Sunday, November 05, 2000

Nine aim to change way Ludlow works

City's 'always in the news' for missteps

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LUDLOW — Upset by two years of infighting at Ludlow City Hall and the resultant negative publicity, nine challengers have entered the city council race to compete for two-year terms on six council seats.

        Six challengers are running as a slate: Karen H. Gillooly, Bill Froehle, Charlie Manning, Cindy Schachere, Gary Rolfsen II, and Stephen Wynn.

        The other challengers are Barbara Hamon, Bruce Werner, and Charles Geise. They are running against incumbents Fred Brooks, Ben Cloud, Garry R. Hatter Sr., John “Jack” Redd and Ron Wofford, as well as incumbent Sharon Dietz, who often votes independently of the other council members.

        “I don't necessarily blame the current council or mayor for all of the city's problems,” said Mr. Geise. “But what I do blame them for is not working together to improve the situation.”

        Mayor Tom Stacy, who is not up for re-election, is not endorsing anyone but has said he'll work with whomever the voters choose.

        Since the present city government took office in January 1999, the mayor and the council majority have sparred bitterly.

        Last summer, the council majority targeted the mayor for removal from office, citing excessive absenteeism. That effort was later dropped on the advice of special counsel, who said the mayor was keeping in touch with city employees via e-mail.

        Other issues of contention:

        • In December, the mayor and Police Chief Tom Collins accused three council members of trying to disband the Ludlow Police Department.

        • In January, some two dozen residents attending a city council meeting held up posters and urged Ludlow's elected officials and city departments to stop bickering and work together for the city's good.

        • In February Ludlow's clerks resigned, but even before then city finances were in disarray. Stacks of uncashed checks were found in City Hall. In April, Mr. Stacy announced the city was caught up on its billing for the first time in nearly two years.

        • For most of the past fiscal year, the mayor and the council majority failed to agree on a budget. Ludlow's budget was adopted nine months into its fiscal year.

        “There's just no unity in city government,” Mr. Wynn said.

        “I'm sure that the ones who are in the government are trying to do the best they can, but Ludlow's always in the news, and it's always negative things.”

"Wishful thinking'
               Incumbents and challengers alike speak of a desire to work as a team and give residents more of a voice in local decision making. But council members say their experience makes that more likely.

        “For them (the challengers) to say we should get along, that's just sort of wishful thinking,” said Mr. Wofford. “I don't think a new council could get along any better with the mayor.”

        Mr. Hatter said that if he is re-elected, he would seek more accountability from the mayor “and see that the citizens of Ludlow are told exactly what's going on with their budgeted money.”

        He added that the mayor doesn't want to accept the budget.

        “I want to make sure things are done legally, make sure the mayor lives up to the budget and the ordinances that we've passed,” he said.

        “I don't think that the new people, if they get in, will know what's being done, and what's going on. My opinion is they could be hoodwinked.”

        Mrs. Schachere said the six running as a slate agree on the changes that need to be made.

        She said the slate has discussed getting a list of priorities from the community to ensure that residents' concerns are addressed, and improving communication by establishing a city newsletter.

        Independent challenger Mr. Werner advocates forming a plan for the city's business community that would address everything from rundown housing to possible incentives to attract a grocery to replace the old IGA.

        Mrs. Schachere said Ludlow has a big problem with blight, particularly rental property.


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