting in a streetcar are stupid, greedy, unenlightened suburban drones? It’s not possible that anyone on the other side of the argument has put any logical thought into this – right? We should probably kick these stupid Cretans out of the state – right? Take away their right to vote maybe?

  • Juan, it’s not that asking questions is unreasonable. It’s that asking the same questions you’ve been asking for the last 3 years and ignoring the answers you’ve been given is unreasonable.

    I was at the meeting last night and felt that both Lippert and Murray made a good effort of listening to Mr. Dohoney, and reversely that he answered the questions they had, which is fine. They’re new.

    However, Ghiz and Winburn have been on council since the project was proposed, and for them to ask the same questions for the 562nd time in a row is not asking questions for information, it’s grandstanding.

  • Zack

    Juan, its also looking for solid and concrete proof that this is not a good decision, despite the multiple studies, local support, and unity behind it.

    Arguments like “we need more police officers” and “we need to spend conservatively” do not provide solid opposing views.

    It’s really starting to reek of “last ditch efforts” at this point for the naysayers. And I really think some of them will “switch” sides once the project gets going. It wont put Cincy in the front of the modern world, but neither will more cops, a new bridge, extending I-74, a river port (seriously?!?)…

  • Matthew W.Hall

    If many cincinnati blacks can’t see the benefit of improved transit to their own neighborhoods then racial hostility here is even worse than I thought. Govn’t isn’t just about taking what you can get. It has to receive in order to do that. Let’s make this point. Stopping economic development in cincinnati only makes the pie smaller and the fights over resources even worse. Internal growth is the only alternative.

  • Howard

    @Randy: If the streetcar will run up and down Walnut and Main through the CBD, then all four of the downtown Towne-owned apartment buildings previously mentioned fall inside that radius. Furthermore, commercial businesses such as Bagpipes, Sung Bistro, Ruby’s and First Watch are all inside that range and from what I understand, they are owned(the space) by the Bortz family. I believe I even read that Chris has an ownership stake in Ruby’s. I knew you would quickly dismiss the other areas(Mt. Adams and Covington) but both are well within walking distance. If you insist, dismiss Roebling Row and the properties in Mt. Adams but feel free to address the others, given the above. Also, if any of my information is wrong, please correct me.

  • Marshal

    ^ You know what? Honestly? Who gives a shit if Bortz benefits from the streetcar. So will 500 other property owners. What’s the magic number of citizens that will directly benefit from an investment that it becomes OK? How many people go to elementary school X? A thousand? That’s only 1/300th of the population! A scandal!

    At some point you have to ask yourself, am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? Bortz lives in the city too.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    Smitherman is truly pathetic. What a wasted life. He is a personification of everything that is bad and wrong in Cincinnati. Let everyone know that so his influence is weakened and his ‘movement’ is undermined. Same with Ghiz. Give them enough rope to hang themselves. Divide and conquer is probably out best political strategy at this point.

  • crankyoldbitch

    @Matthew, you should be savvy enough to know that Smitherman isn’t representative of all black folks in Cincy, or even a significant part. I don’t have any inside knowledge, since I had no idea who he was until I started to follow the streetcar debate, but his beef seems mostly personal. The streetcar is just his proxy fight w the city admin.

    That being said, you’ve got to be realistic about what gentrification means for long time residents. They’re not going to live in the new lofts, shop in the cool new shops, or eat at the trendy new restaurants. Their landlords aren’t improving the quality of their crappy bldgs. I’m not seeing any of the new residents at Tina’s or Alabama’s. A certain amount of resentment is natural human nature. It happen whenever a neighborhood changes for good or bad.

    The main way the streetcar will benefit these residents is when their landlords buy them out so they can convert their bldgs to condos. Keep pushing for the streetcar if it will benefit you, it’s a cool development tool. But just expect a certain amount of eye rolling when you claim it will benefit everyone.

  • @crankyoldbitch

    You’re right. We as streetcar supporters should be (and for the most part, I think, are) willing to accept that the streetcar will NOT directly benefit everyone. That is why many people, from the urban poor to disengaged suburbanites, have come out against it.

    But, as a whole the city benefits. Population will increase, property values will increase, and tax revenue will increase. As many have said, this increase in tax revenue will allow for increased services for all those who may not be directly benefiting now.

    Of all the arguments I have seen against the streetcar, the only one that holds any merit in my mind is the fear of gentrification. Because of the new development being pushed in OTR, the likelihood exists that many of the urban poor will be forced to move to the West End or Avondale.

