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, December 09, 2005

New rules give mayor a 'pocket veto'

Democratic council members David C. Crowley and Laketa Cole got all of the attention for their opposition to rule changes adopted by Cincinnati City Council this week.

But Republican Leslie Ghiz -- while not as public in her criticism of the Rules Committee -- also voted against two rule changes, including one that could give the mayor what she calls a "pocket veto."

A sentence on council procedures in Rule 8.1 makes a subtle but important change to how items get to a vote: "Once approved by a committee, the item is sent to the mayor through the clerk of council for placement on the council agenda." (Emphasis added.) Previously, the clerk automatically put any item passed by a committee on the agenda.

That change, Ghiz said, could theoretically allow the mayor to preempt council action by simply refusing to schedule a vote. And while the charter gives him a veto power over ordinances, the mayor could conceivably use the rule to extend that power to block resolutions, motions and other council business he was previously powerless to stop.

"I wasn't comfortable voting for rules that could theoretically give the mayor a pocket veto," Ghiz said. "If those particular rules are changed to protect future councils from a potential pocket veto, I'll vote for them."

Mayor Mark Mallory told City Council on Wednesday that he would not refuse to place an item on the agenda absent some extraordinary circumstance. It's the same power the speaker of the House or the Senate president has in Columbus and Washington, his council allies say.

And Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Berding said City Council does have recourse to check the power of a future mayor who would abuse the rules: A council member could move to suspend the rules and ask for immediate consideration -- a non-debatable motion that requires six votes.

That's the same margin it takes to override a veto.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Who's who on third floor of City Hall

The biggest freshman class in the 80-year history of Cincinnati City Council has also brought with it a wave of new faces to City Hall's third floor. A roundup of who's where:
  • Mayor Mark Mallory has hired Carla Walker as his chief of staff. Walker worked for former Mayor Roxanne Qualls, and went on to hold Democratic party positions in Cincinnati and Columbus. Press secretary is Jason Barron, who ran Mallory's Ohio Senate office and was his campaign spokesman in the final weeks. Scheduler is Gwen Larkin. Protegee Shawn Butler, field director for the Mallory campaign, will work on constituent service and other issues. Campaign manager Simone Lightfoot will work as a part-time contract employee.

  • Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell keeps Ron Wahl and Norma Walker, perhaps the most experienced council office team on the third floor.

  • Jeff Berding brings on Alyson Steele, a former council hand who was communications director for the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council before running his campaign, and Victoria Stump, assistant to former Chamber of Commerce boss John Williams.

  • Laketa Cole retains Nicole Pearson and T.J. White.

  • Chris Bortz turned to Charterite veterans Jeff Cramerding, director of the Charter Committee, and Tracy Schweschenau, who has worked for Tarbell, state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. and former Councilman Phil Heimlich.
  • John Cranley keeps Julie Brinker, Marvin Hawkins and high school buddy Elliot Ruther.

  • David Crowley's team remains Rocky Merz and Shirley Dunham.

  • Leslie Ghiz hired campaign manager Matt Jones, a former campaign staffer for Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine, and Scott Gehring, a former candidate for Delhi Township trustee.
  • Chris Monzel keeps chief of staff Bradford Beckett and adds Christa Criddle of Finneytown, who the Bush campaign ranked as its 11th most active volunteer recruiter of the 2004 campaign.

  • Cecil Thomas has hired Sherry R. Taylor and Freddie Brewton, both of whom worked for him when he was director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.
Download the full roster of council members, their staffs, contact information and committee meeting schedules (in .pdf format).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mallory morsels from weekly news conference

Mayor Mark Mallory held the first of what he promised would be weekly mayoral news conferences Tuesday. In addition to pushing new rule changes for City Council, the mayor answered questions on a variety of topics:
  • On riverfront development: City officials will meet with the county later this week to pick up the pieces from the Banks development deal that collapsed Monday. Mallory said the city and the county would jointly send out a request for qualifications from developers, but he did not say what role he envisioned for the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority --– which had already picked three developers it said were qualified to develop the riverfront.

    Mallory declined to point blame for what went wrong with the Banks plan. "I wasn't mayor at that time. I cam only speak from this point on," he said.

  • On racial profiling: Mallory said he had not yet read the 398-page report released Monday on police-community relations. The report found no evidence of racial bias in traffic stops by Cincinnati police, but a related survey found many minorities believe such bias exists.

