Mass transit naysayers who cite the sharp decline during the last year in Metro bus usage don’t comprehend the big picture, Richardson says. Passenger rail projects are about more than moving people from Point A to Point B; they’re about the perception of accepting and welcoming progress as well as promoting development.
CFP leaders agree that one of the biggest hindrances for Cincinnati — and other struggling cities — is an aversion to change or new ideas.
With about 6,000 members, the group is ready to move forward.
“I think that one cool thing about Cincinnatians for Progress is how broad our membership is,” notes Candace Klein, another CFP co-chair (pictured). “Some of our members are only 9 or 10 years old and others have been retired for nine or 10 years. We have supporters who are Democrats, Republicans and independents.”
Organizations endorsing CFP represent a variety of socio-political backgrounds, including the League of Women Voters, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, American Institute of Architects, Ohio Environmental Council, Downtown Residents Council and several prominent labor unions.
Thanks to a hefty $400 million in federal stimulus funds, Ohio has momentum to move forward with the 3-C passenger rail line. The prospect of having a multi-city connector would have a greater impact than just making the journey more convenient for passengers, Richardson says.
“Think of the rail system like the development of interstate highways,” he says. “Connecting Ohio’s major hubs would lead to more economic opportunities and more jobs. The rail cars would travel up to 110 mph, making commuting less of a hassle than it might be on clogged highways.
“More people would be connected to our city, and it would be easier to live here. We want to give Cincinnati a sense of vitality to draw in young people. … I think that once people could see it, touch it and use it, they would be a lot more convinced.”
Public apprehension can be eased by examining the successes of other city rail models, including those in Portland and Seattle, CFP states. The development of rail systems in these cities, Richardson notes, led to significant increases in city wealth, economic activity and urban redevelopment.
Through May 4, CFP’s main focus is spreading awareness about the importance of the passage of Issue 1, a statewide ballot item that would reissue Ohio Third Frontier’s bonds until 2016.
First approved by voters in 2005, the Ohio Third Frontier program was designed to assist small businesses and startup companies. Since that time, it’s helped create 48,000 new jobs, launch 571 new businesses and encourage entrepreneurs. If renewed, Issue 1 will sponsor another $700 billion to fund its economic development program.
To gear up for the May election, CFP is holding educational events citywide to inform voters about Issue 1. On April 19, CFP members will be teaming up with CincyPac and CincyTech for a rally at downtown’s Mainstay Rock Bar, where speakers will outline the basics of Third Frontier funding and how it will affect the general public, not just startup companies and small business owners.
“People need to know it’s not a tax,” Klein says. “Right now our call to action is encouraging supporters to vote early. We want people (that can’t vote on Election Day) to be sure to request absentee ballots and get them in,” which she says could be a key to achieving a narrow victory.
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