David Pepper was supposed to win. Not Mark Mallory.

I like David Pepper.  He’s been nice to me.

In 2004, Ed Stern (then-artistic-director), let me use Playhouse in the Park on 6 Monday nights for a series called Alteractive Speaks.  I wanted to talk about all the things we are not allowed to talk about in Cincinnati: race and class and every other inflammatory topic I didn’t understand.  My original idea was to do one speaker at a time, but Ed explained I’d only get people who agreed with that viewpoint in the room.  The trick was to create drama, let the differences bounce off of each other and attract a more diverse audience.

David agreed to participate on the panel on the Black United Front’s economic boycott of Cincinnati and as the only representative from city government, Mr. Pepper stood-in as the establishment punching bag that night.  He was a pro during the Q&A portion of the evening – but I almost had a heart attack watching the audience’s take-no-prisoners ambush as the MC passed an open mic around the standing-room-only crowd.

Mr. Pepper apparently is not the type to hold a grudge as he accepted my invitation to lead Bike PAC’s Bike-About Fountain Ride a short 5 years later.  Advocates of alternative transportation wanted to draw media attention to how much fun it is to use bikes to get around town, an idea that was almost as controversial as abortion back then. David is a cyclist and he couldn’t have been more gracious.


Good times with David Pepper (neon shirt) in 2009.

Of course it’s only natural as John Pepper’s son (John being the former CEO of Procter & Gamble) that David has always been very comfortable with his father’s friends, fellow members of the elite Cincinnati Business Committee.  He ran for Mayor against Mark Mallory with their backing in 2005 and everybody expected him to win, especially with his 3-to-1 advantage in fundraising.

Can you imagine the frustration of Cincinnati’s most powerful corporate executives when their candidate lost?  They were used to working with Charlie Luken, the city’s first strong mayor from 1999 – 2005, also backed by the corporate community.  Mark Mallory not only didn’t look like anybody in that crowd.  He didn’t think like them or belong to any of their clubs.  It must have been quite a culture shock when the new mayor had different ideas about how City Hall was going to be run.

As of 2013, Cincinnati has returned to business as usual, John Cranley, the generously funded candidate of the city’s corporate elite.  Since taking office the new Mayor’s positions have often appeared irrational to the point of insanity, any remnant of the Mallory years “Cranceled” for the flimsiest of excuses, respected public servants fired without cause.  It’s almost as though the city is being punished for some unnamed crime, isn’t it?  As though we need to be taught a lesson about power and who has it.

But maybe Mr. Cranley’s decisions are not all that difficult to understand if we remember one very important thing.  David Pepper was supposed to win in 2005.  Not Mark Mallory.

13 thoughts on “David Pepper was supposed to win. Not Mark Mallory.

  1. Travis Estell

    This basically explains why the local media was indifferent to Mark Mallory and ignored his accomplishments, yet seem to fawn over just about everything John Cranley does.

  2. Jeff Capell

    The premise is overly simplistic. Pepper was backed by more business-types because of his father’s heavy influence, and that he did a better job forming relationships with them than Mallory. It had less to do with Pepper actually promoting a workable pro-business agenda. Mallory never got their full support not because of his looks or bitterness over Pepper’s loss, but because he was so obsessed with the streetcar he didn’t do much else.

    It’s easy to neatly fit someone (Cranley in this case) into the slot of being the puppet of the business community, but look at how he got elected. Cranley’s two more powerful issues were opposing the streetcar and opposing the parking plan. Business groups supported both. He is undoubtedly more liked by them than Mallory or Qualls ever were, but it hardly means he’s their agent blindly devoted to them.

    Same for Commissioners. The Commissioners have a good relationship with the business community but don’t blindly obey them – witness their opposition to the streetcar, parking plan, and Music Hall tax. I think it’s a good thing that the business community can be heard but can’t always force their way.

  3. executivedreamer Post author

    I must have missed that corporate support for the streetcar, Jeff. It wasn’t there. That was the disappointment. Haile Foundation had to step forward. A couple of smaller corporations. But the CBC was silent. Many of the CEOs dead set against.

    1. Jeff Capell

      In 2011 the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Columbus urging them to retain the $52 million in state funding for the streetcar that was subsequently pulled. Though you are correct that these groups weren’t otherwise vocal about backing the project.

  4. Steve Deiters

    “I must have missed that corporate support for the streetcar,….”