    But, I don’t think new transportation options should be forgone because of the gentrification issue. In fact, the improved transit options only HELP the urban poor, who mostly do not have vehicles.

    Gentrification, to me, should be treated as an issue in and of itself. And that issue needs to be remedied. More low-income housing options should be offered, esp. from new developers, and you’re right that local businesses like Tina’s and Alabama’s (good food, btw) NEED to be supported. The old guard business community does not need to suffer in the name of what’s “new and hip.” Both can benefit from new residents in OTR.

    But, going back to the streetcar. The key will be demonstrating that the streetcar is NOT the cause of gentrification. Correlation does not equal causation.

  • Joe

    @Matthew, Your attacks on Chris Smitherman are really going over the line. When I have talked with him he has always had reasoned arguments with a solid rationale to back them up even though I always do not agree. He has a compelling personal story and is a real success story that hopefully be replicated in future generations of Cincinnatians. Why does he become a “personification of everything that is bad and wrong in Cincinnati” if he opposes one issue such as the streetcar. Also your use of the term “local inbreds” only furthers the theory that you are incredibly ignorant and should stick with commenting on the Enquirer’s website like all the other political hacks.

    Also I’m not sure why all of you support Bortz. If he votes on this project it will be incredibly unethical and self promoting since he has such a large investment in the area. Once he has nothing further to gain he will abandon his charade as a public transit advocate and leave the city of Cincinnati holding the bag. Cincinnati needs a new “good government movement” like in the early 20th century when corrupt political machines were swept aside and politicians were held to a higher ethical standard.

  • crankyoldbitch

    @Zac

    I agree w you almost entirely. The only place the eye rolling comes in is that increased property values will increase services for the poor. With the tax abatements that have been granted, it will be over 10 years b4 the city sees that increased revenue. As for increased services, what’s needed I don’t think the city has to give, which is jobs. If you live in OTR you probably have few job skills, or you would have moved already. The poor like the suburbs too. Streetcar revenue won’t change that, and it’s a talking point that should be dropped.It just sounds naive.
    It would be really helpful to hear from the big downtown movers and shakers to put a stop to the debate and just& get on with it. Where’s P&G, 5th Third, Kroger, Great American? Where’s the private money? Those are the voices that get things done in this town.

  • Marshal

    Joe, what are you even talking about? Why would you defend Smitherman despite his ridiculous past political antics, and then in the same breath lay out a totally unfounded future for Chris Bortz, the Streetcar, city government, basically everything.

    Seriously, where do you people get off? If the Streetcar helps Chris Bortz by raising property values, it’s just doing what its intended to do. I ask again, do you folks want to see projects like this go away just because certain people would happen to benefit? What is your definition of a good city investment? Which people “deserve” it?

    How, pray tell, is Cincinnati going to generate the revenue to pour into struggling neighborhoods? Are we going to build a rec center in Westwood? Are we going to magically resurrect Cincinnati Milacron?

  • Mark Kinne

    @Zac I agree wholeheartedly. We as young professionals and urbanists have not done enough to address the real and legitimate concerns of community members about gentrification. As a result politicians are able to exploit this divide to stall progress. I’d be interested in seeing more affordable development in OTR too although much of that depends on the availability of Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which given the current political reality are rather scarce. My question is how can we do more to help bridge this divide.

    @Cranky your point is well taken but even though abatements might diminish property tax revenue from new development the payroll tax generated by new businesses locating along the streetcar line will help fill city coffers. Plus I think there are still long term benefits to the city as a whole that go beyond property tax revenues.

  • crankyoldbitch

    If Mallory wants to rally people to his side on this issue, he should be seen in other city neighborhoods,talking about what they want and need, and how he’s going to provide it. The only issue he seems to care about is the streetcar, the only voters he cares about are urbanistas. I’m just talking perception here. If voters feel their neighborhoods are getting shortchanged in favor of the streetcar, then they oppose it out of petty resentment, not the facts of the issue. I want to see him in Washington looking for money for Walnut Hills, Westwood voters probably want their own issues of urban blight addressed. All of Cincy wants and needs our Mayor to focus on jobs, and the streetcar can’t be the sole engine of economic development.

    I said that to say this, all opposition isn’t because people are backward and inbred, or don’t like change. It’s just human nature at play, the “where’s mine” mentality. Also, don’t discount the fact that voters have been burned by everything from the state lottery to casinos not living up to the promise/hype, so they’re skeptical. Every project is sold w rosy scenarios and impressive studies, but hardly ever measures up. And SORTA is going to run this thing? Anybody that rides Metro is unlikely to be impressed.

