01 November 2007

City Council and Streetcars

The following candidates support the current streetcar proposal: Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, Laketa Cole, David Crowley, John Eby, Pat Fischer, Leslie Ghiz, Greg Harris, Joan Kaup, Chris Monzel, Mitch Painter, Roxanne Qualls, Cecil Thomas, George Zamary.

If you take out the Republicans and the ones I know nothing about the resultant list is: Bortz, Cole, Crowley, Harris, Kaup, Qualls, Thomas.

To me the Streetcar is a good litmus test as to whether a member believes in transforming and growing this city. I have been following the development of the streetcar proposal for about two years, and support the current plan. Many members, such as Cranley, give alternative transportation good lip service, but when the steel hits the rails, he will stall and quibble on details resulting in the status-quo: cars and buses as the only method of transport in the city.

17 comments:

5chw4r7z said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
5chw4r7z said...

I decided about a month ago I was voting for the candidates that supported the streetcar. How can you have a vision for the future and not support them?
My list is Cecil Thomas, Jeff Berding, David Crowley and Chris Bortz, Roxanne Qualls. Pretty close to what you came up with.

Dan said...

My list is slightly different but the street car vote has certainly influenced my opinion and future vote. Cranley is a casualty. I went from supporter to him not getting my vote because of the streetcar. Think big. It takes money to make money. Downtown is a neighborhood. Growing inward is the only way to grow!

Mike said...

I might do a little research and see who Zamary and Fischer are, since they are the ones I know nothing about. I guess I mistakenly listed Berding as a Republican, but to me he represents big business interests, such as the Brown family and probably should change parties.

Anonymous said...

"If you take out the Republicans"? If you take out the Republicans, Bortz and Crowley are the only ones who deserve a vote.

No one wants to ride a streetcar through gunfire in OTR. Clean up the streets, first, please. Hire more police.

The only people I hear clamoring for the streetcars are those who are either living in OTR or have invested in property there. How 'bout you spend some of that money on hiring more police and demolishing blighted buildings -- and remembering Cincinnati's "first suburbs" like Westwood, Fairmount, and Price Hill? It's fine to have more focus on downtown, but downtown won't mean much if the surrounding areas are left to rot.

I'm all for making the city a more attractive place to live (and streetcars could certainly help at some point) -- but first you need safe streets and good schools. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Mike said...

It is not icing on the cake.

Alternative modes of transport are essential basics to a functioning urban city. Obviously this first phase serves a very limited area. However it is the area with the highest density and best chance of success. Future phases will likely get the streetcar to Clifton, Covington, Newport as well as an east west line.

Not sure what you propose for Fairmount and Price Hill. More police and demolition? I don't think that will solve the problems there by a long shot. Police and Fire are already a HUGE part of the operating budget, and we already have lots of demolition.

Your kind of thinking is exactly what I don't want from my council.

Also, I am tired of people saying the city is going to hell because of unsafe streets and poor schools. Crime and schools are extremely important, but I walk the streets everyday and my kids attend excellent an CPS school. I say be part of the solution by populating the schools and streets or be quiet.

And what does council have to do with the schools anyway? The streetcar is infrastructure, like a road or a sewer line and needs to be seen as such.

Anonymous said...

No need to get defensive. I am not opposed to the streetcar initiative, but it's not what council should be focusing on at this moment.

If you want Cincinnati to become a more desirable place to live then protect the citizens and provide families with good schools. That's first. Putting in a streetcar system at this point is like someone who wants to paint their living room when the roof is leaking. Fix the basics first, that's all I'm saying. Lack of public transport is not an issue -- it's just that bus lines aren't nearly as "sexy" as saying we've got streetcars. Silly.

Do I propose more demolition for the west side? Sadly, yes. There are too many abandoned buildings with absentee owners who aren't held accountable for the state of their properties. But it wasn't always this way. The HOPE VI initiative of the 1990s destroyed the west side by basically dumping so many of Cincinnati's low/no income residents into Section 8 vouchers and brick-box apartment buildings.

Cincinnati's historic buildings need to be preserved, but sadly many of them have been left to rot beyond repair. Take a drive up Harrison Avenue from the viaduct up to Westwood. Or Queen City for that matter. Tell me what you see. Are these proper "gateways" to your trendy streetcar city life?

I admit, the gunfire remark was a bit much on my part -- the streets of Cincinnati are alot safer than many cities in the U.S. -- but nowhere near as safe as they could be if the police had more resources. There's a bigger issue at play here, like the last generation not knowing or caring how to properly take care of their children, but I forgot -- you're a Democrat. You don't want to take care of yourself. You want the government to do it for you.

Vote for Obama in 2008. As bad as Bush has been, the Republicans will still win the White House -- they simply present far more compelling candidates who would rather fix the roof first and paint the living room later.

Mike said...

I grew up in the westside, and I sadly realize it is not what it was 20 years ago, but I'm not living in the past, I am thinking of this city's future. Lament all you want, but retrenchment by demolition and more police are not going to move this city forward.

