Friday, August 03, 2001

Fuller plan would revive 'voices of city's past'

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Courtis Fuller, whose five-week-old campaign for Cincinnati's mayor has been long on talk of unity but short on specifics, has detailed a four-point plan for revitalizing neighborhoods.

        While downtown development is important, the Charter Committee candidate said, “a developed downtown and an undeveloped uptown” is destructive in the long run.

        Mr. Fuller's plan, outlined Thursday, includes:

        • “Queen City Neighborhood Improvement Initiative,” in which neighborhoods would create special taxing districts to pay for specific improvements.

        Mr. Fuller would also expand the use of tax-increment financing, in which a portion of property taxes on new development goes to pay for the public improvements that make the development possible.

        And he suggests diverting $28 million from the city's earnings tax that now goes to the Southern Ohio Regional Transit Authority and spending the money instead on neighborhoods. The tax accounts for 40 percent of SORTA's budget. Many other bus systems rely on county sales taxes for support.

        • A “mayor's turf war” on blighted property. He said the city should use “any means necessary” to go after slum landlords, seizing their property and selling it at a reasonable cost to neighborhood residents.

        • An “urban gateways” project, which would offer low-interest loans for neighborhood businesses to make visible improvements to the outside of their properties. He also supports more money for beautification projects in neighborhood business districts.

        • A “cultural tourism” initiative that would attract visitors not just downtown, but to neighborhoods.

        “People go to Harlem just to walk Lennox Avenue. They do that because they can hear the voices of the past,” Mr. Fuller said. “And we have those kinds of places here.”

        Neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, Northside and Price Hill are “diamonds in the rough,” he said.

        Mayor Charlie Luken, Mr. Fuller's main opponent in the race for the stronger mayor job that voters approved in 1999, said the city is already doing many of the things Mr. Fuller suggests, but said his opponent's plan was “a good start.”

        Mr. Luken said he disagreed with the idea of special taxing districts.

        He also said Mr. Fuller's tourism plan sounded a lot like the city's multicultural tourism project of 1999, which “spent a few hundred thousand dollars and didn't have much to show for it.”


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