Cincinnati Edition Transcript: David Mann on why he wants to be mayor

Early voting starts Oct. 5, and with it comes some big choices for Cincinnati voters. With Mayor John Cranley term limited, the contest for a new head executive has Cincinnati City Council Member David Mann facing Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. Cincinnati Edition sat down with both candidates to dig in on their proposals for the future of the Queen City. Here’s our conversation with David Mann.

READ: A transcript of Cincinnati Edition’s interview with Aftab Pureval

Michael Monks: Cincinnati City Councilman David Mann is a candidate for Cincinnati Mayor. Councilman Mann, thank you for taking some time with us.

David Mann: Michael, good morning. It’s great to be with you.

MM: Well, it’s nice to have you back on the program. And we’re going to talk about the campaign and a lot of the issues. But first, you’ve been active in Cincinnati politics for a long time. And I’m wondering if there’s something unique, other than the obvious over the past 18-19 months that we’ve all been dealing with, that you’ve learned about this city that you’ve worked in and worked for, for so long. What did you learn about Cincinnati during this period of economic strife, of elections and uncertainty around a pandemic, and racial justice movements? And all this stuff that we’ve been dealing with?

DM: Well, that’s a very good question. And I think most significantly, and we’ve all been able to pull together, I detect a spirit of concern for one another that in some ways, reminds me of what I heard about the, from my parents and grandparents about the depression, about World War II. And if we’re going to survive as a society and humanity, we obviously have to come together in that way. So that is it. And you know, nobody enjoys wearing a mask, and nobody enjoys unrolling their shirt and having a vaccination. But most people have seen that those were important things to do not just to protect themselves to put protect their fellow citizen.

MM: Well, let’s talk about specifically what you’ve learned about the role of city government. Because we know that there was not a strong federal response in the early days of the pandemic, a lot of the decision making about how to respond both for health and economic purposes were left to the local governments or the state governments. And then when the federal government acted with some federal financial support, it was the local governments that were handing out money to businesses and that sort of thing. What have you learned specifically about the role of municipal government in Cincinnati over the past couple of years?

DM: Well, it’s there’s a lot of interesting things, I recall being a call of Mayor Cranley saying, I’m going to declare an emergency. And that gives me a lot of powers. And I had a pause for a moment. And of course, as we gave him those powers, we reserve the right to revoke them on seven day’s notice. And I said, I don’t think we have a choice. And I trust your judgment. And we’ll be looking over your shoulder, of course, but and I think he did a very exceptional job in a lot of respects. And I think we learned a lot about the talents of our health commissioner, Commissioner Moore, responded in so many significant ways early on, as we struggled to understand that what protections within the city workforce need to be taken, and more broadly, what advice she could offer to the community at large in those days when we didn’t have a vaccination hadn’t even been developed yet.

And there we are trying to figure out how to keep people safe. And the health department stepped up the plate very quickly, and set up procedures for health department personnel, as cases were diagnosed to do what came to be called contact tracing. And I know any number of citizens were called and told that I understand you have COVID. Now, who are you in contact with, or once we learn the names of folks with whom they’ve been contact, I have the sad news to tell you that you’ve been exposed to somebody that has COVID. And here’s what you should do to protect yourself and protect the community. And the list of things goes on.

We were asking first responders to continue to do their jobs, even though a lot of them in early days did acquire a COVID. So there’s a lot to work through. And I think we were learning as we went. I think we were blessed. Personally, I think we’re blessed with a governor who did a very good job.

MM: We’re talking to Cincinnati City Councilman David Mann, a candidate in this year’s race for Cincinnati mayor. So Councilman, you are obviously currently on the city council, it has been a challenging year for that governing body as well as multiple members have been indicted on federal charges, one convicted and sentenced to challenging those charges proclaiming their innocence and still fighting them through the justice system process. But it has impacted the community a lot of ways. And there are questions on a lot of people’s minds about corruption among city officials. And the way to respond to it. I want to know first off, I know some efforts have already been undertaken by the current government to address corruption. And maybe the voters will be considering their own responses in November, of course, but what happens if David Mann is mayor, as it relates to corruption in Cincinnati City Hall.

