Fact check: How true were Cincinnati mayoral candidates' claims?

CINCINNATI -- How honest were Cincinnati's candidates for mayor during a debate earlier this week?

Ahead of a May 2 primary vote, Cincinnati Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, former University of Cincinnati board chair Rob Richardson and Mayor John Cranley sparred over issues ranging from public transportation to crime, neighborhood revitalization to sewer rates.

WCPO, Radio One and the Cincinnati chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists hosted Monday night's debate.

Here's what WCPO found about some of the candidates' claims:

Simpson got attention right out of the gate for this statement: "The mayor promised that the Hand Up Initiative was going to have 4,000 people out of poverty in four years, and the first year, only 143 people received jobs, and most of those were at or below the poverty line."

Our findings: Not entirely accurate.

The Hand Up Initiative began in May 2015. In its first full year, the program helped 235 people get jobs, affecting a total of 645 individuals.

Cranley focused on some of Simpson's votes on Council: "Councilmember Simpson voted to allow the streetcar manager $180,000 and changed the law so he could double dip and then turned around and voters against the pay for the police chief."

Our findings: True.

Council records show Simpson voted for John Deatrick's pay and to rehire him after he'd retired from city service. Cranley's claim about the police chief vote, designed to keep Eliot Isaac, also is accurate.

Richardson brought up sewer rates: "The reason why your rates continue to go up is because they've both been focused on their next political career. The mayor's been focused on his next run for governor and the councilmember is focused on her run for mayor."

Our findings: False.

Metropolitan Sewer District rates increased 6.75 percent each of the past 10 years because of a federal consent decree. Danny O'Connor, spokesman for the Richardson campaign, said the claim was because of Cranley's extensive fundraising in Columbus and great speculation he'll run for statewide office. Cranley campaign manager Jay Kincaid denied the mayor is a candidate for governor.

Of Simpson, O'Connor said she's been on Council five-and-a-half years without introducing an ordinance to lower rates.

Watch the entire debate below:

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