City Council’s three newcomers will have to wrestle with a number of tough questions now that they’ve been sworn in. CityBeat reached out to each — Republican Jeff Pastor and Democrats Greg Landsman and Tamaya Dennard — to ask five in particular. You can find Dennard’s responses here. Now it’s Landsman’s turn. Pastor’s responses will be published in the next issue of CityBeat.
Landsman might be a first-time Cincinnati City Council member, but you’ve probably seen his name before. In 2016 he led the drive to convince voters to pass a tax levy for Cincinnati’s Preschool Promise. Mayor John Cranley recently appointed him the chair of council’s newly created Major Projects and Smart Government Committee.
CityBeat: City support for infrastructure around a proposed FC Cincinnati stadium, to the tune of $37 million, has been a hot topic of late. It’s likely, if FC Cincinnati wins an MLS expansion franchise, that you’ll be faced with voting on some elements of this spending. Do you support the deal council passed Nov. 29? What could have made it better? The West End has been floated as another potential site for the project. Do you have thoughts on that location versus Oakley?
Greg Landsman: If FC Cincinnati wins an MLS franchise, the city should try and make the investment work without undermining our ability to tackle the big issues: reducing poverty and growing our middle class, transforming our public transit system, fixing the Western Hills Viaduct, investing in neighborhood revitalization efforts, etc. It would be an enormous investment in the city and there are benefits to becoming an international soccer city, but we have to be sure any deal is the best possible one for taxpayers and the community that would have the stadium.
I would hope to play a significant role in making sure Cincinnati taxpayers get the best deal possible, and that we are still in a position financially to tackle the many serious issues we face as a city.
CB: One of the city’s biggest moves last year was the creation of an independent board that will oversee the Metropolitan Sewer District, which has been riddled with allegations of monetary mismanagement and conflict between the city and the county. Assuming state lawmakers approve the MSD deal, do you see the deal the city struck as a good one? Why or why not?
GL: I support the deal, as it should resolve the issue of who is in charge of MSD, though getting the details right will be important. There are many questions I have, but the big one has to do with leadership. At the end of the day, hiring the strongest possible leader will matter greatly, and we have to be sure we get a top-notch leader to run MSD. Council should play a big role in ensuring this kind of transformative leadership.
CB: Part of the impetus behind that deal was a less-than-cordial relationship between the city and the county. As an incoming council member, do you see that improving under your tenure? Any plans to make that happen?
GL: I certainly hope the relationship between the city and county gets better. We need everyone working together to solve problems, and I’ll push for the highest level of collaboration at every turn. One idea we will push for is even greater progress on shared services by asking that the city manager bring to council every 45-60 days a shared service opportunity with the county (or any of our regional partners). This could help to drive greater collaboration, and reduce taxpayer costs.
CB: Cincinnati’s Metro bus system is at a crossroads. Its performance is lagging and without further funding or vastly increased ridership, it faces big deficits, fare increases and service reductions during your tenure. What ideas do you have to help solve this problem? What can council do to keep Metro viable?
GL: We need a transformed, modernized public transit system that gets people where they want to go, particularly as it relates to the good-paying jobs the region has to offer. We need more buses, more routes and a reliable and positive experience for every rider. The city will have to work collaboratively with the county and Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, alongside riders and employers, to develop a truly compelling vision and plan. Then we need to put that plan before voters and get it passed, and we need to do all of this with real urgency. Getting this right should be our top priority.
CB: The city’s poverty problems have been a big issue for a long time now, and yet we’ve seen very little change recently. What can council do to move the needle? What is your view on the city’s current human services spending? Should it be increased? Should the city change the way it allocates those dollars away from the existing United Way process? Do you think the mayor’s initiatives — Hand Up and Poverty Collaborative — are promising, or no?
GL: This council will have the opportunity to take big steps in reducing poverty, and I hope to help lead the way. We need to set and make public measurable goals and track our progress in a transparent way. We must also get existing organizations and efforts to work together to hit these goals and invest our resources in those programs that are getting results. The city should work with the poverty collaborative on these goals and begin to align our resources to ensure we have the greatest impact possible. Reducing poverty will come with greater investments in what works, but we will also need greater accountability when it comes to the results. Additional investments alone, even with greater accountability, won’t get our children and families out of poverty unless we also get wages up, fix our public transit system so our folks can access good paying jobs, and pursue local hire and job training opportunities every chance we get.