A Desire Named Streetcar, Chapter XXVIII
When we last checked in on the Queen City Express to Nowhere, a.k.a. the Cincinnati Streetcar Boondoggle Coming Soon to a Town or City Near You if it Hasn't Already it Certainly Will Be Just You Wait Goddamnit, Cincinnati was over $50 million in the red but was bravely pledging $2.6 million to get the pork party started on a streetcar line that was somehow going to rejuvenate a place arguably best known for a '70s-era sitcom about what a dump it all was. How's this for a new slogan for the fabled Porkopolis, "America's most beautiful inland city" in the estimation of alcoholic Nobel laureate Winston Churchill: Come for the race riots, stay for the streetcar!
Well, now the city council there has approved $64 million in bonds (read: debt) to push forward with the $128 million project (whose price tag will jump up the second the first spike is driven into the ground). The fiscally prudent twist? The learned council of elders has made a pledge not to start the program until they double the amount they've committed with state and federal grants. Thanks, fellas.
This is, in a nutshell, why virtually every town, state, and federal government in the U.S. is more broke than an electric football game on the day after Christmas. As Matt Welch likes to put it: We are out of money. And we're not going to change that by lapsing into some damn-the-torpedoes-when-the-going-gets-tough-the-tough-go-shopping spree. In fact, that's only gonna make things worse.
Try telling that to Cincinnatians, who purr such monetary hairballs in the Enquirer as:
"The question isn't whether we can afford to build the streetcar… The question is whether we can afford not to."
"Yes, there are some risks here… But we have to be bold enough to take those risks if we're going to grow this city and region."…
"This is a major first step," said Mayor Mark Mallory, who minutes before the meeting began was still meeting privately with council members to allay concerns that the bonds potentially could commit the city to a project it might not be able to complete or afford to operate.
And when your local councilman or mayor or senator or president or Better Business Bureau fundraiser comes around and tells you the only thing that keeps your hometown or state or region or country from being world class is the lack of a 19th-century technology that costs bazillions to build, bazillions to operate, and bazillions to tear down and start over when the monorail is the nostalgic wave of the future, tell 'em to lower your taxes, cut stupid regulations, and go to hell.
And not on a streetcar, because that will take way too long.