By the Honorable Dwight Tillery
Former Cincinnati Mayor
We are now less than a month away from the Cincinnati mayoral election and it’s more important than ever that we turn up to the polls in droves. Cincinnati desperately needs elected officials who care about improving life for everyone here, not just the White upper crust of the city. We have the opportunity on November 7 to put someone into office who will prioritize socio-economic justice for Black Cincinnatians.
It’s clear to anyone who looks beyond the shallow rhetoric of our local politicians that Cincinnati is economically and socially divided, with minority communities getting the short end of the stick. In 2015, the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati published a report titled The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities. The 150-page report examined the rampant poverty and social inequities affecting Black neighborhoods in the city. On average, Cincinnatians live to be the age of 76.7 years. Yet, the average life expectancy for African American men here is more than ten years less than their White male counterparts Similarly, Black women live more than six years less than White women. Such disparities in life expectancy can be traced by neighborhood, along with the unnervingly high rates of infant mortality in our city.
The worst of these poor health outcomes are found in Cincinnati’s majority Black communities. However, studies in public health have shown that when cities invest in intervention initiatives where they are needed, poor health outcomes can be amended. And if the mayor says the City is committed to closing these gaps, the City has to put its money where its mouth is. The question remains: which policy has the mayor put into place to stop the systemic deterioration of Black communities?
During Tuesday’s televised mayoral debate, Mayor John Cranley claimed that the City’s efforts to reduce poverty are working and that he is working at fixing racial disparities. Yet, when mayoral candidate and City Councilwoman Simpson asked him to cite the percentage of the City’s budget spent on minority-owned businesses, he couldn’t. Instead, he deceptively quoted the City’s award to minority business, which always amounts to a higher number than the actual spend. Then, when asked which three neighborhoods in Cincinnati needed the most help, he dismissed the question in an “all neighborhoods matter” fashion. Simpson, however, responded that Winton Hills was in desperate need of the City’s attention. She also cited Cranley’s tone-deaf proposal to Winton Hills residents that the City install a gated entrance around the neighborhood, complete with armed guards, as reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer in August 2015. Cranley blatantly denied having said this, despite the proof of his words.
Over the past four years, Cranley has failed the most crucial needs of the Black community. The city can no longer put elected officials into office who seek to uphold the status quo, which is that Black neighborhoods suffer while White communities prosper. Cincinnati needs to reprioritize its investments and ditch the “trickle-down” model. I challenge Cranley and other members of Council to prove that equal neighborhood spending is happening across the board. Enough is enough and we cannot continue down the path we are currently on if the City is to be improved for everyone.