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by Andy Brownfield 12.14.2012
 
 
city hall

Council Passes Budget Reliant on Parking Lease

Council also approves 2014 property tax increase

Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a budget that relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34 million budget deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.

Mayor Mark Mallory opened up the council meeting with a moment of silent prayer for the 27 students and adults killed at an elementary school in Connecticut.

“I want us all to take a moment and put into perspective what we’re doing today,” he said.

Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24 percent, from 4.6 mills (a mill is equal to one-tenth of a cent) to 5.71 mills. That means Cincinnatians would pay an additional $34 for every $100,000 of their home’s value.

The vote reverses a move made last year by conservatives on council, who reduced property taxes.

Council also passed a budget that relies on $21 million from a proposed lease of the city’s parking facilities — a deal that is expected to be voted on in March. Of the proposals submitted to the city so far, Cincinnati stands to gain $100 million to $150 million in an upfront payment and a share of the profits over the 30-year lease.

“My concern about balancing this budget with a onetime revenue source by selling our parking system seems to be ill advised,” said Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman. “We don’t know how council will vote in March … but we have tied not only the budget to this one time revenue source, but we have also tied reciprocity.”

Council nixed a plan to eliminate tax reciprocity for people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both cities. 

Though the budget doesn’t mention parking privatization, council hasn’t mentioned other options to close the budget deficit.

If opponents of parking privatization want to keep facilities under city control, they would have to come up with $21 million in revenue elsewhere or make $21 million in cuts. 

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld suggested using casino revenue, cutting travel expenses, downsizing the ratio of managers to workers, sharing services with nearby jurisdictions and downsizing the city’s fleet as ways to cut down the budget.

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, long an advocate of downsizing the police and fire departments, voted against the property tax increase in protest of what she said was bloated spending on departments that were outpacing population growth.

The budget also requires Cincinnati to accept police and fire recruit classes in 2014, regardless of whether the city gets a federal grant to fund the classes. 

The budget also restores the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol, which patrols downtown on horseback. The city will use $105,000 from off-duty detail fees from businesses that hire off-duty officers. Council also voted to start charging those businesses an extra $1.64 on top of the off-duty pay.

Council also voted to shift $50,000 for repairs and upgrades to the Contemporary Arts Center to pay for maintenance and beautification at Washington Park, which is operated by 3CDC.

 
 
by German Lopez 09.17.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
city hall

Qualls, Cranley Face Off in First Post-Primary Mayoral Debate

Candidates agree on much, disagree on streetcar and parking lease

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and ex-Councilman John Cranley today channeled much of their disagreement on the streetcar project and parking lease when they met for the first post-primary mayoral debate.

For both the candidates, the issues are about where they want to see the city going. Cranley says the city government lacks transparency and openness as it prioritizes controversial ideas to support downtown over Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. Qualls says the investments are continuing Cincinnati’s nationally recognized momentum and bringing growth to both downtown and the neighborhoods.

Whether the subject was the Metro bus system or bringing more flights to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Cranley repeatedly referenced his opposition to the streetcar project and his belief that it is siphoning city funds away from more important projects and forcing the city to raise property taxes to pay for debt.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees,” Cranley said. “We have to re-prioritize.”

Qualls argued the streetcar project will produce economic growth and grow the city’s tax base, which the city could then leverage for more development projects. That claim has been backed by studies from consulting firm HDR and the University of Cincinnati, which put the streetcar’s return on investment at three-to-one.

Cranley argued Hop On Cincinnati, a trackless trolley system, is a better option. He said the project would cost considerably less and come with more flexibility since it wouldn’t run on set tracks.

But in a 2007 letter citing swathes of data from cities around the nation, Charlie Hales, now mayor of Portland, Ore., found trackless trolleys consistently underperformed rail projects in terms of economic development and ridership.

At this point, cancelling the streetcar project would also carry its own costs. As of May, city officials estimated they had already spent $20 million on the project and cancelling it would cost another $45 million in federal funding and $14 million in close-out costs.

But expanding the streetcar project into a second phase, as Qualls advocated, would also carry its own set of unknown costs.

On other issues, Qualls touted the city’s plans to lease its parking assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority as a potential avenue for economic development.

Qualls and the current city administration originally supported leveraging the city’s parking meters, lots and garages through the lease to pay for budget gaps and economic development projects. But as the city managed to balance its budget without the lease, the focus has moved toward using the lump-sum and annual payments from the lease to only pay for more development projects.

