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SPOTLIGHT: Your 2021 voter guide to Cincinnati's races for mayor, City Council, school board and more ahead of Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 2. >>
Politics

A voter guide to where 2021 Cincinnati Council candidates stand on the issues

cincinnati city hall
Jason Whitman
/
WVXU

Thirty-four of the 35 candidates for Cincinnati City Council responded to a WVXU survey asking their policy opinions on several key issues. Learn more about each candidate below.

Nine seats are open and only one elected incumbent is eligible to run again: Democrat Greg Landsman. Four others were appointed to council and are running to be elected for the first time:

After eight years of four-year terms, council is back to the two-year terms it had from 1925 to 2013 after voters approved the switch in 2018.

As always, it's officially a non-partisan election; voters won't see party identifications for the candidates on the ballot. All four of Cincinnati's political parties — Democrat, Republican, Green and the Charter Committee — have endorsed slates of candidates.

Voters can choose up to nine candidates, in no particular order. Voter surveys over the years have shown that the average voter checks a box for no more than six or seven candidates.

The top nine vote-getters will win an at-large seat on council; seats are determined by neighborhood or other regional boundary.

We asked the candidates five open-ended questions, based on your feedback about the issues that matter most in this election.

Scroll through this page to see all the responses, or click a name in the list to jump directly to that candidate. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

A few notes about the responses:

  • Several candidates mention Issue 7. This refers to a ballot initiative passed in 2020 that raised the Hamilton County sales tax by 0.8% to fund the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which operates the Metro bus system. The measure was approved by 980 votes.
  • Several candidates mention Issue 3. Depending on the context, this refers either to an affordable housing ballot initiative in May 2021 that failed, or a ballot initiative on the November ballot.
  • Voters in Ohio do not register with a political party. Party affiliation here refers to the ballot chosen in the most recent primary election. Candidates listed as "Non-affiliated" did not vote using a party ballot in any of the last three primary elections.

RELATED: View our full 2021 voter guide to the candidates, levies and charter amendments on the ballot

If you are more interested in where candidates stand on a certain issue, we rounded up their responses on the following topics:

City Council Candidates

Candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party:

Candidates endorsed by the Republican Party:

Candidates endorsed by the Charter Committee:

Candidates endorsed by the Green Party:

RELATED: Where Cincinnati Public School Board candidates stand on the issues facing the district

WVXU has only edited candidates responses for style and clarity. All candidates are listed alphabetically.

Jalen S. Alford

Alford, Jalen.jpg
Jalen Alford

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 19
Neighborhood: Bond Hill
Campaign website: jalenalford.com

About: My involvement in serving our community began at a very early age. In 2008 I became interested in politics and accompanied many of my family members during their service with the inaugural presidential campaign for Barack Obama. I tagged eagerly along, knocking on doors and attending political rallies; as well as assisting with the preparation of canvassing materials for the street teams. Soon after, I became a member of the NAACP, and over the years I have served the organization in innumerous ways. By participating and leading in an array of tasks, varying from identifying grant opportunities for the Youth & College Division and then assisting with the application process to secure vital funding; as well as traveling for numerous state and national conferences, and conventions. I also was a part of the Collaborative Agreement Refresh process. More recently, I have had a presence in last summer's social protests that were held, demanding police reforms; and leading a local voter registration drive. I have also spearheaded extremely vital PPP distribution efforts and educating young people about taking seriously the need for social distancing and wearing masks during the pandemic, and now about getting vaccinated.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

When it comes to addressing corruption at City Hall I have been very vocal about implementing the following policies as I have outlined on my website at www.jalenalford.com:

  • Revamp the Zoning Committee to include applicable community council members
  • Revamp the Planning Committee to include applicable community council members
  • All meetings with developers subject to be recorded, with required disclosure
  • Annually mandated campaign finance reports and disclosure of donations (including PACs associated with them)
  • Civilian-staffed, City Hall Ethics Review Committee
  • Yearly ethics evaluations and audits of actions of all public officials
  • Amendment of the city charter to include penalties and order of operations, if a member of the council is accused of public corruption or bribery
  • Allow the suspension of a city elected official who has been indicted with a crime by a simple majority vote
  • Exclusion of office for persons convicted of bribery, public corruption, etc.
  • Add provisions to the charter that requires the attendance of council members with reasonable exceptions, and written notices in advance

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

To address the ongoing issue of homelessness and affordable housing that exists in Cincinnati, my course of action will be to initiate the Restoration In Society Equitably Initiative (R.I.S.E.), which aims to reduce homelessness by renovating many of the city’s unused/abandoned warehouses and buildings to create low income housing, in which people will receive access to government subsidies/ assistance programs, and while being housed they will be paired with a social worker that will assist them with financial literacy and other services to ensure they’re on track for re-acclimation into society. Furthermore, when it comes to legislation or incentivization, that all development deals in this city include affordable housing.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

When it comes to pedestrian safety and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city I think we should start by converting underused or inactive spaces into pedestrian plazas. Inexpensive and beneficial pedestrian plazas have a track record of decreasing accidents and speeding. Data from New York City shows that once implemented, neighborhoods with
these plazas had speeding decreased by 16% and accidents decreased by 26%. An added benefit of these plazas is that they support local businesses by providing additional outdoor sitting for local restaurants and/or space for local food trucks, vendors etc. while also boosting neighborhood interaction. We can also create pedestrian-only streets, following the trend some cities put in place in response to COVID-19. Pedestrian-only streets not only improve overall safety for those on foot, but they can also boost local air quality, land value, store sales and overall health, while reducing noise levels. A 2016 study of more than 100 cities around the world that maintained multiple pedestrian-only streets found that retail sales increased 49%. Cities in Austria, Germany and Scandinavian countries had more than 60% increase in sales.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I would have to say today, after meeting with the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

It's not a city but Hennepin County recently announced that it plans to have social workers embedded in 21 police departments countywide. Which I believe would be a great move for Cincinnati and Hamilton County as a whole.

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Tom Brinkman

Brinkman, Tom.jpg
Ohio House of Representatives

Party affiliation: Republican
Age: 63
Neighborhood: Mt. Lookout
Campaign website: gobrinkman.com

About: Lifelong Cincinnatian married to Cathy for 38 years; raised six children and have seven grandchildren. Served almost 15 years in the Ohio House of Representatives. Selling life insurance products throughout the Tri-State area.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I organized the only anti-corruption ballot issue on the November ballot: Issue 3.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Transparency and accountability are paramount to moving forward. Just last week the Mayor tried to run through a $1.7 million marina but was caught.* We must pass Issue 3.

* Reporter’s note: For context on this comment, see reporting from the Cincinnati Enquirer here.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

We need more dedicated bike and walking trails. Just painting little while lines or four inch curbs and plastic sticks on the road is not good enough.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I was an avid bike rider. About three years ago friends and family advised me to stop riding due to the large number of bikers killed or maimed doing what they enjoy. I resisted this advice until after much thought I parked my bike for the year.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

The state of Ohio has many great programs that Cincinnati should tap into. Ohio cities are doing it and I will lead the charge to get Cincinnati on board.

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Jaime Castle

Castle, Jaime.jpg
Courtesy Jaime Castle

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 44
Neighborhood: Mt. Washington
Campaign website: castleforcincinnati.com

About: Continuously learning, ever problem-solving through collaboration and creativity, wanting to leave this world a better place for her children and future generations, Jaime Castle is one that steps up when needed. A teacher, artistic entrepreneur, mother, and most recently the Democratic candidate for Ohio's 2nd Congressional District, she is a lifelong Cincinnatian and has been a volunteer leader in her community. She has been very involved in leadership in her Unitarian Universalist Church which focuses on social justice and the journey of the whole person as well as leading in youth and education: PTO President, SAY soccer coach, youth theater director. She is a teacher for Cincinnati Public Schools and is a 2021 Cincinnati City Council candidate that hopes to help in future leader development. She grew up in a big family in Greenhills, is a 1999 Miami University graduate, and is raising her family in Mt. Washington.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

With the term limits back to two years, ousting bad apples will be quicker and easier but we should focus on prevention. Ohio ethics law and local procurement regulation information need to be clear-cut and understood by council members and that can happen through training when council members are new, and it can happen through a handbook given to members. It is important to note that voters can be proactive in combating corruption by voting for people with integrity.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Cincinnati is behind many other cities in its establishment of an affordable housing trust fund that has set revenue sources and is sustainable. Other cities also have set standards for development projects wanting residential tax incentives. Columbus, for example, has a tiered ranking for neighborhoods that is evaluated every three years and directs the most attention to areas that need development and investment. Cincinnati can also use measurable distress indicators (like poverty rate and growth in median rent) to determine which areas of the city would receive 100% 15-year tax abatements on improvements made on a property and areas that are less in need of investment than others can include things such as affordable housing units, and environmental remediation as a requirement to receive these incentives.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

We really need to bring experts together to craft a long-term vision plan that puts into place infrastructure and goals that will take Cincinnati into the future where we cannot be so dependent on individual vehicle transportation. It will require better public transportation options and better/safer pedestrian, multi-modal, and bike transportation. A light rail system would take the city to the next level. We could tie that into the existing streetcar, but we need to connect neighborhoods to the urban core. Protected bike and pedestrian lanes are needed and will take some investment. More immediate solutions would be the creation of pedestrian plazas, accessible and continuous sidewalks, turning some one-way streets into two-way streets, add sidewalk extensions, reduce the corner radius on turns, and surface treatments. Safety zones must be created in high pedestrian traffic places like schools utilizing signage, painted crosswalks, sidewalk bumps, and good lighting.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

This example is not so much based on new information, but more in learning new perspectives. During my Congressional run, in raising funds for my campaign, I spoke to many voters across the nation. The something in question was term limits for members of Congress. It was my belief that many members in Congress had been there for too long and were doing damage. It was brought to my attention that I was looking only at what I deemed was the bad when it could be seen also as you get to keep people in office that are doing a lot of good for the country. Elections are a way that we can term limit public servants and if we can get good people there and they have enough time, great progress can be made.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Coming from a background of working with youth, I am interested in ways in which we can invest in our future by empowering young people to be set up for a lifetime of success. I admire the Tallahassee Future Leaders Academy and would love to create a version of this in Cincinnati. This is a premiere youth leadership program where “Training, Visits, Speakers, and Opportunities are graciously provided by City of Tallahassee Professionals and TFLA Business and Community Partners who are vested in the development and success of Tallahassee Youth. Activities include career exploration, healthy and tasty cooking, exercising minds and bodies, leadership training and habits of systems thinkers, career exploration, resume writing and mock interviews, soft skills training (e.g., attitude and enthusiasm, perspective-taking, professionalism, communication), financial literacy, service learning, and college exposure through pioneering partnerships with Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College, and Lively Technical College.” (https://www.talgov.com/employment/tfla.aspx)

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LaKeisha Cook

Cook, LaKeisha.jpg
Courtesy LaKeisha Cook

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 36
Neighborhood: Westwood
Campaign website: votelakeishacook.com

About: I am currently a resident in Westwood. I grew up in Cincinnati and am proud to be a graduate from Withrow High School. While at college, I gained a B.A in political science. That was a foundation in which I learned how policies affect education, public health, resources and development for communities. Through my career I have provided community-based learning to provide services to increase public health, mental health, education and employment throughout Cincinnati.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I plan on operating in accountability, attainability and accessibility for everybody in Cincinnati. I plan on building an align through commitment to the people in Cincinnati. Outlining the initiatives the city would like to see accomplished within the next two years and creating benchmarks for those projects to be completed. I will provide transparency for timeframe, committees' performance reviews of projects. Building our subcommittees out to include more diversity, equity and inclusion in alignment with the city demographic makeup. Allowing all developers to have the same access to land and opportunities in Cincinnati to invest in the city. Additionally, hosting more community hearings for the public to speak to officials after 5 p.m. to address the needs of the community. Ensuring we support the community at large and invest in their ideas to build Cincinnati. Finally, updating Cincinnati’s internal web page so that everybody has access to the same information and doesn’t need a particular connector to get their questions answered or to apply for particular programs. We must make everything that is coming from the local government public and accessible to everyone in Cincinnati.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

The key to getting affordable housing in Cincinnati is educating realtors and developers about the payment system for housing. Any realtor that has previous property would complete a form online to state how much their rent is and the city would determine how much they would pay. It is essential that we create a system for realtors to be paid on time to increase affordable housing units. Then new residential development throughout the city of Cincinnati receiving a tax break/tax abatement be required to a percent go to affordable housing. This will provide diversity, equity and inclusion throughout all of Cincinnati. Recommendation would be to cut or defer property taxes for seniors or disabled residents who risk the loss of their home due to rising property tax bills caused by new construction around them. The city of Cincinnati reduces the timeframe of tax abatements to the high income neighborhoods. Increase African American homeowners through outreach programs through tax abatements. The time is now to update the tax abatement policy to ensure people are not priced out of their neighborhoods.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Currently the number one issue with transportation is Metro not providing support for public schooling. SORTA Metro CEO explained there was a hiring issue and I agree. City of Cincinnati needs to ensure an administrator is looking over the contracts for metro employees to ensure they are being adequately paid and receiving good benefits. * We need to ensure that the people who live in Cincinnati are getting paid adequate wages and benefits. As far as our part time workers for crossing guards, pool guards, etc. will be reviewing their pay wage and I will be advocating for an increase. Part time city employees are essential to having a functional city and we need to ensure they are being paid adequately. Secondly I’m in support of a walkable and bikable city. I will continuously be in support of extending the walking trail to connect to all 52 neighborhoods alongside a biking trail. We will be in support of more biking lanes additionally with bike racks throughout the city. Finally, addressing all parks in Cincinnati with a maintenance budget to ensure that more outdoor space is used.

* Reporter’s note: The city of Cincinnati (either administration or City Council) does not have authority or input over Metro employee contracts. 

