• Sun. Apr 11th, 2021

City’s review panel to set rules to insulate development from political influence

David Mann

Cincinnati City Councilmember

David Mann Esq. City of Cincinnati photo

In November 2020, following the third arrest of one of my colleagues by federal law enforcement personnel, I sponsored legislation creating a blue ribbon panel to conduct independent review of our development process and develop recommendations to improve it and better insulate it from political influence and cronyism.

I am pleased by today’s announcement of the members of this important body. The mayor has done a very good job of selecting folks with a variety of expertise and diverse perspectives and experience.  We have given the appointees a lot of work to do within a short timeline.  I am grateful that these great citizens have accepted the important and difficult challenge.

The panel is asked to undertake the following: 

  1. consult municipal finance, development, and campaign contribution experts.
  2. Review and evaluate the city’s use of public incentives for development including direct awards, loans, and tax abatements.
  3. Determine how well and with what clarity the city establishes and then achieves its goals in providing public incentives to developments without allowing developers to benefit at a higher level than justified by the public benefit to the city.
  4. Review best practices in other cities across the country.
  5. Study possible links between campaign contributions and the award of development contracts and/or significant changes in the final form of a development contract.
  6. Propose ways in which the city could track connections between campaign contributions and the award of public incentives to developments.
  7. Propose a code of conduct for Cincinnati’s elected officials and developers.  In particular, the code should require developers to report inappropriate requests from Cincinnati’s elected officially (anecdotally, I have been told that the charges set forth in the first two indictments were not the only such attempts to obtain personal benefit).
  8. Recommend whether contract awards should be prohibited to developers who made campaign contributions to council candidates within the prior 24 months.
  9. Recommend whether the city should establish a hotline by which any citizen, including developers, can report in confidence any inappropriate request or demand from any public servant, elected or otherwise.

The current crisis is the opportunity for needed reform. We must restore trust in the integrity and commitment to public service of Cincinnati’s elected officials.

We have a crisis unlike any I have seen in all my years of service to the city. We must deal with it accordingly.

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