Thursday, October 18, 2001

Fuller touts inexperience

Candidate claims incumbents failed to solve problems

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's no surprise to voters that Charlie Luken has more experience at being mayor than Courtis Fuller.

        Mr. Fuller admitted as much in a debate Tuesday. But he sees his lack of experience as a benefit.

        “We are at this crossroads because of everyone who claims they have government experience. Had the government experience been working, chances are so would I — I'd still be working at Channel 5,” said the 44-year-old former news anchor.

        Mr. Luken has been critical not only of Mr. Fuller's inexperience, but also for declining to debate often, in setting out a platform the mayor considers vague, and in going to Over-the-Rhine last month when young men were setting fires and throwing bricks and bottles at police and firefighters.

        The candidates' experience — and how they would approach the new, more powerful job description — has become as important an issue as how they would deal with the problems of crime, housing and neighborhood development.

        Those intangibles provide some of the clearest distinctions between the two candidates.

        One of the very first tasks of the new mayor will be to hire a new city manager (with City Council's approval). John Shirey will resign Dec. 1, the same day the new mayor will be sworn in.

        Neither candidate has been specific on how he would choose a city manager. But each sees the primary role of the new city manager as one who implements the vision of the mayor.

        Mr. Fuller, for example, will expect the city manager — and each of his or her department heads — to develop a “covenant” with residents, similar to Mr. Fuller's own platform.

        The covenant would stress customer service and an “open, inclusive and efficient” city government.

        Mr. Luken said he's not looking for “the traditional city manager.” He said he wants someone — preferably someone local — who will work hand-in-hand with the mayor to set a budget and be the “catalyst” for improving services to residents.

        Another duty of the mayor would be to choose “his team,” appointing the vice mayor and committee chairs from among the council members.

        Mr. Luken said he would appoint a fellow Democrat as his vice mayor; Mr. Fuller has declined to say whether his top ally on City Council would be a fellow Charterite.

        Even how the City Council meetings should be run has become an issue, especially in light of the disruptive protests that have plagued City Council.

        “These debates — not only must they take place, but they must take place civilly. And one of the great tragedies of what's going on at City Hall is that when people disagree with what other people say, they get heckled down,” Mr. Luken said.

        Mr. Fuller has suggested that the problem is deeper — a “lack of vision from the top.”

        “The buck always stops at the top, and the reason those meetings are so chaotic is that there's never been a clear vision set from the top.”


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