Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Luken may veto spending

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken is threatening to veto $242,000 in spending today - even though City Council Democrats appear to have the votes to override.

The vetoes could affect two ordinances that already have the support of council's six Democrats:

• Spending $150,000 of the Neighborhood Reserve Fund to help build a Community-Oriented Policing Center in the new East End School. Sponsors John Cranley and David Crowley say the center will be an important community resource while also helping the Cincinnati Public Schools with construction costs.

• Restoring a $92,000 cut to housing counseling services in the 2003-04 budget. Greater Cincinnati Mortgage Counseling Services and the Better Housing League help low- and middle-income homebuyers understand the mortgage lending process. The ordinance's supporters, Crowley and Minette Cooper, say the counseling is essential if the city is going to improve its 38 percent home-ownership rate.

Backers of both ordinances note that the spending comes not from the city's operating fund, but from "restricted" funds. Council created the neighborhood fund out of proceeds from the sale of Anthem Inc. stock. The mortgage counseling programs are funded with federal block grant money.

But Luken said spending is spending, and now is not the time to be sending the message that the city has disposable income. Luken and other city officials - all Democrats - protested loudly this month when Republican state lawmakers proposed cutting support to local governments that would have created a $17.5 million hole in Cincinnati's budget.

"The point is, it's hard to complain about the Local Government Fund cuts when you can find the money for these kinds of things," Luken said.

In threatening to veto the two ordinances, Luken was abandoning his previous position that it was futile to veto an ordinance that had more than the minimum five votes for passage. It takes six votes to override a veto.

Republicans Pat DeWine and Chris Monzel opposed both spending items when they came up for procedural votes last week.

Luken, a conservative Democrat, has used his veto once since gaining the power in December 2001 - on a $65,000 study to find out how people choose subsidized housing.

He said he might as well use the veto power to force City Council members to stand up and be counted on new spending in an election year.

"Plus, this veto stamp I have is atrophying," he said.


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