J.D. Vance stops by the Butler County Republican Party headquarters in Middletown, Ohio during his 2022 Senate campaign.
Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) has finally addressed the proposed sale of the Cincinnati Southern Railway (CSR) to Norfolk Southern, but he's not taking a position.
After numerous interview requests from CityBeat about the freshman senator's position on Issue 22, Vance chose neutrality in a statement sent to The Lever, which the outlet published on Oct. 11.
“This decision will be made by the voters of Cincinnati,” Vance told The Lever. “I’m doing all that I can in Washington to ensure our rail system is as safe as possible, regardless of who owns it. We do that by passing the Railway Safety Act.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is a co-author on the bill, was not available to make a comment by CityBeat's deadline.
Unlike Brown, Vance calls Cincinnati home when he's not in D.C. Unless his address has changed, Vance is eligible to vote on Issue 22.
Issue 22 in a nutshell
Last November, city leaders announced a plan to sell the CSR to Norfolk Southern in exchange for a $1.6 billion trust fund to shore up basic services for the city. The principal balance wouldn't be touched, meaning the city estimates it would have an annual stream of cash ranging from $50 million to $70 million. Discussions surrounding the proposed sale immediately pivoted from money to safety on Feb. 3 when a Norfolk Southern train derailed in the small Eastern Ohio village of East Palestine. The crash ignited a chain of events that ended in a controlled burn of the train’s load of hazardous chemicals, mainly vinyl chloride. The plume of thick black smoke soared above homes and waterways, painting a dark picture for the weeks to come as fear and anxiety set in over lingering chemicals. Cincinnati voters will decide whether to approve the sale on Nov. 7.
Today, Vance released a statement and Youtube video calling on the Biden Administration to issue a federal disaster declaration in East Palestine. He also asked lawmakers to bring the Railway Safety Act across the finish line.
“Two hundred and fifty days have passed since the disastrous train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Yet Congress has still not passed commonsense railway safety legislation to prevent something like this from happening again,” said Senator Vance. “Enough is enough — it’s time for the Senate to pass the Railway Safety Act.”
The Railway Safety Act is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
In September, former Cincinnati Council member and current U.S. House Representative Greg Landsman came out in support of the historic sale.
“This November, Cincinnatians have a historic opportunity to invest in our children and families," Landsman said. "By supporting the sale of the Cincinnati Southern Railway, we can repair our roads, improve our parks, and enhance the critical infrastructure needed to strengthen our community and help our families thrive — all without raising taxes. I hope you will join me in voting in favor of this much needed investment in our future."
Cincinnati's "Derail the Sale" group, a non-partisan campaign that opposes the sale of the CSR to Norfolk Southern, told CityBeat they can't assume why Vance is remaining neutral on the issue.
"Our campaign has not spoken directly to him or anyone in his office and we can’t assume to understand his desire for neutrality," a spokesperson with the campaign wrote. "While we support actions by individuals and elected officials to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for their crimes on a state and federal level, we are focused on talking with our full-time neighbors and lifelong community to get the word out about this rotten deal and how it will negatively impact our entire city environmentally, socially, and economically."
Madeline Fening is CityBeat’s investigative news reporter. Proudly born and raised in Middletown, she attended Bowling Green State University before moving to Austin, Texas where she dabbled in documentary filmmaking, digital news and bartending. Madeline then moved to Cincinnati to work for WCPO 9 News as an...