  • On regionalism: Mallory met in Covington on Monday with Mayor Butch Callery on issues of transportation and economic development. Mallory said the Brent Spence Bridge topped the agenda, but that the mayors also talked about "“connecting entertainment venues by transportation modes -- including by water."” Mallory said he will meet with other Kenton County mayors early next year.

  • On his strained relationship with Democratic Councilman David Crowley: "Councilman Crowley has a lot to offer the city of Cincinnati. He's a very able council member," Mallory said. He said he would call on Crowley to help on common issues like the environment.
  • On the controversial Citylink proposal for one-stop social services in Mallory's West End neighborhood: "All politics is local, and I'm going to leave that to the local leader, who happens to be Dale Mallory, president of the West End Community Council," he said. (Dale is the mayor's brother.) "If and when he requests my assistance, he will let me know."

  • On growing into the job: "I watched myself on TV a little bit the other day, and gee, I have to smile a little bit more," he said.

Mark Mallory held a transition news conference in mid November. (Photo by Carrie Cochran/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Dems: Job-hopping GOP lives in glass house

In his short tenure as executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party, Brad Greenberg has mastered the art of the one-paragraph press statement: short, well crafted and almost irresistible to reporters looking for a quote.

On Monday, Greenberg shot out three sentences criticizing Democrat John Cranley for announcing a bid for Steve Chabot's seat in Congress two days after being sworn in for his third full term as a councilman.

Now, Greenberg's Democratic counterpart has gotten into the act. Somewhat less pithy at 10 paragraphs, Chandra Yungbluth's statement in response points out that Chabot has a long history of office-hopping himself.

She notes that Chabot began "testing the waters" for a congressional campaign shortly after being re-elected to City Council in 1987. He lost, was re-elected to City Council in 1989, and then left City Council in 1990 to take an appointment as Hamilton County Commissioner. Then in 1994, midway through serving his first full-term as Hamilton County Commissioner, Steve Chabot ran for Congress again.

Yungbluth also takes issue with Chabot's voted for a term-limit law holding members of Congress to 12 years:
Since Chabot is in his sixth two-year term, when will he announce that he won't seek re-election?

Or does Brad Greenberg think Steve Chabot cares more about advancing his own career than keeping his promises to Ohio's First Congressional District?

Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. John Cranley has officially run for two offices during his distinguished career. Elected three times, with over five years of service on City Council, John Cranley has added more police to the streets, fought blight in neighborhoods, reinvested in the urban core, and balanced biennial budgets.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cole & Crowley object to Berding's Rules of Order

Proposed rule changes intended to streamline City Council and get its members focused on the "big picture" are so far having the opposite effect.

The Rules & Government Operations Committee debated the new rules for nearly four hours Monday -- even as City Council members came in and out to meet with the mayor over the collapse of the Banks project.

Upset that the process was moving too quickly, Democrat Laketa Cole asked for a separate roll-call vote on each of City Council's 92 rules -- governing everything from where council members sit to how a motion becomes an ordinance. One debate, over who gets the best office space, went on for so long that freshman Charterite Chris Bortz suggested "a tournament of arm wrestling" as most fair way to decide the issue.

The new rules are based on a memo circulated by Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Berding, a Democrat, before being sworn in. The proposal no longer includes further restrictions on who can speak at a council meeting. It does abolish a requirement that City Council hold up to five "town hall" meetings a year in city neighborhoods -- a rule the council hadn't been following anyway.

Cole and fellow Democrat David C. Crowley, who seem to be forming a dissident voting bloc in the early days of the 40th City Council, sent out this statement explaining their position:
Today, at the first committee meeting of the new City Council, a proposal was brought forward that suggests 38 changes to the rules which govern the manner in which City Council conducts the public's business.

The document was first made publicly available at today's 1 p.m. meeting. They represent major changes in the way Council operates including how legislation is brought forward, what subjects are discussed at public meetings, how meetings are chaired, how legislation becomes law, how often Council members can speak during public meetings and much more. The Rules Committee wants Council to adopt these drastic changes on Wednesday of this week.

Members of Council first received the proposed changes at today's meeting and asked for more time for public review before implementing the dramatic changes. Despite the obvious objections, the Committee decided to rush a vote of the changes for this Wednesday's Council Meeting. Crowley and Cole want to alert the public and the media that these changes are being rushed to a vote and encourage them to contact their Council members to ask that the process be slowed down so proper public input can be gathered.

"This is more than just tweaking some rules, this is the way in which our government and elected officials operate. This is not Council's business-it is the public's. We have a duty to provide adequate public input before making sweeping changes to the rules, these aren't our rules they are the citizen's rules," said council member Crowley.

