Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Did You Like Or Even Notice the Mayor's Speech?

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory gave the annual State of the City Speech last night at the Aronoff Center.

WVXU has more on the speech including the dueling Republican responses that CityBeat reported on yesterday. Current Council member Charlie Winburn appeared to give the Mayor an A+, while the "official" Republican response from former Council Member Amy Murray was more of the same in negative tone coming from most of the GOP on all levels of office. It says a lot about the Republican's influence in City politics when the only Republican they could get to stand up and criticize the direction the City is taking is a former Council member, who lost office last year. The only sitting member of office gave praise to the Mayor. The Republican Party despises the city something fierce, and mostly because we don't tend to vote them into office.

In case you weren't there or didn't catch the replay, here's the text of the prepared speech:
Fountain Square turned 140 years old last year.

Many of you know that the fountain was a gift to the city from Henry Probasco, a local Cincinnati businessman, in honor of his brother in law and mentor, Tyler Davidson. In its history, it has been a site of celebrations, civic engagement, festivals, parties, and even ice skating and broomball. And though it has always been a source of pride, up until several years ago, it had lost its luster. It had even become a site associated with controversy.

But then, because of the pride and commitment of Cincinnatians – the city of Cincinnati, 3CDC, and other partners decided to invest in the square and to promote it as the place to be in Cincinnati.

Fountain Square has become just that, the heartbeat of the entire region and the focal point of everything that is happening downtown.

In order to look to the future of our city, it is important that we maintain a connection with Cincinnati’s past.

The essence of Fountain Square is not in the big TV screen that sits on top of Macy’s; it is in what Henry Probasco wanted to give to the city of Cincinnati, a gathering place, a place to celebrate, to reflect, and to be reminded of what it means to be a Cincinnatian.

That is the formula for a successful Cincinnati. Fountain Square embodies it.

Pride, Commitment, Investment, Partnership, and Promotion.

Pride can be a powerful motivator. It has gotten people to do a lot of things. It has gotten people to take care of their homes, and look after their neighborhoods. Pride has motivated people to start businesses.

It is important for us to understand our own history because it is pride that will ultimately move people to improve our city – both now and for future generations.

If you look around Cincinnati right now, you can see aspects of our history that should make people proud.

Pick a neighborhood: east side, west side, central; it does not matter. Our city is connected to history in so many ways, whether we are talking about philanthropy, business, politics, or sports.

It is important for people to take pride in their neighborhoods. I take pride in the neighborhood I grew up in. So many important figures came from the West End – mayors, council members, judges, state legislators, and that is just in my family.

And speaking of family, my father the first African American Majority Floor Leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, William L. Mallory, is here tonight along with my mother.

The City of Cincinnati has had four African American mayors, and they all came from the West End. The Isley Brothers; world heavyweight champion, Ezzard Charles; the beer barons of the 1880s; one of the early owners of the Cincinnati Reds – they all lived in the West End.

That history is a source of great pride for me. And there are many neighborhoods in this city that have just as much to be proud of.

Mount Adams: home to Playhouse in the Park; the Cincinnati Art Museum; and Rookwood Pottery, the first female owned manufacturing company in the United States; and Nicholas Longworth, a Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1920s.

Madisonville: Founded in 1809 by Revolutionary War veteran, Joseph Ward, and named after newly elected president James Madison. It was also home to Dr. Lucy Oxley, the first Black woman to graduate from the Cincinnati Medical College.

Walnut Hills: home to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In Clifton, the first Hebrew Union College was established by Isaac Wise in 1875. The University of Cincinnati, where cooperative education was pioneered in 1906. And, Cincinnati State, nationally known for its school of culinary arts, which you are going to get a taste of when I am finished talking.

And there is Westwood, once home to James Gamble, an industrialist, civic leader, and inventor of Ivory Soap. Legal issues aside, the reason people on the west side are so adamant about keeping the Gamble House is that it is a huge source of pride.

And that is exactly what I am talking about. Every neighborhood should celebrate its own history.

We need to do more to celebrate our history in order to create more pride in Cincinnati. Pride inspires people to commit to improving our city. Pride also gets people to invest in making this city a better place.

Stan Chesley is a great example of that. He grew up in Avondale, and as a kid, swimming was an important outlet for him because he did not have much else. And I think you all know that Stan is a very successful attorney. But, he still takes a lot of pride in his community. So, what does he spend his time doing? Making sure that our public pools remain open. Making sure that today’s kids have that same opportunity that he had growing up. That is the type of investment that impacts the community.

Those individual investments are shaping the present landscape of Cincinnati. They are paying off.

