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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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ad watch: Pepper's 'Only'

AD: "Only," a 30-second ad for David Pepper for Cincinnati mayor. Started Friday. Produced by the Campaign Group, Philadelphia, Penn.

SCRIPT: "Mark Mallory's ads are misleading. The facts? The police said no to Mallory because he embraced the support of an anti-police hate group. The Post said no to Mallory, and has criticized his proposal to have the mayor take over the schools. The Enquirer said no to Mallory because he opposed key changes at City Hall. We need a mayor ready to change City Hall. That's why only one candidate is endorsed by police, firefighters, the Enquirer and the Post. David Pepper."

VISUALS: The ad uses newspaper clippings, the Fraternal order of Police logo and repeated use of the text "The facts: No to Mallory" as the announcer cites each endorsement.

FACT CHECK: This ad is a direct response to Mallory's one and only television ad of the campaign, in which he touts endorsements from "police, firefighters, labor and business groups." Mallory's ad clearly showed his authority for those statements -- endorsements by the Sentinel Police Association and the African-American Firefighters Association, among others. Mallory also touted an Enquirer endorsement from the primary election complimenting his leadership. But Pepper has the endorsements of the two officially recognized police and fire labor unions, the Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge No. 69 and the Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48, as well as the city's two daily newspapers.

"Misleading" is one of those words politicians use when they want to question the veracity of their opponent's statements while stopping short calling out a lie. So by calling Mallory's ad misleading, Pepper acknowledges that its statements are technically true.

So where's the line between truthful and misleading? The Ohio Supreme Court has held that a judicial candidate who claimed to have been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police -- when in fact only one lodge supported her -- "while technically true, was misleading and deceiving." But the Supreme Court ruling made clear that the judicial candidate would have been in the clear if the ad disclosed which police group supported her -- which Mallory's ad did.

STRATEGY: Most modern political campaigns in the television age follow a predictable arc: First, the "warm-and-fuzzy" ads meant to introduce the candidate to voters. Then, beat up on your opponent with negative ads for a few weeks. Finally, return to the warm-and-fuzzies, touting your endorsements. Pepper was well into step three this week when he reversed course and went back to step two. This is one of two "closer" ads by the Pepper campaign that will run up to Election Day; the other touts Pepper's endorsements in a more positive way.

RESPONSE: "This is another divisive tactic by a desperate campaign," said Mallory Communications Director Jason Barron. "David Pepper is losing because he has run nothing but negative ads since the primary. Now he is so desperate that he is attacking our positive commercial. Pepper has taken the chaos from city hall and brought it to the campaign trail."

Friday, November 04, 2005

Blue dots flee Cincinnati

The 2005 award for Best Campaign Prop in a Stump Speech goes to Republican council candidate John Eby. And the vote is not even close.

Thursday night in the gym at Hyde Park Elementary School at Edwards and Observatory, about 150 Hyde Park and Mt. Lookout voters gathered for a candidate forum sponsored by the community councils from the two neighborhoods.

Council candidates, whose numbers this year are legion, were brought up to the stage in groups of five or six to give their two-minute stump speeches and take questions from the audience for about 20 minutes.

Eby, a west side Republican running for council for the first time, stole the show when he talked about the problem of the city's shrinking population, which he attributes in large part to fear of increasing crimes in formerly safe, middle-class neighborhoods, particularly in his beloved west side.

To demonostrate his point, Eby pulled out of his pocket a photograph - a picture of his 1976 eighth-grade class at the St. Williams parish school in Price Hill. He had drawn blue dots over all the faces of classmates he knew no longer lived inside the city's borders.

Of the 120 faces in the photograph, only six were not covered with blue dots.

Looking out over the crowd sitting in folding chairs or lingering around the food table, you could see heads shaking in amazement.

"This says it all,'' Eby said. Note - Eby is in the second row, on the far left.

Other scenes from the Hyde Park/Mt. Lookout event:

Damon Lynch III may not get many votes from the people who came to Thursday night's forum in Hyde Park, but he did get a good laugh out of them.

