News Opinion Politics

Steve Chabot Attempts to Overturn the Will of Cincinnati Voters

There they go again. After two failed initiatives (Issue 9 and Issue 48) to defeat fixed rail public transportation at the ballot boxes, enemies of the Cincinnati Streetcar project are once again moving to bar the city from completing what has been billed as crucial to the economic development of Over-the-Rhine and downtown. This time they found an ally at the congressional level.

Last week, Representative Steve Chabot (R), Ohio’s District One representative, and native of the west side of Cincinnati coyly inserted an amendment into the Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill that would bar the use of federal dollars in funding any project in Cincinnati that is on a “fixed guideway” system. The bill is currently in the Senate where it will be voted on and forwarded to the President for his signature should it pass.

The amendment, which reads, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to design, construct, or operate a fixed guideway project located in Cincinnati, Ohio,” is designed as an attempt to stop the Cincinnati Streetcar project. The amendment’s language mirrors that of both Issue’s 9 & 48 but has even broader and more far reaching consequences than either of the two failed ballot initiatives.

According to the Federal government, a fixed guideway is defined as:

Any transit service that uses exclusive or controlled rights-of-way or rails, entirely or in part. The term includes heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, monorail, trolleybus, aerial tramway, inclined plane, cable car, automated guideway transit, ferryboats, that portion of motor bus service operated on exclusive or controlled rights-of-way, and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes.

This broad definition means that not only would the amendment preclude that no federal funding go towards the streetcar project but that federal funds would also be barred from being used towards any improvement of the following city projects:

  • Upgrading the city’s overcrowded freight rail system: The city has previously asked for state and federal funding to add a “fourth main” freight rail line expanding the regions freight rail capacity and reducing the impact of an existing freight rail bottleneck along the three main freight lines adjacent to the Mill Creek. The City can’t even ask for this solution if the amendment goes forward.
  • Development of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system: SORTA and the City have been conducting studies on implementing BRT on several streets in Cincinnati including Reading Road and Montgomery Road. This amendment will make it impossible for the project to utilize much needed federal funds to buy buses and construct stops and street improvements.
  • Development of the Eastern Corridor and Wasson Line for light or commuter rail: Both of these rail lines would connect downtown to the east side of the city. Without federal funds neither project can even be studied. This includes any study on the possibility of a “Rails and trails” combined bicycle path on the Wasson Line.

This amendment is a poison pill meant to punish the progress of Cincinnati and its revitalizing urban core and overrules and ignores the will of the city electorate. It serves only the shortsighted will of vocal minority and threatens to leave our entire metropolitan region at a competitive disadvantage against other regions as we move towards a 21st century economy.

We strongly urge supporters of transportation infrastructure to write Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) to remove this overly restrictive language from the THUD bill. Additionally, we encourage supporters of transportation infrastructure in Ohio’s First Congressional District to give Representative Chabot an earful over this callous disregard towards voters in his home district.

Happy Independence Day!

Business News Politics Transportation

Cincinnatians for Progress head into final weeks of campaign

The group dedicated to stopping the over-reaching, poorly worded and potentially debilitating piece of anti-rail legislation known (this year) as Issue 48 has mere weeks before the city’s population heads to the ballot box to decide the future of job growth, innovation, and progress in Cincinnati.

Cincinnatians for Progress has been working tirelessly to raise money and get the word out about Issue 48. If passed, the legislation would ban ANY money – both public and private – from being spent for rail transportation in the city of Cincinnati until the year 2020. After a similar issue was defeated in 2009, anti-rail forces outside the city are attempting to keep Cincinnati in the dark ages once again.

One big difference this year is the endorsement of two widely respected members of the NAACP- and both named Greatest Living Cincinnatians – Milton Hinton, a former Cincinnati NAACP president, and Judge Nathaniel Jones, former counsel of the national NAACP. Both men have publicly made a stand against Issue 48 and believe that the proposal will further discriminate against minorities.

Judge Jones spoke about his experience with racial discrimination and civil rights, particularly as they related to rail and the interstate commerce clause, saying,”Minorities need to be ever vigilant against back door efforts to take away their rights, including efforts to inhibit rail such as this…Transportation by rail is a key way for those who have been victimized in the past to take advantage of economic opportunities.”

This comes in stark contrast to Chris Smitherman, former president of the NAACP who has relinquished his seat temporarily to run for City Council. Smitherman is one of the architects of both Issue 48 and Issue 9 in 2009, and has been very vocal in his opposition to the Cincinnati Streetcar project. Despite the National Chapter of the NAACP encouraging passage of job growth legislation including public transportation, Smitherman has attempted to rally his base to block rail transportation projects that would put many back to work.

At a press conference this morning, Dr. Hinton said, “[defeating Issue 48 is] all about the availability of jobs… Issue 48 is self-defeating and the antithesis of job creation. Minorities have always had to fight to get a piece of the pie…with 48, there won’t be a pie to get a piece of.”

How You Can Help

If you feel that Cincinnati deserves to move forward with the rest of the country by establishing rail transportation systems, Cincinnatians for Progress needs your help in these last days of the campaign.

* Thursday night a Finish Line fundraiser will be held at Japp’s from 5.30-8.30 pm. $20 entry, $100 to be a host.

* You can donate online to Cincinnatians for Progress – your money is going to radio spots, direct mail, and yard signs and banners to help spread the word.

* Phone banking and canvassing will begin this weekend. CFP is looking for phone bank volunteers Tuesday through Thursdays from 6-8pm, and canvass volunteers on Saturdays and Sundays. Please email to sign up. UrbanCincy will be holding a phone bank night if you don’t want to go by yourself – keep tabs on our Facebook and Twitter pages for more details.

* Pick up yard signs and banners at local businesses. Currently Park+Vine and Coffee Emporium downtown have signs for you to display.

* Last but not least, word of mouth and spreading information is easily the best way you can help the campaign. Tell all your friends, coworkers and relatives who live in Cincinnati about Issue 48 and how debilitating it will be for our city. You can research talking points and learn more at the CFP info page.

Councilman Cecil Thomas put it pretty succinctly this morning: “This [issue] is not about the “now.” It’s about the growth of the city….the future of the city.”

Issue 48 picture by Noel Prows.
Casey Coston contributed to this article.