Take businessman Greg Hardman. He left a successful career and decided to buy Cincinnati’s historic beer brands and bring them back to Cincinnati. He invested in our history. In February, he opened the Christian Moerlein Lager House at The Banks and hired 250 people. The place is always packed. And by the end of the summer, Greg will be brewing all Christian Moerlein beers in Over the Rhine, restoring Cincinnati’s grand brewing tradition.

Look at what else is happening at The Banks.

Two years ago, after a Reds game, win or lose, fans got into their cars and drove out of Downtown.

Tonight, after the Reds beat the Cardinals, fans will have countless opportunities to celebrate within walking distance of the stadium.

If they want to hear some country music, they can go to Toby Keith’s. If they want to get a milkshake, they can go to Johnny Rocket’s. If they want to watch highlights from the game, they can go right across the street to Holy Grail. As a matter of fact, the Holy Grail has been so successful since they opened last year that they have already expanded their space.

This was what The Banks looked like on opening day. PHOTO

And people ask me all the time, “Why do you focus so much on Downtown development?”

The truth is: Downtown is the economic engine for this entire region.

There is no West Chester without Downtown Cincinnati. There is no Mason without Downtown. There is no sub without the urban.

It all works together. A strong and healthy and vibrant Downtown Cincinnati benefits this entire region.

And our Downtown is very successful. That is why companies want to locate in Cincinnati. There is renewed energy. It is vibrant. It is alive. Last year, five companies either moved downtown or increased their investments in downtown.

First Financial Bank relocated their corporate headquarters to 5th Street. Omnicare moved 480 employees into the Atrium 2 Building. KAO USA is in the process of relocating its corporate headquarters into downtown.

And yeah, we lost 270 jobs last year when Chiquita moved to Charlotte. But you know what, Nielsen moved into the Chiquita building and brought 600 jobs.

And dunnhumbyUSA: they started in Cincinnati in 2003 with 3 employees. In March of 2009, I cut the ribbon on their current headquarters when they had 265 employees. Today, they have 520 employees. And just last week, we announced a deal to build a new office tower downtown, which will grow dunnhumby to 1,000 employees by 2014.

The bottom line is that business is thriving downtown.

And those companies are choosing downtown because it is the place to be. They see it as hot. They see that there is activity. They look at Fountain Square and see that there is something going on everyday. They look at the new restaraunts that are coming in; the anticipation of the new 21C hotel. And their employees have told them, “We want to be downtown. We want to be where the restaraunts are. We want to be able to ride the streetcar when it is done.”

And you all know that I could not let you out of here tonight without talking about the streetcar.

Well, we broke ground a few months ago, and we are moving water lines. And, for the last several months, our City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. and his team, Chris Eilerman, project manager, and Michael Moore, the Director of Transportation, have been working with consultants, engineers, and transportation experts from around the country to select the streetcar that we will purchase to begin our system. And tonight, I am happy to announce that we have made the selection. Here is what the car will look like. PHOTO OF NEW STREETCAR

It will be built by CAF USA.

And, before we are even finished with the first phase, we have started work on the second phase. I have already asked for federal funds to study which route will be used to connect to our assets in the uptown area—UC, the hospitals, the zoo, the EPA.

And, imagine for just a moment what the future of passenger rail transportation in this region could look like.

SLIDE 1 (phase 1 of the Streetcar)
Here is the first phase of the streetcar, connecting Findlay Market to the Riverfront. This is what we are currently doing.

SLIDE 2 (adds phase 2 of the Streetcar in Uptown)
Here is a potential option for phase 2. But it does not have to stop there.

SLIDE 3 (adds potential additional future phases)
Future phases could connect to Walnut Hills, the Museum Center, and Northern Kentucky. And rail transportation should include more than just the streetcar.

SLIDE 4 (adds potential light rail lines to the map)
We could do light rail along I-75 and I-71.

SLIDE 5 (adds potential commuter rail lines to the map)
And we could even add a passenger rail line along the Ohio River. And I have got to tell you, I do not believe that we should give up on the idea of high speed rail in this state. Remember, we have got to be willing to make investments for future generations.

The best investment we can ever make in Cincinnati is the effort to keep our community safe.

I have talked about pride. I have talked about investment. The formula for a successful Cincinnati also involves commitment.

And there is nothing more important than the commitment we must all make to keep the community safe.

Last year, we hired two new chiefs: Fire Chief Richard Braun and Police Chief James Craig. Both of them have made improvements in their departments. They have found efficiencies and they are both having a tremendous impact on this community.