Anonymous said...

You're not thinking of the city's future, though -- you're thinking of the future of downtown. Your future -- because you've invested in property downtown.

You can't ignore what has happened to the west side of town; forcing low/no income people from one location to another doesn't make them disappear. The west side should not continue to act as Cincinnati's gutter -- strewn with all the "trash" you folks don't want in your neck of the woods.

I think Cincinnati can have a bright future -- if we can all come together and think clearly about setting the proper priorities.

I am not advocating a "police state" -- but saying that streetcars should come before cop cars doesn't make any sense.

Also: in terms of demolition -- if you think allowing blighted, empty buildings to remain unoccupied (or occupied by who knows what type of temporary squatters), then you're living with your head in the sand. I love Cincinnati's architecture -- but I don't love most of what is seen up and down Harrison and Queen City Avenues. The first step to making these areas safer is to eliminate blighted properties.

I want all of Cincinnati to flourish, not just the downtown area. I am all for focusing efforts on making downtown desirable -- but not to the detriment of the rest of the city.

Mike said...

I know Bill Langevin has asked for a bigger demolition budget, but have the police even asked for more cars? I'm not going to research it right now, but don't police and fire currently use over 50% of the city budget?

Remember, this is infrastructure, not annual operations. The city spent over $200 million dollars on the reconstruction of Fort Washington Way infastructure, and spends tens of millions on streets, sewers, water lines every year. A streetcar line is not comparable to annual operating budgets of the sanitation or building departments, much less the police and fire departments.

Both of our visions for this city are self fulfilling. Your vision is demolition, declining population and empty streets. Mine is burgeoning population growth, multitude of transport options and business growth.

You may want Cincinnati to compete with the likes of West Chester and Mason or Florence, but we are totally different than those places and we cannot offer the wide streets, ample free parking or even the lower taxes. However Cincinnati has many other strengths which it can leverage to help rebuild.

There are many people like myself who choose to live in an urban environment. Cincinnati should embrace those that want to live in this kind of environment. And a big part of what I love about downtown is wide range of people, including poor people, that we live with. Clean, safe, public transportation is a great equalizer that helps support this kind of city. I do not want to live in a slum, but neither do I wish to live in a suburban ghetto in which everyone on my street makes the same income.

Instead of asking for more demolition, Westsiders should be clamoring for a streetcar up Harrison or more funding for Price Hill Will to redevelop more houses. Development and business climate improvement is the key to saving the westside, not more police.

Anonymous said...

My vision is not one of demolition and declining population. I want Cincinnati to thrive -- but I want all of Cincinnati to thrive.

I understand the difference between infrastructure and annual operations. But Cincinnati doesn't spend enough money on its existing infrastructure -- so adding more isn't necessarily the answer.

I don't expect nor desire Cincinnati to become like West Chester, Florence, or Mason. I am not opposed to what those areas are, but that's not what the city of Cincinnati is. But the Queen City's so-called first suburbs are in danger of being forgotten with all the focus on downtown.

Here's the deal: I'm not from Cincinnati. My wife and I voluntarily moved to Cincinnati last year from our lifelong home of New Jersey. We are young professionals -- exactly the kind of people you're looking to attract with the revitalization of downtown. We chose Cincinnati despite the fact that we have no relatives here -- we liked what the city had to offer, the potential we think it has, and the availability of architecturally significant, affordable housing stock.

So please don't think I'm down on the city. But I am a realist. Both Price Hill and the Westwood Civic Association have called for the demolition of the properties of which I speak -- I'm not referring to some of the beautiful (or decaying, but still worth saving) properties along Harrison and Queen City Avenues, so I can't understand the objection to demolition of the ugly brick (or not even brick) boxes and falling-down rowhouses.

Many of the 4-square apartment buildings on the west side (particularly in Westwood) are more interesting than most: Art Deco features abound, and they deserve to be saved and restored.

But really -- a streetcar up Harrison Avenue? C'mon. Again, the analogy of fixing the roof before painting the living room comes to mind.

And being from NJ, we know all about infrastructure. Our roads back home are perhaps the best-maintained in the nation (mob contracts actually work to the citizens' benefits in that instance ;-) -- the roads here in Cincinnati are in poor condition overall. All one needs to do is view satellite images via local.live or Google Maps/Earth. But taking care of infrastructure costs money -- lots of money. That's why NJ property taxes are so sky-high. So adding more costs for new maintenance headaches doesn't seem like a smart move at this point in time. If the city's coffers were overflowing, I'd be all for it.

Sadly, it seems (like in most of the country), the generations of strong people who built this city -- the visionaries who constructed a wonderful skyline, engineering marvels like the once-glorious Harrison Avenue Viaduct, the Italianate and Tudor Revival structures that are such hallmarks of the city's landscape -- are gone. Long gone. And they haven't been replaced. I seriously doubt that generation would recognize their city now.

