Friday, May 04, 2001

City hires Murray to advise race panel

Former manager: Change needed quickly

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The only African-American city manager in Cincinnati history will be special counsel for the mayor's race relations panel, pushing for racial equality in boardrooms and in neighborhoods.

        Sylvester Murray, city manager from 1979-1985, said Thursday that changes need to happen fast.

        “At the end of four months, we ought to see something happen,” the 60-year-old Cleveland State University professor said. “My first step is going to be to listen. Listen to the people who have titles and listen to those who don't have titles.”

    • 60 years old.
    • Professor of public administration, Cleveland State University, 1990-present.
    • President, Joshua Kim Associates Inc., a consulting firm in Cleveland.
    • Master's degree in governmental administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a master's in economics from Eastern Michigan University.
    • Cincinnati city manager, 1979-1985. Also served as city manager of San Diego; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Inkster, Mich.
    • National and international consulting, including public ethics training for the Crown Court of Dubai, United Arab Emirates; city management organization for the Republic of South Africa; public management conference in Ethiopia.
    • Senior consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, three years.
        Mayor Charlie Luken named Mr. Murray as his special counsel on Thursday, saying he has the ability to bring the community together.

        “I think the appointment of Sy Murray is evidence of how serious we are about our charge,” Mr. Luken said. “This is a man with significant experience in urban affairs. . . . He has the ability to cross racial lines.”

        Mr. Murray said last month's riots following the April 7 shooting by police of an unarmed black man were horrible. But even more troubling, he said, is the fact that 15 African-American men have been killed in confrontations with police since 1995.

        “Perhaps the statistics bothered me even more,” he said. “That was what was really terrible.”

        Mr. Murray will be paid $1,400 a day plus expenses, most of that coming from private foundations, although initial costs might be paid from the mayor's office budget.

        Mr. Murray will work almost exclusively with Cincinnati Community Action Now, a privately funded panel that Mr. Luken organized after the riots.

        The group's charge is to examine the cause of the city's racial tensions and find solutions to housing, employment and education problems.

        “Mr. Murray is a wonderful asset,” said Tom Cody, executive vice president of Federated Department Stores Inc., one of three panel co-chairs Mr. Luken appointed Monday.

        “What you see is what you get. . . . His only interest is what is best for the city,” Mr. Cody said. “Probably his single biggest asset is the experience he brings to the table.”

        That experience includes being fired as the San Diego, Calif., city manager in 1986 after he prevented officials from prosecuting a black man who had been shot by police officers.

        “I stopped it,” he said. “He had already been shot by police. And after the guy recovered, they wanted to take him to trial for attacking a police officer.”

        As a result of his intervention, he said, he ran afoul of police and city officials

        That was just one of his conflicts over race during the 13 months he was chief executive of San Diego. He also ran into problems when he pushed for a citizen police review board and when he tried to push an affirmative action plan to promote women and minorities into key management positions.

        Race was also at the forefront of his tenure as Cincinnati's city manager, where he led the city for six years before going to San Diego.

        In 1979, Mr. Murray was a key player in resolving tensions between the police and residents. He also attempted to bolster the city's affirmative action plan and once drew up an ordinance preventing the city's poor from being relocated for new developments.

        Police officials praised his handling of a bitter salary dispute. But the former president of the firefighters union blamed Mr. Murray for a near-strike in 1983 and criticized him for pushing minority hires over the interests of white candidates.

        Since 1990, Mr. Murray has been a professor of public administration at Cleveland State. He is also president of a consulting firm.

        Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Cincinnati councilman during Mr. Murray's tenure as city manager, said Mr. Murray's reputation for candor would be “a breath of fresh air.”

        Mr. Blackwell said Mr. Luken called him about a week after the rioting to float the idea of bringing Mr. Murray in as a consultant.

        Mr. Blackwell said that, at the request of the mayor, he called Mr. Murray to sound him out about the possibility of being a consultant.

        “I can tell you the man is not interested in becoming a city manager again,” Mr. Blackwell said. “The man has a full-time job. He can afford to be a straight shooter. He won't be in anybody's back pocket.”

       Enquirer reporter Howard Wilkinson contributed to this article.


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