CINCINNATI – After weeks of speculation and extensive suggestions from city guides on how hundreds of millions should be spent on the expected federal COVID-19 aid funding, residents had their first chance to weigh themselves on Monday afternoon.
One thing quickly became clear: everyone wants a slice of this $ 292 million cake.
During the hearing of the city council’s budget and finance committee on Monday afternoon, around 80 people registered for a video conference. Most were with well-known organizations like the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Flying Pig Marathon, and others.
There were less ordinary, everyday residents or neighborhood representatives, which gave some committee members a break.
“We as the council need to do our job, do our diligence and really get everyone involved,” said councilor Greg Landsman, questioning how much community engagement there was before the administration and Mayor John Cranley began to reveal their recommendations.
“So we have to work a lot harder to get more and more people engaged,” he said.
Posting memos and holding press conferences on how the city might spend the COVID-19 aid money created confusion among city residents who may now believe everything will be spoken for, worried Landsman.
“The administration and the mayor came up with their proposal, and I think what has puzzled people is that this is a deal … it’s already spent,” Landsman said Monday. “So the people who got engaged are people who first and foremost have what the administration and the mayor put in front of the people.”
In the weeks following the passage of the American Recovery Plan Act early last month, the city council released two memos outlining possible uses for the funding, including a number of capital projects proposed by Cranley, including money to bring back the popular arts and light Festival, BLINK, arts program funding, new recreational facilities, and a highly anticipated trail project along the Ohio River.
Councilor Steve Goodin said the process “needs to be slowed down” and compared it to a reality game show.
“It feels a bit like the TV show ‘Shark Tank’. Everyone comes in with a two-minute pitch and we’re not Santa. We have to think very carefully about how we’re going to spend that money, and I think we have to slow that down. “
For Landsman, without hearing from more local residents and small business owners, the city council will not know how best to use the money on the actual COVID relief that is helping families.
“There’s a lot going on about our small businesses, the barriers to work, and what the average family is dealing with, but we’re not going to understand exactly where to put those dollars into until we hear from everyone, and we will Last months, not weeks, “Landsman said.
City officials expect the budget to be allocated by May 11th. The city council has until June 30th to finalize its budget for the next fiscal year.
Councilor and committee chairman David Mann has launched an online poll that allows people who do not want to speak to the committee directly to give their opinion.