Saturday, September 29, 2001

NAACP for change in hiring

Unions against Issue 5

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A major civil rights group Friday endorsed a ballot measure for civil service reform in Cincinnati, saying it will “make our city government more accountable and responsible.”

        The Cincinnati chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said Issue 5, like the “strong mayor” amendment approved by voters in 1999, would “produce excellence and opportunity.”

        Issue 5 would remove about 98 city employees — most of them department heads, assistant department heads and professional housing and economic development positions — from civil service rules.

        That change would allow the new city manager to hire and fire those employees at will — except that current employees would retain their protection, and future police and fire chiefs could be removed only “for cause.”

        Issue 5 campaign manager Betty Hull suggested that if civil service reform passes, City Hall would be more likely to “keep things moving” — demolishing old eyesores and replacing them with developments that will bring jobs to Cincinnati.

        The NAACP joins several other groups — including all nine City Council members, the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League and the Community Action Now commission — in endorsing Issue 5.

        The issue is not without its detractors, however.

        Unions of city employees are expected to be the most vocal critics.

        The Fraternal Order of Police, for example, opposes the provision removing the police and fire chiefs — and their assistant chiefs — from civil service. The police union worries the change would make the safety forces more political.

        “This is not about having the largest pool of qualified candidates to choose from,” said FOP President Keith Fangman. “... It's all about power and control.”


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