Tuesday, January 21, 2003

City needs "now wait a minute" rule


Cincinnati is the capital city of the state of confusion.

Clear thinking has been replaced by fuzzy logic that produces blunders where:

The success-starved Bengals hire a new coach. And he's mistaken for god.

Plans by a hoops-shooting developer get a wink and a green light from City Council and green stuff from the city's cash-strapped coffers. Months later, the plans turn bogus. The developer makes himself scarce, after spending $184,217 of the taxpayers' money. With a pay-now, check-facts-later council, it's a wonder City Hall isn't swarming with salesman peddling the Suspension Bridge.

The cash-challenged city kicks in $100,000 of an urban consultant's fee. Hired to develop a plan to revitalize downtown, the consultant comes up with this startling discovery: Fountain Square is the heart of the city, use it wisely. When I grow up, I want a job like that.

It's time someone brought this ball of confusion to a screeching halt. Before things get further out of control, I hope the city invokes what my dad used to call the "now wait a minute rule."

Save Cincinnati

Marvin Lewis, the Bengals' new coach, has been hailed by media types and community leaders as a messiah. He can resurrect the moribund football team, save downtown and heal Cincinnati's racial wounds.

Those pundits and pooh-bahs have yet to declare that the coach walks on water. Or that he can persuade Congress to make goetta the national snack food. But, give them time. It's early in the week.

My, how perspectives change when confusion reigns.

The bungling Bengals meant nothing to the city's serious problems when they were losing under Dick LeBeau. Now, with a new coach, they hold the key to the city's fortunes.

Coach Lewis does hold the key to the city. Mayor Charlie Luken gave it to him. Not bad for a guy who has yet to win his first game for the Bengals.

Time for the "now wait a minute" rule. Just let the guy do his job. Don't burden him with unreal expectations. Victories are enough. For now.

LaShawn Pettus-Brown, a professional basketball player from Cincinnati, won 6-2 when he asked City Council for money to renovate the long-closed Empire Theater on Vine Street. That boulevard of broken dreams just happens to be the mayor's pet renovation project.

No one checked out the legitimacy of the would-be developer's claims. Until it was too late. He's gone. So's the money. The theater remains shuttered.

When anyone asks for money from Cincinnati, City Council should vote in unison to activate the "now wait a minute rule."

Run the plans through City Hall's system of checks and balances. Involve the solicitor's office and the police if necessary. They can ask the hard questions to keep City Council from wasting our money.

The rule

Urban consultant John Alschuler demonstrated a firm grasp of the obvious when he unveiled his plans to rescue Cincinnati's ailing downtown.

That's why the "now wait a minute" rule applies. It's easy to identify Fountain Square as the heart of downtown. The tough part requires putting highly detailed plans in force to liberate the heart of town from decades of misguided attempts at urban renewal.

What I like about the "now wait a minute" rule is how it goes straight to the core of any issue. When I was a kid, I'd be going on about something - pick a subject, any subject - and my dad would invoke the rule. Then he'd ask questions: Why? How? Are you sure? Who said?

Simple rule. Simple questions. But they can provide what Cincinnati needs. They get rid of confusion by getting at the truth.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379 or E-mail cradel@enquirer.com.

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