Thursday, July 30, 2009

Portland Votes on Passenger Rail Transportation

Why Shouldn't We?

Cincinnatians for Progress and other streetcar proponents are trying to convince you that voting on passenger rail tranportation is somehow unreasonable, and that you should lie down and let politicians make all your decisions for you. They think you're too stupid to known what's best for your own city.

Portland has an extensive transit system. But it wasn't a surprise gift from generous politicians. Taxpayers directed their government every step of the way through the ballot box.
  • In the mid-1970s, TriMet began a study for light rail using funds intended for the cancelled Mount Hood Freeway. Voters approved funding for the project, and the first line opened in 1986.
  • Light rail was again put to a vote in Portland in 1990 when 74% of the region’s voters approved a bond for construction on the West Side.
  • Four years later, 64 percent of voters approved a larger bond for the South/North Project.
  • In 1993 the region approached the state for matching funds and opponents forced extended legislative debate, but funding was approved.
  • However, rail opponents gathered sufficient signatures to force a statewide election on the measure. Looks like honoring citizens' petition rights isn't just a California thing. State funding was then defeated in another public vote.
  • In 1998, regional leaders placed the previously approved bonds on the ballot, necessary because the loss of state funding required a revised project. That was voted down.
  • In subsequent years voters renewed previous tax increases and everyone settled into a comfortable pattern of reasonable transit growth. A diesel commuter rail line, aerial tram, and streetcars were added.
  • Today Portland contemplates extending streetcar service to the community of Lake Oswego. Many residents have expressed reservations on the plan, so the transit authority has gone out of its way to include citizens in the process.
Mayor Mallory and many others like to point to Portland as an example of how to do transit. But they conveniently omit the decades of voting that Portlanders have gone through to establish their network. Apparently citizen participation in the process doesn't fit certain Cincinnatians' idea of "progress."

Mallory's recent trip to Portland winds up being just another wasted junket because he failed to learn the most important lesson of all. Voting doesn't "block" transit; it enables it. Enact the pro-vote charter amendment.


  1. The reason they were put to a vote in Portland is because there were bonds and tax increases to vote on. In Cincinnati, there are no bonds or tax increases needed to pay for the proposed Streetcar system.

  2. So now the ballot initiative is intended to be pro-streetcar and A useful tool to help the city make wise decisions about it? Give me a break. What about two entries ago where you say that this initiative is to 'kill the streetcar'?

  3. COAST is trying to have it both ways. They claim that they're just "giving voters a choice" but they're simultaneously trying to spread misinformation about the streetcar and kill the project. Pick one way or the other. If you want to push a vote, stop calling it a "trolley" and making false claims about TOD not working.

  4. I say we start a ballot initiative to bring to a vote any initiative that is outside the city core. You want new roads? Vote on it. You want police? Vote on it. If you live in a suburban area that starts getting overrun with crime and blight, we might have to vote on whether we want our tax money going toward your protection.
    It is this narrow-mindedness that pits one community against another. Sad.

  5. The people are too stupid to vote on the Streetcar. We cannot trust them to make the right decision.

  6. There will be no tax to fund the streetcar, since the city's new debt will be minimal and can be repaid out of the annual capital budget. Did citizens vote directly for the Kennedy Connector? The city's extensive contributions to Fort Washington Way? The Banks?

  7. "It enables it." Actually, COAST, it blocks rail transit. Instead, we have to wait for a taxpayer funded vote or election to try and pass the motion. That's great if we're planning on raising taxes to try and push forward a rail project (like in 2002), but in this case we're not!

    When it comes time to build the 3C corridor or a federal high speed rail network (both of which are becoming real possibilities), the cities and planning parties involved aren't going to say "well, let's sit around and wait a few months while Cincinnati votes on it." Instead, they'll bypass Cincinnati, or in turn give our opportunity to another city.

    Your charter amendment does nothing but slow down the process and is way too general in language.

    Vote 'No' on the charter amendment!

  8. I wonder why no pro-COAST people leave comments on this blog. Is there truly any grassroots activism behind COAST? Or does Chris Finney just live in a fantasy world? Perhaps the most ironic thing I've seen in a long time was the poll on the anti-streetcar article in the Enquirer yesterday that showed more Enquirer readers support the streetcar (I think something to the tune of 60%). Even with the Enquirer's editorial board shilling for COAST as hard as they possibly can their readers still aren't convinced. Hey, Finney, only a few more months before your "political" career is finished once and for all. You've been hanging like a thread since your boy Heimlich got exiled by the County voters. Even most Republicans in Columbus realize Brinkman is looney tunes. The sad thing is, your hooking up with Chris Smitherman really shows how desperate you are. I don't blame you for throwing any incoherent rant you can think of against this streetcar (now matter how incoherent or untrue) up on this blog, though. If I saw everything I've ever worked for about to come permanently to a close, I'd probably act like a frantic idiot, too. Hope to see you never, Chris. And I have a feeling in a few months I'll get my wish.

  9. COAST lost any respect as a conservative group when they teamed up with the likes of Chris Smitherman. True conservatives in Cincinnati would never team up with a former councilman who deemed our brave, hard working police officers as "racists."

  10. I wonder why the pro-streetcar people on this blog are so nasty and snobbish.

    I wonder how they'll feel on November 4th when they wake up to find that they were soundly beaten by COAST. Will there be mass suicides as streetcar snobs realize they were taken to the woodshed by people they deem their intellectual inferiors.

