For the past forty-five years, former Cincinnati Mayor and 16-year U.S. Congressman Tom Luken has scavenged the political landscape for easy wins and easy headlines. His core political strategy - to oppose everything - has caused Cincinnatians to pay much more to the federal government than they've received since direct federal aid to municipalities began with passage of the Urban Mass Transit Assistance Act of 1964.
Luken and his ilk, with their refusal to engage the facts of any debate concerning public transportation, have tricked Cincinnatians into thinking they've saved money by voting against countywide transit taxes in 1971, 1979, 1980, and 2002. In reality, Cincinnatians paid for the construction of subway and light rail systems in dozens of other cities while our own 1920's era subway has remained unused.
Luken's failure to lead as Mayor of Cincinnati enabled the coup executed by Atlanta in the early 1970's. Instead of playing Luken's politics of decline, Atlanta, at the time a metropolitan area of the same population as metro Cincinnati, secured over $800 million - some of it ours -- for construction of MARTA. Instead of leading an effort for a similar award - the equivalent of $3 billion in 2010 dollars -- Luken regularly attacked OKI, the agency that in 1971 devised a similar 40-mile rapid transit system for Cincinnati. As a member of the US House of Representatives, Luken continued his harassment of OKI, in the early 1980's, twice calling for its abolishment.
The results of Luken's career speak for themselves: metro Atlanta has tripled in size since being awarded federal funding to build MARTA while the population of the City of Cincinnati has declined by over 100,000. Atlanta was able to attract the 1996 Olympics in part because of its 48-mile rapid transit system; with our underfunded bus system, Cincinnati's bid for the 2012 Olympics was dead on arrival.
Smelling another cheap political win, Luken was roused from retirement and joined 2009's Issue 9 campaign. If he had been successful there would have been, in a repeat of the MARTA situation, another instance where federal and state money would simply go to another city. Yet again, Cincinnatians would pay our competition to beat us.
Hopefully this crusade will be his last political campaign, but if Luken were somehow able to run against himself for elected office, he'd accuse his opponent of being a former Cincinnati Mayor and 16-year Congressman and having nothing to show for it. And for once he'd be telling the truth.