Cranley claimed, as he long has, that the deal will have a negative impact on a generation by shifting control of the city’s parking assets from the local government to the unelected Port Authority and private companies. He also criticized Qualls and the city administration for withholding a memo that criticized the lease’s financial details and hastily pursuing the lease with limited public input.

Cranley also implied that the deal will actually lower long-term revenues by capping the city’s parking revenues at $3 million a year.

“It’s almost hard to respond to such misinformation, quite frankly,” Qualls responded.

On top of an estimated $92 million lump sum, the city projects that annual payments will start at $3 million a year but eventually grow much larger. Qualls claimed the yearly installments would reach $20 million by the end of the 30-year lease.

Qualls also took issue with Cranley’s assertion that the Port Authority is withholding contract documents for the private companies it will hire to operate Cincinnati’s parking assets. She reminded Cranley that Port board members explicitly told him at a public meeting that those documents will be made public two weeks before they’re signed.

The candidates also sparred on a number of issues typical of political campaigns: government transparency, negative campaign ads and rhetoric vs. facts.

But the debate also highlighted the large amount of agreement between Qualls and Cranley. Both agree the city shouldn’t increase the earnings tax. Both claim Cincinnati needs to structurally balance its budget and stop using one-time sources for budget fixes. Both echoed the need to leverage federal support for the Brent Spence Bridge project. Both criticized the state for refusing to grant tax credits to Pure Romance, a local company that is now considering moving to Covington, Ky., because of the state’s refusal.

Cranley and Qualls got the most votes in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary, allowing both to advance to the general election. Cranley received 55.9 percent of the vote, while Qualls obtained 37.2 percent. Their opponents each failed to break 5 percent.

Voter turnout for the mayoral primary was only 5.68 percent. That was lower than the 15-percent turnout for the mayoral primary held on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the 21-percent turnout for the 2005 mayoral primary.

In the past two mayoral races with primaries, the primary winner went on to lose the general election.

Voters will get to decide between Qualls and Cranley, along with City Council candidates and other ballot issues, on Nov. 5.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.01.2013
 
 
streetcar

Court to Decide Dispute over Streetcar Utility Lines

Mallory announces construction to begin in April on track for 2015 completion

Another hurdle in the ongoing struggle to make the streetcar a reality was bypassed today, when Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. announced that after months entangled in a gridlock, Duke Energy and the city of Cincinnati have finally reached an agreement over who will pay for the relocation of utility lines.

Somewhat of an agreement, anyway. Mallory said that the city and Duke will go before a judge in Common Pleas court, who will make the final decision as to who should pay for the utility relocation. According to the agreement, Duke Energy will begin moving its utilities in the next few weeks, and the court decision will determine cost responsibility later. The city and Duke are expected to file in Common Pleas court within the next few weeks, although the court decision could take years to finalize.

The city broke ground on the streetcar nearly a year ago, but the skirmish between Duke and the city delayed further development — Duke refused to begin any kind of construction before financial responsibility was determined.

The reconciliation contains two separate agreements, one of which outlines how Duke will safely operate its utilities once the streetcar is in place. The other demarcates how Duke and the city will resolve the issue of financial responsibility; they've both agreed to abide by the court ruling after any appeals are exhausted.
 
"The utilities' agreements are in place, the cars are being ordered and the construction bids are coming in," announced Dohoney.

Roxanne Qualls, city council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, has long been a supporter of the streetcar project, which she values as an indispensable economic investment for the city of Cincinnati. Yesterday, Qualls announced her request for the city to ramp up the streetcar construction timeline in order to have the project completed in time for the All-Star Games, which will take place in Cincinnati July 2015. Her announcement came just weeks after the city revised its timetable to delay project completion until April 2016.

In a letter from Qualls to Mallory and Dohoney, she explains: “This may present a challenge, but it is one I am sure the administration is capable of meeting. The streetcar will serve a critical role in efficiently and effectively moving visitors to and from Great American Ballpark and allowing them to conveniently visit other venues such as Fountain Square, Horseshoe Casino, Over-the-Rhine, Washington Park, etc.”

At the meeting, Mallory announced that the city would shoot for construction to be completed prior to the games, but there were no guarantees. The streetcar builder will ultimately set the timeline for the project, according to Jason Barron, Mallory's director of public affairs.

