Monday, August 10, 2009

Monzel asks Cincinnati to cease and desist all streetcar activity

Cincinnati City councilmember Chris Monzel has submitted two motions pertaining to the City's streetcar proposal – one asking the City to cease and desist all activity related to the planning, building operation and establishment of the streetcar proposal "until such a time as the issue is decided by the voters", and one asking that City administration report back to council on all funds that the City has spent thus far on engineering, planning, and promotion.

Monzel has opposed the streetcar proposal since a press release issued in March 2008, shortly before council authorized city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. to study whether the then four-mile, $102 million circulator could be financed.

He has maintained that it's a bad plan because the citizens don't want it, telling WCPO in May 2008 that "if you really went out there and polled the citizens, then it would be overwhelmingly against the idea of streetcars."

Instead, Monzel said that the City should focus its money on The Banks project to generate economic development.

"There are a lot of other worthy projects that are either in the pipeline or under consideration that will surely get postponed or cancelled if this project goes forward today," Monzel said. "We owe it to the taxpayers to step back and take a good look at the best way we should be spending precious city resources. There are 50 other neighborhoods which all deserve economic development considerations."

Monzel repeated that opinion following Mayor Mark Mallory's State of the City speech in February.

The Banks is projected to take nearly a decade to complete, while the streetcar, now priced at $185 million with the inclusion of a connector to the Uptown neighborhoods, could be running by 2011., a coalition composed of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP, the Coalition to Oppose Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), the Southwestern Ohio Green Party and the Cincinnati Libertarian Party, have submitted petition forms containing 11,530 signatures to have a charter amendment placed on the November 3 ballot that would require a public vote before the City could acquire rights-of-way or construct any improvements for any passenger rail project.

Monzel was the first to sign a COAST pledge to not vote to increase taxes or fees during his 2010-2011 council term, if elected, and appears prominently on the website. The COAST pledge also is the main feature of the front page of Monzel's campaign website.

In June, the City selected Cincinnati Streetcar Development Partners to design, build, operate and maintain the streetcar system, and council gets the final say on what language would be used if the amendment is placed on the ballot.

Mallory and seven of the nine council members support bringing streetcars to Cincinnati, while councilmember Leslie Ghiz and Monzel oppose the project.

Previous reading on BC:
Partnership selected to manage streetcar project (6/15/09)
Cincinnatians for Progress has new website, endorsements; two-thirds of way to ballot (6/9/09)
Give Back Cincinnati sessions to focus on streetcars (1/29/09)
City will issue RFP for Uptown streetcar route analysis (1/26/09)
Corryville homeowner says Kroger redevelopment would hinder streetcar (8/6/08)