A community group known for its controversial and antagonistic tactics is asking other neighborhood organizations to take a vote on whether they support Cincinnati's proposed streetcar project.
In a recent e-mail sent to leaders of the city's network of neighborhood councils, John Sess, president of the Westwood Civic Association, wants to gauge sentiment about the project. Sess states he will be "keeping tracks of the results," presumably to lobby city officials to reconsider the project.
Some activists connected to the Civic Association have opposed the project, and observers say Sess' appeal is an effort to rally support for their cause.
City officials have given preliminary approval to build a proposed streetcar system from downtown, through Over-the-Rhine, and on to Corryville. The cost to construct the system originally was $128 million, although updated figures suggest it will be closer to $143 million.
Much of the money to build the system is derived from state and federal transportation grants, and earlier this year Cincinnati City Council approved issuing $64 million in bonds to help finance the streetcar system's construction. The bonds are expected to be repaid using the extra tax revenue sparked by new development along the streetcar route, although the money will have to come from the city's General Fund if the anticipated spinoff development doesn't occur.
The city's feasibility study estimates the project will result in a $379 million increase in property values along the route over 30 years, providing about $34 million in additional property taxes for the city during the same period.
Opponents, however, note the system is estimated to have an annual operating cost of about $2.3 million, which they say will be a drain on the city's General Fund budget in future years.
Here is the text of Sess' e-mail:
Dear community leader,
At your next community council meeting, please consider polling your membership on the streetcar issue. Many groups have weighed in on the issue, some for and some against. I believe it is important for the Cincinnati City Council to hear from each and every neighborhood, since the future of this project could have a dramatic impact on every citizen.
I will be keeping track of the results, so please contact me as soon as you have made a decision.
Have a blessed Christmas season,
John Sess, President
Westwood Civic Association