CityBeat recently covered the streetcar project's delays and how the 2013 mayoral race could affect its progress here.


 
 
by German Lopez 10.11.2012
Posted In: News, Mayor, Education, CPS at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mark mallory

City, CPS Win $40,000 Grant

Grant will support 50 tutors helping 100 students

The mayor, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) and The Strive Partnership announced today a new joint initiative that won a $40,000 grant. The grant, which is funded by Target through the Cities of Service and Service Nation, will help tutors teach kids how to read by the third grade.

Mayor Mark Mallory made the announcement in a joint press statement with CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan and The Strive Partnership Executive Director Greg Landsman. 

With the money, 50 tutors will help 100 students in first, second and third grade in five schools to meet the state’s new Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires third-grade students to be proficient in reading in state tests before advancing to the fourth grade.

“It all starts with reading,” Mallory said in a statement.  “And there is no better way to help our kids learn to read than with one-on-one tutors who they can get to know and trust. A committed adult can make learning to read fun. This grant is going to have a huge impact on the lives of a lot of kids.”

The tutors will focus on five CPS schools: Roberts Paideia Academy in East Price Hill, Rockdale Academy in Avondale, Mt. Airy School, Pleasant Hill Academy in College Hill and Pleasant Ridge Montessori School.

Cincinnati was one of eight cities to win the grant. The other winners are Atlanta, Ga.; Baltimore, Md.; Charleston, S.C.; Chula Vista, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; and Vicksburg, Miss.

The new state reading requirement, which was pushed by Republican Gov. John Kasich, has received criticism from some Democrats and education experts. Research shows holding kids back hurts more than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 02.20.2013
Posted In: Health, News, Mayor at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
german cute

Cincinnati in Running for $5 Million to Reduce Infant Mortality

Mayor Mark Mallory's proposal earns finalist spot in nationwide competition

Babies in Cincinnati don't get the same chance to celebrate a first birthday as do babies in other areas across the country, and Mayor Mark Mallory has entered Cincinnati into a contest that could change that.

Today, a proposal Mallory submitted was selected as one of 20 finalists from more than 305 cities in the Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition designed to propel mayors from around the country to dream up innovative solutions to urban problems and improve city life.
It's partnered with The Huffington Post to give readers the chance to explore each finalists' proposal and vote on their favorite. Each city's proposal tackles a different flaw — ours, perhaps, is among the most pressing of the bunch: dealing with alarmingly high infant mortality rates

Infant mortality rates are typically measured by the number of deaths of babies under one year of age per 1,000 live births. Infant mortality rates in Cincinnati are at 13.6; the national average is 6less than half that.

Mallory puts the issue in perspective on the proposal's page on The Huffington Post: "In Cincinnati, we have had more infant deaths in recent years than victims of homicide. Our community, justifiably, invests millions of dollars, immense political capital, and large amounts of media attention in reducing our homicide rate. It's time to start doing the same for our infant mortality rate."

Mallory's proposal would create an Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which, according to a press release sent out by Mallory's office, has already been launched via a pilot version with significant success. Here's how it works: When a woman finds out she's pregnant, she's enrolled in First Steps, a care program that maintains a secure database of new mothers and monitors pregnancies.

The competition garnered applications from 305 cities, and Cincinnati was one of 20 finalists selected. If recognized, Cincinnati could win a $5 million prize or one of four $1 million prizes to help implement and sustain the Infant Mortality Network.

"City after city deals with this issue, but in Cincinnati, we are dealing with an infant mortality rate that is twice the national average. And half of those deaths occur in just five zip codes. So we know exactly where the problem is, we know exactly what community is having the issue. ... We're really trying to create a program in Cincinnati that can be replicated all across the country. So that in city after city, they can see the same type of success that we are seeing  — continuing to drive that infant mortality rate down so that we are saving babies' lives," Mallory says in the Mayors Challenge finalist video below.

According to data from 2007-09 from the Cincinnati Health Department, the five zip codes experiencing the highest infant mortality rates are: 45219 (30.4), 45202 (24.2), 45246 (20.7), 45203 (20.1) and 45214 (19.2). For more detailed information from the Cincinnati Health Department, click here.

