Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Good luck replacing Lemmie, Shirey says

Cincinnati City Council's national reputation for micromanaging will make it difficult for the next mayor to replace departing City Manager Valerie Lemmie, her predecessor said. Terry Kinney of the Associated Press tracked down former City Manager John F. Shirey in Sacramento, and Shirey had this to say:

"It will not be a job easily filled ... because of the experience of the
past several city managers," said John Shirey, who quit in 2001. "Word gets around in this profession. Also, the form of government has changed. Many people would not choose to work there."

Shirey is executive director of the California Redevelopment Association. His departure from Cincinnati coincided with a switch to a form of government in which the mayor has somewhat more power than before but can be vetoed by the City Council. The city manager is in charge of day-to-day administration of municipal government.

"The problem with the job is the person in the job doesn't get the support he or she needs to do the job well," Shirey said in a telephone interview from Sacramento. "There's a pattern."

He said elected officials should "confine their role to policymaking and strategic planning and let the manager manage. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the history in Cincinnati for many years."
The irony is that the new system of government was supposed to make the city manager more secure, because City Council can no longer fire her without the mayor's urging. But Lemmie, who came from a "pure" council-manager system in Dayton, said she learned quickly that wasn't the case. "This has been a difficult job since I walked in the door," she told The Enquirer recently. "The effort to create a strong mayor has effectively created a strong council."

(Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki/Cincinnati Enquirer)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Winburn jail: Return to sender

The day he stood with Sheriff Simon L. Leis Jr. and called for a new Hamilton County Jail, GOP mayoral candidate Charlie Winburn sent a certified letter to all six of his opponents asking them to join him.

As of Winburn's self-imposed July 20 deadline, only David Pepper responded -- thanking Winburn for joining him in calling for a new jail:

Dear Charlie:

Thank you for your certified letter. I was glad to learn that you agree with my assessment that we must increase jail capacity to improve safety. I believe the overcrowded Justice Center is clearly one of the most critical obstacles we must overcome if we are to return law and order to our community and to support good policing.

As you may remember, I outlined the need for increased jail space in my safety plan, Reclaiming our Streets from Crime, released in February and I have been campaigning on it ever since. I was pleased that the County Commissioners have recently taken up the issue through a study of the system.
Pepper said in the letter that he opposed putting the jail at Broadway Commons, and said the city shouldn't pay for it. He concluded, "Other than those disagreements, I welcome your support on this critical issue."

Winburn said he appreciated the response.

"Hey, as long as we get there. Is this about helping our community, or patting ourselves on the back?" Winburn said. Then, with a sly smile, he said, "I guess it's a little of both."

Pepper conceded he was "having a little fun" with Winburn. "But in all seriousness, he's done a very good job of taking things from my platform and announcing them with much fanfare," Pepper said.

The other campaigns apparently saw nothing fun in Winburn's letter. Alicia Reece said she threw her letter away. "We thought it was another piece of campaign literature," she said. "These are too serious of times for theatrics. People have real problems."

Postscript: Pepper sent his response to Winburn's letter to Mount Healthy. Although Winburn has a campaign headquarters in College Hill, the address on Winburn's campaign letterhead is of his treasurer, Robert L. Hall, a Mount Healthy accountant.

A rare moment of Democratic unity

Vice Mayor Alicia Reece has been critical of David Pepper's leadership of the Law & Public Safety Committee, saddling her mayoral rival and fellow Democrat with everything from the gang violence to firehouse "brownouts."

But when Republican Charlie Winburn blamed Pepper's leadership for the increase in crime, the Reece campaign was the first to come to Pepper's defense.

"If you look at the background, the two candidates who have done the most for safety are Pepper and Reece," said Steve Reece, the Reece campaign manager and father of the candidate. "I mean, come on, be fair. I think this council gets a bad rap about not supporting the police.

"We are paying the cops a lot more money now than when Winburn was on," Steve Reece said Tuesday. "This council has made a tremendous commitment to safety. All you have to do is look at the budget. I don’t think you can question Alicia or Pepper on that."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Mallory reaches out to 'Cincinnatianos'

Democratic mayoral candidate Mark L. Mallory boasts that he is the first campaign to offer parts of his web site in Spanish.

It's hard to tell how many voters Mallory might reach with this strategy. According to U.S. Census Bureau (which has historically undercounted immigrant populations), there were 2,136 native Spanish-speaking people in Cincinnati who did not speak English "very well" in 2000. Two-thirds of Cincinnati's foreign-born population are not citizens and cannot vote. And even fewer of them are likely to have Internet access.

But Mallory said the web site is symbolic of his efforts to Hispanics in an effort to become "mayor of all Cincinnati."

The Mallory campaign also may have coined a new word for Spanish-speaking Cincinnatians: "Cincinnatianos," the web site calls them.

(Mallory campaign photo)

Luken for council?

Enquirer Statehouse reporter Jon Craig broke the news Tuesday that Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken is being recruited for a job pushing a state constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling and slot machines at racetracks.

Luken said in an interview that he was considering the job, but made clear he would not step down as mayor until his term ends Dec. 1.

But he also revealed for the first time that he's considering several options after his term as mayor ends, including -- get this -- a run for City Council.

Luken said he has discussed the possibility of another council run with several people in recent months. Other possibilities: a job at a local law firm (he's taking continuing legal education classes to reinstate his law license) or an appointment to a state board or commission. He's also qualified, of course, to anchor the evening news.