In his stump speech, Lynch, who finished only about 740 votes short of winning a council seat two years ago, said that "the 10 votes I got from your two neighborhoods almost put me over the top. I hope I can get 10 more of you this year.''

Actually, Lynch got a combined 787 votes in Mt. Lookout in 2003. But while he ran 10th citywide, he finished 18th of 26 council candidates in Hyde Park and 19th in Mt. Lookout.

By comparison, the front-running candidate two years ago in those two affluent neighborhoods was David Pepper, who had 4,456 votes, or almost six times as many as Lynch.

Speaking of Pepper, he too was at the Hyde Park/Mt. Lookout event, along with his opponent, Mark Mallory.

But the mayoral candidates had to wait their turn; it took over two hours for forum organizers to shuffle 25 council candidates on and off the stage.

It was well after 9 p.m. when the mayoral candidates finally got their turn. by then, half of the audience had drifted out of the gym and headed home. The mayoral candidates, after a full day of campaigning that included a noontime Rotary Club debate, looked fairly well burnt out.

"Is this our last debate, Mark?'' Pepper asked Mallory while making his five-minute stump speech.

"This isn't a debate; it's a forum,'' said Mallory, who has gone head-to-head with his opponent in about a dozen debates over the past two months.

"Right, a forum,'' said Pepper. "I'm starting to feel like we are Lincoln and Douglas.''

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ad watch: Mallory's 'Morning in Cincinnati'

AD: "Morning in Cincinnati," a 30-second television ad for Mark Mallory for mayor. Began running Tuesday morning. Produced by 779 Ltd.

Female Announcer: "Our city's been falling behind. Cincinnati needs new leadership: Mark Mallory, a proven leader with the experience to bring people together and make our city great again. The Enquirer says Mark Mallory is 'a leader, able to focus on the big picture.' That's why Mark Mallory is endorsed by Republican and Democrats, as well as police, firefighters, labor and business groups. Mark Mallory will be a mayor for all of Cincinnati." Mallory: "I'm Mark Mallory, and I'm asking for your vote, on Nov. 8."

VISUALS: Against a backdrop of the downtown skyline, Mallory is shown in video clips talking to residents and working in Columbus. At the end, he talks straight into the camera. Key phrases: "Proven leader." "'A leader able to focus on the big picture' -- Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/11/05." "Endorsed by former Mayor Roxanne Qualls, former Senate President Stanley J. Aronoff, former Senate President Richard Finan." "Endorsed by City Beat, Sentinel Police Association, African-American Firefighters Association, Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council." "Mark Mallory for Mayor, November 8."

FACT CHECK: The Enquirer quote comes from his pre-primary endorsement, when the newspaper endorsed both Mallory and his opponent. The newspaper endorsed David Pepper in next Tuesday's election. Mallory does have endorsements from prominent Republicans and Democrats, but the assertion that he's "endorsed by ... police (and) firefighters" has led to complaints from the police and fire unions, both of which endorsed Pepper, that the ad is misleading. The graphics in the ad, however, disclosed that the endorsements were from groups of black police officers and black firefighters.

STRATEGY: With a relatively small budget for television advertising, Mallory's ad appears with just a week left in the campaign. It's a positive ad that conveys Mallory's Statehouse experience and broad support. And it didn't cut corners on production value, even though it was essentially produced in-house by a company led by Mallory Development Director Dan Phenicie.

RESPONSE: "Sometimes positive ads can be just as misleading as negative ads, and clearly Mark Mallory's ad is misleading," said Pepper campaign manager Greg Landsman.

You can't read everything you believe in the paper

State Sen. Mark Mallory listens to Councilman David Pepper answer a question at Tuesday's mayoral debate on WCET. (Photo by Tony Tribble/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

At one point in Tuesday's Cincinnati mayoral debate on WCET, Councilman David Pepper criticized state Sen. Mark Mallory's failure to lay out detailed plans, and accused him of changing positions on key subjects.
PEPPER: "Just today I read that my opponent wants to abolish the city manager system, have an executive mayor. I hadn't seen that before. With a week to go, that's an issue in the campaign. You have to lay out exactly what you're going to do if you want to change the city."

