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Streetcar Saga and the Political Impact

CINCINNATI (Jeff Hirsh) -- A streetcar opponent, a streetcar supporter and a reporter walk into a bar what happens next?

Well, I'm reporter and I'll just sit back and watch the punches fly ... verbal punches anyway.

Gene Beaupre, Xavier University Political Scientist, says, "I think the streetcar is a great example because it's a big issue of moving parts and everybody is trying to figure out which part to stand on."

In other words, it's a bumpy political ride. Mayor John Cranley wants the streetcar dead and gone. But frustration with Cranley has led some political activists to set up a twitter account, "Yvette4Mayor;" as in council member Yvette Simpson, a streetcar supporter. 

Simpson says she is honored but, "No, absolutely not.  I'm a council member for the next four years and that's what I focus on."

But Twitter shows the new political reality, political parties are not what they used to be.

"There is less party discipline. There are fewer rewards and penalties being part of a party anymore and you're kind of an individual operation and you look for opportunities."

Opportunities to build coalitions across party lines, for example, around specific issues. Mayor John Cranley is a democrat, but his council allies against the streetcar are mostly independents and republicans.  And while the mayor has clout, other council members have clout of their own.

PG Sittenfeld, for example, received more votes in the council race than John Cranley did in the mayor's race, and Yvette Simpson was not far behind.  The next mayor's race is not for nearly four years and no one is running yet.  But the tone on council set by the streetcar debate could set the tone for council's entire term.

Cranley says, "This isn't fun but there has to be someone where the buck stops and it's going to stop with me."

The streetcar debate is also impacted by someone who is not on council anymore; Laure Quinlivan.  Quinlivan convinced the voters to extend council terms from two years to four. Because of that, council may be more willing to duke it out and figure the voters will forgive and forget further down the road.

Quinlivan was also a streetcar supporter, and if she had been re-elected the streetcar would be in less jeopardy.  Quinlivan lost by fewer than 450 votes.




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