Affordable housing has become the defining feature of the May 4 primary
By Mo Juenger, Managing Editor
Six candidates will vie for two spots on the November ballot in Cincinnati’s mayoral primary on May 4. Also on the ballot is controversial housing initiative Issue 3, a charter amendment that would allocate $50 million to affordable housing.
Though the mayoral primary itself is non-partisan, five of the six candidates are registered Democrats. Only Herman Najoli is running as an independent, and no Republicans are part of the race.
Cincinnati Public Radio station WVXU qualified three candidates as “top-tier,” including David Mann, Aftab Pureval and Cecil Thomas. The station considers Gavi Begtrup, Najoli and Raffel Prophett to be “underdogs.”
Each of the candidates labeled “top-tier” withheld support for Issue 3, with all three “underdogs” supporting it.
The ballot initiative targets one of the hottest policy issues in the Cincinnati area: affordable housing.
In this article, Newswire gives an overview of the candidates’ basic stances and their level of support for Issue 3.
Mann, a moderate Democrat from Clifton, has served on City Council for more than 20 years and spent total of three years as Cincinnati’s mayor.
His campaign focuses on ending corruption at City Hall, improving police-community relations and reducing crime through youth employment.
Issue 3: Mann does not support Issue 3, noting that the proposed $50 million dedicated to the project constitutes approximately one-eighth of the city’s general fund budget.
“(It) cannot be done without major impacts on basic city services, including reductions in numbers of police officers and firefighters and public service employees who handle waste collection, snow removal, street repair and maintenance,” he said.
Mann also expressed concern that the charter amendment would take responsibilities surrounding affordable housing from City Council and give them to an independently-appointed board.
“Most of the board members have direct conflicts of interest. The board acts completely independently to decide how money is spent without anyone in government authorized to review these decisions,” Mann added.
Pureval, a young Democrat from Clifton, has served as Hamilton County Clerk of Courts since 2016. With Mann and Thomas, he is one of three candidates running with experience in public office. Pureval is campaigning to invest in public safety, expand 911 options to include non-police services and expand the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF).
Issue 3: Pureval does not support Issue 3. A staunch proponent for affordable housing in prior elections, he believes that the money to fund the AHTF should not come from the city’s general fund.
“We have to leverage city dollars in order to incentivize our institutional philanthropies and our Fortune 500 companies to invest in the trust fund,” he said, adding that Cincinnati ought to position itself to seek more federal grants for affordable housing.
Thomas, a former career police officer, has served as Senator to Ohio’s District Nine since 2015. Before that, he served on Cincinnati City Council from 2005 until his Senate election. His campaign focuses on affordable housing through tax abatements, a $15 minimum wage and new campaign finance laws.
Issue 3: Thomas does not support Issue 3, adding that he considers the proposal fiscally irresponsible and liable to “bankrupt the city.”
“A more reasonable solution would be to identify federal, state and local funding sources, coupled with public private partnerships and set ambitious, 10 to 20 year goals,” Thomas said, noting that this would require the creation of an affordable housing subcommittee.
Mt. Lookout citizen Begtrup’s campaign website boasts experience as a physicist, CEO and former policy advisor to Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who served until 2012.
His proposed policy involves the “Cincinnati Recovery Plan,” which heavily focuses on reinvigorating small or Black-owned businesses, increasing funding for Cincinnati Public Schools, police reform and more efficient public transportation.
Issue 3: Begtrup supports Issue 3 with reservations.
“Despite creating the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, City Hall hasn’t adequately funded it, which is why 9,500 Cincinnatians felt it necessary to bring forth this amendment,” he said.
“Were I mayor today, I would convene an aggressive task force comprising big and small business, community groups and nonprofits to implement a public-private partnership to finance the trust fund before the May election,” Begtrup continued.
He believes that Issue 3 is necessary “in the meantime” as the city works to make the AHTF function for citizens.
Najoli is a West Price Hill resident, a high school teacher, University of Cincinnati professor and an author. Najoli’s platform, known as “CINCY 2021,” focuses on improving the desirability of Cincinnati neighborhoods, nurturing small businesses, streamlining the bus system and investing in the arts.
Issue 3: Najoli supports Issue 3 and told interviewers that the bill “represents the voice of the people.”
He added that, given his background in volunteer work with homelessness, he believes that affordable housing is the primary solution to the “plight of the unhoused” in Cincinnati.
“When Council needed to continue operating an empty streetcar, they found the money. Why is it that, when it relates to affordable housing, the reflex action by certain members is to immediately say no?” Najoli said.
He believes the amendment follows a precedent set by City Council to provide emergency relief funding to areas with extreme need.
Prophett is an Avondale Democrat, a retired District Fire Chief and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He campaigns to eliminate racial inequities in public health, sustainability, social justice, prison reform and natural disaster relief.
Issue 3: Prophett supports Issue 3. He believes that City Hall has neglected the issue of affordable housing for years, and concluded to WVXU that Issue 3 is the “best opportunity in decades” to solve Cincinnati’s housing crisis.
The Cincinnati mayoral primary and Issue 3 vote is on May 4, but residents can vote early now.