Friday, November 09, 2001

Strong mayor


Let's have a party at City Hall

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        For a skinny guy who jokes about still being a “90-pound weakling,” Charlie Luken bulked up mighty fast after winning Cincinnati's strong-mayor election.

        Less than 12 hours after defeating Courtis Fuller in the dueling former Channel 5 anchors race — known hereafter as “The Ted Baxter Memorial Runoff of the Mouth” — the strong mayor-elect flexed his newfound muscles.

        Hiding his physique under a dark winter-weight sport coat and open-collar blue shirt, he called a Wednesday morning press conference in his City Hall office. He unveiled an agenda containing enough heavy lifting to wear out Hercules.

        The mayor's to-do list lacked one important item: a party to help unite Cincinnati.
       

Date to remember

        On Saturday, Dec. 1, for the first time in 76 years, a directly elected, powerful mayor takes office in Cincinnati.

        The occasion calls for an Inauguration Day party. Throw it at City Hall. Invite the whole town. That might help break down some of the divisions plaguing this city.

        Don't get me wrong. I like take-charge elected officials who are all business. No sense wasting time.

        Still, the historic significance of the Dec. 1 inauguration — and the chance for a greater good to come of it — show a need for the party.

        But then I repeat myself. A Dec. 1 party, designed to bring a divided city together, to welcome everyone to City Hall with free “made-in-Cincinnati” treats, was proposed in this space in July.

        At the time, Mayor Luken felt a little presumptuous talking about a swearing-in party before he won the race. Come back and see me, he said, after the election.

        By my calendar, that was Wednesday.
       

Party planner

        While waiting to see the strong mayor-elect, I took in his press conference.

        Under the glare of TV lights, he said he hopes to eliminate some city departments. (Flabby bureaucracy goes on a crash diet.)

        He wants the power to appoint members of the Citizens Police Review Panel. (A power play: Take from the city manager, give to the strong mayor, rein in outspoken panel members.)

        He plans to create a committee to help publicize Cincinnati's arts institutions. (Promote what Northern Kentucky doesn't have.)

        He urges slow-moving members of Cincinnati CAN to get off their cans about improving police-community relations. (About time.)

        He proposes pulling the plug on CitiCable and using the $1.2 million saved to jump-start a $20 million to $25 million development fund. Bucks to improve the city would be generated. Venomous kooks attending CitiCable-televised City Council meetings would be denied a citywide audience. (Censorship, anyone?)

        The mayor used the phrase “unite the city” a lot and said “we have got to put out a bigger welcome mat at the front of City Hall.”

        But he didn't mention a party on Dec. 1.

        Later, he told me he's leaning toward having an Inauguration Day party “where people can come downtown and share the day” at City Hall.

        “Chili and Graeter's ice cream” would be on the menu, he said. “People could wander through this great building and see their City Hall.”

        Throw that party. Invite everyone. Roll out that bigger welcome mat.

        And make sure it stays put.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379, by fax at 768-8340 or e-mail at cradel@enquirer.com.

       



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