With the city facing a skyrocketing homicide rate, stalled downtown development projects and entrenched poverty, Mallory decided to try bold new policy initiatives to stem the tide. Hoping to bring a higher level of expertise to City Hall to solve the problems than the current crop of politicians could provide, he expanded his "mayor for a day" program.
Converting the program from a mostly ceremonial position used occasionally into a 365-day-a-year affair, with a different person actually running city government every day of the week, Mallory is relying on experts ranging from economists and social workers to developers and party planners.
"Wait until you see what Scott Sheridan and the boys from Continental Lounge have cooked up for next year's Oktoberfest," said Jason Barron, Mallory's press secretary. "We will be issuing a press release about what kind of attire people should wear if they want to be admitted into the event. It should be awesome!"
The excitement generated by the "mayor for a day" program has transformed the once-somber atmosphere in City Hall's marble and tile corridors.
For a small $20 fee, people sign up to become mayor on a first-come, first-served basis. Enough people have already accepted the offer to fill the remaining three years of Mallory's term, while raising nearly $23,000 for the city's coffers.
"This is really democracy in progress," Mallory said.
"This innovative, forward-thinking program lets every citizen have a true stake in their city. This is all about breaking down walls between the people and their government. Why should politicians stand in the way of residents who want to improve Cincinnati? I want to let them truly know the one-of-a-kind feeling of satisfaction that comes from running a city. It would be unfair for me to keep that experience all to myself.
"Really, this is just a logical extension of our policy for making citizens more responsible and involved. We've said all along that it depends on residents, and not the police, to reduce the murder rate and get crime under control. If people want to shop downtown, then it's up to them to negotiate with developers and bring new stores there. If they're unsatisfied with the snow removal on their streets, pick up a shovel and show our crews how it should be done instead of complaining. I'm all about giving the people a greater voice."
With a parade of citizens occupying Mallory's office at City Hall, the mayor decided it was time to improve Cincinnati's reputation nationally and abroad by expanding the Sister Cities program. Mallory created partnerships with numerous cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Fire Island, N.Y.; Provincetown, Mass.; Cancun and Cozumel, Mexico; Ibiza; Honolulu; St. Barts; Tahiti; and Rio de Janeiro.
Mallory, who drafted the list of partner cities and appointed himself Cincinnati's ambassador, defended the selection process.
"By seeing these diverse cultures up close, we can learn to appreciate our city's diversity much better and learn the best practices to boost our tourism industry," he said via cell phone from an undisclosed beach. "I am confident that, in a few short years, Cincinnati will become a destination vacation spot for many travelers from these cities."
Nathaniel Livingston, a local blogger whom Mallory recently appointed as his minister of cultural affairs, said any criticism of the Sister Cities program is misplaced.
"Why aren't people talking about the alarming lack of tourism we had when David Pepper and Pat DeWine were on city council?" Livingston said. "Nobody was coming to this punk-ass city back then. At least Mark is trying something new. You know, most of the jokers who are talking crap about the mayor are fat and have unpaid parking tickets. Why don't you media types look into that?"
Mallory's political redemption has occurred despite widespread criticism of the cost of his many travels, which are paid using taxpayer dollars. Joining Mallory on his frequent jaunts is his personal bodyguard, Cincinnati Police Spc. Scotty Johnson. In the last six months of 2006, Johnson was paid $45,000 in overtime and submitted vouchers to be reimbursed for another $275 spent on Coppertone products during the course of his duties.
"Having Scotty join me on these trips is all about protecting American workers and fighting globalization," Mallory said. "We can either have one of our police officers providing protection to me or we can rely on the authorities in these other countries, which would pour our money into their economies. I don't know about you, but I prefer giving Cincinnati jobs to Cincinnatians."
To quell the complaints, Mallory has decided as a good faith effort to get rid of an item that has drawn much public outcry about wasteful spending at City Hall: city council's bulletproof desks in council chambers.
"I will be implementing some much more stringent crime-fighting strategies in the new year that should make things like bulletproof desks unnecessary," Mallory said.
Beginning in late January, a large, powerful spotlight will be installed in City Hall's clock tower that will be turned on during times of high criminal activity.
"After researching the amazing success they have had in reducing the crime rate in Gotham City, Chief Streicher and I have decided to enlist Batman in our efforts," the mayor said. "This will be more cost effective than expanding our police walking patrols, and we figure the city can market the Caped Crusader's image to make money for neighborhood development projects."
Tim Burke, the Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman and recent co-founder of the Weiland Burke Finney & Heimlich consulting firm, praised Mallory's decisive moves.
"Mark has always shown a penchant for thinking outside the box and coming up with creative solutions," Burke said. "Plus he wears nice suits. We need a mayor to project that kind of image." ©