Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Make a rule, break a rule




By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Rules Committee met Monday to discuss rules that are supposed to bring a new-found sense of harmony and effectiveness to Cincinnati City Council.

        But in doing so, the committee managed to break many of those same rules:

        • Rule 1.4: City Council members should be attentive during meetings and should not engage in “lengthy side conversations.” Members shall attend all meetings, including those dedicated to public comment.

        Alicia Reece spoke on the phone for several minutes during the meeting, and John Cranley opened his mail. Several members left the meeting when a citizen came forward to speak.

        • Rule 6.3: “No members shall speak longer than six minutes at any one time.”

        Rules Chairman David Pepper took eight minutes to explain why such rules were necessary.

        • Rule 10.6: Meetings should start within five minutes of the scheduled time. “Meetings that start late are a drain on city officials who staff them, show disrespect to citizens who must arrive on time in order to testify, and create an atmosphere of disorganization and lack of professionalism.”

        Mr. Pepper gaveled the Rules Committee meeting to order at 3:07 p.m. — seven minutes late.

        To be fair, some of the proposed rules don't apply to committee meetings, and many are intended only as broad guidelines.

        But City Council's tendency to break rules even when they're trying to be on their best behavior shows that changing the culture of City Hall could be more difficult than Mr. Pepper first thought.

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        State of the Secretary: Ohio Democrats, facing a Feb. 21 deadline to find someone — anyone — to run for state office, are courting Ms. Reece to run against Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

        Ms. Reece isn't ruling it out, but she doesn't sound overly enthusiastic about it either.

        Ms. Reece, who's beginning her second term on City Council, said there's still plenty she wants to accomplish in Cincinnati.

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        Statistic: Councilman Pat DeWine is trying to save the city money by cutting down on cellular phone use by city employees.

        About one in four city employees has a cell phone. And there's no apparent correlation between the size of the bill and the importance of the job.

        The highest cell phone bill in the city last year (outside the police and fire divisions) belonged to Gary Lemon, a maintenance manager for the park board. He rang up $1,108.09 — including $134.14 in calls last May.

        Richard Mendes, the former deputy city manager, had one of the lowest cell phone bills. His highest monthly bill last year was $10.13.

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        Quotable: “My degree is in communication. They say that in order for a person to get something, they have to hear it seven times.”

        — Ms. Reece, explaining why she expects to be the biggest offender of the aforementioned six-minute rule.

        Gregory Korte is City Hall reporter for The Enquirer. He can be reached at 768-8391 or gkorte@enquirer.com.

       



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