The “S” Word

When people approach me to talk about the campaign, they immediately go to one of two topics – parking, or the “S” word.

I feel that I have made my stance on the parking lease perfectly clear, so here’s my two cents on the “S” word.

Yes, I am of course talking about the Streetcar.

It amazes me that people get so angry about the Streetcar, but not nearly as angry about our city’s terrible childhood poverty rate, or the fact that attorneys can sue our city on “behalf” of taxpayers & make millions off of it with no kickback FOR the taxpayers, or the fact that spousal abuse is a simple misdemeanor and possession of a joint is a FOURTH degree misdemeanor.  But I digress.  Like it or not, I must accept that the Streetcar makes people angry.  Or happy.  No in between.

The Streetcar doesn’t make me angry OR happy.  That is because well-funded public education makes me happy, lower recidivism rates make me happy, time matching the crime makes me happy, and effective utilization of resources makes me happy.  As I have said before on this site, I have to choose my battles.

The Streetcar is not a battle for me.  However, the revenue that will come to our city as a RESULT of the Streetcar IS a battle for me.  And Streetcars are proven to raise revenue for cities.

Young professionals are moving back into cities.  Cincinnati was recently ranked in Forbes Magazine’s “Top 15 US Cities’ Emerging Downtowns.”  Young professionals are moving into Cincinnati with a vengeance.  One thing young professionals want in a city?  Public transit.  The ability to get around without a car.

The Streetcar is an INVESTMENT in our future.  No one invests in an emerging market expecting to earn a 17% return the next day.  If you do, then chances are you are not investing wisely.  The Streetcar is Step 1 of an entire process to connect our city core.  True, this initial phase does not go all the way to Clifton – which many naysayers use as a reason to say the Streetcar is pointless – but these naysayers may remember that the ORIGINAL plan DID extend up to Clifton and that plan got shot down.  So, we are where we are and we have to begin somewhere.

Many other people say that we should invest in light rail instead.  I say we begin with the Streetcar and strategically develop a plan to not only add to the Streetcar tracks, but to invest in light rail as well.  The problem?  John Kasich has said “no way” to light rail.  If you are a proponent of light rail, and are dissatisfied that Cincinnati doesn’t have plans for it, please send Governor Kasich a note here.

A few “fun facts” before we go any further.

1)  Cincinnati garners 70% of its city revenue from income tax.

2)  91% of other cities actualize that same percentage of their revenue stream from property tax.

Make sense?  If it does, then it should be clear that for our city to maintain a constant source of revenue, then it needs to attract JOBS and BUSINESS.  The Streetcar is not the sole answer, but it IS part of the solution.

Streetcars boost small business development.  That’s another fun fact.  Streetcars also cost lots of money.  That is a not-so-fun-fact.  That said, anything worth investing in takes some upfront capital to get moving.  The Streetcar may very well be the best example of this in our city’s modern history.

So – to recap – young professionals want to live in cities with numerous options for public transit – young professionals bring money and entrepreneurship to cities – the Streetcar is proven to catalyze business development – employees of businesses in Downtown Cincinnati pay a 2.1% income tax – Cincinnati’s major form of revenue comes from income tax.  Streetcar + business development/retention = more money for the city government to invest in its neighborhoods, further asset development, and a sustainable future for our children.

The “S” Word becomes “success” in this context.

I will repeat, I do NOT believe that the Streetcar is the answer to all of the city’s problems.  In fact, I don’t think anyone does.  If they do, they are as wrong as folks who think that the Streetcar is a bad investment.  The fact is that cities, like families, need money to survive.  It would be great if they didn’t, but they do.  And cities, like families, have to invest wisely.  The Streetcar is a wise investment and has been thoroughly researched.  Here is a link to one such piece that Laure Quinlivan made after much research and numerous trips around the globe to investigate the Streetcar’s viability.

The Streetcar will help Cincinnati move forward.  The excitement is tangible downtown, and for some reason that seems to threaten many who do not want change.  Well, if we are to be good stewards of the future for our children living in poverty, then we better hurry up and find ways to fill our coffers so that we can get busy doing the work that truly matters – neighborhood development, education reform, and lowering our city’s rate of recidivism.  There is one thing that helps accomplish ALL of those goals – The “J” Word.

Jobs.

Streetcars promote job development.  It’s a step in the right direction.

Time to look forward.

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