BY JOE WESSELS
Loveland Local News
LOVELAND, Ohio- Mayor Kathy Bailey said businesses in downtown Loveland were “assured” there would be parking if they opened here.
Bailey, however, in an unedited video, reveals that she or someone from the city spoke to business owners about the city’s $7-10 million parking structure and told them that she would be built.
“I know many businesses will tell you, homeowners, that they came to Loveland because they were assured there would be parking,” Bailey said in the video. “It’s necessary to support current businesses, but also for future growth. There will be other businesses to come.
The YouTube video was posted on January 25, but deleted today after Bailey emailed the Xavier University film student who made it. The email was sent to the student after a reporter questioned the mayor about her statements. Several people said the student found the mayor to be harsh and uncomfortable with the email, and that he had no intention of upsetting anyone. Loveland Local News chose not to name the person because several people who spoke to him said he was now scared and worried the city would retaliate against him. The student, through an intermediary, refused to speak to a reporter.
Kevin Malof, a lawyer who manages and at least partially owns downtown businesses Bond Furniture, The Landing Event Center, Bishop’s Quarter, Wicked Pickle and, reportedly purchased property at the corner of East Loveland Avenue and Route 48 and allegedly offered to buy The Pizzeria Works behind City Hall has opened by far the most downtown businesses since Bailey became mayor. It is unclear whether he or others were the people promised to the garage. Malof did not return a message left for him.
Bailey said she would neither confirm nor deny that Malof was the owner of the business that promised parking.
“I am not answering your questions…because you are not a journalist,” the mayor wrote in an SMS. “I neither confirm nor deny this because I am not answering your questions.” She sent the text after contacting the student filmmaker.
Councilman Tim Butler, also featured in the video, said Friday night parking insurance was surprising.
“From my perspective, there’s a lot of work to do before anything moves forward on this parking lot,” Butler said. “As a member of Council and until and unless justification is shown to me, which I have not seen, I oppose parking.”
Others criticized the city’s lack of due diligence regarding the parking garage — including any studies on the best ways to address the city’s intermittent parking shortage. Lauren Endna, a retired National Security Agency intelligence analyst living in Loveland, has spoken out against the garage at several recent Council meetings. She plans a rally at 1 p.m. Saturday outside City Hall to bring attention to the problem, saying the city needs to carefully consider the best solution to alleviate parking problems.
Butler openly criticized the mayor’s plans, saying he still had a lot of questions about the garage. In exchange, the mayor and five other Council members, including two former members – Neal Oury and Rob Weisgerber – shunned him and mounted a campaign to have him ousted from Council in the November 2021 election. Instead , Butler came in first, winning a wide margin on the second most votes.
In February 2020, Bailey told a resident who questioned the garage during a Council meeting, “…there will be parking there.” She has since backed off that statement at council meetings, saying instead that the council would heed the public’s desire for a garage. His statements in the newly released video appear to contradict his previous statements. City Council spent much of 2019 in repeated executive sessions closed to the public focused on details of the garage, then voted on aspects of the project without public comment or discussion.
During separate Council meetings and after public scrutiny, Councilors Kent Blair and Oury alluded to discussions about the garage outside of public view, including Blair saying they had discussed the matter “on pizza”. Their comments may have referred to Council members dining together after regular Council meetings at The Works, a local pizzeria just behind City Hall and right next to where the garage would be built. The Work owner Scott Gordon spoke to the Council in support of the garage. Meeting at The Works and discussing city business would violate Ohio’s open meeting laws. Multiple attempts to question Council members about these meetings went unanswered. Councilor Tim Butler was not seen at these meetings and said he was not attending.
Loveland Local News has filed a public record request for the email Bailey sent to film student Xavier. City Attorney Joe Braun opened the email Friday night but did not immediately share it, which is not unusual.
Some residents have complained that city officials have favored downtown businesses in recent years, especially over other parts of Loveland – including along the Loveland-Madeira Road corridor. Business owners in the city center receive garbage collection for free – using the City Hall dumpster – while residents and businesses in other parts of the city must pay for this service, for example.