Stuff in Charlie Luken's Gut

The problem with Charlie Luken comes down to this. As mayor, he didn't have the kind of power he wanted, and he didn't know how to use the power he had. In the final State of the City address of

Sean Hughes/photopresse.com


Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken gives the State of the City address Feb. 2 at Withrow High School.



The problem with Charlie Luken comes down to this. As mayor, he didn't have the kind of power he wanted, and he didn't know how to use the power he had. In the final State of the City address of his term, delivered Feb. 2 at Withrow High School, Luken again demonstrated both his knack for identifying a problem and his inability to lead the city in dealing with it.

Consider his thoughts on public transportation — a matter of significant controversy in city council in the past few months. Light rail will remain too costly and unpopular for Cincinnati, Luken said. However, the existing system isn't all that popular either.

"It's difficult to fashion a transit system that will get support in outlying areas," he said.

Race relations are still tense in Cincinnati, the mayor said.

"Our neighborhoods are still too segregated, opportunities for growth still are not equitable and we must address health care," he said.

But Luken told students in the audience it would be up to them to deal with the issue; he had thought, by the time he turned 50, racial conflict would be a thing of the past.

The biggest single reason Luken isn't running for re-election is that he doesn't have the power to hire and fire all city staff, "top to bottom," he said. That's the role of the city manager, the only person outside his own office staff the mayor even indirectly hires and fires.

"We are the only city in America that has this goofy way of running city government," he said. "What I'd like to see is the mayor of the city as the CEO of the city."

That sentiment perfectly summarizes the failure of Luken's mayoralty. Elected to lead, he instead wanted to manage. Unable to inspire, what he's left with after almost six years in office is an almost pitiful hope that the public knows he tried to help. Taking questions from students, Luken said the greatest accomplishment of his tenure was "facing some very difficult times and coming through those difficult times better for the experience."

Another student asked him his strengths and weaknesses.

"There was a time about four years ago when I decided I was going to listen carefully to people ... But at the end of the day I had to block out some of that clutter and I had to do what I thought was best for the city," Luken said. "At some point in your life ... you have to go to your gut. And there are good things and bad things in my gut, I guess."

Failures, Delays and Losses
The state of Ohio is failing to protect the reproductive health and freedom of women, according to a new report from NARAL Pro-Choice America. The group gave Ohio a failing grade of F, ranking it 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, because of the state's numerous restrictions on access to reproductive health care. Ohio doesn't require insurance companies to cover contraceptives. The report also noted that 91 percent of Ohio's counties don't have a single abortion provider. But it could get even worse. The report concludes that Ohio's combination of an anti-choice, mostly male legislature and male governor puts it among the 19 states ripe for a rapid ban on abortion should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The sale of The Downtowner is off, at least for the short term. Ohio First District Appeals Pleas Judge Mark Painter and Rick Hines, founder of the weekly newspaper, had planned to buy it from its current owner, Doug Taylor (see "Media, Myself and I," issue of Feb. 2). Hines, who runs

Sean Hughes/photopresse.com


Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken gives the State of the City address Feb. 2 at Withrow High School.



The problem with Charlie Luken comes down to this. As mayor, he didn't have the kind of power he wanted, and he didn't know how to use the power he had. In the final State of the City address of his term, delivered Feb. 2 at Withrow High School, Luken again demonstrated both his knack for identifying a problem and his inability to lead the city in dealing with it.

Consider his thoughts on public transportation — a matter of significant controversy in city council in the past few months. Light rail will remain too costly and unpopular for Cincinnati, Luken said. However, the existing system isn't all that popular either.

"It's difficult to fashion a transit system that will get support in outlying areas," he said.

Race relations are still tense in Cincinnati, the mayor said.

"Our neighborhoods are still too segregated, opportunities for growth still are not equitable and we must address health care," he said.

But Luken told students in the audience it would be up to them to deal with the issue; he had thought, by the time he turned 50, racial conflict would be a thing of the past.

The biggest single reason Luken isn't running for re-election is that he doesn't have the power to hire and fire all city staff, "top to bottom," he said. That's the role of the city manager, the only person outside his own office staff the mayor even indirectly hires and fires.

"We are the only city in America that has this goofy way of running city government," he said. "What I'd like to see is the mayor of the city as the CEO of the city."

That sentiment perfectly summarizes the failure of Luken's mayoralty. Elected to lead, he instead wanted to manage. Unable to inspire, what he's left with after almost six years in office is an almost pitiful hope that the public knows he tried to help. Taking questions from students, Luken said the greatest accomplishment of his tenure was "facing some very difficult times and coming through those difficult times better for the experience."

Another student asked him his strengths and weaknesses.

"There was a time about four years ago when I decided I was going to listen carefully to people ... But at the end of the day I had to block out some of that clutter and I had to do what I thought was best for the city," Luken said. "At some point in your life ... you have to go to your gut. And there are good things and bad things in my gut, I guess."

Failures, Delays and Losses
The state of Ohio is failing to protect the reproductive health and freedom of women, according to a new report from NARAL Pro-Choice America. The group gave Ohio a failing grade of F, ranking it 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, because of the state's numerous restrictions on access to reproductive health care. Ohio doesn't require insurance companies to cover contraceptives. The report also noted that 91 percent of Ohio's counties don't have a single abortion provider. But it could get even worse. The report concludes that Ohio's combination of an anti-choice, mostly male legislature and male governor puts it among the 19 states ripe for a rapid ban on abortion should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The sale of The Downtowner is off, at least for the short term. Ohio First District Appeals Pleas Judge Mark Painter and Rick Hines, founder of the weekly newspaper, had planned to buy it from its current owner, Doug Taylor (see "Media, Myself and I," issue of Feb. 2). Hines, who runs CincyNation.com, says he still hopes to acquire The Downtowner.

"I suspect things will rev up again in a couple months or so," he says. "I would still like to re-own it. Look for the paper to be sold soon."

Cancer last week took the life of Jackie Shropshire, a vigorous voice for civil rights and critic of police violence in Cincinnati. Dena Reed, who served with Shropshire on the Mount Auburn Community Council, called him "Cincinnati's own No. 1 African-American human rights activist. ... He will be missed."



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