Friday, September 25, 2009

$185 Million. Is it worth it?

That's a question council candidate Laure Quinlivan asked herself. So she went to see firsthand what the streetcar has done for Portland, she's now convinced that the streetcar is a wise investment that would benefit all of Cincinnati. See for yourself:

Laure Quinlivan's Streetcar Report from Laure Quinlivan on Vimeo.

How many trips have Chris Smitherman or Chris Finney taken to Portland to experience passenger rail before they tried to ban it? None. That's why it's the job of our elected officials to research and develop these ideas before they invest on our city and that's what we elect them to do. Lawyers and special interest groups are in it for their own benefit.

Say no to lawyers and special interest groups running our town! Stand up for proper democracy in Cincinnati! Vote no on 9!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boss Finney

Cartoonist Nick Sweeney drew this portrait of local lawyer Christopher Finney, author of the Issue 9 ballot language that the Cincinnati Enquirer calls a 'Poison Pill' for the city.

Meanwhile, our friends over at Queen City Discovery can take you on a virtual ride of the streetcar route.
"A "Yes" vote on the Charter amendment [Issue 9] effectively means "No" on the streetcar, but its faux-populist "let the people vote" cachet might draw support from people who otherwise might favor a streetcar. A "No" on the amendment, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily translate into streetcar support." - Barry Horstman, Cincinnati Enquirer 8/8/09
Say NO to lawyers and special interest groups! Stand up for proper democracy in Cincinnati! Vote NO on 9!

Friday, September 18, 2009

How absurd is Issue 9?

Issue 9, no matter which way the 'weasel wording' lawyers and Blue Ash residents at COAST try to swing it, is absolutely absurd. Why? In a recent post, Cincy Streetcar Blog explains:
"Mandating our City Government approves projects in a different manner based on the technology used–not the purpose, not the cost, not the potential hazards, but solely on the technology employed is an absurd way to govern a city. The Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment is permanent, just a few of the consequences are illustrated above. If passed, this amendment will produce a host of uncertain and unforeseen consequences in the future."

Images courtesy of

And just for good measure, I'd like to throw this one in there that I made myself:

This image is courtesy of the local blog, Queen City Discovery, which has an interesting write up on the Cincinnati Subway/Rapid Transit Line. Approved by voters in 1916, politicking similar to the methods special interest groups like COAST use now, prevented the subway from ever being completed. In the late 50's/early 60's voters didn't get to approve the highway's that replaced the subway right of ways. In the future if a regional light rail line were ever to be built, it could utilize the abandoned subway saving taxpayers and local governments millions of dollars in construction costs. Not if issue 9 passes though! No on 9!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Would Issue 9 Affect the Children's Train at the Zoo? All You Have to do is Read the Ballot Language!

COAST lawyer Christopher Finney was quick to answer with:
"Our opponents want people to believe this would have all kinds of draconian effects," said Finney, who crafted the wording that will appear on the ballot. "They're trying to drum up hysteria rather than talk about what's actually on the ballot - the merits of the streetcar and passenger-rail transportation."
However, I think it's a legitimate question. Let's take a look at the ballot language proposed by COAST:
"The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same."
A "yes" vote on Issue 9 would place that vague, far reaching paragraph on the city's charter, but would it affect the little children's train at the zoo? Let's have a look.

The city of Cincinnati purchased the zoo in 1932 and run's it through the board of park commissioners. According to the COAST ballot language it seems that the zoo would fall under "The City, and its various Boards and Commissions." As seen in the above photo the train obviously carries passengers making it "passenger rail transportation." So what if the city/board of park commissioners wanted to expand or "improve" this "passenger rail transportation?" Well, according to this ballot language, since it is within the city limits of Cincinnati and owned and operated by "the city, and it's various Boards and Commissions," no money could be spent on improving the children's choo-choo train without first submitting a vote to the city electorate.

Now, Mr. Finney, if as you say this is all just "hysteria," please point out how my assessment is incorrect and how the charter amendment would not affect the zoo train. I'd like to think that this is all pretty ridiculous, but your charter amendment is so vague and far reaching that even the children's train at the zoo is affected! I'm just going off your own words here Chris. The Charter amendment is nothing but a vague paragraph. As we see thanks to Horstman's article, it's effects are far reaching and there are no details or provisions really outlining the affects of the amendment.

What if a private company such as P&G donated money to the zoo as they've often done? Could that money be used to expand the children's train which would be affected by the charter amendment? Nope, as Chris Finney told us a couple weeks ago; "any means any," no matter the funding source, a vote must be held.

Why would we ever allow something so vague and so ridiculous to become law here in our fair city? You don't have to, vote "No on 9" on Nov. 3!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stand up for Cincinnati, say "NO ON 9!"