  11. When did progress and open-mindedness become snobbish?

    You really need to work on the cranky old man voice that COAST seems to have.

  12. Maybe they just put this blog up so everyone can read your posts and see for themselves the arrogant idiocy of the pro-streetcar folks.

  13. Open-mindedness? Really?
    So basically if you're pro-streetcar you're open-minded. And if you take any other position you're wrong. That's real open-minded thinking there.

  14. Charges of snobbishness and ill-treatment from the people who post contests about which council members are more similar to Simpsons characters and who have handles like "Bris Chortz." Ha. Sorry, maybe I was just taking your lead?

  15. PS - Not necessarily pro-streetcar. Just anti-misinformation campaigns as well as anti-personal political agenda vehicles. Also, anytime two people as previously diametrically opposed as Smitherman and Finney come together, you can be sure it's not for the reasons they publicly profess.

  16. The COAST/NAACP thing backfired because it gave cause for a group like Cincinnatians for Progress to form. The Enquirer didn't cover it, but that doesn't mean there weren't 300 people who paid $35 to get in the door at their first event 6 weeks ago, while only the core members of COAST/NAACP showed up to Ollie's Trolly, maybe 20 folks guessing by the photos, and that includes John London & his cameraman.

    In short, there are exponentially more people who passionately support OTR and the streetcar than there are who are passionately fighting it. Remember, Metro Moves failed in the county but won in the city.

  17. In short, there are exponentially more people who passionately support OTR and the streetcar than there are who are passionately fighting it.


  18. Bris, I don't know how many times it has to be made clear to you. The COAST charter amendment is not about letting the voters decide, it's a ridiculous provision that is way too general in language that would stop the city from making any progress with rail transit. Instead of moving forward with projects, they have to sit around and wait for a tax payer funded election. I

    As the system stands today; in the case that taxes were being raised to pay for a project, a vote would be held. In the case of the streetcar taxes are NOT being raised.

    COAST wants this charter amendment because they didn't get their way on election day. You don't get to side step your elected representatives by voting on every single issue. That kind of process takes too long and is too costly to the taxpaying voters, if that system worked better our founding fathers would have put that in place. They didn't, because that form of government is inefficient, that's why we have representative democracy.


    Because you guys can't be trusted to speak responsibly to the public. You got drunks and old people to sign the petition; said it was a "streetcar" petition, insinuating that it's pro-streetcar, even when it's anti-everything; were willing to stand under photos of Obama at Ollie's Trolley even though you guys have never voted for a democrat; and are using all this to get Chris Smitherman back on council or in the mayor's office. Everything about COAST is dirty business.

    Mark Miller, do you think Chris Smitherman right now at age 35~ could pass the St. X high school entrance test? The guy can barely read and right and stutters like Elmer Fudd!

  20. Dear "bris chortz",

    I am beginning to see that you contradict yourself so often, you have completely forgotten how to realize when you are upside down.

    First, in your reply to my comment from two posts ago on "Mallory: 'Yes" vote would kill streetcar - Of course it would, that's the whole point" you asked "who are you again" because I ask that question of "coast". I am Jim Uber. That is my name. What is your name?

    Second, in the above mentioned previous post, I had commented that finally "coast" had shown its true colors by stating it really wanted just to kill the streetcar (actually any rail transit is closer to the truth). You chided me for that comment, saying that "coast" all along had stated that position. Now, in the present post, "coast" states essentially that they really just want to advocate a vote. You are walking all over your past lines of reasoning and hoping that nobody notices.

    So which is it most, that you want to kill rail transit, or you want a vote and are using that to gain a public forum for misinformation that tries to kill rail transit. Inquiring minds want to know.

    And, really, who are you, again?

  21. Jim Uber -
    You seem like a reasonably intelligent person, so I'll try to explain this one more time.


    I believe deep down that the people should have a right to decide this issue for themselves at the ballot box. With that being said, I also hope that the decision they make is to stop the streetcar.

    I believe that COAST has stated a similar position throughout this entire process. There are NUMEROUS blog posts by COAST stating their opposition to the streetcar. They cited costs and called it a boondoggle (much to the chagrin of streetcar fanatics). It should have been clear to anyone with 1/2 a brain that COAST was opposed to the streetcar. They also stated that they believed that the people whould vote on the issue. THESE TWO POSITIONS ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!!!

  22. Bris,
    Can we get your pledge today that you want a vote on the proposed $35.2 billion to go toward road rehabilitation in the 2009-2010 budget biennium?
    Come on, sign the pledge today!
    Or better yet, let's get a national ballot initiative started today. It could be a totally awesome grassroots effort. We will want a national ballot initiative to not fund the 8.8 billion slated for missile defense! We could then pay for streetcars in every city in the nation and quit amassing lots of nuclear waste we don't know what to do with.

  23. Can't we all just agree that the voters are not intelligent enough to be given the right to vote on anything? Shame on COAST for putting power in their hands.

  24. Anonymous -
    To borrow from a standard smug, hippie, progressive tag line:
    Think Globally. Act Locally.

    You go ahead and get started on the national ballot initiative for which there is no legal vehicle for recourse.

    I'll stick to working on local issues that matter to me on which there is an opportunity to make a difference.

    PS - Smile. This too shall pass.


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