I love parks and recognize we have one of the best urban parks systems in America. Just a couple months ago, CNN Money ranked Cincinnati as having the 7th best park system in the country.
The Parks Board has some great ideas for the future too. In particular, I’m a big fan of Wasson Way. This trail would make it easier to bike across town and then out to the Greater Miami Bike Trail. The city already reached a deal with Norfolk-Southern to buy the old train tracks and I want this to happen.
This said, I’m voting against Issue 22.
Issue 22 creates a permanent tax written into our charter that is essentially under the control of one person, the mayor.
Here’s the language from the levy about how 75% of the money is to be spent.
Seventy-five percent of the annual revenue generated by such additional levy shall be used in accordance with a capital program recommended by the Mayor of the City of Cincinnati and approved by the Board of Park Commissioners.
The other 25% goes to the Parks Board for whatever they want short of debt service.
The mayor can create the entire plan, without any input from the community or the Parks Board or anyone else, and then it goes to the Parks Board for approval. The mayor appoints members of the Parks Board. This essentially puts all control in the mayor’s hands.
Am I “attacking” the mayor?
I like John Cranley. We agree on many things including funding parks. What I’m against is Mayor Cranley’s plan to revise the charter to give the position of mayor more power.
The levy could have been written differently. John Cranley could have involved council and the community. Our city funds parks all the time in other ways. He chose to propose a levy giving him sole authority over ¾ of the money coming in for parks. In other words, Mayor Cranley is responsible for a proposal that opens up a giant Cranhole in our charter.
I believe we need to hold him accountable on this issue. I would do the same for anyone attempting the same thing.
When the Cincinnati Enquirer endorsed John Cranley for mayor, they did it with a few reservations. To quote from the Enquirer’s editorial:
From the day he takes office, Cranley will have to rein in his dictatorial tendencies and discipline himself to be diplomatic, respectful and collaborative.
Mayor Cranley is now asking for complete control over how money from a permanent tax will be spent.
I believe we need to step back and ask if we want to open up this Cranhole in our charter. We should do what the Enquirer suggests and question whether this is a power grab. If one person has complete control over part of the budget, is this a loophole? Does it open up opportunities for the mayor to reward friends with contracts?
Not just by Mayor Cranley, but by any future mayors as well.
We can fund the parks projects in better ways
It’s tempting to vote ‘yes’ on 22 because a carrot is being dangled out there that we want. I want.
Back in the 1980s, City Council approved a permanent income tax for city infrastructure known as the Smale Commission tax. Cincinnati Parks regularly gets a portion of the Smale tax each year. According to John Smale:
It worked because there was involvement by so many people.
We already have a process for park projects that includes community and council involvement. If there is a problem with this process, we should revise it. This doesn’t look like revising it. This looks like eliminating it and putting control in the hands of a single politician.
I’m voting ‘no’ because we can fund our parks in a better way.
|David Akadjian is the author of The Little Book of Revolution:
A Distributive Strategy for Democracy.