Wednesday, November 27, 2002

City aides would get `living wage'


City Hall

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The biggest beneficiaries of today's expected vote for the proposed "living wage" ordinance may be the staff members of City Council itself. The ordinance would require city employees to make $10.20 an hour for jobs without benefits.

Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, a co-sponsor, pays an aide $7 an hour. An aide to Pat DeWine makes $10 an hour. David Pepper recently hired an aide at $10. And Mayor Charlie Luken pays a staffer $8, though he said the Xavier University student enjoys the experience so much "he'd probably do it for free."

All those staffers are part-time, and none get benefits. Councilman John Cranley, the main sponsor of the ordinance, said he would amend it today to include a provision that Solicitor J. Rita McNeil took out, to exempt part-time city employees from the law.

City contractors would still have to pay the wage to part-timers, though, so they couldn't break up full-time jobs into part-time in order to evade the law.

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Be it proclaimed: Where will city officials find a cold Hudepohl? Will Pete Witte run for City Council? And do Price Hill residents really lack clout at City Hall?

Those are the questions raised by Mayor Luken's proclamation Nov. 19, to mark the last call of the West Eighth Street bar owned by the Witte family:

"Whereas, two years ago, the Kohlhaus opened with much fanfare ... thereby creating a new watering hole for many Price Hillians, west siders, Cincinnati City Council members, a mayor, a police chief, campaign workers, Price Hill Civic Club members, Phillips Swim Club members, and two or three hundred Driehauses; and,

"Whereas, Herb Witte, the guy whose frequent pontifications from behind the bar, has earned the ear of many an elected official, is identified by many as the 10th Council member; and,

"Whereas, Pete Witte, the guy who never misses a chance to say thank you or say how happy he is about his City's elected officials, is probably now going to kick off his bid to become the 9th Council member.

"Now, therefore, I, Charlie Luken, hereby proclaim Nov. 19, 2002, as `Kohlhaus Day.'"

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Go to town: The mayor's exhortation to downtown merchants to "stop whining" last week didn't fall on deaf ears.

The interim president of Downtown Cincinnati Inc., David Ginsburg, said he's looking for a desk plate reminiscent of President Harry S. Truman's "The buck stops here."

"I keep looking for one that says, `Get over it,'" he said.

Mr. Ginsburg replaced Rick Greiwe, who stepped down in May after the mayor criticized the organization's lobbying of City Hall. Chairwoman Charlotte Otto said Mr. Ginsburg is a leading candidate for the permanent job.

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Brochures for sale: Parks Director Willie F. Carden Jr. took exception to Mr. DeWine's suggestion Monday that the Park Board wasted $12,700 on a Krohn Conservatory brochure that cost 43 cents per copy.

The brochure, which highlights some of the more than 5,000 species at Krohn, is sold to visitors for $1. If the Park Board sells all 30,000 copies, it will net $17,100 on the printing, Mr. Carden said.

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Truth in panhandling: City officials trying to grapple with the panhandling problem say the beggars are often one step ahead of the law.

Case in point: the new law that makes it illegal for a panhandler to make a false statement to elicit a contribution.

One panhandler stood at Fifth and Vine on Tuesday afternoon with a cardboard sign that read: "Why lie? I want beer."

City Hall reporter Gregory Korte can be reached at 768-8391 or gkorte@enquirer.com.




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