Wednesday, June 4, 2003

Mayor of Norwood resigns post

Hochbein had stormy relationship with city council

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORWOOD - After breaking two promises since December, the always-controversial Joe Hochbein finally stepped down Saturday as this city's mayor.

Council members were a bit surprised to learn that the Republican leader kept his vow to resign by May 31. Despite his considerable health problems and constant fights with a council dominated by Democrats, he had already reneged on plans to step down in March and April.

"First he gave one date. Then he gave another date," Councilman Will DeLuca said. "It's been like a roller-coaster ride for Norwood. It's time for the city to start healing and get on with business."

Republican Jane Grote will serve as acting mayor. The central committee of Norwood's Republican Party will meet this month to officially choose an interim mayor.

Members have already said Vic Schneider, the city's public works superintendent, is their top choice.

Grote said she's looking forward to seeing greater cooperation between council and city administrators. Yet she hates to see Hochbein go.

"Am I going to miss Joe Hochbein? Yes, I am," said Grote, council president. "He provided some really excellent leadership to the city. I'm really sorry that his administration ended the way it has."

Hochbein, 52, said he'll miss working with residents, business representatives and developers. The council pushed his patience to the limit.

"I'm not going to miss dealing with them," he said. "I hear their carping and their complaining but I don't see anyone with vision."

Hochbein, who became mayor in 1996 after serving six years on council, leaves behind an administration fraught with financial problems. Police and fire levies that would have generated about $2 million for the city were rejected in May and council hasn't determined how to avoid laying off people.

The council, with eight Democrats and one Republican, blamed Hochbein for the problems.

Now, they agreed, they can spend less time bickering about the mayor and more time coming up with a solution.

Personal hostility has set the tone for relations between the mayor and council since 2000, when Hochbein went to trial facing 14 counts of theft in office and falsification. He was exonerated of any dishonesty and ordered to pay a fine for a misdemeanor violation because of the unlawful use of the city's taxpayer identification number.

"Joe Hochbein had stopped caring about actually accomplishing anything," Councilman Keith Moore said. "Norwood politics are pretty rough and tumble. (Now) maybe it'll be less personal."

Hochbein has been credited for sparking the city's rebound after General Motors Corp. closed a plant here in 1987. Since then, earnings tax revenues have jumped from $6.4 million to $10.1 million, thanks in part to successful developments.

But McKeehan said Hochbein's work with developers has led to a frightening pace of commercial and office development.


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