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John Norquist to Ed Shadid (2012): Don't Allow Politics Delay Streetcar

Way back in 2012, John Norquist, president of the Congress of New Urbanism, was hosted by Councilman Ed Shadid at a town hall held at Farmer’s Public Market. The subject? The debate over state highway engineers’ design of a new downtown boulevard planned to replace the old Interstate 40.
I was reminded of that address, and the visit that occurred afterward at Flint in the Colcord Hotel as I read about Norquist’s decision to step down as president of CNU. Norquist served as mayor of Milwaukee from 1988 to 2004, and his 1998 book “The Wealth of Cities” is highly regarded among urban planners.
At the time of our visit, I was interested in Norquist’s comments about the streetcar, but I didn’t consider them newsworthy. I won’t repeat what Ed said that night, but I did get permission from Norquist to repeat his comments (something I never got around to due to an overload of coverage of other hot topics, including the boulevard). Also, consider that the attempts to stall or challenge the planning of the MAPS 3 streetcar system was not really something being said publicly.
But things did change. We have James Greiner, elected to represent Ward 1 after Norquist’s visit, still insisting he wishes the stretcar project could be sent back to voters. As for Ed Shadid, who is running for mayor, well, I’m not going to try to represent what he thinks anymore on this topic. Proponents insist he’s against it. He has argued otherwise to me, but so far has not taken me up on using a guest post on this blog to explain his actual position (that invite is still open).
So what did Norquist say? It was pretty simple, really. He cautioned against letting the streetcar get weighted down by politics. Get it started, he said, and then continue to push forward with its expansion.
With delays, he warned, come openings for opponents to kill a transit project all together.
In light of the debate that has continued to take place over the MAPS 3 streetcar, and the serious war underway on passenger rail in Cincinnati (read about it here), I leave you with this tidbit and invite you discuss.rica’s cities.

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›