    In order to get past the “Just build it” vs “Choo Choo” meme, Mallory needs to throw a few bones to the rest of his constituents, and develop high profile alliances beyond the developers in OTR.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    I cannot take Smitherman seriously. He is emotionally unstable. He personally threatens people. He is a bully. He doesn’t have anything to offer. I stand by my views on Smitherman and can’t imagine that he would make the profound changes necessary for me to change my opinion of him.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    Smitherman will oppose all efforts to increase the overall value of cincinnati property and therefore cincinnati’s taxing potential which is largely the point of the streetcar. Until he shows he is willing to support the overall expansion of the economy within the city of cincinnati, he is part of the problem and cannot be part of the solution.

  • Julio Ramirez

    Stop lying about Christopher Smitherman. Unlike streetcar supporters he has NEVER resorted to threats or putting his hands on the opposition. The only people who have threatened or shoved others are the streetcar supporters. The racial stereotypes are disgusting.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    We all have video proof ,and I have personal experience, of Smitherman’s threats. Your attempts to racialize this forum are what is disgusting. This is about the development of Cincinnati,not race or personality cults.

  • crankyoldbitch

    Is anyone going to post a vid of the meeting? I would like to see what has Matthew so upset.

    Just one additional observation. Studies have shown that people will ride a streetcar that will not ride the bus. The streetcar route is covered by several bus lines, which is why I don’t think the streetcar will mean less cars on the road, but the point is, there are socio-economic undertones at play in this debate. Personally, I think the ridership experience on a streetcar would be superior, since it has more room, no steps, and you can wheel things on board easily, like a bike or stroller. As I’ve said b4, playing up those aspects, as well as ease of access for the elderly and disabled, could diffuse some of the anger over the perception of elitism in the pursuit of this project.

  • Joe

    Urban Cincy Comment 5-14-11
    @crankyoldbitch
    “I want to see him in Washington looking for money for Walnut Hills, Westwood voters probably want their own issues of urban blight addressed. All of Cincy wants and needs our Mayor to focus on jobs, and the streetcar can’t be the sole engine of economic development.”

    You are right, Mallory and the city manager have invested most of the capital and economic development budget into this streetcar proposal and has all but abandoned projects to help neighborhoods like College Hill, Walnut Hills, Westwood, and etc. which have been suffering substantial declines in population in the last few decades. These neighborhoods have seen high vacancies and increases in blighted properties and really need investment in order to stabilize them and attract business and residents. This preoccupation on Over-the-Rhine with funding is really unfortunate because it is one of the neighborhoods that has most potential to redevelop without subsidy and we have already a good foundation in place that in my opinion will transform OTR in the next decade. Walnut Hills on the other hand has few of the advantages that make OTR attractive and will likely continue to deteriorate without substantial investment by the city.

    Postpone the streetcar until the city is on better financial ground and in the meantime shift some of the money to projects in neighborhoods not named OTR or the central business district because they need it much more. I don’t think many elites (Mallory, Dohoney, Qualls, etc) in the city realize how bad things are in these non-core neighborhoods. Every day more residents, business, and industry are leaving these outer ring neighborhoods leaving behind many vacant properties which are either left to decay or are demolished.

    I’m not saying not to build a streetcar but I am stressing that it should be built in a few years and NOT in 2011 or 2012, there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed before we can spend hundreds of millions that the city does not have on a project that we help relatively few people.

  • Joe

    @Marshal

    In a private corporation if a senior executive had as much of a conflict of interest as Bortz does with the streetcar project and still voted for it they would be fired and could possibly face criminal charges. In government all officials swear to uphold the greater public interest and to recuse themselves from all issues where they have a significant public interest. In 2008 the Ohio Ethics Commission ruled that John Cranley did have a conflict of interest when he voted on projects that affected his interests in the City Lights project in Price Hill and he did the right thing and resigned. Bortz should do the same and take the advice of the city solicitor and the Ohio Ethics Commission and refrain from voting on issues that directly impact Towne Properties. If Bortz goes forward and votes he only deserves the controversy and legal action that is sure to follow and that could put all the votes on the streetcar project into question.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    If we postpone the streetcar we will lose the money at some point for not fulfilling our promise to use the money for the streetcar plan for which the feds approved the money. Remember, it isn’t really ours, it is from the feds. Besides not really being an option, postponing the streetcar plan is postponing an economic development plan and nothing should be more important than that in these hard times. Nothing.

