Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Chief Streicher: City could use more cops

        For months, the debating society at 801 Plum St. has been arguing about whether the city should hire another 75 police officers.

        It became the subject of mayoral debates (Charlie Luken accused his opponent of flip-flopping on the issue) and campaign commercials (Remember John Cranley's flippant “Duh!” ad?).

        Through it all, Police Chief Tom Streicher refused to say publicly whether the officers were needed.

        The chief ended his silence Monday. He told City Council the new officers would help replace the 70 officers from patrol and other special units drawn into the Violent Crimes Task Force over the summer.

        “I guarantee you that if we get these officers, we will put them to good use.”

        Councilman David Crowley, who opposed more officers based in part on the chief's reluctance to say they were needed, was flabbergasted. He asked the chief: “This issue has been debated since July. I was wondering if you could tell us why you're just now coming forward?”

        The chief said he had been muzzled by former City Manager John Shirey.

        “He gave me a very strict order that the city's position was that we don't need the 75 additional officers, and as such, directed me not to speak publicly,” the chief said.

        Democracy in action: When Mr. Cranley chaired his first meeting of the Finance Committee on Dec. 3, he promised an “open, transparent” budget process.

        Instead of the back-room deals of years past, everything would be hashed out on the floor of council. Rather than one up-or-down vote, he would hold a series of line-item votes, letting taxpayers see who inserted the pork or sharpened an ax at the expense of a popular program.

        Two weeks later, he worked out a behind-the-scenes deal with other conservatives on City Council to forge a compromise budget.

        Then, when he bristled at a motion to separate the budget into line-item votes, Alicia Reece withdrew her competing budget proposal in protest.

        Mr. Cranley, 27, said he learned a lesson in government budgeting.

        “It became impossible to figure out how to get a balanced budget and do anything but have one up-or-down vote,” he said.

        Thanks but no: Wyoming Mayor David Savage came to Cincinnati City Council's Finance Committee on Monday to urge the city to spend $41,063 for the Sister Cities Program — a 70 percent increase.

        The Sister Cities Program, he said, provides “a model for how people can get along” and could inspire future “Sister Neighborhood” programs that would unite the people of Wyoming with, say, Westwood.

        The committee voted 5-2 against the increase.

        For the record, the amount Wyoming has spent on Sister Cities: $0.

        Cross one off: Tom Angus, the consultant helping Mr. Luken look for a new city manager, can probably scratch Valerie Lemmie off his list.

        Ms. Lemmie, the city manager of Dayton, has been offered a job as the chief executive of Birmingham, England — the largest municipal government in the United Kingdom — at the equivalent of $231,000 a year, the Dayton Daily News reports.

       Gregory Korte is City Hall reporter for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He can be reached at 768-8391.


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