Green Party, Bortz Sound Off About Streetcars

Jan 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm

This week’s issue of CityBeat features a cover story about the effort by the NAACP's local chapter and other groups to get an initiative on next fall’s ballot that would require a public vote before any taxpayer money is spent on Cincinnati’s proposed streetcar system.—-

Today, the Southwest Ohio Green Party joined the list of groups that supports the initiative effort. Besides the NAACP, other supporters include the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) and the We Demand A Vote political organization.

Southwest Ohio Green Party Convener Josh Krekeler said that although the party supports expanding the region’s mass transit options, any proposal should be done using an open and democratic process, rather than simply by a vote of the nine City Council members.

“Local Greens emphasized that they do support expanded mass transit options, but that they think citizens should be able to make the final decision on such major investments,” the statement said. “Green Party members also questioned whether City Council’s streetcar plan is the best approach to improving transit and whether it’s appropriate to prioritize it over other spending.”

Spending money on a streetcar system now while the city is scaling back some basic services seems inappropriate, Krekeler added.

The Green Party’s statement included this quote from Krekeler: “I’m glad to see some long-term thinking from City Council, but I’m dismayed that they’re continuing to ignore more important obligations. How can Council commit millions of dollars to a speculative new project, but claim they can’t afford to keep city pools and health clinics open, reserve 1.5 percent of the budget for social services, or fully honor their contracts with retired city employees?  They should take care of things that have a more immediate impact on people’s well-being first.”

Also, as is often the case in print journalism, some material gathered for this week’s cover story didn’t make it into the issue due to space limitations.

Part of the unused material included Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz, a prominent streetcar advocate, explaining why the system would be a good investment of tax dollars despite the economic downturn.

“The economy, when it’s dipping the way it is, is even more of an argument to do it,” Bortz said. Noting that many corporations have trouble attracting and retaining young professionals in the Queen City, he added, “It’s about competitive advantage and expanding the city’s edge.”

Further, like any big ticket construction project, the longer construction is delayed, the higher the cost will become, he said.