Friday, September 24, 1999

Council candidates push for improved schools

Incumbents lack focus, hopefuls say

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Nearly all the Cincinnati City Council challengers at a candidates' forum downtown Thursday sounded as if they were running for school board, peppering their four-minute speeches with calls for better schools.

        When it came to discussing the present City Council, all 10 nonincumbents — Republican, Democrat and independent alike — argued that the in cumbent nine have been unfocused, shallow and impossible to take seriously.

        “We are losing out as a city because we have a council that finds it impossible to work together,” said Republican candidate Pat DeWine, son of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine.

        About 30 people attended the lunch-time Community Issues Forum at Christ Church Cathedral, downtown. They heard from 10 of the 13 nonincumbent council candidates, all except Democrat Charlie Luken and independents Charlie Lee Gardner and Sam Malone. Forum organizers say they will invite the seven incumbent candidates next month.

        Most of the candidates, while acknowledging that City Council has no role to play in running Cincinnati Public Schools, vowed to push for bet ter conditions in schools — better buildings, better safety and better academic performance.

        Only Democratic challenger Forrest Buckley told the audience that council candidates should have other things to talk about than education.

        “The fact is nobody is going to do anything to improve the schools until we start putting the family unit back together again,” Mr. Buckley said.

        Many candidates had specific plans they outlined for the audience.

        Democrat Scott Seidewitz, a first-time candidate, touted his “sensible government plan,” which he says would streamline the city's middle-level bureaucracy by 10 percent and involve lower-level workers in decision- making.

        The plan, Mr. Seidewitz said, could save the city $11 million in administration costs. He would favor using half of the savings for neighborhood development projects.

        Mr. DeWine told the audience about his plan to eliminate the city's 6.1-mill share of the property tax by holding increases in spending to the rate of inflation over the next five years.

        Another Republican challenger, Ken Anderson, said he wants the city to provide free parking at downtown meters on Saturdays and Sundays to encourage people to come downtown.

        Independent candidate Theo Barnes, an Over-the-Rhine neighborhood activist running for the second time, was one of several candidates who said that, if elected, they would work to encourage home ownership in the city.

        “People will take pride in the city if they own their own homes,” Mr. Barnes said.

        Jane Anderson, a University of Cincinnati professor and Democratic candidate, said home ownership would be a priority for her as well.

        “We need to do planning on housing,” Ms. Anderson said. “This city used to be a leader in this, but that's no longer the case.”

        Democrat Alicia Reece, the youngest council candidate at 28, said the city needs to focus “the same kind of attention on neighborhood development planning that it does on the riverfront and downtown.”

        Encouraging neighborhood business growth, said Republican first-time candidate Chris Monzel, “will help enlarge the city's tax base and stop the flow of people out of the city.”

        Republican Diane Goldsmith, an aide to Hamilton County commissioner Tom Neyer Jr., said the city has failed to move on issues such as housing and neighborhood development because council “dwells on minutiae.”

        “Not only is there no leadership, there is no vision,” Ms. Goldsmith said.

        Kaye Britton, a Democrat running for the second time, said she wants to go to council to “help create a more harmonious atmosphere. That's the only way we will be able to work together.”


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