MALLORY: "Thank you very much. First of all, let me address something that my opponent said, and you're probably not aware of this but the information that was in The Cincinnati Enquirer this morning on my position regarding the city manager was not correct. We're not certain -- I've talked to the Enquirer, we're not certain where the error occurred, but let me be real clear: I am not in support of changing the city manager form of government, and will not support any effort to do so. I have been very clear, on record, that the mayor of Cincinnati has quite enough legislative power to get the job done. The issue is about leadership. So ignore anything you've heard here today, if you please...."

PEPPER: "I guess you can't read everything you believe in the paper." (The audience laughs at his malapropism.) "That's probably a good lesson, though. I almost fell out of my chair when I read that in the paper this morning as well."
So what happened? The Enquirer accurately reported Mallory's answer to a written candidate questionnaire:
Should Cincinnati adopt an executive mayor system, abolishing the position of city manager?

Yes. It would lead to more direct accountability.

Mallory's answer appeared -- along with those of his six primary opponents -- in a chart published Sept. 11.

The Enquirer asked new questions of the finalists on Oct. 11, and gave each campaign the opportunity to modify their answers to the old questions. Neither campaign asked to change their answers, which were published again in a Tuesday election guide. Just before the Tuesday debate, Mallory told the Enquirer that his published answer was inaccurate.

"Every now and then, a campaign makes a mistake," Mallory said, surmising that someone on his staff cut-and-pasted the answer to a different question posed on another questionnaire. "We made one here. ... The only thing I want to change about city government is to make it work."

But Pepper tried to attach a greater significance to the gaffe. "You can't keep passing the buck on these major questions facing our city," he said. "You can't build consensus if your message is screwed up."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ad watch: SEIU's 'Stunning'

AD: "Stunning," a glossy, direct mail piece sent by the Service Employees International Union District 1199 attacking mayoral candidate David Pepper. Sent in at least two versions, appearing in mailboxes early this week.

EXCERPTS: "Sometimes it's shocking just how wrong our elected officials can be. David Pepper voted against a motion to stop Cincinnati Police from using Tasers on children who are 7 to 10 years old. Pepper's committee heard experts testify that children could 'suffer nerve or muscle damage from being shot by a Taser.' But David Pepper led the effort in the Law and Public Safety Committee to block reasonable new restrictions to stop police from using Tasers on our children. In fact, Pepper voted three separate times against this common sense proposal to protect children before the measure was defeated in the City Council.... David Pepper voted against our children's safety again and again. On November 8th, we have to reject David Pepper for mayor." A cutout quote from Pepper: "... I don't want to take one option off the table when we don't know what the other options are."

VISUALS: Larger version: A man in riot gear points a Taser at the camera. The text is printed over a dark thunderstorm scene. One picture shows Pepper with what appears to be a shocked look on his fact. Smaller version: A small boy with a backpack looks up at the camera next to the words, "Thanks to David Pepper, 7 -year-olds could learn a stunning lesson.

FACT CHECK: The youngest child ever shot with a police Taser in Cincinnati was a 12-year-old wielding a knife. (See update, below.) The motion in question would have asked the city manager to change police policy to forbid officers from using a Taser on a child 11 years old or younger.

The mailer cites a Jan. 5 story in the Cincinnati Post, "Council Rejects Taser proposal," as support for its assertions. The story is quoted fairly except in one small respect: the biomedical engineer who said children could suffer nerve or muscle damage did not testify before the committee, but was interviewed by the Post by telephone. Councilman Christopher Smitherman, the motion's chief sponsor, did have his children testify at the committee to say they were scared of being shot with a Taser by police.

The quote from Pepper is incomplete. The full quote, from the same Post story, was: "In those rare occurrences where a 9-year-old is holding a knife to another 9-year-old, I don't want to take one option off the table when we don't know what the other options are." The Taser proposal came in the form of a non-binding "motion," and was rejected 5-4.

