New Cincy mayor, council butt heads over streetcar

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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Cincinnati's new mayor wasted no time Monday trying to put an end to the city's new streetcar, holding a special city council meeting the day after he was sworn in to discuss immediately halting spending on the $133 million project.

The meeting began Monday afternoon and was expected to last well into the night, with an estimated 200 residents in attendance to tell the city council what they think of the project, which already has survived two voter referendums and has been under construction for months at a cost of about $50,000 a day.

The vast majority of those in attendance supported continuing the streetcar and drew raucous applause after they spoke. One man who said he was against it drew boos.

"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."

It's unclear whether the council will vote at the end of the meeting but it is expected to make a final decision by Wednesday.

The session was held after a long and contentious meeting of a newly formed streetcar council, during which newly sworn-in Mayor John Cranley accused city council members who support the streetcar of ignoring the will of the voters after they had tried to delay discussion to immediately halt 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 council 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 shot back, saying that it was "obvious what's happening here, which is an attempt to delay the will of the voters." He described his election victory a referendum on the streetcar, which his opponent supported.

"I'm a little less worried about council members feeling like they're out of joint about a process and more worried about the fleecing of the taxpayers that's been going on for several years on this project," he said.

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

Critics of the streetcar say it's just too expensive and that there are simpler transportation options. Supporters say a streetcar will spur new development and attract more visitors to the area.