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

My opinion has changed when I create opportunities to learn from others. I think it’s essential that as I will be a council member that I am hearing from experts who are in the field daily. Additionally, hearing from the individuals who are receiving the support from these experts. That will give me the perspective I need to change my opinion on how I address certain situations and provide clarity to others. The ability to change your mind it’s essential when you have the knowledge and understanding to make a better decision. Whenever I do change my mind about a decision, I plan on being completely transparent about the information I received.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

One of the keys to creating an affordable housing network will be having an updated system from the city to ensure there is a complete transparency for realtors, tenets and agencies. San Francisco recently decided to have a central operational system for affordable housing. Additionally they have a lottery system that allows individuals to be selected to move into newer developments. The lottery allows for diversity, equity and inclusion to happen because everyone gets the same chance to move into a new development throughout the city. They have additional programs for elderly, residential preference, home ownership, rental payment assistance. With having all of the programs centralized from the city you provide more transparency for residents about how many individuals have applied for affordable housing units, available units and rental assistance. There is no autonomy for any realtor or nonprofit that is providing services for clients. This is complete transparency from the city. Additionally the city partners with agencies to provide accessibility to everyone through the online forms. Additionally there is also a robust system to submit support for slumlords. https://sf.gov/topics/affordable-housing

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Jeff Cramerding

Cramerding, Jeff.png
Courtesy Jeff Cramerding

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 47
Neighborhood: West Price Hill
Campaign website: jeffcramerding.com

About: Jeff has been very active in Price Hill as a community council member and a founding member of Price Hill Will. He has experienced City Hall as a neighborhood activist, a parks and recreation advocate, and a council aide. He has also served as a volunteer and board member with the Multi-Neighborhood Housing Task Force, Kids Voting of Southwest Ohio, the CCAT house (Center for Chemical and Alcohol Treatment) and the Parks Foundation.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

The appropriate role of council is to 1) set the strategic priorities for the city, 2) fund those priorities, and 3) hire and evaluate the city manager based on those priorities. When council exceeds these parameters and interferes with the administration of city government, governance suffers and there are opportunities for corruption.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

The city’s priority for development projects should be those that 1) produces jobs 2) with a focus on neighborhoods that are suffering from blight, disinvestment and population loss.

When used correctly tax incentives return blighted and abandoned properties to productive use, catalyze redevelopment and create jobs. I have worked on many projects in Price Hill that would not have been possible without an incentive or abatement. The city’s abatement program could be more tiered depending on neighborhood condition and more clearly linked to specific outcomes.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

We have to correct the city’s structural budget imbalance and stop raiding the capital budget to pay for what are clearly operating expenses. This has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance and unsafe bridges, sidewalks, streets and steps. With a structurally sound capital budget, we can invest in accessible transportation and connecting people to resources, including recreation opportunities and green spaces. Funding the CROWN trail plan and connecting Uptown and Downtown with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and other transportation alternatives are priorities.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I have been an observer and participant in Cincinnati city government for over 20 years. I continue to understand new perspectives and change my opinions. When it comes to city government, there is often not a wrong or right answer but just citizens with diverse and different experiences trying to improve their neighborhoods and personal lives. It is important to keep this in mind as we try to come together to collectively make Cincinnati great.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

I hesitate to use another Ohio city as a peer, but Columbus City Council better understands its role in the system than Cincinnati City Council does right now. Cincinnati City Council needs to return to its traditional and primary role of setting the priorities for the city; funding those priorities, and hiring and evaluating the city manager based on those priorities.

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Michelle Dillingham

Dillingham, Michelle.jpg
Courtesy Michelle Dillingham

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 48
Neighborhood: Evanston
Campaign website: votedillingham.com

About: As a social worker and community organizer for over 20 years, I've been working on the toughest issues facing our city. My work in coalition-building and policy advocacy has impacted a variety of settings including affordable housing, food access, public education and employment for individuals with disabilities. While working at City Hall for former Vice Mayor David Crowley, I was responsible for drafting legislative proposals, setting policy for human services, gun violence, housing and the environment. For the past six years, I led the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition working for fair funding for the city’s public schools. After a long career of helping families facing homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness, and leading a social justice philanthropy organization, Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati, today I am an organizer with the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. I serve as a field instructor and adjunct professor for the University of Cincinnati’s Social Work Department. I was the recipient of the 2010 Ohio Citizen Action “Emerging Leader” Award and honored by the Ohio National Association of Social Workers’ as Social Worker of the Year in 2019.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

The arrest of three Cincinnati City Council members for bribery schemes related to development deals in the past year has prompted a public discussion on how to fix the "culture of corruption" at City Hall. The problem is not solely about individual elected officials, even though they each of course hold personal responsibility for their actions. The problem is also about processes and policies that pour public resources into private development with no community involvement or basis to ensure that these investments meet the public’s needs. This lack of discernment and accountability has allowed for corruption to fester, and it is precisely what must change going forward. I have written extensively about solutions, but in brief: Committee assignments should be used to move legislation forward, not to manipulate it. We need community input to attract and retain top talent to lead our city departments, and "emergency" legislation will be used for actual emergencies and not a method of hustling issues through to escape scrutiny. This will allow public scrutiny, and for the opportunity for people to provide input or information on the matter, and for members of council to have discussion or amendments before they vote on it.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

In early 2018 I was leading the Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition and we launched a campaign to educate the public about the harmful impacts of tax abatements on public education funding. Little did we know that within days of our public information campaign, Jeff Berding would be at the Board of Education asking for tax breaks for the FC stadium. With our advocacy and community organizing, the topic of tax abatements became front page news. While economic development incentive tools like the tax abatement have played an important role in attracting investment to our city, in the last eight years they have become detrimental to African American households, and have exacerbated the loss of these households from our city. Council’s inaction to change these policies that have been proven to be racist is a top concern of mine and is why I have been organizing for reform. We need to adjust the abatement program so that it performs its intended goal: draw in economic investment to areas where the market is not. In Cincinnati the wealthiest neighborhoods are receiving the most tax incentives, while those who are on fixed incomes end up paying more. This is opposite of what these programs were meant to do.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

When elected, I will be an advocate for safer public spaces through policies focusing on pedestrian safety, bus-only lanes, protected bike lanes, traffic calming and accessibility for all people on foot or on wheels. Safer public spaces build stronger communities, help businesses grow, and prove the tools necessary for people to thrive. As a working mother with an adult son who was born with cerebral palsy, it has been frustrating to witness firsthand some of the many ways this city fails to provide access for its residents, especially those with disabilities. To be a welcoming city, our built environment must reflect our values of inclusion for all. The recent decision to eliminate dedicated routes for our public school 7th – 12th graders has created an unacceptable public health and safety crisis for our city’s school children. This is an issue that needs to be prioritized by the next council.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I was recently approached by a petition circulator at a neighborhood parade, asking that I sign to put various reforms on the ballot. At the time, I heard there would be some parts of the initiative that I didn’t agree with, but the circulator assured me there were at least one part I would like; it would de-politicize the appointment process of installing a new member of council in the event one had to leave early, by simply going to the next top vote-getter – a change I agree with. At the time, my opinion was that while I may not have agreed with all of the ballot language, it was OK to sign the petition. My opinion has since changed given the new information I now have about how devastating Issue 3 would be, and who is behind it. While I believe in the power of citizen-led ballot initiatives, this is a case of dark money, anti-government extremists trying to undermine the democratic process. I emphatically urge us all to vote “NO” on Issue 3 this election.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

In the early 1990s Minneapolis incorporated a “Community Participation Program Funding Model” that informed strategies in their city’s planning processes. The founding member of the work was David Rubedor, who now serves as the city’s director of Neighborhood and Community Relations Department. Minneapolis allocates TIF funds to about 70 neighborhood organizations there (similar to our Community Councils) that helps fund neighborhood organizers. It is important to note, that while there were important gains in resident participation in the Minneapolis model, a recent study showed racial equity measures fell short. For example, homeowners were over-represented. Similar to Minneapolis, I believe Cincinnati needs to restore the important work of staffing for neighborhood issues in our city’s administration. I would love to see a “Department of Neighborhoods and Development.” And, Cincinnati can improve on the Minneapolis model to build our own innovative strategies for equitable, authentic engagement for neighborhood-level solutions.

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Kevin Flynn

Flynn, Kevin.jpg
Courtesy Kevin Flynn

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Charter Committee
Age: 60
Neighborhood: Mt. Airy
Campaign website: flynnforcincinnati.com

About: I served on City Council from 2013-2017, chairing the Rules and Audit Committee and Vice Chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee and a member of the Budget and Finance, Neighborhoods and Transportation committees. I am a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Cincinnati College of Law. I recently retired from the active practice of law and as an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati, both at the College of Law for 27 years and the Lindner College of Business for three years. I am a true Cincinnatian, living in Mt. Airy, where I grew up, attending Little Flower Grade School and LaSalle High School. I am married and we are the parents of three children. I was in an auto accident almost 20 years ago, and live my life with quadriplegia. I served as chairman of the board and president of the Drake Center and was involved in numerous other boards and volunteer activities, prior to council. Since leaving council, I serve on numerous boards, including the Cincinnati Park Board (from which I was just recently replaced), Center for Addiction Treatment, St. Vincent DePaul, Cincinnati Fire Foundation, Center for Independent Living Options and the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

No changes to the charter alone will protect the city from individuals who want to cheat the system. Restoring checks and balances between council, the mayor, the city manager, and the city administration will make it harder to cheat. Changing the culture at City Hall, so that projects are judged on their merits rather than on the amount of campaign contributions will help. Assuring that decisions are made in public, after debate, will go a long way toward restoring trust. Strengthening our internal (performance) audit function, institutionalizing the whistleblower function and strengthening protections for whistleblowers, utilizing objective metrics to score projects (so that there is a level playing field), sharing the objective scoring publicly, and listening to the public's concerns will help avoid even the appearance of impropriety. I did not intend to return to council after I finished my prior term. The events of this past year, with 1/3 of the council being indicted or convicted of corruption crimes, were a call to me to return to serve the city that we love, to restore integrity and transparency so that people can have faith in city leadership.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Projects should receive aid from the city in an amount just enough (to get the deal done), at just the right time and in just the right place. People need to understand that it is difficult and more expensive to do a project in the city. Community and Economic Development need to be able to assess a project, including a pro-forma budget, to initially decide if a project needs city financial assistance. Most projects need assistance. Property tax abatements are the best method to attract residents and businesses to Cincinnati. Abatements have a minor negative impact and provide opportunity for growth as a city, long term growth in property tax base (after abatement period ends), and immediate growth in city’s most important revenue source, the earnings tax.

I helped create the first funding source for affordable housing, utilizing commercial tax abatements to provide sustainable funding. Moving forward, we need to rethink affordable housing developments, incorporating such housing into the fabric of economically inclusive zoning. We need to provide opportunities for renters to utilize sweat equity to assist in obtaining home ownership, creating generational wealth and a pathway to breaking the poverty cycle.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Transportation planning must be done on a regional basis. Working with our partners in the region and utilizing SORTA, OKI and The Port, we can provide a balance of projects that include expediting automobile use, while at the same time providing Bus Rapid Transit options for more suburban commuting. Instead of sidewalks, we should be building "shared use" paths, providing safer travel for all non-motorized modes of transportation. We need to have public transportation connect people needing transportation with jobs.

The streetcar should only be considered for expansion when realistic plans for capital costs (construction and maintenance) and operations are developed. I had developed a plan that would use electric busses that looked like streetcars, had limited stops like streetcars, and followed a fixed route, to reach into the Uptown area from the northern extremity of the streetcar route. The plan relied on institutions of Uptown paying for operational costs, in exchange for routes that stopped at satellite parking lots, resulting in net savings to institutions (which all have their own separate transportation for employees) and would help ameliorate congestion in Uptown.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

Today, and pretty much every day, when new information contradicts prior information or assumptions. This is the essence of the scientific method. The most public display of this was my decision to support the continuation of construction of the streetcar. Although I had grave concerns about the lack of a realistic operating model, the information I received while construction was paused provided changed circumstances that caused me to change my vote.

KPMG, hired by the city to assess our cost risk in December 2013, determined that the city could be obligated for $80 million to shut down project, and a return of an additional $42 million in federal funding. This differed substantially from the $23 million estimate given by the city in May 2013. Other new information that informed my changed vote included: an updated assessment of the positive economic impact of the streetcar; and receipt of private guaranteed funds of $9,000,000 for subsidizing operational costs.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

I try not to compare our city with others. Cincinnati is a city that many others could learn from.

Our region would benefit from a reimagining of our balkanized system of local government into a uni-gov form, similar to Indianapolis and Louisville. This would eliminate redundancies, creating efficiencies reflected in cost savings as well as enhanced services. Services such as provision of water and sewer, which are already shared, could be improved without the constant fighting between city and county. Services that are now separate (for the most part), such as police and fire, could be combined, eliminating redundancy while enhancing service to the citizens.

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Jackie Frondorf

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Courtesy Jackie Frondorf

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Charter Committee
Age: 35
Neighborhood: Westwood
Campaign website: jackiefrondorf.com

About: I live Westwood, our city’s largest neighborhood, where my husband Henry and I are raising our five children. I am the 4th grade teacher at St. Catharine School, and also serve as president of its Parent-Teacher Association. I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Toledo in 2008, graduating magna cum laude. I am invested in our neighborhood and have volunteered with Westwood Works and the Westwood Civic Association, helping to organize their fundraising events to support the vital initiatives these organizations fund. Most importantly, I have been a mom for 11 years now, and I feel strongly about supporting our city’s families and exploring ways to help offset childcare costs so more women can achieve a sustainable work-life balance. My deep engagement in our diverse school community and neighborhood keeps me in touch with people from all walks of life. And, my passion for the advancement of our great city inspires me to stay on top of the latest news and happenings at City Hall and beyond.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I am running for a seat on City Council to represent all Cincinnatians. The people of our city need to be able to trust our elected officials and not question whether votes are made in order to enrich a council member’s bank account or own self interests. I plan to lead by example and would follow the recommendations set forth by the 2021 Economic Development Reform Panel’s report. I believe that the city administration should be discussing deals with developers and not City Council members.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Cincinnati’s population is growing for the first time in decades. But that growth is only positive if every one of us is moving forward. Per the U.S. Census Bureau, Cincinnati’s poverty rate in 2019 was 26.3%. This shows that we need stronger job training programs, more businesses that offer competitive-wage jobs, and more affordable housing. We can encourage more affordable housing by finding a consistent revenue source for the affordable housing trust fund, applying for federal HUD grants, working with CMHA, and improving our property tax abatement policies. In 2020 the Property Tax Working Group released recommendations to assist low-income residents, seniors and people with disabilities, along with suggestions for improving the residential abatement program. I would work to ensure these recommendations are implemented. The current tiered tax abatement program primarily benefits green construction, which has undoubtedly made our city more environmentally friendly but does not incentivize affordable housing. I would look into extending abatement to projects that include an affordable housing component.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Issue 7 provided funding for infrastructure improvements. I would push for these improvements to include money for bus-only lanes to add efficiency to our roads and build incentive for utilizing public transportation.* As a mother of five young children, pedestrian safety is a sincere and real concern. In my neighborhood of Westwood, I can walk 3,000 feet along Boudinot Avenue without reaching a crosswalk. We need to provide safer options for our citizens, and the state of Ohio Department of Transportation’s infrastructure and pedestrian safety program can help provide a solution, as it often funds 90% or more of local projects. I would fight to ensure new infrastructure projects include the safety measures required to pursue these funds.

