Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Mind manners

Council not place for 'joke'

        Abird got loose in City Hall last Wednesday.

        It belongs to Councilman John Cranley. It's his middle finger. And he used it to give a one-finger salute.

        Witnesses tell me he pointed his finger — in the obscene gesture known as “giving the bird” — at the mayor, Charlie Luken. In public. While council was in session.

        CitiCable broadcast the meeting live. But the cable TV channel did not catch the gesture. The camera was on the mayor. He was speaking. And subsequently turning red.

        City Council has a chance to make sure that bird never flies again.

        This afternoon, council votes on restoring good sense — and a sense of decorum — to its chambers. These rule changes were proposed by David Pepper, council's Mr. Manners.

        He believes his colleagues should obey council's long-standing rule: “Decorum and civility shall be observed at all times by members of council.”

        The new rules will endow City Hall with a needed dose of dignity. A necessary trait for any smooth-running operation, dignity has been lacking in council members' dealings with each other and the public.

Just kidding

        Councilman Cranley insists he made the gesture in jest. “Charlie and I are very good friends,” he told me. “We hang out on the weekends.

        “Even if I did this infamous hand gesture, it was never meant literally. It was meant as two guys kind of goofing around.” '

        Goof around on your own time. Sit on whoopee cushions. Make jokes in sign language. Just don't do it during a council meeting at City Hall. That's the people's place.

        Council members are elected and paid by the people to do the people's work. Their job description does not include showing the fickle finger of fate. Or was the councilman displaying his I.Q.?

        John Cranley is not stupid. He knows he messed up.

        He even called his mom about it.

        “At first she said, "Oh John, I can't believe you did that.'

        “After a minute, she was like "this is much ado about nothing.' ” Considering the tone of the meeting, she reasoned, no one would “think you were serious.”

        With all due respect to Ma Cranley, I beg to differ. Such behavior looks bad. Especially to the outside world, where city council has a chronic credibility problem.

        Average citizens and out-of-town developers see city council as a bad joke. Nine unprofessional politicians who can't get anything done.

        The last thing people need is another excuse for not communicating with city council and doing business with Cincinnati.

Pepper rules

        David Pepper's rules of order will allow the people and council members to be heard by each other.

        The first-term councilman sees this simply as good manners and good breeding.

        “We need to give them the sense that we are listening in a way that we all should have been raised: Be polite. Be attentive. Don't cut them off.”

        Don't shoot the bird.

        Councilman Cranley realizes the error of his ways.

        “I feel pretty embarrassed by it,” he said. “I would never do it again.”

        He can redeem himself today. Vote for rule changes.

        Say “yes.” Raise a hand.

        Just don't lift a certain finger.


        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; e-mail


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