Sunday, September 7, 2003

Candidate critical of Main St. plan

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A plan by city officials to hire a Memphis, Tenn., developer for Cincinnati's Main Street is an example of how the city is "hooked on hiring consultants and setting up task forces and nothing ever gets done," said Nick Spencer, a Charter Committee candidate for City Council.

Spencer, who is also the founder of the young professional group Cincinnati Tomorrow, blasted Councilman John Cranley and Mayor Charlie Luken for proposing to spend $100,000 on Beale Street founder John Elkington - a developer Spencer said has "had as many failures as successes."

"Are there not enough people in this city with ideas about Main Street that we have to hire somebody for 100 grand?" he said. "Anyone can tell you Main Street should be representative of Cincinnati history. That's like saying Fountain Square is the heart of the city."

He said Elkington would tell the city what it already knows: safety, parking and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere are vital.

But Cranley said Elkington's job would not be to write a report.

"This guy has contacts with the House of Blues and the Hard Rock Cafe. We're not asking him just to give us a plan. He's going to put deals together," Cranley said.

Cranley, a Democrat, also shot back at Spencer Friday, saying Elkington "is not a guy who simply gets 15 young people to go bar-hopping and say, 'Wouldn't it be nice to have a trolley?' "

Cincinnati Tomorrow has organized gallery walks in Over-the-Rhine and has written a 42-page manifesto that advocates, among other things, trolleys to link the city's entertainment venues.

The clash between Cranley and Spencer illustrates how issues of the "creative class" are emerging in the 2003 campaign.

Luken said people have the right to ask questions where $100,000 of city money is involved.

"I don't know everything Nick Spencer has done, but on balance I think he's been helpful in our efforts to re-energize the central city," he said. "But I don't think you can look at a man with John Elkington's credentials and background and reduce him to 'just another consultant.' This is a results-oriented effort."


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