At a recent City Council meeting, a debate stewed at Plum Street regarding the proposed affordable housing charter amendment. Incredibly early the next day, I received an email from Council Member David Mann in which he asked me to sign a statement in opposition. It stated, ‘As candidates for the office of Mayor of Cincinnati, we have studied…’. Long story short, I declined to sign it for three reasons – first, there was no meeting of minds where we studied anything; second, the document requesting my signature was not dated; and third, I am disgusted by the practice of Council members shooting off private communications on public business instead of educating the people. Well, on Friday I announced that I favor the amendment. Here is why I took that position.
The Voice of the People
The people turned in 283 part-petitions (9,300 signatures) to get this amendment on the ballot. We cannot ignore these voices. The heart of good leadership is listening. I value the work of signature collection and the voices of the people. I know the power of signature gathering because I turned in a similar number of signatures, collected solely by myself, to the Board of Elections in my runs for County Commissioner. In 2018 I turned in 81 petitions (2430 signatures) and fell short of the requirement. In 2020 I turned in 230 petitions (6,847 signatures) and made the ballot. I will always stand on the side of the people as they seek a positive change. The people must be heard. Since the candidates for Mayor are already on the ballot, let us be comfortable with taking this debate to the ballot box. Let us have confidence in the will of the people.
The Plight of the Unhoused
Having served numerous homeless persons and helped many become housed persons, I understand the need for affordable housing. In 2015 I was named one of Cincinnati’s Forty Under 40 by the Cincinnati Business Courier for my service to many of the city’s homeless. At that time, my focus was on the work of rescue missions and social agencies which do the difficult work of serving the unsheltered. Unfortunately, the term homeless implies that those persons are ‘less’ than the ordinary person. I have become convinced that the key to breaking the back of homelessness is to invest in housing. I have learned that people who are unhoused end up in insecure housing situations due to models of care that are insufficient. Their plight can best be addressed by systems that shore up housing solutions, not programs that make them seem ‘less’ than regular citizens. Unhoused persons need supports that remedy the lack of housing.
The Precedence of the Council
A few years back, when the City Council needed to continue operating an empty streetcar, they found the money. How come when it relates to affordable housing the reflex action by certain members of Council is to argue that there is no money? Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something”. Mr. Mann and his coalition of no owe it to the public to try something, not just to say no. Moreover, the coalition of no did not study the amendment. At the time of this writing, it was set to go to sub-committee for an educational investigation. To study is to apply the mind to the acquisition and absorption of knowledge. Since this meeting of minds did not occur, yet Mr. Mann stated that it had, I responded to his email and informed him that he owes the public an apology.
To sum it up, a public servant owes it to the people to educate the public on positions taken on issues. Unfortunately, insiders at City Hall have for too long engaged in the habit of doing public work through private communications. They shoot off emails and text messages to other insiders in the hope of garnering the support that they want for a particular measure. This is an affront to democracy and must end. Those who are outsiders of political inner circles – the taxpayers – end up being hurt by the awful choices of the insiders. In this year 2021, Cincinnati voters have an opportunity to send a message to City Hall by making a great choice for Mayor. We need to take a new and brilliant path. We need a Mayor who will focus on educating the public and serving honestly. We need change at City Hall and an independent outsider fits the bill in 2021.