"The City Council thing is even more remote. But I don’t rule anything out because I talk to people about different opportunities and combinations of opportunities," he said.

Unlike mayor, City Council is a part-time job that would be compatible with other employment. And it would have the added benefit of giving him two more years in the Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio, where he needs just a few more credits to retire with a state pension.

And there's precedent: His father, Thomas A. Luken, came back for an encore term on City Council from 1993 to 1995, after more than seven terms in Congress.

(Photo by Michael E. Keating/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Jeffre campaign calls in star power

Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees (foreground) sings as Justin P. Jeffre, Jeff Timmons and his brother Drew Lachey dance during their performance at Riverbend Music Center Sept. 9, 2001.

Former 98 Degrees bandleader Nick Lachey will be in Mount Adams Sunday for a campaign fund-raiser for bandmate Justin P. Jeffre's campaign for Cincinnati mayor, the Jeffre campaign announced today.

It will be the third time Lachey -- who flirted at a run for Cincinnati mayor himself -- has come back to town to campaign for Jeffre. And while he's not bringing his wife, singer and MTV Newlyweds co-star Jessica Simpson, the Jeffre campaign hopes to schedule her for an event Labor Day weekend.

The contribution for Sunday's event is $20, or $10 with a donation of canned goods to the Freestore/Foodbank.

"Certainly we could raise more money if it was $50 or $100, and people would come," said campaign spokeswoman Andrea Leslie. "The goal of the campaign has never been to raise a million dollars. The goal is to get people into the system, to encourage them to participate -- and not to deter them with high prices."

The event starts at 10 p.m. Sunday at Alive One, 941 Pavilion St., Mount Adams.

UPDATE: Cin Weekly has a photo gallery of the event.

(Photo by Brandi Stafford/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Today's birthday

Nick W. Spencer, Charterite candidate for Cincinnati City Council and the new standard-bearer for the youth movement in Cincinnati politics, is 27 today.

"What's up with all the Cancers with City Hall connections?" Spencer said. "Eerie."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Monitoring the death penalty

Cincinnati's police monitor is generating national and international headlines again -- but not for anything the Cincinnati police did.

Saul A. Green has succeeded in urging Missouri authorities to reopen the case of a 1980 drive-by shooting in St. Louis in which Larry Griffin was sentenced to death. It was an extraordinary request, given that the state executed Griffin in 1995. But both the circuit attorney and the state's attorney general have agreed to look into the case after an investigation by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Green represents the family of victim Quinton Moss, and appeared on CNN Sunday Night with Fredricka Whitfield:

Unfortunately, in these kind of cases, it sometimes takes a while for the evidence to be thoroughly reviewed, and to be produced. It is, of course, unfortunate that it didn't happen before hand. But over the last several years, this issue came to the attention of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. An investigation has been conducted over the last couple of years. And now, we do have what we believe is important information and evidence that raises a question with regard to the conviction and the execution.

Green, a former U.S. Attorney in Detroit, was appointed by U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott to oversee the Cincinnati Police Department's compliance with court orders on racial profiling and use of force.

(Photo by Gary Landers/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Today's birthday

Mayor Charlie Luken is 54 today.

He is the city's oldest mayor since the end of Bobbie Sterne's second one-year term as mayor ending in 1979, when she turned 60.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

GOP subtracts McGhee from ticket

Here's a question you might not find on the Scholastic Aptitude Test: "What's the next number in this series: 7, 7, 5, 9?"

If you're the Hamilton County Republican Party, the correct answer is, "4."

That's the number of City Council candidates the GOP will have this year. They had seven endorsements in 1997 and 1999, five in 2001 and a full nine in 2003.

There are two competing strategies here. Endorse a short slate, and the party can concentrate its resources on just the strongest candidates. Go with a longer slate, and loyal Republicans are less likely to stray from the GOP slate as they get to the end of the ballot.

The longer slate also had the advantage of allowing the Republicans to broaden the base by getting fresh, diverse faces into the race. But after 2003's ticket produced mixed results -- Sam Malone won but Chris Monzel lost -- it's back to the short list: Malone and Monzel, plus challengers John Eby and Leslie Ghiz.

It's the shortest list the Republicans have ever had. We're talking a Charterite-sized slate.

And there's no room for Paul McGhee, a former Democrat who was campaigning as if he's a Republican -- and was lobbying hard for a GOP nomination.

New party chairman George H. Vincent wouldn't comment on McGhee's prospects in the party.

"If I knew who Paul McGhee was, I guess I could answer that," Vincent said, who was chairman of the endorsement committee before being elevated to party chair. (Later, party executive director Brent Sanders said the party was aware of McGhee, and would watch his campaign closely with an eye toward possibly endorsing him in 2007 if he proved his loyalty to the party.)

But McGhee said it wasn't his prior party affiliation that cost him the GOP endorsement -- it was his support of Uncle Milt's, a Burnet Avenue bar where police said patrons could buy cocaine with their booze. City Council voted 6-2 to seek the revokation of the bar's liquor license in 2002 (with Minette Cooper and Alicia Reece dissenting). McGhee, then president of the Avondale Community Council,
said police didn't prove that the bar's owner knew of the problems there.

McGhee said he won't drop out of the 2005 council race and will run as an independent.

"My thoughts are, we are not changing anything. We are running," he said. "By not endorsing us, it has made us step it up two notches and run harder."

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