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, November 18, 2005

Meet the mayor-elect, cheer the Bengals

Mayor-elect Mark Mallory will take a break from interviewing vice mayor candidates Sunday to watch the Bengals game against the Indianapolis Colts -- and he's inviting Cincinnatians to root along with him.

During the first half, he'll be at Willie's Sports Cafe in Westwood, 5054 Glenway Crossing (behind Dick's Sporting Goods). At halftime, he'll take the Norwood Lateral over to Mulligan's Hyde Park Pub, 2680 Madison Road.

Sure, tickets are going for $650 on eBay, but you'd think a mayor-elect might have some connections. "We didn't even try to get tickets, to be honest," said Mallory spokesman Jason Barron. "We wanted to be out with the people."

HCRP (dot-org) seeks to shut down HCRP (dot-com)

The Hamilton County Republican Party went to court today to try to shut down a web site that the party claims is violating its trademark rights.

The web site, hamiltoncountyrepublicanparty.com, is the creation of Michael Dalton, a 51-year-old Forest Park Democrat who has also registered several other variations of the name just before the Nov. 8 election. The official Republican party web site is at hamiltoncountyrepublicanparty.org.

The party argues in court papers that there is "a likelihood of confusion" between the two sites. A disclaimer at the bottom of Dalton's site says it is "Not Affiliated with the Hamilton County Republican Party."

The web site attacks local and national Republicans, but seems to pay particular attention to Hamilton County Municipal Court Judges David C. Stockdale and Lisa Allen. Stockdale ruled against Dalton in an eviction action last year.

Dalton did not immediately return a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment. He said previously that the party "fail(ed) to protect its turf" and that the web site was "free speech."

UPDATE (Friday, 6:17 p.m.): Dalton e-mailed this response to the Enquirer:
I have not seen the suit and only know what reporters are telling me....

From what I understand the Republicans are claiming trademark infringement. I can find no trademark at firstgov.gov. I am not an attorney, however, it is my understanding that trademark law involves commerce not non-commercial speech.

It seems funny how, today, nationally the Republicans are trying to stifle free speech and then locally as well.

The suit is frivolous ... Once I see the suit and speak to an attorney we can decide our course of action. At this stage, it is my full intention to fight to protect free speech as political dissent is at the heart of our constitutional rights.

GOP voters, too, helped tip election to Mallory

It was African-American Democrats in Bond Hill and Roselawn who put Mark Mallory over the top, and white Democrats in places like Oakley and Pleasant Ridge who narrowed the gap.

But here's another overlooked factor in last week's election for Cincinnati mayor: Mallory weakened Pepper's base among Republicans.

Four years ago, Charlie Luken won 86.7 percent of the vote in the 91 precincts that went for George W. Bush in the 2004 election. That's a level of voter loyalty unheard of outside the African-American community, noted Republican lawyer W. Stuart Dornette, who's been analyzing precinct-by-precinct results in city elections for 30 years.

Councilman David Pepper also won those Bush precincts, but by a narrower margin: 76.6 percent of the vote. The map below shows those GOP precincts outlined, with Pepper's deepest support in dark blue:

The raw vote numbers are even more telling. In 2001, Luken won those GOP precincts by a net 17,539 votes. Pepper got an advantage of only 10,402 votes. Those 7,539 votes could have decided the election -- if they still exist. Turnout was lower in those precincts, either because Republicans have moved out of the city or just aren't showing up to the polls.

Republican leaders say they deserve some of the credit for electing Mallory, who was endorsed by former Ohio Senate Presidents Stanley J. Aronoff and Richard Finan, and state Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township. In the weekend before the election, Aronoff and Finan made automated phone calls to East Side Republicans, while Seitz "robo-called" West Side Republicans.

"I think their support was a clear signal to Republican voters that Mallory is fit to lead the city," said Brad Greenberg, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party.

Mayor-elect at a turning point for mass transit

SORTA Board Member Thomas A. Luken lectures other board members about the "proper way to conduct the people's business" during a debate on fare increases in January. Board Chairman Benjamin Gettler listens in the background. (Photo by Michael E. Keating/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Mayor-elect Mark Mallory could have an opportunity to make an immediate mark on an issue he talked about often during the campaign -- mass transit.

Four of the nine seats on the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority are up for re-appointment. Two appointments belong to the mayor; two are to be made by the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners.

Board members serving until their successors are named are city appointees Thomas A. Luken and Timothy Williams, and county appointees Benjamin Gettler and Melody Sawyer Richardson.

Mayor Charlie Luken -- the son of Tom who appointed the former mayor and congressman to the SORTA board as a "watchdog" three years ago -- said he deliberately decided to keep those appointments open for the next mayor.

