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 29, 2005

Winburn: 'Some may call it theatrics'

July 28, 2005: State Sen. Mark L. Mallory accused former Councilman Charlie Winburn of turning the mayoral campaign into a "circus." July 28, 1999: A clown (above) removes Winburn from council chambers in a promotion for the Universoul Circus.

GOP mayoral candidate Charlie Winburn is starting to get diminishing results from his frequent news conferences/photo-ops/theatrics.

He got good turnout by the television stations at the first two, announcing his candidacy (June 16) and proposing a new jail (July 13). The last two, to discuss guns (July 21) and drugs (Thursday), have been less well attended.

(And, for the record, GOP council candidate Leslie Ghiz is now 0-for-4 in her attendance at Winburn functions.)

"I'm going to keep having these press conferences as long as the media shows up, and as long as you show up," Winburn said Thursday at the Vernon Manor Hotel, addressing the 75 or so supporters and the one Cincinnati Enquirer reporter in the room.

"We started in this race late, and we have to do all we can to get the message out," he said. "Some may call it theatrics. Some may call it a show. But I call it leadership in campaigning."

Thursday's show: Winburn released the results of his recent drug test, showing his bloodstream is free of speed, uppers, downers, Valium, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol, methodone, PCP, and prescription pain killers. He stood next to a giant poster-sized reproduction of his test results and challenged his opponents to do the same.

Hamilton County GOP executive director Brent Sanders, trying to drum up media interest in the story the day before, told reporters he wouldn't be surprised to see Winburn bring in his specimen jar as a prop.

All this has candidates like Democratic state Sen. Mark L. Mallory befuddled. By responding to Winburn's weekly attention-grabbers, Mallory worries that he'll become complicit in dragging the race down to the level of the "circus-like council campaigns of the past."

"If I'm living in a crime-ridden neighborhood in the city of Cincinnati -- which by the way I am -- I'm not concerned with the kinds of things Winburn is talking about," Mallory said.

Winburn made no apologies for his campaign style, but promised that he would give the media a few weeks off before making his next major announcement.

For other candidates trying to keep up, here's some advice: Make sure your tax returns are in order.

(Photo by Saed Hindash/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Monzel 1, Bloggers 0

The flap over GOP Councilman Chris Monzel's $702 taxpayer-paid Reds schedule made it to the Cincinnati Elections Commission Thursday, thanks to a complaint from Kennedy Heights blogger Jason Haap.

Haap's novel argument: That Monzel's schedule violated a 2002 charter amendment -- championed by Monzel himself -- that prohibits the use of taxpayer money on campaigns. The amendment was intended to strike down provisions of a 2001 amendment that allowed some council candidates to receive matching funds from the city treasury.

"This is probably the most interesting matter that's been brought before the commission, at least in my experience," said the city's chief general counsel, Roshani Hardin.

The commission took the matter "under advisement," but seemed unwilling to find a campaign violation.

"All the sudden because it has Chris Monzel's name on it, it's campaign material? I don't buy it," said vice chairwoman Jill Meyer Vollman, a Republican and a lawyer. At the time the schedule was printed, Monzel hadn't even declared his candidacy, she noted.

Democrat Shirley Frazier-Evans said that without the magic words -- "elect" or "re-elect" -- it was hard to see the piece as campaign literature. "I don't think it's a big deal, but that's my personal opinion," she said.

And then another blogger, the former talk show host and boycott activist Nate Livingston Jr., showed up at the commission's meeting. "I don't know what this commission is doing. It seems like candidates are disregarding these rules, and this commission is allowing it to go on," he complained.

Commission members are bracing themselves for a long campaign season, with a seven-way mayor's race and a competitive council race -- and an emerging local blog scene to stir things up. "I think closer to the election, there will be more questioning," Frazier-Evans said.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

City Council is ahead of its time (for once)

Cincinnati City Council will vote next week to place a Republican-sponsored charter amendment on the November ballot. If approved by voters, it would put an end to automatic pay increases for City Council members.

Astute council-watchers may get deja vu. City Council took the same vote March 16, when the amendment passed 6-3. (Laketa Cole, John Cranley and Jim Tarbell opposed it.)

