Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Yates plans to organize opposition to mayor reform

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Councilman Tyrone Yates plans to organize a committee and raise money to defeat the Build Cincinnati plan for direct election of Cincinnati's mayor on the May 4 primary ballot.

        Build Cincinnati organizers, who have worked to put together a bipartisan coalition to support the measure, had hoped to have no organized opposition.

        “We have to get the message out that this is just a bad idea,” said Mr. Yates, one of three council Democrats to vote last week against putting the measure on the ballot.

        The Build Cincinnati plan would be the most dramatic change in Cincinnati's form of government in over 70 years.

        It would create a directly elected mayor who would have expanded powers, including veto power over council legislation, the power to appoint the vice mayor and council committee chairs and, with the consent of council, hire and fire the city manager.

        Mr. Yates said he is in the early stages of forming a campaign committee, but hopes to be able to open a campaign committee account next week at the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

        So far, the only volunteer Mr. Yates has recruited is a fellow Democrat, former congressman and mayor Thomas Luken.

        Four years ago, Mr. Luken was one of a handful of prominent Democrats who supported a business-led ballot initiative that would have given even more power to the mayor than the Build Cincinnati plan. The plan was defeated.

        Mr. Luken said he supported that plan because it “did away with the city manager altogether.” The Build Cincinnati plan, Mr. Luken said, keeps the city manager and “is just a mish-mosh, some kind of hybrid mix of council-manager and strong mayor.”

        Mr. Yates opposes the Build Cincinnati plan for entirely different reasons. He supports going back to the pre-1987 method of electing a mayor, where council itself made the choice at the beginning of each council term.

        The Build Cincinnati plan, Mr. Yates said, “emasculates the council-manager form of government and leaves the council with virtually no authority.”

        Build Cincinnati spokesman Aaron Herzig said that, with or without organized opposition, “the choice for Cincinnati voters will be whether they want to directly elect their mayor or keep the status quo.”

        Mr. Yates said he has no proposed fund-raising goal for his campaign, but said his group “could get the message out quite nicely with $100,000.”

        Whatever money is raised would be used primarily for radio advertising, literature mailings and yard signs, Mr. Yates said.

        Build Cincinnati is expected to raise much of its campaign money from the city's business community.

        In 1995, the campaign committee for the ballot issue spent nearly $350,000 on its losing campaign, with all the money coming from Cincinnati's business community. An opposition committee, made up mostly of Democrats and Charter Committee members, spent $78,862 to defeat the issue.


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