Groups like Tri-State Trails have done a great job in recent years on bike and walking trails in Cincinnati. Wasson Way is outstanding and continues to grow! Though, as a West Sider, I feel we have been left off most of the planning. The CROWN Cincinnati plan to construct more pedestrian paths around the city barely dips across the Mill Creek and excludes most West Side neighborhoods. I would work to find funding for paths to reach into all of our neighborhoods.

* Reporter’s note: Issue 7 is a county-wide sales tax passed by voters in 2020. Of the 0.8% total rate, 0.2% is reserved for road, bridge and sidewalk improvements in the Metro service area. Cincinnati City Council is not involved in decisions about how that money is spent. 

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

This morning. I strive to be open-minded — constantly listening, learning and seeking new points of view. When I gain new information or learn new things, of course it might cause me to think about something in a different way. Elected officials should recognize and practice the important ability of accepting new information from reliable sources and not sticking with a certain point of view because of previous opinion or political party lines. I always work to base my decisions on facts. It is important to be humble and I do not mind admitting when an opinion I have held was wrong.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Forty-eight of the 50 largest cities in the United States do not elect all of their council via an at-large election system like Cincinnati does. Cleveland, for example, elects 17 council members, all via districts/wards. Kansas City elects their members by a mix of six at-large seats and six districts. Whether a small town like Cheviot or a large city like Chicago, most cities use some form of districting to elect their local government body, which is important because it better connects citizens to their elected officials and ensures every pocket of the city is represented and heard. I would start a city-wide community input initiative to determine if the citizens of Cincinnati want to make this change, and if so, how it should be structured.

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Bill Frost

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Courtesy Bill Frost

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Charter Committee
Age: 59
Neighborhood: Pleasant Ridge
Campaign website: frostforcinci.com

About: I am a problem solver. I am an engineer, having spent the last 33 years working for GE Aviation, mainly here in Cincinnati. I started volunteering for my community by re-organizing my street Blockwatch. I became engaged in Cincinnati community leadership as the VP of safety for Pleasant Ridge Community Council (PRCC) and then held the role of PRCC president for 5+ years. I chaired the Neighborhood Safety Committee until the kick-off of my run for City Council. Running Pleasant Ridge required improved engagement between the Community Council, Cincinnati Council and City Management. We improved these relationships, with particular focus on community safety. Since my time as PRCC president, I have been elected to the board of the Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati, believing that it is vital to improve the efficiency of City Council and city management. I believe that the best solution to the city’s problems will not come from any national political party, but from a dedication to doing what is best for the city, no matter who comes up with the solution.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I support the incorporation of the Economic Development Reform Panel recommendations by ordinance. In addition, I believe anonymous reporting of "concerns" by all city employees is vital. We must move to an "if you see something, say something" culture in City Hall. All of us who work in any large organization understand the importance of compliance. This should be no different in City Hall.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I believe tax abatements are an important tool in city development. We need to double down on the fact that they are intended to offset "risk" being taken on any particular development. We need to not only target the tax incentives to the developers, etc., who are taking risk to help our city, but we need to re-visit these incentives at regular intervals to understand if the "risk" is still there. We should not be allowing tax incentives to skew the local tax landscape after the risk has subsided and the developer can declare success. This approach is particularly important as we add to the supply of affordable housing over the city. The inclusion of affordable housing into a development is something that should be helped to be economically viable by tax incentives where appropriate.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I would ensure the full implementation of all phases of the Metro plan is completed.* The expansion of the public transport system in Cincinnati needs to be seriously considered in the light of climate change. This should also include studies of expansion of the streetcar (UC, Western Hills, Kentucky, etc.) plus investment in light rail in selected areas. This is going to be more and more acceptable as the Cincinnati electorate becomes more prone to use public transit. Safer roads, less congestion, and harmful emissions are all great selling points for public transit. These changes all require the city to invest in a future where a diverse public transit system is widely used. The continuation of the bike paths all over the city are vital, and the Vision Zero approach to street calming is a life-saving program that must continue.

* Reporter’s note: Cincinnati City Council is not involved in implementing the Reinventing Metro Plan, which is funded by the county-wide sales tax approved by voters in 2020. Metro is operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), a political subdivision of the state of Ohio. SORTA is governed by a 16-member volunteer citizens’ board of trustees. Eleven trustees are appointed by Hamilton County and five are appointed by the city of Cincinnati.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

My job as an engineer requires a continual re-assessment of situations as more data becomes available. Progress of any type in any field requires that people keep listening and "continually improving" their approach. The city demands that we keep learning and don't just keep trying the same tired approach to our issues.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

I think we can look nationally and worldwide to learn a lot about what works and doesn't work in the challenges of the supply of affordable housing. New York, NY, and London, England, both have plenty of experience that we can use to craft our own approach. We must avoid reinventing the wheel. If someone else knows something doesn't work, we can’t afford to repeat their mistakes.

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Brian Garry

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Courtesy Brian Garry

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 56
Neighborhood: Clifton
Campaign website: briangarry.com

About: Brian Garry is a lifelong Cincinnatian who owns Green City EcoStruction, a construction company specializing in creating affordable housing with net-zero carbon emissions. He's also a social justice advocate, working in the past to save the Over-the-Rhine Senior Center and to help the city's homeless population and people displaced by the new FC Cincinnati stadium. Brian is the chair of Neighborhoods United, a group representing all 52 neighborhoods of Cincinnati, which has submitted to City Council the 46-page Plan to Reduce Gun Violence. He is also the chair of the Human Services Coalition of the Faith Community Alliance, the co-founder of the Cincinnati Racial Justice Coalition, and the founder of Just Slow Down Cincinnati, an organization that promotes pedestrian safety. Brian has also worked with the homeless population for decades, working to house recent evictees and families experiencing homelessness. As your next City Council member, he is committed to establishing ONE Cincinnati — full of equitable economic opportunity, safe and inclusive neighborhoods, and racial, economic, gender, and environmental equality for all.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

If elected, I would increase transparency between City Hall and the community. We must eradicate the developer corruption that we have seen during the last cycle. We must get big money out of politics. We need public servants who are putting Cincinnati and its residents first. We need leaders who feel beholden and responsible for the success of the city. We cannot have politicians who are prioritizing themselves or big business over the needs of the people. I am in this race to restore the power to everyday Cincinnatians and ensure that we have a fair and transparent city. When elected, I promise not to allow City Hall to be treated like an “ivory castle.” I will continue to remain involved in the community, as I have been for years, and I will continue to be accessible for our residents. I will lead by example and encourage other City Council members to do the same.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I support and will prioritize affordable housing, as I have for decades. I also support inclusive and equitable development. However, I don’t support the development of exclusive luxury-only condos and apartment buildings that displace existing residents and destroy life-giving community ecosystems. We must be always inclusive, never exclusive. The role of development is to grow our city, but it is unfair if development comes at the expense of our existing legacy residents. In order to solve our affordable housing crisis, I support a three-pronged approach.

First, we need to protect our existing affordable housing by placing a moratorium on the destruction of affordable housing. Secondly, we need to allocate funding to create more affordable housing, and we need to do this by finding a permanent revenue stream for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Finally, we need to create new affordable housing opportunities by providing targeted tax relief to homeowners, increasing co-op housing, utilizing community land trusts and community development corporations. For me, some of the most important issues related to development are ensuring that we have the infrastructure to support the legacy residents of our existing neighborhoods.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Pedestrian safety is an important issue to me, as my brother was killed when he was hit by a car while riding his bike. I am one of the city’s biggest advocates for pedestrian safety and founded a group called Just Slow Down Cincinnati. We advocate for safer, more walkable streets by holding rallies on dangerous streets and intersections where pedestrians have been injured or killed. We have demanded new car and traffic infrastructure, protected bike lanes and raised crosswalks. We spoke up on behalf of Matthew Garza, Gabby Rodríguez and many others.

Public transportation is vital to improving opportunity in our city. I was an original member of the Better Bus Coalition which initiated Issue 7. I personally placed solid, secure homemade bus stop benches around Cincinnati at high frequency bus stops which had no benches. I will continue to help transform our bus system. I also support light rail, subway and elevated rail transportation.

We need protected bike lanes all over the city. When elected, I will oversee the completion of CROWN, the 34-mile multi-use paved trail that will connect communities all over Cincinnati. Once CROWN is completed, I will ensure all communities are within walking distance of these trails.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I am pro-inclusive development. I opposed many of the changes in Over-the-Rhine. I was very concerned about and pushed for inclusivity for the revitalization of Washington Park and 3CDC. The park and the square are fairly inclusive now and based on seeing the outcome of the development, I changed my opinion to some degree.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Over the last year, the city of Denver has started using mental health professionals to respond to emergency calls and the program has been a tremendous success. When 911 operators received emergency calls about mental health crises rather than crimes being committed, these mental health professionals were tapped to respond. This ensured that those undergoing the crisis were assisted by professionals in mental care, instead of police officers who were not trained in the fields. Instead of asking our police officers to do a job they have not been trained for, this gave the officers time to focus on cases like domestic violence, where the overall community was in clear and imminent danger. This increased the quality of service that members of the community were receiving from their police, ultimately leading to a healthier community.

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Steven P. Goodin

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Courtesy

Party Affiliation: Republican
Party endorsements: Republican, Charter Committee
Age: 51
Neighborhood: Clifton
Campaign website: goodinforcincinnati.com

About: I was appointed to City Council on November 30, 2020, and have since led on issues ranging from affordable housing to economic development. I have been a leading voice in our budget negotiations and on ethics reform.

Prior to joining council, I worked behind the scenes at City Hall for nearly a dozen years, handling complex budgetary and pension matters. I participated in bond rating agency presentations and helped negotiate the historic 30-year federal consent decree which remade the city’s pension system.

Public service has been a constant throughout my career. I have served as both a Peace Corps volunteer and Army JAG officer. I have also served on the boards of numerous local non profits, including the Center For Addiction Treatment. I am a previous trustee of the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and was a member of the Hamilton County Public Defender Commission. I also worked as a felony prosecutor in the Office of the Hamilton County Prosecutor for five years.

I am a partner at the law firm of Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP. I live in Clifton with my partner Susan Luken. I am the father of three children and am partially responsible for an 80-plus-pound German Shepherd named Leopold.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I have long been a proponent for banning contributions from those with business before the city. In my view, the second an application is filed or a negotiation begins, that business (or nonprofit organization) should be placed on a “do not solicit” list and remain there for one year after the business concludes). Only a categorical ban of this nature will change the culture of corruption which continues to linger over City Hall.

I also believe we should enact lobbying reform, including a “revolving door” ban on staff members who resign and immediately lobby their former City Hall colleagues. We should also increase transparency in our campaign finance filings by mandating use of the searchable website provided by the Ohio Secretary of State.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I support the work of the Tax Abatement Working Group and absolutely favor revisiting the manner in which we award incentives for residential development. We will likely always need some incentives to encourage multi-family developments, but I have grown concerned about potential abuses of our program for single-family residential units, especially those which involve tear downs and rebuilds on the same parcel.

We do, of course, need additional affordable units (especially 60-80% AMI “workforce housing” *) and we should continue to explore creative public-private partnerships to build it. But we also must be mindful of the fact that we need more housing (and density) overall — both to drive down rents and housing prices, as well as to offset the impact of remote working on our earnings tax. We need more housing units, of all kinds. And we should work actively to encourage new construction and development in neighborhoods which can reasonably sustain the increased density.

* Reporter’s note: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s most recent data shows the vast majority of households severely cost-burdened by housing are extremely low income (30% AMI - Area Median Income)

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I have long supported Vision Zero and fought for (and secured) increased funding for pedestrian safety initiatives in our FY 2022 budget. I remain concerned with the bureaucratic approach some city officials take to delivering these improvements, and intend to continue to pursue ways to streamline those processes.

I have also been a voice of reason in the battle over the Clifton bike lane, which I believe should be maintained beyond its trial period. I have found for funding for the CROWN trials and have been an active supporter of the Lick Run and Mill Creek initiatives (which resulted in new trails and paths in under-served parts of the city). Equitable distributions of new paths will be a major issue as we move forward.

The streetcar remains a sore point for many of us — great idea, but more of a tourist attraction than functional piece of public transit at this point. We need to continue to find private and philanthropic support for this project.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I changed my mind on support for city funding for the Lutheran Bell Tower. It became apparent to me that there was no plan to form a nonprofit and no plan to maintain it absent a total city bailout. Knowing what I know now, I would not have supported setting aside funds in the carry-over budget for this project (which ultimately did not occur in any event).

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

I have found the ethics reforms enacted in San Francisco in 2015 to be particularly instructive as we continue to work through our ethical issues as a city. I also greatly admire the creative and innovative public-private approach to affordable housing adopted by Charlotte, North Carolina. And I think we can find inspiration in how Richmond, Virginia, has crafted a walkable downtown and entertainment district which feels both safe and organic.

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Galen Gordon

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Courtesy Galen Gordon

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Charter Committee
Age: 45
Neighborhood: West End
Campaign website: galenforcincinnati.com

About: Galen G. Gordon is the business travel sales manager at the Hilton Netherland Plaza where he was recently recognized by the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association as a Star of the Industry. Prior to this position, Mr. Gordon was the director of front office operations where his team earned Hilton’s Award of Excellence for receiving the best guest survey responses of all hotels in the Hilton brand. Gordon is a Certified Tourism Ambassador and a member of the Rose Awards Hall of Fame.