STRATEGY: The mailer is part of a $111,117 campaign by the Columbus-based union in its support of Pepper's opponent, Mark Mallory.

RESPONSE: "No 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-, or 11-year-old has ever been Tased. Let's get that fact straight," Pepper said. "It makes our police look not human, menacing, like they can't be trusted and they're our to get you and your kids. The next mayor should be supporting police.... This comes down to a basic trust of the police that apparently my opponent doesn't have."

UPDATE (Wednesday, 11:25 a.m.): Cincinnati Police have used a Taser against two 12-year-olds. The first, in 2004, was wielding a knife. The most recent incident, on Sept. 7, involved a 12-year-old unarmed girl at Burton Elementary School in Avondale. According to this Taser incident report sent to City Council last month, and provided to the Enquirer by Councilman Chris Monzel's office today, police used the Taser after she attempted to kick and bite police officers attempting to escort her to in-school suspension.

Enquirer.com chats with Mallory and Pepper

In case you missed it, Mark Mallory and David Pepper talked with voters this morning in an Enquirer.com online chat moderated by public affairs editor Carl Weiser.

Here are the complete transcripts:
Here are a few highlights of the chats (links are added). First Mallory:

bill: What would you say to the people, (such as the enquirer) who say that that you speak of your plans in terms too general, while David Pepper has detailed plans laid out. Do you believe most of your plans for the city are as detailed and meticulously planned as those of David?

Mallory: David's detailed plans leave no room for input from other stakeholders, and that will not allow for true consensus building.

Lindee: I live on the west side and support you 100%, but, I am afraid a lot of west siders will vote for David Pepper because they don't understand why you accepted the endorsement of the Black Fist. How do you plan to address those concerns?

Mallory: I did not seek the endorsement of the Black Fist. An endorsement simply means that a person or a group supports a candidate. It does not mean that a candidate supports the group giving the endorsement. We must not allow the Pepper Campaign to use racially divisive issues to divide our city.

Guest: Believe it or not, I think there are still a few social and fiscal conservatives left in Cincinnati. Which candidate should a true conservative candidate back and why? So neither of you seems to have any appeal to a conservative.

Mallory: I have been endorsed by Senator (Stan) Aronoff, Senator (Dick) Finan, and all local Republican legislators except one. I will be a responsible guardian of city resources and I will not only work within the constraints of what we currently have, I will also look for ways to find efficiencies in the way that we deliver city services.
From the Pepper chat:
rico: how can we trust pepper in the african american community to be patient and deal with problems approprietly in the inner city

Pepper: Good question, Rico. And an important one. You can trust me because more than my opponent, as I've built a plan for our future, I've had town hall meetings across numerous neighborhoods of this City -- Evanston, Avondale, Madisonville, etc. Based on this input, I've listened to the cross section of our community on our most critical issues, and have proposed ways to address our challenges. This is . . . consistent with my record on Council, where I led the way on critical issues of inclusion in contracting, the collaborative negotiations, setting aside more than $50 million to invest again in neighborhoods like Walnut Hills and Avondale, etc. The next Mayor must be able to bring the entire community together, and that's exactly what I plan to do. My agenda will unite this city around our common issues of safety, youth opportunity, economic empowerment, and neighborhood investment.

mrblacktornado: What is your opinion of Westwood Concern?

Pepper: While I don't agree with everything some of their members say, it's a group who are trying to restore Westwood as a clean, safe and livable neighborhood. Neighborhoods like Westwood, College Hill, Mt. Airy, etc. are losing too many citizens every year to the suburbs due to crime, problem properties, blight, etc., and as Mayor I will work to stem that tide.

mia: How do you convince voters to vote for you if they say they are taken with Mallory's charisma? I support you, but I just got off the phone with a friend who is voting for Mallory because she likes his personality better.

