Well it’s getting down to the wire for the Cincinnati City Council Race. Since all I talk about is politics, I figured it’s time for me to say who I endorse personally for council and why.
What I look for in a candidate is someone that understands that the role city government has in its relationship with its citizens and within the region. I want people on council that understand and appreciate the financial challenges that Cincinnati faces, and has a plan to get us out of this mess through growth.
The city leaders need to have an understanding that it’s not taxes that will get us out of the financial mess we are in but reforms and growth of the tax base through population and business growth. We need council people that do not look at our poor as criminals or exploit them for votes. I want council people to provide fiscally sound and proven successful avenues to allow them to become successful members of our community. To do this they need to challenge our city schools to not only provide a few select great schools, but to have every school be as successful as a Covedale Elementary or a Walnut Hills High School. They need to bring jobs back to the city, not only will this help our revenue and tax base, this will help uplift those that struggle now, and take the burden off of some of our city services.
With that said here are my endorsements for the 2011 Cincinnati Council Race:
Amy Murray – she is one of the most sensible people on council; I would compare her to Roxanne Qualls in temperament and pragmatic approach to addressing the issues. She has vision and knows how to work with all on council keep city business moving forward.
Leslie Ghiz – she is an outstanding advocate for the citizens of Cincinnati. Her priorities are well placed in making sure our fire fighters and police officers stay on our streets. She has no qualms about calling a spade a spade. While that may rub some including the Enquirer the wrong way, it is refreshing to hear a politician call out others on council that play politics rather than doing what is best for the citizens of Cincinnati.
Catherine Mills – she is young, bright, intelligent, and knows how to articulate her position. She is someone that can help lead this city into the 21st Century.
Chris Bortz – Chris is someone that understands the role government at the city level. He believes in being fiscally sensible He believes that the city needs to invest in itself to attract more people into the city. I think that while public services is the number one priority of city government, number two needs to be to grow, enhance and promote our city. Chris understands this. Being a Charterite he is not tied down to a political agenda of either the Democrats or Republicans.
Roxanne Qualls – Roxanne’s biggest strength is her insight in community and neighborhood development. Her work in community development is welcome in an atmosphere where many neighborhoods within the city are constantly suspicious of each other and of Council. While I don’t agree with her on many other issues, her leadership in community development is something we need on Council.
Kevin Flynn – he is consensus builder, some one that will be able to bring the two parties together to break the grid lock and actually get the agenda moving forward.
Michael Allen – a former Republican, now independent he is currently not tied to a particular party which is a great thing for the citizens of the city. His prior experience as a judge, county prosecutor, and party chairman will be an asset as far as understanding how things get done at multiple levels. He says he doesn’t want to be a leader on council, but he could likely become a strong leader on council quickly.
Wayne Lippert – Wayne is a common sense businessman. He appears to be very pragmatic about his decision making much like Councilwoman Amy Murray. While hasn’t made himself as well known as an appointed Councilperson, he comes across as someone that has a grasp on the issues and knows how to lead. Hopefully he has done enough to get his name out there city wide.
Chris Seelbach – Chris is my surprise pick. Someone I thought I would never vote for. While I know I would disagree with him on many issues, especially at the national level, I find his love and energy for Cincinnati refreshing. I feel like he is already invested in Cincinnati, and wants it to make it better for all. He seems to understand that the key issues is to bring people and business back to Cincinnati as a way to raise tax dollars rather than raising taxes on the current citizens. I think he is a much stronger than people give him credit for. If he follows in the footsteps of his mentor David Crowley then I don’t think the citizens have much to worry about. Like I said while I will disagree with him on many issues, I think he has the passion and temperament to help move the city forward.
The citizens of Cincinnati deserve a Council with a vision and with leadership. We need those on Council that aren’t looking at what they are going to do once they are off Council but what can they do for Cincinnati on Council. We need to bring people and jobs back to Cincinnati. The people don’t care if they are green jobs, blue jobs, or purple jobs, people just want jobs.
In the end I think this was easiest time I have had in a while to come up with nine council people that I would vote for. I think to put this combination on council would finally begin to end the unlimited politicking and grandstand that is currently infested on council. We need a council that is full of leaders and not politicians. This group represent people that I feel have the best interest of the citizens of Cincinnati at heart. I believe and proudly endorse this group as the best group to lead us forward in the next two years.