  • crankyoldbitch

    @Matthew, good point on the use it or loss it nature of the Fed funds devoted to the project. The whole “Nothing” thing is overly dramatic though. OTR and downtown will continue to be redeveloped for one reason, 3CDC. They’re much more effective than the city admin, and they’ve done more for the city than the streetcar ever will. If they want the streetcar as a payoff to keep moving forward w new projects, now there’s a deal that I could understand. It’s much more persuasive to me than, We must be like Portland or I’m leaving.

  • @Matthew:

    You’re exactly right; we use the fed funds now, or we risk never getting them again. The “more pressing issues” argument isn’t very persuasive, but even if it was, it ignores the fact that much of the money is dedicated to the streetcar project specifically.

    Besides, it seems like “not yet” is all we ever here when a rail project comes up. To most people, “not yet” = never.

    @crankyoldbitch:

    Even if 3CDC doesn’t directly come out and demand the streetcar as a “payoff,” I can almost guarantee they’ve factored it into their financial projections.

  • Joe

    @Matthew – Point taken, the federal money could possibly be lost but I do not think that is likely if the project is still on the drawing board and the city makes assurances that it will be used a few years down the road. Also it is only $25 million that U.S Dept. of Transit is putting up is only a fraction of the total cost of the streetcar and the City of Cincinnati is going to have to supply through the issuance of bonds. The city is also going to have to move utilities from the right of way that by Duke’s estimates will cost in excess of $20-$25 million and could be even higher if they find anything unexpected (look at the cost overruns on the Big Dig in Boston and their trouble in moving a hundred years of buried utilities lines). Also the city will have to subsidize the streetcar’s daily operations which if compared to similar systems in other cities are likely to cost several million a year.

    This money could be shifted to other projects until the city gets its fiscal house in order and could still be spending a substantial amount of money on various economic development projects where there is a more dire need. By ignoring Walnut Hills, Price Hill, College Hill, etc we are making the revitalization of these neighborhoods more difficult and costly in the future and a little money spend now for streetscape programs, property assemblage, and new infrastructure would have a excellent return on investment.

  • Joe

    @Zachary – What happens if the city has its credit rating slashed due to this project and suddenly has to pay junk bond interest rates of 10% or more? Several of the bond-rating agencies are leaning towards this and the city already does not have good credit ratings to begin with. Such a move whould cripple the city fiscally since we allready have so much debt on the books.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    The secret to economic growth is finding what works and doing it until it doesn’t work anymore. That is what is happening with 3CDC. We need to do everything we can to keep it going in OTR until it doesn’t work anymore. The benefits in property values and other economic activity will be many times what any other much smaller and more speculative efforts would produce. Besides it being being politically unlikely that the federal money could be spent in other cincinnati neighborhoods, to spread the money so thinly would leave a few prettified business districts without any track record of improving property values, population or economic activity. Like it or not, nothing succeeds like success and cincinnati needs to set aside the hurt feelings of intrenched interests in the city to achieve economic success at almost any cost if we don’t want to end up like Cleveland or Toledo.

  • Joe

    @Matthew – What are your ideas for these outer-ring neighborhoods? I can’t really get much of intellectual value out of “Like it or not, nothing succeeds like success” let alone any policy decisions on how to help struggling neighborhoods that do not have as many inherent locational and spatial advantages as OTR. Also pursuing a project to “acheive economic success at almost any cost” is questionable because at some point it is not economical and money could be allocated in different ways for a superior economic benefit. Take a look at Pareto efficiency to see how we can get the greatest benefit from the lowest outlay of resources. Unlike others I would not write a blank check for the streetcar because at a certain cost threshold the costs of a project outweigh the benefits. Where this threshold is for Cincinnati, would take a substantial amount of research (years) but utilizing the rough concept is valuable although debatable.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    Outer-ring neighborhood have to start working on what their inherent advantage is. If they truly can’t come up with one then I don’t see the point to funding failed areas just for the appearance of ‘fairness’. We can’t afford that anymore. They need to bring together all those with vested interests and present proposals to city, state and federal govn’ts, non-profits, banks, real-estate investment trusts, businesses. until they can come up with something. They need to establish 3cdc style corporations and be open to funding from any and all sources; some with no connection to the city at all, including direct federal grants. They need to lobby city gov’t but show it that they have some evidence of the likelihood that their proposal(s) will increase the overall economic pie in their area. The results may well be very different than in otr but that is because that is better for that neighborhood. When something isn’t working then it is not economic success and we shouldn’t pursue it. Taking too long to do more research will cause as many or more problems as it will solve. Interstates were not delayed for years of research, they were just built, quick and dirty use projections were thrown together and the chips were allowed to fall where they may. If more research had been done, many interstates wouldn’t have been built; maybe a good thing in the long run, but not the way to get additional transportation capacity to an area, if that is your goal.

