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

Powered by Blogger

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ad watch: Pepper's 'change'

SCRIPT: Male announcer: "He wants to see a new Cincinnati. One that works. He wants to change City Hall. He'll end the bickering at City Council. He'll put more police on the streets. He can make all our neighborhoods safe and strong. He can bring Cincinnati together. And he's ready to do it on Day One. David Pepper. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote that, with David Pepper as mayor, you can expect to see a difference almost from Day One."

VISUALS: Video shows Pepper working outside City Hall, with typical sleeves-rolled-up political imagery. As the announcer talks, key phrases flash on the screen: "A new Cincinnati." "Change." "More police." "Safe." "He can bring Cincinnati together." "Day One." "David Pepper for mayor."

FACT CHECK: The ad makes no negative statements about Pepper's opponent, state Sen. Mark Mallory. The final sentence comes from a pre-primary endorsement. The Enquirer's editorial board also endorsed Mallory in the primary, and the paper has not yet made an endorsement in the general election. The "David Pepper, Mayor" graphic that got him in trouble in the primary -- when the Ohio Elections Commission ruled he wrongly implied he was the incumbent -- has been fixed.

STRATEGY: In the primary election, faced with a threat to his right in Republican Charlie Winburn, Pepper blitzed the airwaves with television ads seizing the tough-on-crime issue as his own. Here, Pepper begins the general election campaign with an ad that tries to defuse the message at the core of Mallory's campaign -- "ending the chaos at City Hall" -- with a similar message, "ending the bickering at City Council." Though it's not a completely new message for Pepper -- he lamented the "endless bickering and grandstanding at City Hall" in his announcement speech -- expect him to come back to it more often in the last few weeks of the campaign.

RESPONSE: "It sounds very familiar," said Mallory communication director Jason Barron. "We're glad that David Pepper wants to end the chaos of City Hall. Unfortunately, his record does not match up to that. He's been part of the chaos for four years."

Friday, October 14, 2005

A coney for your thoughts

Camp Washington Chili is a 24-hour working-class oasis at Colerain Avenue and Hopple Street. (Photo by Tony Jones/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Neighborhood candidate forums have their place in Cincinnati politics, in much the same way C-SPAN has a place in curing insomnia. In a ritual repeated in about 52 different places, dozens of City Council candidates will get up, give repetitive five-minute speeches, and dash off to the next event.

But it's hard to monopolize the conversation when you're stuffing your face full of cheese coneys. And that was the idea behind Thursday's Coney Caucus at Camp Washington Chili.

For two hours, hundreds of chili-eating voters from Camp Washington and environs chatted up more than a dozen candidates for mayor and City Council. Lifelong Camp Washington resident David Justice, who's partially blind, wanted to know what council members could do to put in safer crosswalks at the corner of Colerain Avenue and Hopple Street. Joseph T. Gorman, a community organizer, quizzed candidates on the finer points of neighborhood development: gap financing, building codes and vacant building licenses.

Coneys were on special for $1 -- but 68 coneys later, the owners decided to write off the expense and give them away.

"We're just trying to figure out how to get the candidates off their stump speeches and talk to people," said Gorman, the organizer of the event.

The concept was the brainchild of two progressive activists, Jenny Edwards of Winton Place and Jan Holland of Northside, who held four of the events last year, mostly at Park Chili in Northside. Edwards wanted to get "Democrats, Republicans, Charterites and other-ites" to talk to each other. "We go to our blogs and our Internet and we do everything else, but we don't get up close and personal," she said.

Gorman hopes the idea will catch on around the city, at places like Empress Chili in Carthage, Skyline Chili in Clifton and Price Hill Chili.

Among those attending the caucus were mayoral candidates Mark Mallory and David Pepper, and council candidates Bill Barron, Jeff Berding, Eve Bolton, Laketa Cole, John Cranley, David C. Crowley, Samantha Herd, Paul McGhee, Chris Monzel, Michael Earl Patton, Christopher Smitherman, Cecil Thomas and Wendell P. Young.

