Sunday, November 30, 2003

Council facing heavy load


Budget, police, income tax challenge new, old members

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - Its predecessor grappled with weighty issues: reform of the Police Department, an unprecedented two-year decline in the income tax, stalling downtown development and the privatization of city services.

The 39th Cincinnati City Council, to be sworn in Monday, will have to deal with all those and even more issues that will have a direct impact on city residents, businesses, taxpayers - even the city's national image.

The budget isn't getting any better, there's a growing scandal in the Community Development department and the emotionally charged issue of gay rights is looming. A backlash over subsidies to downtown businesses - and a movement to elect City Council members by neighborhood districts - has put neighborhood development back at the top of the city's agenda.

INFOGRAPHIC
The 39th Cincinnati City Council
The council that will take on these challenges is as young (median age: 32) and as racially diverse (four African-Americans) as any ever elected.

Council members will be operating in an environment that's likely to be much more politically charged. The era during which Mayor Charlie Luken was able to forge consensus through his "strong mayor" mandate isn't likely to survive as the city approaches the 2005 mayoral campaign.

And new to the mix are Republican Sam Malone and Charterite Christopher Smitherman. Ideologically, they're likely to cancel each other out. But in terms of style, they're likely to have a much higher profile than the two council members they're replacing - Democrat Minette Cooper and Republican Chris Monzel.

Here's a closer look at the most important issues confronting the city and this new city council:

• Budget: City Manager Valerie Lemmie's proposed 2004 budget cuts the $2.1 million curbside recycling program and spends $23.7 million on neighborhood development projects.

• Community Development: Previous councils have combined the Neighborhood Services, Economic Development and Planning departments into a single entity responsible for administering hundreds of programs.

• Election reform: Should council members be elected to represent the entire city, or specific neighborhoods? How many council members should there be?

Those are being studied by a 13-member commission appointed by the mayor and the city's three political parties.

• Downtown development: The aftermath of contentious votes on subsidies for Saks Fifth Avenue, Convergys Corp. and Kroger Co. - and an ever-shrinking city budget - leave an uncertain landscape for future corporate subsidies.

Cincinnati's new City Council

Members of the 39th Cincinnati City Council will take their oaths at 11 a.m. Monday. The time is set by the city's charter.

The meeting is open to the public, but seating is reserved.

Mayor Charlie Luken will preside over a City Council comprised of five Democrats, two Republicans and two Charterites.

Alicia Reece will be Vice Mayor.

Committee lineups: David Pepper, Law & Public Safety; John Cranley, Finance; Laketa Cole, Neighborhood & Public Works; Alicia Reece, Health, Social & Children Services, Small Business Development, Employment & Training; David Crowley, Community Development and Intergovernmental Affairs; Pepper, Rules.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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