  • crankyoldbitch

    @Matthew, now you’re just being silly. 3CDC succeeds because of a wealth of management talent, money and power. No secret there. Few things fail w that combo.

    @Joe, I’m pretty sure Matthew doesn’t care about any neighborhood other than his own. btw, I don’t consider Walnut Hills an outer ring neighborhood. You can walk to downtown, so it has the same proximity as OTR. The gentrification of the Eden Park adjacent part of Walnut Hills started just as I left Cincy 15 yrs ago. I don’t know what happened. A few fortress condos, a few row houses, then nothing. I had friends living in the area at the time (I lived in the ‘burbs and wouldn’t even drive through OTR), and they were promised the same type of development we’re now seeing in the Gateway district. Shops, bars, restaurants, etc… Never happened, unless you count Andy’s. Randy seems to know pretty much everything about Cincy, so maybe he can shed some light on why the neighborhood I now live in never lived up to its promise. That’s totally off topic, but I am curious, since I’ve seen no development money go to this area in the two years I’ve been back.

  • Matthew W. Hall

    3CDC succeeded because they found their comparative advantage. If other neighborhoods can’t find their comparative advantage then they shouldn’t expect any economic development and people and businesses should leave. No neighborhood has a ‘right’ to economic growth, it has to earn it. And no govn’t has a moral obligation to put money into projects that they don’t believe in. If you are arguing that 3CDC style development corporations can’t work elsewhere, then what will? Handing over public money to entrenched ‘community’ groups who view it as little more than a payoff? Clearly that hasn’t worked. If people care about their neighborhoods they need to put the interests of that neighborhood at the center of everything they do. Spreading the wealth around to cover all the interest groups doesn’t work. Detroit has proven that spectacularly. For all their failings, this is one thing many southern cities do right. They are willing to concentrate economic activity in certain locations and lavish attention on the sectors of their communities that prove they can do something substanial with the money given to them. Atlanta’s midtown, Houston’s growing downtown and streetcar and burgeoning new-urban developments in Charlotte and Nashville can work in Cincinnati if we allow them to and approach the as growing the pot, not just dividing it up.

  • Ryan L

    I agree with Matthew that the neighborhoods really need to fight for what will make them successful. If we keep funneling money into these neighborhoods and see little to no result, I would consider that (for the most part) a waste of money.

    The neighborhoods that seem to be successful either have a strong community council and devoted residents who would die for their neighborhood (Northside, Clifton, OTR) and who fight for their interests and help cause change, or they have money and are a desirable place to invest “naturally” (Mt. Adams, Hyde Park, Columbia-Tusculum). Perhaps if a neighborhood would lobby for something that would produce positive effects on their neighborhood and genuinely transform the current perceptions, they could get the attention these other neighborhoods get.

    Take Bond Hill for instance. They could work with Paddock Hills, Roselawn, Avondale, and North Avondale for a light rail corridor. If those communities worked together to advocate a reasonable rail line with the same ferocity as OTR has with the streetcar, the city could pursue those neighborhoods as the next target. Integrated with a streetcar stop and bus hub in Corryville, the system could work to benefit multiple neighborhoods once gutted by thoroughfares. The line would likely be positively accepted by Over-the-Rhine, Corryville, CUF, Clifton, The Heights, Pendleton, CBD, and Mt. Auburn as it would increase streetcar traffic, thus foot traffic, into those neighborhoods.

    Mt. Auburn could advocate a partnership between the City of Cincinnati and Christ Hospital, in which Glencoe Place was renovated into homes for nurses and doctors (I know this has been talked about before). The development could attract people from the suburbs to live within walking distance of the job. This could also fuel the redevelopment of Prospect Hill, Mt. Auburn, and Over-the-Rhine near the soon-to-be-former Rothenberg school.

    Sayler Park, Riverside, West Price Hill, and Westwood could urge for a bridge connecting them to the NKY Airport. It currently takes about 30+ minutes to get from these neighborhoods to the airport, because the nearest bridge is the Brent Spence. They could fight for a bridge capable of carrying light rail. This could lead to a future boom in the economy and simpler commutes from these neighborhoods.

    I’m sure there are some flaws to my plans, but it just shows that if the communities put their might together and strongly advocate something that could flip the neighborhood into the right direction, they can get the administration’s attention. It’s not that no one cares about the other neighborhoods, it’s that the neighborhoods don’t seem to care enough to put serious work to change things. You can’t be treated equally if you don’t fight for your neighborhood equally.

