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Cincinnati Charter review and the "balance of power"

A task force continues its work reviewing the Cincinnati charter, which outlines how the city is governed.  

Group members heard Thursday from the subcommittee set up to review the balance of power between the mayor and council.  

Member Alex Linser said one item that needs reviewed is what is called the mayor's “pocket veto.”

“The mayor has complete control over the legislative agenda on Council,” Linser said.  “So he decides unilaterally what gets to Council and what does not, which gives him effective control over the entire legislative process.”

Linser said that issue can be easily fixed.

“You can just add a date certain for the mayor to assign something to committee, which would get the legislative ball rolling on something like that,” Linser said.  “Or you give Council the opportunity to force the mayor to assign something.  And then the last option is kind of the simplest option, which is to just remove the agenda setting provision out of the Charter and allow council to set its own rules.”

The current city charter also gives the mayor the power to hire and fire the city manager.  Council must approve such actions, but the mayor is the one who initiates either process.  That can create a problem.

Linser said the city manager is the top administrative official and responsible for the day to day operations of the city

“That’s how it’s supposed to work, but in practicality the manager becomes a little bit more beholden to the mayor than the drafters of the current charter really wanted it to be,” Linser said.  “And that’s because the mayor is the only one who can initiate firing the city manager.  The mayor is also the one who decides which candidates Council can consider when hiring a city manager.”

The issue becomes, who is in charge of the city?

“The decision of whether or not the mayor becomes the top executive official in the city, or whether we keep the manager as the top executive official of the city is really one about values and one that the community needs to answer before we make any kind of recommendation,” Linser said.

The full task force will be holding public forums before any charter changes are recommended, and city residents would have the final say at the ballot box.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.