Cincinnati Streetcar Referendum, Issue 9 (2009)
The referendum came in direct challenge to Mayor Mark Mallory and the City Council's plans to move forward with a streetcar project for the city of Cincinnati. The streetcar is estimated to cost approximately $200 million. City officials said that they hope to cover the cost using both private investment dollars and federal stimulus money.
A "yes" vote on Issue 9 would have required another vote before a streetcar system can be funded and built. A "no" vote on Issue 9 will allow the city officials to embark on a streetcar project without additional voter approval.
|Cincinatti Street Car Referendum (Issue 9)|
Approved by the Cincinnati City Council on September 2, 2009, the ballot language reads as follows:
Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to prohibit the city, and its various boards and commissions, from spending 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 by enacting new Article XIV?
Ballot language debate
Mark Miller argues for a "yes" vote on Issue 9
A draft of the recommended ballot language read as follows: "Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to prohibit the city, and its various boards and commissions, from spending 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?"
Ballot measure opponents argued that the parenthetical use of "trolley" and "streetcar" should be eliminated because it narrows the scope of the ballot measure's impact and may confuse voters. If approved, the measure would affect not only future trolleys and streetcars but all passenger rail projects.
Supporters of a "yes" vote
Those who advocate for a "yes" vote on Issue 9 include the We Demand A Vote Coalition, comprised of the Cincinnati Chapter of the NAACP, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, and other groups. They gathered signatures to place the referendum on the ballot beginning in February 2009. U.S. Rep. Tom Luken, honorary chairman of the initiative, said, "It's not a transportation item in any way. It's a toy." The group argues that the project will cost not only money up front to sponsor the project but will also require more money for operation and maintenance down the road. Another supporter of the ballot measure is the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST).
Supporters of a "no" vote
Wade Johnston argues for a "no" vote on Issue 9
In late June, economic reports revealed that the city is facing a $20 million deficit. Rail-line supporters noted that although the project is expected to attract new jobs and promote economic progress, the city's economic status makes the argument for the streetcar that much harder. Councilman Chris Bortz said, "It's going to make it more difficult to explain to voters, to the city, why, especially at a time like this, a streetcar system is so important."
Former city mayors have also come out against the referendum, stating that a vote against this would be better because it would leave city officials to decide on the matter, how it should be. It does not make sense, in their opinion, to have a city vote on every item of repair or change made to the streets, this just ties up the government. The better solution is to vote in council members and other officials that you can trust to make the right choices, otherwise they are not able to do the jobs they were elected for.
On May 21, 2009 the Buckeye Institute filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city of harassing citizens who gathered signatures to place the measure on the ballot. Additionally, the institute and referendum supporters requested a temporary restraining order that would prohibit the city and its employees from interfering with signature-gathering.
Path to the ballot
On July 1, 2009 ballot measure proponents announced that they have collected enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. In May Chris Smitherman, president of the NAACP in Cincinnati, another supporter of the referendum, said in May 2009 that the groups had gathered a total of 3,302 valid signatures. Supporters are required to gather at least 6,150 signatures by September 4, 2009 in order to place the referendum on the ballot.
- Text of Issue 9
- We Demand A Vote. This group supports a "yes" vote on Issue 9
- Cincy Streetcar. This group supports a "no" vote on Issue 9
- WLWT-TV, "Streetcar Measure To Appear On Ballot, Opponents Say," July 1, 2009
- Hamilton County Election Results
- WCPO, "Full Council Leaves Streetcar Referendum Language Alone," September 2, 2009
- The Enquirer, "Debate swirls around word 'streetcar'," August 25, 2009
- The Enquirer, "Streetcar opponents win ballot round," September 1, 2009
- The Enquirer, "Streetcar foes: Petition drive going well," May 21,2009
- Business Courier of Cincinnati, "New Cincinnatians for Progress aims to stop constant referendums," May 22,2009
- The Enquirer, "Streetcar faces uphill battle," June 23, 2009
- WLWT.com, "Former Mayors Join Fight Over Rail Transit," October 23, 2009
- Lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati (dead link)
- Temporary Restraining Order against the city of Cincinnati (dead link)
- WLWT, "Streetcar Opponents Say They're Halfway To Ballot," May 21,2009 (dead link)
- Business Courier of Cincinnati, "Cincinnati Councilwoman Ghiz drops support for streetcars," May 19,2009
- The Enquirer, "Streetcar ballot could affect zoo train," September 15, 2009
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