People may recognize Galen as a Cincinnati Santa Claus, visited by families in the Carew Tower over the past decade. This is a role he has committed to as a service for the youth and families of Cincinnati. Mr. Gordon is a proud cohort in the inaugural City Council School presented by Action Tank, committing six months to train and exercise best practices in City Hall. He is actively involved with the West End Community, Rotary Club of Cincinnati and Hilton’s Blue Energy Committee where he consistently thrives in community giving and outreach. Gordon is proud to be endorsed by the Charter Committee, The Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, the Queen City Lodge #69 FOP, the Greater Cincinnati UAW CAP Council and the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

If you see something, say something. I believe it's important for council candidates to maintain and practice accountability, in every facet with each other. As a Rotarian, I believe in service above self. Individually, I will continue to work in the best interest of our city without concern for any perceived personal gain. I'm here to help our city and will continue my current employment and the expectations and standards that come with a career in hospitality.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I believe the key to advancing economic development in our neighborhoods is to empower local residents who have an entrepreneurial mindset. We can cultivate those mindsets and provide support that helps residents become successful business owners and investors prepared to buy property within their business districts. In turn, this helps generate wealth for legacy families, circulate the dollar within the neighborhood and diminish the harmful effects of gentrification.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Issue 7 is great for our region. We need even more frequency of bus routes that connect to our employment centers. We need to expand the streetcar up the hill and across the viaduct. Let's work harder to exceed our goals for Vision Zero. Road diet initiatives that are successful Downtown can start getting implemented in other neighborhoods.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I believe it's important to get as much data and detailed information as possible before making decisions. Even when I agree with one side, I still need to hear the opposite viewpoint so I can make what I believe is an appropriate decision based on the details provided. I am open and willing to stand in someone else's shoes and try to empathize with their perspective. I do this routinely in my job in hospitality.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Dallas put a "cap" on their expressway (Ft. Washington Way) to create more greenspace. Several other cities offer housing in their Industrial and Warehouse Districts. (Queensgate)

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Kurt Grossman

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Courtesy Kurt Grossman

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 66
Neighborhood: Downtown / Central Business District
Campaign website: grossmanforcouncil.com

About: I am a longtime Cincinnatian, with an electrical engineering degree (cum laude) from the University of Cincinnati and a law degree (with honors) from George Washington University (where I met my wife and native Cincinnatian, Joanne). I clerked for a federal appellate Judge, then came back to raise a family and practice patent law for over three decades with Wood, Herron & Evans. I was listed among "Best Lawyers in America" for many years and, before my early retirement, was also recognized as "Cincinnati Best Lawyers Patent Law Lawyer of the Year.”

I have given back to the community through many volunteer activities: a reading tutor at Hays-Porter Elementary, math and business law tutor at Scholar House, board member and officer of the American Jewish Committee of Cincinnati, board member of the Downtown Residents Council, member of the Catholic Diocese Immigration Task Force, on the Steering Committee of the Immigrant Dignity Coalition, board member and Officer of Park Place @ Lytle, founding board member of the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center, and served on Mayor Cranley’s Immigration Task Force.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

It is startling that we do not have a code of ethics for City Council members. I testified to the need for a written code of ethics specific to City Council, with a required annual sign-off by each council member, in hearings before the city’s Economic Development Reform Panel (the anti-corruption task force); my testimony was picked up by WVXU: https://www.wvxu.org/post/public-offers-feedback-economic-development-reform-restore-integrity#stream/0

The code should, at minimum, cover conflicts of interest, required financial and campaign contribution disclosures, and open meetings/open records requirements of our Sunshine Laws. There should also be mandatory annual ethics training and stiff penalties for violations of the code.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

The city needs to increase its housing stock, support small businesses, attract good-paying jobs, and grow our population. To do this, we need to recognize we are competing with other cities and do the things that make the city the most attractive place to be to live, work and play (e.g., accessible broadband in all our neighborhoods, expanded multi-modal transportation options, even pickleball tournament facilities). I will work with all stakeholders to develop a long-term viable funding solution for affordable housing, and will consider relaxing zoning requirements as appropriate for each neighborhood. I will push for a fully featured, clear-cut scoring system to ensure that we are promoting projects and utilizing tax incentives that are best for the city, and not just the developer. I would reserve long-term (30-year) tax abatements for affordable housing developments, projects in distressed areas, or projects that create a large number of high-paying jobs. Finally, I would offer attractive relocation packages to incentivize people and businesses to move into Cincinnati.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

As an engineer, I am comfortable with infrastructure planning and projects. We need to redesign and redevelop our roads and bridges to include a broader range of transportation options, while making it safer for bikes, pedestrians and other modes of individual movement. We need to gradually build out our streetcar system to reach into the neighborhoods and interface with a regional bus transit system to reduce the need for cars while effectively connecting people to schools, offices, hospitals, universities, and attractions. At the same time, transit needs must also be built around multi-modal forms of transportation to make sure that we can safely walk, bike and mobilize in all of our neighborhoods. Dedicated bike lanes, traffic calming measures and rebuilt roads are necessary to bring all of these different concepts together into a viable, long range transportation plan. In the end, a modernized transportation system will improve the quality of life for Cincinnatians, and entice others to visit, live and work in our city.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I was originally excited about the grassroots effort to address our affordable housing crisis via Issue 3. However, after careful study of the language of the proposed charter amendment, and after researching affordable housing measures in other communities, I realized that the proposal sought to impose onerous financial obligations that would have stymied the city's ability to fund other essential services and programs. That information led me to take a public stand against Issue 3.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

We have the opportunity with a new mayor and council to adopt bold programs. We should consider Denver's Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program launched in June 2020. STAR is an alternative 911 response program providing client-centered mobile crisis response to persons who are experiencing mental health, depression, poverty, homelessness and/or substance abuse difficulties. The STAR program puts troubled non-violent people in the hands of mental health care workers rather than police. A mobile unit of professionals in mental health and medical treatment travels the city as a first responder team for low-level behavioral incidents in place of law enforcement. The program has freed up police to focus on fighting crime and has substantially reduced arrests and jail time. In fact, approximately 30% of the calls handled by the STAR team were referred by police who first arrived on the scene. In its first year, of the 1,400 emergency calls handled by STAR, there were no arrests, injuries, or need for police back-up. We have the beginnings of this program already in place Downtown with the Cincinnati Police Department and the Generocity513 Outreach Team. The STAR program can help us grow our efforts across the city.

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Reggie Harris

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Courtesy Reggie Harris

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 39
Neighborhood: Northside
Campaign website: reggieforcincinnati.com

About: Reggie is a retired professional ballet dancer, trained clinical social worker, and licensed therapist who currently serves as director of community life for The Community Builders — a leading nonprofit affordable housing developer. He is also the founder of InContext Advising, LLC, where he has worked with state and local campaigns, nonprofits, educators and health care providers on issues related to mental health, LGBTQIA+ equality and social policy. He was appointed to the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) Board of Directors by the Hamilton County Commission in January 2020, and currently serves as the board chair for Equality Ohio — the state’s leading LGBTQIA+ civil rights organization.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

The only way for council to regain the public’s trust is through action. The current council has done an excellent job recently of taking decisive action on the end of accountability and ending the “culture of corruption.” I have taken steps in my campaign, such as releasing all of my large-sum donations on my website. Now we must support the efforts in City Hall to increase accountability by fully funding and empowering an independent Ethics Commission and chief ethics officer, enacting campaign finance reforms, providing ongoing ethics training for council members, and making the city planning process clearer, more predictable, and less contingent on the will of individual council members and private developers.

One of the keys to eliminating the conditions for corruption will also be centering constituent engagement so that there is more representation and the process of governing cannot be so easily influenced by a handful of people. When abatements and other legislation is put through rigorous community input and the process slows down, it makes the final product from the people, not just developers.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

We must commit to long-term strategies that will strengthen communities and empower families to achieve housing security for generations to come, regardless of zip code. Our future as a city should hold as a top priority equitable, permanent, resident-centered revitalization of and investment in all communities, especially those that need it the most.

With a goal of investing in communities equitably, I plan to pursue the following tax abatement reforms:

- Following the lead of City Hall in creating clear criteria

- Leveraging the use of abatements to create more affordable housing units

- Making tax abatements customizable and not one-size-fits-all

- Targeting efforts geographically to diversify where new development is happening

- Leveraging tax abatements to create more successful Community Benefits Agreements that put the needs of the community first

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I believe in a comprehensive approach to transitioning our transportation system to a more equitable and sustainable place. We must stop passing zoning laws and transit policies that treat low-income and middle-class communities as an afterthought in transit planning. Many of our city’s essential workers, the backbone of our city, rely upon public transit and walking for their livelihood. We must end minimum parking requirements for new development projects and ensure a successful implementation of Issue 7* and future ballot initiatives.

I want to see a more connected Cincinnati. We have 52 beautiful neighborhoods, but they are not interconnected in a way that a truly dynamic city would be. Cincinnati’s bus, streetcar and bike infrastructure should support robust usage from work commute to moving people to and from large events. As the city continues to develop and grow, we must stop subsidizing automobiles and use our resources to create dense, transit-oriented development in the interest of our city’s future. Every new infrastructure project should take density, mobility, and sustainability into account.

* Reporter’s note: Cincinnati City Council is not involved in implementing the Reinventing Metro Plan, which is funded by the county-wide sales tax approved by voters in 2020. Metro is operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), a political subdivision of the state of Ohio. SORTA is governed by a 16-member volunteer citizens’ board of trustees. Eleven trustees are appointed by Hamilton County and five are appointed by the city of Cincinnati.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

As a first-time candidate, I take in new information that informs my thoughts about City Hall every single day. These are complicated and interconnected issues that face constituents' lives. Every politician should be constantly questioning and changing their opinion if they truly are keeping the pulse of the people, because none of us, no matter what we claim, know everything about how to improve the city. Even once we are on council, we must work together with eight other council members and the mayor. Rigidness only impedes progress from being made.

What will never change are my core values: I believe in bringing power to the people, creating equitable systems and processes, delivering the highest quality services possible, and being creative in our solutions to today's most pressing issues. These are my principles of governing that I will bring to the table every council meeting and shape my decision-making. I believe it is these values that will put Cincinnati on the map as one of the most forward-thinking cities in the country.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

I have had the privilege of living in Chicago, Austin, Seattle, New York and Boston over the course of my life and dance career. I want to bring ideas I have taken from these cities in affordable housing, the use of public space, arts initiatives and supports for our working class to Cincinnati. This next election is a chance to move forward and make progress the city has never seen before if we can elect a council and mayor with the vision and willingness to look beyond the status quo Cincinnati has had over the past decades.

I also want Cincinnatians to realize the gem the city we live in is. When I moved here years ago, I was shocked by the beautiful arts scene, magnificent architecture and organization of entertainment that the city has to offer. Often, Cincinnati is mentioned for its chili and frustrating sports teams, but out of all the places I have lived it is one of the most dynamic cities I have ever seen and has near endless potential. I hope to get people to share this vision with me and also make those amazing elements of the city accessible for everyone who lives here.

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Rob Harris

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Courtesy Rob Harris

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 43
Neighborhood: Carthage
Campaign website: robharrisforcouncil.com

About: Hello my name is Rob Harris and I'm running for Cincinnati City Council! I will be an advocate for all 52 neighborhoods that make up the city with a focus on curving the homicide rate, community/police engagement, and affordable housing. In addition, I have a strong desire to impact communities that are experiencing inequities, injustice and hardship.

My leadership and community involvement consist of:

*President of the West End Lil Senator Football and Cheer organization

*President of One Family One Love which is a nonprofit grass root organization with a mission to uplift the community and speak out against gun violence.

*Precinct Executive - Ward 7-4 (Bond Hill)

Immediate Past Vice President of the Northern States District - Knights of Peter Claver Catholic Fraternal Order (13 states)

*Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc - Go to High School, Go to College Advisor

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I would address corruption at City Hall by being transparent with a team of auditors, and supporting the proposed ordinance by Councilman Landsman. I would modify the proposed ordinance to include a mandatory step down ordinance if any member of council becomes indicted. Saving tax paying citizens funding.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I will address our affordable housing crisis by modeling cities that have transitioned from bad to good. In addition, creating affordable housing agreements between developers and housing residents. With a budget adjustment, in addition to reallocating the American Rescue Plan funding, should be the city's priority for development projects. Tax abatement and incentives must be reformed in a way that both the developer and the renters are benefiting.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I would address the SORTA bus driver shortage by increasing bus drivers' pay.* In addition to the transportation reform goals that the city of Cincinnati currently has.

* Reporter’s note: The city of Cincinnati (either administration or City Council) does not have authority or input over Metro employee contracts. Metro is operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), a political subdivision of the state of Ohio. SORTA is governed by a 16-member volunteer citizens’ board of trustees. Eleven trustees are appointed by Hamilton County and five are appointed by the city of Cincinnati.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

Recently, changed my opinion in my profession based on newfound information that I didn't have prior to the initial decision.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

New York.

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K. A. Heard

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Courtesy K.A. Heard

Party affiliation: Non-affiliated
Party endorsements: Green
Age: 30
Neighborhood: Westwood
Campaign website: stayheardcommittee.weebly.com

About: K.A. Heard Jr. is a proud passionate Cincinnatian. Mr. Heard was born in the Clifton area of Cincinnati and later moved to Westwood where he was raised in a single parent household with his mother. In the early years of Mr. Heard's school years, he attended private schools and started to attend Cincinnati Public Schools in middle school. Mr. Heard continued to go to Cincinnati Public Schools throughout high school and graduated high school in 2009. K.A. Heard Jr. was in multiple sports while in high school playing football, basketball and ran track. After high school, Mr. Heard attended the University of Cincinnati then later transferred to the University of Toledo to take up business administration. Mr. Heard has previously worked as a security guard and customer service representative. Heard lately has been performing as a DJ throughout the city of Cincinnati and Ohio. Mr. Heard Jr. regularly attends community council meetings and has joined several clean-up events in the city of Cincinnati.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I will not tolerate pay to play objectives or any other crap of corruption that has hurt our city. I don’t take money from PACs or corporations. The citizens of Cincinnati are my main priority. I’m in this to help and overcome the pandemic and all the other things that have hurt our city!

