Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Candidates put to the test

Voters quiz mayoral hopefuls

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Three men who would like to be Cincinnati's next mayor put the fourth, incumbent Charlie Luken, on the spot Tuesday night for what they said was his lack of leadership during April's riots.

        But many voters at the Westwood candidates' forum wanted to know what the challengers would have done differently.

        The forum, the first in the city's first direct election of a mayor in 76 years, was sponsored by the Westwood Civic Association.

        A primary election Sept. 11 will reduce the field to two candidates, who will square off in November.

        The candidates — Michael Riley, Bill Brodberger, Courtis Fuller and Mr. Luken, in that order — took turns giving five-minute stump speeches and fielding questions from the audience.

        Fran Johnson, a 62-year-old teacher from Bond Hill, was one of several audience members who asked the challengers how they would have handled the riots differently. All three said it wouldn't have been an issue.

        “I would never have let it get that far,” said Mr. Riley.

        “There won't be any riots when Brodberger is a strong mayor,” Mr. Brodberger said. “Next question.”

        And Mr. Fuller, a former news anchor, said the things that Mr. Luken has done after the riots — such as the establishment of a race relations commission — should have been done earlier.

        “A lot of those things were a day late and a dollar short,” Mr. Fuller said. “This is not a surprise what happened in April. If you listened to the voices out there, they would have told you that the pot was boiling.”

        To which Mr. Luken responded, “If I made a mistake, and I don't think I did, I think it was listening too much.” He said he had thrown more than 40 people out of City Council Chambers for being disruptive.

        “Sometimes we listen so much that we don't stand up for what we know is right,” he said.

        Mr. Luken took most of the criticism in good humor, quipping at the beginning that “I'm glad I'm last because I get to hear all the things I did wrong.”

        But by the end of the night, his patience was wearing thin.

        “It is really easy to go back and say I could have done this different or that different,” he said. “Heck, Courtis Fuller could have done something from the news desk.”

        Mr. Luken and Mr. Fuller will appear at a forum tonight sponsored by the Cincinnati AFL-CIO and moderated by former Gov. John Gilligan. It will be 6:30 p.m. at the Laborers' Hall, 3457 Montgomery Road.


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