A few months ago, while pouring concrete at the casino site, 13 workers were injured when the floor collapsed during construction. When I think about that day, I think about our first responders and their training, their professionalism, and their quick action.

Their response to that emergency situation was impressive. Our firefighters and police officers were organized. They were innovative. They literally built a bridge over a trench in order to evacuate the injured workers.

I am extremely proud of the quick action of our first responders on that day. I mention this to remind you that the city of Cincinnati is prepared to deal with emergencies and we are committed to public safety.

The formula for a successful Cincinnati involves the commitment we must have today and for our future. So, how do we shape Cincinnati’s future?

I talked to a recent college graduate who grew up in Cincinnati and left in the fall of 2005 to go to school. Her plan was to go to school and not return to Cincinnati. When she graduated last May and came back to visit her parents, she saw that the city had changed.

She told me personally, “Mayor, this is a different Cincinnati than the one I remember.” She said she decided to stay because she was optimistic about Cincinnati’s future.

Her story shows that what we are doing is paying off. If you look at how far we have come, I believe we should be feeling good about Cincinnati.

Where are we going in this city? What does our future look like?

For the last two years, Charles Graves, the planning director, and his team have been engaging the community, talking to people about what they want to see developed in their neighborhoods. (PLANNING VIDEO)

I talk about the city as a whole and how we view Cincinnati, but people analyze their individual quality of life by their own neighborhood. I talked about neighborhoods earlier in the speech because that is what we see every day.

We know what we like about our neighborhood and we know what we want to see changed.

The comprehensive plan will be our guide to making those changes happen.

In order to find out what people want, we actually talked to people. We had open houses and meetings in communities across the city for two and a half years. We talked to college students and to high school students.

We even talked to kids. (PICTURES OF CHILDREN’S POTS) In fact, we had kids decorate clay pots with what they wanted to see their city become. The concept is that they planted their dreams in these pots.

Now, it is our responsibility to grow their dreams, to water them. We have to provide nourishment and the proper environment, to make sure their plans see the light of day so the dreams of Cincinnati’s children become a reality.

That is the responsibility that we have as civic leaders. This is exactly what we are doing, preparing our city for the next generation of people. This is why we are building the streetcar. This is why we do all the development that we are doing in Over the Rhine, Downtown, and in our neighborhoods. This is why we are working hard to attract companies here to create jobs.

I have talked about pride, investment, commitment. Here is the fourth element, partnership.

All of you know that 3CDC has been working in partnership with the city of Cincinnati in Over the Rhine to make a dramatic transformation and that partnership has been very successful.

It used to be that on Sunday mornings, people would come to Over the Rhine to buy a week’s worth of drugs. Now, on Sunday mornings, people come to Over the Rhine to eat chicken and waffles at Taste of Belgium.

Jean-Fran├žois recently opened Taste of Belgium in Over the Rhine. Five years ago, his business was just him and a waffle iron. Now, he has three locations and 60 employees.

The space that he occupies at 12th and Vine went from being a hot spot with police runs nearly every day to becoming a hot spot for brunch on Sundays.

That transformation was made possible because of the city’s partnership with 3CDC.

Over the Rhine has truly been transformed. With places like A Tavola, Bakersfield, the Lackman, Senate, Abigail Street, Lavamatic, and the 1215 Wine Bar. Before I was mayor, none of those were there.

So far, 3CDC’s work in Over the Rhine has transformed dilapidated buildings into more than 200 condos and apartments and created 87,000 square feet of commercial space. And there is much more to come.

But the partnership does not stop there. The city parks department and 3CDC are working together to renovate Washington Park.

Established in 1855, Washington Park is one of the oldest parks in our city. The bandstand is 101 years old, and there is a canon in the park that was used during the Civil War. In 1888, the city’s centennial celebration was held in Washington Park to highlight the success of the city’s first 100 years.

Today, with new housing to the north and the east, the School of Creative and Performing Arts to the south, and historic Music Hall to the west, the new Washington Park will bring together residents, students and the arts.

With new features, a redesigned landscape, a parking garage, a fountain, and a full calendar of events, Washington Park will bring people together in a way that it has not been able to in years, just like we saw with the transformation of Fountain Square.

Our partnerships go beyond development. They extend to improving the individual lives of Cincinnatians. I have focused on financial literacy and getting people away from check cashers and into banks and credit unions through my Bank On Greater Cincinnati initiative.

Take a look at this. (BANK ON VIDEO)

Sharon is just one of nearly a thousand people who have gone through Bank On Greater Cincinnati last year.

