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, June 16, 2006

Ghiz: Don't sign those petitions!

City councilwoman Leslie Ghiz, who wanted a slots parlor at Broadway Commons, is "Angry Ghiz," according to her three-exclamation point press release:


Southwest Ohio must NOT sign petitions!

Councilmember Leslie Ghiz adamantly supports legalized casino gambling in Ohio, but only if Cincinnati is included in that initiative. Queen City Gaming and Entertainment, the organization fighting to keep Cincinnati included, has withdrawn their ballot initiative because of continuing legal pressure from the Learn and Earn group in northern Ohio and the owners of the Argosy casino in Indiana.

"If you sign a petition to legalize gambling in Ohio, it means everywhere in Ohio but Cincinnati" said Ghiz.


Council passed a resolution in May stating their support of a Casino at the Broadway Commons location in downtown Cincinnati. Since then the Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis and the FOP have come out in support of this initiative.

"We have the support locally, unfortunately the Learn and Earn group and the owners of the Argosy casino are doing everything they can to stop the Cincinnati initiative," said Ghiz. A slot parlor in Cincinnati would generate an estimated 22 million dollars in tax revenue for the City of Cincinnati, plus an additional 18 million dollars for Hamilton County. Ghiz said, "Southwest Ohio cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by, we must work to oppose the Learn and Earn gambling initiative."

Ghiz noted that although the issue is dead for now that doesn't mean that Queen City Gaming and Entertainment can't try again in a future election. Provided the current amendment does not make it on the ballot and or does not pass, Queen City Gaming and Entertainment can organize again and re-institute their initiative that includes Cincinnati after the November election.

Townships: No jail here

A group representing the elected officials of Hamilton County's townships attacked today suggestions that a new $225 million, 1,800-bed jail be built in Colerain Township.

Here is their release:


For more information: Tom Weidman, (513) 324-5555
June 16, 2006

Township Association Says “No” to Jail in Townships

(Cincinnati, OH) – Kathy Wagner, President of the Hamilton County Township Association, announced today the association’s opposition to a proposal made by David Pepper and Todd Portune that an area in Colerain Township may be a viable spot for the new jail.

“Entertaining the idea of putting the new jail in an area inaccessible to the current Justice Center and Courthouse is short-sighted and unworkable,” stated Wagner. “With the price of gas, it is ludicrous to transport criminals back and forth between the Court House in downtown Cincinnati to an area in the northern part of the county. What a terrible waste of time, energy and manpower!”

David Pepper proposed that the Educational Service Center, which Commissioners Heimlich and DeWine would like to sell to the Educational Service Center Board, be the site of the new jail.

Pepper’s proposal came in two separate press releases on June 2 and June 6 in which he suggested the sale of land owned by the commissioners be tabled. Todd Portune confirmed the location of the proposed jail site at a Commissioner’s meeting June 7.

“Our townships are the only areas of the county that are still growing. If we limit the growth by expanding jail facilities into the suburbs, Hamilton County’s problem will only be compounded,” Wagner stated. “Hamilton County needs a new, larger facility near the Court House. We need this facility to get the violent criminals off the streets. Cincinnati and Hamilton County used to be a safe place to shop, eat, and enjoy the beautiful attractions. When the streets are safe, people will come back and revitalize the county and city. This will only happen when the criminals are off the streets."

# # #

Commission candidate David Pepper reacted angrily to the press release.
"It's a flat-out lie," Pepper said, adding that Tom Weidman is a supporter of Pepper's opponent, Commissioner Phil Heimlich.

"I'd never heard of the (Colerain Township) location in my life," Pepper said.

Pepper insists he never has said he would consider placing a jail in Colerain Township.
Pepper admits there was confusion over his June 2 press release (see link below) that advocated to "Initiate the location and engineering analysis for the added jail space, including tabling the decision made by Heimlich to sell county owned property that might be useful for the jail location."

After that, Commissioner Todd Portune said in a televised June 7 Hamilton County Commission meeting (see link to clip below) that one of the pieces of land being considered for sale that might be used for a jail is the Educational Services Center -- in Colerain Township.

"I'd never even heard of the location in my life," Pepper said, adding he has no specific site in mind for a new jail.

Weidman said that was the connection he -- and Heimlich's campaign -- made to Pepper pushing for a jail in Colerain Township.