Leslie Ghiz recently tweeted “The budget looms…Thoughts on ways to raise revenue W/O taxing.” It got me thinking, how can the city balance the budget? I would imagine there are few accounting tricks left in the bag to help balance the budget this time around. Real leadership is going to have to emerge to balance this budget.
Councilwoman Ghiz is right we need to increase revenue without increasing taxes. The problem is that increasing revenue without raising taxes takes time, and planning. This will not fix the budget problem in the short term.
So Cincinnati City Council has two choices, either raise taxes, fees, etc. or cut from the budget. To bridge what is nearly a $35 million dollar gap, I don’t see how council can any longer not make cuts to the Cincinnati Police Department and Fire Department given how much of the budget they take up. Believe me, I agree with the conservative block on council, in that the last thing I want council to do is layoff police officers and fire fighters. I have yet to see how the math adds up without some layoffs. My hope would be to minimize the layoffs to the rank and file by making reductions in administrative and non-police/fire personal and expenditures. An internal look at trying to save money by fixing inefficiencies within the departments would save money and jobs as well.
I think it is time for even the most avid supporter of police and fire to acknowledge that with declining city revenues and a declining city population that real cuts to the police and fire budget have to be made. These cuts should be done with care and with minimal impact to the rank and file, but unless someone has a realistic plan that doesn’t cut police and fire, it must be done.
Councilwoman Ghiz is right we must raise revenue without raising taxes. That comes through getting rid of red tape for businesses, working with our school board and neighborhood councils on making all of our neighborhoods attractive places to live, and investing in our infrastructure. This is where the streetcar comes in. It is a project out of the capital fund, and yes the operating cost will be a net loss for the city. But that doesn’t mean that the increase in property values and in turn property taxes would not offset those losses. The city has for years given multi-million dollar tax breaks to companies that have failed to deliver on promises to add jobs in Cincinnati. I am willing to give the city the chance in this project to invest in itself to attract citizens and business to Cincinnati, and in turn increase the tax base.
To increase revenues and to avoid going down the road when it comes to the budget in future years we must increase the tax base through population and job growth. Cincinnati does this by investing in itself through capital projects. We must make our city an attractive place to live not only through outstanding public safety, but with a great school system, strong neighborhoods, and making this city the easiest place to do business in the Midwest.
What does it say for those thinking to come to Cincinnati, if aren’t willing to invest in ourselves through projects like the streetcar? Councilwoman Ghiz is right we must raise revenues without raising taxes, but hard cuts to all departments including police and fire must happen first to balance the budget in the short term.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan wants to change the length of
service on council to four year terms rather than the current two year terms (http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20110725/EDIT02/107250328/Guest-column-Change-terms-to-four-years-for-city-council).
Ideally she wants staggered elections every two years, with half the council up
for reelection every two years. She feels this would allow council to make the
tough decisions without facing the pressure of reelections. With all due
respect to Councilwoman Quinlivan, it is council’s job to represent the people
of Cincinnati and they should feel the pressure of reelection if they fail to perform.
Councilwoman Quinlivan has alternative motive for
wanting this change and it’s all political. She knows that in an at large
election in which it is an open field that in an urban city it is likely within
2 to 3 election cycles the city of Cincinnati could very well have a permanent
liberal super majority on Council. Her argument is that all of our “peer”
cities that she list has four year election cycles. What she fails to mention
is that each of them have a council that is elected by districts. Now if
she proposes that we go to districts as well then I would be in favor of it,
but somehow I doubt that is what she has in mind.
The voters of this city deserve to be able to hold
those that serve on council accountable. To do this it is imperative that
either it stay as it is currently with elections every two years or go to a
district or ward system of representation. Councilwoman Quinlivan’s plan in its
current form is completely unacceptable and I hope the current majority on
Council does not fall for this political ploy and power grab by the liberals on
This is going to be the beginning of a series of blogs about issues that are facing Cincinnati. These issues must be addressed to turn our city into a vibrant urban area. Some of these issues will no doubt overlap but in the interest of not writing one large diatribe I will break this off into several parts.
