Plum Street This Week: Vice Mayor Kearney & Councilmember Jeffreys

Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Kearney and Councilmember Mark Jeffreys joined Government Strategies Group to discuss their priorities for 2022 and upcoming budget season.

GSG was pleased to host two City Council members at our speaker series, Plum Street this Week. Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Kearney and Councilmember Mark Jeffreys discussed their top priorities.

Both emphasized the importance of building safer communities, particularly by improving pedestrian safety. Jeffreys identified community safety as a core function of local government, stating, “We might have the best parks in the world, but if we can’t walk safely to them, it doesn’t matter.” Kearney says that community councils need to work with their neighborhood residents and the Department of Transportation and Engineering on solutions, such as addressing speeding and identifying streets that need calming.

Another aspect of building safer communities is addressing gun violence. Kearney says that there have recently been more gun-related incidents involving youth and has advocated for jobs and summer cadet programs to encourage positive youth engagement. Jeffreys states that the police play a key role in protecting the streets, and that the Cincinnati Police Department’s recent efforts are worth recognizing. Although shootings and homicides are up, overall violent crime is at a ten-year low in Cincinnati.

Kearney and Jeffreys also discussed the role of community engagement in creating safer communities. As chair of the Healthy Neighborhoods Committee, Kearney focuses on working with community councils.  She says that her committee has been meeting in different neighborhoods to build a better relationship between City Council and neighborhoods. Jeffreys advocates for a community-oriented approach to policing: solutions for neighborhood safety must be done with communities, rather than to communities.

Another priority for Kearney and Jeffreys is the environment. Jeffreys and Kearney both said that air quality has a significant impact on the city, especially communities of color. Asthma rates are 4x higher in the city than in surrounding rural areas and Cincinnati has the 11th worst air quality in the country. Kearney pointed to tree canopies as one solution for high asthma rates and hotter conditions in Cincinnati. Because much of Cincinnati’s air pollution comes from transportation, Jeffreys plans to prioritize investments in public transportation and bike infrastructure. He also says it is important to address climate change because it affects Cincinnati’s ability to grow economically; young people and businesses want to live in and expand to cities that are clean, safe, walkable, and bikeable.

Kearney discussed the need for lead pipe replacements, which have been a prolonged issue in older homes throughout Cincinnati. She also addressed littering and dumping laws, saying there needs to be high fines and better enforcement to clean up neighborhoods. She also spoke about the Lincoln Heights Gun Range and the negative impacts on the environment and surrounding communities. Council has been working since 2020 to move it, but the process is still underway.

Like Councilmember Reggie Harris in his conversation with GSG two weeks ago, Kearney and Jeffreys emphasized the need for affordable housing. Jeffreys says that our current affordable housing stock is highly concentrated and there is not enough housing for the growing population. Kearny discussed the importance of homeownership, stating that Cincinnati is behind the rest of the country. She also highlighted the importance of owning a home in building generational wealth, especially for communities of color. The night before Kearney spoke to GSG she hosted the second homeownership workshop, with more than 120 people in attendance. Council has also focused on funding the American Dream Down Payment Initiative to support low-income people and address racial disparities in homeownership.

Councilmember Jeffreys spoke with GSG the week after a density ordinance failed. Though he voted against the ordinance, Jeffreys says that he plans to work with his colleagues on Council and neighborhoods on necessary zoning reforms to encourage equitable growth. Jeffreys also addressed recent developments in Cincinnati, such as the new Macy’s downtown. He says that developments create more living opportunities, which will hopefully fuel residential growth downtown. Kearney says that Council is looking into ways to help smaller developers, particularly minority groups.

Stay tuned for the latest updates on our next Plum Street This Week.

Join Our

Mailing List

Sign up for first access to the latest news, updates, and events.

Charles “Chip” Gerhardt

President & CEO

Chip Gerhardt has made government affairs, economic development, and issue advocacy his life’s work. He’s worked for decades in the public and private sectors, and advocated at the local, state, and federal levels of government. In 2007, he used that experience to found Government Strategies Group, a full-service government relations firm. At GSG, he works directly with clients, helping them navigate the complicated intersection of politics, public policy, and business.

In his many years in public policy, Chip has been involved in significant policies including; creation of tax increment financing districts, the Clean Ohio program, Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, and most importantly, the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. He has also been at the forefront of some of the biggest developments in Greater Cincinnati, including the Horseshoe (now Hard Rock) Casino, TQL Stadium for FC Cincinnati, parking garage structures at The Banks, and the redevelopment of the @580 building. Rarely is there a public policy endeavor in Cincinnati that does not involve GSG.

Chip received his B.B.A in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame and his Juris Doctor from the St. Louis University School of Law. He lives in Anderson Township with his wife Jane. Son Charlie is a local chef and children Hank and Anne have completed their education and started lives of their own.

Focus areas:

  • State and local government relations
  • Economic development
  • Issue advocacy

Driven by:

  • A lifelong interest in the political system has driven Chip to a career in public policy and politics. As a parent of three, one with Down syndrome, has compelled him to promote public policies designed to help others. Whether it is enabling financial independence for people with disabilities, advancing funding for housing families facing homelessness, or assisting with economic development projects, Chip involves himself in things that make a positive difference. 

In the community:

  • Hamilton County Board of Elections member
  • Current Board Member for Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, People Working Cooperatively, Corporation for Findlay Market, goVibrant, and the African American Chamber of Commerce
  • Former Chairman of the Board for the National Down Syndrome Society
  • Former board member of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce, and the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati
  • Cincinnati Magazine’s 300 of the Region’s Most Powerful Business Leaders, 2021-2022
  • Cincy Magazine Power 100, 2011-2022