Morning News: Cranley's State of the City recap; VP debate left fact-checkers sweating

Expect a unity theme to repeat itself during election season as Mayor Cranley seeks to fight critics’ charges that he’s difficult and authoritarian.

click to enlarge Mayor John Cranley - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Mayor John Cranley

Good morning all. We’re going to focus on two political talk-a-thons this morning, so buckle up for some fact-checking.

First, Mayor John Cranley last night gave the annual State of the City address, where he reviewed the past year and outlined his plans for the final year of his four-year term. Despite an impending race between Cranley and Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, the mayor managed to avoid overt campaigning during the speech — probably a smart move. He even gave Simpson and frequent critic Councilman Chris Seelbach props for initiatives she’s helped lead. Where politics did pop up, it was Cranley calling for unity in City Hall and between the city and Hamilton County officials. Among the unifying efforts Cranley celebrated: extending a $15 an hour living wage to city employees.

Expect that unity theme to repeat itself during election season as the mayor seeks to fight critics’ charges that he’s difficult and authoritarian, with Simpson arguing that she’ll be more collaborative and unifying.

The mayor gave the expected rundown of good news for the city, claiming that poverty here is down 5 percent and giving some credit for that to his Hand Up Initiative, an employment program partnered with Cincinnati Works created two years ago, for that improvement. However, other factors may have also played a role, including a national upswing that recently released Census data shows has lifted 3.5 million Americans out of poverty. While discussing the city’s poverty issues, Cranley also promised that a childhood poverty task force created last year would soon release a report on its work.

The mayor also touted lower violent crime levels since new Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac took the helm at CPD. That’s a bit tricky, though: While CPD’s citywide crime report does show overall violent crime for the year to date is down 3 percent, it’s unchanged from this time last year. What’s more, progress on crime is unevenly spread among CPD’s five districts when you dig into the data, and some places have seen significantly more violent crime. In District 3, for example, which encompasses the city’s West Side and includes neighborhoods hit extra-hard by the recent heroin crisis, violent crime is up 11 percent year to date over the three-year average and up 15 percent from this time last year. Meanwhile, crime in the Central Business District is up 13 percent from this time last year, though it is down over the three-year average.

Cranley’s new proposals outlined in the speech:

— A new housing court for deadbeat landlords and blighted property owners that would aim to improve living conditions for low-income residents. Cranley touted this as a potential example of ways in which the city and county, who are always a fussin’ and a feudin’, could learn to get along.

— A new minority entrepreneurship program run through the Cincinnati Development Fund and partnered with small business incubator Mortar. The program would work to extend $2 million in small business loans to local entrepreneurs, with a focus on women and minorities underrepresented in the current small business environment.

In the past, Cranley has set out goals for fixing the city’s roads and replacing its aging fleet, reducing poverty and funding parks improvements. Some of those initiatives have gone better than others — voters rejected the parks tax the mayor proposed last year, but the infrastructure repairs are moving along. 

• OK. On to our second event in the “politicians talking at you about a lot of things that may or may not be true” double-header. Last night was also the first debate for vice presidential candidates Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican nominee, and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic nominee. Stakes were high for Pence after Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by most accounts drubbed GOP nominee Donald Trump last week in the first of three presidential debates.

By most accounts, Pence did an adequate, even polished, job compared to Trump — 46 percent of poll respondents said he won the debate, compared to 42 percent for Kaine. But he often did so at the expense of accuracy, fighting off pressure from Kaine to own up to Trump’s sometimes-wild statements. That led to some incredibly truth-stretching moments for Pence, including denying that Trump said he would release his tax returns (he did say this), that he’s called Russian dictator Vladimir Putin a great leader (both Trump and Pence have actually said that multiple times) and other outright denials of public statements that are easily verifiable.

Meanwhile, Kaine had his own moments where fact checkers raised an eyebrow, though his truth-stretching seems minor league comparatively. He sought to pin blame for the Great Recession mostly on President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for wealthy individuals and businesses, when much of the economic disaster had its roots in another terrible dynamic: the housing finance crisis. Kaine also compared Clinton’s proposed plan to extend citizenship to some undocumented immigrants to a plan by President Ronald Regan in 1986 that extended legal status to more than 3 million people. But there are some key differences, including the way in which undocumented people in the American workforce are addressed by the laws.

VP debates generally have little impact on public opinion or the results of the election, though the evening was interesting as a display of the differences between the vice presidential candidates and their running mates. Pence is smoother and much more disciplined than Trump, while Kaine is more aggressive and willing to interrupt more than Clinton was in the first presidential debate. The next big-time debate between Clinton and Trump is Oct. 9.

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