    Nothing to miss. Chamber of Commerce was “for it” as stated above with another poster. The group that represents the medical/industrial complex Uptown was “for it” also as well also the MLK interchange. I think by “support” you mean dollars. Neither group made any bones about what they viewed as support and it did not include financial participation and were quite specific about it.

    Now there was a group that volunteered financial participation in order to restart the streetcar in December of 2013. That was the collective voice of the residents of OTR and the streetcar supporters in general who embraced the special taxing district concept and swore their allegiance to supporting it. They backed that up with a “Plan B” of a referendum if the streetcar was indeed stopped. A taxing district was a pert of that also. Their effort to follow up on this and implement it? Zero. Nothing. Crickets. When approached by members of council (Murray and Flynn) about this after the restart was, “Why would we want to raise our taxes. We got the streetcar.” So much for that I guess. All modern streetcar system in the United States have a special taxing district (either property and/or sales tax) for funding except one. This one.

    In summary before you comment on “missing” the support of some business groups maybe you should be asking the people who actually did commit to financial participation and then didn’t. The business community should not be held to a different standard than the streetcar supporters have been able to avoid theirs even though they committed to it.

  5. executivedreamer Post author

    How does every single conversation about politics in Cincinnati get to be about the streetcar? That’s what I really don’t understand. This post had nothing to do with the streetcar. And yet apparently that’s the only thing worth talking about here. Or anywhere else.

    I take it you and Jeff are strong opponents of the streetcar, Steve. You must be focusing on this issue in order to avoid any future expenditures in going up the hill. But I haven’t written a single post in the past year about the streetcar – yeah or nay. For me that decision has been made – and as a downtown resident who drives less than 1,000 miles a year, takes the bus to the airport, and is a regular Red Bike user – it’s not surprising that I’m a supporter. Although I agree with you streetcar-critics that the current loop is not helpful as real transportation that gets people to jobs and the hospital (that was a big one when I was at InkTank on Main St. 2003-2006 and many days the only one in the room who owned a car – an eye-opening experience that led me to work on bike and pedestrian issues in 2008-09).

    I’m a citizen trying to solve problems, not win elections. Watching this decision-making process up close for the first extended period of my life – I have to say, I’m not impressed. So often it seems to me that City Hall is a pastime for men who have gotten to be too old to play football anymore. We need more listeners. We need more folks who don’t know all the answers already.

    Interesting how so few women take part in these conversations, isn’t it?

  6. Steve Deiters

    “How does every single conversation about politics in Cincinnati get to be about the streetcar?” KH Maybe because you included in your first comment in response to Mr. Capell who referenced it in passing along with several other issues which you didn’t comment on.-“I must have missed that corporate support for the streetcar…” KH

    Now that the topic is on the table what are your views of the streetcar supporters and OTR residence who embraced the special taxing district to restart the streetcar and then did nothing to make it happen? The Haile foundation included a special taxing district in their proposal they put forth late last summer/early fall to the Transportation Committee. Support for them that day for the supporters and since. Zero. Nothing. But they like the subsidy Haile has committed….

    In summary this group-streetcar supporters-offered to put some skin in the game to get it restarted and didn’t. The business community was quite explicit where they stood from a funding standpoint and they are chastised for not stepping up. Double standard? Or maybe two groups with totally different perspectives who want something for nothing?

    “Interesting how so few women take part in these conversations, isn’t it?” Yes it is, but I think you need to ask them “Why?”. Myself? More people of every gender would be a good thing for these conversations.

  7. Pingback: Cincyopolis is my sandbox: The Rules | cincyopolis

  8. John Yung

    This reminds me of that research paper that circulated around a few years ago: “Who Rules Cincinnati” http://www.uc.edu/cdc/urban_database/citywide_regional/who_rules_cincinnati.pdf Very insightful. Cranley’s tenure really is a “return to regular old Cincinnati” but Mallory’s election proves money doesn’t buy everything in Cincinnati. If more than 28% of registered voters turn out in the next election maybe things could go a different way.

    1. executivedreamer Post author

      Citizens have more power than ever, don’t you think, John? We can talk to each other now. It’s easy to stop a story if all you have to do is make a call to the publisher. So much harder to control information on the internet between smart people who care. Thanks for all you’ve done for Cincinnati through UrbanCincy. I appreciate your work.

      1. John Yung

        Definitely! I think the internet has been a great tool for information and it has really developed over the last ten years. Its hard to cut through the static but the facts are there if people look for them. Thanks for reading us! I enjoy reading your blog and loved hearing your conversation with Travis on the podcast!

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