Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval answered questions and gave advice to members of the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, or, as he referred to them, the "future monopolists" of American life, on Thursday. According to Zach Kershner, President of the fraternity, the mayor's arrival was part of their recruitment seminars for Rush Week.
Alpha Kappa Psi wanted "to bring in important young alumni to speak to our members" and immediately "had the great idea to invite UC College of Law alumnus Pureval." Getting in touch with Pureval's assistant, the fraternity was able to "schedule Mayor Pureval to come in and speak," Pureval's staff "responded quickly" and were "excited for the opportunity to come back to campus and speak to the next generation of business leaders," said Kershner.
While giving guidance to College of Business students, the event also served as a stage on which Pureval could sell his platform to an audience of young voters and voters to be. "Cincinnati has so much momentum," Pureval said, invoking UC's slogan, "next lives here."
Despite being the Democratic mayor of a blue city, Pureval's speech was largely apolitical. Rather than speaking about mass movements or class struggle, Pureval talked about how he "ran the clerk's office like a business" and applied "Procter & Gamble (P&G) tactics" to both the Clerks of Courts and Mayor's office.
"Innovation is in our DNA," Pureval said, later stating that Cincinnati should "lean into innovation and risk." And one way to do that, Pureval recommended, was by prioritizing local small businesses. "We can't afford to lose businesses or employers," he said.
Pureval stressed, championing his administration's efforts to turn "Cincinnati into the innovation hub of the United States," naming the use of $10 million from Cincinnati's American Rescue Plan package for high-tech manufacturing projects with the Port Authority as an example.
Asked by an attendee why students should remain in Cincinnati after graduation, Pureval gave a somewhat foreboding response: "climate resiliency and access to fresh water," said Pureval. "That's going to become more of a consideration." Pureval said, as large swathes of "climate migrants" come to the country's middle.
Beyond the ability to withstand the climate apocalypse, Pureval also noted Cincinnati's "incredible culture and arts," which are "equal to, and sometimes better than, other cities."
Not all questions asked that night were as friendly. Asked about Cincinnati's recent corruption scandals and how his administration would make itself less beholden to the will of developers, Pureval said campaign finance rules were "much more transparent and much more strict."
The maximum amount an individual can give Pureval or his colleagues is $1,100, and, as Pureval made clear, "I'm not going to jail for $1,000."
Similarly, City Hall has begun "publishing a list of every person who has business with the city," said Pureval, none of whom city council members can accept contributions. As he's stated in multiple other interviews, Pureval said, "I try to stay out of negotiating specific development deals."
Questioned about the role gentrification plays in displacing local communities, Pureval re-iterated "growth is our North Star," but admitted exponential development sometimes "has unintended consequences." Pureval let it be known he wanted to make an "equitable economy" and do so by being "critical about how development is changing the balance in every neighborhood."
Regardless, development companies have played an outsized role in shaping policy during Pureval's tenure. Michael Fisher, the former CEO of Cincinnati Children's who sat on 3CDC's Board of Directors, was one of three people Pureval chose for his transition team.
Among the first decisions made as the newly elected City Council and mayor began their roles was to pass a resolution allowing 3CDC to redevelop Duke Energy Convention Center and surrounding properties. No one asked why Mayor Pureval and his council prioritized private investment for the trust fund.
Above all, Pureval wanted Alpha Kappa Psi members to know what an extraordinary city Cincinnati is, portraying Cincinnati as a city where anybody can achieve great things. "Cincinnati will judge you by your work ethic and talent,” Pureval said.