By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer
DOWNTOWN - More than 100 people from Price Hill and Westwood packed Cincinnati City Council's chambers Wednesday in hopes that city leaders would reaffirm their commitment to fighting crime and adding more police officers.
Instead, they watched council members bicker, and in the end, reject three crime-fighting proposals.
The first to go down - by a 5-4 vote - was Councilman John Cranley's motion that would have guaranteed two police recruit classes in the next two-year budget. Cranley argued that with an attrition rate of nearly 60 officers a year, the city needed to have two classes to reach and maintain its goal of 1,075 officers.
City administrators delayed a fall police recruit class until December because of the city's budget woes. Cranley said he wanted to ensure council would not use similar money-saving tactics in the future.
"This vote says that if we have to make tough decisions, this is not the top priority," Cranley said. "It's sad that after 58 homicides (this year), this is not our priority."
Vice Mayor Alicia Reece's motions to establish a homicide task force and an anti-gang unit also failed. Reece had proposed creating centralized police teams that would focus strictly on the issue of gangs and homicides - similar to what the city had done with the Violent Crimes Task Force in 2001.
Both motions were resoundingly defeated 7-2.
"I am disappointed," said Reece, who voted against Cranley's motion. "If you don't like the plan I've presented, I've asked for an alternative plan. I haven't seen it."
Some council members who opposed Cranley's motion said they did so because they didn't want to tie the hands of city administrators should the city's budget problems get worse. Others said they felt Cranley's motion repeated the commitment council made in its policy budget and directives to the city administration approved in June.
"If it's true that they already voted for it, why can't we vote for it again?" Cranley said. "They didn't vote for it because it would have committed this council to saying that we definitely wanted this."
Many residents left the meeting disappointed that politics and rhetoric appeared to have won the day. During the public speaking session, dozens of residents pleaded with council members for more police and a plan to combat crime in their neighborhoods.
Janice Ludwig, of Westwood, said: "Why would someone vote against anything to prevent crime? I don't get that."
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