Wednesday, January 23, 2002

City Hall

City's new 'strong mayor' gets Sterne warning

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Does it take a Charterite to read Cincinnati's charter?

        Former Councilwoman Bobbie Sterne, the grand dame of the Charter Committee, says Mayor Charlie Luken may have overstepped his “stronger mayor” authority when he sent only one name to council last week.

        Article III, Section 2 of the charter reads: “Prior to the vote, the mayor shall seek the advice of council, to include the opportunity for council to interview the candidates considered by the mayor.”

        “Candidates,” Mrs. Sterne notes, is plural.

        Therefore, Mr. Luken should have given City Council choices in addition to Valerie Lemmie — choices like Oakland's Robert Bobb and Cincinnati's own Tim Riordan, who were also finalists.

        But Mr. Luken said he's relying on a legal opinion from deputy city solicitor Robert H. Johnstone Jr., who interprets the charter thusly: “The list of persons actually "considered' by the mayor is subject solely to the mayor's discretion.”

        Mrs. Sterne said it's ultimately up to City Council to make sure the mayor follows the charter. And while she has no issue with Ms. Lemmie, she worries that this council may set a precedent that could handcuff future councils.

        Mr. Luken acknowledges that the charter may be unclear. He's agreed to a “postmortem” on the process after the vote to confirm Ms. Lemmie on Thursday.

        A hug is just a hug: The mayor's choice for city manager admits she hasn't been to Cincinnati often, and doesn't know many people in town.

        But she knows Mark Sanders.

Lt. Sanders is the head of Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48. And when Ms. Lemmie saw him at a news conference to announce her nomination last week, she ran over and gave him a bear hug.

        Turns out they both helped write standards for the National Fire Prevention Association.

        Lt. Sanders said Ms. Lemmie represented the interests of city managers from around the country, and was a tough but fair negotiator. He said no one should expect that the firefighters will get any favors from the city manager just because of a hug.

        “I'm just a huggy guy,” he said.

        And so, apparently, is Ms. Lemmie. She also hugged five council members she had met for the first time last week.

        Broadcast news: Mr. Luken said he'll accept an invitation from John Thomas, the general manager of WCIN (1480 AM), to appear on his radio station.

        On the Courtis Fuller show.

        The meeting is the first between the two former co-anchors — and political adversaries — since the mayoral election.

        The appearance will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday — right after Mr. Fuller interviews Basketball Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson.

        Elsewhere: Former Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey starts today as interim director of the Springfield Metropolitan Housing Authority in Clark County.

        Mr. Shirey will receive $2,500 a week and — believe it or not — free public housing.

        The housing part was Mr. Shirey's idea, said board chairman Arlin Tolliver. Besides saving the hourlong commute from Cincinnati, Mr. Shirey will develop a closer relationship with tenants. The gig runs through March 11.

        And retired Cincinnati Police Lt. Clarence Williams III, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year, has been named police chief of Riviera Beach, Fla.

        The job pays $84,000 a year, the Palm Beach Post reports.

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



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