Monday, October 22, 2001

Charterites flex political muscles

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The 1990s weren't kind to the Charter Committee.

        As recently as 1999, this once-powerful force in city politics was reduced to fielding a single candidate for City Council: Jim Tarbell.

        But Charter Committee president Jerry Newfarmer said the 77-year-old committee — which claims to be the oldest active, independent political party in America — has reason to be optimistic about its future.

        Unlike the Republican Party, the Charter Committee fielded a candidate in Cincinnati's first strong mayor election — former news anchor Courtis Fuller. The Charter Committee also features three council candidates: Dawn Denno, John Schlagetter and Mr. Tarbell.

        “It's an intentionally short ticket,” said Mr. Newfarmer, a former city manager.

        “We're selective in who we endorse.”

        One of those people the Charter Committee talked to was Kino Harrison, a College Hill resident was endorsed — and then quietly unendorsed after his misdemeanor criminal record came to light.

        As in years past, the Charter Committee ticket is a curious combination of social liberals and fiscal conservatives who do not reflect a traditional party philosophy.

        • Ms. Denno, 49, of Mount Lookout, works for the Ohio Department of Education, where she is responsible for overseeing $500 million spent on early education programs.

        Wielding the slogan, “Hold Me Accountable,” Ms. Denno said her mission is to make sure city programs do their jobs.

        Ms. Denno would improve police-community relations through a “Citizens Bill of Rights” for dealing with police officers — and an officer's bill of rights for ealing with citizens.

        She also supports the establishment of an independent development authority, and would work to reduce gun violence.

        • Mr. Schlagetter, 37, of East Price Hill is a self-employed architect. His firm, Foregenitor, designs industrial buildings for the likes of Procter & Gamble.

        A native of Sidney, Ohio, he first came to town in 1982 as an architecture student at the University of Cincinnati.

        Even other candidates marvel at his attention to detail. His Web site ( provides detailed position statements on 98 separate issues fromabortion to water rates..

        A self-described “neo-conservative,” Mr. Schlagetter said he was attracted to the non-partisan nature of the Charter Committee.

        “What I tell people about Charter is that it's about ideas, not ideology,” he said.

        Among his ideas: flatten the city hall bureaucracy, put city records on the Internet, and reduce property and earnings taxes.

        • Mr. Tarbell, a 59-year-old restaurateur and Over-the-Rhine activist, first ran in 1997. He lost, but was appointed to City Council in 1998 when Charterite Bobbie Sterne retired.

        Recognized for his bald dome and his early-morning pursuit of Over-the-Rhine vandals, he is revered by the new urbanists and reviled by those who see gentrification as the biggest threat to the inner city.

        His unwavering support of rank-and-file police officers — even during the April unrest — earned him one of only two endorsements the Fraternal Order of Police has made to incumbent candidates.

        He led the effort to fire City Manager John Shirey, who instead agreed to resign Dec. 1.

        But his biggest passion is city planning.

        He would create a city-county development authority to help fund projects “from the river's edge to the county line” and to help protect green space in outlying areas by buying up development rights.


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