Watch the full finalist video:



Right now, you can vote for the best proposal on The Huffington Post. This November, a team assembled by each city will travel to New York for a conference, where teams will work together and improve their ideas. Winners will be announced in spring 2014.
 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.10.2012
Posted In: Mayor, City Council, Republicans at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
winburn

Local GOP Has Dueling Responses to State of the City Address

Winburn, Murray will speak after Mallory's speech

In a replay of the Republican kerfuffle after President Obama’s State of the Nation address last year, there will be dueling GOP responses tonight to Mayor Mark Mallory’s State of the City address.

The Hamilton County Republican Party sent a press release this afternoon announcing that Amy Murray, an ex-Cincinnati City Council member, would provide the GOP’s formal response to Mallory’s speech.

A Democrat, Mallory will give his seventh State of the City address at 6:30 p.m. It will be presented in the Jarson-Kaplan Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, located at 650 Walnut St., downtown.

After the press release about Murray’s response arrived at 2:55 p.m., however, current City Councilman Charlie Winburn sent a notice from his council office at 3:39 p.m. In the notice, Winburn announced he “will be available to give the Republican response” immediately after the mayor’s speech.

Winburn’s release helpfully noted that he is “the only Republican on Cincinnati City Council,” in case anyone wasn’t sure.

The concurrent responses are similar to what occurred after Obama’s speech in January 2011. At that time, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was selected to give the GOP’s official response to the address. But U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), then a rising star in the Tea Party movement, decided to give her own response.

At the time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) called the move "a little unusual." 

Bachmann’s performance was widely lambasted, as she didn’t look directly at the camera but off to the side, and appeared disconnected and halting during her remarks. Bachmann later sought the GOP’s presidential nomination but dropped out of the race early after several disappointing primary finishes.

Murray is a former Procter & Gamble employee who now owns a consulting firm that tries to attract Japanese companies to Cincinnati. The party’s release stated she would give her response immediately following Mallory’s address in the Fifth Third Bank Theater’s lobby at the Aronoff Center.

A Hyde Park resident, Murray ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati City Council in 2009, finishing in 12th place out of 19 candidates. She then was appointed by party leaders in January 2011 to fill the remainder of Councilman Chris Monzel’s term, but lost election in her own right the following November. In that election, Murray again finished 12th, this time out of 22 candidates.

 
 
by Danny Cross 12.03.2013 138 days ago
Posted In: Media, Mayor, Streetcar at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)
 
 
pg

Watch P.G. Sittenfeld Pwn John Cranley

Streetcar opponents allow Sittenfeld to act like a leader in everyone’s face

By all accounts, yesterday’s special council session to discuss the Cincinnati streetcar was long and contentious, more than 60 streetcar supporters pleading with an indignant Mayor John Cranley and newly elected council members still spouting campaign-trail anti-streetcar rhetoric. 

After the meeting, Cranley dismissed an offer by major philanthropy organization The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation to pay for a study of streetcar shut-down costs that opponents want to see come in lower than the city’s estimates before they vote to completely stop the project. Cranley dismissed the offer because it also came with a note saying that if the streetcar is canceled the foundation will reconsider its contributions to Music Hall, the Smale Riverfront Park and other city projects. Cranley would rather make the city pay for the study than negotiate with terrorists respond to threats.

About seven and a half hours into this debacle of American democracy — which included numerous procedural abnormalities including the mayor asking Council to discuss and vote on ordinances no one had read yet, an hours-long delay and a funding appropriation that leaves the cancellation vote safe from the pro-streetcar-threatened voter referendum (something Cranley railed against when the city administration kept the parking plan safe from referendum) — Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld livened things up with something everyone tired of the streetcar debate can agree is funny: undermining the mayor’s authority by asking fellow council members to overrule him.

The following video published by UrbanCincy shows Cranley denying Sittenfeld an opportunity to speak. Sittenfeld then asks for a vote to overrule Cranley, which the mayor had to approve, and everyone but Kevin Flynn votes to overrule. (Flynn unfortunately had to vote first, leaving him unable to determine which way the vote was likely to go — a tough position for a rookie politician.) Once David Mann and Amy Murray voted to allow Sittenfeld to speak, the rest of the anti-streetcar faction followed suit, knowing Sittenfeld had the necessary votes to overrule Cranley. Then Sittenfeld spent a few minutes going mayoral on Cincinnati's new mayor.