Full house beats inside straight

Astronaut John Glenn. (NASA photo/via the Associated Press)

Today's Ohio politics quiz:

Q: How many members of the Ohio General Assembly does it take to equal one John Glenn?
A: Considerably more than a quorum.

Mark Mallory spent much of the past week trotting out present and former members of the Ohio legislature, Democrat and Republican, to endorse his candidacy for Cincinnati mayor.

His poker hand included two former state senate presidents, Stanley Aronoff and Richard Finan, and a passel of current state legislators who serve with him in Columbus.

Not a bad hand, but his opponent, David Pepper, raked in the chips Thursday at the Rookwood Pottery restaurant in Mount Adams, where Glenn showed up to offer his support.

The former astronaut and four-term U.S. senator from Ohio has been out of office for a while, but there is still no more potent political name in the Buckeye State than the Democrat whom the late governor Jim Rhodes used to refer to as "The Spaceman.''

About 100 Pepper supporters crowded onto a balcony overlooking the old Rookwood kilns late Thursday afternoon for a glimpse of the senator, and perhaps a photo of themselves side-by-side with a genuine American hero. School kids clutched photographs and copies of Glenn's memoirs in hopes of an autograph. Glenn, of course, accommodated them all.

When was the last time you saw a school kid ask for a politician's autograph?

A word from John Glenn still means a lot to people in his home state, whether they are of the generation who remember him as a young astronaut hurtling through the earth's atmosphere in a flaming tin can in his Mercury days, or whether they are of a younger generation who recalls him as a 77-year-old being shot into earth orbit in the space shuttle Discovery seven years ago.

That is why a decidedly unpopular Republican governor, Bob Taft, turns to Glenn to save his bacon and be the principal spokesman for Taft's Issue 1, a $2 billion plan for job creation and road construction.

Before coming to Rookwood Thursday, Glenn shot some 30-second TV spots for the Issue 1 campaign that Ohioans will start seeing with great frequency very soon.

Imagine if it were Bob Taft's face on those commercials rather than John Glenn. Even the most fervent proponents say that, if that were the case, Iusse 1 would be doomed.

So there is little wonder that Pepper was beaming like a school kid at the Rookwood Thursday, apologizing to Glenn for praising him so effusively.

"I know you don't like having a fuss made over you,'' said the giddy mayoral contender. "But I have to.''

You'd be giddy, too, if you were in Pepper's shoes. He has something that most Ohio politicians, Democrat and Republican, from Conneaut to Cleves, would sell their first-born for -- the "Right Stuff'' stamp of approval.

State Sen. Mark Mallory picks up the endorsement of two powerful former presidents of the Ohio Senate: Dick Finan (left), and Stanley J. Aronoff (right). (Photo courtesy the Mallory campaign.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Realtors pick Pepper for mayor, 7 for council

The Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors made its endorsements for mayor and council today.

For mayor: David Pepper.

Realtors Board President Geoffrey W. Barnes said Pepper would move the city "in the right direction where Cincinnati stops losing population and becomes a safer and more livable city."

For City Council: Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, Laketa Cole, John Cranley, Leslie Ghiz, Sam Malone and Chris Monzel. That's three Democrats, three Republicans and a Charterite.

Pepper's opponent, Mark Mallory, has gotten the support of the Realtors as a state senator and has made his endorsements a key indicator of his ability to build consensus.

"Endorsements go that way. They have to pick somebody," he said.

"Some elections you'll have a group, and sometimes you won't," he said. "Endorsements are important, and it's good to see that David has gotten some."

One sure sign the council session is winding down

Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, seven weeks from ending her tenure on City Council (at least for now) uttered three words today that she's probably never said at City Hall before:

"No by-leaves."

By-leaves, for anyone who doesn't spend their Wednesday afternoons following the ayes-and-nays of City Council, are those new ordinances, announcements and speeches that come at the end of every council meeting. And Reece has used them adeptly in six years to advance her issues -- always using as much of her six-minute time limit as the mayor would allow.

But not on Wednesday.