"I know of Mayor-elect Mallory's interest in public transportation so he will have two appointments to the SORTA Board which should help him get 'his people' in key positions," Luken said in an e-mail.

Luken said he has no regrets about appointing his father -- a consistent dissenting vote on the nine-member transit board.

"My father has been a fierce advocate for those who rely on public transportation as a necessity. He has asked the tough questions, questions that need to be answered but often have not. The SORTA board needs a watchdog like my father."

Luken has certainly done that, to the irritation of his fellow board members. Take this exchange Tuesday, as the elder Luken made the case for stronger conflict-of-interest laws for transit boards.
LUKEN: We're good here at SORTA at stifling debate.

RICHARDSON: It's not a debate. It's a monologue. (Laughter.)

LUKEN: I spoke for three minutes. Was that too long?
SORTA Chairman Benjamin Gettler has suggested to board members that he may retire if Luken does. The two battle axes have been fighting over mass transit policy for 40 years, and former County Commissioner John S. Dowlin brought him out of retirement to keep an eye on Luken after Luken was sent to keep an eye on SORTA.

SORTA General Manager Michael H. Setzer told the Enquirer's editorial board Thursday that he hopes the appointments will prompt a renewed debate about regional mass transit:
We don't know who Mark Mallory will appoint, and neither does he, probably. I doubt that's the top thing on his agenda. In the past, it didn't seem that the city appointments came with any marching orders from City Hall. My guess with Mark Mallory is that he'll have more of an agenda he'll send his people with. ... I hope the changes in local government cause those discussions to begin, and begin in a collaborative way -- not a confrontational way.
By that, Setzer said, he means that the debate shouldn't be exclusively about light rail. "Let's not fight about hardware," he said. "The mode discussion is still divisive at this point."

But other fundamental changes could be in the works for the mass transit agency. Councilman John Cranley -- the political equivalent of a third-generation Luken -- has been quietly seeking support from constituency groups for a radical restructuring.

"Just because Cranley is Cranley, I assume he hasn't lost interest in SORTA," Setzer said.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rager to submit temporary budget

Cincinnati City Manager David E. Rager said Wednesday he would submit a three-month budget to the mayor after Mayor-elect Mark Mallory convenes the 40th City Council on Dec. 1.

The unusual "continuing resolution" budget would give the new council -- which has four new members and at least three vacancies on the Finance Committee -- more time to consider policy changes before adopting the 2006 annual budget. By state law, that budget must be approved by March 31.

Mallory has said he plans no major changes in his first budget, which is technically an update of the biennial budget passed last year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pepper is 'free to explore other political options'

Even Democratic party leaders were caught off guard by Councilman David Pepper's appearance in Columbus Tuesday for a job interview -- especially considering the job is the one held by his former mayoral opponent, state Sen. Mark Mallory.

So what does Mallory think of this development? Gongwer News Service caught up with Mallory in Columbus Tuesday:

Sen. Mallory, who will be sworn in for his new job on Dec. 1, said he is not endorsing any of the candidates as his successor. "Each of the candidates has a certain strength," he said, noting that some also have weaknesses. He said the remaining caucus members should take into strong consideration any candidate's ability to be successful at the next election.

The lawmaker, who will be recognized on the Senate floor Wednesday, said he's not bothered by Mr. Pepper's application for the job. "He's free to explore other political options," he said.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Is Jerry Springer serious?

Former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer still won't rule out a run for Ohio governor in 2006.

In an interview with MSNBC's Rita Cosby last week, Springer talked about his "stupid show" (the one on television, not his Cincinnati-based radio talk show), the legal woes of Pete Rose Jr., and the possibility that Warren Beatty might run for governor of California.
COSBY: Jerry, what about you, too? Because I know a couple of years ago you were toying with running for Senate. Is running for governor still an option in your future?

SPRINGER: Yes, I think about it. It's a possibility. What I really think about is, what if I won and it didn't make a difference? I mean, that's the thing that scares me is that you can get so caught up in the idea of running and winning.

And you have to remember: It's never about the person. It's never about the candidate. What it's really about is the people's lives who live in the state and what can be done to really make a substantive difference in the quality of their lives.

And that's what I really got to think: Could I make a difference? Because Ohio is in such horrible shape right now, whether you're talking about schools, or jobs. You know, everyone is leaving the state. You know, talk about -- Louisiana, if it's looking for an evacuation plan, should look at Ohio. We have the best evacuation plan. Everyone's left, and we didn't even have a hurricane.
(Photo by Glenn Hartong/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

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