Wednesday, June 18, 2003

City Hall

Reece has punctuality problem with council's public forums


Vice Mayor Alicia Reece showed up just 32 minutes late for last week's meeting of Cincinnati City Council.

It's the most punctual she's been in at least eight weeks.

The Enquirer started keeping track of the vice mayor's attendance after some of her colleagues started quietly complaining that Reece was consistently absent from the public forum segment of the weekly meetings, which begin at 1:30 p.m.

Beginning with the April 23 meeting and ending last week, Reece arrived at 2:14 p.m., 2:11 p.m., 2:07 p.m., 6:16 p.m. (for a special 5:30 p.m. meeting), 2:07 p.m., 2:08 p.m., 2:10 p.m. and 2:02 p.m.

That's an average of more than 39 minutes late.

The public forum, which begins 30 minutes before the start of business, isn't intended to be optional. In fact, the rules require "prompt and regular attendance of all meetings of council, including those dedicated to public comment."

Reece said various scheduling conflicts precluded her from attending all the meetings. She did not elaborate.

The vice mayor's tardiness may not be apparent to those watching at home. It was Reece who sponsored the December 2001 rule change that requires the Citicable cameras to be turned off during the public forum.

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The maestro: If you want a "starving artist" grant from the city, it helps to get on the chairman's good side.

The Arts & Culture Committee last week approved a $4,950 grant to, an online Over-the-Rhine arts journal. It's edited by former Taft Museum Director Ruth Meyer, who seems to be a big fan of the committee's chairman.

"Jim Tarbell is the impresario for a new orchestration for economic and cultural development," Meyer wrote in a featured article titled "Maestro Tarbell Conducts."

In another review, arts curator and critic Daniel Brown called Tarbell "a politician for whom dissembling and hyperbole seem completely out of character" and said he was "totally committed to a renewed and rejuvenated downtown/city."

The grant to the arts-oriented dot-com is just part of the $116,686 in grants to artists and arts organizations up for a council vote today. Others getting funds include $6,750 to a project to increase the self-esteem of prisoners through arts education, and $4,500 to puppeteer Anthony Paul Luensman for an exhibit of "interactive sound sculptures."

But the Arts Committee's jurisdiction over the grants may not continue. An amendment to the administrative code proposed by City Manager Valerie Lemmie would move jurisdiction of the arts grants to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

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Theater notes: The Know Theater Tribe didn't get funded this year, but got $6,375 in "starving artist" grants in 2002. That grant went, in part, to perform the controversial play Corpus Christi last week.

Protesting the play last week to City Council members (minus the absent Reece), Joanne Kemmerer read passages that referred to Jesus as "the King of the Queers."

"Ma'am, if you could refrain from using vulgar language," Mayor Charlie Luken told her.

Kemmerer said Luken proved her point: "If it's not right to say it here, it's not right to use tax money for their so-called play."


More theater notes: After Democrat David Pepper voted to support a Republican-backed property tax rollback, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Michael Barrett said a GOP photo op at the Empire Theater "shamed" Pepper into a flip-flop.

Cincinnati Republicans seem determined to use the failed theater project to highlight wasteful spending by Democrats. Luken and Reece pushed the $220,000 redevelopment plan through the council by a party-line vote.

Developer LaShawn Pettus-Brown blew through $184,172 of the cash before the city turned off the spigot and Pettus-Brown disappeared. The FBI has a warrant for his arrest.

Pepper's response: "Are they talking about the theater that Ken Blackwell stood in front of and said, 'LaShawn Pettus-Brown doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk?' "

Blackwell, of course, is the former Republican mayor and current Ohio Secretary of State.

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Your tax money: Republicans slamming wasteful spending by Democrats would do themselves a service by agreeing on a definition of "wasteful spending."

One of Pat DeWine's favorite examples is $50,000 for flower boxes in Over-the-Rhine - a proposal fellow Republican Chris Monzel voted for. But council hasn't voted on the appropriation ordinance yet, and Monzel suggested that he's reconsidering his position.

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

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