CINCINNATI — Mayor John Cranley has three top goals for the coming year: end gun violence, revitalize neighborhoods and lift children out of poverty.
He singled out these problems during his second State of the City speech before a crowd of hundreds at Great American Ball Park Monday night.
“First and foremost, there is far too much gun violence in our city. This is unacceptable,” Cranley said. “This is the city’s top priority and I promise I will dedicate the time and moral leadership needed until we reduce the shootings.”
In the wake of historic gun violence, it is no surprise that Cranley announced a plan to tackle a problem so big it threatens to overshadow everything else on his agenda.
He pledged to give Interim Police Chief Eliot Isaac “whatever he needs to reduce the shootings and lower violence.”
In his speech, Cranley did not mention former police chief Jeffrey Blackwell, or his contentious firing in September. He only hinted at “leadership and morale issues” in the department.
Instead he focused on immediate plans to ask City Council for more than $700,000 to reduce violence.
Here’s what he will ask Council for:
> Money to add a crime analyst to the city’s Office of Performance and Data Analytics to map crime patterns and track gang activity, so crime fighting is not “scattershot.”
> An additional $500,000 for more police walking patrols and to beef up the gang unit. He wants to pay for wire taps and longer shifts for the gang unit so it can conduct undercover operations.
> An additional $200,000 for a witness protection program so that more witnesses come forward with information to solve murders.
Cranley is asking city attorneys to work directly with the U.S. Attorney’s Office here to bring more federal gun charges. He also wants to target landlords who allow crimes to occur on their properties.
Another priority: keeping the city’s recreation centers open longer and provide mentors for teens.
Here are the other highlights of Cranley’s speech:
This is a favorite topic for Cranley, who described the upcoming year as the, “year of the neighborhoods.”
During the speech, Cranley spent a lot of time touting his parks levy. If voters approve the one-mill levy, it will revitalize 13 city parks and landmarks. The tax will also pay for deferred maintenance and give the parks a permanent revenue stream.
“Make no mistake," he said. "This will be transformational for our neighborhoods and provide benefits for future generations."
Cranley doesn’t just want the parks to look better; he wants more people to use them.
This summer Cranley revealed an “activation plan,” to bring art shows, summer concerts, food festivals and flea markets at neighborhood parks.
On Monday night, he talked for the first time publicly about how he would pay for it.
“Just last week we were offered $8 million upfront – with more money to come – from selling the remaining Blue Ash Airport land,” he said. “I am asking City Council to work with me to ensure that this time the Blue Ash money is set aside permanently in an endowment for neighborhoods.”
In an interview last week, Cranley said he is working with council to pass a plan by Thanksgiving to fund these park activities next summer.
“We have a lot to be proud of – but we must be ashamed at our childhood poverty rate,” Cranley said.
Nearly one in three Cincinnati residents are poor and almost half of the city’s children live in poverty. Those numbers are nearly double the national rates, according to a recent U.S. Census American Community Survey.
Poverty has always been a goal for Cranley, who launched a “Hands Up Initiative,” last year for job training and job readiness. While it is on pace to reduce poverty by 5 percent over four years, he admitted that it wasn’t enough.
He announced a new Task Force to Reduce Child Poverty filled with high-profile clergy, business and civic leaders. Their goal is to lift 10,000 children out of poverty within five years and help 5,000 unemployed or underemployed adults get jobs.
The task force will make its recommendations by June 30, 2016.
“Our great civic renewal will not be complete without lifting up those who do not choose the dire and desperate circumstances in which they live,” he said.
The speech followed the highs and lows of the year, especially the loss of Cincinnati Police Officer Sonny Kim and city Firefighter Daryl Gordon, who both died in the line of duty.
Cranley described the sadness of Kim’s funeral on June 26, followed by the joy later in the day of marrying five couples in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage across the country.
He thanked Cincinnati Reds' Todd Frazier for his All-Star performance, and everyone who worked to showcase the city during that event.
And looking ahead, while the city has a lot of work to do, Cranley revealed a big upcoming event.
After leading a giant tomato fight last month, Cranley’s Commissioner of Fun Frank Wood is planning to explode a 1,500-pound pumpkin on Nov. 1.
“Why? Because it feels like the right thing to do on the day after Halloween,” Cranley said.