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Harry Black one step closer to becoming Cincinnati's city manager

harry black
Tana Weingartner
City Manager nominee Harry Black

Harry Black, who is likely to be confirmed as Cincinnati’s 15th city manager at Wednesday, told council members at a special meeting today that he plans to be a visible, accessible public figure outside of City Hall.

“I think you what you will find in me is a very, very effective manager-leader as well as someone in tune with every aspect of the community,’’ Black told council members at a special session of the Rules and Audit Committee.

People will see him, Black said, “from the business community to the non-business community – visiting churches, going to sporting events, or just walking down the street to get a sandwich.”

Mayor John Cranley chose the 51-year-old Black, who is now Baltimore’s finance director, from 19 applicants – including Scott Stiles, who has been interim city manager since Milton Dohoney resigned after Cranley’s election as mayor last fall.

Council must approve the decision; and from most of the questioning from the eight council members present at today’s Rules and Audit Committee, he has a council majority willing to hire him. Only council member Chris Seelbach said today that he has yet to make up his mind.

Council members questioned Black for about two-and-a-half hours on his philosophy on delivering basic services, economic development, “privatizing” some city services and his background and experience.

Seelbach asked him if he would support extending the streetcar to the uptown area. Black said he doesn’t know enough about it but will learn. He did say he would make sure the first phase of the streetcar – connecting the riverfront with Over-the-Rhine would be completed on or below budget.

Black promised council members that he would work with both council and the mayor.

“I will be accessible to all of you,’’ Black said. “I’ll meet with you anywhere, anytime.”

Black, a native of Baltimore, was the chief deputy administrator in Richmond, Va., and worked in several government jobs for the District of Columbia. But he has never served as a city manager.

Nonetheless, he said his background qualifies him for the job.

“Everything I have done to date has led me to this point,’’ Black said. “I understand cities; I know cities; I grew up in a major city; and I know what the issues are, the challenges, and I like to think that my knowledge and experience will be beneficial to the city of Cincinnati.”

Vice Mayor David Mann, who said he wholeheartedly supports Black for city manager, was elected to council last year after serving on council and as mayor in the 1970s and 1980s. He told Black he would be the sixth city manager he has worked with.

“Frankly, I’m never sure why anybody would want to be city manager,’’ Mann said. “You have to deal with the nine of us. Plus the mayor, 5,000 city employees and a very complicated, diverse community.”

If Black is confirmed Wednesday, his first day on the job will be Sept. 8. He will make nearly $245,000 a year.