Editorial: Cincinnati City Council needs to show up and work on the real issues
David Holthaus for the WCPO Editorial Board
6:30 AM, Oct 31, 2017
It’s one of those inspirational quotes you hear from time to time: “80 percent of success is showing up.”
If that’s true, then some Cincinnati City Council members have failed.
WCPO.com’s Paula Christian and Amanda Seitz researched council members’ attendance at public meetings and found a surprising lack of participation (except for Kevin Flynn, who had a perfect attendance record). You can scroll to the end for a graphic on each member.
Meanwhile, Cincinnatians continue to overdose every day on heroin and 50,000 people a day wonder whether they’ll make it safely across the Western Hills Viaduct. Tens of thousands wake up in neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades; the police are practically in revolt over their workplaces, and thousands of our neighbors are stuck in poverty.
But looking on the bright side, we now have a downtown block named after Doris Day.
Now, we have nothing against Doris Day. Her movies are classics and the “girl next door,” now 95, is a Cincinnati treasure.
However … as deserving as she is of local recognition, the ceremoniousness around her was just one example of city council spending time on feel-good matters rather than on the tough issues.
They puzzled over how to make City Hall a more dog-friendly environment when they could have been lobbying state officials for more money to fight heroin.
They debated who will get what offices after the election when they could have been working on a fast-track solution to the Western Hills Viaduct.
They weighed in on the merits of the Paris climate agreement when they could have been working on a plan to revive our neglected neighborhoods.
This would all be mildly amusing if it wasn’t for the problems the city has, problems that need sustained, focused attention.
That’s what we elected city council to do.
What needs to happen? First of all, council members need to show up. Missing meetings deprives the public of transparency and insight into what their elected leaders are doing.
Public meetings, including committee meetings, are how people see council in action and take the measure of their elected officials.
Serving on city council is meant to be a part-time job, and for most members, it is. That’s all the more reason why they need to show up when they’re supposed to.
After they show up, they need to do what they were elected to do – work to make this city a better place.
It’s not an easy job, we get that. That’s why we need their full attention.
In 2012, Cincinnati voters changed the city charter to elect council members to four-year terms. They previously served two-year terms. The idea was to relieve the members of having to campaign every two years so they, in theory, could focus on the tough issues without having re-election always in the back of their minds.
One term into this change, it doesn’t seem like the change has had the desired effect.
Election Day is a week away in Cincinnati. Six of the nine council members are running for another term. Given this council’s performance, voters should ask the most basic of questions of the incumbents: Did you show up? Did you do your job?
And council should keep in mind another saying, this one from the wise Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who often warned about wasting time: “You may delay, but time will not.”