Cincinnati city government boosts community engagement efforts

Cincinnati City Hall
Posted at 8:36 PM, Nov 10, 2021

CINCINNATI — The City of Cincinnati is turning a new page in its community engagement efforts. Officials are making a more pointed, intensive effort to seek feedback and inform residents about the changes happening in their neighborhoods.

The effort began seven years ago with an ordinance advocated for by then-city council member Kevin Flynn mandating the city improve its efforts to gather input and drive civic engagement among residents. A handful of concerned citizens kept advocating for it until the ordinance was passed back in August.

“I’m thankful to city council for passing it because we need community engagement in every facet of city government,” councilwoman Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said.

Residents frequently criticize city officials for failing to thoroughly inform them of the changes being made in their neighborhoods, particularly when it comes to development. They also decry city government and developers for virtually excluding residents from decision-making processes. Improving the city’s community engagement could prevent gentrification and alienating locals from the transformations happening in their own backyards.

In response to the city’s outreach, people are making a number of suggestions like improving communication through the city website. They also suggest city officials meet residents where they are at, such as at public events, grocery stores and on public transportation. Other ideas include putting up more signage that alerts residents of neighborhood changes and having more flexible times for public engagement meetings.

“I thought the conversation was really productive,” said Janiah Miller, an Over-The-Rhine resident.

Miller was at one of those engagement meetings last night. She called for young people of color to be hired in city and planning jobs to make community engagement more well-rounded and pro-active.

"[A] lot of these decisions are made by people that don’t look like us and so that also creates apathy," Miller said.

Ashley Cook of the West End also suggested that Cincinnati take inspiration from other cities that have had even more success in their community engagement and development.

“Someone brought up looking at other cities and I think it’s very important, Cook said. “I know Cincinnati is very unique, and I know we have the Tri-state, but I also travel and I also see some great things going on with other cities, and I think we can learn from those as well.”

Future engagement meetings for this will be held in Westwood and over Zoom later this month. More information about the city’s community engagement initiative here.

Monique John covers gentrification for WCPO 9. She is part of our Report For America donor-supported journalism program. Read more about RFA here.

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