Monday, October 15, 2001

Mayor candidates get new scrutiny from voters




By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tom Hagerty of Pleasant Ridge wants to hear the candidates for mayor talk more about crime. Peter Witte of Price Hill wants them to talk more about maintaining middle-class neighborhoods. And Georgia Keith of Over-the-Rhine just wants them to shut up and listen.

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Fuller
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Luken
        As Charlie Luken and Courtis Fuller approach the final three weeks of the campaign, they're encountering voters who are just beginning to focus on the candidates and their positions.

        Much of the campaign thus far has been about the past — the police shooting of an unarmed suspect in April, and the resulting riots and racial tension.

        “So far, it's a campaign that has pretty much played out under the radar screen. They haven't done a good job of drawing the battle lines,” Mr. Hagerty said.

        “I've heard almost nothing except as regards to April.”

        But whether or not voters have been paying attention, the candidates for mayor have been talking about issues since August.

        Each has staked out positions on crime, housing, economic development and city governance — in platforms and in public speeches.

        Voters looking for starkly opposed views on those issues may be frustrated, however. Both candidates concede that their differences on many issues amount to matters of style more than substance.

        Often, the differences are in the details.

        Both candidates, for example, say they want more police offi cers, but Mr. Luken has given an exact number: 75.

        Mr. Fuller said he wants more study.

        Crime is an issue everywhere, said Mr. Hagerty, the community council president in Pleasant Ridge, where two men were killed on Dryden Avenue in July in their sport-utility vehicle after a drive-and-shoot battle between two vehicles. The other driver, a Silverton man, was charged with aggravated murder.

        It was a crime that shocked the normally quiet neighborhood and was among 29 shooting incidents citywide that month in a summer that was the most violent that Cincinnati has seen in decades.

        Still, Mr. Hagerty said, his neighborhood is safe — and he'd like it to stay that way.

        Some mayoral issues are more specific.

        Mr. Witte of Price Hill said he's seen an influx of low-income housing on the west side of town that threatens to accelerate the population loss of the city.

        “We could lose a younger crowd that may be just about to raise a family,” he said.

        In Over-the-Rhine, Republic Street residents wanting the attention of candidates tried an unusual tactic on Saturday:

        They held a cookout and invited candidates for mayor and council.

        “The candidates want our vote. We're good for our vote, so we should be good enough as human beings,” said Mrs. Keith, the organizer.

        About seven of 26 council candidates showed up for the party.

        Her issues are much more local: a speed bump on Republic Street, some money to fix up the small city park next door and more aggressive policing of the drug dealers on the corner.

        And while she said she doesn't expect the new, stronger mayor to take care of all these issues, she does want someone who can “put a fire” under city employees who will.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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