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Cincinnati Enquirer: COAST’s Anti-Rail Charter Amendment is a “Poison Pill”

Many of us who support the proposed Cincinnati Streetcar have repeatedly shaken our heads in dismay over the Enquirer’s often one-sided and sloppy coverage of the issue. The Enquirer panders to a mostly-suburban audience, and ads from car dealerships constitute a huge percentage of their ever-shrinking revenue stream, so it’s no surprise that they’ve come out against the streetcar.

But one doesn’t need to be a streetcar supporter to realize how dangerous COAST’s anti-rail charter amendment is to the future of rail transit in Cincinnati, and to the idea of a representative republic in general:

A funny thing happened to Cincinnati on the way to the streetcar – funny, but certainly not amusing.

A proposed city charter amendment on this November’s ballot has not only altered the debate over the city’s plan for a $185 million, riverfront-to-Uptown fixed-rail streetcar route, it has all but obliterated it. It has sucked the air out of any substantive discussion about such a system’s actual merits.

Instead, public debate – no doubt as the amendment’s creators, avowed streetcar foes, intended – has focused on an acrimonious disagreement about what its wording actually means and what its effect would be:

Is it about the streetcar?

Or is it about more than the streetcar?

Unfortunately, its proponents’ rhetorical sleight of hand continues to divert attention from the real answer:

It is about less. Far less.

And Cincinnatians ought to recognize it for what it is.

It is about less because it is DECEPTIVE in its language and intent.

It is about less because it is DIVISIVE for our community.

It is about less because it is DANGEROUS to representative democracy.

Deceptive. Divisive. Dangerous: Three “D”s that amount to an “F” in our book.

This proposed charter amendment is enabled by fears, fueled by resentments and driven by cynical agendas.

It deserves to fail – because Cincinnatians should not settle for less.

Cincinnati Enquirer: ‘Poison Pill’ amendment is about less, not more.

COAST (and their puppet at the local chapter of the NAACP in the person of Chris Smitherman) is playing by the same book that right-wing interest groups in California used to overthrow Gov. Gray Davis and turn the entire state into a banana republic. They’re closely aligned with right-wing groups such as Americans for Prosperity who are turning our nation’s debate about healthcare reform into an exercise in threats and intimidation against elected representatives by screaming thugs at town hall meetings.

tea-bag-fail-publicIt’s been obvious from the start that COAST/NAACP’s goal has nothing to do with the streetcar, nothing to do with passenger rail, nothing to do with the water department, and nothing to do with “giving people a vote”. Their goal is to exploit the referendum process with countless faux-populist ballot initiatives in order to stage a coup d’├ętat against the elected government of the city of Cincinnati. Smitherman can’t get elected to office via the normal process of actually getting people to vote for him, so his only recourse is to take down his political rival by any means necessary, even if it means turning Cincinnati into another Detroit.

Countless articles have been posted that extol the economic benefits that rail transit brings to a city. The healthiest cities are the ones with the most robust rail transit systems. COAST and Smitherman don’t need to be convinced that rail transit will improve the city, because they already know it too. In fact, it’s their greatest fear. A healthy, thriving Cincinnati is the worst thing that could possibly happen to their political fortunes. They claim that the streetcar will be an expensive boondoggle that will waste money and do nothing for the city. If only that were really true, they would personally be out on Vine Street laying down tracks as we speak.

They oppose the streetcar because they want Cincinnati to fail. They oppose passenger rail because they want Cincinnati to fail. They oppose the waterworks proposal because they want Cincinnati to fail. They oppose an effective city government because they want Cincinnati to fail. They oppose all these things for the same reason the vultures circling around in the sky oppose healthy livestock. If Cincinnati dies, they maintain their power base and their reason for being. If Cincinnati thrives and grows, they lose their credibility and their sustenance.