Thursday, December 06, 2001

Luken unveils budget plan

$2 million in cuts proposed

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken presented City Council with his first proposed budget Wednesday, suggesting almost $2 million in cuts and a $1 million increase in arts funding.

        Mr. Luken's budget would make some deep cuts in politically popular programs like the Grassroots Leadership Academy, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful and the Chamber of Commerce.

        Another target is the Public Works Department's Litter Patrol, which costs $426,000 a year to run and which wrote 490 citations in 1999. Mr. Luken said the patrol duplicates efforts of the Buildings and Inspections Department and the money is better spent on beefing up the city's small fleet of street sweepers.

        The mayor's budget also reduces to writing ideas he floated the day after being elected as the city's new “strong mayor.”

        Those include the elimination of two city bureaucracies — the safety and economic development departments — and Citicable.

        Mr. Luken has backed off on his attempts to kill Citicable completely, however. Instead, he would reduce its funding by 33 percent, or $190,000.

        Other new suggested cuts include:

        • The Parental Responsibility Program started in the early 1990s to teach single parents how to raise their children. Mr. Luken said the program, which costs $212,000 a year, should be cut or, at least, come out of the city's separate Human Services budget. Savings: $100,000.

        • The Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce gets $80,000 in operating support from the city. Mr. Luken wants to cut it, but maintain the $100,000 spent to support the chamber's regional marketing efforts.

        • The Office of Environmental Services runs programs on issues such as employee safety and recycling awareness.

        “I'm sure I'll be accused of being anti-environment, but I'm scratching my head trying to figure out what this office does,” he said.

        Mr. Luken wants to cut $300,000 from the office's $472,000 budget.

        • The Grassroots Leadership Academy, which trains citizens in community involvement, is popular with African-American activists such as former Mayor Dwight Tillery, who is a paid consultant for the program. The academy gets $279,000 a year in city funding.

        However, Mr. Luken said in his budget report, “We should begin the process of gradually reducing budgets for organizations that have gotten off the ground and are progressing on their own.”

        The mayor would cut it by $100,000.

        • Keep Cincinnati Beautiful gets $180,000 from the city. Mr. Luken wants to reduce it by $80,000.

        The mayor's budget would create a $1 million Capital Arts Fund, which would be paid for by money returning to the city from the U.S. Postal Service's failed proposal to move to Bond Hill.

        Councilman John Cranley, appointed by Mr. Luken as the new chairman of the Finance Committee, is a close ally of the mayor. He admits that they'll have a fight on their hands.

        “It's going to be fireworks just to get all this through,” he said.

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