During his inauguration as Cincinnati's new mayor on Jan. 4, Aftab Pureval focused on how his past is bringing him to lead the city's future.
"Cincinnati is where I achieved my dream," Pureval said. "And it's up to all of us who have been touched by Cincinnati's greatness to be good stewards of our exercise in self government."
It was a brisk 28ºF in Over-the-Rhine's Washington Park as Pureval recited the oath of office to become Cincinnati's first new mayor in eight years as well as the city's first Asian-American mayor. During the Nov. 2 election, Pureval defeated fellow Democratic Party opponent and longtime politician David Mann.
In December, Pureval resigned from his position as clerk of courts for Hamilton County.
During the inauguration session, new Cincinnati City Council members as well as vice-mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney — the Cincinnati Herald publisher and a recent council member — also took their oaths. Local sisters Marie and Macie Cunningham, who were contestants on NBC's The Voice, performed "God Bless America" before the officials were sworn in.
In his post-oath remarks, Pureval noted how his father's immigration from India to the United States propelled the young Pureval into success as an attorney, as clerk of courts and now as Cincinnati's mayor.
"In one generation, my family went from being refugees to now the next mayor of Cincinnati. That story only happens right here in our great city," Pureval said. "I doubt my father could have imagined a day like today, but he moved his young family because he was chasing a dream."
As he did during campaign events and in pre-inauguration briefings, Pureval recommitted to developing a more equitable city with opportunities for those who had traditionally been left out.
"To those who took ownership in shaping our city's future, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. It is because of you that this is now our guiding principle: to earn the trust you've given us to grow the city with racial equity in the center of the frame... to create for our children a vibrant and inclusive community where anyone can create a meaningful life," Pureval said.
Lemon Kearney, the city's new vice-mayor, echoed those sentiments during her remarks.
"My vision is for Cincinnati to be a tale of one city, not of two cities — that's a tale of equity," Kearney said. "It means that zip code does not determine our opportunities or our life span."
Pureval succeeds former mayor John Cranley, who served for his maximum of two terms until the end of 2021. Cranley currently is running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Ohio.
The inauguration ceremony originally was to have taken place in Cincinnati Music Hall, but the region's rapidly rising COVID-19 cases pushed officials to move the event to an outdoor location. To enter the event area at Washington Park, attendees age 12 and older had to show proof of full vaccination or negative results from a PCR test administered within 72 hours. Masks were required for all attendees.
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Dr. Melba Moore consulted with Pureval's team about the move.
“I support wholeheartedly, along with my Board of Health, that the festivities will be taking place outdoors for an additional level of protection of our attendees," she said in a Jan. 3 release.
The coronavirus — especially the Omicron and Delta variants — once again is spreading rapidly throughout Greater Cincinnati. According to Cincinnati's COVID case tracker, 989 new cases of the virus were reported on Jan. 1, with 253 on Jan. 2 and 797 on Jan. 3.
This latest winter wave comes shortly after a long, sustained spike over the summer and fall, largely due to the highly transmissible Delta variant and waning interest in COVID-19 vaccination. Since returning from winter break Monday, the Cincinnati Public School District is dealing with hundreds of employee absences.
Cincinnati's coronavirus cases increased in December, which was largely attributed to the virus spreading during indoor Thanksgiving gatherings. As of Jan. 4, the city of Cincinnati has 560 new COVID-19 cases, though that's likely an undercount, as it frequently takes health departments a few days to update data after weekends and holidays. Of the new cases, 160 are age 20-29, 111 are 30-39, and 71 are 40-49.
Doctors have warned that gathering indoors — particularly with unvaccinated individuals, without masking and without social distancing — increases the likelihood to both spread and get COVID-19.
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