Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Does The City Really Need The Charter Committee?

Over the next several days, I intend to post a few (one per day) thoughts on the state of Cincinnati government and politics. My aim is not really to advocate for a particular point of view, but instead to develop a discussion in the comments. The perspective I bring to the discussion is that of a person who's now been a City resident for several years, and thus (hopefully) has some understanding of City politics and culture, but also who isn't necessarily attached to the traditional way of doing things here.

My first topic, obviously (from the title of my post), is the Charter Committee. And my question is simple: has it outlived its usefulness? I'm familiar with the history of the Charter Committee (summarized nicely here and here). It's a proud history, no doubt: the Committee sprang from necessity at a time when one national party dominated local politics, and did so with a fair amount of corruption.

Today, though, both the Democratic and Republican parties have a strong presence in City government. And I'm not sure what today's Charter Committee stands for. Presently, we have two Charterites on Council: Roxanne Qualls (who I'm pretty sure ran as a Democrat when she was mayor under the old system) and Chris Bortz. What unites those two (besides the Charter moniker)? In most cities, I suspect that most Cincinnatians who identify with the Charter Committee would be active in the local Democratic party.

So here it is: why have the Charter Committee? The party doesn't seem to have a cohesive platform. I don't think Qualls and Bortz won because they were members of the Committee, but instead did so because of their individual beliefs and character traits. (How many people were even aware, as they voted for the highly popular Qualls, that her allegiance--or at least her endorsement source--had changed?) Is the Committee still useful to the City? And if not, should people continue to support its candidates, or should it be allowed to die a dignified death?

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