Mayoral candidates trade barbs over Cameo shooting, streetcar at NAACP-sponsored forum

CINCINNATI -- Days after one of the worst shootings in Cincinnati’s recent history, the incident took center stage at a standing-room-only Monday night forum between mayoral candidates.

Mayor John Cranley, former University of Cincinnati board chair Rob Richardson Jr. and City Council member Yvette Simpson each jumped at the chance to set themselves apart, question other candidates' records and make their case for how the city should respond to the Cameo Night Club shooting.

Simpson pledged to increase funding to violence prevention programs while Cranley defended his own record, arguing that, despite the weekend attack, overall crime rates in the city had decreased for two years in a row.

"What we have done is continued to invest in relationships and targeting repeat violent offenders, and the strategy is working," he said.

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Simpson said that wasn't enough.

"We have $250,000 going in this remedy right now, and we need more" she argued. "What this does is, it says that people hurt other people, and it asks a very simple question of someone who commits a crime. It asks why."

Finger-pointing started when the Cincinnati Bell Connector rolled into the conversation. Cranley condemned the streetcar project, claiming its limited route didn't justify the millions of dollars spent on its construction; Simpson defended it as an effective public transit solution that allowed more people to access downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

Richardson, the only candidate who had not held public office, flashed his outsider credentials and promised that he would approach public issues in a different way than his two rivals.

"If you want to be defined by the limited thinking of City Hall, you can vote for either two," he said. "If you really want to have a transportation system that's going to connect all of us, we can do that together."

The back-and-forth, which also spanned topics such as development, making housing affordable and eliminating food deserts, was "spirited," one audience member said.

The mayoral primary is May 2.

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