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Cincinnati Council adding committees focusing on climate and housing

New council for 2022
Becca Costello
At podium: Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. Back row, left to right: Mayor-elect Aftab Pureval, Council Member Greg Landsman, Council Members-elect Scotty Johnson, Reggie Harris, Mark Jeffreys, and Meeka Owens.

Climate change and housing are explicit priorities for the incoming Cincinnati Council. Mayor-elect Aftab Pureval Tuesday announced five streamlined committees that will begin when the new council takes office in January, replacing the current seven. He also laid out his appointees for each committee chair.

Incoming Council Member Meeka Owens will lead the new Climate, Environment and Infrastructure committee.

"When we get aggressive about reducing carbon emissions and building greener environments, not only will our city benefit, but our region will be vibrant as well — and Cincinnati can lead the nation on this," Owens says.

Reggie Harris will chair the new Equitable Growth and Housing committee. He says community engagement will be a top priority.

"It's about, how are you checking in at regular increments with folks in the community who are doing the work?" Harris says. "You have three or four people here, you propose ideas and you get feedback. So it becomes a regular part of the process."

Former police officer Scotty Johnson will chair the Public Safety and Governance Committee. He says a top priority will be finding a new police chief as Eliot Isaac prepares to retire in early 2022.

"The nationwide search the mayor-elect has talked about is absolutely necessary because Cincinnati citizens deserve the best person on the planet to come here and serve as the police chief," Johnson says. "And whoever that is, they need to bring a sense of accountability with them, also."

The city manager has ultimate authority to make hiring decisions, but groups like the Black United Front are asking for a process with more public input. Pureval says he plans a nationwide search for that position, as well.

Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, recently appointed as Pureval's Vice Mayor, will chair Healthy Neighborhoods.

"I want to put two words by you: one is inclusion; the other is collaboration," Kearney says. "We are collaborating with everyone. Whether you elected us or not, we are here serving you and these committees are going to do great work."

Returning Council Member Greg Landsman will lead the powerful Budget and Finance Committee.

"Expect a committee that's focused on bringing everyone together … to build a budget that's ultimately structurally balanced, that is delivering our core services so that taxpayers are getting exactly what they expect and need, and that we are investing in a balanced development approach where we're continuing to attract investments in the city, but doing so in a way where we lift up the folks who live here, the businesses that are already doing business here," Landsman says. "And that is a big shift from where we've been."

The new council members will vote to approve the committee structure, along with the rules of council, when they're sworn in Jan. 4.

The current committees are:

  • Budget & Finance (Chair David Mann)
  • Economic Growth & Zoning (Chair Christopher Smitherman)
  • Education, Innovation & Growth (Chair Betsy Sundermann)
  • Equity, Inclusion, Youth & The Arts (Chair Chris Seelbach)
  • Law & Public Safety (Chair Christopher Smitherman)
  • Major Projects & Smart Government (Chair Greg Landsman)
  • Neighborhoods (Chair Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney)

The incoming committees are:

  • Budget & Finance (Chair Greg Landsman)
  • Climate, Environment & Infrastructure (Chair Meeka Owens)
  • Equitable Growth & Housing (Chair Reggie Harris)
  • Healthy Neighborhoods (Chair Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney)
  • Public Safety & Governance (Chair Scotty Johnson)
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.