By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Mayor Jane Campbell (pictured, right) began her term this week by eliminating the mayor's parking space in front of City Hall.
Former Mayor Michael R. White had the area in front of City Hall blocked off with traffic cones and had police protection for his parking spot.
Campbell on Wednesday ordered the installation of parking meters along that curb, and said she will have a passenger drop-off area built at the steps of City Hall.
It was one of a series of gestures intended to suggest a new mood of openness and reconciliation in City Hall. Campbell ran for mayor on a promise to heal conflicts that have divided the city and pledged to rule by consensus instead of decree.
White has been credited with leading a wave of development for the city, but his autocratic style led to confrontations with many other city leaders. By the end of his term, White was actively campaigning against members of the City Council and was engaged with a war of words with the head of the city's police union over White's supposed distrust of the rank and file.
White, who served three four-year terms, has left the city on vacation and could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Since her election in November, Campbell has been taking pains to distance herself from White's abrasive style. She announced in December that she was restructuring the mayor's office.
White had established a system of executive assistants with oversight of various city functions. Campbell created a cabinet, with top agency officials reporting directly to her. Campbell said the set-up will allow for decision making among a group of senior officials instead of centralizing decisions in the mayor's office.
She then reached out to elected officials in surrounding communities, promising a more cooperative regional approach to governing.
Fred Ramos, mayor of Independence, a suburb dense with hotels and conference centers along an interstate, said he has been amazed by the new mayor's openness.
"I did get a phone call from her office to attend the inaugural. That's the kind of reaching out that impresses me," Ramos said. "I was truly tickled pink and pleased that her office would take the time to call the mayor of a little suburb."
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic had a seat of honor at Campbell's swearing in ceremony, and said he met with her even before the inauguration.
Plusquellic has been mayor since before White took office, but the two mayors met only once during White's 12 years, Plusquellic spokeswoman Laraine Duncan said.
Campbell mentioned Plusquellic by name in her inaugural address:
"We are not competing against Akron, we are partnering with Akron and Mayor Don Plusquellic. Thank you Don for joining us."
As part of her promise to let reconciliation be the hallmark of her administration, Campbell hired a former state senator who served a 15-month prison sentence for extortion to be a liaison to the city's black population.
Campbell spokesman Rodney Jenkins said Jeffrey Johnson can "open up doors" for the new mayor in the black community, where a large majority voted for her black opponent, former Clinton administration official Raymond Pierce.
As to Johnson's criminal record, Jenkins said, "He served his time."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)