Their ideas and vision should be remembered and the best of them looked back upon with a fresh eye in order to build the city's future. Just as you can't deny what the city is now, you can't shut the door on what it once was.

Mike said...

Anon;
Before I forget, I want to thank you for posting on this topic. I think it is definitely worthy of lots of debate, after all $102 million is a lot of money.

I definitely agree that our first suburbs are in danger, and it is a crying shame that so many people just want to forget about these areas that once sustained the city. There are whole books on the subject, and in Ohio, there is a coalition:
http://www.firstsuburbs.org/

Infastructure like a rail line can spur development. If a streetcar on Harrison doesn't make sense, I say figure out what would help spur development there. If demolition is part of the solution, so be it. I just hope there is more to it than that.

Anonymous said...

Mike-

Thanks for your blog – I read it regularly. Kevin LeMaster's too. I'm familiar with the First Suburbs Consortium – but thanks for reminding about the link.

We can agree that we both want what's best for Cincinnati—that goes without saying. We might have different ideas on how to get there, but they're not all that different.

One thing I wish the city would do is promote the great library system it has—our local branch here in Westwood is great, and the main facility downtown is tremendous. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but the library often seems a forgotten place.

I've spoken with members of council (and potential members of council) about working to support Jeff Berding's proposal to save the Westwood Elementary School (I'm happy to see that they did end up supporting Jeff's ordinance) — that's the type of demolition we don't wish to see.

Westwood was once the pride and joy of Cincinnati; consider this quote from Achievement in Western Hills (page 36; Published / reprinted by the Ohio Book Store):

"The Western Hills are rich in homes of the true type -- sanctuaries from which evil and ugliness alike are banished. Father, mother, children may live and thrive, be contented and happy, even if not always prosperous and successful, amid such surroundings as a bountiful Creator has provided in this western section. Health is no blessing to be despised -- and the Western Hills, with the purest of ozone, are pre-eminently health-giving and health-inducing. Disease, despondency, and vice seem like things native to the valleys and the depths of thickly-populated cities; there are no slums in suburbs such as ours."

And this, from Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival:

"It starts with treating neighborhoods as places where people care what happens, and where both residents and government are mobilized to fight disorder root and branch. It starts with creating an environment where a single broken window (whether literal or metaphorical) is treated as the beginning of chaos, and is swiftly repaired." -- (Paul S. Grogan, Tony Proscio, ©2000, Westview Press, ISBN: 0813368138)

Thanks for your work. People such as yourself are important to Cincinnati and her (bright) future.

Anonymous said...

Updated link to the Hamilton County First Suburbs Consortium:
http://www.hamiltoncountyohio.gov/hcrpc/fsc/default.asp

ThatDeborahGirl said...

This is always my problem with Cincinnati. They can always find money for pet projects but never for things people actually care about.

And that's what this streetcar thing is...a pet project.

My view of all this is a lot more cynical than the rest of you.

I hear you all talking about "safe streets" and "a vision for the future" but what I hear is, "penning up the poor and minorities so they stay in their place and in their designated areas so we don't have to see them."

I see council as all about turning areas of downtown into psuedo-rich suburbs. All of the comforts of the burbs, but in a city setting, with a lovely view of the river or the semi-commanding buildings around you.

All it takes to accomplish this is for the poor have to be moved out to the burbs. Of course once someone with section 8 is moved in, landlords are absolved of any and all responsibility of keeping their properties decent. And all poor people do is tear things up anyway, right?

The sign that the revolution has been won is when OTR has been ethnically cleansed. They've already won the battle in the West End when they built the first half-gated condo community.

The West Side will be the new ghetto. Central and North Cincinnati will continue to be the enclave of working class folks. Downtown and everything east of 71 will be for rich folks only.

It's pretty much already happened. Only the white folks on the West Side are fighting harder for their side of town instead of just quietly moving further out or back into the city.

Too bad they aren't fighting to figure out how to include their new neighbors instead of how to get rid of them or get them locked up.

catherine said...

While I am all for the streetcar I can can appreciate some of the reservations others have mentioned. Sometimes it seems like a luxury we can ill afford or an attraction/distraction for the affluent people the city is trying to draw into downtown and OTR. But I am hopeful that it will be neither. I beleive that anything that helps to eliminate the amount that people depend on cars is an advance for safety and equity. Anything that puts more people are on the street, say walking from stop to destination, makes the street safer. There cannot be police everywhere but the more people you have out conducting legitimate business the less attractive the location becomes for those engaged in illegal activity.
Also the current car culture does more to separate the classes than anything that city council could possibly come up with on its own. A neighborhood where it is easier for people to live, work and shop without cars is more inclusive for those who cannot afford them and supoports the diversity that drives people's desire to live in a city.

Mike said...

Deborah;
I take concerns like yours seriously. I'm thinking of maybe writing a separate post addressing the gentrification issues for the liberals like yourself and then a second post addressing the expense issues for the conservatives like anonymous above.

Thanks for commenting.