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WVXU has been covering the stories of politics and corruption at Cincinnati's City Hall since early 2020. We have now launched an initiative to more closely examine Cincinnati politics and the individuals who have shaped it, along with the current allegations of corruption. We'll also explore proposals for change, and seek feedback from local leaders and community members on what can be done to restore trust in City Hall.Trust in Local Government, WVXU's Public Integrity Project will analyze our council-manager form of government and the charter amendments designed to reinforce ethical standards at City Hall; take a historical look at corruption in Cincinnati government; talk with the candidates for Cincinnati mayor and continue with an ongoing series of features, interviews and candidate profiles.

Public Offers Feedback On Economic Development Reform 'To Restore Integrity'

cincinnati city hall
Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati City Hall

Cincinnatians speaking to the Economic Development Reform Panel Friday say it's time for big changes.

The panel was formed in response to three council members indicted on corruption charges last year. The members are accused of accepting money in exchange for positive votes on development projects.

Chanda Monroe-Williams owns a small consulting firm. She says people involved in development understand it's not about what you know, but who you know.

"So there's a lot of chatter about how these contracts are decided; who you need to get close to; who you make sure you don't cross in the process," she said.

Monroe-Williams says it's a system-wide problem including elected officials and administrative staff. She says she's glad the panel is considering these issues.

"Taking time to sit down and look at who's involved, what their roles are, defining the process, and making sure that it's clear and transparent to the public going forward – that's the only way we can restore integrity into the process," Monroe-Williams said.

Downtown resident Kurt Grossman is running for City Council in the fall. He says council should have a code of ethics that members commit to annually.

"We must ensure that members understand that it is not enough just to avoid doing wrong, but must also avoid conduct that might look like they're doing wrong," Grossman said. "I encourage this panel to develop processes and guidelines with rigorous vetting aimed at ensuring we elect and appoint only those who have shown that they can and will live up to these high standards and ideals."

Five people addressed the panel during the public comment period.

The panel is considering what training is available for new council members.

Panelist Bernadette Watson was chief of staff to former Mayor Charlie Luken. She says newer council members have different skill sets and may not understand when it's inappropriate to be involved with developers.

"And not having all of the attorneys and other people like we've had over the years having a clear understanding — I think people coming into council just really need to understand what our process and what our charter is," Watson said.

Panelists say training for council members should be ongoing.

The panel meets every other week, with the next meeting on April 23. The group will offer recommendations for reform in August.

trust in local government
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

 The "Trust In Local Government: WVXU's Public Integrity Project" examines Cincinnati politics and the individuals who shaped it. Read more hereSupport for this project comes from The Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation. 

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.