Wednesday, February 12, 2003

City Hall

Vice mayor's on-air complaint about seat leads to e-mail rebuke


Mayor Charlie Luken's State of the City Address was barely over before Vice Mayor Alicia Reece was on the radio complaining about her seating assignment.

In the front row of the Union Terminal auditorium were violent crime squad Sgt. Rick Lehman and officers Don Meece, Jeff Smallwood, John Mendoza and Bryant Stewart, Police Chief Tom Streicher, City Manager Valerie Lemmie, Firefighter Nathaniel Stubblefield Jr., Fire Chief Robert Wright, and Cincinnati Firefighters Union President Joseph W. Diebold.

In the second row were officers Dan Kowalski, Jeni Jones, Jamie Lewis, Jeremy Howard, Don Konicki, Ryan Roberson and Odayues Leonard, Spc. Len LaBrecque, and Sgt. Brian Meyer.

Also in row two was Officer Keith Fangman, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, who had gotten into a public quarrel with the vice mayor at a council meeting in December.

And all the way in the third row were Reece and the rest of City Council.

"It sends the wrong message to sit City Council in the third row, behind the FOP," the vice mayor told WDBZ's Lincoln Ware. "Especially when there's a slowdown."

That led to this e-mail from Luken to his vice mayor last week:

I wanted to let you know how disappointed I was in your remarks after my State of the City speech.

Seating was in no way intended to be an affront to anyone, and the FOP officers were properly seated with the people I planned to recognize at the event. They were up front, as were others I planned to recognize, and I stand by that decision.

We have bigger problems than seating assignments.

I wanted to let you know, in writing, in case you want to take my thoughts to the press. You seem more interested in making a public issue here than in working together.

Reece's reply came three days later:

Thank you for your e-mail.

Church and State: Even in a city that's as Catholic as Cincinnati, it's unusual to see a theological debate break out on the floor of City Council.

But that's what happened when state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. chided Catholic members of City Council about the "hate crimes" ordinance, passed last week, which includes crimes directed at people based on their sexual orientation.

Brinkman, R-Our Lord Christ the King (Mount Lookout), told council members to "love the sinner, and not the sin." He pointed to Chapter 2357 of the Roman Catholic Catechism, which calls homosexual acts "acts of grave depravity."

To vote for the ordinance, he told council members, would "send the message that you openly approve of homosexuality."

Councilman John Cranley, D-Holy Family (East Price Hill), responded: "We have a little something in this country called the separation of church and state. Mr. Brinkman asked me to read the Catechism. I ask him to read the U.S. Constitution."

Councilman David Crowley, D-St. Joseph (West End), joined in. "Along comes Mr. Brinkman and tells me how to practice my religion. I've been practicing it a lot longer than he has, and I'm a lot better at it."

"Wow. I must have hit a raw nerve," Brinkman said later.

He said he didn't hear the "separation of church and state" argument when others - like the Rev. Jerry Hill, pastor of the Clifton United Methodist Church, or Brother Mike O'Grady, of the Claver Jesuit Community in South Cumminsville - testified in favor of the ordinance.

Statistic: City officials credit more aggressive policing for a 5.1 percent drop in January's crime rate compared to 2002.

Here's another explanation: The average daily temperature for January 2003 was 15 degrees colder than January 2002.

City Hall reporter Gregory Korte can be reached at or 768-8391.

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