To the Voters and Citizens of Cincinnati:

The time has come. This is the final stretch. Both sides of the debate continue to preach their message. For the voting citizens of Cincinnati, Issue 9, if passed, would amend the city's charter so that a public vote would be required for any money that would be spent on passenger rail transportation regardless of funding sources. That means, even if the city of Cincinnati wanted to research the construction or feasibility of any form of passenger rail, we would have to wait a year or have a tax payer funded special election just to vote any time a single cent was spent on anything involving passenger rail transportation, regardless of where the money comes from whether it be local, state or federal dollars. This process severely hinders and slows down the political process and is meant to discourage our elected officials from researching any new methods of transportation that could help this region grow.
No other major metropolitan city has legislation such as this. Typically votes are held on passenger rail issues when taxes are being raised to pay for them, in the case of the proposed Cincinnati Streetcar, your taxes are not being raised!

The charter amendment severely hinders the power of our elected officials to do their job and is meant to indirectly discourage our local government from seeking to improve our transportation options. If passed, the amendment could keep Cincinnati out of consideration for federal stimulus dollars to build it's streetcar line (making an even greater cost to the city), out of consideration for the 3C corridor connecting Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati and out of consideration for the proposed high speed rail network being pushed by the federal government. Charter amendments like this one are deceptive and dangerous, even if you're against the streetcar, say NO to Issue 9 to keep special interest groups like suburban based COAST from dictating our transit options and our transit future.

Are You Registered to Vote?

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it's your job as a citizen to get educated about the issue and represent yourself by voting. UC Students, the streetcar would link uptown and downtown, providing a new, reliable, higher capacity transportation option for yourself and future students alike. Recently, the University of Cincinnati Student Government Association declared their support of the "No on 9" campaign. If you are a UC student currently living in Cincinnati, you have a say in the election. Here's how to make sure you're registered to vote:

To confirm if you're registered to vote in Hamilton County, click here:

To register to vote in Hamilton County, follow the instructions here:

Are You Unsure of Where You Stand on Issue 9 or the Streetcar?

While the charter amendment proposed on Issue 9 affects any and all kind of passenger rail construction, development, research and planning, the construction of a proposed modern streetcar line is at the forefront of the issue. There are many websites, such as this one, making their case for or against the streetcar. Political rhetoric is thrown around quite a bit. If you're interested in learning more about the exact details of the the streetcar plan, your city officials are holding open houses on the following dates:

5-7 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Downtown.

6-8 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Bond Hill Recreation Center, 1501 Elizabeth Place.

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 28 on Fountain Square, Downtown.

5-7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, 800 Vine St., Downtown.

6-8 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Oakley Recreation Center, 3882 Paxton Ave. (in Hyde Park Plaza)

6:30-8:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at the College Hill Recreation Center, 5545 Belmont Ave.

6-8 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Corryville Recreation Center, 2823 Eden Ave.

6-8 p.m. Nov. 4 at the LeBlond Recreation Center, 2335 Riverside Drive, East End.

5-7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Cincinnati City Hall, Room 115, 801 Plum St., Downtown.

630-8:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Price Hill Recreation Center, 959 Hawthorne Ave.

As said before, even if you're against the streetcar proposal, Issue 9 is about much more than that. It severely restricts our city government from doing the things they're elected to do. It will hinder Cincinnati out of consideration for state and national projects while the rest of the country moves ahead. The amendment is deceptive and dangerous to our city's future. It is unprecedented and no other major city has any kind of similar, ridiculous legislation. Don't keep Cincinnati "20 years behind the times," vote NO on Issue 9!

To all those visiting Oktoberfest this weekend, have a safe and wonderful visit downtown, remember:

Stand up for Cincinnati! Vote 'nein' on Issue Nine!
(Cartoon by Nicholas Sweeny)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

For Stronger Neighborhoods, Vote NO on Issue 9!

It has been reported that the misleading NAACP/COAST backed Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment has been assigned #9 as it's issue number on this November's ballot. A "Yes" vote would not only delay and possibly prevent the building of the proposed modern Streetcar line but could exclude Cincinnati from future passenger rail projects and prevent this city from receiving State and Federal funding, creating a greater cost to the taxpaying citizen.

Aside from the Streetcar, Cincinnati is being considered and looked at for inclusion on the proposed Eastern Corridor commuter line, OKI Regional Transit plan, the 3C corridor and the Federal Governments proposed high speed rail network. A "Yes" vote on Issue 9 could leave Cincinnati out of these plans, allowing the benefits to go to other nearby cities passing Cincinnati by. The benefits of having rail transportation could be applied to not just the neighborhoods served by the proposed rail lines, but to all Cincinnati neighborhoods. So for stronger neighborhoods, vote NO on Issue 9.

More coverage of Issue 9.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

COAST Caught Confused and Contradicting Their Own Charter Amendment

Today the City Council of Cincinnati Rules Committee held a meeting to discuss various subjects, but the main topic of the day was the approval of the Nov. 3 ballot language of the COAST/NAACP backed charter amendment. The ammendment would require a public vote on all passenger rail projects within the city limits of Cincinnati, regardless of where the funding comes from.


