Candidates On: How to Budget for Public Safety

Sep 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm

As CityBeat did in the 2007 and 2009 election cycles, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “The Police and Fire departments constitute 69 percent of the city's General Fund spending. Do you believe this amount can be lessened without affecting public safety?”—-

Mike Allen (Independent): “We cannot lay off more police officers and expect safety in our city to improve. We must make better use of sworn officers by putting officers on the street and by using more civilians in support roles. In addition, we should look into establishing Police Reserve Officer Programs. Cities such as Columbus, San Francisco and San Diego have reserve units of former police officers and state certified police volunteers. Reserve officers can fill in when extra manpower is needed. We also need to implement better data driven policing, by implementing enhanced crime mapping techniques to direct officers to areas where crime is more prevalent.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “We have a great opportunity beginning in 2011 to reposition our Police and Fire departments because of new leadership with (Police) Chief (James) Craig and (Fire) Chief (Richard) Braun heading our the departments. Because of the lack of new recruit classes and the continuing retirement of 30-40 people for each department each year, we will soon be at our lowest staffing levels in over a decade. The departments are doing more with less. Already, six to eight fire companies a day are out of service because of lack of personnel. Citizens in many areas of our city have to wait 30 minutes for a police officer to respond to a call. We cannot afford to cut public safety personnel without jeopardizing the safety of the public. If people aren’t safe, or don’t feel safe, residents will move out and businesses will relocate away from our city.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “With two-thirds of the budget dedicated to Police and Fire, it is fair and appropriate to explore responsible spending cuts. Public safety isn’t measure by the amount of dollars spent or the number of police on the street. Crime reduction and increased public safety in our city will only happen when we use a strong two pronged attack: Proactively focus on education and job training, while deterring crime through policing and community engagement. 

“We should remember to fund the police to the best of our ability but not forsake those programs necessary to lessen their workload.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “My only response would be that there will have to be a reorganization of the departments, positions, and duties of the personnel that were lost but if the heads of these areas took extra care in maintaining the quality of service and there are no at-risk areas, we should not feel the impact.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “Although the downtown area has been getting safer over the past decade, many Cincinnati neighborhoods have serious blight and crime. This is one of the reasons that my focus on safe and clean streets includes gathering input from citizens who live there. Fighting crime requires a multi-faceted approach that includes our police at the helm and involves citizen supporters who live in the community. Our neighborhood Community Councils are doing a lot to lower crime in their areas. Block Watch, Citizens on Patrol, and Good Guys Loitering are making a difference & lowering crime rates. These citizens, along with the police, sit on the frontlines of our urban crime and we need to support them both.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “(I would like to create) the Courtyard of Law, a new addition to the Department of Justice. This court will put a stop to institutionalized racism, false charges, slander, torts, mobs, wars and weapons of mass destruction by means of Fist to Cuff. Example: (I) was ejected from (Fraternal Order of Police Lodge) Local 69 for telling the truth. The law enforcer was a vanity (sic) sick old lady who would have gotten her ass kicked in the Courtyard Of Law for violating Queen's freedom of speech. The old racist was surrounded by a group of very sick mentalities.”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “I believe there is room for improvement but we must work together with the Police and Fire (departments) instead of City Council acting alone. I am not in favor of layoffs because we can find areas within administration to improve.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “Absolutely. I agree with Police Chief Craig along with many police officers and firefighters, who believe we can absolutely cut waste (if we’re willing to look for it everywhere) without eliminating a single police or fire job.

“However, I also believe public safety is about more than just the number of police officers on our streets. It’s about economic development: Creating thriving business and housing districts, such as the successful public/private partnership renovating Over the Rhine, which has shown a dramatic decrease in crime. As a resident of OTR (on Main Street) for almost eight years, I have seen crime decrease as local businesses open up in formerly abandoned buildings. Also, I plan to lead a coalition between the city, county and other local municipalities to create a regional job training and reentry program that can further increase public safety.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “The city's first obligation is to ensure that citizens are safe, which is why we should not be laying off police officers or firefighters, especially when we can absolutely still achieve cost savings in both departments without layoffs. It’s also important to note that the Police Department is already down more than 100 officers through attrition since last year while the Fire Department continues to have rolling fire engine brownouts.”