Sunday, July 08, 2001

Charter history

        Significant events in the history of Cincinnati's Charter Committee:

        • 1923: With the city near financial collapse and Republicans in “hilltop” neighborhoods in open revolt against GOP boss Rudolph Hynicka, city council puts a tax increase on the ballot. A young Republican reform-minded lawyer named Murray Seasongood campaigns against it. The issue is defeated.

        • 1924: The new Charter Committee puts a city charter on the ballot. It would do away with the ward council and replace it with an at-large council and a professional city manager. The issue passes overwhelmingly. In the 1925 elections, Seasongood is elected to council and is chosen as mayor under Charter government.

        • 1948: A Charter-dominated City Council adopts a “master plan” for the city's growth, with an emphasis on neighborhoods and riverfront development, including the first plan to build a stadium on the riverfront.

        • 1957: In an August special election, a Republican-led effort is successful in doing away with proportional representation as the city's method for electing council. Voters approve the “9X” system, in which nine candidates are elected in a field race, with each voter voting for up to nine candidates. It is a major blow to the Charter Committee.

        • 1973: Theodore M. Berry, a Charterite, becomes the first black mayor of Cincinnati. Mr. Berry had been on council in the 1940s and 1950s, until he lost in the first 9X election of council. Mr. Berry returned to council in the 1960s and again in 1971.

        • 1976: Bobbie Sterne, a Charterite, becomes Cincinnati's first woman mayor.

        • 1985: A Charter-Democrat coalition that had ruled council since 1971 was broken up. A coalition of conservatives — three Republicans and two Democrats — that becomes known as the “Gang of Five” dominates council for the next two years.

        • 1987: In an August special election, voters approve a charter amendment opposed by the Charter Committee replacing the old system of choosing a mayor with a “top vote-getter” system, where the council candidate with the most votes becomes mayor. The measure passes and, in November, Democrat Charles Luken becomes the first popularly elected mayor.

        • 1995: Amid cries that the “top vote-getter” system has produced councils that are fractured and unable to work together, the Cincinnati Business Committee proposes a charter amendment for the August special election ballot. It would do away with council-manager government and create a strong mayor. The amendment fails.

        • 1999: Charter Committee endorses a charter amendment on the May ballot calling for direct election of a mayor with enhanced powers over council. It passes.

        • 2001: The Charter Committee fields a candidate for mayor.


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