Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said the city is on the rise and doing better than any time in his lifetime. Cranley delivered his "State of the City" address to an audience of city officials, elected leaders and guests at Memorial Hall Wednesday evening.
His theme throughout the speech was "The Cincinnati Miracle."
"We are the only major city in Ohio to have been declining in population and to make a comeback, reaching over 300,000 residents for the first time in over a decade," Cranley said in prepared remarks. "Since 2013, we have added over 1,000 new business and increased tax receipts by $51 million, with a revenue growth rate of almost 19% over six years, compared to a national growth rate during the same period of 12.6%."
But while the mayor celebrated the city's growth and accomplishments throughout the speech, he said there is work yet do on poverty, gun violence, transit and the environment.
Cranley noted the poverty rate has decreased from 2013. He praised the work of the Child Poverty Collaborative, which was launched four years ago. He announced that effort will now be called Cincinnati LIFT.
"Which is more fitting to what we are actually doing—helping parents and caregivers earn what they deserve to take care of their families, including their children," Cranley said.
The mayor said leaders are committed to raising $5 million per year for this program, and the United Way has agreed to reprioritize more than $50 million to such efforts. He also applauded private employers like Fifth-Third, Western & Southern, and Cincinnati Children's for raising their minimum wages to at least $15 per hour.
Cranley said the 2020 census is critical for poverty reduction.
"For every person not counted in the census, our community loses $1,814 per year," Cranley said. "So, if 10,000 people are undercounted, our region loses $18 million per year for 10 years. That’s $180 million lost. These dollars, that we lose, provide critical services like government assistance and Medicaid benefits. It would be crazy not to do everything we can to obtain that money by getting a complete census count."
As for gun violence, Cranley said Ohio lawmakers aren't listening to calls to pass common sense gun laws in the wake of mass shootings in Cincinnati in 2018 and Dayton this year.
"I am endorsing and will work to pass the statewide referendum to mandate universal background checks," Cranley said. "This effort will finally do what people want in this state—put our safety ahead of the rights of mass murderers to kill dozens of people in 30 seconds."
Cranley showed a video and praised the work of many people for a proposal on the ballot next year that would increase the Hamilton County sales tax by 0.8% to fund the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority and also pay for infrastructure improvements.
"We will ask the voters of Hamilton County to approve a sales tax that will fix the Western Hills Viaduct and other bridges, expand bus service, reduce city taxes and end the historic injustice of city taxpayers solely paying for a regional public transit system," Cranley said.
The mayor said the city will do its part to combat global warming and protect the environment. He said state and federal elected officials are not helping.
"Over the last two years, we have worked hard to make our commitment of building the country’s largest municipal solar array a reality," Cranley said. "I am thrilled to share that we have secured a site and selected additional city rooftops to construct over 100 megawatts of solar to serve the city and our aggregation load. This solar array will cover approximately 1,000 acres consisting of over 310,000 solar panels."
Cranley announced the city will host an Ohio Climate Summit in April.
"At this summit, we will enlist local governments across Ohio to commit to meet and expand the renewable energy standards that the State of Ohio just gutted," Cranley said. "We will do what our state will not—take the responsible steps to invest in renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint before it is too late."
Cranley named Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune as the Humanitarian of the Year, praising his efforts on human rights. Portune announced last month he won't be seeking re-election in 2020 because of his continuing battle with cancer.
"He fought for gay rights before it was popular; against police brutality before it was popular; for disability inclusion before it was popular; for harm reduction and addiction assistance before it was popular; for all minorities and for those who had no voice," Cranley said. "That's the legacy his kids will know, and I will trumpet. It's the legacy that has inspired all of us, me included."
The Cincinnati Arts Association was named Volunteer Organization of the Year. Ronetta Engram, who works in the city's public services department, was named employee of the year. Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen was honored as Cincinnatian of the Year.