In his State of the City address last week, Mayor Mark Mallory called on Cincinnati to continue pushing for improvements. After years of stalling, projects like Washington Park’s renovation, the Horseshoe Casino and the streetcar are finally moving forward, and Mallory wants to make sure that work continues.
Politically and economically, it makes sense. Not only have voters approved of both the casino and the streetcar, but the projects will create jobs. Casino developers have already begun to fill what they promise will be 1,700 permanent jobs, and city estimates show the first segment of the streetcar will create 300 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs.
But while voters and local politicians may approve, some state Republicans are doing their very best to tear the projects down. Gov. John Kasich, who dismantled Ohio’s passenger rail project, tried his hardest to continue his anti-transit rampage by railing against the streetcar in public speeches last year. He even ripped away more than $50 million in state funds from the project.
The casino has been a little luckier, but not by much. Kasich has claimed both neutrality and approval of casinos, but he has made building the Horseshoe Casino more difficult. Despite the fact Ohio has the highest casino tax in the nation, Kasich pushed for renegotiations for higher taxes and fees last year, ultimately delaying the casino’s opening from late 2012 to spring 2013.
For the governor, such actions probably make sense. Kasich has been an ardent supporter of tax cuts — sneaking them into every single budget even when Ohio had a reported $8 billion deficit. When he found massive education and health care cuts weren’t enough to close the gap he helped create, he moved onto casinos and transit projects.
Still, the projects move forward. Kasich and other state Republicans have not been successful in killing them off, largely thanks to local voters and local politicians pushing back.
Last year, voters rejected Issue 48, which tried to ban all investments in rail transportation for the next decade. Last week, Mallory announced CAF USA was already drawing up designs for the streetcar, and the first car could be finished as soon as 18 months from now.
Meanwhile, the casino’s construction is 35 to 40 percent complete, according to developers. This is despite an accident in January that resulted in the injury of 20 workers after a steel beam fell and caused a floor to partially collapse.
But what needs to be clear is that these developments are in spite of state Republicans like Kasich. When these job-creating projects are said and done, it’s important credit goes where credit is due — straight to local voters and local politicians.