News: Opening Doors at City Hall

New council, new mayor, new collaboration

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The Year In Review



The remaining evidence of the 2005 election season is an occasional "elect" or "re-elect" yard sign from seven mayoral and 31 city council candidates, but significant changes are already under way at City Hall.

Anyone who wants to see the new mayor has an open invitation to literally walk into his office. No longer is a visitor expected to cool her heels in a waiting area until a staff member appears to serve as escort. Just poke your head in the door of Room 150; the door's unlocked during business hours.

On Dec. 20, at his weekly media briefing — another change Mayor Mark Mallory has implemented in the first few weeks of his term — he announced that metal detectors will be removed from the main entrance of City Hall once all security issues are addressed.

"One of the things I believe has changed about City Hall already is the reason that people have to come here," Mallory said. "Part of what we have designed in the change of the rules, in the change of the attitude that we all have and in the change of the priorities is to get people to feel good about City Hall. So it is my thought that, from here on, people wouldn't have a reason to come here and want to harm somebody that works at City Hall."

The Democratic mayor raised a few eyebrows when he appointed City Councilman Jim Tarbell, a Charterite, vice mayor and said that his second-in-command would have the ability to stand in for him at any moment. Far from a figurehead position, Mallory expects Tarbell to help facilitate communication between city council and the mayor's office and be as visible in the community as he will.

Saying political affiliation wasn't a factor, Mallory pointed to Tarbell's experience and work as a civic "cheerleader" as important qualifications for the position.

Mallory beat City Councilman David Pepper Nov. 8 to win the mayor's job. The previous vice mayor, Alicia Reece, fell from the race after the primary election in September along with the Rev. Charles Winburn, singer Justin Jeffre and political unknowns Sylvan Grisco and Sandra Noble.

The mayoral race — which effectively started 16 months earlier when Charlie Luken announced he wouldn't seek re-election — featured numerous debates and political forums focusing on such issues as crime, economic development, education and youth (see

 
The Year In Review



The remaining evidence of the 2005 election season is an occasional "elect" or "re-elect" yard sign from seven mayoral and 31 city council candidates, but significant changes are already under way at City Hall.

Anyone who wants to see the new mayor has an open invitation to literally walk into his office. No longer is a visitor expected to cool her heels in a waiting area until a staff member appears to serve as escort. Just poke your head in the door of Room 150; the door's unlocked during business hours.

On Dec. 20, at his weekly media briefing — another change Mayor Mark Mallory has implemented in the first few weeks of his term — he announced that metal detectors will be removed from the main entrance of City Hall once all security issues are addressed.

"One of the things I believe has changed about City Hall already is the reason that people have to come here," Mallory said. "Part of what we have designed in the change of the rules, in the change of the attitude that we all have and in the change of the priorities is to get people to feel good about City Hall. So it is my thought that, from here on, people wouldn't have a reason to come here and want to harm somebody that works at City Hall."

The Democratic mayor raised a few eyebrows when he appointed City Councilman Jim Tarbell, a Charterite, vice mayor and said that his second-in-command would have the ability to stand in for him at any moment. Far from a figurehead position, Mallory expects Tarbell to help facilitate communication between city council and the mayor's office and be as visible in the community as he will.

Saying political affiliation wasn't a factor, Mallory pointed to Tarbell's experience and work as a civic "cheerleader" as important qualifications for the position.

Mallory beat City Councilman David Pepper Nov. 8 to win the mayor's job. The previous vice mayor, Alicia Reece, fell from the race after the primary election in September along with the Rev. Charles Winburn, singer Justin Jeffre and political unknowns Sylvan Grisco and Sandra Noble.

The mayoral race — which effectively started 16 months earlier when Charlie Luken announced he wouldn't seek re-election — featured numerous debates and political forums focusing on such issues as crime, economic development, education and youth (see citybeat.com/mayor).

Those campaigning for the nine seats on city council, including incumbents, focused on another mayoral campaign hot-button — ending business as usual at City Hall. Given the chance to name two new council members, with Reece and Pepper yielding their seats, voters chose four new faces — Democrats Jeff Berding and Cecil Thomas; Chris Bortz, a Charterite; and Leslie Ghiz, a Republican. Incumbents Laketa Cole, John Cranley, David Crowley, Chris Monzel and Tarbell retained their seats.

A post-election refrain vowing teamwork was quickly put to the test in a clash over committee structures and leadership positions. Rules reform for city council business prompted a debate during the first public meeting of the new council.

The fact that Mallory met behind closed doors with the new council before he or they had formally taken office struck some as improper but was at least consistent with his emphasis on collaboration — the new watchword at City Hall.

Mallory has been meeting with the Hamilton County Commissioners to discuss the next steps on the development of The Banks. During his campaign he dubbed the 15-acre waterfront housing, retail and entertainment project the most important economic development initiative in the region. When the county's handpicked developer, Corporex, unexpectedly pulled out, Mallory cleared his schedule to stand by the commissioners during a press conference announcing the need to secure a new developer.

Council has also been instructed to collaborate. Monzel, chair of the Education, Health and Recreation Committee, is preparing for meetings with the new Cincinnati School Board in January to begin collaboration with the school district in the areas of recreation, after-school programs and ways the city can provide support.

If Mallory's emphasis on decorum and collaboration holds, the next big change at City Hall could prove the most promising of all: selection of a new city manager. Mallory gets to recommend a candidate, but city council must approve or reject the choice. ©

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