CINCINNATI - After an absence of nearly two decades, longtime politician David Mann wants to return to City Hall.
Mann, a local attorney, announced Tuesday he would seek a spot on Cincinnati City Council in this November’s elections.
“For me, it’s all about public service,” Mann said about his reentry to politics. “I have three children and five grandchildren, so what’s a more useful thing to do than make the city a better place to live?”
Mann is concerned about Cincinnati’s spate of budget crises in recent years, when council has scrambled to make cuts and shift money to avoid deficits. If elected, Mann said he would help set the city on a path of “financial sustainability.”
For example, Mann is opposed to a plan proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. that calls for leasing city-owned parking lots and some of its parking garages to a private company. Dohoney wants any firm selected to operate the facilities to pay at least $40 million in upfront fees, along with an annual leasing fee.
A Democrat, Mann previously served on council for an 18-year span, from 1974 to 1992. During that period, he served as mayor from 1980 to 1982, and again in 1991.
Mann left the group after he won election to Ohio’s 1st Congressional District seat. But his tenure there was short-lived; Mann lost a re-election bid in 1994 to Republican Steve Chabot, who was part of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” slate of candidates.
Mann’s last political race was in 1996, when he unsuccessfully tried to win an appellate court judgeship. Since that time, he has focused his attention on his downtown law firm, where he works with his son, Michael.
At age 73, when many people are slowing down, Mann said he has plenty of energy to devote to his latest endeavor. In recent years, he’s participated in an eight-mile kayak trip at Paddlefest and in the 10-kilometer Thanksgiving Day Race.
Among Mann’s goals if he’s elected are improving how City Council works with the mayor, ensuring the city’s budget process has greater transparency and more public input, and providing financial support for neighborhood business districts.
One of the most hotly debated issues in Cincinnati has been the city’s planned $128 million, 3.8-mile streetcar line, which might be expanded if the first phase proves successful.
“The voters have twice given it the go-ahead and I respect that. I wouldn’t change it at this point,” Mann said. “But it’s something that should be carefully looked at every step of the way.”
Some local Democrats are excited about the prospect of Mann’s return.
“David Mann is independent-minded, and a statesman,” said David Pepper, a former city councilman and Hamilton County commissioner. “He’ll be a great re-addition to City Council.”
Tim Burke, Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman, said Mann's absence from the political scene won't be a hindrance.
"Public service is truly in his blood. He would be a terrific member of council," Burke said. "But he has been out of elective politics for more than a decade and his challenge will be to reconnect with the voters of Cincinnati, especially the younger ones. Others have successfully faced that challenge. Dave Crowley is one that comes to mind."
Although many younger voters are unfamiliar with Mann’s name, he doesn’t believe that will pose a significant hurdle to his election.
“I promise to you an energetic campaign. I will take no voter for granted,” Mann said. “I will be introducing myself to a new generation of voters. And I will give my past supporters new reasons to vote for me in November.”
Mann opposed a charter change, narrowly approved by voters in November, which extended council terms from two to four years. The switch helped prompt his candidacy.
“That is a long time without check off with the voters,” he said. “That makes this year’s election more significant than most. “
A Clifton resident, Mann is a Harvard Law School graduate and a U.S. Navy veteran.
Before his election to City Council, Mann served on the municipal health board from 1972 to 1974.
Other candidates so far in this year’s City Council race are Democrats Michelle Dillingham and Greg Landsman, and Republican Amy Murray. Typically, between 20 and 25 people run to fill the nine council seats.
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