I took the #1 Metro Bus from the stop near my apartment to Government Square and enjoyed the cool weather as I walked to City Hall for the 10:00 A.M. meeting of the Rules Committee. Councilman Berding began the meeting at around 10:15 A.M. As the meeting started and the committee began discussion I could hardly hear over the two men talking amongst themselves and cracking jokes in the seats in front of me. That's when I noticed it was no other than COAST attorney Christopher Finney and former Mayor of Cincinnati Tom Luken:


Councilman Berding went over the various other discussion topics of the day as the gentlemen in fron to of me continued their discussion. Most topics were put on hold to address the issue most had signed up to talk to the committee about: the ballot language of COAST's charter amendment. The ballot language reads as this and read as this on the petition COAST circulated:
"The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same."

The Committee opened the floor to those who had signed up to speak and express their opinions to council:


This woman spoke of how she had gone to visit her daughter in Seattle and was amazed at the amount of development along the Seattle Streetcar line.


Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls listened as Mr. Rockwell expressed his concern to the committee over whether or not the charter amendment would affect the proposed 3C corridor project and future high speed rail projects being pushed forward by the state and federal governments.

Mr. Rockwell wasn't the only confused citizen there. COAST had promoted this petition as a an "anti-streetcar" amendment and even more citizens came forward today to express how they felt they had been duped by petition volunteers just like the folks we heard from last week.

At the conclusion of speakers, all of whom were citizens opposed to the charter amendment (none had come forward to support the amendment), Councilman Berding invited Christopher Finney to come forward and answer some legal questions the committee had in regards to the charter amendment. At this point, council members Leslie Ghiz, Cecil Thomas and Vice Mayor David Crowley had joined the meeting.


Councilman Bortz listened as Mr. Finney answered questions that were put forward to him.


As Mr. Finney spoke, Councilwoman Ghiz was busy checking something on her phone. In the past, using Mobile Twitter has gotten her into some trouble. I checked her Twitter account though, no Tweets during the time the meeting took place. Perhaps she was playing Brickbreaker on that pink Blackberry Curve of hers?

The meeting became heated when Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls posed a question towards Mr. Finney, the attorney representing COAST who authored the charter amendment. Councilwoman qualls wanted to know if the charter amendment affected the use of stimulus dollars from the federal and state levels. Mr. Finney replied with: "any means any," referencing the line from his charter amendment. Despite more questioning by Qualls as the amendment is not specific on funding sources, Mr. Finney intently kept answering with the words "any means any." Mr. Finney through his repeated phrase confirmed that any funds whether they be local, federal or state dollars, could not be used on rail projects within the city. This means that Cincinnati could be kept out of serious consideration for a stop on the proposed 3C corridor and Midwest Hub High Speed rail, which would link Cincinnati with other major cities.

Wait a second, I could have sworn just the other day that COAST said this charter amendment wouldn't affect the 3C plan. Wait! They did:


From the COAST blog on August 27, 2009.

Despite COAST claiming less than a week earlier that this charter amendment would have no affect on the 3C project because this is a "city law," Christopher Finney sat right in front of City Council saying otherwise. "Any means any." All sources of funding would be affected in regards to any and all money spent on passenger rail.

The discussion became even more heated as Vice Mayor David Crowley began questioning Mr. Finney, claiming that Mr. Finney's wording of the ballot language was what had been confusing voters and had been misleading to petition signers. Finney, began to raise his voice in opposition to Mr. Crowley as Councilman Berding asked Chris to lower his voice and calm down.


Councilwoman Ghiz was still hard at work on Brickbreaker:


My high score is 4440, wonder what hers is?

As Mr. Finney returned to his seat, former Cincinnnati Mayor and Congressman Tom Luken raised his hand and began to speak. He had to be reminded by Councilman Berding that if he had wanted to talk he had to sign up before the meeting started like all the others did. Mr. Luken continued to speak upon which he was warned by Berding that he was "out of order." "The last thing I want to be is out of order" joked Luken as he smiled at Mr. Finney who was now being joined by Leisure Suit sporting COAST treasurer Mark Miller.


In the end, despite testimony by confused citizens and citizens who had felt COAST petitioners misled them, Councilman Bortz summed up that 11,000 signatures had been collected with the ballot language as shown above. The Rules Committee passed on the measure, leaving the language unchanged. The ballot language will proceed to the full council session on Wednesday and the state attorney generals office later in the week.

Please keep in mind that the ballot language as it stands today would affect ALL passenger rail in this city, not just the proposed streetcar project. As Mr. Finney told us today: "any means any." That means any money we have whether it be capital funds, federal dollars, state dollars, etc. can't go towards the research, planning, development, construction of any type of rail project without first going to a public vote. No other city in the United States has such a broad measure on passenger rail like this and such a measure could effectively keep Cincinnati out of consideration for the proposed 3C corridor and Midwestern Hub high speed rail projects. Your taxes are not going to be raised for the streetcar and Capital Fund money to be spent on the streetcar's construction could not legally be diverted towards the city's general budget.

Even COAST is confused by their own charter amendment. They claim it will have no affect on ohter rail projects while their own attorney today told us that "any means any." When the people who authored such a broadly worded amendment don't get it, who would? This charter amendment is deceptive, too general and completely sidesteps the ideals of representative democracy set forth by our founding fathers. Take a stand and vote no on the COAST charter amendment!