Thursday, February 28, 2002

Councilmen address life quality

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Two members of Cincinnati City Council say City Hall needs to do a better job addressing “quality of life” issues in the city's 52 neighborhoods.

        David Pepper and John Cranley, both Democrats, will outline their 10-point proposal today in Northside. It will tackle issues of crime, blight and disinvestment.

        They promise a report card on what they've done to achieve those goals within 100 days.

        Their ideas include:

        • Reviving the concept of “drug exclusion zones,” after the city's ordinance was held unconstitutional in state and federal courts.

        The zones are an attempt to eliminate what Mr. Pepper calls “open-air drug markets” in Over-the-Rhine and elsewhere by prohibiting known drug offenders from entering those neighborhoods.

        Instead of a broad ordinance, Mr. Pepper said the city could ask judges, on a case-by-case basis, to include the bans as part of an offender's conditions of probation.

        • Using tax-increment financing, a tool previously reserved for downtown deals, for neighborhood development.

        The recent $6.6 million subsidy for Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, came from tax increment funds. Mr. Cranley said there's no reason why City Council can't use that same mechanism at Hamilton Avenue and West North Bend Road in College Hill, for example.

        • Reforming the Cincinnati Neighborhood Action Strategy, which Mr. Cranley says has too often failed in its mission to cut through city departments to solve problems.

        The councilmen say the city program must have clearer lines of accountability, should work with a broader cross-section of neighborhood groups, and needs more help from city lawyers.

        • Implementing many of the recommendations of former Councilman Phil Heimlich's task force on police technology.

        They included using crime mapping software to spot trends more quickly and accurately, and deploy patrols accordingly. The task force also recommends making that information available to citizens on an interactive Web site.

        Few of the ideas are new. But Mr. Pepper said short attention spans on City Council have led to a “nickle-and-dime” approach to solving neighborhood problems, with council members filing countless motions and then forgetting about them.

        “David talked about this during the campaign,” Mr. Cranley said. “People complain that council members jump from issue to issue, day to day, and there's no unifying sense of vision.”

        The Pepper-Cranley plan stems from a recent tour by City Council members of problems in Northside.

        It's the kind of approach that Mr. Pepper has been critical of in the past.

        “You don't need nine council members to go to neighborhoods and take notes and come back and tell the city administration what to do,” he said.


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