Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Luken quiet before election on Lynch future

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On the first business day after being sworn in as Cincinnati's “strong mayor,” the first thing Charlie Luken did was to draft a 15-word letter firing the Rev. Damon Lynch III from his city race relations commission.

        It's something he consistently refused to do during the mayoral campaign, even when asked point-blank in a radio debate whether he would fire the controversial pastor and head of the Black United Front.

        “In my view, we must listen to the broadest spectrum of voices,” Mr. Luken told WLW (700-AM) host Bill Cunningham in August. “Am I just going to appoint people to the CAN commission with whom I agree? And if I am, we might as well fold up the tents and give up.”

        If Mr. Luken then sounds an awful lot like his critics do today, listen to the Rev. Mr. Lynch's comments:

        “The best thing the mayor can do is use his seat as a bully pulpit,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said in April. “He needs to use the power the position now gives him to challenge the city — all parts of it — to rise up and become a better city, to become more inclusive, more tolerant.”

        Little did the Over-the-Rhine minister know then that he would become the bully pulpit's first victim.

        The successor game: Saturday's opening session of Cincinnati City Council continued an obscure tradition, mandated by the city's charter, of filing what's known as a “successor designation certificate.”

        In it, council members pick the other members they will entrust to pick their replacement should they leave council.

        Following tradition, Democrats picked the other Democrats, and the two Republicans picked each other. But whom do you pick if you're the lone Charterite?

        That's the problem Jim Tarbell faced.

        In the last term, Mr. Tarbell had picked Phil Heimlich to choose his successor. But Mr. Heimlich's gone.

        So Mr. Tarbell turned to Republican Chris Monzel — but only after Mr. Monzel promised he would appoint someone acceptable to the Charter Committee.

        But as Councilman Todd Portune learned last year, you can't handpick your successor.

        Mr. Portune, now a Hamilton County commissioner, wanted Scott Seidewitz to take his seat. The Democrats picked John Cranley instead.

        Quotable: “I am joined by my parents, Susan and John. The rest of my family are Republicans and were too embarrassed to be here.”

        — Mr. Cranley, a Democrat, before taking the oath of office Saturday.

        “The rest of my family are Republicans, but I guess they're too embarrassed to be here, too.”

        — Pat DeWine, a Republican whose father, U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, did not attend the swearing-in.

        Enquirer City Hall reporter Gregory Korte can be reached at 768-8391 or

       Cincinnati embarks on a new “stronger mayor” system of government this week that will have repercussions throughout the Tristate. With it, The Cincinnati Enquirer launches a weekly column that looks at what is unfolding at City Hall.


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