Not since the banning of Pete Rose — and we all know he was framed — has a single event sent such a series of shock waves throughout our community. Cincinnati is not fond of change, but change could come a-calling as the playing field for Cincinnati mayor gets narrowed down from four candidates to two.
Just who will make it to the next round? Will the winner be able to do anything to ease racial tension, change the face of the police force, repeal laws enshrining discrimination against gays and invigorate the arts community?
The primary election pits incumbent Mayor Charlie Luken, a Democrat, against challengers Courtis Fuller, endorsed by the Charter Committee, and independents Michael Riley and Bill Brodberger.
This mayor's race is especially important because it is the first time in more than seven decades that Cincinnati voters will directly elect a mayor. For most of the past 75 years, city council chose the mayor from among its own members. More recently, the council candidate who won the most votes in the council elections got the job of mayor.
The strong mayor, as the post has been called, will have a host of new powers such as the freedom to pick the chairs of council committees, veto power over ordinances passed by council and the ability to choose or lose the city manager as long as most of the nine council members agree.
The mayor will serve a four-year term, double the current term.
Prior to the civil unrest in April, being a politician in Cincinnati seemed a bit less exciting than it did once local leaders started appearing on the national news.
Luken's theme song at the time could have been "Free Ride," as it seemed pretty clear he would coast to victory.
After rioting broke out in April, the Republicans got busy interviewing possible mayor candidates. But the GOP came up blank, with no candidate for the office.
The only candidate who seemed to be willing to go up against Luken was Brodberger, a private investigator with no past political experience.
But on the day Hamilton County Republican Party announced it would not field a candidate, Fuller quit his job as news anchor, moved to College Hill and announced he was running for mayor with the endorsement of the Charter Committee.
Riots as a backdrop
With the riots as a backdrop for the election, Luken has made an issue of a boycott organized by the Black United Front, claiming that it will only harm hardworking citizens of Cincinnati.
Luken has encouraged the development of new market-rate housing in the city. He also says he is interested in improving police/community relations, decreasing crime, strengthening the economy through more jobs and new development and improving neighborhoods and the downtown business district (see Curiously Strong Mayor issue of Aug. 23-29).
Fuller has proposed special tax districts that would give residents of a neighborhood the ability to assess a special property tax on themselves, with the money being controlled by residents and spent directly in their neighborhood. He is also interested in attacking blight, arranging low-interest loans to residents and businesses along main thoroughfares to encourage property improvements and encouraging neighborhood heritage tours to facilitate cultural tourism (see A Fuller Perspective issue of Aug. 9-15).
Brodberger wants clean and safe streets and more support for police officers. He would also like to see the convention center expanded and relocated. Brodberger also wants to see a residency requirement for all employees hired by the city in the future (see A Man of Convictions issue of Aug. 30-Sept. 5).
Riley is interested in improving communication between police and citizens, protecting the environment and fighting police brutality. He is concerned about homelessness in Cincinnati, helping those who suffer from mental illness and improving the lives of those living in poverty (see Protect Civil Rights issue of Aug. 30-Sept. 5).
Vote Tuesday: The four-man field for Cincinnati mayor is reduced to two on Tuesday. City polls are open 6:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. For information, call the Hamilton County Board of Elections at 513-632-7000.