Cole added, "The new rules propose that new legislation should not be sprung upon Council, or the public without adequate time for public consumption. In fact, the way in which these rule changes have been brought forward violates this rule. The rules of Council have a major effect on the City's legislative process, and therefore the City as a whole. We should proceed with caution and allow for public input."

Monday, December 05, 2005

GOP: Cranley's congressional bid sets record

Brad Greenberg, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party, had this statement today on Councilman John Cranley's announcement Saturday that he would run against Steve Chabot in the 1st Congressional District:
John Cranley must have set a record for the shortest amount of time between being sworn into one office and announcing plans for the next office. To wait only 48 hours is disrespectful to the voters of Cincinnati. John Cranley cares more about his own advancement than fulfilling his duties on City Council.
Cranley told the Cincinnati Post today that a congressional campaign won't interfere with his ability to serve as a councilman.

Mallory asks Crowley to serve on rule-making body

When the Rules and Government Operations Committee of City Council meets for the first time today, it will have tripartisan representation made up of a core group that Mayor Mark Mallory hand-picked to help him organize City Council: Democrat Jeff Berding, Charterite Chris Bortz and Republican Chris Monzel -- plus Democrat Laketa Cole.

And it will have a last-minute addition to the committee lineup: David C. Crowley. Crowley, of course, is the third-term Democrat who locked horns with the mayor over rules and committee assignments -- the very jurisdiction of the Rules and Government Operations Committee -- even before the new council was sworn in.

That Crowley was not originally supposed to be on the committee is clear from the report itself. His name appears to be typed in after the report of the Rules & Government Operations Committee was already written and signed:

Crowley said Mallory asked him to serve on the committee during the inaugural ceremonies last Thursday -- just minutes before Crowley took to the floor to criticize Mallory's decision to strip him of his chairmanship of a committee.

"He came over to me, and poked me on the shoulder," Crowley said. "That surprised me that he did," Crowley said. "I decided I do want to be on that committee. I think that's going to be a committee that's going to be a traffic control device."

(In fact, it's unclear whether Crowley's name was on the report when City Council voted on it. A copy of the report was not provided to the press at City Council's Dec. 1 organizational meeting, and it wasn't available from the Clerk of Council's office until late Friday -- more than 24 hours after it was adopted. And it's also unclear how the Rules Committee could have made the report to City Council if it never officially met.)

Crowley said he sees the overture as something of an olive branch. "I see that as positive," he said. "He didn't have to ask me."

Crowley said a number of intermediaries -- council members, lobbyists and party leaders -- have offered to mediate a reconciliation between the two Democrats. "There have been a half-a dozen offers. I have merely said I am always willing to talk to anybody," he said.

And when he does, he said he may also reconsider his decision to leave other council Democrats -- everyone but Cole -- out of the decision of who would replace him if he dies or leaves office.
"When I cool down, I'll take another look at it," he said.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Cranley surprised even mom with bid for Congress

Councilman John Cranley and his mom, newly elected school board member Susan Cranley, celebrate their feat as dual top vote-getters on Election Night. (Photo by Tara Bricking Carvalho/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Councilman John Cranley filed paperwork Friday to run for the U.S. House seat now held by Republican Steve Chabot, the Enquirer's Howard Wilkinson reported today.

Coming as it did the day after he was sworn in to a third term on City Council, the timing of the filing surprised a lot of people.

But when Cranley made the announcement at
a meeting of the Hamilton County Democratic Executive Committee Saturday, no one was more surprised than Cranley's mother, Susan Cranley, who was elected to the Cincinnati Board of Education last month and is a Democratic precinct executive.

"If you think that I knew he filed to run for Congress, you would be wrong," she said outside the meeting. She even made a note to tell Cranley's dad, John J. Cranley III, what their son had just announced his candidacy.

One guy who wasn't surprised was former Mayor Charlie Luken. Stopping by the Democratic gathering to accept a standing ovation on his way to Pittsburgh for the Bengals game, Luken said taking back the 1st Congressional district should be a top Democratic priority.

"My father, as you know, knows every crack in every sidewalk in the district," said Luken, son of former seven-term U.S. Rep. Thomas A. Luken, and who held the seat himself for one term. "
I've always said it makes absolutely no sense for a Democrat not to hold that seat. It makes less sense that Steve Chabot is representing it.''

"I want to mention one guy who I'm encouraging to run, and that's John Cranley," Luken said in introducing Cranley. "I think he's a great fit for the district. I think John is a guy who can win."

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