BY JOE WESSELS
Loveland Local News
LOVELAND, Ohio — Mayor Kathy Bailey said businesses in downtown Loveland were “assured” there would be a parking garage if they opened up here.
Bailey, however, in unedited video, reveals she or someone with the city told business owners about the city’s $7 to $10 million parking structure and told them it would be built.
“I know there are several businesses that will tell you, the owners, that they came to Loveland because they were assured there would be a parking facility,” Bailey said in the video. “It’s needed to support current businesses, but also for future growth. There will be other businesses to come.”
The YouTube video was posted January 25, but removed today after Bailey sent an email to 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 felt the mayor was harsh and the email made him uncomfortable, and he did not intend to upset anyone. Loveland Local News has chosen not to name the person because several who spoke with him said he is now scared and worried the city might retaliate against him. The student, through an intermediary, declined to speak to a reporter.
Kevin Malof, an attorney who now manages and at least partially owns downtown businesses Bond Furniture, The Landing Event Center, Bishop’s Quarter, Wicked Pickle and, is rumored to have purchased property at the corner of East Loveland Avenue and Route 48 and offered to buy The Works pizza restaurant behind City Hall, has opened, by far, the most businesses downtown since Bailey has become mayor. It is unclear whether he or others were the people promised the garage. Malof did not return a message left for him.
Bailey said she would not confirm or deny Malof was the business owner promised a parking garage.
“I’m not answering your questions…because you’re not a journalist,” the mayor wrote in a text message. “I am not confirming or denying that because I’m not answering your questions.” She sent the text after contacting the student filmmaker.
Councilman Tim Butler, also featured in the video, said Friday evening a parking garage assurance was surprising.
“From my perspective, there is a lot of work to do before anything moves forward in terms of that parking garage,” Butler said. “As a member of Council and until and unless rationale for it is shown to me, which I have not seen, I oppose the parking garage.”
Others have criticized the city’s missing due diligence related to the parking garage – including any studies about the best ways to rectify’s 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 is planning a 1 p.m. Saturday rally in front of City Hall to draw attention to the issue, saying the city needs to examine the best solution to alleviate parking concerns carefully.
Butler has been openly critical about the mayor’s plans, saying he still has a lot of questions about the garage. In exchange, the mayor and the five other Council members, including two former members – Neal Oury and Rob Weisgerber – have shunned him and organized a campaign to get him ousted from Council at the November 2021 election. Instead, Butler came in first, winning a wide margin over the next-highest vote-getter.
In February 2020, Bailey told a resident who questioned the garage during a Council meeting, “…there will be a parking garage on that location.” She has since backed off that statement in Council meetings, instead saying Council would consider the public’s desire for a garage. Her statements in the recently released video seem to contradict her previous statements. City Council spent much of 2019 in repeated closed-to-the-public executive sessions centered around the garage’s details, then voting on aspects of the project with no public comment or discussion.
During separate Council meetings and after public scrutiny, Councilman Kent Blair and Oury alluded to discussions about the garage outside of public view, including Blair saying they had discussed the issue “over pizza.” Their comments possibly referred to Council members eating dinner together after regular council meetings at The Works, a local pizza restaurant directly behind City Hall and directly next to where the garage would be built. The Work’s owner, Scott Gordon, has spoken at Council supporting the garage. Meeting at The Works and discussing city business would violate Ohio’s Open Meetings laws. Multiple attempts to ask Council members about those meetings have never been answered. Councilman Tim Butler has not been seen at these meetings and said he does not attend them.
Loveland Local News has filed a public records request for the email Bailey sent to the Xavier film student. City Attorney Joe Braun opened the email Friday evening but did not share it immediately, which is not unusual.
Some residents have complained city officials favor downtown businesses in recent years, especially over other parts of Loveland – including along the Loveland-Madeira Road corridor. Downtown business owners receive free garbage collection – using the City Hall Dumpster – while residents and businesses in other parts of the city have to pay for this service, for example.