As expected, Cincinnati mayoral candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls found plenty to disagree about in their first debate Tuesday before a group of Cincinnati business leaders.
But they also hit upon a few areas of agreement.
Not surprisingly, they both told a Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber-sponsored luncheon at the Cincinnati Museum Center that they oppose raising the city’ 2.1 percent income tax as a way to deal with the city’s chronic budget shortfalls.
And both were critical of the state of Ohio’s recent decision not to grant tax credits to Pure Romance, a $100 million company that sells “romance enhancement” products, so it could move about 150 jobs to Cincinnati.
Those jobs may well end up in Covington now.
Qualls called the state’s decision “prudish.”
But that’s where they parted ways.
Cranley hammered over and over again at his opposition to the $133 million streetcar project, a project Qualls supports and says will stimulate jobs and economic growth.
Cranley said he would call a halt to the streetcar project, the first phase of which is well underway, on his first day in office, “to stop throwing good money after bad.”
“I would also take great heart in knowing that the $4 million operating deficit (for the streetcar) would be eliminated and we don’t have to deal with that on top of all the other issues,’’ Cranley said.
Qualls believes Cranley and other streetcar critics are being short-sighted.Qualls said her first act as mayor would be to go to Washington, D.C. to convince federal officials to help fund the second phase of the streetcar project.
It is a project, she said, “that links the two largest employment areas of the city, downtown and the uptown area, which has our universities and hospitals.”
The debate, moderated by Enquirer business editor Lee Ann Hamilton, also led to a discussion of how to breathe life into the struggling Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Qualls said she opposes offering financial incentives to lure new airlines to the airport but Cranley said “all options should be on the table.”
Cranley and Qualls were the two top vote-getters in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, which gave them the right to run in general election to replace Mayor Mark Mallory, who is prevented from running again by the city’s term limits law.
A second debate will be held Oct. 15 at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts and will be televised by WCPO, channel 9. Tuesday’s debate was live-streamed by Cincinnati.com, one of the debate’s co-sponsors.