Key Cincinnati streetcar vote pushed to Wednesday

AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- A special meeting of Cincinnati's city council to discuss axing a controversial streetcar ended after four hours Monday without a vote on whether to immediately halt spending on the project, which newly sworn-in Mayor John Cranley began fighting for in his first workday in office.

The meeting drew about 200 concerned residents, most of whom supported the $133 million streetcar, which has been under construction for months at a cost of about $50,000 a day and has been approved by voters in two separate referendums.

Cranley ran for election on a promise to end the streetcar and described his victory as proof that voters agree with him.

The council is expected to vote Wednesday after more public comment on Tuesday. On Monday, most of the members of the public who testified supported the project.

"I'm sickened by what's going on here. It repulses me," said Jeffrey McClorey, who owns a business in downtown Cincinnati near the planned streetcar line and said stopping it would be bad for businesses in the area. "The idea of pausing the streetcar, we all know what it is -- it's killing it."

Monday's meeting ended with tension between Cranley and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, with the mayor at one point refusing to allow the councilman to further explain his support for continuing the streetcar project, saying the meeting had gone on long enough.

"This is a really sad example of how a government should run in this city," Councilman Chris Seelbach said after the back-and-forth.

The city has spent more than $23 million on the 3.6-mile line and has another $94 million obligated in contracts.

John Deatrick, project executive of the streetcar for the city, has estimated that nixing the project would cost the city up to $47 million. The city also would lose out on $44.9 million in federal grants if it's stopped.

The council session was held after a long and contentious meeting of a newly formed streetcar committee, during which Cranley accused city council members who support the streetcar of ignoring the will of the voters that elected him after they tried to delay discussion on whether to immediately halt the spending.

Several council members expressed concern about how quickly Monday's meeting was scheduled, saying they hadn't yet voted to adopt new rules under which the committee will operate and hadn't gotten copies of a proposed ordinance that would stop spending on the streetcar pending a financial analysis of the project.

"This does not feel to me like a process that is open, that is deliberative, that takes time," said second-term Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. "Why do we feel the need to rush on such important matters when we have no documents, no rules, no order and lots of confusion? ... This feels like the epitome of disorder."

Cranley said he's "more worried about the fleecing of the taxpayers that's been going on for several years on this project."

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