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Mayor and Council Sworn-in as Streetcar Supporters Collect Signatures
CINCINNATI (Angenette Levy) -- Mayor John Cranley and nine members of Cincinnati city council were sworn in Sunday. City council could vote as early as Monday to stop the streetcar project.
Cranley and the council members were officially sworn in at city hall and later took the oath in a public ceremony at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Cranley spoke about the importance of balancing the budget, creating opportunities for everyone and reducing the crime. But he's wasting no time keeping his biggest campaign promise: canceling the streetcar project.
"Tomorrow I think there will be a vote to halt the Streetcar and do an accounting of the project as we said we would," Cranley said.
As the inaugural session of council wrapped up, supporters of the streetcar met at Washington Park along the line. More than 500 people held green balloons and vowed to collect signatures to force a referendum on the streetcar if council votes to cancel it. They walked from the park to Findlay Market in a show of solidarity.
"Canceling would be a catastrophic loss to the city and the region," said Ryan Messer, one of the leaders of We Believe in Cincinnati. Supporters say the cost of canceling the project is too great to cancel it. One estimate puts the cost of canceling at $125 million. They believe stopping the streetcar could set the city back.
"This track will ultimately allow us to have light rail in this region something that is important and imperative to growth," Messer said.
Council members who support the streetcar fear the city will have to pay back nearly $45 million in federal funding. They also believe the city could lose federal funding in the future if the money is returned. "I think the important part of the meeting tomorrow is to establish exactly what we forfeit with a potential delay. And that hasn't really been at the forefront," said council member Yvette Simpson.
Mayor Cranley said he continues to talk with lawmakers who represent the Cincinnati area about redirecting the federal funding for the streetcar to other projects such as the MLK interchange.
Cranley has formed a streetcar committee chaired by Vice Mayor David Mann. That committee will take up several ordinances at a meeting on Monday at noon. The ordinances will address halting the project and cutting off funding to it.
City council will meet Monday at 4 p.m. to discuss the proposed ordinances. Streetcar supporters plan to attend the meeting to speak to council. "I am very bullish about the future of Over-the-Rhine and the city and I think frankly that neighborhood and others will be better off without the Streetcar," Mayor Cranley said.