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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Big Surprise In Cincinnati Enquirer's Council Picks: No Nod For Ex-Dem Mayor Qualls

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The newspaper's city council endorsements are out online today, and it is supporting five Democrats, three Republicans and one third-party Charterite. The newspaper said it is not backing former Democratic Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who was appointed to a council seat last month and is running under the Charter label. Qualls is one of the most popular politicians in Cincinnati and is seen as a lock. Her sin in the eyes of the Enquirer's editorial board: She has dared to openly question plans for The Banks. The project is a nearly $1 billion office, shopping and residential development on the Ohio River downtown, and it is being subsidized with city, state and federal funds.

But the Enquirer sniped that Quall's is opposing The Banks plan out of a "bruised ego." That remark is simply an inaccurate -- and mean-spirited -- reflection of her concerns. Qualls has questions rooted in economic, environmental and financial areas.

Qualls was mayor when the project on 18 acres between the football and baseball stadiums was conceived in the mid-1990s. It was supposed to be mixed use, with residential and shopping and dining etc., along with offices to enliven a fading downtown. Now the new plans are heavier on offices and Qualls is wondering if it will cannibalize the existing business district. The difficult real estate market, coupled with the Midwest's lousy economic climate, has made it tough to lease space in the central city where some 2.2 million square feet of office space already sits vacant. Qualls says that the tax-supported public subsidies that go into The Banks will harm investors who put money into downtown and must charge market rates that don't reflect government aid. Qualls isn't on the same page as the Enquirer's favorites, so she was snubbed:

"Smart, capable and experienced, former mayor Qualls knows policy inside-out as she demonstrated political savvy during her years on council. Just appointed to take Tarbell's place (Jim Tarbell, who resigned), she's running on a platform of helping to increase the city's tax base and grow its middle class. But in rejoining council after years away, she may be in a bit of a time warp. We find her recent efforts to undermine The Banks project particularly distressing. Her chief objections seem to be that the plan under consideration now differs from one she helped develop a decade ago. This is the city's most important development project. Opposing it on the the basis of a bruised ego is not acceptable."
Note: Image from


  1. So, is this a case where, whatever the paper says, do the opposite? You know I have a weakness for people who dare to ask questions.

  2. Hi Jill --

    It is quite flummoxing. I think most are going to do the opposite. Even the paper, if you read the editorial snippet about her, says she is a policy expert.

    As you know -- and we both live in Ohio so we both know -- there is this sense of near panic, or desperation, or angst among the corporate/political/commercial class (or whatever one should call them) about how to get this state moving again. So we have this syndrome of going for whatever the outsiders/gurus tell us will be a good thing. I remember Youngstown and the drive to but a blimp factory there back in the bad times of the 1980s. It was taken seriously, too. But it seems like it was nothing but hot air, or helium. This phenom still exists in Ohio and seems to have spread.

    The irony, to me, is that Cincinnati has a wonderful old neighborhod downtown called Over-the-Rhine that could be a glorious place to live, shop and work. It is tired, dirty, has too much crime etc. But no doubt could become a showcase, vital and great for working, shopping and living.

    But it is not the focus of the big guys. They want to start from scratch on the riverfront between the stadiums. And they want the public to pay for a lot of it. So, dear Jill and readers north, you are going to be shoveling your dough into building a mall and offices in Cincinnati, along with condos that will be pretty pricey . . .

  3. I think the truth is somewhere between your take and the Enquirer's. Qualls does have a bit of an ego.

  4. Hi Anon --

    I don't know of a single elected official/politician who does not have a "bit of an ego." That is probably a good trait for seeking and holding an elected office.

    I don't think she is far off the mark on The Banks. There has been significant change to the development. Some contend it now looks like a new downtown rather than an adjunct or extension. If the current development scheme is approved, there no doubt will be legal challenges, creating more delay, more confusion, more problems. Qualls probably recognizes all of this . . .