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Would Firing Shirey Improve City Hall Leadership?

By Doug Trapp · May 18th, 2000 · Burning Questions
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During the last couple of years, Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey has survived a few periods when his job seemed in jeopardy. Most recently, Councilman Charles Winburn led an open attempt to oust him.

Winburn's campaign began behind closed doors but spilled into the media after other council members hesitated to join him. Winburn faxed a four-page statement to the press, Mayor Charlie Luken and other council members explaining his reasons, which mainly centered on a lack of leadership by Shirey.

For the last several months, Winburn has criticized Shirey at nearly every opportunity, from street repairs that were not completed to recent leadership problems involving the Laurel Homes federal housing project.

But after his open attempt to fire Shirey failed to attract the five necessary votes, Winburn backed off the campaign.

"It's a dead issue to me," Winburn said.

The question is, could the city have hired a quality city manager to replace Shirey, considering the limited job security that person would have? Who would want to take the position, knowing that in 18 months the new "strong mayor" could hire a new city manager to match his or her own preference?

"I don't know," Winburn said. "There's a lot you can get done in 18 months."

He said that in one hour he can finish his exercise and return his phone calls, plus do other work.

"Is something magic going to happen in 2001?," Winburn asked. "No."

In his four-page fax to council through Luken, Winburn prodded him to move forward on statements he made last summer that seemed to indicate he would support firing Shirey.

Winburn also listed 15 goals he would like city council to pursue during the next 18 months. Some were more specific than others, including:

· Consolidation of various city departments;

· Strategic budget reduction;

· Improving race relations;

· Cutting overtime by 25 percent;

· Reducing middle management by $15 million per year;

· Putting a five-year cap on division and department heads' salaries, reducing the number of these positions;

· Freezing all non-fire and police positions for five years;

· Combining the economic development and neighborhood services departments into one agency.

Winburn included a 30-day deadline for council to get together and forge a strategic plan for the next 18 months. So far it doesn't appear there's any consensus on the suggestions, although some of the ideas could easily come up during this summer's budget discussions.

Although Winburn has ended his campaign to fire Shirey, he still supports the idea. There are four council members who agree with him in theory, but they "don't have the guts to speak up," Winburn said.

 
 
 
 

 

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