When Cincinnati voters go to the polls Nov. 5, they will be asked who should lead city government as mayor for the next four years.
The choice is between two Democrats, Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley.
Here is an overview of the two candidates.
A LITTLE ABOUT QUALLS: Roxanne Qualls , 60, currently serves as vice mayor on Cincinnati City Council. She works as a Realtor with Sibcy Cline and lives downtown with her husband, John Gunnison-Wiseman.
Qualls previously served on City Council from 1991-1999. During the last six years of her tenure, she served as mayor when the position went to the top vote-getter among council members and mostly was ceremonial. After a break from politics, she returned to City Council in 2007.
A LITTLE ABOUT CRANLEY: John Cranley , 39, is an attorney with the Keating Muething & Klekamp law firm. He lives in Mount Lookout with his wife, Dena, and their son, Joseph, 4.
Cranley served on City Council from 2000-2009. Facing term limits, Cranley resigned from council in January 2009, with 11 months left on his last term, to work on a private development project to create a restaurant and condominiums in East Price Hill. His departure occurred after he asked the Ohio Ethics Commission for advice about seeking a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district for the land. The commission recommended he either resign from council or sever ties with the company.
ON THE STREETCAR:
Qualls supports the $133 million streetcar project. She thinks the project will spark redevelopment along its route, as similar projects have done in other cities, and thereby add jobs and increase Cincinnati’s tax base. After the segment under construction in downtown and Over-the-Rhine is completed in 2016, she wants to explore extending it to the uptown area.
Cranley opposes the project. Although Cranley said he supports mass transit generally, he thinks the benefit from the streetcar project will be too limited. After Gov. Kasich rescinded $51.8 million in state funding for the project in early 2011, Cranley has said the local share of financing the project is too large, saddling the city with too much debt. He wants to cancel the project, if elected.
ON THE PARKING LEASE:
Cranley opposes a lease of the city’s parking meters and garages, which was approved by City Council in a 5-4 vote in March. He thinks the deal – which will give the city a $105 million upfront payment and about $3 million annually afterward – undervalues the parking asset. He also thinks the lease lessens local control over parking rates and enforcement, which will harm small businesses.
Qualls supports the lease. She has called it a “smart, sound and fair deal” that will let the Port Authority make overdue improvements to the parking system, while allowing the city to use the upfront cash to quicken development projects around the city. So far, the money hasn’t been allocated for specific projects.
ON THE CITY PENSION: The city of Cincinnati’s pension plan for workers and retirees has an unfunded liability of $870 million. That’s mostly due to the Great Recession of 2008 that affected the system’s investments, along with rising healthcare costs. (Nearly 40 percent of the problem stems from the economic crash, pension officials said.)
Qualls wants to switch from compounded Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to a simple COLA, along with gradual increases to the amount the city contributes each year to the pension system.
Cranley wants larger annual contributions from the city to fund the system. The move could be accomplished, he said, by canceling non-vital projects and reallocating the money. He also wants to reduce benefits for new hires at City Hall.
ON ATTRACTING JOBS:
Cranley wants to reduce joblessness by increasing the amount the city spends on rebuilding its roads, sewers and bridges. He would reallocate money now spent on a state lobbyist and for City Hall travel and use it for aiding the long-term unemployed. One goal involves including them on infrastructure projects.
Qualls proposes creating a job tax credit for any-sized business that is willing to create jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits. Also, she wants to make unused city-owned property available at a small fee to start-ups and locally owned small businesses. She is a supporter of the “responsible bidder” policy that requires apprenticeship programs on sewer construction projects.
Both candidates have pledged to increase minority inclusion in the contracts awarded by the city.
Qualls would create a “Cincinnati Dollar Homes Initiative” to make vacant properties available to new owner-occupants and redevelop neighborhoods with high vacancy rates.
Cranley wants to work with existing neighborhood development corporations and the Port Authority to replicate the 3CDC model for development that’s been used in Over-the-Rhine.
ON BALANCNG THE BUDGET:
Cranley touts his negotiating skills to achieve bipartisan budget plans while he was chair of City Council’s finance committee. He wants the city
to focus on providing core services and “say no to bad ideas.” Also, he wants to emulate the so-called “Atlanta model” that involves investing comprehensively in targeted neighborhoods with job readiness programs.
Qualls wants a full audit of city departments to identify possible cost savings through greater efficiencies or reallocating resources. Further, she would revive a Shared Services Commission to review services that could be combined with Hamilton County or other nearby cities. She defends investments in “big picture” items like the streetcar, stating they will benefit the city as whole.
NOTABLE FACT #1: Cranley and Qualls served together on City Council from September 2007 to January 2009. During that time, they voted the same way on issues more than 95 percent of the time.
NOTABLE FACT #2: Qualls and Cranley have each ran unsuccessfully for Congress against U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican. Qualls ran in 1998; she received 47 percent of the vote. Cranley ran twice, in 2000 and 2006; he received 45 percent and 47 percent, respectively.
NOTABLE FACT #3: Although Cranley voted against a City Council motion in April 2007 to build the streetcar, a year later he voted in favor of a broader streetcar motion that didn’t include a funding source. Similarly, although Qualls aired a TV commercial critical of Cranley for seeking $750,000 for his East Price Hill project, when the matter went before City Council in June 2010, she supported giving the cash to the project.
NOTABLE FACT #4: The only time Qualls and Cranley have appeared on the same ballot was in the at-large race for City Council in 2009. In the race, Qualls finished in first-place and Cranley in second – with a mere three votes separating them.