Cincinnati City Hall 2018 in review

Heather Gast recaps impactful events in Cincinnati politics from the past year

Photo courtesy of Travis Estell on Flickr | It was a contentious 2018 for city council members. It started with Mayor John Cranley asking Harry Black to resign as City Manager. The year ended with the Greater Cincinnati Homelessness Coalition filing a lawsuit.

Mayor John Cranley and former City Manager Harry Black have feuded repeatedly since Black’s appointment in 2014, and their final showdown created division in City Hall. Cranley requested that Black resign in March because his aggressive management style, followed by a six week battle among the mayor, city manager and nine sitting City Councilmembers that continued until an agreement for Black’s departure was reached.

Black eventually resigned under threat of being fired in April and received a severance of $174,000, benefits worth $100,000 and an additional $370,000 in September. Cranley’s antics cost him respect in the eyes of the community and councilmembers.

Councilmember Wendell Young criticized the mayor’s behavior as childish. A coalition of citizens called The Black Agenda Cincinnati viewed the feud as an example of Cranley attacking Black leaders in the city.

During this time, five council members, including Greg Landsman, Tamaya Dennard, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld, violated Ohio’s Open Meeting Act by discussing via text whether the councilmembers would support a severance agreement for Black. Ohio’s Open Meeting Act prohibits a majority of councilmembers from discussing matters of council outside of public forum.

The text messages were subpoenaed by Hamilton County; however, Young had deleted the messages, and Dennard’s messages were lost when her phone was dropped in a pool.

In April, the tragic death of 17-year-old Seven Hills High School student Kyle Plush exposed flaws in the city’s emergency call system. Plush was pinned in the back of his family’s Honda Odyssey minivan by the folding backseat while reaching for his tennis bag after school. By using his phone’s voice command, Plush was able to call 911 twice before succumbing to asphyxiation.

The operator at the 911 call center was unable to distinguish Plush’s voice because of poor tech and assumed it was a prank call. Police units were dispatched and circled the school parking lot without leaving their cruiser. Ron Plush, Kyle’s father, found his son six hours later. Staffing has been increased at emergency call centers, and the city has pushed for citizens to enroll in Smart 911, where they can set up a profile to automatically inform call centers of their identity and emergency contacts if they call 911. No responsibility has been taken by the city for Plush’s death.

The Greater Cincinnati Homelessness Coalition (GCHC) filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of an encampment of people experiencing homelessness along Third Street and downtown in August. The encampment, otherwise known as “The Colony,” extended from Third Street downtown to underneath the interstate overpass along Plum Street.

The city justified dispersing The Colony in July to clean the area on the grounds that The Colony created unsanitary conditions and was a public nuisance.

After the city’s actions were upheld by county courts, GCHC filed an amended version of the lawsuit in the federal U.S. District Court against both the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in November, alleging that the civil rights of people experiencing homelessness had been violated.

By: Heather Gast | Campus News Editor