Holding out Hope

Greg Landsman puts empirically backed ideas at the front of his campaign for council

City Council candidate Greg Landsman acknowledges government can’t do everything, but that isn’t an excuse to quit. To him, it’s a reason to rethink the approach and instead leverage every resource, through public-private partnerships, to solve Cincinnati’s shortcomings.

The biggest issue, according to Landsman, is Cincinnati’s failure to reach out to the city’s poorest — a problem that is unsettlingly represented in Cincinnati’s deplorable rates of infant mortality, child poverty and homelessness.

But because it is such a big issue, Landsman isn’t calling for just one solution. Landsman doesn’t have a snappy campaign platitude or focus-grouped talking point for this topic; he cites a series of empirically backed ideas, ranging from increased funding to properly vetted human services to, most important to him, getting all of Cincinnati’s children into quality preschool programs.

Landsman says approaching this issue, along with the other problems facing Cincinnati, is about setting a progressive agenda and following through with it, even if it means making difficult choices.

“The big question for these big issues is similar to the question that was asked 40 to 50 years ago, and that is, ‘Do we want to go to the moon?’” Landsman says. “If the answer is correctively yes, then you work to get it done.”

For Landsman, his interest in the plight of impoverished Cincinnatians goes back to his work under former Gov. Ted Strickland, who appointed Landsman to lead the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in October 2007 and the Ohio Anti-Poverty Task Force in May 2008.

In those leadership positions, Landsman says he learned the value of bringing the public and private sectors together to tackle poverty and other issues that previously seemed insurmountable, even though many of the ideas, particularly for the Ohio Anti-Poverty Task Force, never came to fruition after Strickland lost re-election in 2010.

Landsman says that perspective and approach is why he’s so committed to the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, a vow signed by dozens of local officials and business leaders to enroll all Cincinnati children into high-quality preschool programs. He says it’s the cause he takes most seriously, above anything else in his campaign.

“Getting universal preschool for every 3- or 4-year-old in this city — to fundamentally reduce poverty, change outcomes for every kid, improve every single school, make it easier for businesses to attract and retain talent, and get the city growing again — is way more important to me than my election,” he says.

The heavily invested approach to issues echoes through all of Landsman’s ideas. Recently, he received some flak from streetcar supporters for saying the next phase of the project, which would set tracks from Over-the-Rhine and downtown to the University of Cincinnati and nearby hospitals, will require private funding.

Landsman says he won’t consider whether it’s possible to get private money for the streetcar project. He claims he’ll just do it, whether it involves asking people along the streetcar route to sign some sort of agreement to help pay, looking to private companies that will benefit from the streetcar to pay up or some other means.

Like fighting poverty, Landsman says it’s too important to get the streetcar and other development projects done to build more economic opportunities in Cincinnati and lift the city’s underserved populations.

It’s Landsman’s common take on every issue. The concern to him isn’t if something is possible; it’s how to do it, even it means leveraging every possible resource to get it done.

CityBeat endorses GREG LANDSMAN for Cincinnati City Council. Find the official endorsement here

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