DM: Well, first of all, right after these incidents broke, and I have to tell you, I’ve had the privilege of serving on and off over a number of years at Cincinnati City Council, and this is these experiences are deeply painful, and unlike anything that I’ve experienced in all my years of service. And we should all grieve anytime there’s allegations or indictments or convictions of someone for violating public trust. That’s a big deal, a really big deal. Because at the end of the day, our democracy and our government has to be dependent on number one, the reality that elected officials are not corrupt. And number two, that the citizens they represent, believe that and that’s one of the biggest differentiations between government in America generally and abroad.

There are so many supposed democracies around the globe who are filled with corruption of all kinds. And as companies evaluate where to do business, they stay away from countries where payoff is a practice.

Now, as these things broke, I presented legislation to create a reform panel, a blue ribbon review group that I think did a great job. They came to us this summer with a series of recommendations. It was a group chaired by retired Common Pleas judge Ann Marie Tracey, who also served for a time as the Chair of the Ohio State Ethics Commission. So she knows her stuff. Some of the other members included the Dean of the law school here and at the University of Cincinnati, Verna Williams, for folks with political experience, religious community and the like.

Basically, what’s being recommended, and what’s what we’re in the process of considering and preparing, enabling legislation includes a code of conduct that applies to elected officials, non-elected public officials, and developers and anyone dealing with the city, it makes it clear that, for instance, as a city is negotiating with a developer about a possible project in the city of Cincinnati, it is inappropriate and not to happen that the developer contacts members of council that the member of council discusses the details of the project with the developer. And the code of conduct says that’s not to happen. And obviously, if the developer violates that expectation, he’s probably going to be de-barred for a time for doing business with the city. We’re going to change some of the rules about tracking contributions. And of course, raising money in a political campaign is one of the realities of our democratic system. And we expect candidates and we expect donors to separate the question of whether it’s to support a candidate whether they’ve asked somebody for support from the question whether the donor has or expects to have business within the city.

MM: And I want to note that we’ve only got about eight minutes left to chat here Councilman and I want to hit crime in the city, I want to hit affordable housing, I want to give you an opportunity to talk about your opponent as well. And so first, let’s address crime. Cincinnati is not alone among major cities across the country to be increasingly concerned about violent crime. And this is all happening in the backdrop of last year’s racial justice movements where there have been calls for reform to the way cities police their citizens and provide those types of services. So first, how do you address violent crime? And then what are your thoughts on potential reforms to policing here, we’ll start with the response to violent crime.

DM: We had a hearing before the Law and Public Safety Committee reviewing crime statistics and fortunately, this year, fortunately even though a lot of people are being killed, a lot of people are victims of shootings, and that’s sad. And the chief made the, I think, the very effective inclusion in his presentation of pictures of all the victims of the homicides, which are 65 or so far this year, which is fortunately down from last year. I’m sorry, yeah, it is down. But last year was deemed a very unusual year, because the pandemic and all the impacts that was having on how we relate to each other and how we feel about ourselves and our society. But unlike many cities of the country, our numbers are also down, not just comparison to last year, but also 2019 2018 2017. This is all good. It’s bad if anybody gets killed, it’s bad if anybody’s the victim of a shooting. A lot of the shootings are done by juveniles, which is troubling. And the chief and his folks made the point of emphasizing that, contrary to popular wisdom, conventional wisdom, a lot of this has to do with drugs, it has to do with a lot of other things in our society.

To the question of reform, we’re blessed, if that’s the right term, by some 20 years of serious reforms in Cincinnati, and this was triggered by our own George Floyd situation that the killing of Timothy Thomas 20 years, a teenager in the West End, some 20 years ago. And following that, we had, as you would expect, and is appropriate, peaceful protest. And we entered into a collaborative agreement overseen by federal judge Dlott and I was gone at that time. That was a period of my absence from public service and I came back the difference in policing, attitudes of officers, engagement of the police department with neighborhoods and community leaders had been transformed. And that continues to this day, and we are a model for many communities around the country. Just this spring we add a report from the city administration and the police department, measuring us by the recommendations of the National Conference on Mayors of best police practices, and we do very, very, very well.

Now, as I say to people, I have not seen a community leader nor a resident of the city, who is in a community that has been troubled by violent crimes, homicides, shootings and all the rest saying there are too many police officers in our neighborhood. So we need to support our police, which doesn’t mean no matter what they do. It means support the police, understand the risks they take for us. And if there’s is a problem about a particular officer crossing the line in the wrong way, that has to be taken seriously, too.

