Cincinnati mayoral race: Qualls touts experience, while Cranley vows to change status quo

Online chats Wednesday, Thursday with candidates

Have a question for Roxanne Qualls or John Cranley? Qualls will be online at WCPO.com Wednesday taking questions at noon. Cranley will be taking questions on WCPO.com Thursday at noon. Both chats will be moderated by WCPO political reporter Kevin Osborne.

CINCINNATI -- If you listen to Cincinnati’s two mayoral candidates, the choice facing voters is between preserving the status quo and picking someone who doesn’t fully understand the issues.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-City Councilman John Cranley squared off in a mayoral debate Tuesday morning at the Museum Center in Queensgate.

At several points during the debate, Qualls replied to comments from Cranley by stating he didn’t have the most up-to-date information on the topic being discussed.

For example, when asked about the Metro bus system that serves Hamilton County, Cranley mentioned a dispute between the agency that operates Metro and city officials. Last winter, the agency was concerned that city money allocated for the bus system might be diverted to a planned streetcar system.

City Hall’s current leadership is delaying Metro's funding due to the streetcar dispute, Cranley said.

Not true, Qualls replied. "Metro and the city long ago settled (the dispute),” she said. “No money is being held up.”

“John is very long on rhetoric but is short on facts,” Qualls added.

For his part, Cranley painted Qualls as part of a failed leadership team at City Hall that has proposed a $133 million streetcar system and leasing the city’s parking meters while at the same time threatening the layoffs of police officers and firefighters.

“She is recommending the old politics of the status quo,” Cranley said, referring to Qualls.

Qualls and Cranley are both Democrats. They emerged as the front-runners in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, and now will be the candidates in November’s non-partisan election.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce sponsored Tuesday’s debate.

Qualls and Cranley did agree on two issues: Neither wanted to raise the city’s 2.1 percent earnings tax as a way to avoid looming deficits; and both supported holding a police recruit class in 2015 to increase the department’s ranks.

Cincinnati police has lost more than 180 officers during the last four years due to attrition, Cranley said. Public safety should be the top priority at City Hall, adding he pushed the hiring of 115 officers in 2002 and 2003 while he was chair of City Council’s finance committee.

Qualls echoed the sentiment. As chair of the finance committee this year, she stopped layoffs of police and firefighters that were recommended by the city manager by instead cutting programs, Qualls said.

But Cranley criticized Qualls for considering possibly outsourcing policing in the city to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office a few years ago as a way to save money.

Qualls countered that leaders must fully vet ideas presented to them and that any potential merger is “off the table.”

The Fraternal Order of Police is expected to announce its mayoral endorsement Sept. 26.

Both candidates preferred strategic investments to increase the number of Cincinnati residents and jobs instead of hiking the city’s earnings tax.

“We need to continue to leverage our investments as a city for creating jobs and growing revenues,” Qualls said.

One method to do so, she added, is leasing the city’s parking system to the Port Authority. Part of the $92 million upfront payment the city would receive would be used for projects like constructing an interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive.

Cranley said the lease undervalues the city’s parking system for short-term gain, and would saddle future generations with a bad deal.

“It's fundamentally about stealing value from the future and spending it on pet projects in the short-term before an election," Cranley said.

How you can interact with the candidates:

WCPO will host online chats with the mayoral candidates this week.

The first chat is set for noon Wednesday with Qualls, while Cranley will participate in an online chat at noon Thursday.

Users may log in at WCPO.com and ask the candidates any question.

A second mayoral debate will be televised live on WCPO-TV at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Over-the-Rhine. The debate also will be live streamed on WCPO.com.

9 On Your Side, Fidelity Investments, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the Cincinnatus Association, and the League of Women Voters are sponsors of the televised debate.

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