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Friday, December 26, 2008

Letting Cincinnatians Down

I know I promised no new posts for awhile, but the moment has struck me with a series of unfortunate events from organizations and people who are there to represent the interests of Cincinnatians.

The local Green Party, local chapter of the NAACP, and Green Township officials continue to let us down. What do these unlikely bedfellows have in common? They all seem to have a vested interest against the improvement of Cincinnati's transit system beyond that of roadways.

The Green Party most notably led by Justin Jeffre locally has an unusual opposition to the ongoing efforts to bring a modern streetcar system to Cincinnati. Their unusual tactics have included referring to this modern streetcar proposal as a "choo choo train" and likening a streetcar's functionality and benefits to that of an electric bus. For their efforts, as perplexing as they may be, are still just words and rank them the lowest of the three offenders mentioned here.

Next up is the local chapter of the NAACP. The NAACP has a stated mission of, "ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination." Seems reasonable enough to me, and you would think an initiative that would improve transit options and service in the center city while also creating many permanent and temporary jobs would be something that the local chapter of the NAACP would be on board with right? Wrong.

The NAACP has made the denying of improved transit for Cincinnatians one of their top 3 priorities for 2009. They have passed the measure internally and have agreed to collect signatures to have the issue put on the November ballot. What is most troubling about this is that they can not put the legislative measure itself on the ballot (as it is not increasing taxes or changing law). Instead they are putting in on the ballot as a Charter amendment.

So if the local chapter of the NAACP were to achieve success they would alter the City's Charter to prohibit streetcars altogether. That means that even if some big company wanted to come in and fund a streetcar system with 100% of their own money they would not be able to do so as it would occur within the City's right-of-way. I'm curious to look at the language even more closely to see if it would also include something to prohibit light rail or high-speed rail efforts that would also benefit Cincinnatians and their city.

Finally you have Green Township officials. Forget the fact that the State Representatives from this westside community have spoken out against virtually every single rail initiative that this region has seen. We'll just look at buses - something that several townships and suburban areas, like Anderson and West Chester townships, have learned to embrace over the years.

Green Township is a community with close to 60,000 residents. To its west is the rural portions of Western Hamilton County. To its east and south are the first ring suburbs of Cincinnati including Cheviot, Westwood, and Price Hill. There is little to no bus service for this massive township and Township Trustees are working on getting rid of what is currently there.

During the Legacy Place rezoning effort Township Trustees worked to block Metro from serving the proposed retail development. Their rationale was that they didn't want to see the same thing happen to Legacy Place (no mentioned tenants) that happened to Western Hills Plaza (home to stores like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Bath & Body Works, Sears, and Staples) down the road. Ignoring the obvious racial undertones and prejudice of that statement I'll assume that they don't want to see any massive reinvestment in Legacy Place when it too loses its newness.

More recently Green Township officials have been lobbying Metro to remove some or eliminate all of the #33 bus route that runs through the township. With recent Metro budget constraints they figured why continue the fight and decided to cut a portion of the #33 route - one of the only routes in the township - at the township's request.

Contact these organizations and people and let them know how disappointed you are with their actions. Let them know how out of touch their actions are with their constituencies. And most importantly let them know how important transit options are to you.



Brian said...

The local green party apparently doesn't understand the term green

The local NAACP apparently doesn't understand that improved transit options create job opportunities

Green Township apparently doesn't understand that buses don't cause neighborhood decline

I apparently don't understand what passes for political ideology in this city

Anonymous said...

I have to say this isn't a local Cincy issue. For example, in Milwaukee we have green groups that fight against density and promote sprawl. So it is our job to let people know that improved transit, more density and an assortment of other things are more green than planting a tree or whatever.

Mark Miller said...

If the streetcar was approved by a majority of voters in the city, the folks you mention wouldn't have a leg to stand on. Neither would any other opponents for that matter.

So why don't you head over to NAACP HQ and sign the petition?

The media attention surrounding the campaign will provide ample opportunities to enumerate streetcar features & benefits to the population at large. And once you win, all us naysayers will be forced to shut-up and go away.

Until the people have a chance to vote on it, they're just going to feel like they're being railroaded into it (pardon the pun).

Allister Sears said...

Personally i think flooding the office with old fashioned postal mail works better than email. I think it makes more of a statement when there is something physical and tangible at their office instead of an easily deleted email.

Anonymous said...

Vote on it? You voted for your councilmen and gave them the authority, along with the mayor, to appoint a city manager who's sole job is to look out for the welfare of this city.

He made a recommendation, nearly all of the council, including the mayor, agree with him. YOU DON'T GET TO VOTE ON THIS MARK. Let the people WE ELECTED, DO THEIR JOB. If they don't, VOTE THEM OUT.