But a quirk in Ohio law says a vote to place a charter amendment on the ballot must take place "not less than sixty and not more than one hundred and twenty days" before the election, so City Council has to go through the motions again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Burke and Barrett cancel each other out

Hamilton County Board of Elections members Timothy M. Burke (left) and Michael R. Barrett voted by absentee ballot in the 2nd Congressional District election. By law, members of the board are allowed to vote before Election Day.

Burke is chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, and Barrett was, until recently, his GOP counterpart. Barrett resigned his party post once President Bush nominated him for a federal judgeship last month, but he said he would remain on the Board of Elections at least through next week's special congressional election. That campaign features Democrat Paul Hackett against Republican Jean Schmidt in a race to replace former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The 'nefarious, ugly demon called racism'

When Valerie Lemmie announced her resignation as city manager at a news conference last week, WKRC-TV reporter Dennison Keller asked her about a 2003 speech in which she lamented the "nefarious, ugly demon called racism." Was racism part of her decision to leave?

Lemmie, trying for a graceful exit, was diplomatic. She said her 2003 remarks were in the context of a national issue, not necessarily a local one.

But the 2003 speech, delivered 600 miles away at a community breakfast in Richmond, Va., was strong stuff. Delivered out of earshot of Cincinnati's politicians and press, she gave a candid assessment of the state of race relations in Cincinnati. Here are extended excerpts from that speech, obtained from a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter who covered it:

... With all I have just reported as challenges, there is still something else. Something lingering just under the surface, which impacts and influences how citizens view their government and its role in promote democracy and adding value -- in creating, if you will, the environment for the greater community good Socrates gave oration to.

Just under the surface lies that nefarious, ugly demon called racism. The demon we try to ignore, refuse to publicly acknowledge, and hope through lack of acknowledgement it will go away. Yet it affects and influences what we do and how we respond individually and as a local government.

For example, civil unrest in our cities -- or a blitz of media stories -- have yet to be triggered by police shooting a young white man or the in-custody death of a young white man.

The demon racism is all-encompassing, like a huge cloud that has covered the sky and refuses to let the sun in. Structural, intractable, complicated, integral to our notion of democracy and our belief in its important tenets -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Racism cannot be ignored. It creates a separateness, a distinction, a color line, two worlds within and without the veil. And, as Lincoln admonished, a house divided cannot stand. While W.E.B. Dubois spoke of race as the seminal problem of the 20th century, I suggest to you this morning that the same can be said of the 21st century.

What makes racism such a demon? I believe it's because we don't talk about it, so we miss the opportunity to effectively communicate, learn about others, share information about ourselves, and gain knowledge as to how differences can be thread together into a tapestry of respect, tolerance and community well-being.

As such, we often make assumptions about behaviors as racist, when these behaviors could be attributed to other factors, such as lack of information. ...
Later in the speech, Lemmie spoke of Ohio's history as a "liberal bastion" and lamented that "a state's history is not necessarily a barometer of its present." She called Cincinnati "a city with two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings, and two warring ideals seemingly irreconcilable."

To say I jumped from the frying pan into the fire is an understatement. From the day I started, my professionalism, values, self-worth and intelligence were routinely questioned and tested. Whether from a City Council member who criticized me for suggesting to the business community they talk to the boycotters if they wanted to know the boycotters' concerns -- and, from the perspective of the boycotters how the business community could play a role in ending the boycott -- to the African-American community who encouraged me to ignore violations of law by African-Americans because of historic institutional racism. ...

I have found my new home full of many mean-spirited people who want to celebrate our divisiveness rather than work on solutions. But I am reminded: If it were going to be easy, God would not have called me to serve....
At last week's news conference, Lemmie would not criticize council members -- instead praising them for their commitment to the personal sacrifices they make to run for office. But she also urged them to continue her efforts.

"We have to find an effective way of dealing with race and class," Lemmie said. She said she made headway in appointing African-American women to key posts in her administration, including Assistant City Manager Deborah C. Holston and Solicitor J. Rita McNeil. "We have a long way to go, but we have also come a long way."

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

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