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Cincinnatians Support Arts, Homeless Services In Hearing On Federal Stimulus Plans

City of Cincinnati
Public comment took about two hours at Monday's Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

Nearly 80 people spoke to Cincinnati council members Monday about how the city should spend $290 million in federal stimulus. It was the first of at least two public hearings at the Budget and Finance Committee.

Several people asked council to give $3 million to the homeless services organization Bethany House. CEO Susan Schiller says the money is needed for construction on a new shelter.

"I know there are very, very many worthy causes requesting funding," Schiller said. "We need to make a commitment to our city's children. We need to put homeless children at the top of the list."

The total project will cost more than $18 million. The organization has raised most of the money through private donations. The city manager's proposal for spending the stimulus includes $1.3 million for Bethany House.

Dozens of speakers spoke in support of funding the arts.

"Cincinnati's arts and culture sector is the envy of other major cities in the country and it's in peril due to the pandemic shutting the sector down," said Gerron McKnight, board member for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. "Without the funding, the arts fabric is at great risk of unravelling, and could set the sector back for years."

The city manager's proposal includes about $11 million for arts organizations.

Several speakers asked council to consider projects not in the administration's spending plan, including repairs on the bell tower of First Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine. The tower needs $3 million in repairs or it will have to be demolished. Congregation member Kristin Myers says the church is community staple.

"Ninety percent of the people who came through the building in 2019 were there for human services, arts, or community events, not for church services," Myers said.

The church is also raising money for repairs through private donations.

Other speakers supported projects including housing, food security, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Council will hold another public hearing about the stimulus funding next Monday at 1 p.m. Two council members are collecting public feedback through online surveys: David Mann and Greg Landsman.

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.