- A conceptual image showing what a modern streetcar might look like passing in front of the Aronoff Center. The proposed streetcar system is estimated to spawn nearly $1.4 Billion in economic development.Issue 9, if passed, would require a vote on any expenditure for the right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation within the city limits of Cincinnati regardless of where the funding comes from. The broadly worded language of the charter amendment was co-authored by a lawyer from Anderson Township and Chris Smitherman, president of the NAACP who was not re-elected to the Cincinnati City Council. The problem with Issue 9 is twofold. Issue 9 is frankly, flat out deceptive due to it's broadly written language and it would hinder transportation projects throughout the entire Tri-State area despite only being voted on by the electorate of Cincinnati.
- A comprehensive regional transit plan like the one seen here would be delayed or threatened by the passing of Issue 9.
First, the charter amendment is poorly written and promotes poor governmental policies. The single paragraph amendment fails to define exactly what constitutes "passenger rail." This apparent loophole was noticed by Enquirer columnist Barry Horstman who pointed out that the wording of the ballot language could even affect the children's train at the Cincinnati Zoo. This amendment restricts the funding sources for any passenger rail project regardless of where that money comes from. Whether a private investor wanted to donate money for such a project or the Federal Government awarded stimulus funds, these monies could not be used in any amount without first being put up for a vote. This would deter money from being awarded to Cincinnati, instead going to cities that are ready to move forward with their projects. The amendment also fails to define what is considered an "improvement" of passenger rail transportation. Amtrak currently operates a passenger rail line out of Cincinnati's Union Terminal. If the city of Cincinnati wanted to invest money in the maintenance of this facility would that constitute as an improvement? Issue 9 fails to define itself and address concerns such as these. It is open for broad interpretation and if passed would most definitely be tied up by lawyers and court cases anytime it would need to be cited for a project. This deceptive ballot language has been described by the Cincinnati Enquirer as "Poison Pill" for the city of Cincinnati. Issue 9 would create more bureaucratic red tape and slow down the democratic process of city council.
- On a recent trip to Chicago this past weekend I had the opportunity to park only once and get around town on the city's elevated railway and subway system. A system like this would be threatened by the passing of Issue 9.
Second, I am a firm believer in what passenger rail transportation can do for this city. For five years I worked at Kings Island Amusement Park and used the highway to commute to work everyday. I am no stranger to the traffic nightmares that occur daily on routes like I-71, I-275, I-75 and I-471. In the coming years we will have to make a choice between constantly expanding these highways and only marginally improving our traffic congestion, or expanding our transportation options, reducing the stress put on our local interstates. I've seen firsthand the potential infrastructure we have readily available. Things like the abandoned subway and Riverfront Transit Center could be used to great advantage as part of a comprehensive transit network for the entire region. Issue 9 would prevent or delay rail projects all across the tri-state simply because everyone would be stuck waiting for Cincinnati to vote on every little thing. In the case of the proposed Cincinnati streetcar; I've explored the route myself, I've read the studies and I've seen the potential. I truly believe after my firsthand experience with this project that the whole of Cincinnati would benefit from the economic development and increased transit options the streetcar would bring.
- The Riverfront Transit Center beneath 2nd. St. is one of many resources we already have readily available to be used in the building of a comprehensive regional transit network.If you had read Queen City Discovery around a year ago, you might have seen my coverage of the John McCain rally at Lunken Airport. In that article I voiced my support for the Republican presidential candidate. It's no secret to those who know me personally that I lean to the "right" and tend to side with the Republicans. So why am I supporting a Democrat like Mark Mallory? In the past two years I've seen this city make great strides to improve it's image and get back on track. I've traveled with the Cincinnati Police Department and been in some of the most "infamous" areas. I've enjoyed many good times with the large crowds at the renovated Fountain Square and have been watching "The Banks" project finally start to trudge towards completion. Mayor Mallory has worked hard to make this city safer, improve it's image and move it forward. My concerns with his Republican opponent Brad Wenstrup start with his signing of an agreement with a special interest group. While this may seem well intended or typical of politics, I think it's ludicrous that Mr. Wenstrup would make such a promise so early (does he not remember George Bush's "read my lips" speech) and pledge it to a special interest group like COAST who is primarily based outside of the city. Mr. Wenstrup's stance on Issue 9 also causes me to lose consideration for him. When I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Wenstrup speak to a class at the University of Cincinnati, he stated that he "doesn't like the language of it [issue 9], but would work later on to change it." If Mr. Wenstrup truly dislikes it he should stand up against it. If Mr. Wenstrup dislikes the streetcar plan he should work to convince his council team of why he thinks it's a bad idea should he become mayor, not vote for some broad, over reaching special interest charter amendment. This attitude of "we'll get around to it later" is the same kind of mindset that plagued Cincinnati for decades. Mayor Mallory has worked hard to build a better reputation for this city and has demonstrated foresight and vision. I support the re-election of Mayor Mark Mallory.
I truly believe that a vote of "no on 9" and the re-election of Mark Mallory on November 3rd will continue to help make Cincinnati a better place. Thank you for taking the time to read what I have to say and even if you disagree with my opinions, then it's your civic duty to go out, get educated and vote for what you believe in.
Ronny "Gordon Bombay" Salerno
As an aside; I also think "Yes on 3" is a good idea and to the folks reading this in my hometown of Fairfield, Ohio: ANY vote against Arnold Engel is a good vote.
Previous Update :: October 26, 2009 - Storm the Shores of Cincinnati with "Capt. Bill" and the "Ride the Ducks" tour.
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