Cranley's State of the City: Drink Beer, Volunteer

Mayor's election-year address steered clear of offering bold new initiatives, instead reviewing his record and asking citizens to chip in.

Mayor John Cranley had a message for Cincinnatians at his State of the City address yesterday: drink beer and volunteer.

Beyond those exhortations, the mayor’s election-year address at Memorial Hall hit many of the standard notes, rarely straying from its celebratory tone to get into the weeds on policy or offer big new initiatives.

Striding out to U2’s “Pride,” Cranley tried to hype the crowd, twice yelling, “I have Cincinnati pride. Do you have Cincinnati pride?” He touted his accomplishments so far in office, including a downtown Kroger and residential tower on the way, Children’s Hospital’s coming half-billion-dollar expansion and a recent report naming Cincinnati the biggest economy in Ohio ahead of Columbus and Cleveland.

“Our policies are working well because we work well with others. We’re collaborating with, rather than working against, businesses who want to invest,” Cranley said, throwing a subtle jab at mayoral opponent Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. At a debate the day prior, Cranley repeatedly brought up Simpson’s efforts to compel Children’s to invest more money into Avondale.

It’s probably difficult not to sound like you’re campaigning when you’re an incumbent mayor addressing the state of the city just a month before voters decide whether you’ll keep your job. That said, at times, Cranley certainly did sound as if he was giving a sales pitch.

Cranley spent time talking about his role in the city’s response to the heroin crisis, his work increasing minority contracting with the city, shoring up the city’s finances — its budget and pension fund — and the part he played in landing big developments.

Oh yeah, he also talked a lot about beer.

“Beer is bringing back our neighborhoods,” Cranley said as he introduced a video about the city’s breweries.

The mayor did spotlight accomplishments by each of Cincinnati’s nine City Council members, including his opponent, Simpson. Cranley applauded Simpson’s efforts to boost human services funding by the city — a fight that at times has put her at odds with the mayor. He also spotlighted the work of firefighters, city employees and others, including Stephanie Byrd and City Council candidate Greg Landsman, both of whom led the drive to pass a levy for the Preschool Promise.

What was missing — and has been missing from both candidates in debates and forums ahead of the Nov. 7 election — were substantive, detailed plans for future efforts.

In past addresses, Cranley has rolled out plans like his Hand Up initiative. In his 2015 address, Cranley pledged to use the jobs program to lift 6,000 Cincinnati families out of poverty. Its results have been more modest so far — about 550 people have benefited from jobs through the program and another 1,000 have gotten job training.

Cranley did give updates on anti-poverty efforts like the Childhood Poverty Collaborative and gave nods to the need for investments in public transit and solar energy, but this year’s address didn’t contain the same reach-for-the-sky moments.

The closest it got was a call by Cranley encouraging city residents to devote an hour a month to volunteering in soup kitchens, nonprofits or neighborhood organizations.

“The greatest privilege I have as mayor is asking people to give back to our city,” Cranley said while announcing the One for Cincy initiative. “I’m asking all Cincinnatians in 2018 to give one hour for Cincinnati each month to help those in our community who need it most.”

The initiative includes a taskforce that will issue a report by late November about ways to track volunteer hours completed by residents, the mayor said.

The message of the address: The state of the city is good and getting better. The subtext, given the coming election: Voters should stay the course. Cincinnatians will indicate whether they agree next month.

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