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Affordable housing is very important in our city. In my opinion, we need more incentives to create more homeowners. We need to put families in a position to create generational wealth for their kids and their kids. We need more incentives for first time homeowners, individuals with bad or no credit and others. As a city we need to build our families while building our population.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I want interconnecting bike lanes and walking trails to every neighborhood. I don't want our city to continue to be unable to get to a part of the city without a car. We need our Metro XTRA Buses back for our students.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

COVID-19 vaccination. I wasn’t going to get it at one point but I’m now fully vaxxed and wearing my mask in most outdoor or indoor places. With that being said I don’t agree with the government giving vaccination mandates! Private businesses can make that decision if they want to but that choice should be up to the individual.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

We can learn from multiple cities but I want Cincinnati to be a greater Cincinnati. We can be ourselves and get things done better!

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Evan Holt

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Courtesy Evan Holt

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 33
Neighborhood: North Avondale
Campaign website: holtforcincinnati.com

About: Evan Holt is a progressive, working-class candidate for Cincinnati City Council 2021. A Cincinnati native, he grew up in Kennedy Heights, Pleasant Ridge and along Queen City Avenue in Westwood. While raised by his single mother, a Hamilton County social worker for 26 years, Holt proudly graduated from the School for Creative and Performing Arts. As a lifelong renter, service industry worker and public transit user, Holt is personally committed to elevate the material living conditions of Cincinnati’s working class.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I echo calls of others that we should seek to ban lawmakers and candidates from receiving donations from developers and others with assorted business on the desk of City Council. I also believe that transparency is key, which is why our city government website is in need of an overhaul to make information more easily accessible to taxpayers. Continuing in the spirit of transparency, we need an overhaul on how we report campaign contributions. Taxpayers should know who is funding our elected representatives, including the assorted conflicts of interests that should be under similar scrutiny as the more outright examples of quid pro quo bribery we've seen recently. Long term, I believe the city of Cincinnati should no longer have at-large elections and instead be divided by ward or precinct. This would make sure that campaign contributions weren't the driving force behind relationships built or decisions made and instead, prioritize the approval of the community as it pertains to development deals using taxpayer money.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I believe that most or all tax abatements given out going forward should either be seeking to close the affordable housing gap or provide a vital resource for underdeveloped neighborhoods. Currently, 9 out of 10 of them seem to be subsidizing luxury condos and luxury home improvements that have contributed to the rapid increase in market rate rent as well as an increase in property taxes. This is unsustainable.

Our tax abatements should be overwhelmingly used in the betterment of improving historically underserved neighborhoods. Twenty-five percent of our 52 neighborhoods are food deserts, lacking access to fresh grocery. I would seek to use our tax abatements to inspire the creation of food co-ops, which will be crucial in reducing our city's nationally recognized high childhood food insecurity rate.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

We need to transition Cincinnati into a less car dependent city, not just for our environment, but for improving accessibility for everyone. Thankfully, there is a lot of bipartisan support for traffic calming via organizations like Vision Zero. However, I will also fight for expanded public transit. I'd like to see dedicated bus lanes as well as ultimately seeking to expand the streetcar. The streetcar was conceptualized as having FAR more miles to connect more neighborhoods in this city, connecting Cincinnatians to jobs and resources. I was a supporter of Issue 7's expanded Metro service, but we must hold them accountable to make sure they fulfill their commitments.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I believe this is a fundamental personality trait that should be required of everyone, especially those in authority with the power to make decisions that affect thousands of people. I feel that I personally do this fairly often as far as taking in new information and adjusting my views accordingly, but I was struggling with coming up with an example. I do have an anecdote that I believe is rather similar. When I started my campaign for council in June of last year, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the issues that the vast majority of working class citizens struggle with in this city on a day-to-day basis. However, even as a pedestrian myself, I undervalued how huge of a problem that pedestrian safety has become in this city. After speaking with many voters and listening in on numerous community council meetings, it painted a rather vivid picture for me of how deadly this situation is and how many parents live in perpetual fear for the safety of their small children. Thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, that pedestrian safety has broad, bipartisan support, so I'm eager to work with others to provide solutions for traffic calming and protections for pedestrians of all ages.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

We should always be seeking to look to other cities as it pertains to successful pilot programs that we could model. In our own state of Ohio, the town of Fairlawn outside of Akron has successfully implemented low cost, municipal-owned broadband internet. Plenty of neighborhoods and areas in our city lack access to consistent, quality internet. This falls under the banner of my platform on "Accessibility." Internet access should be considered a utility as it has been critical for navigating life in the modern world, especially with regards to students and education. Elsewhere, Washington, D.C., has some of the strongest renter protections in the nation, which I would hope to model. I would also seek to model after the 20 other cities nationwide who have reduced their bloated police budgets and instead invested in programs and services that solely exist in the interest of public safety, like housing, mental health services and addiction rehabilitation.

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Nick Jabin

Photo not provided.

Party affiliation: Non-affiliated
Age: 23
Neighborhood: Mount Washington
Campaign website: jabinforcouncil.com

About: Nick Jabin is a Cincinnati raised humanitarian activist. He provides direct aid and treatment to underserved individuals in the community by networking to get them the resources to get their lives back on track, via case managers, landlords, and jobs and services.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I will directly work with other city officials, expecting reports and data often on budgets and different measures being taken in the city. I plan on being very involved in the forward-moving change of the Cincinnati people; more than before I plan on watching and holding people accountable in which making sure corruption stays out of City Hall.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I believe in less tax abatements for large corporations and businesses and giving more opportunities back to the people. When it comes to housing we must provide enough affordable housing for all the people of Cincinnati so we can start healing our communities health problems.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I want new ways of accessibility for all Cincinnatians for work transportation and local transport. We have to be able to afford to get to work and back home if we are going to survive and maintain our daily lives.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I learn and respond based on the people who support me and the people I represent. Those are the values and opinions I am to have in office. The true voice of the Cincinnati people.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

There are many places like Dayton and L.A., New York.

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Mark Jeffreys

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Courtesy Mark Jeffreys

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 52
Neighborhood: Clifton
Campaign website: votejeffreys.com

About: Mark is the son of an immigrant who came to this country without a dime. Mark grew up working poor, going to public schools and on food stamps. His first job was as a janitor. When he got into college, he couldn’t afford it, but got a union job as a laborer to earn his way into the middle class. Mark went on to business school and 16 years at P&G running brands such as Pampers and Gillette before leaving four years ago to start his own company, 4Sight, a company that does predictive and data analytics. But he did not do any of that himself. One of Mark’s core beliefs is that we all succeed through the help of others, a Network of Support, and another belief that to whom much is given much is expected. Service has been a core part of who Mark is. He has spent years making life better in Cincinnati: building an iconic park experience at Smale Park for all to enjoy (the 4.6 acre goVibrantscape with the foot piano and flying pig), bringing athletics to hundreds of CPS children who do not have resources for select leagues, and making streets safer for walking and biking on a neighborhood council. He and his wife Pamela, a pediatrician at West Side Pediatrics, live in Clifton and have four CPS children between the two of them.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

First, by electing people who for years have a track record of public service without any personal gain – a demonstrated commitment to servant leadership. Second, by having City Council candidates who are transparent and aboveboard in campaign fundraising and their positions. I have posted my campaign finance reports online and have plans to continue to do so. Similarly, with my multiple endorsements, I am completely transparent about my beliefs and positions. Fourth, by supporting calls for training about laws/regulations with staff and City Council certifying annually that they have read and understood the laws/regulations. Fifth, by publicly reinforcing that we are a charter government, which means that it is not the role of City Council to negotiate any development deals or be in the details of any of them. These development deals should be negotiated by the city manager and set based on a clear policy of tax abatements. Finally, by focusing on the issues that matter: safe neighborhoods, jobs, affordable housing, enabling our fellow Cincinnatians to reach their full potential, etc. In other words, deliver results that improve the lives of our citizens in an open and transparent way through being public servants.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

The city’s objective should be to create the conditions for the economy to grow with good paying jobs, and conditions that yield more affordable housing. The city’s strategy for incentives should be to ensure that it’s not subsidizing activity that would have happened already, but that it’s an accelerator of investment that is beneficial to the community. The first change I would make is to ensure that tax abatements are not used in high zip code neighborhoods where it's not needed. Second, I would ask that the city manager do a benchmark review of tax abatements vs other cities to understand best-in-class programs. Third, to incentivize more affordable housing, I would enable homeowners to build “accessory units,” e.g. create a basement unit or in a garage, which is one of the quickest ways to create more housing quickly. I would also look at incentivizing more affordable units being built via height restriction incentives e.g. allowing two more stories to be built on a unit if they are affordable. Community engagement should be a part of this process. These are the types of structural changes we need to make in our incentive system to create the conditions for more economic growth and growth in affordable housing.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

My vision is a Cincinnati where active transportation (public transportation, walking and/or biking) is so irresistible that it’s the preferred choice. To do that, we must first execute the plans with Issue 7 funding to expand bus service to new destinations, 24/7 service and make it more reliable/efficient. Second, we need to create a holistic Safe Streets & Active Transportation plan that covers 52 neighborhoods leveraging the LEAD framework. That means: Limit speeds on residential roadways. A 35 or 40 mph speed limit with residential houses on that street is too high. We need to enforce speed limits that exist; create an integrated network of active transportation solutions — meaning 100+ miles of protected bike lanes tied in with the CROWN. We know that protected bike lanes also reduce crashes by 41%, which is good not just for cyclists but also pedestrians and passenger cars. Next, deploy proven solutions across the city such as road diets to calm traffic on a larger scale so families and children can walk safely in our city.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I’m an entrepreneur — I’ve built my seven-person company 4Sight from scratch over the past two years. We do data analytics and predictive analytics for clients such as P&G, Nestle, Clorox, etc. As such, after engagements with clients, we always do an “after action” session where we identify what worked and did not work, and then adjust based on new information. So that mindset of being open to a new point of view based on new information is something that is in my DNA. With public policy, the last time I recall this happening is with the proposal to put a dog park in Dunore Park in Clifton. At first, I personally was in favor of that location. But as a trustee on Clifton town meeting, after receiving survey data and talking to immediate residents, I changed my position and instead encouraged a different location that is a win-win for dog park advocates and neighbors. We’re working with the Cincinnati Parks on that alternative location now.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

There are so many other cities doing great initiatives in affordable housing, urban planning, policing, etc. But the operative word in the question is “fantastic.” What Paris has done in the last two years transforming the city by designing more of the city for people vs cars is fantastic: it’s not about cycling, but about creating a vibrancy in the city, reducing carbon emissions, building a more walkable/safe city, and improving health. What is “fantastic” about it is the leadership to think big, and rally a city behind that big vision. In this case, it's about creating a 15-minute city — being able to get to essential needs within a 15-minute bike or walk. Too often we get in our own way in Cincinnati to think big and transformational. This type of visionary leadership and innovation is what I will bring to City Council. What's amazing about the transformation in Paris is also that it was done collaboratively, demonstrating that transformational change can be done collaboratively. I will bring that same track record of Collaborative Leadership that improves life in our city to City Council.

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Scotty Johnson

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Courtesy Scotty Johnson

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 59
Neighborhood: Mt. Airy
Campaign website: scottyforcincinnati.com

About: Scotty Johnson is a lifelong Cincinnatian who has spent his career in public service of the city that he loves. At a young age, Scotty’s father taught him to “always stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone.” Over the course of a 33-year career with the Cincinnati Police Department as a beat cop, school resource officer, SWAT negotiator, or public liaison, Scotty never wavered in his commitment to integrity. Scotty was one of the initial Community Oriented Policing (COPs) officers in 1989 and began a long career being a bridge builder. In April 2001, as president of the Sentinel Police Association, he was the first police officer to take responsibility on behalf of CPD amidst the unrest following the shooting of Timothy Thomas. Though his stance wasn’t popular with many, Scotty never shied away from standing up for what he believed in, even if it meant standing alone. Scotty’s bravery in 2001 was a catalyst for the formation of Cincinnati Action Now and the Cincinnati Collaborative Agreement, the basis for police-community relations locally and a model for the nation. After serving as director of security for Mayor Mallory, Scotty became a counselor and advisor to three police chiefs before retiring in 2019.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

The key to resolving this issue is transparency. I am proud of the efforts that the city has made so far. The Economic Development Reform Panel put together by the mayor* is a great start, and the ability to file campaign finance reports online is going in the right direction. If elected, we can’t stop there. Far too many times I have seen base policies in any organization be forgotten whenever a new administration takes over. I won’t let that happen. We need to continue with these improvements over time.

* Reporter’s note: the Economic Development Reform Panel was created by City Council via ordinances in December 2020. Per the ordinance, Mayor John Cranley appointed members to the panel, which were then confirmed in a City Council vote

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Our city needs to continue to grow and that means bringing in new projects to Cincinnati. When we discuss growth, we need to make sure that everyone is benefiting from this, not just a few. But when we discuss development, we need to get input from all parties involved. I have spent my career working to build relationships between communities, police, business, labor, non-profits and governmental agencies. I know how to get everyone at the table and start working with them to come to a solution that everyone can agree upon. I spent more than 33 years doing that for the city of Cincinnati and I am confident that I can do it again.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I was a strong supporter of Issue 7 to properly fund our public transit system. This is just the start. We need to work closely with SORTA, business and the community to find out what the needs are for public transit. There are jobs available, but people can’t get to them. If they can, it can sometimes take them over an hour. We additionally need to invest in our neighborhoods. There is no one-size-fits-all for every neighborhood. Some may need more bike lanes; others may need a new transit hub. I will work with local community councils to see where their needs are and make sure that we can come to a solution that fits. Investing to make our neighborhoods more pedestrian friendly is also one of the best ways to grow our neighborhoods back. The city has started to do a great job when it comes to pedestrian safety with the new speed bumps and narrowing of roads, and I intend to improve on the work that has been done, but we must get community input on every project that we do. Issues arise when we think we have all the answers. I will make sure that every solution I give has the input of those more impacted by its decision.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

When I first learned about the COVID vaccine being approved, I thought it was rushed and wasn’t sure if I would get it. Like any issue, I know there is more than just what I think, or what I see on the surface. I learned more about the process and listened to the experts. I got vaccinated the moment it was available to my age group. This is the same approach I go in with to any issue. I listen to the experts, I get input from the community, and I come to a solution. I spent my career doing this for the city of Cincinnati, and I am ready to do it again.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Whenever I travel, I always like to think about what idea or project can I take back home with me. Most recently, while in Atlanta, I saw the amount of influence Black-owned businesses had on the community. I realized that we are on this track long term, but we need to pick up the pace. Atlanta is not only investing in their community but is actively working on bringing talent into the city. They have grants and incentives for people to relocate there. This is something we can work on. We have so much talent here that leaves, we need to first invest at home in our minority-owned businesses. We also need to start actively searching for new industries and rapidly growing minority-owned business and convince them to move here. Using Atlanta as a model can be the start to a significant change in Cincinnati.

