Streetcar stokes fiery responses in mayoral debate

CINCINNATI -- Mayor John Cranley, City Council member Yvette Simpson and former UC board chairman Rob Richardson sparred over transportation Tuesday night in the first public debate featuring all three mayoral hopefuls.

"Transit is the civil rights issue of our time," Simpson told a packed auditorium at South Avondale School.

She, Richardson and Cranley each cast aspersions on one another over promises and plans relating to the Cincinnati Bell Connector -- and whether their opponents would use public funds to extend its route or service the city bus system, which Simpson said took a "ridiculous" amount of time to cross the city.

"It takes two hours to get from Walnut Hills to Mount Airy on a bus," she said. "I can get to Columbus in two hours, but I can't get to Walnut Hills."

Cranley, whom the other two candidates framed as intrinsically attached to the streetcar project, responded to criticism by asserting that they planned to expand its reach if elected.

"Both of them have advocated spending more money to expand the streetcar, so when my opponents say it's over and done with, oh no, it's not," he said. "If they get elected, they plan to take more of your money not to expand bus transit but to expand the streetcar."

Although the candidates also discussed jobs, race relations and poverty, Springfield Township resident Lance Laney said he wished less time had been spent on transit.

"A lot of it just had to do with transit, not infrastructure," he said. "I am part of the infrastructure."

Cincinnatians will make their first pick May 2 in the mayoral primary.

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