And the other point I would make, there’s so many talk and so much talk about reform. That document that I referred to, the analysis of our responses to many things have been suggested at the National Conference on Mayors is very comforting. I mean, we do so many things to de-escalate, so many things, to find ways to respond, to relate to citizens in a way that doesn’t lead to harm to anybody. And that doesn’t mean there aren’t some bad guys. And when there are bad guys, they have to be dealt with, to protect citizens. But I think we can be proud and I think it’s important not to suggest that there are big, big problems as we continue to evolve. And the police department, in my experience is deeply committed to continuous improvement. And in collaboration with the community leaders, under the Collaborative Agreement is called community based problem solving. And it’s gotten us a long, effective way in the last 20 years.

MM: We’re talking with Cincinnati City Councilman David Mann, who is a candidate in this year’s mayoral election in Cincinnati. Councilman you’re facing Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. You wrote an article, excuse me an op-ed for the Cincinnati Enquirer, you said that quote, “Aftab fits the mold of the ambitious politician. This is the fourth campaign in five years and the third different office he has sought.” This issue also came up between you two in a recent debate. I want to note that the Aftab Pureval campaign sent out an announcement or I guess a fact check. They called it, countering you, they said that in the early 90s, David Mann once stood for four elections for three different offices within a single year. You became mayor in 1991, re-elected to council and that November, and then the following February in 92, announced a court of appeals campaign, and then you abandon that campaign, they said to run for Congress in 1992. So have you been guilty of the thing you’ve accused Mr. Pureval of being guilty of?

DM: You know, I was never in the kind of hurry that Mr. Pureval is in. I was appointed to counsel nearly 20 years before the early 90s. And I served without pursuing any other office in those days, the City Council terms for two years. So yes, I had an election every two years, but it was for the same office. And then I became mayor. And in those days, I became mayor because of my colleagues selected me to be mayor. That was our system then. That happened three times. I was mayor three years under that system. And I did not pursue any other office, except when I was term limited. The charter was amended to limit folks to eight years. And so yes, I filed for a judge and then the US Congress seat became available. So I shifted to that. Was elected to Congress. And then two years later was brought home with the voters, they apparently wanted me to be around full time. And, and I respected their wish and then as a private citizen, I ran for judge another time. And then I happily spent some 20 years practicing law with my son in the firm of Mann and Mann. And then having become involved in something called Beyond Civility that was devoted to trying to explore whether we couldn’t have politics that was more civilized and has so often become the case in recent years. Then I came back and the voters were kind enough to return me after a 20 year sabbatical. I call it.

MM: Councilman we know that one of the other major issues facing the people of Cincinnati and all over Hamilton County is lack of affordable housing. The issue was attempted to be dealt with back in the primary when a ballot issue was up for consideration. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the price tag on that but it doesn’t lessen the idea that this is a serious problem. And I’m wondering how you might address improving people’s access to affordable housing in Cincinnati. If you’re elected mayor here in our last couple of minutes together.

DM: It is a serious problem and I’ve been working on it quite a bit. In this term. I’m probably the leader on the current council finding initiatives for affordable housing. My ordinance that I presented to council was approved that created the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I then submitted a separate ordinance that created the first committed revenue for the Housing Trust Fund. It was a tax on short term rental activity Airbnbs and the like. Last year as budget chair we approved the budget in 2020 that dedicated 25% of the funds in a district TIFFS to affordable housing. This year, thanks to the money available to us from the rescue package, we set aside $19 million for affordable housing. In addition, we have approved the manager’s proposal that we borrow $34 million from HUD to create a revolving loan fund. So lots going on, and a lot has been going on, we have been creating units of affordable housing, it’s no easy task. To do it well is even a tougher task. You can’t just throw up housing and say, okay, this is where some poor people can live. We want it to be integrated with housing throughout the community. And that’s why we need to be careful how we do it. So the foundation is laid for some really important initiatives in affordable housing. And as mayor, I will continue those and yes, it’s a real problem. The other piece of the problem is, you know, affordable housing is defined by how much what percentage of your income you have to spend on housing. So the better your job is, the better your income, the less likely it is that you have a problem with finding affordable housing. So we need to concentrate also on job growth and improving your income level. So it’s a two-fold approach as I see it.

MM: All right, Councilman David Mann, a candidate for mayor here in Cincinnati this November he faces Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval. Councilman Mann, thank you so much for the time you gave us we’ll look forward to talking to you again.

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