People ask me this all the time. I don’t know how to answer it exactly.
ODOT just presented the public with a plan and asked for public feedback. They also provided the public with a “no build” alternative as well.
Yes. I would say, the odds are against us, politically. The dealmakers have made a deal. But stopping highways happens. The Clark Freeway is an example of a highway the community rose up and stopped. If we don’t try, if we don’t get engaged — regular people looking out for other regular people — it definitely won’t get stopped and if it gets built, it will definitely be a worse project for regular people.
This whole thing reminds me of an event that was held in Cleveland right before this process got started. A man named Samuel Gresham Jr., who was a civil rights leader in Columbus, came to talk to us about transportation issues and equity. And one thing he said that I remember best was, he said monied interests were running the country and that we would need to “fight for every inch.”
And he’s right. We need to fight for every inch. Could we stop this highway project, in a purely theoretical sense? Absolutely, if we were organized enough, and vocal enough and had a large enough following. The impact we have on this project will be equal to the our numbers, our organization and our tactics.
What we’re up against is the fact that John Kasich made a deal with Frank Jackson and there’s money on the table. Some powerful monied interests (the Greater Cleveland Partnership, a business group) want to see it happen and our public agencies — ODOT — are woefully unresponsive to public concerns.
What we have on our side is that this project is a very weak project. The cost is high, the benefits are sort of questionable. A lot of people, without any prompting, see through the propaganda campaign that promises this project is really aimed at benefiting east side neighborhoods. The whole thing runs afoul of all sorts of ideas about fairness and propriety as it relates to property rights and sustainability. So it’s vulnerable in that sense. And I don’t think the organizers have this project quite as locked down on the political side as they believe.
One thing is for sure, If we don’t come together to loudly and tenaciously oppose damaging, wasteful projects like this, I don’t see how we can expect anything better in the future.