Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says the state of the city "is strong and growing stronger."
Cranley delivered his "State of the City Address" Tuesday night to a crowd of 500 people at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley.
"This past year we have made progress on job growth, inclusion, quality of life, safety, and saw a five percent reduction in child poverty," Cranley said.
Cranley said he is thrilled that the streetcar is off to a good start and he thanked city officials for completing the project on time and under budget.
Cranley opposed construction of the streetcar when he was a candidate for mayor in 2013, but he lost that battle after he took office and has since said that he hopes the streetcar system, which opened to the public Sept. 9, will succeed.
"The urban center of our city is experiencing the kind of vibrancy that is envied across the nation," Cranley said. "And now the Cincinnati Bell Connector will showcase this marvelous renaissance from The Banks through Over-the-Rhine. And what a renewed beautiful inner city the passenger on the Cincinnati Bell Connector will see."
Cranley noted the city has added more than 1,200 jobs in the last year, and the number of permits issued for new residential properties in the city has doubled this year compared to last year.
The mayor also reviewed the city's spending with minority contractors. Last year $8 million worth of city contracts were awarded to this group, and this year the number is expected to be $45 million. Cranley had made this an early priority in this administration.
Cranley announced during the speech that the city will be doing more to assist small business owners in the city.
"I am proud to announce that in 2017 a new microenterprise loan fund of at least $2 million will be formed and companies groomed by MORTAR will have a chance to get the loans they need for their businesses," Cranley said. "The microenterprise loan fund will be available to all Cincinnatians, but will have special outreach to African American and women owned businesses."
MORTAR is an organization that trains and mentors aspiring entrepreneurs.
As in past years, Cranley spent much of the speech focused on public safety. He spoke about riding with police officers and walking with "Citizens on Patrol" groups.
Cranley said crime numbers in the city are decreasing.
"Gun violence has decreased by nearly nine percent and Part 1 crimes have decreased by almost seven percent," Cranley said. "In fact, Part 1 crimes, which included violent and property crime, have decreased by more than 12 percent since 2013."
He credits additional police officers on the streets and partnerships with the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office and the U.S. Attorney's office for the reduction.
Cranley announced the city will be setting up ShotSpotter, which he describes as "state of the art technology that helps law enforcement agencies by directing police to the precise location of gunfire."
The mayor is asking the city's new recreation commission director, Daniel Betts, to form partnerships with other agencies to enhance youth engagement. Cranley wants a report on the issue by January 31st.
Cranley also spoke about the recent heroin crisis and the strains it is placing on the city's first responders. He highlighted work the city is doing with the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force and Talbert House.
The mayor announced he will soon ask city council to approve his proposal to have former collaborative agreement monitor Saul Green return to the city to audit the program, created in 2002, and make recommendations for additional improvements.
"It has been 14 years and out police and communities are dealing with new issues that did not exist back then," Cranley said. "For example, we are now putting body cameras on our officers. How to manage that information in a way that protects victim privacy but also ensures transparency is a balance we have to get right."
Cranley spoke about recent funding for several neighborhood projects in this year's city budget. Those include work in Avondale, Westwood, Bond Hill, Roselawn and several east side neighborhoods. But he said there is more progress to make in neighborhoods.
"We need to do a better job picking up litter, cutting grass on city property and maintaining the gateway roads we all travel every day to and from work," Cranley said. "I will be asking city council to provide the necessary funding for the basic services that have such an impact on the morale of our citizens."
Cranley announced the city could soon have a dedicated court to crackdown on absentee landlords in the city. He said such a housing court in Hamilton County has been caught up in a political mistrust between the city and the county. He said he has worked to changed that through collaboration.
"For the first time ever, the Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will join with us to petition the Supreme Court of Ohio to create the first-ever Hamilton County Housing Court," Cranley said.
Cleveland and Columbus already have such housing courts.
Cranley said his Child Poverty Collaborative will be releasing its recommendations in the next few weeks. The goal of the program is move 10,000 children out of poverty in five years.
"We cannot do that alone, but together I am confident we can," Cranley said. "We will need everyone's help, so stay tuned."
Cranley also presented several awards during the speech:
- Cincinnatians of the Year: Carl Linder, III and Jeff Berding with FC Cincinnati for creating the city's newest professional sports team.
- Humanitarian of the Year: Peg Fox, who is the executive director of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati. She was recognized for her work on creating IDs for immigrants, homeless and others who do not have access to government-issued ID.
- Employee of the Year: Police Officer Donald Jordan, who was recognized for starting the city's "Right to Read" program and organizing the "Pitching for Peace" community event this year.