Let me tell you why this is so important. People who do not have bank accounts spend on average $900 dollars a year on check cashing fees. People who have gone through programs similar to Bank On Greater Cincinnati went from spending $900 dollars a year to saving about $1,000 dollars a year.

If that holds true for Cincinnati, 1,000 people who have gone through our program will go from spending $900,000 dollars a year to saving a million dollars a year. That is nearly a 2 million dollar swing. That is a lot of money being put back into our community.

There is another major partnership that is helping to shape our city. It is great to be able to tell you that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are partners with me in moving Cincinnati forward.

When I ran for mayor, I said I was going to use my relationships with the state and the federal government to bring resources back to the city of Cincinnati. And that is exactly what I have done. In my six and a half years in office, I have gone out and brought back $121 million dollars for various projects to help improve our city. That is just from the federal government.

And sometimes I have to leave the Mayor’s office to make my case because frankly sending a letter or an email or filling out a grant application is not enough to bring back $121 million dollars. The competition for money is tough and the bottom line is, we sent that money to Washington, and I want to bring some of it back, and put it to work in our city.

This brings us to the final part of the formula for a successful Cincinnati: promotion.

I said I would go out and promote the city because it is important, not just nationally, but internationally as well.

Business leaders will tell you all the time that this is a global economy. Well, if we want to compete, we need to be a global municipality. We have to be a global city.

That is why I spend so much time promoting Cincinnati around the country and around the world.

And it is paying off. (FILM COMMISSION VIDEO)

Cincinnati is becoming a destination for film and television production. And that is thanks to the hard work of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission. The video you just saw highlighted the movies and television shows recently shot in Cincinnati.

People around the country and around the globe are paying attention to Cincinnati.

In China, they are talking about our emergency preparedness. In Saudi Arabia, people are looking at Cincinnati for potential business investment. In Germany, people are talking about our cutting edge efforts in the area of sustainability. And right now, all over the world, people are talking about the World Choir Games. (WORLD CHOIR GAMES VIDEO)

We have created an international presence and because of that buzz, we were able to attract the World Choir Games. Make no mistake, this is the greatest opportunity to showcase the city that we have ever had and we earned it.

And now, we have got to be ready. So far, there are 367 choirs from 49 countries registered to compete. Safe to say, tens of thousands of visitors are expected to come to Cincinnati this summer.

We need volunteers. We need people to translate, help manage the crowds, and take tickets. We need people show these visitors around our city.

The city manager is actively encouraging our employees to volunteer at the World Choir Games. Here is how it will work: if a city employee volunteers two hours, they will get an hour of time off up to twelve hours. I think it is a great idea.

So tonight, I am calling on area employers to follow our lead and encourage their employees to volunteer for the World Choir Games.

Now you do not have to do exactly what the city is doing. But, like my mom always said, “You have to do something.”

We need all of you to show our city in the very best light.

Think about what you do when you are expecting a houseguest.

There is a lot of excitement. We vacuum our living rooms. We take out the trash. We polish up the silver. And we start cooking.

We are going to show Cincinnati in the best possible light for the World Choir Games.

Pride. Investment. Commitment. Partnership, and Promotion. That is the formula that we have used to transform our great city.

Tonight, I have shared with you points of pride and stories of success that we can celebrate but what I want to stress is that we cannot stop.

We can celebrate downtown development. We can celebrate our streetcar. We can celebrate those companies that have come to Cincinnati to create jobs.

But there are still a lot of people whose circumstances have not changed. We must continue to challenge ourselves to improve the quality of life for all of those living in Cincinnati today and we must continue to challenge ourselves to invest in our city for future generations.

As I think about the future of Cincinnati, I find myself wondering, what will the mayor say 50 years from now in his or her State of the City address that speaks to this period of time? What will that future mayor be able to cite as examples from this time that talk about pride? Will the mayor be able to talk about investments we made to benefit future generations? Will the mayor talk about our commitment to our city? Will he or she say that we were following the formula for a successful Cincinnati?

Let’s help that mayor, 50 years from now, write the State of the City address. Let’s write it right now. Let’s be one of the stories. You pick the project to commit yourself to. Let’s give the mayor a lot of options from this period of time.

Let’s write our history, together, today.
The Mayor's theme is exactly what Cincinnati and more importantly the surrounding suburbs and exurbs need to feel about greater Cincinnati: Pride. There are too many people who transfer their political and social anger into a hatred of the City and far too often into prejudice of the people living here. Everyone needs to reflect on the positive moves we are making and see them through. We don't need division, like the GOP wants, we need unity. Speeches like this don't bring about much unity, because few are paying attention, but I commend the mayor for his efforts.

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