"I'm going to let someone else do the work now," Reece said, smiling.

Burke: Who paid for anti-Pepper postcard?

The Hamilton County Board of Elections will hold a hearing at 1 p.m. today on the Pepper-Tye affair. To update the status of the investigation going into the hearing:

Donald Tye Jr. received a wire transfer for $1,980 from a Texas based political consultant working for Republican mayoral candidate Charlie Winburn, according to bank records subpoenaed by the Board of Elections.

At today's hearing, Board of Elections Chairman Timothy M. Burke (also chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party) plans to ask Tye whether those funds were used to pay for a postcard attack against Democratic mayoral candidate David Pepper that went out just before last month's primary election. The wire transfer was Sept. 7; the postcards were postmarked Sept. 10.

If the Winburn campaign paid for the postcard, Burke said, he violated Ohio election law by failing to disclose that on the postcard.

But Winburn said he did no such thing. "If anybody implicates me in this -- your newspaper, Tim Burke, anybody else -- I plan to sue you," Winburn said. "I have not participated, nor had any coordination -- any of that. I can't tell you what this card is all about. I've never seen it. I've never participated in it."

Winburn's consultant, Bethel Nathan, confirmed the wire transfer, but said it did not go for the postcard and did not come out of Winburn campaign funds. "It wasn't campaign money. It came out of my own private expense money."

Nathan said he paid Tye for photographs he took of Winburn for a potential campaign brochure. But Winburn lost the primary and the brochures were never produced. Nathan said that because Winburn never approved the final product, he had to eat the cost himself.

Nathan said Winburn paid him more than $200,000 for consulting, but most of that was for media buys. He said he was paid $12,500 for his professional services, but ended up losing money because of expenses -- on a gamble that Winburn would make it out of the primary.

Nathan also disclaimed any knowledge of the postcard, and said he would have tried to kill it if he had known about it. He said the postcard's message -- that Pepper was not a Democrat -- was contradictory to Winburn's strategy of trying to paint Pepper as a liberal in an effort to shore up Winburn's Republican base.

As if they don't have other issues to fight about...

State Sen. Mark Mallory (left) and Councilman David Pepper debate Tuesday night at Alchemize, a Walnut Street bar. (Photo by Joe Wessels/Cincinnati Advance Radio)

Tuesday night's mayoral debate at Alchemize, an Over-the-Rhine bar, started 10 minutes later than its scheduled 8 p.m. start because candidates Mark Mallory and David Pepper were too busy debating the length of their opening statements.

Pepper wanted five minutes (which is what organizers had planned); Mallory wanted two minutes. The topic has been a sticking point since the Sept. 13 primary, and the two candidates huddled with advisers at length before the debate to negotiate the terms.

The controversy ended when Brian Griffin, a debate organizer, told the candidates: "The longer you go on, the less time you'll have to debate."

Opening statements ended up at three minutes, though Mallory used only two-and-a-half.

Monday, October 10, 2005

More endorsements for Mallory

Richard Finan, left, then president-elect of the Ohio Senate, took over the gavel from retiring Senate President Stanley J. Aronoff in 1996. (Photo by Elizabeth Ellis/The Associated Press)

Stanley J. Aronoff and Richard Finan ran the Ohio Senate during a less partisan time in Columbus, when the Cincinnati delegation had some clout and Republicans worked with Democrats like state Rep. William L. Mallory Sr. to get things done for the region.

Today, the two former Senate presidents endorsed Mallory's son, state Sen. Mark L. Mallory, D-West End, for mayor of Cincinnati.

"At this particular time, I think that we need a healer. I think that Sen. Mallory is the right person at the right time to heal some of the differences in our city," Aronoff said after a Mallory event at Findlay Market this afternoon. "I think he's got a good heart. I have seen how he handles adversity. I think he makes an effort to get things done."

Did we mention that Aronoff and Finan are Republicans?

The endorsements are part of Mallory's strategy to establish his resume as a consensus builder. The campaign said voters should expect to see a number of endorsements over the next few weeks -- from Republicans and Democrats -- in order to back up that claim.

