City Government is not a corporation and the Mayor is not a CEO.

Five months ago I wrote a series of posts about why it is crucial to understand how the committee system works at City Hall.  I started with the issue that raised the question initially:  Anatomy of a Street Name Change, followed it up with my best guess as to how the process worked in Politicians Understand How Important Committees Are – Do You? – and then had to do one of my famous flip-flops as I gathered more information, I Stand Corrected, Happily So.

The bottom-line of what I finally figured out was this, straight from the email account of Jay Kincaid, the mayor’s chief of staff:

It is up to the Mayor’s discretion which legislation goes through which Committee and it can change. 

We are now smack-dab in the middle of another real-life lesson in why it’s important to understand the Committee process.  And this time the issue at stake is a lot more important than a silly little name change.  On Tuesday Mayor Cranley decided he didn’t like the vote by the Neighborhood Committee against a developer in Madisonville who wants to build a 25 million-dollar luxury apartment complex.  So he scrapped that decision and sent the issue to another committee, Economic Growth & Infrastructure, chaired by Christopher Smitherman, with only two other members,  Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn.

Will the vote be any different when it goes before Economic Growth & Infrastructure?

Of course it will.  They will approve the amendment that is opposed by the Madisonville Community Council and the neighborhood development corporation.  Why is it opposed by people who actually live and work in this neighborhood?  Because the developer has not delivered on the agreement he signed with the city on December 6, 2007.  But for some mysterious reason the Mayor believes that we can trust the guy to do what he says he’s going to do this time and it’s all going to be great for everybody.  The residents of this community just don’t understand.  All development is good, the bigger the dollars on the ordinance the better.  Obviously, John Cranley with his professional experience as a real estate attorney (and a developer in Price Hill), with his political backers from the development industry, must understand the facts better than the members of the Neighborhood Committee, better than the residents who show up month after month to volunteer their time to make Madisonville a better place to live.

Members of Economic Growth & Infrastructure will vote with the Mayor advancing the Ordinance to full Council.  Full Council is represented on the Neighborhood Committee, so we can assume they will once again vote against the amendment to the original development .What frightens me is the Mayor’s ability to veto, a right he exercised recently on the Over-the-Rhine parking permit agreement.  One man can over-ride the people who live in a neighborhood and the judgement of the public officials elected to represent our city.

I talk to the people who work in administration at City Hall on a regular basis and these are not easy jobs.  Just last week a woman described her hour-long conversation with a citizen frustrated with a city policy, but this young, energetic public servant understood that it was her job to be the human voice on the other end of that call, to listen and care.  Democracy is a pain in the neck.  It’s messy.  And it takes a lot of work.  Of course, our corporate executives get frustrated with how cumbersome the process is, but our objectives as a community are richer and more complex than any financial bottom line.

City government is not a corporation and the Mayor is not a CEO.  Let the process of democracy run its course without interference.  Let it do its job.

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About executivedreamer

Former financial consultant and straight-ticket Republican until 2000, I quit my wonderful, fascinating, well-paid job to go explore what else was in the world. These days I can't be bought with money, drive my car 1,000 miles a year and spend summers in Italy.

8 thoughts on “City Government is not a corporation and the Mayor is not a CEO.

  1. James Converse

    What agreement did the developer not deliver upon in 2007? BTW, I think this article is spot on!

    1. Bill Collins

      James: I was there in 2006 and 2007. I live two blocks from this site, have owned a home here since 1993 and was active in 2006 and 2007 when this deal was negotiated.

      At that time, we in the neighborhood with with two key people to negotiate the deal. They were Katherine Keough-Jurs from the City staff (a very competent planner who still works for the City as I understand it) and a guy named Grant who was the developer’s assistant at that time. Because Grant was available, negotiations were smoothe. He was a good guy, and we were very happy that the land was to be developed by somebody other than Walmart, because we knew them that Walmart had been eyeing this site when Walmart decided to move from its old Walmart store at Highland Avenue and Kennedy Avenue about one mile away.

      The deal that was reached (I was just discussing the details of this deal with my wife a few minutes ago to refresh my memory) were:
      1) The developer would dismantle the old metal fence along the western edge of the property abutting the homes on Charlemar Drive that the Drive-In Theater had built back in the 1940s or 1950s. [The developer did this very quickly.]
      2) The developer would replace this metal fence with an attractive wooden fence. [The developer did this very quickly.]
      3) The developer would plant attracting trees along this fence line rather than plant low bushes that would attract weeds. [The developer did this very quickly.]
      4) The developer would protect the old mature trees on Madison Road. [I think he tried to do that, but in the rush of construction all those mature trees fell down.]
      5) The developer’s sign facing Madison Road would be “architectural” and back-lighted to look more class. [The developer did this very quickly.]
      6) The key demand was the the developer would turn Charlemar Drive into a cul-de-sac when he built the new roads on his property, so that trucks would use the new roads and be blocked from passing through the residential street Charlemar. [The developer never did that, and this was our key demand.]

    2. executivedreamer Post author

      Ordinance No. 275-2007 between the City of Cincinnati and Hyde Park Circle LLC, a 29 acre mixed-use development in the old Oakley Drive-in site. The agreement was for 28,000 square feet of pet care facilities and approximately 130,000 square feet of a nursing home with an additional 130,000 square feet of assisted living apartments.

  2. Quimbob

    The mayor also appoints the committee chairs which is pretty important, too. I believe that just started with the current ‘strong mayor’ established when Charlie Luken was mayor.

  3. JCS

    This is why a case could be made for switching to a true strong/executive mayor system. Take the Mayor out of the legislative process and allow council to set its own agenda and appoint committee chairs. While this change would formalize the Mayor’s control of the city departments, he is already exercising that control. In some ways this change would reduce mayoral power. The idea of the professional city manager as executive is great in theory, but the current hybrid system has removed clarity over where the buck stops.

    1. Zachary Schunn

      Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t believe Christopher Smitherman’s strong mayor proposal would take away this power from the mayor…

  4. Pingback: Why am I willing to look like such a Doofus? | cincyopolis

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