Tuesday, April 27, 1999

Questions and answers on Issue 4

        Question: What is Issue 4?

        Answer: A proposed amendment to the charter of the city of Cincinnati. If adopted by a majority of those voting, the charter would be changed to permit direct election of a mayor with substantially more authority than the mayor now has.

        Question: Don't voters elect a mayor now?

        Answer: Yes, but in a fashion peculiar to Cincinnati. Since 1987, the candidate who has won the most votes for council has been automatically mayor. The mayor isn't much different than any other council member in terms of power.

        Question: What's wrong with the current plan?

        Answer: Many contend the system cheats voters because they can't choose a mayor who has the statutory ability to do anything. Others think city government is unresponsive but think this proposal is the wrong approach.

        Question: Whose idea is this plan?

        Answer: A group called Build Cincinnati has been working on a reform plan for about two years, thinking the current system prevented clear and effective leadership. The group's work was overseen by the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as the Charter Committee and local chapter of the NAACP.

        Question: So, this is their plan?

        Answer: It's really a compromise. The group wanted a comprehensive change in how to elect a mayor and city council. But members couldn't agree on what it should be and were prepared to keep working. Councilman Charlie Winburn pushed council to at least place a mayor reform plan on Tuesday's ballot. After lots of debate, council voted to put what is known as Issue 4 on the ballot.

        Question: Because council put the issue on the ballot, does that mean members support it?

        Answer: Not necessarily. Members Roxanne Qualls, Todd Portune, Phil Heimlich, Jeanette Cissell, Charlie Winburn and Jim Tarbell voted to put it on the ballot so voters could decide. Ms. Qualls, for one, plans to campaign for it. But Mr. Tarbell has said he will vote no. Members Paul Booth, Minette Cooper and Tyrone Yates voted against putting it on the ballot and oppose it.

        Question: Who are some of the political groups in favor of Issue 4?

        Answer: The Republican Party, Charter Committee and the local chapter of the NAACP. The co-chairmen of the Hamilton County Democratic Party support it, but the party itself has not taken a position.

        Question: Who are some groups opposing it?

        Answer: The Baptist Ministers Conference, the Urban League and the League of Women Voters. The Cincinnati Democratic Committee, a wing of the Democratic Party, opposes it.

        Question: What's the main argument for Issue 4?

        Answer: City government would be more accountable and effective if voters decide directly who the mayor will be. The elected mayor would be able to carry out an agenda by having the power to appoint the vice mayor and chairmen of council committees, assign legislation to committees, initiate the budget, veto legislation and lead the search for a city manager.

        Question: What's the main argument against Issue 4?

        Answer: The plan would give too much authority to the mayor, because the mayor would effectively control the workings of city council and regulate the hiring and firing of the city manager. Council members, elected from throughout the city, would not have enough authority left to be responsive to voters. The mayor could become a despot.

        Question: Why does the plan call for the mayor to serve four years and council members to be elected for two years?

        Answer: Proponents say it would provide more stability to city government by not requiring such frequent elections. Opponents say it's a bad idea because council terms remain at two years.

        Question: If approved by voters, when would this plan become law?

        Answer: Starting with the election of 2001. This year's council elections would be conducted as usual.

        Question: Didn't we vote on a mayor reform plan before?

        Answer: In 1995 Cincinnati voters rejected a plan that would have made the mayor the chief executive officer of the city. The plan would have eliminated the city manager form of government. The proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.

Historic charter decision one week away
Issue 4: The good and the bad
- Questions and answers on Issue 4

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