CINCINNATI – Senior statesman David Mann predicted that the City Hall elections would be a referendum on the streetcar and it looks like he was right.
At 74, the white-haired former mayor and nine-term council member was re-elected to Cincinnati City Council after two decades Tuesday night, along with two other newcomers who vocally opposed the streetcar.
On the losing side, once-popular incumbent Laure Quinlivan rode the streetcar to defeat along with Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who lost her run for mayor to John Cranley.
Mann collected the third highest vote total among 21 candidates Tuesday night. He tweeted:
"Excited to work with my Dem colleagues 4 the next 4 years. Lets make this city better."
Republican Amy Murray and Charterite Kevin Flynn will also join the first nine-member council elected to a four-year term instead of two years.
P.G. Sittenfeld (D) was the big winner with 10,000 more votes than runner-up Charlie Winburn (R). Mann was next followed by Yvette Simpson (D), Chris Seelbach (D), Christopher Smitherman (I), Wendell Young (D), Flynn and Murray.
See complete City Council results at http://www.wcpo.com/Hamilton-County-Election-Results
The new council will include a two-thirds majority of six streetcar opponents, including Sittenfeld, Winburn and Smitherman. The old council had five streetcar supporters.
Democrats actually lost two seats, leaving them with five. There will be two Republicans, one Charterite and one Independent.
Quinlivan, a strong streetcar supporter, finished 900 votes behind Murray in 10th place – one spot out of the running. A Democrat, she served two terms on council. She finished sixth in the voting in 2011.
Quinlivan did not comment on her Facebook or Twitter pages Tuesday night.
Thomas, a Democrat, finished 13th. She opposed the streetcar, but her husband who preceded her on council was a strong supporter.
Thomas was appointed to fill her husband’s seat after Cecil Thomas resigned in April. He would have been ineligible to run in November because of term limits and sought to give his wife the advantage of incumbency in Tuesday’s vote.
Sittenfeld, a 29-year-old Democrat, told 9 On Your Side's Tanya O'Rourke he felt "unbelievable gratitude to the citizens of Cincinnati for putting their trust in me."
"I’ve worked as hard as I could the last two years to build relationships and not just in some neighborhoods, in every corner of the city. I’m going to keep doing that.
“I’m not thinking how I can use any clout from the statement that our win tonight makes, I’m really thinking about how can I build relationships and a group that collaborates on this next council to say, ’Where’s the common ground? What issues can we work on?’ And move the ball forward together."
Mann had called Tuesday’s election “a referendum on whether the streetcar project should go forward.”
Before the election, Mann told WCPO he wanted to return to City Hall to correct what he views as a series of bad decisions, particularly involving the budget.
“The city’s budget is totally out of whack,” Mann said, stating his opposition to the streetcar and the parking lease.
“We should spend only what we have coming in each year just like any household has to do. We should not rely on one-time resources or the sale or long-term lease of valuable city assets.”
Mann, an attorney from Clifton, hasn’t been in the public eye since 1995, but it’s clear voters hadn’t forgotten him.
He served 18 years on City Council, beginning in 1974. During his council stint, Mann served as mayor from 1980-82 and in 1991, when the post was mostly ceremonial.
Mann also served a single term as U.S. congressman, from 1993-95.
A more responsible City Council should’ve canceled the streetcar project in 2011, when Gov. John Kasich cut $51.8 million in funding, Mann said.
“We cannot afford a streetcar that does not go anywhere and which is over budget and will require continuing operating subsidies once it is built,” he said. “When the governor blocked the money to connect the streetcar with the UC/hospitals area, the project should have been stopped.
Instead, the city spent as much money and finalized as many contracts as possible prior to the election even though the election, in so many ways, is a referendum on whether the streetcar project should go forward,” Mann added.
Mann viewed the parking lease as a desperate move.
“The parking lease was another attempt to balance the budget for just a couple of years by giving up valuable income producing assets,” he said. “The city itself should be able to make the positive changes that (the contractor) supposedly will be bringing to us.”
Both Flynn, 52, and Murray, 49, had lost two previous council races.
Flynn has been confined to a wheelchair since a serious automobile accident in 2002 but is learning to walk again through physical therapy. His campaign billboards used photos of the effort along with the slogan, “Standing up for Cincinnati.”
A real estate attorney from Mount Airy, Flynn finished 11th in 2011 and 13th in 2009.
Commenting about why he ran a third time, Flynn said, “Cincinnati has given me a great life. I owe it to Cincinnati to try to serve the city and its citizens to give back for all that Cincinnati has given me.”
Although Flynn supported the streetcar plan in 2007-08, the shifting amount of local funding and changing route caused him to reconsider.
“As we know, the project has changed repeatedly since it was originally proposed,” he said. “I no longer support Cincinnati’s streetcar project. The economic justification no longer exists … the capital costs and projected operating costs, now estimated at $3.5 million per year, are a far cry from the estimates used in the 2007 feasibility study.”
Similarly, Flynn blasted the city’s parking lease as an example of bad policy-making.
“The process was completely backward,” he said. “Everyone knows that Cincinnati’s parking rates are below market. This was done intentionally by prior councils because… (they) wanted to drive economic development in the city by allowing businesses in the city to compete with those in the suburbs.
If council wanted to change this policy and monetize the parking asset, it should have made the policy decision and set the parameters of the transaction for the administration to implement,” Flynn added. “Instead, council abandoned its policy making responsibility to the administration.”
The city can improve its financial outlook by cancelling unnecessary projects, combing some departments and considering group purchasing opportunities with other jurisdictions, he said.
Murray, of Hyde Park, is a former Procter & Gamble employee and owns a consulting firm that helps U.S. companies do business in Japan.
The third time was also a charm for Murray. She finished 12th in 2009 and in 2011, although she served briefly on council in 2011 after she was appointed to fill a vacancy,
Despite the earlier setbacks, Murray thinks City Hall can benefit from her business expertise.
“I believe the current council’s policies are short-sighted, and we cannot afford to kick the can down the road,” she said. “Our city deserves more common-sense leadership.”
Murray called the streetcar project a drain on future operating budgets and criticized the parking lease as a short-term fix to systemic problems.
“We need to have an independent review of all city departments to find the inefficiencies within our local government,” Murray said. “We also need to make a serious effort in the area of shared services by partnering with the county to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
“My number one priority is fixing the deficit so that we can continue to provide basic services to our residents,” she added. “The city has increased our property taxes twice in the past two years, and there is talk of raising the earnings tax. I do not believe this is the best way to achieve fiscal stability in our city. We need to enact policies that are more business-friendly and encourage job growth.”
Murray also said it would take new faces on council to deal with the $860 million unfunded liability in the city’s pension fund.
“The best way to begin to address this issue is to elect a new council majority,” she said. “We need council members who are fiscally responsible and willing to address the tough issues
See complete election results at http://www.wcpo.com/county-by-county-election-results