Wednesday, July 31, 2002

City Hall

Council members hit trail early

        If you happen to run across your councilman at a church festival this summer, you may be wondering how another council election year crept up on Cincinnati so quickly.

        It hasn't.

        Still, with more than 15 months to go before the 2003 council election, city council city council incumbents are out and about, using their two-month summer recess to reconnect with voters like a prodigal congressman just back for the Labor Day picnic. They're at church festivals, parades and block parties. , and Councilman David Pepper has even been spotted walking door-to-door in Bond Hill recently.

        Some of the candidates who are running this year are starting to complain.

        “I've been involved in campaigns since 1981, and I've never seen so many council candidates out in force in an even (numbered) year,” said state Rep. Tom Brinkman,

        R-Mount Lookout, who's facing a challenge from Democrat Dave Schaff.

        So what's to account for the ubiquity of council candidates?

        The relative youth may be one explanation. The median age of City Council is just 33, and the three youngest members — John Cranley, David Pepper and Alicia Reece — are untethered by family lives.

        It's also an ambitious bunch. Democrats may be campaigning not for the 2003 council race, but three years early for the 2005 mayor's race — assuming Charlie Luken decides not to run. On the Republican side, Pat DeWine and Chris Monzel could be building support for a far-off congressional race.

        Or, if you believe Mr. Pepper, council members really do want to know what people are thinking.

        “I actually enjoy getting out and talking to people,” he said. “For me, this is about the time I started running for council two years ago. And I get a good response. I think voters are smart enough to know when a politician only shows up in an election year.”

        Your tax money: If you weren't paying close attention, you may not have noticed that council members got a pay raise this year.

        The 2.6 percent raise — from $55,701 to $57,150 — also means that the mayor's salary will jump from $111,402 to $114,300. (The mayor is paid twice the salary of a councilman.) All told, those raises will cost taxpayers $15,939.

        Under the city charter, council members receive 75 percent of a Hamilton County cCommissioner's pay. State law gives commissioners an automatic cost-of-living raise.


        More tax money: Mr. DeWine, the councilman, has been fighting to fund a riverfront bike trail since 1999, with mixed success. Every time he insists that City Council balance additional spending with offsetting cuts, Democrats suggest cutting the project most dear to Mr. DeWine.

        Last week, he got some help from Mr. DeWine, the senator.

        Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, found $1.1 million in federal money for the bike trail through two appropriations bills on their way to the Senate floor. There was no federal money, however, for upgrades to Lunken Airport or to repair the Waldvogel Viaduct.

        The elder DeWine is a member of the Appropriations Committee.

        Also out of the Senate Appropriations Committee: $2 million for the Cincinnati Empowerment Corp. and $6.4 million for the Government Square bus transfer center.


        Update: The city's 17-member Economic Development Task Force — charged with bringing jobs to Cincinnati in the face of increasing competition from Northern Kentucky — is now an 18-member task force.

        It also includes a Northern Kentuckian.

        In June, Mayor Luken quietly made a late appointment to the commission, tapping Terry Sievers of Villa Hills. Mr. Sievers is president of the Fort Mitchell-based Drees Co.

        Mr. Luken said he made the addition in response to calls from home builders that they be represented on the panel, which is dominated by commercial developers and investment bankers. Mr. Sievers is also president of the Springdale-based Home Builders Association of Greater Cincinnati.

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



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