The first issue I am going to address is population growth. This issue has been brought to the forefront with the recent census numbers that have been released. Currently the number of residents is officially under 300k. This is a continuation of a downward trend since the 1970’s. City leaders must come up with a plan that will finally turn this around. Population growth, especially middle class population growth will equal an increase in tax dollars that Cincinnati desperately needs. I have been ranting about this since 2009; finally it appears that those on council are beginning to take this issue seriously.
One important way to retain and attract people to live in Cincinnati is to continue to provide what I would consider quality of life services within the city. These quality of life services would be anything from reducing crime to working to keep the city pools open. We have to be a city that is accessible to all income groups. Cincinnati cannot pay lip service to the poor and succeed.
Councilwoman Amy Murray did this by staring her pothole repairing initiative. This was great idea because this can improve the quality of life for all citizens no matter what your social economic status is. Fixing the potholes faster will likely lead to less car repairs for those that use city streets, which include city owned vehicles (police cars, fire trucks…etc.) and metro buses. This in turn will likely save citizens thousands of dollars in car repairs; it will save the city of Cincinnati thousands of dollars as well, which may help offset our overruns in the city fuel budget.
Another area that will encourage population growth is by identifying neighborhoods and groups that are working to attract and retain residents to their neighborhood. This is why I implore City Council to work with the Covedale Neighborhood Association and recognize Covedale as an official neighborhood. The facts show this is what the residents want and that this will stabilize neighborhood, increase the value, and the profile of the neighborhood. This will help retain current residents and help attract new residents as well.
Being on Cincinnati City Council has never been a tougher job or as important a job as it is now. The last thing Cincinnati needs is a councilperson that is all about show but has very little in the ability to lead a diverse population. Cincinnati needs to evaluate its’ council candidates not as Democrats or Republicans but determine who has the leadership qualities, fiscal values and is confident enough to handle the pressure that comes with leading Cincinnati through this challenging time.
As a conservative I believe that the government at the local level has three main responsibilities, public safety (which includes education, but that’s another blog), economic development, and not wasting tax dollars. In Cincinnati we have been fighting what seems to be a never ending battle on all three issues over the last 10 plus years. One of the major flash points is the question should Cincinnati spend money to build a streetcar. In this case I feel that this is the right investment for Cincinnati and will a have a long term and tangible benefit to the City and the Region.
I believe that this project make sense for many reasons. The first of which is to spur economic development downtown and throughout the city. Every city has a core and a city our size our core must be the downtown area. With the right planning, a solid downtown core will help expand and strengthen our city’s economy development to all the neighborhoods throughout the city. The Streetcar I feel will do this because it will connect the cities major attractions to each other directly and connect to a group of consumers that would be interested in spending their money at theses venues, the students at the University of Cincinnati. With two major sports teams, and major convention center, and other points of interest, including the arts, restaurants, bars, soon to be the casino and Banks District; having a street car that can connect these venues and the University of Cincinnati makes sense to be done in the beginning phase.
If we aren’t going to attempt to grow as a city then we are going to lose out. Many opponents including good solid conservatives argue that the City can’t afford this project. Good leadership and good conservative leadership isn’t about saying no to every project because tax dollars maybe spent. Conservative Economic Leadership is about not wasting resources on projects that equate to nothing more than pork. This project is anything but pork. This is about putting a transportation resource in place that stabilizes current economic growth and promotes more economic and residential growth in the area which in turn will increase our tax base and with the right leadership in place, keep our taxes low.
To make this project successful it must be done the right way. The first we must do is giving the community confidence that this is not a waste of money . To do this a plan must be put in place that must be easy for all to understand and make fiscal sense. To start, the first phase of this project must include the casino. With this being the newest attraction it will draw many people, and this will help draw ridership to the Streetcars. Next idea that I believe is key to the streetcar success is to pull all Metro buses off of the streets that the Streetcars will operate on. There is no need to have two forms of public transportation on the same streets and this will clear up the streets for other traffic as well. Plus this will also encourage ridership on the streetcars. The last recommendation would be bid out the day to day operation, management, and maintenance to a private company. I would still recommend the city keep ownership of Street Cars, but bid out the services with very specific performance, maintenance, and cost expectations.