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Liz Keating

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Courtesy Liz Keating

Party affiliation: Republican
Party endorsements: Republican, Charter Committee
Age: 37
Neighborhood: Hyde Park
Campaign website: votelizkeating.com

About: Cincinnati City Council member, marketing director, community volunteer, mom.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I was the first council member to electronically file my entire campaign finance history, so every contribution and expenditure is online in searchable format. I am the only council member who files campaign finance reports more frequently than required to provide more transparency to the public. I believe in transparency and will continue to find ways to act on that belief.

I proposed legislation that would ban council members and the mayor from accepting campaign contributions for other elected offices while serving the city of Cincinnati. I have also pushed for more transparency with LLCs doing business with the city.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I was a member of City Council’s Affordable Housing Subcommittee. The recommendations coming out of that work included zoning changes, public-private partnerships, upgrading blighted buildings, and more. I have championed legislation to change zoning and increase density on major arterial routes and along transit lines throughout our city. This will expand our tax base, increase housing supply, and give people direct access to transit to get to and from jobs.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I have supported pedestrian safety upgrades throughout our 52 neighborhoods. I believe we need to continue to invest in safer, more innovative infrastructure — from trails to roundabouts. As we continue to connect our 52 neighborhoods through walking and riding paths, we’re reuniting neighborhoods once separated by highways, we’re making transportation more accessible, we’re making it easier to get to and from jobs, and we’re boosting quality of life.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

The increase in water rates. I was against raising the water rates and as I researched more, I recognized that an investment in our infrastructure was the right thing to do. We have 40,000 households that still have lead service lines. Those are children and families who are impacted on a daily basis. Local government’s number one job is basic services — and that includes clean and safe drinking water.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

An affordable initiative that can be quickly implemented is the work Detroit is doing to handle the frequent extreme storms and flooding. Like Cincinnati, Detroit is an old city with a combined stormwater/sewer system and has seen an increase in overland flooding and sewer backups.

Cincinnati has been on the forefront of innovative solutions with the Lick Run Greenway project. However, we still have overland flooding and sewer backup issues in other neighborhoods, negatively impacting our residents and small businesses.

Detroit has invested in innovative infrastructure to take the stress off their sewers. They have built bio-retention features, bioswales, urban rain gardens, planted more trees to create additional permeable surfaces and more.

Since 2004, MSD has spent $158 million on investigations, cleaning, claims and its sewer backup prevention program. These are temporary fixes and not investments toward solutions. I believe that we can learn from Detroit’s approach of smaller, innovative investments in neighborhoods. I have introduced a motion to do a cost analysis and begin implementing these infrastructure investments as we move forward with infrastructure projects throughout the city.

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Andrew E. Kennedy

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Courtesy

Party affiliation: Non-affiliated
Age: 38
Neighborhood: Pleasant Ridge
Campaign website: voteforkennedy.org

About: Andrew Kennedy is running for the Cincinnati City Council. Andrew is a first-time candidate and is eager to use his journalism and marketing background to run an effective campaign and his communication skills to represent the interests of his constituents. He says, “I certainly don’t know all the answers; however, I do know that treating people with respect on a daily basis, listening, learning, building trust, and empowering others to achieve success are the most important things I can do as a servant of the people of Cincinnati.” Andrew is passionate about his family and community. His wife is a social worker and his young daughters raise rabbits. Andrew was raised a Lutheran, but now identifies as a freethinker and secular humanist. ANDREW IS ENDORSED BY THE FREETHOUGHT EQUALITY FUND PAC. Andrew is very proud to be endorsed but does not accept donations from any individuals or organizations. He asks that Cincinnati residents consider giving to a Cincinnati-based charity, or spending money at Cincinnati businesses around town instead of giving to campaigns.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

Top Ten priorities:

1. Rooting out corruption and shadow deals. Building trust is a must.

2. The safety of ALL Cincinnatians.

3. Booming our Cincinnati economy!

On raising ethical standards, we all know the state legislature has already raised the ethics bar with their solid version of the ethics disclosure process. Let’s pass a near-identical version of that for city council. Council also needs more regular reports on who has given money to campaigns. This, so red flags will be spotted earlier. By the way, I want to make it known that I’ve made the commitment not to accept donations of any kind from anybody: individuals, businesses, developers, organizations, political action committees, etc. First, because I don’t like it when politicians ask for money. And second, because I don’t like it when politicians ask for money. Instead, my campaign wants to ask folks to give to a Cincinnati-based charity, or support local Cincinnati businesses around town. I think it’s a novel idea rarely seen in politics today. And my volunteers and I are proud of that. For me, it’s not about money. It’s about service to you.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

On dealing with developers: We need to be skeptical of politicians getting involved in these deals and empower and entrust the professionals that work in City Hall — whose job it is to deal with them and who are getting paid through OUR tax dollars to do so. And if there is some sort of impasse, then council needs to discuss it openly, transparently and in the public eye. It is simply the council’s role to understand what is happening surrounding those developments and assist the city manager and the city development staff in prioritizing, if asked. This, so we can achieve the larger initiatives we want to achieve to continue to grow our region. Furthermore, I will work with other council members to come up with a code of conduct, so we can hold EACH other accountable. As a member of council, you can, and SHOULD make the proper introductions if needed between developers and all other parties, and then butt out. Empower others. This, to assure voters that when projects come before city council those folks will get the fair hearing they deserve. Not given out as favors — but given out based on what is best OVERALL for our city. I am not a big fan of tax abatements but they are necessary in some cases. Focus on booming our economy!

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I was skeptical of building a streetcar from the get-go. We need to be smart with our city dollars. However, now that is built, I can appreciate the tenacity of those who worked so hard to make it happen. Lately though, I’ve noticed very few people riding on the streetcar and my skepticism has returned. We need to keep funding for now. After all, we committed to building the darn thing and it was expensive. Because of this, I have to be committed along with all Cincinnatians to work to make it a success now. It would have to really tank now for me to quit funding it now, BUT that is still not entirely off the table. Use it or lose it Cincinnati. I am all about more safe bike lanes for Cincinnatians. I bike and run a lot. We need to focus on repairing roads and bridges and making it easy for our truckers and motorists to safely deliver payloads around the city and get people from point A to B. Lots are falling apart.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I recently changed my religion to "none." With so much disinformation out there, I decided to re-examine everything I come across with a fine tooth comb; including religion and everything I've been told. I was raised a Christian, but after discovering what took place at the Council of Nicaea among other things, and actually studying ALL of the bible as an adult (not just the parts I am told to study) and finding so many inconsistencies, I proudly admit I was wrong to blindly believe what I was taught as a child from religious adults. The whole thing is make-believe spirituality as a business to con people (tax free) and gain power, influence and money from the gullible masses. It's disgusting. I question everything now and that is a great thing. It is freeing. Group think is dangerous. I will never blindly trust any one, any religion, or any idea ever again. Only weak ideas (and people or imaginary super entities from our present day religions) demand excessive praise. I need to be shown evidence in everything or I gently dismiss it now until evidence is shown. I discovered disinformation and lying to the masses as a way for some to gain power runs rampant in society. I want the cold hard truth. This lying crap needs to stop.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Austin comes to mind. They have a great culture there. They have a connectedness there and a lot of buy-in from citizens. To make such a great culture because there is trust in the air. We need to have that again in Cincinnati.

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Greg Landsman

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Courtesy Greg Landsman

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 44
Neighborhood: Mt. Washington
Campaign website: greglandsman.com

About: The son of two educators and a former teacher himself, Greg Landsman has served on Cincinnati City Council since 2017. After playing a leadership role in the successful Preschool Promise campaign (which guaranteed high-quality affordable preschool to all Cincinnati children) he ran for office to bring his grassroots organizing and advocacy experience in children's issues to City Hall. Whether it be eviction prevention, pedestrian safety, domestic violence, small business support, food insecurity, public safety, or criminal justice – he has been diligently working to deliver results on the issues that matter to Cincinnati's children and families ever since. In addition to being a member of City Council, he is a nationally-recognized consultant for communities wanting to create large-scale systemic change on behalf of children and families, and serves as the senior advisor to Every Child Capital, a philanthropic venture fund that invests in early literacy interventions. Landsman lives in Mt. Washington with his wife and two children.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

Public trust is eroding at all levels of government – including City Hall. To restore that trust, we have to both pursue reforms and change the culture.

I have put forward two ordinances that, if passed, would make a difference immediately. The first, "Immediate Campaign Finance Disclosure Reform," would amend Cincinnati’s municipal campaign code to require elected officials to publicly disclose within 72-hours when they receive a big-dollar donation. This transparency allows our constituents to hold us accountable for our votes. The second ordinance would establish a position within the city's Law Department for an ethics and good government counselor, who would be a resource on all issues of ethics and potential conflict-of-interest for city officials and city employees, and enforce the highest standard of adherence.

As far as changing the culture at City Hall, we must start with a collective commitment from all elected officials to coalition-build, problem-solve, and deliver results together.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Stagnant wages, population growth, and a loss of existing affordable units have convened to create our multifaceted local housing crisis. We must make serious investments in all types of housing to keep up with our growing city, but also work on pragmatic reforms to our development process to ensure these investments are equitable and effective.

The passage of the Balanced Development Priorities Scorecard this spring marked the culmination of two years of research and engagement. It amends our tax abatement system to incentivize development projects that include local jobs (+livable wages), small and minority-owned businesses, affordable housing, and anti-displacement commitments. When it goes into effect this fall, City staff will analyze every development project based on these priorities and present their analysis to council and the public.

Additionally, I’ve led on the new "Housing for Everyone Fund" (has invested around ~$50 million in the creation of new housing); fought to secure funding for a study on a tiered residential property tax program in Cincinnati (to overhaul that program early next year); and drafted legislation for per-property parking minimum waivers for affordable housing projects.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

In 2019, I called on Cincinnati to adopt Vision Zero – an internationally recognized strategy for eliminating all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries. After doing so, pedestrian safety became a funding and policy priority for City Hall. Of course, we won’t be done until the number of pedestrian deaths every year in our city is zero, but this work is making a difference. In 2019, after years of increasing pedestrian deaths, we saw accidents decrease for the first time. Since then, DOTE has released plans for hundreds of safety improvements in 36 neighborhoods (which they have started chipping away at).

I will keep pushing for this to be a priority as long as I’m on council. Additionally, I am working with the Sierra Club on their push for Cincinnati to adopt a “complete streets” approach in our transportation policy and design, and on legislation that would update our zoning code to allow the City to prioritize investments along transit route corridors. I fought for the passage of Issue 7, and also support the implementation of the CROWN Queen City bike trail plan (which would put ~242,000 Cincinnatians within a mile of paved trail access and encourage protected bike lanes and shared-use traffic lanes in the city center).

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

If I’ve learned anything on council, it’s that: your understanding of an issue must never be fixed. Everyone involved in each issue has a differing viewpoint on how it should be resolved. A huge part of my job as a representative is making sure I do my best to listen to everyone involved before moving forward with direct action.

The most recent example I can give is in reference to the opioid litigation with major pharmaceutical distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic. At first, I thought that settling with the big pharmaceutical companies was the right thing to do, thinking of the money that could go to struggling families in our city. However, after talking with families directly impacted by this issue, I concluded that the city would get far too little money for such a lack of accountability from those who caused the damage. So, I voted that we take the companies to court. I was in the minority, but I made the decision that felt most morally sound to me.

I can’t promise to always get it right. But, I promise to always listen to varying perspectives of my constituents before casting a vote. I take my role seriously, and I’ll always be open to hearing new information before taking action that impacts your life.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

In 2019, Columbus announced a $100 million housing fund, which they were able to do by leveraging private and private funding in partnership with the Columbus Community Foundation. Our new "Housing for Everyone Fund" was created to mirror this dynamic approach in order to actually raise the big-dollar funding needed to seriously tackle this issue. As we continue to build it, we should keep learning from other cities leading on this issue.

Whenever I work on a major policy change, I always review best practices from others. That said, I also believe it is just as important to engage those most involved and affected by an issue, as they will often have the best understanding as to what is needed.

Therefore, I've found that the best way to create legislation that truly works for those who need it the most is to propose a "best practice" (potentially from another City) and then let those Cincinnatians who would be impacted by the policy push and prod the idea before it is used here. We can, and should, learn a lot from each other. This is true in all aspects of life, including policy-making, and is why we must balance research and data with people's lived experience.

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Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney

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Courtesy: Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 65
Neighborhood: North Avondale
Campaign website: kearneyforcincinnati.com

About: I was born in Cincinnati, grew up in Avondale, and educated by Cincinnati Public Schools: Rockdale and Walnut Hills. I graduated cum laude from Dartmouth and while there, also attended an HBCU, Talladega College. I earned a masters in counseling psych from Harvard Graduate School of Education and later, graduated from Harvard Law School (I was in Pres. Obama's class and brought him to Cincinnati when he ran for U.S. Senate and then U.S. president). At Harvard, I was elected 1st class marshal and graduation speaker. I am president of Sesh Communications, owner of Cincinnati’s Black newspaper, The Cincinnati Herald, and host of many events such as the annual Daddy-Daughter Dinner Dance at Convention Center. I was appointed to Cincinnati City Council last year and I am the chair of the Neighborhoods Committee. I've been working on neighborhood safety, especially community efforts to decrease gun violence, economic opportunities for all (small business support and growth; job training/apprenticeship opportunities), affordable housing and anti-displacement policies, community engagement, and increasing homeownership for generational wealth-building. Married to former senator of Ohio's 9th District, Eric H. Kearney, and proud mom of Celeste and Asher.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

Increase transparency by making campaign contribution information easily accessible to the public.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

1) Incentivize inclusion of affordable housing in development plans by tying in municipal benefits such as automatic density waivers, tax abatements, tax increment financing.

2) Look at the city's inventory (managed by The Port Authority) of vacant land and buildings and create plan to renovate for affordable housing.

