January 24, 2022 6:00am

Power Poll: Cincinnati Leaders Are an Optimistic Bunch

They support a new normal in 2022, new city leaders and a new Brent Spence Bridge

Photo of John Fox
Cincinnati, OH Correspondent

January is always a good time to look ahead to the new year, and the local leaders who responded to our first Cincinnati Power Poll decided to put a positive spin on our questions about what 2022 holds for the city. It's not suprising, of course. These are the people responsible for business, government, education, arts, tourism and social services results for most of the region, so they set the tone for their employees and customers. After almost two years of pandemic and all of the related economic and life turmoil, they need to believe that 2022 will be better. We all do.

An overwhelming majority of responses to our question about how Cincinnati will fare generally in the coming year reflected the belief that daily life will settle into a new level of normal, neither cratering nor returning to the good old days. Another large majority think Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, the new City Council or both will be successful in their first year at City Hall. And when asked how they'd rank our local infrastructure projects in terms of most worthy for new federal funds, a new interstate bridge to replace the bottle-necked Brent Spence Bridge easily finished first.

Here are the specific questions and answers for the January Cincinnati Power Poll:

It makes sense that the majority of Power Poll responses chose "new normal" as the likeliest outcome for 2022. It's another way of saying, "It is what it is." Our new normal could be slightly better than 2021 or slightly worse, but life will be what it is and that will become our new way of living. At least only 5% feel that things will take a turn for the worse. A few hearty souls think we'll feel like the pandemic never happened, and I'd like to have some of what they're drinking. Another group thinks nothing is going to change this year. "New normal" feels like an improvement over "no change," so let's call this answer an optimistic outlook on 2022. I sincerely hope the majority is correct.

Aftab Pureval, after serving one and a quarter terms as Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, was elected Cincinnati Mayor in November, while six first-time City Councilmembers were elected. Of the three returning Councilmembers, two (Jan-Michele Kearney and Liz Keating) had been appointed in the previous term, leaving Greg Landsman as the only member who'd previously been elected to City Council. So city leadership is new and inexperienced on the one hand and fresh-faced and brimming with new ideas on the other. The Power Poll asked how they'd do in 2022.

Parsing these results, a total of 71% of responses believe that the Mayor or City Council or both will do good jobs in their first year. The largest vote block thinks both will succeed, followed by those who like Pureval's chances but doubt City Council, followed by those who envision City Council excelling while Pureval struggles to find his leadership zen. Again, like with the first question, that's a significant level of optimism. Only 10% think City Hall leaders will have a terrible year.

Ah, the much-loathed Brent Spence Bridge. Not even a joyous holiday season and an optimistic January outlook on life can sway local folks from hating on the BSB. To be fair, it's well deserved. Area political leaders have allowed the bridge to suffer through the decades will just a fresh coat of paint and routine repairs. Presidents have held press conferences at the bridge to announce its retirement as a national priority, but a new highway bridge is no closer to reality than ever. At least there's a glimmer of hope with the recently passed federal infrastructure bill, which has every U.S. city and county scrambling to get their pieces of the funding pie. The Power Poll asked people to consider a list of 13 local projects that might be worthy of new federal funding and rank their top five choices in order, 1 through 5.

A companion highway bridge next to the Brent Spence Bridge (the state of Kentucky's long-standing plan) got more than 70% of all first place votes and over twice as many total votes as the panel's second choice, building affordable housing. The popularity of spending to create more affordable housing will be good news to the new Mayor and City Council, who have made affordable housing within the City of Cincinnati a priority.

Besides those two, the only other spending options to garner a first place vote were expanding the Duke Energy Convention Center and building a new hotel, replacing the Western Hills Viaduct, finishing the CROWN walking/biking trail and extending the Cincinnati Bell Connector streetcar line. Ten different projects received second place votes, and only one of the suggested projects didn't make anyone's top five: expanding Nippert Stadium. Even after such a glorious football season from the Bearcats? Harsh. Maybe our astute Power Poll members think the University of Cincinnati, the State of Ohio and UC athletic boosters should pay for a stadium renovation, not the federal government. Or maybe a whole lot of Xavier and Miami grads participated in this poll.

Click here to learn more about Power Poll, which is now in 30-plus U.S. cities with this launch in Cincinnati and elsewhere in January. If you're on our Cincinnati Power Poll member mailing list, let me know if you'd like to add other local leaders for the next poll. Leave comments for everyone to see by clicking on the "Join the Discussion" button at the top of the page.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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