Pepper: Mark is indeed a nice guy. I consider myself a nice guy too, and as people get to know me, I think they generally enjoy my personality as well. But we're at a crossroads. The problem in Cincinnati the past 15 years hasn't been a lack of nice guys and charismatic people--we've had that just fine. What we need, finally, is serious leadership to address the very major issues in front of us. Part of leadership is having the personal skills to bring people together--I have those. But an even more important part is being serious enough to lay out a clear direction, a clear vision, of how one intends to change the city, based upon citizen input, lessons from other cities, etc.. I've done that, Mark has not. We can not afford any more years of nice guys who give good speeches but who lead a directionless City Hall because they haven't even taken the time to figure out what they intend to do.

Pepper passes on fan misbehavior ordinance

A security guard tackles Gregory Gall, 31, of Mount Washington after he ran onto the field and stole the football from Packers quarterback Brett Favre Sunday. (Photo by Glenn Hartong/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Councilman David Pepper,who's running to the right in his law-and-order campaign for Cincinnati mayor, doesn't think the city needs an ordinance cracking down on fan misbehavior after an incident at Sunday's Bengals game.

Pepper, who chairs City Council's Law & Public Safety Committee, said state legislation -- such as the bill proposed by state Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township -- probably makes more sense, given that Hamilton County sheriff's deputies help provide security for the county-owned stadiums.

That's Pepper the councilman. But Pepper the fan couldn't help but to be impressed by Bengals fan Gregory Gall's fourth quarter run on the field of Paul Brown Stadium.

"That was the most effective charging of the field I've ever seen. The guy clearly had a mission," said Pepper, who attended the game with Campaign Manager Greg Landsman and City Council candidate Wendell P. Young.

"You certainly want to discourage that," he said. "In all seriousness, if they hadn't blown the whistle, the guy could have gotten buried."

As it was, the tackle by the stadium security guard was "the best hit of the game," Pepper said.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Crowley owns up, moves on

It is not every day that a candidate for public office advertises his mistakes, but Democratic Councilman David C. Crowley has sent a mailer to voters saying his 2002 vote on the Empire Theater redevelopment was a big one.

"I thought it was important that we acknowledge that a mistake was made and tell people how we learned from it,'' said Crowley. "I've always lived my life that way. When I make a mistake in any aspect of my life, I want to learn from it.''

Crowley was part of the council majority that voted in 2002 to give $184,000 to LaShawn Pettus-Brown to restore the Over-the-Rhine theater. Instead, Pettus-Brown took the money and ran. He was tracked down, arrested, and did prison time for his crime.

The idea of admitting mistakes and learning from them, Crowley said in the mail piece, "seems to be lost on most public officials these days.''

"Instead of learning from their mistakes, they usually won't even acknowledge them,'' Crowley said. "So I'm going to own up to a mistake and tell you what I did to make sure it doesn't happen again.''

Crowley said in the mail piece that he co-sponsored legislation to have the city auditor report directly to council, made sure that a comprehensive audit was made of the Department of Community Development and Planning, and supported new procedures for evaluating recipients of city funds and holding them accountable.

Two years ago, the Hamilton County Republican Party ran a television ad mocking Crowley and fellow Democratic council members John Cranley and David Pepper for their votes on the Empire theater project. The ad portrayed the Democratic trio as dancing, bouncing bobble-heads cavorting on a theater stage.

Crowley said Monday that there was some concern inside his campaign that the Republican Party would come after him again on the Empire Theater.

"There was a lot of discussion inside the campaign about this mail piece,'' Crowley said. "Some wondered why we were even bringing up the subject again. But I wanted to get it out there.''

Brad Greenberg, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said Monday that the GOP has no plans to run ads attacking any council candidates.

Crowley said he is certain that "some of my colleagues probably won't like it very much that I brought this up again. But I felt it was something I had to do.''

(Photo by Tony Jones/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

For women only

First it was Democrats Eve Bolton and Wendell Young teaming up on campaign ads; now the Democrats have another "slate within a slate'' in the council race - this one aiming directly at women voters.

Incumbent Laketa Cole and challenger Samantha Herd have teamed up on a postcard-szed piece of campaign literature that went out Monday to 10,000 women voters in Cincinnati. But not just any women voters - only those who have no male registered voter in their households were targeted.

