Sunday, October 24, 1999

Enquirer endorsements for city council

        In two years, Cincinnati's city government will change to a strong mayor system. It's tempting to sit back and wait. But we can't afford that. If City Hall doesn't shape up, opportunities will be lost to remodel our riverfront, attract tourism, revitalize downtown and reinvent city government to be more efficient and customer-friendly.

        We've had two years of aimless drift, interrupted by fits of panic, outbursts of shameless posturing and drunken binges of reckless spending.

        After years of spit-ball, voters feel like jaded teachers in June -- longing for a better class of council members.

        It's time for an overhaul:

  • Charlie Luken
. . . Class president
  • Phil Hemlich
. . . Honor Society
  • Charlie Winburn
. . . Mr. Persistence
  • Todd Portune
. . . Varsity letter man
  • Jim Tarbell
. . . City spirit award
  • Pat DeWine
. . . Most promising freshman
  • Diane Goldsmith
. . . Congeniality award
  • Alicia Reece
. . . High achiever
  • Scott Seidewitz
. . . Man with a plan
        • The man most likely to succeed as mayor is also most likely to win the office: Democrat Charlie Luken, former mayor, congressman and TV news anchor. His prime-time polish, experience and low-key, sensible style can make allies without making enemies -- making him the leader to unite and lead a coalition.

        ''We have moved backward, but we have a lot of potential. I think the next two years will be -- believe it or not -- a great time for the city,'' he said. ''If we get our house in order, we can be appreciated again as a regional partner.''

       Although voters can't vote directly for a mayor until 2001, we endorse Charlie Luken and hope he comes in first among 20 to lead our city.

        • Our favorite among the remaining candidates is Phil Heimlich (R), a tireless student of good government who always does his homework. ''I believe in the power of a good idea,'' he said. He has proved it with a property tax rollback, improved public safety and better government. He opposed Finance Chairman Minette Cooper's pork-spending party.

        • Charlie Winburn (R) and Todd Portune (D) have been disappointing at times. Each has perfected the art of pandering. But both have matured. Mr. Winburn has fought to put the obese bureaucracy on a diet. Mr. Portune has emerged as a leader on regional projects.

        • Jim Tarbell (C) cares about Cincinnati and understands downtown problems better than anyone on council. His passion is housing to attract families and tax revenues that downtown desperately needs -- but sometimes it eclipses his view of the big regional picture. Mr. Tarbell has been a valuable watchdog on waste who does what he believes is best for the city, not for himself.

       We also choose four freshmen to join the nine-member council, for ideas, energy and a better team spirit.

        • Pat DeWine (R) has run a skilled, clever and dead-on accurate campaign blasting the incumbents, yet offering solid proposals to cut taxes and improve services: ''We have a real opportunity to reverse the loss of population and bring people back to our community.''

        • Diane Goldsmith (R) understands government better than some incumbents. She offers what City Hall needs: experience in Hamilton County government ''to improve city-county relations.''

        • Alicia Reece (D) is young but very poised. She has an impressive record of contributing to the community. Her enthusiasm should give a boost of fresh energy to a tired council, with a voice that has not been heard: ''We tell our kids to study, go to college and get involved. Young adults are watching.''

        • Scott Seidewitz (D) is a top-notch first-time candidate who offers something that is surprisingly rare in council races: A ''Sensible Government Plan'' including specific cuts to save $11 million. ''I did a ton of research,'' he said. And he did.

       This council would be composed of four Democrats, four Republicans and one Charterite. And based on our interviews with candidates, we believe it creates natural coalitions.

       Mayor Roxanne Qualls and fellow-Democrat Tyrone Yates are ineligible for re-election because of term limits. In two years, Todd Portune, Charles Winburn and Phil Heimlich will also be term-limited -- unless they run for mayor under the strong-mayor system that takes effect in 2001. Voter will be watching closely as the jockeying begins for 2001. Grandstanding to grab headlines will not score points, but demonstrating leadership and teamwork will.

        The class of 1999 elected on Nov. 2 should be a strong team that works together on crucial goals:

        • Clean up a disorganized, bloated bureaucracy that stifles development and outrages taxpayers. A reputation for waste, mismanagement and red-tape has made City Hall the outcast nerd among regional governments.

        • City Manager John Shirey will probably be replaced. He was one vote short of being fired this year, and is on probation, awaiting a six-month review after the election. Choosing a city manager is a critical task.

        • And Cincinnati needs a reliable, responsible coalition of at least five votes to govern the city and work with other governments to shape our regional future.

        Those goals and more can be achieved with a coalition of Mr. Luken, Mr. Heimlich, Mr. Winburn, Mr. Portune, Mr. DeWine, Ms. Goldsmith and Mr. Seidewitz -- seven votes that could win support from Mr. Tarbell and Ms. Reece.

       Mr. Tarbell, Ms. Reece and others can be counted on to speak up for neighborhoods and social services, without more shameless handouts that empty the checkbook.

       This year, voters can choose proven incumbents and fresh newcomers who can contribute immediately to make City Hall the regional leader it should be.

       It's time for a better council -- starting with the Class of 1999.

Enquirer endorsements for Cincinnati school board
Integrity, leadership are high on our list

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