  • crankyoldbitch

    @Matthew

    Actually what I tried to say was that 3CDC style development corps. would be good for other parts of the city. One group can’t do it all, and I believe private developers are more efficient than gov’t. Do I personally know how to get that done? No I don’t. I just know that private / public partnerships get much more done than gov’t alone.

    A lot of your post feels like it’s in a code I don’t understand. You keep talking about entrenched interests and community groups and interest groups and I have no clue where you’re going with that. Are you talking about past projects that have failed? I was gone for years, so I honestly have no idea. Don’t answer me, I don’t really need to know.

    I think it would be more productive if I go talk to some longtime residents and find out more about the history of my current neighborhood and what groups are working for change. Maybe I can help.

  • Ian Webster

    I just want to take this opportunity to say, congratulations, supporters. After much personal, internal debate, you have effectively convinced me to drop my support for this watered-down piece of crap version of the streetcar that won’t connect SHIT! What is it with you people, that you exhibit this “we’ll support a Lionel train set if Mayor Mallory builds it” attitude?

    I was all on board with the streetcar, no pun intended, as it was ORIGINALLY INTENDED. I wanted the one that would connect Clifton to The Banks. That really would have had a major positive economic influence on the urban core growing even more. But now, it’s going to operate from Fifth St. to Findlay Market? Give me a break, that isn’t going to do squat. All it will be is Mayor Mallory’s way of saving face. Look, while I respect the mayor, and would probably agree with him on the majority of issues a government entity at any level may face, this is now pretty pathetic to me. If you ask me, I’m a huge light-rail supporter. Yes, yes, I know, if people are going to fight over a dinky little streetcar, don’t even think about something as costly as a light-rail. I get that part. That’s why I’m making plans to move to Philadelphia, because, well, shit has been done there (unlike here, where everything involves so much discussion, committee, etc. etc.).

    Why Cincinnati? This goes for supporters and non-supporters both. Both groups are extremely stubborn (yes, supporters, that goes for you, too). You all have effectively made this the “wedge issue” of Cincinnati. It’s definitely contributing to my desire to leave, to go to greener pastures instead of assist in making a rust-belt industrial city a “top-notch” city. I defended, and defended, and defended the streetcar on the Enquirer’s website many times. But I can’t do it anymore, not with this stupid scaled-down version Mallory is pitching now. The fact that he just wants SOMETHING built is actually somewhat disheartening. It’s like keeping someone on life support, even though you know, deep down, that you need to pull the plug and stop the suffering.

    One last thing and the rant’s done. I know some of the people who comment on here, or I know OF them (you all know who you are and aren’t). I’ve ridden the bus ever since I’ve worked for UC (going on 4 years, in July). And yet, the supporters, I’ve rarely seen riding every day. I would venture to say that’s pretty hypocritical. Bob Schwartz is the only person I’ve actually seen ride on a regular basis. Shall I name the others that I DON’T see? I would be more than happy to. I don’t even have a car anymore, I gave it to someone who NEEDED it. Who else, of all of you, can say that? I also had a bicycle, but it got stolen by some bitch-ass gang member, who stole a bunch from UC grounds within a week’s time a few years ago.

    All I’m saying is, if you all so staunchly support public trans, show the demand for it by using what’s already there. Because I don’t see very many of Cincinnati’s young people doing that. They feel weird riding the bus, and would rather travel in their “safe” car…

  • Thanks for the interesting and civil debate, folks. We’ll keep the comment thread open as long as the discussion sticks to the issues and doesn’t devolve into Enquirer-esque name calling. When that happens, the thread is closed and you’ll have to meet up in person somewhere for some brews and discussion.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    Ian, this hasn’t become a wedge issue WITHIN cincinnati, it is a wedge issue BETWEEN cincinnati and its suburbs. That is a huge difference. If the suburbs aren’t interested in cooperation, we have to identify and support our separate interests as clearly as possible. Regional cooperation would be better but it seems clear to me that the city will have to approach other local govn’t from a position of greater strength in the future to have a chance of getting cooperation. The streecar is part of this effort both in terms of transportation and economic development but also in terms of political coaltion building within cincinnati. This process has certainly showed those who care about cincinnati’s future who their enemies are but it has also shown them who their freinds are. As hard as it is too see now, new connections have been made that will bear fruit in the years ahead. Don’t be too discouraged by the colateral damage of the ‘battle’ and lose sight of the larger ‘war’.