Mallory's opponent, Councilman David Pepper, didn't dispute Aronoff's and Finan's reputations as lawmakers. It's their current jobs that he said were a problem.

"Mark Mallory was today endorsed by two of the most active lobbyists in Columbus," Pepper said. "Last week it was Statehouse politicians. Today it was Statehouse lobbyists."

Finan represents, among others, Queen City Barrel in Lower Price Hill; Aronoff's clients include BP America and the Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.

Crowley live and (somewhat) unrehearsed!

If David C. Crowley sounds particularly well-informed on the issues when he appears on a cable TV talk show Monday night, he may well have had a little help from his friends.

Prior to the Democratic councilman's appearance on the O.N.E. Cincinnati Show (Time Warner Cable Channel 24) Monday night, an urgent e-mail message went out from Crowley campaign headquarters asking that campaign supporters not only watch, but participate.

"Please tune in and call with questions,'' the e-mail said.

The campaign even offered "good topics to ask about,'' including:
  1. The repeal of Article XII.

  2. The environment, "specificaly the work David did to restore the city's Clean Air Law."

  3. Collaboration between the city and Cincinnati Public Schools on the implementation of the $1 billion master plan.
The e-mail listed the phone number for the call-in show; and, for supporters who might prefer watching reruns of "Friends'' at 7 p.m., told them to "remember that you don't have to be watching the show to call in.''

We suspect, though, that host Brian Garry would prefer they do.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Jones pitches for Pepper on black radio stations

Hoping to make inroads among African-American voters who passed him over in the mayoral primary, Councilman David Pepper has tapped retired U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Nathaniel R. Jones for his first ad campaign of the general election.

"David Pepper will bring all segments of this City together," Jones (right) said in a radio commercial to debut Monday on three African-American-owned stations.

Jones said Pepper "reaches out to Cincinnatians of all racial and ethnic groups," and said his work on police reform agreements "has lead to an unmistakable improvement in community-police relations."

Pepper worked as a law clerk for Jones after graduating from Yale Law School in 1999. "David Pepper will make a great Mayor," Jones said. "I say this because I know him."

Jones, a former general counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was nominated for a seat on the Cincinnati-based appeals court by President Jimmy Carter, and served there for 23 years.

The ads will run on stations WCIN (1480 AM), WCVG (1320 AM) and WDBZ (1230 AM).

Mallory vs. Pepper: How the students saw it

Mayoral candidates David Pepper (left) and Mark L. Mallory take questions from Seven Hills Upper School students Friday in Madisonville. (Photos by Gary Landers/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

In theory, this kind of event should have been a friendly forum for David Pepper.

The location: Seven Hills Upper School in Madisonville, where Pepper had appeared at least twice before.

The organizer: Beth Driehaus, a friend of Pepper and wife of Dan Driehaus, who has contributed $250 to Pepper's campaign.

The audience: a room full of 380 prep school kids, the sons and daughters of mostly well-to-do families from East Side neighborhoods that voted overwhelmingly for Pepper in the Sept. 13 mayoral primary.

Indeed, Pepper's first words in his opening statement were a sort of mock protest, after school headmaster Todd Bland introduced him as a graduate of rival Cincinnati Country Day. "I thought we were coming to a neutral forum today, and then he had to let out that I went to country day. It's not fair."

When Bland opened the floor to student questions, Pepper found most of them were hardballs.

Here are the student's questions and the candidates' answers -- with the students getting the final word:

QUESTION: Sarah Eustis (left), a 16-year-old from Hyde Park, noted that others had "tried and failed" to unite City Council. Why, she asked, did Pepper think he could succeed where others had failed?

ANSWER: "I have to disagree with you a little bit. I don't think a lot of politicians even tried. That's been the problem," Pepper said. "I don't think the problem with city council is that the members aren't good people. It's just that they've never been asked to be part of a team. I'm not going to call them names like others do...."

