Thursday, January 9, 2003

Pepper proposes council rules to make meetings more orderly

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati City Council should listen to residents more and talk less, Councilman David Pepper said Wednesday.

Mr. Pepper, the Rules Committee chairman, was top vote-getter in 2001 on a platform of getting council's act in order. For the second straight year, he's proposing a list of resolutions he says will make City Council work more smoothly.

But the proposed rules already are meeting some resistance from his colleagues. Vice Mayor Alicia Reece said Mr. Pepper was trying to turn the council chambers into a "country club."

Some changes are intended to stop the disruptive protests that have become a weekly occurrence.

Wednesday, Councilman Jim Tarbell threatened to walk out of the room if Mayor Charlie Luken didn't expel three protesters who were carrying signs with anti-Semitic slogans, dragging an American flag on the ground and making obscene gestures.

"I'm as offended by it as you are," the mayor told Mr. Tarbell. "But the only thing that is going to happen if we don't enforce the rules equally is that we're going to have to pay money (in a settlement)."

Mr. Luken wants a rule allowing him to ban disruptive protesters for more than one meeting. Another proposal would ban the look-alike shotguns some protesters have brought to meetings.

Among Mr. Pepper's proposals:

Council committees should meet less often, preferably every other week.

Committees should hold "neighborhood days" at least six times a year.

New ordinances should stay on the calendar a week before a vote, allowing more public input.

Council should hold members to the "six-minute rule" for speeches - and use a timer to enforce it.

Ms. Reece said committee chairmen should be allowed to run committees as they please.

But Mr. Pepper said the rule changes would help council focus.

"Council members have been operating under their own rules for 10 years," he said. "And we've had council meetings that have been rancorous, unproductive and, quite frankly, embarrassing to the city."


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