Friday, October 12, 2001

Luken a cheerleader

At forum, Fuller takes critic role

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Thursday night's forum on the 2001 Cincinnati mayor's race was the first time that Mayor Charlie Luken and his opponent, Courtis Fuller, have been in the same room together in almost three weeks — even if Mr. Fuller showed up 46 minutes late.

        Though he has decided to limit face-to-face debates, Mr. Fuller wasted no time making his case for change.

[photo] Mayor Charlie Luken (foreground) and his opponent in the mayor's race, Courtis Fuller, take questions from the audience Thursday evening.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        “Look at where we are now,” he said in a belated opening statement. “Downtown development stagnant. Homeownership rate one of the lowest in the nation. The population continuing to drop. And a City Council out of control. If these people were on Survivor, they would have been voted off the island a long time ago.”

        The forum, sponsored by the Woman's City Club and attended by more than 100 people, was mostly a theoretical discussion of the new, stronger powers the mayor will have after Dec. 1.

        Mr. Luken used most of his free 46 minutes to talk about how he would approach a new job description that would allow him to veto ordinances, lead the hiring of the city manager, and help set the city's budget priorities.

        “There is no second chance to make a first impression,” Mr. Luken said. “And by that I mean, the way this next mayor behaves, the way this next mayor conducts himself in office, will set a precedent for decades.”

        His first task: find a city manager to replace John Shirey, who will retire on the new mayor's first day.

        “Rather than looking for somebody with a Ph.D. in bureaucracy, I'm going to be looking for someone who can get the job done,” he said.

        Though the forum was not, strictly speaking, a debate, there were a couple of exchanges — as when Mr. Luken said he supported Issue 5, a civil service reform measure that he said would make the City Hall bureaucracy more accountable. It would allow the city mananager to hire and fire about 98 top city positions.

        “I thought accountability was supposed to be there already,” Mr. Fuller said. “It should have been there if it's not.”

        But when the forum was disrupted by some of the usual suspects who protest City Council meetings, the candidates for mayor struck the same note.

        “I know a lot of people have wanted Charlie and I to go at each other, and I won't do that,” Mr. Fuller said. “We need to be better to each other than we've ever been. We have to be respectful.”

        Mr. Luken concluded, “We need civility in this community across-the-board.”
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