Cranley, Year 2: What’s Ahead for Cincinnati

Posted on: February 4th, 2015 by Eric Smith No Comments

Posted on January 25, 2015 by Mark Quarry
Cranley, Year 2: What’s Ahead for Cincinnati
January 25, 2015
Cincinnati Enquirer

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John Cranley has been the get-it-done mayor in his first year-plus in office.
More jobs. Less crime. The Martin Luther King interchange. A balanced budget. New cops and firefighters. And, for the exclamation point on Cincinnati’s 2014, a solution to the potentially crippling employee pension liability, which Cranley ingeniously resolved by moving negotiations from the political arena to federal court.
If the mayor keeps up this pace for the rest of his four-year term, the sky’s the limit for Cincinnati.
What’s left to do? How about less litter, better roads and a streamlined process to encourage new contruction? Most importantly, addressing the poverty that engulfs too many of our children and families.
“Crime is down, jobs are up, and the wind is at our back,” Cranley said in a nearly two-hour conversation recently with The Enquirer editorial board. “It’s our challenge not to rest on our laurels.”

Cranley’s 2015 initiatives
As Mayor John Cranley acknowledges, it would be easy to lose focus in year two, with the city’s most pressing issues addressed and many campaign promises on the way to being fulfilled. He must resist getting pulled into the weeds at City Hall and instead be strategic about where he spends his political as well as literal capital.

We might be more worried if he didn’t have the “Mayor John Cranley – One Page Strategic Plan” to keep him on track. First developed with executive coach Harry Kangis after Cranley won election in November 2013, it includes five focus areas: job growth, public safety, minority inclusion, sound finances and quality neighborhoods. Staffers say the mayor’s office lives the strategic plan – they must link all of their work and the mayor’s appointments to one of those five areas.

We love that the mayor has a clear vision and is taking a page from private industry to stay laser-focused on it.

For 2015, Cranley has set new goals within most areas, and we support them, with a couple of cautions and caveats. He didn’t go to Harvard for nothing – as he showed with his pension and budget solutions, the man is smart.
On tap this year:

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  • Litter, weeds and blight eradication. Recent letters to the editor echo Cranley’s assertion that we need to clean up our collective act: “All along Sunset and Queen City, garbage is thrown everywhere,” Susan Bilz of Covedale wrote recently, calling on fellow residents to help with cleanup. “I am tired of looking at it.”

The city is now only able to respond to about 20 percent of complaints about litter or weeds, and even then it’s a couple of months before something can be done, Cranley said. He plans to beef up enforcement and devote more resources to work that will be charged to the property owner.

We aren’t confident enforcement will pay for itself via fines, as Cranley hopes. However, we like his plan to prioritize gateway streets such as Queen City and Reading, which create the first, biggest impression on both visitors and residents.

“It affects so many people – their sense of are things going in the right direction or wrong direction,” Cranley said.

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  • Building permits. Promises to improve the building permitting and inspection process feel like deja vu, but if anyone can get it done it’s Cranley. Contractors are willing to pay more for quicker service, he said.

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  • Roads. Cincinnati’s commitment to road paving has been neglected in recent years, and Cranley plans to renew that commitment. “There has been a lack of focus on meat and potatoes,” he said.

The Cranley administration also has plenty of ongoing work – most importantly, implementing his Hand Up Initiative to reduce poverty.

At the editorial board meeting, Cranley touted his minority inclusion efforts as the way to build a black middle class in Cincinnati. The city is spending well over $1 million on a Croson study, consultant and new Office of Minority Inclusion to increase the use of minority- and women-owned businesses on city projects. We support the goal as a matter of fairness but think the mayor may have gotten carried away with his rhetoric.

Hand Up is a more promising initiative to move the needle on the serious issues facing African Americans and others in our neighborhoods. It will provide job training via three proven programs – Cincinnati Works, Cincinnati Cooks and SOAR – with the aim of pulling 4,000 people out of poverty.

We will be rooting for this program to work, particularly because parents’ financial stability translates into a better growing and learning environment for kids.
Other focus areas in the “ongoing” category include reducing crime, improving police/community relations and supporting neighborhood economic development projects.

The city will have to be strategic on neighborhood economic development, Cranley said, as it can’t put money into projects in all 52 neighborhoods. Areas with active community development corporations and engaged citizens are most likely to get money to fill funding gaps for specific projects, he said. An Avondale grocery and Mount Airy beer garden remain among likely recipients this year.

The last issue is nowhere on the mayor’s list, and that’s the problem. The streetcar is coming, and we will continue to urge Cranley to not only passively accept that fact but to emulate Councilwoman Amy Murray and actively embrace its possibilities.
It’s no secret that mass transit, walkable neighborhoods and bikes are attractive to millennials – the workers of the future – and Cranley ignores that population at the peril of our city.

Posted in Government Affairs