Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Inside City Hall


City planners ponder annexation

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One hundred years ago today, Cincinnati annexed Hyde Park and Winton Place. That same week in 1903, Bond Hill (Nov. 16) and Evanston (Nov. 19) joined the fold.

Few think Cincinnati will see growth like that again.

But those few happen to include two members of the Cincinnati Planning Commission, who say the city should begin to study ways to grow its borders through more aggressive annexation.

Pete Witte wants to target cash-strapped inner-ring suburbs to create "a bigger and better city." His list: Addyston, Arlington Heights, Lincoln Heights, Elmwood Place, Lockland, Fairfax.

Two problems: not all are contiguous, and they would require the agreement of the smaller cities.

That's why Commissioner Caleb Faux wants to target unincorporated areas like the part of Columbia Township along Ridge Road between Oakley and Pleasant Ridge.

"Our residents all shop there, but we get no tax revenue benefit at all," Faux said. He proposes using city money to buy blighted township property, annex it into the city, and redevelop it.

State Rep. Tom Brinkman is also an advocate of annexation. He said City Council members have expressed interest in the past, but "chickened out" when they realized it might hurt their political futures.

Indeed, City Council hasn't even considered an annexation since 1996. And in 2000, City Council voted 8-0 on an ordinance by then-Councilman Charlie Winburn requiring township trustees to consent to an annexation before the city would accept it.

A memo from then-City Manager John Shirey all but accused Winburn of grandstanding: "This ordinance is more symbolic than substantial as there is little or no chance of Cincinnati annexing any territory in the foreseeable future."

Mayor Charlie Luken said it's not a priority.

"Before we improve the image of our city, we're going to be frustrated," he said.

He recalls when Rep. Steve Chabot, then a councilman, proposed annexing Norwood when the General Motors plant closed in 1987.

"The good people of Norwood almost got their militia together and moved on Bond Hill," Luken joked.

London calling

A Nov. 11 story in the Financial Times of London noted that Cincinnati is bucking the trend of eroding taxpayer support for the arts.

The story quoted Luken, who seemed to have picked up a British accent for the interview: "I know Cincinnati recognises that arts are critical to our future," he said.

The Times' Kamau High wrote that the new Contemporary Arts Center seems to have exorcised the ghost of Robert Mapplethorpe, whose sexually oriented photographs led to an obscenity prosecution in 1990.

"Amongst some artists the Mapplethorpe incident was a blemish on the city," Luken told the Times. "But I believe, with what the city has had go on since, we have buried that once and for all."

The perpetual campaign

The week after her second-place finish for council, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece is plotting her next move.

Father and campaign manager Steve Reece said he's heading an exploratory committee to look at running for secretary of state, lieutenant governor, Congress - even the mayor's office.

"We're not ruling anything out." Although he said Reece and Luken make a good team, "you don't know what the situation is going to be like in 24 months."




ENQUIRER COLUMNS
Korte: Inside City Hall
Howard: Good things happening

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Experts: Tristate poised for boom
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Former Olympian is back on her feet
Walk-ins alter tally of school bond issue
Cemetery asks city to bury old debt
Finder of lost dog relents
Hyde Park high-rise gets OK
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Regional Report
Great Neighborhoods: Hyde Park/Mt. Lookout

KENTUCKY HEADLINES
24 of 80 schools miss goal
Newport traffic crackdown on hold