One of the biggest challenges for Hamilton County and Cincinnati is the loss of both residents and businesses. This has lead to a dwindling tax base and exacerbated both the county and city budget issue. Some of this has been because of bad luck but much of it is because of poor leadership and poor planning. It is in the best interest of Hamilton County and Cincinnati to have a strong down downtown core. To have a strong core we must a viable and appealing mode of transportation that links all the major attractions downtown and I feel the streetcar would be a visible and appealing way to accomplish this.
There is little doubt of the controversy that surrounds the Cincinnati Streetcar Project. I suspect though that this project is more popular inside the city limits than throughout the county as a whole. People are right to be very skeptical of anything that City Council is doing at this point; I feel though that this project may be able to change the dynamics of the neighborhoods and the downtown communities it serves. We have to do projects that promote economic and population growth. We must increase the tax base without increasing taxes. If we are not growing as a city then we are declining, and we have been in decline for way too long. For all those who say they are against the streetcar I say ok that’s fine, but what is your plan for economic growth in Cincinnati?
Over the last several months the big news when it has come to county politics has been the shortfall of tax revenue to pay for Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark. The County Commissioners are currently in a heated debate on how to pay for the stadiums. It appears that the Citizens of Hamilton County are likely to see a tax increase because of this situation. Unfortunately the County Commissioners are looking at a short term fix rather than looking for long term solutions.
Obviously there has to be some short term solutions and they are going to be tough and unpopular. With that said the first thing I would recommend is an across the board 10% cut in every department. I am sure departments would say they have been cut too much already but in a government bureaucracy I have no doubt that we can afford 10% in cuts whether is in staff or becoming more efficient with the tax dollars being spent.
These cuts would net $20 million in cost savings with the current projection of a $209 million dollar budget. Granted this would still leave the county and $10 million dollar short fall, but that would be much more manageable to deal with than the current amount.
The other way I would bridge the gap is raise the sales tax .15 percent for no longer than five years to cover the gap. While I strongly oppose any raises in taxes this makes the most sense because in would impact anyone who buys goods and services in Hamilton County. This tax I would only allow it to be used to make up the budget gap after the 10% cuts that I recommended earlier. Any leftover would go back to the people in the form of a property tax rebate.
While this would only be a short-term solution, our county government has to look long term now. Hamilton County, like the city of Cincinnati needs to come up with a way to increase our tax base. The county must do this by lowing taxes on properties to increase population of the county. Much of the counties tax revenue problem stems from residents leaving the county for other outlying counties in the area. While the county property tax isn’t the only solution, favorable property tax laws for residents can go a long way to attracting people to the county.
The second recommendation I have is on the side of job growth. We have to bring jobs back to Hamilton County. Ohio already struggles with how unfriendly it is for business and because of all the municipalities that can be involved in setting up business in Hamilton County it is even a more bureaucratic than most counties in the region. To solve this problem we need to one uniform way of doing business in Hamilton County. Lets cut the red tape and all the excess fees it takes to run a business in Hamilton County and make it simple and desirable to do business here. We have seen it time and again when government gets out of the way of business then business profit, jobs are created, and the economy will flourish.
To accomplish this I would recommend that all of the cities, townships, villages…etc, come together to develop on set of laws and regulations that will be enforced county wide, no exceptions and no additions or subtracts. This county’s main goal should be to be the most business friendly environment in the state and the region to increase the tax base while lowering taxes for both business and those that live in Hamilton County.
In typical fashion, the new majority of five, just like the old ones, chose to put off rather than actually deal with the budget issues that dominated the council’s time in 2009. We are setup again for a repeat of the same budget fight in 2010. We can thank the leadership once again of Mayor Mallory who barely beat what turned out to be a weak candidate and Councilwoman Cole who was the last to be elected onto council for putting together this wonderful budget.
Their is little doubt in anyone’s mind that the city is in major trouble financially , and with this budget it looks to stay that way. How on earth can we possibly expect to balance a budget on hopes and gimmicks? We have already elected President Obama with that same promise and look where we are now. We need a real budget that is balanced not only on paper, but that is realistic in nature. To not close more underutilized pools and recreation centers, along with actually giving additional funding to programs that bring no revenue into the city is reckless.
There are two key areas that the city should address with the 2010 budget and they must start working on this now. The first issue going to be the toughest and that is getting concessions from the unions. I truly believe that our police and fire departments are asked to do far too much with far too few resources. Unfortunately though because of our city’s lack of leadership for so long, we must get some concessions to fix our budget.