Kathy Wagner told the Enquirer this afternoon she didn't feel misled by Weidman, her source for the information, saying "I trust those guys."

She stressed her point was the opposition to any proposed jail in any Hamilton County township.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Debate over debates rages on

The gubernatorial flap over who wants to debate, who offered to debate first, who wants to debate now, or when and where, continued today.

Let us know who you think is taking the high road based on press statements:

In their latest news release, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's campaign says U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland’s campaign "has now reverted to gamesmanship in an attempt to back away from their public commitment to a series of summer and fall debates.''

“We don’t want to have a debate about the debates,” said Carlo LoParo, Blackwell's spokesman. “We want these two candidates to speak to the people of Ohio in an open, fair and free-wheeling discussion, beginning as soon as possible.”

In a news release earlier today, Strickland said he accepted debate offers from several groups and media outlets. However, LoParo said that when the Blackwell campaign contacted many of those media outlets and organizations, they said they had not yet sent out invitations for such a debate, nor received acceptance of their offer from the Strickland campaign.

“We are disappointed Congressman Strickland is playing games instead of conducting good faith negotiations to arrange these important debates for the summer and fall,” LoParo said. “We stand ready to make arrangements for these debates immediately. It seems Strickland has no interest.”

Monday, Blackwell proposed the following dates, cities and times for the upcoming two weeks:

-- Thursday, June 15, Youngstown, 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
-- Monday, June 19, Cincinnati, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
-- Tuesday, June 20, Columbus, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
-- Wednesday, June 21, Columbus, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
-- Thursday, June 22, Columbus, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Each week, Blackwell offered to issue a new list of proposed times and dates with the hope a few will accommodate Strickland’s schedule.

The Blackwell campaign also stands ready to meet with the Strickland campaign to coordinate other dates, times and locations, LoParo said.

Strickland's campaign, meanwhile, announced it is committed to multiple debates that have been proposed to both campaigns by independent organizations and media.

The Strickland campaign proposed four debates - one each month starting in July.

"We are committed to sitting down with the Blackwell campaign and discussing dates, times and formats for debates," said Strickland debate coordinator David Wilhelm. "However, the Blackwell campaign, at this time, has refused to sit down and have such discussions. Quite frankly, they seem more interested in trying to score political points than coming to a serious agreement."

Wilhelm noted that the most recent communication he received from the Blackwell campaign demanded a format that would not allow for questions from a panel or an audience - only speeches by the candidates.

"Speeches by both candidates in the same general vicinity are not the same as open debates moderated by a neutral party with questions from the media or the public," Wilhelm said. "I think Ohioans will see through this ruse and demand what they deserve: real debates with tough questions."

Strickland's campaign said it would participate in the following debates or forums proposed by independent organizations and media:

-- Children’s Hunger Alliance
-- Ohio Association of Broadcasters
-- League of Women Voters/Ohio Historical Society
-- Major media consortium, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch and others. (A similar primary debate offer also included the Dayton Daily News, Public Radio and TV and the Ohio News Network).

If Blackwell and Strickland agree to agree, several Enquirer readers have asked if any groups are inviting Green Party candidate Bob Fitrakis or Libertarian Bill Peirce to any debates?

Dohoney on his management style

During questioning by council member Chris Bortz, Dohoney explained how his management approach would be in Cincinnati:

"I have not been a sit-back guy. Once I'm clear on a direction, I'm going. I'm a hands-on guy, and I'll be engaging to the public. You're hiring a person to be involved in community leadership, not simply making sure we fill whatever pot hole we have to fill by 5 o'clock."

"I will encourage us to, within reason, be risk takers. Things don't just happen in a city, you've got to make them happen. I will chart a course and then try to win support for it."

Council member Laketa Cole asked how he would feel if hired by a split vote of council: "Given the way this has unfolded, it's apparent there are some issues as it relates to the process. I've not heard any issues with my skills or my integrity. I will be a trusted professional and conduct myself with integrity. Any issues about the process or what the charter says or doesn't say, those are not my issues."

Dohoney update

Milton Dohoney, Jr., Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's appointment to become the next city manager, is being questioned sternly, but politely, by members of city council.

Each council member gets 10 minutes of question and answer time with Dohoney, then will get a chance for any follow-up questions.

