Friday, October 26, 2001

Independent draws some notice

Strong organization behind 28-year-old

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati City Council races are, technically, non-partisan affairs.

        But if you think party endorsements don't mean anything, just try running as an independent.

        Of the 26 candidates running for city council, nine do not have major-party endorsements.

        As a rule, they also have little money, no television time and few union or interest-group endorsements.

        The exception that proves the rule: Laketa Cole.

        A 28-year-old former aide to council members Dwight Tillery and Paul Booth, the Bond Hill resident struck out on her own this year.

        She's raised a respectable amount of money — about $40,000, enough for a television commercial. She's received more union endorsements than many of the endorsed Democrats.

        And she has a strong campaign organization. She's rarely seen in public without several volunteers wearing green and black “Cole for Council” T-shirts.

        “I'm an independent because I believe it's about the people, not the party,” she tells voters.

        But that's not entirely true. Like many independents, she had sought a Democratic endorsement but came up short.

        Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke said candidates such as like Ms. Cole and Clarence Williams might have gotten the party's endorsement in any other year. But the party can only endorse nine, and ran out of slots.

        Ms. Cole says she has more City Hall experience than most incumbents. And while other candidates call for neighborhood-development studies, Ms. Cole points out that 400 of those studies are sitting in City Hall filing cabinets, waiting to be acted upon.

        Other independents:

        • Ken Anderson, 44, a real estate title agent from Kennedy Heights, has been an outspoken critic of attempts to privatize city services.

        He also wants to remove the binding arbitration clause of the city's contract with the police union, saying it hinders the city's efforts to get rid of bad cops.

        • Toni Andrews, 32, of Northside is a social worker.

        A single mother who worked days and studied nights to get a bachelor's degree, Ms. Andrews said she would work closely with Cincinnati Public Schools to develop more youth programs.

        • Theo Barnes, 41, of Mount Auburn, is running for the third time.

        A longtime Over-the-Rhine activist, he said home ownership is his top priority.

        • Wes Flinn, 28, of Clifton is a musician running with the Green Party endorsement. With his trademark trombone, Mr. Flinn is running on the slogan, “Sounding the horn for change.”

        His platform stresses human relations.

        • William Kirkland, 44, of Bond Hill is a perennial protester at City Hall whose slogan is, “from protest to political accountability.”

        A mail sorter at the U.S. Postal Service, he once called in sick at work — “sick of racism,” he said.

        • Nate Livingston, 32, of Avondale is a former radio talk-show host.

        He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for trespassing after disrupting a speech by Mayor Charlie Luken.

        Outspoken and controversial, Mr. Livingston said most candidates are shying away from racial issues.

        • Mr. Williams, 48, of Walnut Hills is a retired police officer.

        He proposes a safety commission that would set policy for the police and fire divisions, providing more civilian oversight.

        • Eric Wilson, 39, of South Fairmount is a native Cincinnatian who returned to his hometown last year to work on Al Gore's presidential campaign.

        Better police-community relations are his top priority.


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