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Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
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Jane Prendergast,
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Carl Weiser,
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Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Independent statewide candidates certified

The Ohio Secretary of State's office has certified the names of independent, non-partisan candidates who gathered at least 5,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

James Lee, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, said the following candidates' names will appear on the ballot without political party designations:

John A. Eastman of Centerville (6,486 valid signatures) and Timothy J. Kettler of Warsaw (6,744 valid signatures) are independent Secretary of State candidates.

More details on Eastman, who is active with the Natural Law Party of Ohio, can be found at

More information on Kettler, a member of the Green Party, can be found at http://www.sostim06.com/ or at http://www.ohiogreens.org/elections/kettler06.html

In the race for Ohio governor, Libertarian Bill Peirce of Mayfield Village and running-mate Mark Noble of Columbus collected 9,389 valid signatures in the race for governor/lieutenant governor. Additional details about Peirce is available at http://peirceforohio.com/

Also certified for the top spot on the Ohio statewide ticket are Robert Fitrakis of Columbus and his lieutenant governor running-mate, Anita Rios of Toledo. They collected 7,853 valid signatures, according to Lee. More information on the Green Party members can be found at http://www.ohiogreens.org/elections/fitrakis06.html

Campaign spokeswoman Dorri Steinhoff said a press conference is set for noon Friday at the basement law office that Fitrakis shares with Columbus attorney Cliff Arnebeck at 341 S. Third Street, Suite 10.

Fitrakis, a political science professor and Free Press reporter, is best known for his legal challenges of the 2004 presidential election results.

The Ohio Green Party voted to endorse Fitrakis and Rios during its convention in February.

Rios is a longtime union activist and community organizer with a background in mental health. She is former chair of the Green Party National Committee. Her parents were Mexican American migrant farm workers.

Steinhoff said her candidates intend to form a rainbow coalition of faithful Greens and independent, progressive people of color. "The Green Party offers a true alternative to the corporate influenced two-party system," she said in a news statement.

The Green, Natural Law, Libertarian and other minor political parties are not recognized in Ohio until they receive 5 percent of the vote during an election. Therefore, their candidates are designated as "Independents" on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Will Rosa offer her two cents on the "65 cents?"

Education reporter Jennifer Mrozowski writes:

It's no Kramer versus Kramer…yet.

But a ranking state Democrat wants to know where Cincinnati Public Schools superintendent Rosa Blackwell stands on her husband Ken Blackwell's education proposal billed as "the 65-cent solution."

Gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell proposes a funding system requiring Ohio school districts to spend at least 65 cents of every dollar on "in the classroom" instruction, according to his Web site.

But Rosa Blackwell has been mum on her husband's proposals, which would undoubtedly impact the 35,600-student Cincinnati Public Schools.

A press release today from State Senator Teresa Fedor of Toledo, the ranking member on the Ohio Senate Education Committee, said Fedor joined other education leaders today in criticizing what her office called a disastrous solution for funding Ohio public schools.

Fedor said "the critics include former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, former Reagan Administration Secretary of Education William J. Bennett and the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute which is a non-profit education research organization with ties to Dayton, Ohio."

Fedor called out Rosa Blackwell, questioning "whether or not Secretary Blackwell’s hometown public school system, which his wife oversees, would even be in support of such a poorly devised plan."

"While it sounds easy to support the idea of 2/3 of the schools’ money to be spent in the classroom, it is simply too blunt a proposal that ignores far too many factors," said Senator Fedor. "The proposal focuses solely on input to schools, rather than output - such as what the schools are producing as far as a quality education. It appears to be just another one-size fits all scheme that would inevitably negatively impact vital services outside the classroom - transportation, nutrition, libraries, health-related services - all of which promote higher student achievement. Additionally, there have been no studies to prove that the 65% plan actually increases achievement. Would Cincinnati and other public school superintendents even support the plan?"

Cincinnati schools spokeswoman Janet Walsh said Rosa Blackwell is unavailable for comment today. But will she ever comment?

"She really hasn’t talked at all about the things he is proposing," Walsh said. "They have had separate careers for quite some time."

Walsh said that she doesn't know how classroom instruction was defined in the 65-cent solution, but she added that Cincinnati Public Schools' board of education passed a $428.6 million budget that devotes 71 percent of general fund dollars on schools and school support for the upcoming school year.

Boehner for president!?

We heard it. Today. On the House floor:
The scene: Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, enters from stage right. Wearing a gray suit and pink tie, the majority leader takes to the lectern and addresses the chair.

Mr. BOEHNER: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to speak out of order for one moment.

The CHAIRMAN: The gentleman is recognized for one minute.

Mr. BOEHNER: I want to give all the members an idea of what the schedule for the day is. ... We expect to complete our week's work by 6:00 or 6:15 this evening ...

(Congressmen interrupt with unfettered bipartisan applause... A rare moment.)

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN (possibly Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.): "Boehner for president!"