One of the first questions was why Dohoney is not accredited by the International City Managers Association. Dohoney said he is on track to get that creditation in 2007. "If there was a pre-requisite that the manager be accredited before taking office, I would have respected that and not put my name in."

Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell said the lack of accreditation is a "sticking point" for him.

Dohoney also was asked about his experience in negotiating contracts.

"I’ve been involved with collectiving bargaining for years. In Louisville, 70 percent of the workforce was unionized. As deputy mayor, I was responsible for negotiating all contracts ... I have never had labor relations that even approach a strike. We've been able to respect each other and radify contracts that were fair to both labor and council."

Questioning continues.

Dohoney interview won't start til 2:45 p.m

City hall reporter Dan Klepal is at, well, city hall.

He'll be periodically updating on city council's 9-on-1 interview today with Milton Dohoney Jr., the man nominated as Cincinnati's 14th city manager.

Chabot worth more than Cranley

Personal financial disclosure reports that show how much money each member of Congress earns – or is worth – are being released today.

As usual, Rep. Steve Chabot’s report covering 2005 contains no surprises:

The six-term Republican from Westwood earned no income other than his $162,100 congressional salary, gave no speeches, had no debts, held no positions and went on just one trip – a weekend jaunt to nearby Baltimore with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

About the only thing worth noting about his 10-page handwritten report is that Chabot, 53, owns stock in Applebee’s, Cincinnati-based Cintas Corp., and The Sportsman’s Guide, an online site that offers deals for hunting and camping equipment.

Altogether, Chabot has a modest portfolio of bank accounts, bank CD’s, retirement accounts and stock that is worth between $385,000 and $1.2 million. These assets earned him between $9,000 and $30,000 last year.

Chabot’s Democratic challenger in this year's election for the 1st Congressional District, on the other hand, is worth much less.

In a four-page handwritten report filed with the House Clerk last month, John Cranley, 32, indicated that his salary for last year was nearly $91,000 – which is $71,000 less than members of Congress make each year.

Cranley earned about $55,000 for serving on the Cincinnati City Council and $36,000 for being an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

His portfolio consists of stock in Ford Motor Co., a mutual fund, investment in a partnership and a retirement account that, combined, are worth between $17,000 and $81,000.

But Cranley, a lawyer, still owes between $50,000 and $100,000 in student loans.

We'll post details from other members of Congress here as they become available.

Bunning celebrates flag day

Sen. Jim Bunning, a baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, is introducing former Chicago Cubs player Rick Monday at a news conference in Washington this morning.

Years ago, Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, faced Monday in a baseball park during a spring training game. Today, he's introducing Monday at a park on Capitol Hill during a Flag Day event to promote a Senate bill to protect the flag.

Look up the bill by number (S.J.Res. 12) here.

Monday was invited to join the event because he “rescued” a flag in Dodger Stadium during a Cubs game in 1976 after two spectators tried to set it on fire. The act resulted in cheers, making Monday a national figure on the issue of flag protection.

Watch a video of Monday's act here.

The Senate resolution would prohibit the desecration of the U.S. flag. The measure passed the House last year, shortly after Flag Day 2005.

During a phone call with reporters yesterday, Bunning said the measure is only about one vote short of passing the Senate. It's sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and co-sponsored by 59 other senators including Bunning, and Ohio Republican Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich.

Also appearing at today's news conference is Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000 of Kentucky and a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.

(Report from Enquirer Washington Bureau intern Stephanie Clary.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Boehner mum on Butler County's immigration tactics

Enquirer reporter Jennifer Edwards wrote about Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones' campaign against illegal immigrants in today's paper. Read her story here.

With all this furor going on back in his home district, we asked House Majority Leader John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, at his news conference today what he thought.

Here's what he said:

Enquirer Washington Bureau: "In your home county of Butler County, the sheriff there has taken a hard line against immigration, as I am sure you know. He tried to bill the federal government for the cost of incarcerating illegal aliens and campaigns to get employers to stop hiring them. Do you support his actions and what do you think of what he is doing?"

Boehner: "Well, you know, my local sheriff, along with sheriffs in virtually every county in America, are concerned about illegal immigration and the fact that their hands are tied with regard to effectively dealing with them. That is why I think it is important for Congress to act on this immigration reform bill. If we don't strengthen the border and begin to enforce our laws, I don't know how we get to the more difficult parts of this program with regard to the 12 million or so that are here. So I understand the frustration."

