With 2012 in the past, it’s time to start preparing for a brand new year of politics and policy. From what’s been hinted at so far, progressives could have another big year in 2013, but only if they work for it.
At the local level, the biggest news of 2013 will likely be the mayor and City Council races. With Mayor Mark Mallory term limited, local politicians are now vying for the top local seat. So far, Democrats Roxanne Qualls, former mayor and current council member, and John Cranley, former council member, have popped up as the two big contenders.
Qualls has been endorsed by Mallory and would likely continue many of Mallory’s policies; she’s supportive of the streetcar, Plan Cincinnati and major developments in Over-the-Rhine. In comparison, Cranley supports major downtown developments, but he’s spoken out against the streetcar because he says the money should be invested elsewhere, particularly infrastructure needs.
In other local news, 2013 will bring more development around downtown Cincinnati. The casino will open March 4, and with it will come more jobs and tax revenue. However, a Washington Post analysis found casinos also tend to bring bankruptcy, crime and suicide, so how communities react to the grand opening will be important.
The streetcar will likely continue moving forward as well, but not without opposition. Conservative groups will continue pushing against it, and the city still needs to work out disputes with Duke Energy about who needs to pay for moving utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks.
At a state level, Ohio Republicans are sitting on plenty of legislation that could be unleashed throughout the year.
Bills defunding Planned Parenthood and restricting abortion are likely to come up again with the support of anti-abortion advocates, considering the only person in the Ohio legislature who stopped them — Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus — is leaving the Ohio Senate after being term limited.
Legislation leveraging the Ohio Turnpike for a $3 billion infrastructure program will also come up in 2013. Republicans, particularly Gov. John Kasich, have come out in support of the plan. But, with the big exception of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Ohio Democrats have attacked the plan. It’s a bit of a strange twist, considering the plan is exactly what one would expect from a progressive politician: It leverages a public asset to rebuild Ohio’s roads, with most of the focus on northern Ohio. It’s hard to imagine national Republicans endorsing that sort of plan or national Democrats opposing it.
The state budget will also be a big point of contention. Democrats slammed the last budget for making cuts to local governments and schools. To be sure, the impact of the cuts has been great. Policy Matters Ohio and Innovation Ohio estimate the cuts have amounted to $1 billion less in funding for local governments and $1.8 billion less in funding for Ohio’s schools. That comes at a time when schools and cities are struggling to make ends meet due to a timid economic recovery after the Great Recession. Democrats will likely try to avoid another round of cuts.
Some hints of what will be in the 2014-2015 budget have already trickled out. Kasich’s office says it wants to reform the school funding formula, particularly to increase money for classrooms and reduce money at the administrative level. But that could be challenging, as Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat: “It’s a big undertaking. … Many governors have tried before. Many states have been sued over their formulas. It’s something we have to take our time with and get it done right.”
In other state news, it’s likely FreedomOhio will get same-sex marriage on the Nov. 5 ballot. If that happens, Ohioans will choose whether they want to legalize gay marriage or keep it illegal. Some gay rights groups, including Equality Ohio, are worried the ballot initiative is coming too soon. A Washington Post poll conducted Sept. 19-23 found 52 percent of Ohioans support same-sex marriage and only 37 percent oppose it, with a margin of error of 4.5 points. Still, a December poll from Quinnipiac University found a closer match-up with 45 percent supporting and 47 percent opposing same-sex marriage. CityBeat previously wrote about the same-sex marriage issue and ballot initiative (“The Evolution of Equality,” issue of Nov. 28).
Looking at the poised issues, it’s definitely possible Cincinnati and Ohio progressives could end the year with another progressive mayor, further streetcar development, better funding for schools and infrastructure and legalized same-sex marriage. That’s arguably stronger than 2012.