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Small Turnout For Cincinnati's First Budget Hearing

Jay Hanselman
The audience listens as City Manager Harry Black presents his budget proposal during a public hearing Thursday evening in Mt. Washington.

Attendance was light for City Council's first public hearing on the budget for the next two years.

About two dozen people attended the session at the Mt. Washington Recreation Center. Only 11 people offered comments on the spending proposal.
The majority of the remarks focused on funding for human services programs and money for neighborhood community councils.

Speakers asked City Council to provide additional funding to tackle the increasing opioid crisis and to keep funding in place for efforts to reduce homelessness.

First Step Home is a treatment center that allows women to live with their children, up to the age of 12, as they recover from substance use disorders. It's seeking city funds to help with a facility renovation project.

Stephanie Neeley has been at First Step for two months. She told council members she was an opiate addict for seven years and had never been treated before. The loss of her husband six months ago to drug addiction finally forced her into treatment.

"First Step has saved my life. They have restored my life and my daughter's life. They have given so much to me," Neeley said. "It's a wonderful program. I feel like I am at home."

Several speakers also want council to restore funds for neighborhood community councils and neighborhood business districts.

Mt. Washington resident Wendy O'Neal said she knows the council has tough decisions to make, but neighborhood funds make a difference.

"Having local people work in their neighborhoods creates safer streets, period," O'Neal said. "Eyes on the street make that happen. All the police in the world can't do it as well as neighbors can."

Craig Rozen agreed the neighborhood money is important.

"Slashing $88,400 into our neighborhood community councils, $43,000 into our neighborhood business districts makes that job so much harder for those who live, work, play and educate in our city."

The organization Invest In Neighborhoods is also seeking additional city funding so it can hire a fulltime executive director to work with neighborhoods.

City Manager Harry Black presented his nearly $1.6 billion all funds budget last month. It included fee and citations increases and expenditure reductions to close a $26 million general fund budget deficit. Those cuts included money for human services programs and neighborhoods.

Mayor John Cranley restored those cuts when he made changes to the city manager's budget proposal. He presented his budget to City Council last week.

City Council will hold additional public hearings on Monday at the Dunham Recreation Center and Wednesday at the North Avondale Recreation Center. Both start at 6 p.m.

City Council must approve a budget proposal by June 30.