I joined Cincinnati City Council in 2013 with a clear vision of who I wanted to be as a council member. With my experience in the private sector with Procter & Gamble, I wanted to be an elected official who would be willing to speak on behalf of values that should be important to all elected officials: jobs, fiscal responsibility and transparency. In short, I wanted to be an advocate for the taxpayer.
I wanted to be a voice for these values during my time on council, and I believe that I have been.
In 2013, we were facing looming budget deficits and a pension crisis that had the potential to drive us into bankruptcy. Within this administration’s first year, we not only fixed the pension crisis but also passed the first structurally balanced budget in a decade.
To me, budgets are more than just numbers in a spreadsheet. Keeping our fiscal house in order not only allows us to provide basic services but also to invest in the programs and projects that make our city great.
After inheriting a budget deficit during my first year, we find ourselves facing another major shortfall four years later. For this upcoming fiscal year, the budget is projected to have a $25.1 million deficit.
This deficit is a pressing issue for all Cincinnatians, and it’s an issue that I take very seriously. However, some of my fellow members on council just don’t seem to understand how important it is for government to operate on a structurally balanced budget.
After discussing the budget shortfall for hours during a recent Budget Committee meeting, a few members of council wanted the city to raise the minimum wage for part-time workers to $15 an hour. Instead of providing suggestions to help solve the deficit, my colleagues were trying to contribute an additional $2.4 million to it.
I wish we could reward our great part-time employees with a raise. They are a valuable asset to our city and I cannot express how appreciative we are of the work they do. But, irresponsible fiscal proposals (like this one) could actually lead to us not being able to keep them employed at all.
When departments were tasked with making recommendations for potential cuts to their services, these suggestions included the possibility of closing a number of recreation centers and pools. These are the very kinds of facilities that employ our part-time workers and without these centers in operation, the wonderful employees who would, in theory, see the $15 minimum wage could actually potentially lose their jobs altogether.
My colleagues on council just don’t seem to understand that when they make these kinds of proposals, they aren’t helping to put money in workers’ pockets. In fact, they are doing the exact opposite when those jobs disappear due to poor budget management.
In times of financial hardship, we need leaders to advocate for common-sense, pragmatic solutions. Making the right decision isn’t always the same as making the easy decision.
I hope the rest of council would take that lesson to heart.