Argument brewing in City Council over special meeting

An argument is brewing between city council members over a special meeting to discuss the current financing plan of the Cincinnati streetcar project.

According to the clerk of council, the purpose of the meeting is for the City Administration to provide a detailed report to City Council on the recent changes made to the Cincinnati Streetcar Project. Specifically, the presentation will go into detail on how the streetcar will be financed.

The special session was called by council members Chris Smitherman and Charlie Winburn. In a statement released Wednesday, they said, "The purpose of the meeting is not to talk about concept but tax payer money. Citizens in the city and region should be concerned that they may pay for the streetcar with their utility bills."

Smitherman says he and Winburn are being "bullied" to call off the meeting.

"For me that's amazing that we're talking about spending 150 or a 180 million dollars and even having a public discussion for them about the financing is a bad idea," Smitherman said.

Council member Laure Quinlivan, however, says the meeting is unnecessary and an abuse of a special provision.

"I think it's crazy, actually that people who are opposed to the streetcar are really abusing a charter provision to call all of these special meetings," Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan said. "This was intended to be for emergencies. There's certainly no emergency here."

Smitherman claimed in a letter sent to the Mayor and city council members Wednesday that following the call for a special session, "City Council responded today by stripping Council Member Winburn of his chairmanship and the Rules Committee agreed to give each Chair the power to hold items on their calendar indefinitely."

Winburn's office, however, says Winburn was not stripped of his chairmanship although three council members did remove themselves from his committee Wednesday.

Smitherman then went on to say, "The message is clear this council is not interested in hearing the minority voice.  If you do not go along with this Mayor and Council's agenda they have no interest  in hearing your voice."

Quinlivan denied having knowledge about any such ousting of Winburn as chairman of a committee.

"I don't know anything about that," she told FOX19.

She did say several members were planning to skip the special session Friday.

Smitherman says they have no plans to call off the meeting despite the "pressure" he says they are getting from fellow council members.

"This should give some insight on what these members of council and the mayor are willing to do to not have a transparent discussion around the streetcar," argued Smitherman.

Quinlivan argues, however, that council members have had that discussion on plenty of occasions and that re-hashing it is unnecessary.

"The administration has laid out the information about where the money is coming from many, many times," Quinlivan countered. "We don't need to do it again. And if these two particular council members want that information all they have to do is sit down with our administrators. There's no need to have a big, public, special meeting to talk about it again."

The hearing will be held Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. in council chambers at Cincinnati City Hall.

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