3) Build up the city's affordable housing trust fund to $50-$100 million to allow low-interest loans for development of affordable housing, and buying/renovating property for 60% AMI or lower.

4) Consider land trusts where homes could be owned but would stay affordable when sold.

5) Consider a 3CDC type of entity that would focus on affordable housing development.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

1) We passed Issue 7 last year, so SORTA now has the resources to create bus routes across the Greater Cincinnati area to increase access to jobs, for example, and to decrease reliance on cars (which will decrease parking needs, decrease pollution, and increase pedestrian safety).

2) Build more protected bike lanes — that is, lanes protected by attractive barriers and parked cars — that could be used for walking, biking, scooters and other non-vehicular transportation.

3) A citizens group could be appointed to create a plan to make the streetcar a transportation asset. Does it need to run for more hours and/or at different times? Let's ask the public what would make them want to use it on a regular basis. I advocate that the fare remains free.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

Before I vote, I try to gather as much info as possible, including the facts, of course, and then input from diverse viewpoints — not just those that support my own opinion. While I might have an idea as to how I will vote upon the start of council meeting, I listen carefully to the discussions in council chambers and make my best effort to ask pertinent questions. Being well-informed and open-minded to new information are essential to making good decisions.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Columbus has a three-tiered program to promote affordable housing. Charlotte has a public-private investment program to renovate vacant buildings to create affordable housing. Seattle has a certificate program that lays out the steps that owners must take to help tenants relocate before taking occupancy of a building. Atlanta has an anti-displacement fund to help legacy residents remain in their homes so that development does not produce gentrification.

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John Maher

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Courtesy John Maher

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 43
Neighborhood: Northside
Campaign website: maherforcincinnati.com

About: John Maher is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati that is dedicated to facilitating, engaging and inspiring positive community experiences that support welcomed neighborhood growth and development. John Maher is currently a construction project leader that is focused on affordable housing and homeownership. He understands that homeownership is a path forward towards generational wealth. He is dedicated to making sure that homeownership is available to more than just a few. John Maher came from humble beginnings. His father was a union worker in the auto industry and his mother was a bus driver who would later become a pillar in her community as a devoted and life-changing activist. John Maher is a servant leader with focused efforts on uplifting and protecting his community.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I completely agree with your audience. In fact, it is the main reason that I decided to run for City Council. Sadly, many have come to expect corruption as common practice in politics. I’m fed up with corruption at City Hall and throughout all politics. This is a fate that I choose not to accept. I am running so that Cincinnatians know that they have a candidate with whom they can trust. Someone with integrity, fairness and equity at the basis of their decision making. I will perform my duties and introduce policy with honesty, accountability and transparency. I will promote policies that do the same, such as the recommendations developed by the anti-corruption task force. It is imperative that we elect trustworthy individuals. I am an honest man that believes in doing what is fair and just. I am asking for you to vote for me, John Maher. You will get an authentic representative with common sense, a collaborative spirit and determination to see us through with progress.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

The city must prioritize affordable housing and economic development. The new administration must expand the use of tax incentives for affordable housing development and increase transparency in the tax incentive process. We must do our best with incentivizing developers to provide the affordable housing units we need. While the city currently offers some incentives for affordable housing, we must be more aggressive to spur the private sector to act. We need to target areas of the city that need and can support more affordable housing. We must reform our tax abatement process. Currently, housing projects do not need to include a single affordable housing unit in order to be eligible for a tax abatement. I’d like to change this so that a percentage of the abatements go to the development of affordable housing units. We must also make the tax abatement and TIF programs more transparent for those applying and for the local community.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

We must continue to achieve diverse and affordable ways to get from point A to point B. Transportation is essential to life in Cincinnati, providing residents access to employment, food and healthcare. The city must enhance public transportation using some strategies that include alignment of public transit routes and schedules with employment, health care and educational opportunities. The city should also work to increase connectivity and cohesion within multi modal transportation options such as the bus, streetcar and bike sharing. For example, Columbus, Ohio, is working to better integrate its public transit system and ensure that it is adaptable for future transportation technologies. Our city must also focus on pedestrian safety with effective traffic calming measures as well as making Cincinnati more walkable and bikable with projects like Wasson Way, the Beechmont Connector and development of the CROWN loop that will connect 54 communities running from Northside to Madisonville, down to Lunken then west along the Ohio River to Downtown and then on to Lower Price Hill. Projects like these not only increase connectivity, but this infrastructure makes everyone safer.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

Changing one's mind when presented with new information is essential. The last time I changed my mind was at the beginning of the pandemic after being presented with updated safety information.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Cleveland, Ohio, is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati can replicate. They have created a sustainability district or 2030 District.* A sustainability district or 2030 District, is a collection of buildings or neighborhoods that commit to three goals: reducing their building energy usage, water consumption and transportation emissions by 50% by 2030. To create a sustainability district, organizers must engage the commercial real estate industry here in Cincinnati. Large corporate and institutional partners who own and maintain large buildings will be key partners. From a governmental perspective, SORTA, MSD, GCWW and the Department of Transportation and Engineering must all be a part of the collaborative.** Cincinnati is currently working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. A sustainability district naturally pairs with this goal of reducing emissions and enables public private partnerships to drive changes in consumption.

* Reporter’s note: Cincinnati has a 2030 District, facilitated by Green Umbrella.

**The city of Cincinnati is a member (which includes GCWW and DOTE). Metro (managed by SORTA) is also a member. MSD is not a member.

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Peterson Mingo

Party affiliation: Democratic
Neighborhood: Evanston

This candidate did not respond to the survey in time for publication. 

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Phillip O’Neal

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Courtesy

Party affiliation: Non-affiliated
Age: 33
Party endorsements: Democratic
Neighborhood: Avondale
Campaign website: votephilliponeal.com

About: My name is Phillip O'Neal, and I am an endorsed Democrat running for Cincinnati City Council. I am grateful to come from a legacy of community engagement and compassion. My mother, Monica, is a retired Cincinnati Public Schools teacher and my late father, Rev. Rousseau, was a pastor and civil rights leader. I hope to continue my family's commitment to our community by serving on Cincinnati City Council and do what is right for the people. I currently serve as a husband and a father, an athletic director within Cincinnati Public Schools, Officer in the Ohio Army National Guard, and deacon at Rocklife Church (Rockdale Baptist). Now, I want to bring that servant leadership to our entire city. I pride myself on bridging the gaps — age, gender, race, professionals, social classes, religions — and then working with a team to accomplish specific goals. A few things I want to help unite the right people to achieve the following:

  • Affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods without gentrification
  • Enhance educational and vocational opportunities, post-graduation
  • Generate more opportunities for employment with good wages
  • Reduce crime and homicide rate

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

Through communication. Broaden the input of citizens in the planning of the city. Listen to neighborhoods when decisions are made for the future. Develop more think tanks from the academic and community institutions that have a greater awareness of the most recent knowledge and programs, greater positive public policy on jobs, urban living conditions, transportation, crime, health and other issues that are and will affect Cincinnati.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

I have been informed that there are currently discussions to bring together a committee of all vested interests to develop a long-range plan for affordable housing. This would include communities, citizens, business interests (real estate developers) and organizations dedicated to these issues. My perspective at this time is that it is unsustainable for the city to assist in developing high-end properties without making a definitive plan and commitment to rental and homeownership for those employed who cannot afford escalating renal rates. While much has been said about the homeless, and much should be done for the less fortunate, not much is said about working families, though employed, who not only pay income taxes, but are the mainstay of local retail purchases and of sales taxes. We need to create a metric system around abatements to be equitable in supporting all of your neighborhoods not just a select few.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I would like a report of the success of the SORTA changes that will be put into place to determine successes and needed changes. In regard to proposed changes being discussed in public transportation in Congress, I would advocate a re-examination of developing a sophisticated light rail system allowing residents in outside communities greater access to Cincinnati’s commercial amenities, adding to city revenue. With the streetcar, I would narrow its focus to enhance its ability to increase the success of the Downtown commercial centers both for tourism and immediate comfort to out of state visitors and those traveling from event venues to shopping to restaurants in the areas it now serves. Concerning pedestrian safety, it is becoming more of a public health issue, not only affecting the city, but county. Besides installing better traffic lights, roundabouts, etc., it appears that there is now a need for a countywide commission to address the issue.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

Issue 3, pertaining to affordable housing. It was well intentioned, and to be fair, plea to address the affordable housing problem facing Cincinnati. However, it was flawed in regard to defining source revenue and oversight.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

In researching other cities, I found that Nashville has a 10 point plan that could be a model for Cincinnati. In some of these suggestions, Cincinnati has currently taken leadership or is attempting to work through similar ideas as outlined below (due to the sake of space I could only describe the first five);

  1. Build quality of place - environment for working, living, and socializing. As cities become preferred destinations for citizens of all backgrounds
  2. Find what makes you unique - invest in local assets and market their strengths to specific companies and workers
  3. Tell your story - Council should consider itself as a partner with the Cincinnati USA Convention and Travel Bureau and be unified in exploring “innovative ways to highlight local assets”
  4. Make your community sticky - in other words, work to get our citizens in local communities involved in promoting our city. That encourages existing talent to stay and new talent to arrive.
  5. Think of students as an asset - help create alliances between business and universities to create a program unique to the needs of Cincinnati.
  6. Promote equity
  7. Reach to employers
  8. Appoint community ambassadors
  9. Create innovative housing models
  10. Incubate business

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Meeka Owens

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Courtesy Meeka Owens

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 43
Neighborhood: North Avondale
Campaign website: votemeeka.com

About: I was born and raised in Avondale, where I raised my son Justin, who is now a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force. After the election in 2016, I joined the administration of Aftab Pureval at the Hamilton County Clerks Office, and amidst the pandemic worked with the Hamilton County Public Health Department — contact tracing and coordinating the distribution of vaccines.

I am an organizer at heart. In 2016, I organized in Walnut Hills for the Ohio Democratic Party, and in 2020, I co-founded the Greater Cincinnati Voter Collaborative to register voters and create access to democracy.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

We have to create a better relationship between the public, and our local government. I want to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout City Hall. Part of regaining the public's trust after the ethics issues of the past year is not over-legislating corruption, but instead increasing transparency of our city resources. The website should be more accessible, our meetings should be at a time when citizens have access to public comment. The entire operation of City Hall should be one that promotes equity and access. Improving public trust also includes council members being present in every neighborhood year-round, not just at election time. If elected, I commit to showing up across our 52 neighborhoods throughout my term to make sure all our neighborhoods feel representation at City Hall. Restoring trust means improving our communication with community councils, and building an infrastructure to support them.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

City Council, in collaboration with the mayor, can set the legislative priorities for the city. City Council should understand the needs of our neighborhoods, and where the next developments should be being prioritized. City Council can act as a body to convene folks around the table, to set our priorities for development, and ensure that no matter what your zip code is, you can succeed. I do want to empower community councils in this process as well, and ensure that those neighborhoods without community councils have a seat at the table, and are given proper representation. We need to be prioritizing expanding all across the city, and focusing on ecosystems of health. Not allowing food deserts to persist, creating safe opportunities for multimodal transportation, improving access to jobs and health care, and doing revitalization in a comprehensive way should be at the core of our conversations on economic development.

Changes to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements, should be made by the professionals at City Hall, to ensure when we are providing tax incentives, we are implementing them equitably, and across all our neighborhoods.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Transportation is a 21st century civil rights issue. I want to ensure that Issue 7 is implemented county-wide as it was intended, and work to create accessible transportation resources throughout our city. We should prioritize multimodal transportation that enhances the presence of bike lines on major roads in our neighborhoods, and promotes the safety of pedestrians in all of our neighborhoods. Our city may not be entirely walkable, but we can make sure someone can walk safely in all 52 neighborhoods — without fear. We should be committed to increasing the ridership of the streetcar. Continuing to implement raised crosswalks to increase pedestrian safety, and listening to our neighbors to ensure our transportation infrastructure is meeting the needs of our communities.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

As I have learned more about the affordable housing crisis, I have grown more accustomed to understanding that if we are going to find equitable housing solutions, we absolutely must collaborate. I have applied for housing with CMHA, only to find the waiting list to be too long, and a lack of quality in housing choices. I know what it feels like to be burdened by the cost of housing, and if we are going to find real solutions that create healthier neighborhoods in our city, we have to work together.

We are incredibly lucky in Cincinnati to have so many experts ready to come to the table to discuss the future of affordable housing in our city. The Housing Our Future plan, produced by LISC, in collaboration with leaders from Cohear, GCF, CMHA and more, is a well-researched plan and strategy for helping to solve the affordable housing crisis. Their collaboration sets an example for me in how I think about housing going forward.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Expanding our use of and funding for mental health and wellness services is imperative to the success of our city moving forward, and our ability to reimagine what policing looks like. In Eugene, Oregon, they developed the CAHOOTS Program (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) as a community policing initiative in 1989. It is a first-response to mental health crises in their city.

Their program deploys a two person team of nurses, paramedics or EMTs, and crisis workers with backgrounds in mental health to respond in times of crisis. CAHOOTS teams respond in areas where a mental health professional is necessary. From substance abuse response, to welfare checks, the CAHOOTS team is able to respond to crises unarmed, and are not law enforcement officers. They are meant to find nonviolent solutions, and can also respond in cases of crisis, but not emergency, saving money.

Cincinnati should look to the CAHOOTS team's success in Eugene, Oregon, as a model as we begin to reimagine policing.

