Wednesday, March 12, 2003

City Hall


Lemmie's office expansion misses one little thing: a permit

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Friday's dust-up over building code violations at Bar Cincinnati in Over-the-Rhine drew Mayor Charlie Luken's office into a delicate political dilemma.

Do nothing, and it seems like the building department - who some blame for holding up development in the city - is incapable of being managed from higher up.

Step in, and the mayor's office could be perceived as putting politics in front of safety.

Bill Langevin, the director of Buildings and Inspections, and Fire Chief Robert Wright stepped in and reopened the bar Friday after getting calls from Luken assistant Brendon Cull and Assistant City Manager Rashad Young.

Both insist that the final call was up to the two department directors.

But there's more to this story.

Bar Cincinnati was actually the second time that day that Buildings and Inspections rattled the doors of city hall muckety-mucks with first-floor corner offices.

Just hours before, Assistant Director Paul Myers paid a visit to Suite 110 after getting an inquiry from the Enquirer.

There, City Manager Valerie Lemmie is converting the old Cincinnati Human Relations Commission suite into offices for her growing staff - including three assistant city managers, three assistants to the assistant city managers, and four administrative assistants to the assistants and the assistants to the assistants.

All told, the work is expected to cost $70,000. And it was done without a permit.

"Yes, they do need a permit, and we're going to make them get one," Myers said after a five-minute inspection.

Meg Olberding, one of those assistants to the city manager, started last week as Lemmie's new public information officer.

"In the hubbub to get this done in a hurry, the facilities guy forgot to get it done," she said of the permitting snafu. "It was simple human error."

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Campaign trail: Add another name to the stampede of City Council candidates seeking a Republican nomination: Pete Witte.

Witte is president of the Price Hill Civic Club and a member of the Planning Commission. He's also well connected in GOP circles. As owner of Baron Engraving, he was featured prominently in a warm-and-fuzzy television spot for Phil Heimlich's 2002 Hamilton County Commission campaign.

Witte also has a high-powered campaign chairman: Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen.

Look for Republican Party Chairman Michael Barrett to announce a slate of nine candidates later this month.

In addition to incumbents Pat DeWine and Chris Monzel, lawyers John Connelly and Leslie Ghiz have already formally announced. Other possible contenders who may announce shortly: Sam Malone, president of the Bond Hill Community Council, and Terry Deters, a Price Hill funeral director (and no relation to State Treasurer Joe Deters).

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Campaign trail II: Monzel's top assistant, Dick Hammersmith, is perhaps the most hands-on council aide on the third floor. He's Monzel's chief of staff, press secretary, strategist, campaign manager and political heavy.

A former newspaper reporter and PR guy, Hammersmith would like to add another title to that resume: state representative.

Hammersmith, of Green Township, has established an exploratory campaign committee and raised $10,800 as of his last filing with the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The committee is for an unspecified office, but Hammersmith said last week he has designs on the seat now held by Bill Seitz, R-Green Township.

Not while Seitz is sitting in it, of course. The plan is for Seitz to run for state Sen. Lou Blessing's 8th district when Blessing retires in 2004.

But Patty Clancy, R-Colerain Township, may also have designs on the Senate, so Hammersmith may have to be patient and wait for Seitz to leave when his term limit comes up in 2008.

That would give him time to engineer Monzel's run for higher office - probably Hamilton County commissioner - before Monzel himself faces term limits in 2009.

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




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