To do this though we should engage all of unions now so that we can work with them without putting a gun to their heads and the heads of the citizens with the threat of major job cuts, and public safety issues without concessions. I have no doubt with the right amount respect given to the union groups along with the right approach, and a good plan they would be willing to help the city that they serve. I am glad Council has stepped up in taking 10 unpaid days but Council needs to show more leadership than that. We need to install confidence in the both the citizens’ and the unions that taking these cuts are a temporary solution and that the city has solid plan in place to fix the budget issue so that we don’t have to make cuts like this again in the future.
The other area that the city must address is job and population growth. This is critical because we must increase both to increase our tax base. This is the best and most logical plan to solve our long term budget woes. It does us no good to build new skyscrapers downtown only to have the new tenants be tenants that are moving out of one downtown building to another. Council for years has failed to address concerns when it has come to population and job growth. We can no longer just bank on the Banks project to move us forward
We have a great foundation in place with groups like 3CDC and Agenda 360. Cincinnati needs to capitalize on their leadership and enthusiasm in help turn Cincinnati into a local and regional leader again. Cincinnati Council should make it the number one priority next to public safety, should to make Cincinnati the most business friendly and least taxed city in the State of Ohio and in the region. This would spur the growth in the tax base necessary to fix this deficit budget.
Now is not the time for politics on city council. We need leaders. Councilwoman Laura Quinlivan tweeted recently “Glad the budget process is over, Next time we will do better…” I don’t know about you but that the exact attitude and leadership we don’t need and have too much of on Council. I want leaders that what to tackle the hard issues and solve the problem right for what is best for Cincinnati and not for political gain.
In 2010, I hope that Charles Winburn, since he seems to be the swing vote, can give us the leadership that he has promised when he ran for office. He has already joined Councilwoman Cole in passing this mirage of a budget this past December, but we can hope that with the 2010 budget fight looming, that he along with four others will focus on making our city the friendliest city with regards to opening and expanding businesses in the region. We need leaders that will work hard to fix Cincinnati with real ideas for growth in population and business, not with gimmicks and serving special interest. If this can be accomplished then Cincinnati will be able to thrive once again.
I am endorsing Brad Wenstrup for Mayor of Cincinnati. Mark Mallory is trying to move the city forward, but he has lost the faith of the citizens of Cincinnati. He lacks the leadership skills necessary to bring our city together during this critical time. While I support the streetcar project I feel his leadership has tainted the cause and that until he is replaced as the leader of the streetcar initiative and the leader of Cincinnati the streetcar issue is a dead issue. We need someone to provide true leadership in this city, and while I may disagree with Brad on the streetcar issue, I feel his leadership skills are something that this city must have. He will be the type of Mayor that doesn’t try to play the politics as usual game but will do what he feels what is best for Cincinnati and not for what is best for his political career.
My Cincinnati City Council Slate in no particular order:
I feel it is time we replace most of the incumbents that make up the voting majority on Council. Their leadership has been questionable at best, and their handling of the situation when it came to layoffs of city workers and public safety works can be labeled as childish. The majority on council today is largely responsible for the situation we are in, including approving a budget over the last couple of years that projected a rise in revenues while the state and the rest of the country were projecting declines. Of that majority I feel Greg Harris is the least culpable given the amount of time he has spent on Council(less than one year), and further more I find while I have fundamental disagreements on several issues I find he is far more pragmatic in his reasoning and is truly trying to make Cincinnati better. The best thing he could do is to distance himself from the Laketia Cole and the rest of the “Fab Five”.
My picks are far more conservative than the make up of the current council. I do believe that political parties are not as much a factor at the local level, with that said though we need a major shake up on council and I feel these nine would provide that. Lastly while I have reservations about Antria Brockman taking the Green Party endorsement I feel she would be a good addition to Council as pseudo independent candidate from a background that many of our residents indentify with and she would bring a perspective that Cincinnati City Council has lacked for years.
We must elect a council that is different than the current dysfunctional mess that we have today. We have all complained that Cincinnati Council doesn’t listen to the citizens and they have made terrible decisions time and time again. If we want that to change we must change who is on council and who is in the majority. We can’t expect to elect the same people and hope they will do a better job than what they are doing today