By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati City Council challengers attacked the incumbents for their handling of economic development at a forum Monday sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.
Charterites Nick Spencer and John Schlagetter accused City Council members of "not doing their homework" on recent economic development deals.
"Paying $52 million to a company like Convergys, which laid off 40 employees and will probably lay off a couple hundred more by the end of the year, tells me that City Council isn't reading the Wall Street Journal," said Spencer. "Convergys is losing clients. It's not a stable company."
David Pepper, an incumbent Democrat, defended the record of the 38th Cincinnati City Council. He said council has already moved forward on a number of reforms recommended by a mayor's task force: a one-stop permit and development center on Central Parkway, creation of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. and the hiring of an economic development director.
Republican candidates said Cincinnati's downtown cannot flourish until City Council finds a way to reduce crime. "We can build the Taj Mahal downtown, but if people don't feel safe, they're not going to visit," said Chris Monzel.
But some candidates - such as independents Brian Garry, Larry Frazier and Damon Lynch III - said Cincinnati's business strategy relies too much on downtown.
"I understand that downtown is the economic generator of the city. But it has also become the economic drain of the city," Lynch said.
Lynch did not address the boycott, but Charterite Christopher Smitherman did.
"Everyone is here talking, but no one has mentioned the boycott of the city," Smitherman said. "We must resolve the boycott prior to the Freedom Center opening downtown. That is critical to our city." The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is set to open in summer 2004 on the city's riverfront.
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