Wulsin to kick off campaign

Victoria Wulsin, a Democrat running to unseat Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District announced today that she'd be kicking off her campaign with an official event this Sunday.

Guests expected at her kick-off include Maj. Paul Hackett, who narrowly lost to Schmidt in last year's special election; Ohio House Representative Catherine Barrett; Cincinnati Council Member John Cranley, a Democrat running to unseat Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, in Ohio's 1st Congressional District; and former council members Tyrone Yates and David Pepper.

Wulsin also announced the opening of her new campaign headquarters, located at 7440 Montgomery Road in Silverton, and urged supporters to check out her new campaign Web site, which "has been given a well deserved face-lift."

And, like Sherrod Brown's Senate campaign, she too is asking supporters to donate money before the quarterly campaign finance period ends tomorrow (June 30).

"$20 helps - $200 helps a lot. And having you as a supporter is invaluable," she said.

Habemus manager!

Councilman Cecil Thomas demonstrates the connection between his footwear and his vote for City Manager.

Wednesday's vote to confirm Milton Dohoney Jr. as Cincinnati's 14th city manager was probably the most important vote cast to date by the newly reconstituted City Council. And given the lengthy debate that preceded it, the vote could set an historic precedent about who has the right to hire the city's chief executive.

Characteristic of 801 Plum St., it was an event with several sideshows. Enquirer photographer Michael E. Keating captured two of the more oddball moments of the spectacle.

First, Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas hoisted his sockless wingtips above the council dais to demonstrate that Dohoney "did indeed knock my socks off." (He did not, thankfully, do an impersonation of Nikita Kruschev.)

Then, Avtar S. Gill -- known around City Hall as "the hat guy" for the political statements he makes with his colorful handmade baseball caps -- registered his approval with an impromptu sign.

Gill, a 65-year-old downtown resident, said he wanted to write "Habemus Manager" on the sign -- a reference to the Latin phrase used to announce the election of a new pope -- but was afraid the five non-Catholics on City Council might not get the reference.

Avtar S. Gill holds a sign celebrating the vote.

Obama e-mails for Brown

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., just sent out this e-mail about Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from northern Ohio who is challenging Cedarville Republican Sen. Mike DeWine for the U.S. Senate:
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of visiting Ohio to campaign for Democratic candidates, including Sherrod Brown.

Ohio isn't just any other state. It is a bellwether of national politics. I made this trip, because I believe that we need to win in Ohio to change the direction of our country.

The day I arrived, the Cincinnati Enquirer declared,
"Ohio's love for Bush fades: President's approval rating here hits its lowest point."

What I saw on the ground confirmed that statement. I met Ohioans ready for change. They are tired of the pay-to-play system that runs Washington today. People are demanding new leadership for their state and nation.

My first stop was an
appearance with Rep. Sherrod Brown in Cincinnati.

Sherrod is the type of leader that Ohio needs in the U.S. Senate. He has the experience and vision to transform our government.

If we are going to have any hope to expand health care, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and loosen the grip of special interests, then we need to elect Sherrod to the U.S. Senate.

I traveled next to Columbus for the Ohio Democratic Party State Dinner. There I found thousands of Democratic activists, energized to win this election.

The grassroots have already propelled Sherrod ahead of DeWine in the polls. The latest
Zogby/Wall Street Journal Poll has Sherrod leading by more than 12 points.

This is going to be a tight race no matter what we do. Karl Rove and the Republicans will pour tens of millions of dollars into this campaign. They will stop at nothing to win.

Sherrod won't take their attacks lying down. He will stand up and fight for Ohio families in this race, and in the U.S. Senate.

This Friday marks a critical milestone in Sherrod's campaign -- the end of the second quarter reporting period.

It is important that Sherrod closes out this period in strong financial shape.

His chances of beating Republican incumbent Mike DeWine will be far greater if he finishes the quarter better than expected.

Sherrod is a leader in Congress for fair trade and health care.

He's taken on the prescription drug companies and closed loopholes to help lower the cost of prescription drugs, and continues to lead the bipartisan coalition in Congress against job-killing trade agreements.

I am extremely excited about the prospect of working side-by-side with Sherrod in the U.S. Senate.

I need your help to make that hope a reality. Join me today and support Sherrod's campaign.

Thank you for all that you do.


Sen. Barack Obama

PS: The second quarter ends this Friday, June 30. If you are planning to make a contribution, make sure to get it in before midnight.

Blackwell picks NY Democrat as campaign co-chair


Gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell today named the Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake, president of Wilberforce University and a former Democratic congressman from New York as a campaign co-chairman.

"I am honored and humbled by Rev. Flake’s support of my gubernatorial campaign," the Republican secretary of state said in a news statement. "He is providing our nation’s oldest historically black college with principled, prudent and inspirational leadership. Rev. Flake will bring those same outstanding leadership qualities to my campaign."

