Friday, December 10, 2010

Preservationists should seek resignation of the Cincinnati Urban Conservator !

Mr Harris, the current Urban Conservator for the City of Cincinnati should immediately tender his resignation. Barring that the city council and/or City manager should seek his resignation or barring that, termination.

In an article published today on the online version of the Cincinnati Business Journal in which Mr Harris made several statements that are inconsistent with the office of the Urban Conservator duties and places Preservation in jeopardy in our city.

In a article in the the online version of the Cincinnati Business Journal Mr Harris made statements regarding not only 142 McMicken but the Gamble house as well. An excerpt from the article of Mr Harris's statements regarding Gamble house:.

"A number of buildings come down every day that may be considered historic" said Harris "But the support for preserving this property has been, I would say,unique."

First Mr Harris should NOT be commenting on a property that is in the middle of litigation and should have referred any statements to the Solicitors Office. His comments could hamper the city's case .

Second, his statement that a number of buildings come down every day that may be considered historic, shows that Mr Harris is not a proper advocate for Preservations and does not understand the responsibility of his office.

Third: Eligibility is based on eligibility not on the amount of public support for a particular building. It is Mr Hariss's job to advocate for all historic eligible buildings particularly those that may not have 'popular support" not just those that garner  a lot a support. He totally misses the point of PRESERVING historic structures based on their eligibility , period!

Another statement troubles me as well that he made:

"The McMicken property, by contrast, had specific structural issues that were confirmed by a city official, Harris  said. While the decision was controversial. Harris argues it's no mistake to let public safety trump historic preservation."

In my view the Urban conservators job is to advocate for the property, he should not just 'take the word' of another city officials but should conduct his own independent investigation seeking the opinion of those with special knowledge of historic preservation and structural issues.

The job of the Urban Conservator is not to "rubber stamp' other city officials but to act as a 'check and balance'. In that role he has failed miserably and should resign.

Mt Harris has demonstrated, by his statements and actions, he lacks the knowledge and ability to perform the job responsibilities of the Urban Conservator. He lacks the preservation training to advise those with preservation issues or questions (part of his job description) and, as such, should resign and if he will not voluntarily resign  the council should ask for his resignation and seek termination if he refuses.
We need an advocate for preservation , not a "rubber stamp" for demolition. I understand some  Preservationists are circulating a petition seeking his termination.  I, for one, am willing to sign it. We need a qualified individual in this position and not someone who was "shifted' there because funding ran out somewhere else.


St Charles said...

Larry Harris is the wrecking ball of Historic Cincinnati. His comments in the Courier demonstrate he is incompetent. Selectively protecting our heritage based on politics

Marilyn said...

Is this an appointed, or an elected official? Is there no Historic Preservation Board composed of citizens?

Paul Wilham said...

Urban Conservatior is a hired staff position. Under the way things are set up there is no check and balance on Mr Harris's section 106 decisions on property not currently in a historic district, even though they are probably historic eligible.