If John Cranley wants to make the mayoral election a referendum on the streetcar project, so be it. That immediately vanquishes any possibility that CityBeat could support his campaign.
The streetcar project has already effectively been supported by two voter referendums, and the situation has progressed to the point that stopping the project could end up costing more than finishing it, a ridiculous proposition, not to mention the sign it would send to people currently investing in Cincinnati’s progress as a forward-thinking, economically growing city.
But CityBeat’s support for Roxanne Qualls goes further than the streetcar project or any other single issue.
During the past six years, Qualls has been part of the true revitalization of downtown and Over-the-Rhine that too many of Cranley’s supporters — and sometimes Cranley himself — publicly doubted. Anyone who’s been downtown in the past couple years has seen the result of Qualls’ work with the rest of City Council: a flourishing riverfront, an Over-the-Rhine bustling with new businesses and restaurants, and a downtown that can’t get new apartments quickly enough to meet demand.
Despite Cranley’s attempts to distance himself from some of the worst of the urban doubters, there’s a profound concern that a Cranley victory would send a message to all of the city’s detractors that voters are embracing their defeatist direction.
Meanwhile, Qualls embraced all sorts of issues to continue pushing Cincinnati’s momentum, extending from hot-button issues like the streetcar to more specific issues facing individuals, communities and businesses, including affordable housing, form-based zoning codes and a disparity study that could allow the city to award more business contracts to underrepresented minority- and women-owned businesses.
While CityBeat has concerns over the parking plan — and privatizing public assets in general — we also acknowledge that with the contracts and lease signed, no one is going to stop it. Given the reality, CityBeat trusts Qualls to allocate the money appropriately. While Cranley’s campaign has done all it can to undermine Cincinnati’s urban core and instead measure the city’s vast priorities in a black-and-white scale of downtown vs. neighborhoods, Qualls has repeatedly stated that she will invest where the return is greatest and resources are most necessary. That’s not just a good idea for the mayor; it’s the common sense approach that everyone should embrace.
Still, while there are multiple factors, it’s impossible to ignore the streetcar project’s influence in the race. If Cranley is elected, there’s a real risk he would attempt to stop the current phase of the project and expose the city to costly litigation as contractors call on the city’s $95 million in obligations to the project. Cranley could also use the pocket veto to indefinitely hold any legislation in council that would take on the second phase of the project and expand it to the University of Cincinnati and surrounding hospitals.
With this endorsement, CityBeat isn’t just rejecting the third referendum on the streetcar project. By supporting Qualls, we are rejecting a referendum that says Cincinnati can’t push forward, try new ideas or pave the way to the city’s former glory.
• Cranley’s Latest Attack on Qualls Deemed Invalid
• White (and Orange) Noise: Mayoral and council candidates who say they’ll shut down the streetcar ignore the realities facing the project
• Defriending COAST: Local politicians distance themselves from COAST’s bigoted history and hypocritical tactics