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Victoria Parks

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Courtesy Victoria Parks

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Democratic
Age: 63
Neighborhood: College Hill
Campaign website: voteparks.com

About: County Commissioner Victoria Parks began her career in public service enlisting in the U.S. Air Force directly out of high school. After returning to Cincinnati, she became Rep. Driehaus’s community outreach representative, and later development director at the Women’s Crisis Center and afterward at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. At this time she met Todd Portune and was asked to serve as his chief of staff. She worked with Portune to create the Oral Health Coalition, reform the foster care system, and relentlessly advocate for union workers and families. When Todd stepped down for health reasons, Parks completed his term as county commissioner. In that role, she navigated the COVID-19 crisis, ensured a fair distribution of CARES Act funding and authored the Declaration of Racism as a Public Health Crisis ensuring equity and inclusion in all county operations. Comm. Parks also declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for county employees and created the Office of Family Voices. While working hard as county commissioner, Victoria was embarrassed to see scandal and infighting engulfing City Hall. She realized her journey as a public servant was far from over, took a leap of faith, and entered the race for City Council.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I launched this campaign because I was heartbroken and angry by the actions of City Council. Cincinnatians are hard working and honest individuals and those actions do not reflect our city. I will restore faith in City Hall through comprehensive ethics reform, working collaboratively with the county, and serving with a commitment to integrity.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

There is a clear disconnect right now between residents of our neighborhoods and developers. Can you imagine if members of our communities were proud rather than resentful of new projects? Council must instruct the city manager to work with community council and neighborhood redevelopment corporations to implement master plans with community development that ensure equitable progress and vibrancy. My home neighborhood of College Hill has been a model for this, along with Westwood and East Price Hill. I think each neighborhood should have a say in how to address their housing challenges and approve of public/private financing deals. But broadly speaking, this is a regional issue that requires a regional solution, including leveraging federal funding, philanthropic dollars, and public sources from governments across the region.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Looking long-term, I would love to see the implementation of light rail in our region. It is clean, cost-efficient, and safe. However, before we invest in future-focused transportation infrastructure we must invest in fixing our current problems, including busses for school children, on-time transportation for working class individuals, and ensuring our regional transportation system is connected and accessible to all. Similarly, if we want to boost neighborhood business districts (and simultaneously reduce crime), we need to invest in more walkable communities. This includes creating safe sidewalks and crosswalks, improving urban tree canopy cover along the side of roads, investing in art installations or interesting walking experiences, and investing in easy, safe, and renewable transportation systems.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

When serving as county commissioner, I learned that The Port Authority is an entity that is penetrable. Their motives are not as systematically overpowering as it appears. The Port can, should and will be a productive community partner with city and county leadership working from a shared policy agenda. The problem is not The Port, it is dysfunctional relationships between governments. Straighten that out and The Port will be accountable to the community.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

The process for creating and registering a new business in Cincinnati is harder than other parts of the region. We must align Cincinnati with best practices from our benchmark cities like Nashville, Columbus, Indianapolis and Charlotte. It is also important to have an equity lens when discussing business policies. For example, at the county, I shifted the requirements for the CARES Act small business grant in order to include more Black-owned businesses. The initial qualification for these grants required a storefront and more than three employees. This would have disproportionately eliminated Black-owned businesses' ability to qualify for these grants, since they are often individuals operating businesses from their homes.

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Te’Airea Powell

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Courtesy Te'Airea Powell

Party affiliation: Democratic
Age: 33
Neighborhood: East Westwood
Campaign website: powellforcincy.com

About: I am a Cincinnati native raised on McHenry in East Westwood. I work as a senior consultant for a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. I’m a mom to a 10th grader at Saint Ursula Academy and co-owner of T&D’s Party Room. Besides being a mom, a full time employee and running a small business, I am also a trustee for the East Westwood Improvement Association.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I will address corruption at City Hall by first implementing the recommendations recently presented to council that would restrict donations by developers to council members while conducting business with the city.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

The city needs to prioritize development projects that offer real affordable housing. I would want the city to have a stipulation of “rental caps” for developers that request tax abatements.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

My plan would be to communicate with the communities in regards to what they are needing when it comes to pedestrian safety as they know where crosswalks and road bump outs are needed. Currently there is too much “red tape” for communities wanting additional crosswalks. We also need to expand Metro/SORTA hours for those that may work non traditional hours that may include the graveyard shift. Creating more permanent bike lanes is a must as well.

* Reporter’s note: Cincinnati City Council does not manage Metro operations. Metro is operated by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), a political subdivision of the State of Ohio. SORTA is governed by a 16-member volunteer citizens’ board of trustees. Eleven trustees are appointed by Hamilton County and five are appointed by the city of Cincinnati.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

Last week. I feel like it’s OK to do research and rethink something.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

I think Atlanta is doing an amazing job of increasing their population and retaining their young talent. It shows by the ever-growing new businesses there.

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Logan-Peter C. Simmering

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Courtesy Logan Simmering

Party affiliation: Non-affiliated
Party endorsements: Green
Age: 35
Neighborhood: North Avondale
Campaign website: simmeringforcincinnati.com

About: Union ironworker and socialist activist.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

On a basic level, I would support improved ethics training and monitoring for rules violations, to ensure the city is keeping up with best practices, as well as seeking to limit the kinds of access and financial relationships private interests can have to council and the city administration. More ambitiously, I'd seek to devolve many powers away from the city council into the community councils, so that there is less of a concentration of powerful people to influence.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

The city should prioritize building social housing developments itself, instead of trying to entice for-profit developers to add a sprinkling of affordable housing to market rate projects, as well as facilitating the establishment of community land trust, and neighborhood-owned development cooperatives, to ensure that the development of the city is rooted in the needs of its residents. Conversely though, the city should work to make housing easier and cheaper to build privately by reforming zoning, building codes and the permitting process.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

I want to see the city focus on improving walkability and cycle-ability of the city by building dedicated infrastructure, enacting traffic calming measures, and increasing the density of the city so any given area has more destinations. I would like to see the streetcar expanded Uptown and across the river, the groundwork laid for a more extensive light rail network, and for the city to partner with SORTA to establish a multi-hubbed bus rapid transit network.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I've become considerably less certain of the need for a companion to the Brent Spence Bridge lately, based on comparisons to historical traffic patterns, and the need to invest in other transit options.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Porto Allegro, Brazil.

They pioneered a system of mass citizen engagement in popular assemblies to construct the municipal budget.

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Stacey Smith

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Courtesy Stacey Smith

Party affiliation: Non-affiliated
Age: 29
Neighborhood: West Price Hill
Campaign website: staceysmithccc.wordpress.com

About: I am a licensed professional counselor (a k a therapist). I am passionate about expanding mental healthcare access in our city, and focusing on caring for the basic needs of our citizens.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

Focusing on ordinances that eliminate the appointment system, so if a council member is suspended or steps down, the next highest vote-getter assumes their position. Increasing transparency regarding campaign contributions (utilizing the city website to update this weekly or monthly). And just being an honest person. Corruption is a personal decision that I refuse to make.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Only considering developments for tax abatements if their housing developments contain at least 25% PERMANENT low-income/affordable units.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Traffic calming measures, including exploring more utilization of traffic cushions, ensuring all school zones have flashing lights, raising/painting crosswalks, and installing stop signs or speed humps where they are needed, particularly areas with children. Protect our current bike lanes before expanding and adding others.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I am open to doing this. I am constantly engaging in discussions to broaden my own perspective so that I can make complete, informed decisions.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Denver, Colorado, began piloting their STAR Program in 2020, which dispatches social workers and therapists to mental health crises, or other situations that are normally handled by law enforcement but are more social service-related needs. 1,300 people served, none of whom were arrested. It has been so beneficial that the mayor has volunteered $1.4 million to support and expand the program.

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Betsy Sundermann

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Amy Burke

Party affiliation: Republican
Party endorsements: Republican
Age: 44
Neighborhood: East Price Hill
Campaign website: betsysundermann.com

About: I started as a social worker for the Hamilton County Public Defenders Office, helping abused and neglected children. Next, I served as a Hamilton County prosecutor, helping victims of crime. Most recently, I was a Hamilton County Probate Court magistrate, presiding over hearings involving adoptions, guardianships, wills and estates. I currently have a private law practice with a focus on mental health law. I also teach at the University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I wrote a charter amendment this year to allow council members to vote out a council member who is indicted for a felony involving duties on the council. My charter amendment was on the ballot in March and passed with 78% of the vote. After it passed, the issue went in front of council for a vote to suspend a currently indicted council member. To my surprise, the council did not vote this member out.

When we become council members, we select designees to choose our replacements if we leave the council. My charter amendment also made it impossible for an indicted council member to change his/her designee before resigning or being suspended.

Additionally, my charter amendment requires that all future council members complete ethics training within 60 days of taking office.

I will support future measures that bring trust and transparency to City Hall.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Remote working has threatened future city budgets, so we must work quickly to increase our city’s population so we can afford basic services, social services programs, etc. The best way to support population growth in Cincinnati is to build more housing at every income level. We must ensure citizens are safe in their neighborhoods and can afford to live here. As a council, we must make Cincinnati as business friendly as possible by limiting regulations and offering incentives for businesses to put down roots here. Also, we must limit the tax burden on residents so they want to both work and live in the Queen City.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Rebuilding the Western Hills Viaduct is a top priority. The next most serious problem regarding public transportation is pedestrian safety. We have multiple streets that are host to a large number of serious traffic accidents. We must rework those streets with bump-outs, street resurfacing. safety tables, speed humps, road diets and other methods that slow down traffic.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

Last year, I heard the city was moving toward getting rid of parking requirements for residential and commercial development. At the time, I thought it was a terrible idea. I spoke with community councils, banks, developers and businesses about the proposal. I realized other entities, like banks, already require adequate paring plans during loan applications. Furthermore, I learned that the city had higher parking requirements than necessary. I have changed my mind and now support the elimination of city parking requirements for residential or commercial development.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

Since we need to grow the number of people living and working in Cincinnati, we should follow the lead of West Virginia, Vermont, Oklahoma and other states by giving incentives for people to relocate there to live and work. Moreover, we should follow their guidance by giving financial incentives to companies to bring new co-working spaces to the city.

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Jim Tarbell

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Courtesy Jim Tarbell

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Charter Committee
Age: 79
Neighborhood: Mt. Auburn
Campaign website: votetarbell.com

About: For nearly half a century, Jim Tarbell has been a ubiquitous presence in the Queen City in political campaigns, celebrations, cultural events and every other aspect of civic life. He is a politician, neighborhood preservationist, historian, concert promoter, idealist, activist, provocateur, thorn and visionary. He previously served on City Council from 1998 to 2007.

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

That is a big part of why I am running.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Thoughtful economic development is important for rejuvenating our city and its neighborhoods. I believe all funding mechanisms need to be reviewed to make sure they are still serving their original purpose and are sufficient for future development plans. The covers on Fort Washington Way and the ensuing development that come with them come to mind.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

Public transportation is a key component of dealing with environmental issues, so I am a big proponent. Along with state and federal transportation authorities, making this a priority in the city's budget is the way to make this happen. As a walker and previous biker, I am supportive of these modes of transportation and believe we have to make our city more safe for pedestrians and bikers.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

I am adjusting my approach to problem-solving on a regular basis. I believe you can never have too much information.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

The center city development in Columbus, particularly around the civic/convention center, and how it was funded, is something that we should try to emulate.

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John J. Williams

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Courtesy John Williams

Party affiliation: Democratic
Party endorsements: Charter Committee
Age: 58
Neighborhood: Downtown / Central Business District
Campaign website: johnjwilliamsforcincinnati.com

About: Associate general counsel, FirstGroup America, Inc.

Former city of Cincinnati prosecutor and solicitor

Private law practice for 15 years

Past president of the Cincinnati Bar Association

Past president of Cincinnati Black Lawyers Association

Former president of ProKids and Pro Seniors

Past board member Camp Joy and Beech Acres

Current member Spring Grove Cemetery

The number one issue identified by our listeners and readers as important in this election is anti-corruption. How would you address corruption at City Hall if elected to council?

I would move to prohibit contributions from any person or entity who has a financial interest pending in front of council. This prohibition would not include persons or entities where the matter pending has a general effect on the residents of the city. Also each council member has to participate on a yearly basis in an ethics course. Quarterly I would suggest that each council member must report any contributions and/or gifts and said reporting should be easily accessible to the general public.

Affordable housing and economic development rank high on the list of concerns for Cincinnati voters. What do you believe should be the city's priority for development projects, and what changes (if any) would you want to make to the city's incentive system, including tax abatements?

Affordable housing is key to the sustainability and growth of the city. The city has a housing issue that has all been branded under the term “affordable housing” however, the issue also includes the need for increased homeownership especially in the minority communities. The housing issue also includes tax complications associated with abatements and tax bills that hurt fixed income seniors who have been caught up in the world of increased property value. We need to look for projects that promote affordable housing without displacing our Black and brown communities and at the same time we need to find programs that help increase home ownership. Tax incentives need to undergo an impact study that would include economic benefit or detriment to the city budget and CPS. The duration of incentives and the ability to pass them on to a third party needs to be assessed. Finally, more people should be educated about the fact that incentives can be taken advantage of by any socioeconomic class. Economic development will be generated by better housing policies and accountable government.

What is your plan for transportation in the city, including issues like public transportation infrastructure, the streetcar, pedestrian safety, and making Cincinnati a more walkable and bikable city? 

My plan regarding transportation has to be viewed in light of the budget. Infrastructure is so related upon non-city funds that we have to take advantage of organizations such as REDI to leverage as much state and federal support for the region as possible. Regional cooperation could be an effective tool to help leverage infrastructure. The streetcar is here and if there is a desire to extend to the university area and medical core then we should get the university and various health entities to help fund the expansion. Pedestrian safety should be driven by neighborhood leaders and I would involve them in the process. As a downtown resident I know that we have to develop a better, safer way for scooters and walkers to co-exist. Scooters should be prohibited from sidewalks and it should be enforced. As for making the city more walkable and bikable, which I support, I would have to defer to those who have more expertise and support their recommendation. I know that we have to do a better job of expanding bike paths to all communities and for routes that connect our universities, jobs, and urban core, especially communities of color and low income residents.

When is the last time you changed your opinion on something based on new information?

At the beginning of the race I was under the impression that the tax incentives did not hurt CPS because the city contributed $5 million a year to CPS to offset the incentives. I have come to realize that my thinking may be flawed for several reasons, because the incentive payment by the city only accounts for commercial incentives and not residential incentives. Also looking at it objectively, the $5 million contribution was put in place 20 years ago with no CPI increase attached to it, thus it has not kept pace with the market which is detrimental to CPS.

What other city is doing something fantastic that Cincinnati could learn from?

I would look to Nashville and its recent, intentional pursuit of solutions to the lack of affordable housing in its community by investing $30 million towards various affordable housing endeavors. The city’s proposed budget included more than $30 million in investments for:

  • a municipal fund to build affordable housing units;
  • a new Catalyst Housing fund, which will allow the city to act quickly to preserve affordable housing units in lieu of demolishing them;
  • a payment in lieu of taxes program to incentivize private-sector participation in affordable housing development;
  • a commitment to create affordable housing on Metro-owned land.

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