Monday, April 16, 2001

Council seats reconfigured to face audience

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Cincinnati City Council meets Tuesday afternoon in its first session since rioting swept through the city, they will have to face the public - literally and figuratively. Over the weekend, the entire look of city council chambers changed, at the order of Mayor Charlie Luken.

Angry demonstrators surrounded council Monday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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New council layout.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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        The changes in where council members sit and where the public stands to address them came a week after the law and public safety committee, where hundreds of angry protesters surged toward the council members' desks on the chamber floor.

        Instead of the seating arrangement council has used for decades — with members' desks arranged in a horseshoe facing the mayor's elevated desk, so that some council members had their backs to the audience - the new council chamber has a raised platform where all council members and city administrators will face the audience.

        A podium with a microphone for public speakers has been placed in front of the array of council members.

        Mr. Luken said the change will give council “a better way to handle a public hearing.”

        It was not done, he said, because of any concern over the safety of council members who sat with their backs turned to sometimes angry crowds of citizens.

        “The clerk of council has wanted this kind of arrangement for some time now,” Mr. Luken said. “It just makes sense for council to not be sitting there with their backs turned to the audience.”


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- Council seats reconfigured to face audience