Thursday, August 23, 2001

Riot issue gets Luken riled at foe Fuller

Mayor bristles at criticism during debate

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken could possibly have averted the riots if he hadn't walked out of a Law Committee meeting in April, opponent Courtis Fuller said Wednesday night.

        Mr. Luken responded forcefully, breaking what had been a somewhat cordial tone to the AFL-CIO candidates forum, to say he resented the challenger's remark.

        The exchange, prompted by a question from the audience about how Mr. Fuller would have handled the April unrest differently, came at the end of a forum in which the two main candidates generally had little disagreement.

        Mr. Fuller, the Charter Committee-endorsed candidate, referred to a City Council Law Committee meeting April 9, two days after Officer Steve Roach shot Timothy Thomas in a dark alley in Over-the-Rhine. Mr. Thomas, who was wanted on several misdemeanor warrants, was unarmed.

        Hundreds of protesters showed up at the committee meeting, and Mr. Luken — who is a member of council but not of the committee — left early.

        “I would not have walked out of the room. I would have stayed there and put my hide on the line,” Mr. Fuller said.

        “To walk out just sent a bad signal, and to do that just took the lid off the pot, and things exploded.”

        “I really resent that last statement,” Mr. Luken responded. “The meeting was 2 1/4 hours, and I missed all of five minutes. That's a fact.

        “For any of us to say that's what caused the riot, that does a disservice to the city, and oversimplifies a very complicated situation.”

        The two candidates mostly agreed on several labor issues.

        Both oppose privatization of city services. Both support the compromise on civil service reform that will appear on the November ballot. And both say city employees should be allowed to participate in partisan politics.

        Indeed, AFL-CIO Director Dan Radford said Mr. Luken and Mr. Fuller — both former TV news anchors and members of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — “are well known to labor and are both friends of labor.”

        Two independent candidates, Bill Brodberger and Michael Riley, were not invited to the event.

        The four candidates will be narrowed to two finalists in a Sept. 11 primary.

        On Nov. 6, Cincinnati will choose its first directly elected strong mayor since 1925.


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