Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Inside City Hall

Mayor tongue-tied in brush with Bush

Fly-on-the-wall account of Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken's small talk with President George Bush at Carl Linder III's house in Indian Hill last week:

"How's that cop thing going?" Bush asked in his informal Texas style. It was Bush who sent the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the Cincinnati Police Department - at Luken's request - after the 2001 riots.

Luken said he doesn't remember his response. (Even after two decades in politics and six years as a television anchor, one tends to get tongue-tied when speaking to the president, he said.)

The conversation ended with Bush telling Luken he was doing a fine job, and Luken returning the compliment.

If any Democrat in town were to criticize Bush's record, it wouldn't be Luken. When in Congress from 1991-1993, Luken supported padre Bush on the Gulf War and voted with Republicans about half the time.

Indeed, Rep. Rob Portman, a close Bush family friend, invited Luken to the exclusive Indian Hill fund-raiser and waived the $2,000 contribution.

When Bush's campaign staff asked Portman if Luken wasn't a Democrat, he replied: "Yeah, but not a very good one."

• • •

Required reading: Cincinnati is the cover story of this month's Governing magazine, headlined "Chasing the Rainbow: Is a Gay Population an Engine of Urban Revival."

The story notes that Cincinnati is at the forefront of a national debate over the importance of the gay community to cities' economies. Article XII of Cincinnati's charter makes it the only city in America where voters have explicitly prohibited City Council from passing a gay rights ordinance.

Author Richard Florida argues in The Rise of the Creative Class that successful cities also have large gay populations, which are a barometer of cultural tolerance.

Councilman David Crowley, who has two gay children, buys the argument: "Article XII clearly turned out to be detrimental to development in Cincinnati," Crowley tells Governing's Christopher Swope.

But Phil Burress of Loveland, head of Citizens for Community Values, calls Florida "a homophile" in pursuit of an agenda.

• • •

More required reading: The Hotline, a national magazine considered a must-read by political insiders, has published a list of "rising stars" in Ohio politics. The short list included Democratic Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, noted as a possible statewide candidate.

On the GOP side, Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen is gaining statewide attention as one of Ohio's "most aggressive, respected and successful prosecutors." Hotline said he's a "formidable contender" for Ohio attorney general.

• • •

Main Street, U.S.A.: Councilman John Cranley's plan to hire Memphis developer John Elkington to build on the successes of Cincinnati's Main Street has been derailed from the fast track - but isn't exactly dead, either.

"I wouldn't expect anything to come to City Council anytime soon," Luken said.

The $100,000 price tag is a sticking point for some on City Council. Even Jim Tarbell, Over-the-Rhine's biggest booster, said he couldn't justify spending city money on a Main Street developer when so much work needs to be done on Vine Street.

One possible scenario is for Elkington to come to the city with tenants in hand before asking to be paid.


E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com

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