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Streetcar, Water Works Opponents Turn In Signatures

Opponents to two high-profile projects in Cincinnati have turned in signatures to get the issues placed before voters this fall.
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Opponents to two high-profile projects in Cincinnati have turned in signatures to get the issues placed before voters this fall.

A coalition of groups, including the NAACP and COAST, worked to get the signatures so that voters can decide if the city should spend $200 million on a streetcar project and consider turning the water system into a regional water district.

At a rally Monday morning, opponents announced that they had obtained 14,564 signatures against the water works project and 11,530 signatures against the streetcar initiative. A little more than 6,100 valid signatures are needed to place either item on the November ballot.

The opponents have said the streetcar initiative would be a waste of money, especially during the current budget crunch the city faces. The water works change opponents said they want City Council to have control over water rates and worry a change to a water district would be a move toward privatization.

City Manager Milton Dohoney said creating the regional water district would bring in $15 million a year and help it to expand and increase revenue further.

Supporters of the streetcar plan said the system would help revitalize areas along its route and bring in revenue, and they also said that the way the petition is written would also make any rail project subject to a public vote, not just streetcars.

Battle Heats Up Over Wording Of Streetcar Measure

As the campaigns begin, so does the battle to finalize the wording that appears on the ballot.

"We said, listen, call it everything, anything that they might call it," said Chris Smitherman, president of the area NAACP chapter. "I even tried to get our lawyer to put in choo-choo train, (but) he just wouldn't go that far."

Voters struck down a plan seven years ago to build a county-wide light-rail line that would have included a streetcar line.

That plan lost by 88,000 votes overall and by 13,000 votes in Cincinnati precincts.

"You can hate the streetcar, you can love the streetcar, but that's not what this vote is about," said City Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls. "This vote is about allowing the city to move forward with any form of rail transportation."

Opponents said they believe Mayor Mark Mallory and City Council will craft wording designed to favor the streetcar plan, but election laws prevent ballot language that strays from the petitioner's intent.

The solicitor will approve the measure's final wording later this month.

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