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How John Cranley Saved the Streetcar
CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- Thursday's streetcar vote caps a strange seven week period following the election of an anti-streetcar mayor and an anti-streetcar city council.
And yet now, the streetcar lives. I have an analysis which you may find quite surprising.
Okay get ready because you might not believe this, but I'm going to tell you how John Cranley saved the streetcar.
Not that he wanted to and not that he thinks it is a good project. But, John Cranley, who won the mayor's race promising to send the streetcar to the scrap heap, helped saved it.
Cranley said, "Let's just be honest. This isn't easy. This isn't fun. I don't enjoy having to bring some responsible leadership financially in light of the passion on the other side."
Police and fire good, streetcar bad: John Cranley's campaign. But Cranley ended up saving the streetcar anyway. After Cranley was sworn in, he and his backers on city council could have killed the streetcar outright. But instead, they paused the project to come up with a cost-benefit study on stopping or continuing construction.
Critics said the fix was in, Cranley was just trying to get a report which backed his own opinion. But the pause gave streetcar supporters a chance to mobilize, to gather petition signatures, and to impress two new members of council: Daivd Mann and Kevin Flynn.
Plus, when the independent report came back it basically said stopping versus continuing was a wash. But stopping would also mean 35 million dollars already spent go for nothing and more than 40 million federal dollars would be forfeited.
Even streetcar critics like Price Hill activist Pete Witte agreed it made more sense to finish.
Another way John Cranley saved the streetcar: telling supporters he'd re-start construction if they came up with private guarantees to cover operating expenses. The impossible number, 80 million dollars, was kicked around. But that crack in the, "No Streetcar, No Way" gave backers the ability to come up with enough private money to convince council members Mann and Flynn to change from "no" to "yes".
Oh yes, two other people saved the streetcar as well. Former Mayor Mark Mallory and former Vice-Mayor Roxanne Qualls.
Witte said, "When they accelerated the pace and tried to get as much rail into the ground as quick as possible prior to the election, I think they achieved a goal that they had in mind and that was to really make the cost structure be in favor of continuing it."
One more critical person who helped save the streetcar: council member PG Sittenfeld; who, after the election, became a streetcar supporter saying stopping the project now would be colossal waste of money.