Really, the world could just use a few more people like him, too.
It’s not hard to check the news every day and be jaded by the ethos and pathos (or lack thereof) that dictates a nauseatingly large portion of modern-day politics, no matter where you’re looking.
Cincinnati City Council candidate Mike Moroski is not that kind of political candidate.
Moroski first became something of a media darling in February, when he gained national fame after he was terminated from his position as dean of student life at Purcell Marian High School for posting an entry on his personal blog in support of same-sex marriage.
But that affair allowed him to this year jump into the council race, a move he’s been anticipating for seven years. His self-politicking only began this year, but it’s bolstered by a career of altruism with a calculated interest in social justice and welfare and a consistent record of making people-centric decisions and taking action when he spots a wrong.
He calls it being a “voice for the voiceless.”
That record dates all the way back to adolescence, when a teacher recommended he watch American History X and Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee, both of which woke him up to the privileges he’d been inherently granted as a white male from a middle-class family and mobilized a lifelong career defined by magnanimity and compassion for others.
Moroski shares similarities with some of the strongest and most well-respected members of council today: Like Councilman Chris Seelbach, Moroski has warmly embraced social media as a tool to positively interact with his constituents and answer questions. And like Councilman Wendell Young, he’s demonstrated an earnest devotion to working on issues that affect the city’s most unfortunate.
But Moroski has earned his own spotlight with his reputation as a staggeringly authentic, earnest and easygoing Cincinnatian bubbling over with integrity, enthusiasm, open-mindedness and morality that’s not just rare in politics; it’s a rare combination to find anywhere.
His campaign platform, which is laid out with aggressive, tangible ideas to move the city forward, unsurprisingly perpetuates his passion for assisting the city’s low-income and homeless populations. He cites three measurable objectives most important to him: reducing recidivism rates by 10 percent, reducing the child poverty rate by 10 percent and upping the city’s population by 10 percent.
And he’s really only faced one criticism — he’s never actually held political office, which has borne some fear that he’d go into Council ill-prepared to navigate a profession sometimes riddled with cronyism and bureaucracy.
But his presence at the 2013 City Council candidate forum CityBeat sponsored with the League of Women Voters demonstrated his preparedness.
Moroski spoke about drafting anti-displacement legislation and implementing social impact bonds, a progressive idea relatively new to the U.S. that would form partnerships between private, government and not-for-profit sectors to help reduce recidivism rates. And he’s used his well-foddered personal blog to issue thoughtful analyses and concrete descriptions of his plans to realize those objectives.
Moroski describes his solutions as “economically moral initiatives” — legislative and social reforms that serve his love for people but also benefit hoi polloi on the whole — including skeptics who are most interested in maintaining low taxes.
He’s addressed his frustration with the Hamilton County sheriff’s controversial new policy to evict homeless people who’ve historically found respite at the Hamilton County Justice Center, which he critiques address only the surface symptoms, not the cause, of homelessness and urban crime in Cincinnati.
Although he praises much of the redevelopment efforts achieved by the current iteration of Council, he says there’s still been a glaring lack of focus on reducing the city’s recidivism rates.
“If you have a city like Cincinnati where one third of people live in poverty and 50 percent of the children live under this federal poverty line, you are setting yourself up for a massive disaster. When you have a city that is an African-American majority and the African-American community only has about one percent of shared business equity in the city, you are heading for disaster,” he says. “No secret, if somebody’s in prison, they’re not only raising your taxes to be in prison, they’re not working and they’re not going to dinner at Senate.”
That mindset is at the root of his proposals for anti-displacement legislation in Cincinnati, an issue he wrote about extensively on his personal blog to expand on his frustration with Western & Southern’s ability to trump elected authority in its property brawl with the Anna Louise Inn — a progression Moroski describes as a dangerous precedent for the city.
“I was thinking, ‘Why aren’t more people pissed off that some guy, because he had enough money, literally overrode the elected representation we gave those people?’” he says.
Those safeguards would make another corporate commandeering like Western & Southern’s illegal, as well as protect and expand affordable housing stock and discourage slum-lording.
The objective at the root of his anti-displacement legislation closely echoes his six-step plan to improve the city’s visitability and accessibility for people with disabilities — particularly mobility issues with access to transportation and local businesses — and addressing the shortcomings so those citizens too can interact with the city’s economy to their fullest potential.
In fact, his holistic approach to improving the city by working to equalize the city’s classes through social and legislative reform ripples through just about everything he stands for.
“For me, this is a moral issue. And I don’t expect it to be for everybody. I wouldn’t wish the way I feel about people on anybody because it’ll keep you up at night and it’ll make you go crazy and you’ll want to run for council,” Moroski laughs. “So I’m not wishing that on anyone. But economically, it matters too.”
As a teacher, Moroski worked with students on inner-city affordable housing projects in Over-the-Rhine and opened a not-for-profit coffee shop on Elm Street, Choices Café, which helped earn him a spot on the Drop-Inn Center’s board of trustees. He also went back to school to earn a master’s degree in non-profit business administration, served on the executive board at WordPlay Cincy and earned a multitude of accolades for his community involvement, including a spot in the Business Courier’s 2012 40 Under Forty list.
He also took the initiative during his time at Purcell Marian to revamp the school’s administrative structure — a mission he says arose from his frustration with the school’s limited ability to accept low-income students. It was a challenge, he says, to keep the school financially viable while implementing policies inclusive to disadvantaged populations. His model was accepted and implemented following his termination — proof that even partisanship doesn’t have to get in the way of good ideas.
Moroski is a reminder of why we should vote, because he’s a voice that would be foolish to ignore. But he’s also proof a councilman need not be an insider with a political science degree or have a well-oiled political team of strategists and an army of deep-pocketed supporters. We should look for the kind of person we trust to go in and make holistic, well-rounded decisions and take proactive measures to make this city a better place — without us suspecting any kind of covert agenda. And we see that in Mike Moroski.
CityBeat endorses MIKE MOROSKI for Cincinnati City Council. Find the official endorsement here.