 
 
by German Lopez 02.14.2013
Posted In: Budget, 2013 Election, News, Mayor, Streetcar at 05:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
qualls

Qualls Raises Concerns Over Streetcar Project

Streetcar construction bids come over budget

The latest batch of bad streetcar news provoked a harsh memo to the city manager’s office from Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who has long supported the $125 million transit project. In the memo, Qualls wrote about “serious concerns” regarding the project’s costs and timetable.

“Whether people support or oppose the streetcar project, everyone has a vested interest in getting the most for our public dollars and in having the highest confidence in the management of the project,” Qualls wrote. “While a council majority has continued to support the project, council has not given the administration a ‘blank check.’”

The memo suggested putting the streetcar project through “intensive value engineering” to bring the project’s budget and timetable back in line — preferably in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

The memo is in response to streetcar construction bids coming in $26 million to $43 million over budget. Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the bids leave the city with two options: The city could take up the current bids, which could have their costs brought down upon further review, or the city could reject the bids and rebid the project, which would cause delays. But Olberding also cautions that the administration is still working on fully reviewing the bids — a process that could take weeks or longer.

Qualls is running for mayor against John Cranley, a former Democratic council member. Cranley has been a vocal opponent of the streetcar project — creating a strong contrast between the two candidates that has placed the streetcar in the center of the 2013 mayoral race.

Earlier today, Cranley held a press conference asking the city to halt the streetcar project. In a statement, he argued it is “irresponsible” to continue work on the streetcar in light of the higher costs.

CityBeat previously covered the streetcar and how it relates to the race between Qualls and Cranley (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.15.2012
 
 
milton dohoney

Council Approves Raise, Bonus for City Manager

Opponents argue unwise with looming deficit; Dohoney's last raise in 2007

City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus.

Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay increase.

Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job.

Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it.

Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager, saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them, but the manager exceeded all of them.

To do anything other than that (approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big enough raise.”

The raise came from a performance review conducted by Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council Republican Charlie Winburn.

Winburn said the city manager’s financial management system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for the previous five years.

Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise.

“For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service. This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.”

Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide.

Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the raise would not hurt the budget.

Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes. Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009.

Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations.

"Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”

 
 
by German Lopez 09.19.2013
Posted In: News, 2013 Election, Mayor at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
roxanne qualls

Qualls Unveils Platforms in Plan to Grow Cincinnati

Mayoral candidate promises busy first 100 days

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls on Thursday unveiled “The Qualls Plan to Grow Cincinnati,” an outline of her platforms and what she would do during her first 100 days as mayor if she’s selected by voters on Nov. 5.

The plan proposes three major changes that Qualls would pursue within 100 days of taking office: She would reinstitute the Shared Services Commission to see which city services can be managed in conjunction with Hamilton County or other political jurisdictions; she would propose a job tax credit for businesses that create jobs that pay a living wage and provide benefits; and she would “renew business districts” by making unused city property available at a “nominal fee” to local startups and small businesses.

Qualls also outlines seven other proposals for the first 100 days, including a review of city services to find efficiencies and cost savings and a “Mayor’s Night In” event that would be held monthly to directly hear residents’ concerns.

The rest of the plan promises more city-provided opportunities for businesses, expanded transportation options, investments in public safety and neighborhoods, employment and apprenticeship programs for struggling youth, new education programs and government reforms. It also includes plans to combat human trafficking, increase the city’s use of renewable energy sources and make Cincinnati more inclusive for women, minorities, the LGBT community and immigrants.

Many of the changes would be made through partnerships and regulatory changes, which means they could come at no cost.

But some of the proposals would involve tax breaks, new city agencies and more spending directed at certain projects. The extra costs could be tricky for a city that has been mired in budget problems for years, especially since Qualls has proposed structurally balancing Cincinnati’s operating budget for the first time since 2000.

Still, Qualls’ proposals are made with the understanding that economic growth can expand the city’s tax base and increase revenues. Cincinnati’s shrinking population since the 1960s is often cited by city officials as a cause for the city’s budget problems.

Qualls is running for mayor against ex-Councilman John Cranley. The biggest issues dividing the two Democratic candidates are the streetcar project and parking plan, both of which Qualls supports and Cranley opposes. The two issues took up most of the discussion during the first post-primary mayoral debate.

Read Qualls full plan here:


 
 

 

 

 
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