Mayor Mallory answers tough questions about streetcar fight

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - FOX19's Stefano DiPietrantonio asked Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory several tough questions about the streetcar and if he will give up if a state board votes to pull funding for it.

Mayor Mallory seemed undaunted by what he called, "rumors" of the streetcar's demise.

He said the voting hasn't even taken place yet, and that the city has followed all the necessary steps to make it happen. And he said, based on how high this project has consistently scored over the last two years, the board should do the right thing and approve the $52 million in state funding needed for the streetcar.

"We've been the highest-scoring project in the State of Ohio and a system that is based on points, that expects to award money based on how you score, I would expect that system to produce quite a bit of money for the City of Cincinnati," Mallory said.

Mallory claimed the streetcar has been the highest-scoring project for the last two and a half years. Despite that, it was a thumbs-down from Ohio Governor John Kasich, when I asked him about that a couple of weeks ago.

"Jerry Ray, the Director of Transportation, has come down here and his analysis is, that the streetcar is not a job-creator," Kasich said. "I don't like that we've concluded that, now there's still a board that gets to vote on this."

"So you're not giving our Mayor the money needed for the streetcar?"

"At this point it does not look like it will be coming," Kasich said.

"A hundred million dollars into a streetcar," Kasich said. "A lot of the business community says it doesn't make any sense."

Governor Kasich said, "I realize this is the Mayor's legacy project."

"I'd be tremendously delighted if I could help the Mayor," Kasich said. "This is part of his legacy, I understand that."

"Is there some point, if you can't come up with the money, you're just going to give-up on this?," I asked the Mayor.

"Well, the Governor may have described this as my legacy project," Mallory said. "I don't operate in that way."

I told the Mayor how Governor Kasich alluded to the streetcar project here in Cincinnati, as sort of a Wizard of Oz-like project.

"Now, there was smoke and mirrors and promises of 'somewhere-over-the-rainbow' for this fiscal year," Kasich said. "But that was silly."

I told the Mayor how Governor Kasich had said, streetcar aside, he'd be happy to work with Mallory, on any number of other projects.

"Has he ever said to you what those are?," I asked.

"No," Mallory said. "And I need to be real clear here, in terms of other transportation projects, this is the City's number one priority."

Mallory said the City is expecting to see a return of $1.4 billion.

"There is no other transportation project that we can invest $128 million in," Mallory said. "And expect to get back $1.4 billion."

So if not from the State, where would he find $52 million dollars?

"Well, we don't have pots of money just sitting around City Hall as some people might think," Mallory said. "But if we don't receive the money, obviously, we're going to have to go back and re-assess, to determine what we're going to do and how we're going to move forward on the streetcar. I will tell you, this remains a priority and it's something very important for us to do."

Mayor Mallory, Council member Laure Quinlivan and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will all travel to Columbus Tuesday.

Mallory said he's not sure how much time they'll get to state their case but you can be sure he said, he's going to put-up a good fight for the Queen City.

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