Enquirer Washington Bureau: "Do you support his actions, though?"

Boehner: "He has got to do what he has got to do."

Boehner announces Iraq debate on House floor

New House Majority Leader John Boehner has been saying for weeks now that lawmakers should - and would - get the opportunity to debate the future of the Iraq war in public.

"I think having a forum where members can express their interests, their concerns, their hopes is a good thing for the House," Boehner told reporters a month ago.

Now, that debate has taken shape in the form of a resolution, which the House will consider this Thursday. So tune in to C-SPAN on Thursday for the action.

Or, wait until campaign season and you might just see some of the footage from this debate used in commercials.

Boehner insisted to reporters at his weekly news conference today the debate is NOT partisan, but here is how he described the resolution:

"The fundamental question in this debate is are we going to confront the threat of terrorism and defeat it, or will we relent and retreat and hope the problem goes away? ... There are clear differences between where Republicans and Democrats are on how best to confront the global war on terror, and I think the American people deserve to see that there are different sides to this question and they can make up their own minds."

Note that back in March, Boehner was asked how big a factor he thinks the Iraq war is going to be in the mid-term House races this November. Here is what he said:

"I think it is a big issue. When the country is at war there is a certain unsettling that occurs with people around the country, as you might expect, and with 135,000 men and women from America fighting over there. They are from every community in the country. And so this anxiety that is out in America over this issue is understandable but it does have impact upon peoples' view of a lot of different issues."

So the Iraq war is going to be a "big issue" in the elections and yet having a public debate on it for the purpose of debating it is NOT political?

Welcome to Washington.

Chabot holds hearing on making criminals pay

According to Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, the vast majority of money that criminals are ordered by federal courts to pay their victims or the family of their victims (87 percent) goes uncollected each year - to the tune of $40 billion.

A hearing by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism & Homeland Security was held today on a bill Chabot introduced that would help victims recover this money.

Daniel Levey, the President of the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children Inc., a Cincinnati-based organization, was one of the witnesses.

Here's what he had to say: “Restitution holds the offender accountable and, when paid, helps offset the economic loss experienced by the victim, who is often left with medical bills, funeral costs and other expenses. In some cases, a murder takes the life of the primary breadwinner, leaving no way to even pay the rent.”

This bill comes after President Bush signed into law last year a bill from Chabot that authorizes grants to states for the DNA testing of all unidentified human remains. Chabot plans to hold a hearing on that law's progress next week.

Dale Mallory lobbied for CityLink

The Enquirer's Gregory Korte reports that a federal anti-poverty program is reviewing its contract with Dale Mallory - brother of Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory - after discovering he billed the agency for working to bring a controversial social services center to the West End.

Read the full story here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

But what would they talk about in October?

The usual "debate over debates'' is starting early in the Ohio governor's race.

Last week, when Republican Ken Blackwell started poking fun at Ted Strickland for sending his wife Frances and some policy advisers to a Columbus meeting of university trustees (and suggested that Strickland might send his friend Barack Obama to gubernatorial debates), Strickland said that anytime Blackwell wanted a face-to-face debate, he'd be ready.

Apparently, anytime is this week.

Blackwell's campaign put out a list of proposed dates, cities and times for June gubernatorial debates Monday - a schedule that would begin on Thursday at an unspecificed location in Youngstown. Blackwell's campaign suggested one for Monday, June 19 in Cincinnati, and three more in Columbus June 20-22.

The Blackwell campaign doesn't have any suggested venues for the five "debates'' and it is unlikely the two campaigns could work out the details and ground rules in time to start this week. So, the Blackwell campaign had a suggestion:

"Each week, Blackwell will issue a new list of proposed times and dates with the hope that a few will accomodate Strickland's schedule,'' a Blackwell press release said.

Late Monday afternoon, the Strickland campaign put out a press release expressing delight that Blackwell had agreed to debates, but did not commit to the June schedule Blackwell proposed. Instead, Strickland's campaign said it had designated David Wilhelm, the long-time political operative from Athens, Ohio who is a former Democratic National Committee chairman, to negotiate a debate schedule with the Blackwellites.

No score after one inning. Blackwell's turn to bat.

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