It is probably a shrewd move, particularly for Herd, who is well known in Democratic party circles and in city hall as the former council aide to Tyrone Yates, but who does not have great name recognition among the public at-large.

There are only five women among the 31 candidates for Cincinnati City Council this year. As one of the five, Herd's direct pitch to women voters makes a lot of sense.

When Yates moved on from council and was elected to the Ohio House, Herd went with him, serving as his chief aide in Columbus.

Now, in addition to getting a boost from Cole, Herd is getting a some help from her boss as well, particularly among black voters. Yates has cut a 60-second radio commercial for his legislative aide that will run on black radio stations.

Yates is also featured prominently on an earlier Herd mail piece. Yates, a student of American history in general and the presidency in particular, says that "like Grover Cleveland, she lives daily by the standard that 'public office is a public trust.'''

We can't swear to it, but we are reasonably certain that was the first time the name of Grover Cleveland (left) had been invoked in a Cincinnati City Council race since at least the late 19th century.

Seitz: Don't lower taxes

Yes, you read that right.

Bill Seitz, the Republican state representative from Green Township who made his bones in politics as a hard-nosed, tax-hating fiscal conservative, thinks it would be a really bad idea if Cincinnati voters went to the polls next Tuesday and passed Issue 9, the ballot issue that would phase out the city's property tax by 2014.

For anyone who has followed Seitz' political career, this is a hard concept to get your head around. It's as if Pat Robertson suddenly decided gay marriage was a good idea.

Mayor Charlie Luken gathered about 30 opponents of Issue 9 on the steps of City Hall Monday morning. For the most part, the crowd was made up of the usual suspects - unionized city workers, Charterites like former mayor Arn Bortz and his nephew, council candidate Chris Bortz, Democrats like Laketa Cole and mayoral candidate Mark Mallory.

The two who stood out were Seitz and Doug Moorman, a former aide to Ohio Gov. Bob Taft who is now vice president of government affairs at the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, who was there to deliver the Chamber's enbdorsement of a "no on 9'' vote.

Seitz said his principal objection to Issue 9 is simple - eliminating the property tax would create too much reliance on the city's earnings tax. Something in the neighborhood of 60 percent of the income generated by the earnings tax is paid by people who work in the city but live elsewhere, including Seitz own western Hamilton County district.

"It is simply bad tax policy,'' said Seitz.

(Photo by Meggan Booker/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Surfer beware: Fake Republican Party web site

Cheap domain names and Internet pranksterism have brought political dirty tricks into the information age.

The web site hamiltoncountyrepublicanparty.com tells voters to vote for Democrat Mark Mallory for mayor and a slate of Democratic candidates for municipal court judge, City Council and school board. Only in small print at the bottom does it disclose, "Not affiliated with the Hamilton County Republican Party."

"I think it's clever but dishonest," said Republican Party Executive Director Brad Greenberg. "It's an attempt to deceive the voters." The official web site of the Hamilton County Republican Party is hamiltoncountyrepublicanparty.org. (Note the dot-org domain.)

Greenberg said the party is investigating who's responsible and will file a complaint. The web site was registered through an Arizona domain name registrar Oct. 23 -- but is held in the name of a proxy, meaning the author is unknown.

UPDATE (Monday, 2:15 p.m.): The site is housed on the same web server as dealerdashboard.com, owned by Michael Dalton, a 51-year-old Forest Park Democrat. He said in an e-mail:
I have no comment for the Republican-driven press. Spend your time investigating, without a bias, and maybe you will receive some courtesy. This is a non story. Get a life and start investigated the cronyism in Hamilton County, the state, the nation. I thought Republicans were suppose to be such smart business men? Well, we learn they will lie, cry and fail to protect anything including their turf and free speech.

UPDATE (Monday, 4:56 p.m.): The web site -- perhaps the shortest-lived in the short history of local Internet activism -- is down. Republicans credit Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Timothy M. Burke with intervening. "I don't know what he did, but whatever it was, we appreciate it," Greenberg said. Burke confirmed that he had something to do with taking down the site, but did not elaborate.

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