"Is it my turn now? Wow," Mallory said, suggesting Pepper's answer went on too long. "Building a team and working with others is not about plunking down your plan and dictating to a group of people that they have to sign on to your plan, and building a team that way. Building a team is about building relationships."

HOW EUSTIS SAW IT: "I thought that's where they differed in their approaches most," Eustis said. Which approach is better? "Honestly, I haven't made up my mind yet," she said.

QUESTION: Ahmad Muhammad (right), a 17-year-old from Bond Hill, told Pepper that young people in his neighborhood call him "Prince Pepper" because of his privileged background, and noted that most of his campaign contributions come from outside the city. How can he represent the entire city?

ANSWER: "If you look closely, my opponent has far more dollars from outside Cincinnati in terms of percentage," Pepper said. He said most of his out-of-town contributions came from friends from law school who knew about his passion for Cincinnati.

"I'm very proud of my family. I grew up a pretty lucky guy. I got to go to a school like this," Pepper said. He said he was committed to public service. "I could have gone to a great law firm and made a lot of money, or done a lot of other things."

(Mallory declined to answer the question, since it was directed at Pepper.)

MUHAMMAD'S TAKE: "I feel like he beat around the bush the entire time," Muhammad said. "Since he's from a privileged background, how can he know what it's like to be less fortunate in the city? How well can he relate?" (Pepper walked up to Muhammad afterward to thank him for the question.)

QUESTION: Ben Greenberg (left), a 17-year-old from Hyde Park, said all he ever heard Pepper talk about was making the city safe for the middle class. "Don't you think making the city safer for the homeless is more important than that?"

ANSWER: "I think you're absolutely right. If we don't take care of those who are least well off ... then we've lost as a city," Pepper said. "I'm a Democrat as much as anyone," he said, noting that he fought for a budget that partially restored cuts to human services.

Mallory said poverty, hunger and homelessness weren't getting enough attention in the campaign. "I grew up in the West End, and I still live in the West End, one of the most impoverished areas of the city," he said. "Kids in low income areas go to school hungry. I know that when I'm hungry, I have a shot attention span. When I'm hungry, I get aggravated."

GREENBERG'S REACTION: "I just feel that there are more immediate issues than what Mr. Pepper is talking about," Greenberg said. "The less fortunate, sometimes they get brushed aside, when we talk about the economic issues of growing the city."

QUESTION: Jessalyn Reid (right), a 15-year-old from Mount Lookout, offered the most provocative question of the morning, asking Pepper to explain his proposal -- since abandoned -- to increase the penalty for possession of marijuana.

ANSWER: "We have become the place in the entire region where drugs are dealt," said Pepper, singling out Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine as the region's worst open-air drug market. In 80 percent of drug arrests in Over-the-Rhine, he said, neither the buyer nor the seller is from the neighborhood.

"They can have an enormous amount of drugs and only get a ticket," Pepper said. "If you do in San Diego what you do in Cincinnati, you get in a lot more trouble."

"I hope you all got an answer out of that, because I certainly did not," Mallory told the students. He said he didn't understand Pepper's proposal, which would have resulted in a 90-day sentence for possession of up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana. It's now a minor misdemeanor, which police call a $100 "weed ticket."

"Sometimes you don't have a lot of experience with things and you don't know what you're saying. If you have an ounce of marijuana on you, you're not considered to be dealing in marijuana," Mallory said.

"Drug trafficking laws are very different from drug possession laws," he said, adding that the focus should be on distribution.

REID'S CONCLUSION: "I thought Mr. Pepper avoided the question and wasn't clear," Reid said -- though she conceded that maybe her question could have been more direct. "It seemed like Mr. Mallory has a much better opinion, that it's the distribution that should be prosecuted, not the possession."

"It brought out a more argumentative side of the candidates, which for the students was fun."

Jim Borgman
Today at the Forum
Paul Daugherty
Politics Extra
N. Ky. Politics
Pop culture review
Who's News
Roller Derby Diva
CinStages Buzz....
The Foodie Report
Classical music
John Fay's Reds Insider
High school sports
UC Sports
CiN Weekly staff