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Cranley touts population and economic growth in final State of the City address

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley gave his final state of the city address at the TQL Stadium in the West End.
Becca Costello
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley gave his final state of the city address at the TQL Stadium in the West End Oct. 26, 2021.

Mayor John Cranley touted what he calls Cincinnati's comeback in his final State of the City address Tuesday night. Cranley spoke to a crowd of city leaders, elected officials, and guests at the new TQL Stadium. He touted growth in population and economic development during his eight years in office.

"As I prepare to leave this greatest job I have ever had, to be mayor of my hometown, I have great hope and more optimism for our city than at any other time in my 47 years," Cranley said.

Cranley took office at the end of 2013 and was re-elected four years later. He is term limited and taking his comeback message statewide, running against Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley for a chance to challenge Governor Mike DeWine next year.

Cranley says despite a nationwide debate about diverting resources away from law enforcement, he's proud of rejecting efforts to defund the police.

"And like our other basic services of fire, and public services, our funding for police has increased 32.5% over the past eight years," Cranley said.

But Cranley says he's most proud of the work to reduce the city's poverty rate from about 31% in 2013 to about 23% now. Cranley says city funding for human services has increased more than five-fold.

"We have not pit social services and police against each other, but we have walked the walk and our police have been using co-responder practices for over a decade."

Several shootings involving young teens and children this year have highlighted the spike in gun violence that started during the pandemic. Seventy-seven people have been killed in Cincinnati as of Tuesday morning, and there have been 349 shootings, according to Cincinnati Police.

"In July, I asked the City Manager and Chief Isaac to convene the Manager's Advisory Group to examine causes, evaluate resources and ultimately create a plan to address youth violence in our city," Cranley said. "Their work has only begun in earnest, but it is ongoing."

Cranley says despite criticism about displacement, the city's urban regrowth has primarily been in what was once vacant buildings and plots of land.

"And let's be clear: OTR and so many of our neighborhoods were far worse places before our city's comeback," he said. "Shootings were higher, fear was ever present, and jobs were scarce. Those were not the good old days — they were hard, bad days."

Cranley recalls the Collaborative Agreement of 20 years ago as "the most consequential vote and decision this city has made in my life." Cranley was one of five council members to vote in favor of starting the agreement.

A video featuring former Mayor Charlie Luken, Iris Roley, Rev. Damon Lynch III and many others highlighted what Cranley calls the "absolutely incredible" transformation of Cincinnati between then and now.

"And peace agreements built on hope for justice age over time and new circumstances arrive to demand a fresh approach. That's why I called for the Collaborative Refresh — because I knew we couldn't afford to rest on our laurels," Cranley said. "And I want all of Cincinnati to know that the work for racial justice in our city is not finished and our work – proud as we are – will also need to be refreshed."

Cranley says he's proud of the work done in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis, citing police officer arbitration changes negotiated with the police union.

Some criticized Cranley's response to the protests last summer, most notably his decision to implement a curfew. Judges have since dismissed charges against dozens of people arrested for violating the curfew, saying the curfew order was "unconstitutionally vague."

Cranley wrapped up his final address as Cincinnati mayor with a message to his son, Joseph:

"I believe that I have provided you a better city than the one you were born into 12 years ago," Cranley said. "And whether I did or not, I promise you Joseph, and I promise you Cincinnati, I gave it my all."

Cranley says his advice to the next mayor is to support the police, reduce crime and continue supporting business and population growth in the city. He says during his last few months in office, he'll focus on reducing crime and finalizing a deal for Divisions Maintenance Group to come into the old Macy's building on Fountain Square, creating 600 new jobs.

"And then obviously, after the election next Tuesday, I will help whoever wins transition as seamlessly as possible into the mayor's office," Cranley said. "Because it's the people's office at the end of the day."

Council Member David Mann and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval are facing off in the mayoral election on Nov. 2.

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.