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First Cincinnati Budget Hearing Draws Large Crowd

Casey Weldon
City of Cincinnati
Cincinnati Council's Budget and Finance Committee held a public hearing on the city budget Wednesday evening.

More than 60 people offered their thoughts on Cincinnati's proposed budget during a public hearing Wednesday night.
Many of those offering comments spoke in favor of funding for the Center for Closing the Health Gap and agencies that provide human services.

Once again this year City Manager Patrick Duhaney's spending plan didn't include money for the Health Gap, and Mayor John Cranley also didn't fund the group when he made his changes to the manager's budget.

Trazana Staples told the Budget and Finance Committee that she had a stroke in 2017, and her connection with the Health Gap made a difference.

"I was able to reach out and receive information that I needed so I could have resources for my recovery," Staples said. "It's very important that the funding is restored."

Mark Wilson said the organization does a lot for the community.

"The people are one of the most important things of the city, and I see the Health Gap investing back in the citizens of the city," Wilson said. "I just ask that you continue to support and provide the funding they need."

Human services agencies are urging city council to increase funding to 1.2% of the total city general fund budget. The manager and mayor did that in their proposals.

City council passed an ordinance last year to gradually increase that funding to 1.5% of the general fund budget. That's the level it was traditionally at many years ago before the city began experiencing major deficits in the general fund.

"I believe that this council understands that the health of this city as a whole is not independent of the health of its least fortunate," said Jim Holmstrom. "Those struggling with addictions such as mental health addiction, disability or any number of other formidable challenges."

Kristin Smith-Shrimplin is the President and CEO of Women Helping Women and she spoke in favor of human services funding.

"For far too long survivors of dating violence, domestic violence and sexual violence and stalking have been told that they do not matter," Shrimplin said. "And survivors and their children matter and that's why we work hard at Women Helping Women 24/7 to respond to survivors in the greatest time of their need."

Several people also asked that council restore funding to keep Larry Falkin as the head of the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability.  The city manager had eliminated that job in his budget proposal, and Falkin was going to be transferred to another city department outside the general fund.

Council member David Mann suggested during Wednesday night's hearing that funding for the Center for Closing the Health Gap and Falkin's position will be restored by city council when it finalizes the budget.

Other speakers asked council to maintain funding for economic development programs, neighborhoods and eviction prevention.

Two more budget hearings are set for next week. The one Monday will be held at the UC Innovation Hub at 2900 Reading Road.  Tuesday's will be at Madcap Theatre at 3064 Harrison Avenue. Both of those hearings start at 6 p.m.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.