Good for Us, Bad for Them

There's no sense in wasting a perfectly usable proclamation, so Mayor Charlie Luken last week declared Nov. 11 CityBeat Day in the city of Cincinnati -- even though the event wasn't quite what h

Sean Hughes/

CityBeat Editor John Fox (left) accepts a proclamation from Mayor Charlie Luken. World doesn't end

There's no sense in wasting a perfectly usable proclamation, so Mayor Charlie Luken last week declared Nov. 11 CityBeat Day in the city of Cincinnati — even though the event wasn't quite what he'd hoped it would be.

"They told me CityBeat was going out of business," he joked when explaining his interest in honoring the paper.

Luken was the surprise guest at a dinner at the Phoenix Restaurant, where staff had gathered to celebrate the paper's 10th anniversary. The mayor issued a proclamation in CityBeat's honor, saying, "The free press plays an essential part in the political and cultural life of a vibrant city."

City Hall closed and mail delivery stopped on CityBeat Day, which was otherwise observed as Veterans Day across the country.

While Luken was generous to his critics in the press, his proposed budget is downright mean to the poor. He wants to eliminate the city's human services policy and the entire $4.8 million the city spends on social services such as the FreeStore/FoodBank and women's shelters.

Vice Mayor Alicia Reece called the proposal "almost inhumane," noting it would "send more people into the streets, more panhandling."

Luken and City Manager Valerie Lemmie had to trim enough from current spending to avoid incurring an $11.5 million deficit next year and a $71 million deficit by 2008 if, as Lemmie told the Finance Committee Nov. 15, "aggressive action is not taken by city council."

Social services serve a purpose but are expendable, according to Luken, a Democrat.

"It's not that I believe those agencies don't do good work, but they don't do work that contribute to the city's core services," he told council Nov. 10. "We can no longer afford to deviate from our primary mission of providing our citizens with the best possible services in those core services."

Councilman David Crowley allowed that some spending might need to be pared but disagreed with Luken's characterization.

"It may well be that program has grown topsy-turvy, but I would say that in principle I would view human services as part of our core services," he said.

It's not just the poor who will feel the sting of budget cuts. The budget trims 161 full-time positions, 76 of them currently filled, and reduces the office budgets for the mayor, city manager and council members by 15.5 percent. Curbside recycling pickup would become biweekly instead of weekly. Parking fines would increase — an expired meter, for example, would go from $14 to $25. The city would remove snow on side streets only during normal business hours to avoid overtime costs. That proposal has Councilman John Cranley concerned. After all, it's one of the things the city usually does right.

"The one thing we've gotten great kudos on in the last five years is snow removal," Cranley said.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman isn't on the Finance Committee but sat in on the Nov. 15 meeting and took the opportunity to reintroduce taxing stock options, a proposal that earlier got little support on council.

"We didn't get here overnight," he said. "There are policy decisions that council makes every day that impact our budget."

He's starting to sound like conservative budget hawk Councilman Pat DeWine, who soon leaves to assume his newly elected position as Hamilton County Commissioner. DeWine, in turn, starts to sound pretty prescient for all his past dire warnings about the city wasting its Anthem windfall on pet projects. And that $52 million Convergys subsidy just sounds worse and worse.

Sometimes You Have to Do It Yourself
The annual Pride Parade won't go away if one group of volunteers has anything to do with it. About three dozen people attended a first meeting last month called after the Cincinnati Pride Committee disbanded (see "Porkopolis," issue of Sept. 29-Oct. 5).

The new committee estimates it will need 50 to 75 volunteers and about $30,000 for the event to continue.

"We're asking everyone who enjoys Pride here in Cincinnati to send a donation for startup costs," says David Epplenhill of Clifton.

The next meeting is at noon Saturday at St John's Unitarian Church. Donations go to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center at P.O. Box 23159, Cincinnati, OH 45223. Note on the memo line that your donation is for "Pride 2005."

The largest vocational education program in the area, the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, should soon enjoy the benefits of union membership and collective bargaining. The Ohio Federation of Teachers filed Nov. 12 for recognition by the State Employee Relations Board as union representative for the 270 teachers and librarians in the Great Oaks District.

"There are several issues that have galvanized Great Oaks employees toward unionizing with the Ohio Federation of Teachers," says Jerry Roberts, a longtime teacher who is a student advocate at Great Oaks. "We have very little say in policy and curriculum decisions."

Union president Tom Mooney says a large majority of Great Oaks teachers signed union authorization cards.

Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or [email protected]

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