The only way to put it up for a vote is to do what the NAACP is trying to accomplish and ammend the city charter to NEVER ALLOW STREET CARS.

And if you don't see the incredible outrageousness of that then there's no hope for you.

Someone said...

I understand if people disagree with us politically -- but I don't understand making things up. The petition language would NOT prevent Cincinnati from receiving a free streetcar, a weird scenario presented in this article. Here is the specific language:

Be it resolved by the people of the City of Cincinnati that a new Article XVI of the Charter is hereby added as follows: The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same.

So it says the City will not spend money without putting it to a vote.

To those who say we should let the politicians do their jobs -- then let the activists do their jobs, too!

Ronny Salerno said...

Do activists have real jobs? Are you paid to be an activist? Aren't there real causes to fight for besides stopping streetcars, economic development and progress?

Quimbob said...

I tend to think of activists as people who actually do something.
Lately, the actions of COAST, NAACP & the Greens seem more obstructionist than anything else.

Anonymous said...

The Dean! Wondering where you and your boy-band friend have been these days.

Good to know you're still advocating things that will retard the growth of the city and put us at a severe disadvantage when competing with other cities.

Remember how you and your buddy hated on Ft Square? That sure has turned out horrible hasn't it?

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be an activist for a WORTHY cause?

Sean F. said...

I hope that J. Jeffre is not speaking for the local Green chapter. If so, its no wonder that they are virtually non-existent.

The Green party needs to look to their strongest worldwide base, the German Greens, for inspiration on how to fulfill their mission. Multi-modal transit in urban centers inevitably leads to a sought-after, car-free, GREEN lifestyle.

Maybe the Beacon, Smitherman, etc. won't have to deal with a car-centric Cincinnati, but their kids will. Even if the streetcar fails, they should at least be able to say that they tried, not tried to stop it.

Anonymous said...

Why is the green party against the streetcar? The cost I presume?

People don't seem to realize the difference that rail transit makes for a city! Frustrating. I hope the fundraising is going well.


Unknown said...

Frankly I'm sick of these groups pushing around the people that would like to see some progress. We need to organize, or at least consolidate, the groups that are FOR these kinds of issues. If that ballot passes, this city will never make it. Period. What can we do?

Anonymous said...

What does the Beacon/Jeffre/Dean stand for? I can only see what they stand against - and lately that looks like anything that requires progress.

If you alienate and protest everyone, who will support you when you finally have something to stand behind and rally for?

Anonymous said...

In Jason Haap's post yesterday, he raised the idea, that the NAACP is possibly interested in some sort of offer from supporters, of streetcars, to get them to abandon their opposition. While I had my own take on some reasons why they chose to oppose; the idea that they were simply looking for a payoff to keep quiet never entered my mind. Or it could be the petition drive isn't going so well and they are fishing for an easy way out. I tend to think if they had an acceptable alternative to offer they would have done so at the start of their efforts. Maybe president Smitherman could shed some light on this for us.

Jason said...

Thank you for this very informative and descriptive post. I posted a similar write up on my blog:
When I posted I didn't realize they were actually trying to start a charter to block rail transit from ever becoming a reality.
I agree that we need to consolidate and organize our efforts to stop these special interest groups from making a decision that would hurt the city as a whole for generations to come. Cincinnati NEEDS rail transit. I really don't think this city stands a chance of becoming anything without it. With it, however, I feel Cincinnati has a chance to be a choice destination and one of the nicest cities in the midwest. We can not let these groups block the streetcars from becoming a reality!!
There needs to be a large organized movement/campaign for the streetcars and against these groups trying to stop us. Perhaps we need to have a meeting and come up with a plan of action?

Anonymous said...

BTW, don't expect to explore any of the NAACP's motives on the Beacon, as your comments will be deleted.

Brianne said...

Very interesting post. Makes you consider what all the different groups who are not in favor of the streetcar have as their motivation.

I'm hard pressed to see what if any negatives there are in bringing a streetcar system to OTR and eventually downtown and uptown. The money will be spent on something - if not the streetcar than something else I may or may not need or support. Development and potential gentrification can only help OTR. In a neighborhood that housed 50,000 people at the turn of the last century and now holds only a fourth or fifth of that - it will be decades before anyone is moved out - if ever. And just as wealthy people benefit from know and interacting with less wealthy people - that street goes both ways.

I see a lot of positives, and I see progress.

Someone said...

Why is JFD allowed to lie blatantly on this strand?

Anonymous said...

Will you be explaining your charges, as an overtly biased blogger, or will it be as the NAACP/Smitherman's, chief of propaganda?

Oh wait, there isn't any difference between the two; and please be sure to include a quote from any deleted comments!

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