By Dr. Mark Mussman
With a new set of council members starting in January alongside a new mayor, Cincinnati is poised to start a new era. Simply put, eight years of Cranley as mayor has been a nightmare for so many. Cranley has been a failure in so many ways, but he was successful in maintaining an image that may propel him to the statehouse. Cranley's tenure as mayor will be mostly marred by what wasn't accomplished: lids on Fort Washington Way, an expanded streetcar, maintaining Fortune 500 companies, growing the tree canopy, fully funding the human services and affordable housing trust funds, reducing poverty, etc. His signature accomplishment will be the solar array, a few counties away, that will provide green energy to Cincinnati and beyond. Oh, that and Wasson Way and the Oasis bike trails.
When Cranley leaves his lasting impact will be felt in Over-the-Rhine, since he was at the inception of 3CDC and fought to increase city support. They have spurned residents from their neighborhood, all in the name of wealth. Not progress. Wealth. Anyone who confuses the work of 3CDC for a humanitarian effort has fallen for progress propaganda. 3CDC is very convincing, but ask them how, with 1.5 billion dollars, they failed to respond to the needs of residents to stay in their homes. Much of that money is publicly-sourced, and it becomes unnerving that our tax dollars have been funding massive displacement of Black families in Over-the-Rhine.
Over the past decade, the neighborhood has seen more than half of the Black residents removed. Our neighbors, our social networks, our children, have been tossed out simply because they don't fit 3CDC's demographic: rich and white. 3CDC's publicly supported buying spree has cemented them as the market - 3CDC has created an out-of-reach housing market in Over-the-Rhine. 3CDC's one bedroom condos are listed at over $300,000, and the price rises dramatically with each bedroom. Families are pushed to neighborhoods like Bond Hill and Avondale, even as those neighborhoods face development pressure. Displacement becomes a way of life in Cincinnati, but it doesn't need to be like this.
Cincinnati has an opportunity now to defund 3CDC. We should take the millions in subsidy from 3CDC as they have multiple streams of income and they are apt at finding public funding at all levels of government. Since they get property taxes from the two SID's they manage, we should not be giving them money from our general fund. Funding for parks should be their sole responsibility since they have taken on management. We need to stop giving TIF money to create high-priced condos that few can afford. Cancel their tax abatement. There is no reason we should continue the corporate welfare for 3CDC if they are as successful as they claim.
Recently, the head of 3CDC went to City Hall to beg for more money for Streateries - two million dollars to prop up the newly minted tourist destination of Over-the-Rhine. $2,000,0000 is more than the city puts towards affordable housing in a single year. (Yes, there is more in the NOFA program, but that is mostly from federal sources.) So, our allegiance to 3CDC is greater than our desire to close the gap on affordable housing. Cincinnati can do better.
3CDC is now running a campaign called "Clean and Safe" which is a convenient way of saying criminalization of homelessness. It's a lot of words to say we are removing the blight from public view, whether trash or actual people. Clean and Safe programs across the country have resulted in sweeps of camps, harassment of people panhandling, and it ultimately puts white people's comfort over the rights of Black people and people in poverty. When 3CDC applied to take over Imagination Alley, they boasted that they would have an employee on the premises every two hours with a direct line to the police. This statement showed how entrenched 3CDC is in the criminalization of homelessness and poverty, coupled with the spurious statements about crime made by the City Manager at the re-opening of Imagination Alley, they are clearly looking for any reason to displace and claim public areas.
3CDC does not do affordable housing. By my estimates, they have created one unit of affordable housing for every 50 million dollars they have spent in Over-the-Rhine. Only one 3CDC project, Mercer, may have affordable housing in it today. All of the other projects that 3CDC claims are actually developed by another developer and 3CDC controls the street-level businesses. Housing developers like Model Group, Cornerstone, and Over-the-Rhine Community Housing design, finance, build, and maintain the housing. 3CDC does not do affordable housing and the CEO should be removed from the city's Housing Advisory Board.
3CDC has managed to remove families from their homes and ensured they have no place here. They have created a market for housing and commerce that is out of reach of the long-term residents. This indirect gentrification has resulted in the loss of social ties and has further empowered white supremacists in community council. From the closing of schools, streets, and corner stores, 3CDC has wholly dismantled and deformed the community with the idea of placing a new identity on it: a tourist destination. This is a type of genocide, to remove people and ban people from their homes, and should be countered as such. Other cities have taken a proactive stance to stop displacement and gentrification, but Cincinnati under Cranley has embraced it. Cranley's claims of reducing poverty have only been achieved by pushing out the city's most impoverished residents and replacing them with suburban white people. Do you remember when mayor Cranley proclaimed that "there is no evidence that a single family has been displaced from Over-the-Rhine?" Increasing earnings tax income has been an explicit goal of the city, and can be seen in programs like tax abatement. Just listen to how council members justify the financial support for 3CDC's condos - they claim it will increase the earnings tax received for the city.
A final note: 3CDC is a private non-profit organization, whose board members are hand-picked by the mayor, and it is a membership organization whose members include the largest and most powerful corporations in the region, including media outlets. 3CDC was created by a vice president of Procter and Gamble and the city mayor, Charlie Luken, with the help of other individuals in business and politics. It was created to do things that the city simply couldn't do - whether out of legality or practicality, and has often used racist tropes to justify its existence, such as "cleaning up the neighborhood" after the "race riots" in 2001. (Astute individuals know that calling the rebellion and uprising in 2001 a "race riot" is racist in itself as it implies that there was no injustice, even though the federal Department of Justice came in and found that the Cincinnati police department was engaging in racial profiling.) Most frightening is that urbanists are calling for the replication of 3CDC in cities all over the country, even though the effect has been removing more than half of the Black residents from the neighborhood in favor of white suburban implants. 3CDC must be abolished.