  • Ian Webster

    Matthew: I meant to say wedge issue within the metro area, that’s my mistake.

  • Ian Webster

    You know, what really gets me is the fact that, apparently in 2002 or 2003 (someone correct me who knows the exact year), Hamilton County voted for the new stadiums, but voted DOWN light rail? I found this out a few weeks ago, and needless to say, that really infuriated me. People voted to keep a perpetual shit team in this city (the Bengals), yet weren’t OK with a project that could have increased the population, and the tax base, to a large extent, as well as improve on infrastructure? It’s really interesting, when you think about it. The people voted for the stadiums, which are financially suffering right now. The city lost population. They didn’t vote for light rail, which, if done right, I can guarantee you wouldn’t be doing as bad as the stadiums. It’s pretty ridiculous, when you think of the big picture. We could all be using the light rail RIGHT NOW if it were voted for all those years back…

  • Juan De Bonia

    yeah but…..WHO DEY!!

  • Matthew W.Hall

    Ian, those votes would probably go differently today with the hostility to big business sports and the radically changing real estate markets and gas prices. The stadium vote was actually fairly close with an active campaign for voting against the stadium deal. Cincinnati is never ahead of the curve, but it isn’t hopelessly behind it either. We have to find what works and go with it. Just because much of this has to happen despite the lack of suburban support doesn’t mean it can’t. In fact we are freed from the kinds of compromises that suburban support would demand. We can make more intensely urban and historically sensitive neighborhoods. There are all sorts of funding arrangements that we can do without having to get suburban support in state govn’t. But they will involve us being “all in” within the city to make them happen.

  • John

    ^ Some historical revisionism taking place here.

    * The stadium vote took place in 1996, and it was decisive – like 2:1 in favor of buildng the two stadia. I doubt it would pass today.

    * In 1998, Hamilton County voters selected the site at 2nd and Main as the location for the Great American Ball Park, also by a 2:1 margin.

    * The Hamilton County light rail vote was in 2002. It lost 2:1 countywide but won by 2:1 in downtown and OTR. Hence the selection of the route that’s on the table today.

    I read something in this thread about the benefits of the streetcar needing to exceed the costs. They do — by a huge margin. The Present Value of the stream of benefits far exceeds the Present Value of the stream of costs, like by 2.5 to 1. Two different studies have arrived at this conclusion, which has been peer-reviewed by UC’s Center for Economic Education.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    All history is ‘revisionist’. There is not definitive official history. No historical statement is beyond questioning or criticism. In that spirit, the stadium vote only happened because Tim Mara organized the petition and got it on the ballot. That alone suggest an significant degree of opposition to something key leaders had seen as a done deal. That he got more than third of voters to agree is very significant. The streetcar plan proposed in 2002 was massive and would have cost 20 times what the riverfront to UC plan of the recent past would have. Voter approval of more modest proposals today would thus be much more likely given a similiar effort at voter education. Revise away.

  • Ian Webster

    I wasn’t trying to revise history. If you noticed, I asked for anyone who knew exact years to correct me. I’m not from here, so I haven’t been immersed in the city’s political fights for very long.

  • Ian Webster

    This is the warning I’m going to give you guys: Once the streetcar is built and all, let’s say, hypothetically, that it completely and utterly falls flat on its face. You better be well prepared for the backlash you will receive, given the very contentious nature of the subject. You can throw all of the statistics, studies, etc. etc. et-fucking-cetera out there, that you want…but those STILL don’t guarantee success. Nothing in this world does. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s built, I do want it to work. But if it doesn’t, I fear retaliation.

  • Joe

    Streetcar supporters would be smart to hold out for the longer route connecting Downtown to Uptown even if it takes a few more years to find the funding. If the shorter version of the streetcar is built the risk of it failing is significantly higher than the route that includes Uptown. And if the streetcar is not a gleaming success like found in some of the case studies then public transit in Cincinnati will be set back for decades. If it looks anything like a failure or does not promote easily visible economic development you can be sure that COAST, Tom Luken, and the NAACP will have a field day and will be constantly touting their “wisdom” of opposing the streetcar to the media.

  • @Ian:

    “You better be well prepared for the backlash you will receive…”

    Fair. But is it not better to try something that might help the city (and in most experts’ eyes there is a high probability that it will) than to just say “our city doesn’t deserve this” and give up? Is quitting valid just because there is a small chance of failure?

    By the way, I’m surprised at your comment about no one supporting public transit. I don’t know who you’re talking about but I know quite a few people here who ride on Metro. (Some who don’t may simply be waiting/wishing for a better service.)

