At Cincinnati City Hall Tuesday, frontline workers urged citizens to "Vote No on Issue 3." The charter amendment on the May ballot would require the city to put $50 million in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund every year. City officials, including Mayor John Cranley, denounced the amendment, saying it would have "hellish" consequences for the community.
The amendment as written includes some suggestions for funding sources, but the city law department says none of those suggestions are possible, so the money would have to come from the general fund. This could lead to hundreds of layoffs in police and fire departments, as well as shutting down entire departments.
Matt Alter is the president of Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48. He says Issue 3 could lead to the potential closure of firehouses within the city.
"We've already seen difficult cutbacks to the firefighters and EMS service," Alter said. "The projected cuts in one year are horrible and will only get worse, as I already said. Fewer firefighters, fewer city services."
Maurice Brown is the president of AFSCME Local 250, a union that represents city employees. He says Issue 3 would lead to either cuts in services or raising taxes.
"We need to be clear that when we start hacking away at the budget to find $50 million dollars, drastic reductions in basic everyday services along with the layoff of workers are going to be prevalent," Brown said. "We're going to cut people out of work. We need to vote on Issue 3 because it will kill jobs."
More than 9,000 people signed the petition to put the Affordable Housing Charter Amendment on the May ballot. Affordable housing advocates say it's long past time to act. Peter McLinden is the executive secretary and treasurer of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council. He says the pandemic has led to more budget issues over the past year, but the city needs to invest more in the departments.
"On the other side, I can feel their anger," McLinden said. "I know their anger. They're my friends. But there's a better solution and believe me, I'm pushing that message with them too. We stand with them, not on Issue 3 though."
The city needs an estimated 28,000 additional affordable units. The current Affordable Housing Fund has about $1.5 million. The city manager has proposed allocating $5 million to the fund from federal stimulus money the city is set to receive.