Light rail, taxes, and a lucky lunch

Monday, April 13, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Be careful when you open your voice mail. Someone may want to see you under the wheels of a light-rail train.

"I'd like to tie you to a set of tracks. I'll never give a dime of my tax money to light rail." -- Edith Faye, Covedale.

"No matter what the cost, we need light rail. Otherwise, Cincinnati will be stuck in the past." -- Erik Wayne, Mount Auburn.

"I just got back from Toronto. Their light-rail system takes you all over the city. When is Cincinnati going to wake up and get one?" -- R.J. Littlefield, Kenwood.

Judging by the response to my recent column favoring light rail, that form of transportation is the little train that could boldly take Cincinnati into the future. Readers backed the proposed $1.1 billion light-rail commuter line -- running from Paramount's Kings Island to the airport via downtown -- by a 2-1 margin.

"Light rail will save Cincinnati's downtown by spurring development. I don't care how much it costs. Let's go for it." -- Howard Albertson, East Walnut Hills.

"St. Louis has light rail. Portland has it. When are we going to get on board?" -- Alfred Koenig, Clifton.

"Our freeways are overcrowded and good for nothing. People in Congress who are against light rail for Cincinnati are downright ignorant." -- Sylvia Thompson, Mount Airy.

"They don't have a plan where to put the light-rail line. Let's just improve the bus system." -- Ed Lacker, Hartwell.

Glen Lester of Westwood sees light rail as the top item on the mass-transit menu.

"Riding the bus to work is like eating a McDonald's hamburger," he said. "But riding light rail is so good it's like eating a great steak."

Taking stock

As time goes by, the bright idea to repeal Cincinnati's tax on stock options keeps losing its sheen. Readers called to echo my column's warning that a repeal would be costly. It would amount to a loss of dollars for Cincinnati as well as a loss of face.

The city would lose earnings-tax revenues from corporate executives being paid, in part, in stock options. Some of those very same executives are after the city to honor its pledge to give $5 million a year for 20 years to Cincinnati Public Schools.

"Not taxing rich guys' stock options is white-collar welfare," said J.C. Harrig of Mount Washington.

Terry Toepker, of North Avondale, liked the idea of keeping the tax. And he offered a novel way to help Cincinnati Public Schools.

"Since we can't get council to help the schools," he said, "why don't we honor the teachers by not having them pay any city income tax? That would elevate their status and make some people sit up and think a little about education."

I'm not saying good things happen to people who eat lunch with me, but:

Since she let me share a brown-bag meal with her in September, Kirsten Holbrook has become, as she puts it, "a 32-year-old straight-A college freshman." And, she's received and accepted a marriage proposal.

Her future husband, David Brooks, popped the question while on bended knee in front of her English class. All this happened after Kirsten was the subject of a "Lunch with Cliff" column. That's where I treat people to lunch at their usual haunts in exchange for hearing what's on their minds.

Kirsten's regular lunch-time haunt is a cemetery. She's the office manager at Evendale's Rest Haven Memorial Park.

Kirsten's best friend swears the lunch column forced David's hand.

"David is an engineer. He's very analytical," she told Kirsten. "After he saw all of your good points lined up in black and white, he knew he had to propose."

I don't know about that. But I do know Kirsten's regular customers have been very generous in offering their congratulations. Funeral home directors have told her their businesses are available if she needs a place for her wedding ceremony.

Kirsten appreciates the offers. But she already has a place. Instead of a friendly undertaker's home, she's getting married at a friend's house.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.