  • Matthew W. Hall

    Ian, there is nothing wrong with ‘revising’ history. That is how history is done. I was responding to John. I was just suggesting that local political forces are more balanced and amenable to new ideas than John implied with his dismissal of the idea that the stadium had early critics or his assertion that the idea of streetcars was totally rejected. Neither of those statements is true and that is why we have to keep working for a more balanced cincinnati. A local lawyer named Tim Mara organized a notable but ultimately unsuccessful campaingn to stop the county Bengals stadium project. It failed but drew attention to the plan and the county commission incestous relations. The 2002 streetcar plan included many lines over the entire city and beyond into the county. It was extremely ambitious and it failed, but by less than 2 to 1. Metromoves it was called as metro was the impetous behind it. John sees these as abject failures, I see them as lessons in how to succeed in such efforts in cincinnati in the future. Their lesson is that laying the groudwork and engaging voters directly can work, but it takes a lot of people and effort. But I understand that that is something only people who truly care about cincinnati are willing to do.

  • Ian Webster

    Matt, I was also responding to John, not you.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    No problem Ian.

  • Juan De Bonia

    Ian – are you really moving to Philly? When? What made you pick Philly?

  • Ian Webster

    Well, not yet. It’s just an idea. I’ve put apps in with one of the more prominent universities there. Philly is way ahead of Cincinnati, in terms of all aspects that make a good city. It’s an east coast city, yet the cost of living is not really that bad. Cheesesteaks are, and always will be, better than Cincinnati Greek spaghetti sauce. The public transit there is way more developed than here. Plus, there are lots of jobs specifically related to what I do, so that obviously helps.

    In all honesty, I’ve never really enjoyed my time here 100%. Cincinnatians are very uptight, for the most part. I’m from Oklahoma, originally, but I’m known to have a fiery personality, yet people here can’t handle it. It seems that if you want to have an intellectual conversation over beer, there’s an adverse reaction, and it makes the situation awkward. Now, in OTR or Northside, I don’t get that much, thankfully, but everywhere else, I do. I just feel that Cincinnati can be very droll.

    Another thing that I’ve always noticed is that, people drink a lot here. Like, I think, way too much. It seems like everything from public events to casual get-togethers have to involve alcoholic beverages of some type. One time at work, I suggested, “hey, I think Cincinnati should have a “no alcohol for a day” day”. My co-workers were aghast at that suggestion (“how could you suggest something like that?”). Their reaction spoke volumes to me.

    There are some other scathing critiques, on specific subjects, that I have, but I don’t want to rant.

    One other thing: Someone made a great point on the Enquirer: “Cincinnati’s problem is it does such a great job of touting its history. But what about its plans for the future?”. That observation really stuck with me.

  • Juan De Bonia

    Difficult to argue the drinking – lots of Germans and Catholics you know! That being said, I would be surprised if there was really a significant difference between cincy and any other comparable city (you can’t count Provo or Salt Lake).

    You’d better check that cost of living…Philly is no where near the COL in Manhattan (few places are) but it is very comparable to Boston, D.C., Providence, etc. Your salary adjustment should take care of that to some extent but be prepared to pay much more that what you are paying here when you shop.

    Would love to understand what you mean by all the “aspects that make a good city”.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    I’ve found Philly quite interesting myself and culturally not as different from cincy as you might think. Many people seemed to be enjoying a drink or three where I went. The rough tone of public life was what surprised me though. Even New Yorkers have a certain basic respectfulness of other in public that Philadelphians didn’t seem to have. I witnessed more fights, insults, arguments and verbal threats between people (none involving me)in the week I was there for a conference than I’ve seen in all the rest of my travels to countless cities in over 20 countries. Still I think it could be an interesting place to live. Most residents seem to be locals or of the Mid-Atlantic region and there were surprisingly few hispanics or asians considering the city’s size. Still it surely has personal and professioanl possibilities not available in cincy, including access to nearby cities. Good luck Ian and let them know about the good as well as the bad of cincinnati if you do go.

  • Matthew W.Hall

    Juan, there are big regional differences in per capita drinking in the U.S. as well as between urban and rural areas. The Ohio valley is moderately higher than average, but I think Ian is just noticing the different social context of alcohol in Cincinnati versus Oklahoma, more than actual consumption. I’d bet a lot more drinking is done privately and secretively there than in cincinnati and not celebrated as a unifying social activity as in this region. That was certainly my experience living in Omaha for several years. I was rarely offered more than a small glass of warm wine at social events but watched many people sheepishly buying liquor whenever i stopped by my neighborhood liquor store.