Combatting Socioeconomic Inequality

By Gus Ricksecker

We can uncover the solutions to common planning problems in cities like Cincinnati when we look in the right places. Race and class play a large part in driving modernization and influencing the ways people live and interact with one another in urban settings. This is why diversity of person and thought is so important for Cincinnati.

Data, research, and public opinion transcend politics when it comes to creating innovative answers to pressing issues in urban areas. We need leadership to look past shortsighted party politics and dive into bipartisan, citizen-led initiatives to make real progress.

“The best collaboration includes the voices of those who live the problem.” (Twitter: @TamayaForCincy)

Growth models for most midwestern cities look similar: Take whatever they can to revitalize economic centers, raise the tax base, and rebound from the economic recession. Under this model, local and state governments too often ignore how patterns of rapid economic growth naturally create winners and losers, and how a large percentage of people are not seeing a fair share of the economic gains cities are creating. Cincinnati keeps pace with the likes of Washington and Denver in this regard, but has not introduced the matching legislation to ensure that the new growth is equitable.

Gentrification, urban sprawl, ill-advised (and oftentimes outdated) tax abatements, and disregard for public transit are some of the externalities pushed to the side by local government and business leaders as “necessary consequences” of growth. This isn’t true.

Cincinnati City Council candidate Tamaya Dennard realizes that.

Combatting the trends mentioned here is difficult. It takes a lot of planning and execution. Especially in Cincinnati, where 1 in 3 people live below the poverty line, which puts it in the top 15 poorest cities nationwide. The childhood poverty level is even higher, meaning that if Cincinnati City Council does not come up with a comprehensive plan to combat poverty and encourage social mobility, the problem will only get worse.

In Tamaya’s platform, she outlines that she plans to:

“Revisit tax abatements with a renewed focus on equity across our 52 neighborhoods.”

Too much money is going towards areas where the free market is already promoting growth. City council needs to be thinking long-term when it hands out abatements and uphold their commitment to equitable growth highlighted in the city’s master plan. While it is exciting that incredible and continuous growth is occurring in certain areas of the city, this growth is not seen by the majority of the population if it is simply reinvested in the same place.

“Support responsible economic development that does not push people out of their communities.”

Gentrification is a bit of a taboo term these days, but look no further than our own city to see it in action. If proper steps are not taken now, 10–15 years in the future Cincinnati will face incredible levels of segregation and economic disparity among its 52 neighborhoods. Since 2,000, over 20% of low income and low home value neighborhoods have experienced gentrification, with the large majority of them being in neighborhoods just like OTR. We can sit idle and let it happen, or demand action.

“Demand that developers receiving city monies construct fair and affordable housing.”

Neighborhoods are as segregated now as they were in the prime of Jim Crow America. This is because racism and classism have divided us as a country and not enough people can admit that and act to combat it. It has been proven that affordable housing being put in place does not impact neighborhoods in the way many people initially argue that it does. In OTR alone, the affordable housing stock dropped from 90% to 20% since 2002. City council should fight to do whatever it takes to help create integrated and equitable neighborhoods, especially in cases where their funds are being used.

“Explore the introduction of employer-subsidized bus routes to connect people to jobs that pay a living wage.”

Cincinnati provides thousands of well-paying jobs and economic opportunities downtown and elsewhere. However, these are only accessible for people who own cars or can afford to live within reasonable walking distance of major economic centers. Recent studies show that about 75,000 jobs are inaccessible by public transit in Cincinnati. Connecting people to jobs is one of the most direct strategies to promote equal, sustainable growth: provide people with access to jobs that pay a living wage. This allows citizens to feel connected to the city they live in and appreciate what it has to offer.

These innovative and reasonable solutions not only need to be presented, but need a voice who truly understands and believes why they are important. I have no doubt Tamaya — a woman of color and Cincinnati native — understands the issues better than anyone.

“I decided to intern for Tamaya because her passion, knowledge, and empathy for all people are qualities of a true leader. She’s exactly who we need at City Hall.”

I have always lived comfortably, whether in Cincinnati or in my hometown, Columbus. However, I recognize that economic privilege and security is not a luxury enjoyed by all people. Extending these same privileges to as many people as possible is critical to promoting sustainable social mobility and equality. Policy and legislation should focus on more than just redistributing income — it should promote diverse and thriving communities, and make Cincinnati a city that people want to live in.

Tamaya’s devotion to Economic Justice shows us that she shares this same vision for Cincinnati.

There are many people in Cincinnati who will develop platforms that seek to identify and address socioeconomic disparities in our city. However, Tamaya stands out as a unique and powerful voice that will bring action to those words once elected on November 7.

When we build from the bottom up, we rise together and everyone benefits from the wonderful city Cincinnati is growing into. Only the right leadership will allow us to realize our full potential. Tamaya is that leader.

Gus Ricksecker is a Clifton resident, full-time student of Urban Planning and Philosophy at University of Cincinnati, and research intern with Tamaya Dennard’s campaign for Cincinnati City Council.

To learn more about our campaign, visit