Flake is senior pastor at the 23,000-member Greater Allen African Methodist Episcopal Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, Queens. The cathedral’s economic development corporation is the second largest private employer in Queens. Blackwell campaign spokesman Carlo LoParo said the Greater Allen A. M. E. business model is taught as a case study at Harvard Business School.

Flake represented Queens in Congress from 1987 to 1997, where he was a leading advocate of urban revitalization and economic empowerment policies.

Flake commutes weekly from Queens to Wilberforce. The nation's oldest black college was established before the Civil War and was a destination on the Ohio Underground Railroad.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

MoveOn.org plans Cincy gas station rallies

Liberal group MoveOn.org plans to rally at two Cincinnati gas stations today. From their release:

In Cincinnati –

On Wednesday at 5:30pm , residents of Cincinnati will hold a “Oil-Free Congress Rally” at Two Cincinnati Locations

Corner of Edwards and Madison & Corner of Queen City and Quebec.

With July 4th next week and families traveling, gas prices are on everyone’s mind. The rally will focus on the facts that 75% of Big Oil’s contributions to Congressmen went to Republicans, and then Billions of favors are given in return. It’s time for CHANGE.

"Rally for an OIL FREE CONGRESS”

Who: Cincinnati Concerned Move-on members and friends.
Where: Corner of Edwards and Madison & Corner of Quebec and Queen City
When: 5:30pm

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Next show is 10 p.m. Please tip generously.

Higher ed reporter Lori Kurtzman reports from the UC Trustees meeting today:

Could Jeff Wyler be the funniest person ever to preside over the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees?

He’s off to a good start. The newly named chairman – CEO of Jeff Wyler Automotive Family Inc.– killed at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Here was Wyler’s reaction when student trustee Nick Furtwengler explained that he’d just returned from several weeks in Europe: “You see my daughter over there?”

And here he was giving a present to outgoing Faculty Senate Chair John Cuppoletti: “This used to be from Tiffany’s, but we’ve got budget problems.”

Another poll, another Strickland lead

From the Strickland campaign...

Columbus, Ohio - Ohio gubernatorial candidate Congressman Ted Strickland holds a thirteen-point lead over Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, according to a new independent Rasmussen Reports poll released today.

The new survey's results showing Strickland with a thirteen-point lead over Blackwell, 50% to 37%, are consistent with other recent polls.

Here's a link to the poll

Monday, June 26, 2006

Blackwell seeks more legal costs in SS lawsuit

The Ohio Controlling Board gave Secretary of State Ken Blackwell the OK today to spend another $38,000 on legal fees related to a federal class-action lawsuit filed in March against his office for posting business records on the Internet that contained Social Security numbers.

On May 22, the Controlling Board approved an initial $40,000 in legal fees for Chester, Willcox & Saxbe.

Blackwell settled the lawsuit, agreeing to remove Social Security numbers from business records, but Cincinnati attorney Christian Jenkins, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a truck driver from Brown County, has said there was an ongoing disagreement over legal fees.

State Sen. Ray Miller, a Columbus Democrat, voted against today's request, which was approved by a majority vote of state legislators on the controlling board.

“We shouldn’t be throwing money at Secretary Blackwell for a legal defense that is indefensible,” Miller said. “Secretary Blackwell created this problem when he failed to use common sense and failed to heed the concerns brought forth by taxpayers and state leaders about exposing the raw personal data. He didn’t and hasn’t rectified the situation, yet he still continues to collect tens of thousands of dollars from taxpayers for the problem.”

James Lee, a spokesman for Blackwell's office, said Social Security numbers have been removed from all new filings and any individual who asked that their numbers be removed.

Lee said that within 10 days, new computer software would be applied to all existing records to remove the tens of thousands of numbers still accessible from the Internet.

In other action today, the Controlling Board approved a request from Miami University to spend $20,000 in its defense of providing domestic partner benefits in a lawsuit filed by state Rep. Tom Brinkman, a Republican from Mount Lookout.

Choice question on partner benefits in crossfire

The third in a series of Enquirer questions to gubernatorial candidates, titled Choice, continued to draw fire today when the executive director of Equality Ohio criticized the Ohio Republican Party for "tired political tactics.''

Lynne Bowman, head of the non-profit group which advocates on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Ohioans, urged "all the candidates for governor of Ohio to support state employees and their families by providing domestic partnership benefits for those in long-term relationships.''

In response to Thursday's Choice question, "Should live-in partners of state employees receive the same health and pension benefits as married state employees,'' Republican Ken Blackwell and Democrat Ted Strickland both answered "no." Independent candidates Bob Fitrakis and Bill Peirce answered "yes."

The Ohio Republican Party quickly pounced on Strickland for flip-flopping on earlier support of domestic partner benefits, although Strickland said the state's newest constitutional amendment would precent the state from offering live-in partner benefits.

"Like many Ohioans, we believe basic health coverage for all, including Ohio's state workers and their life partners, should be a priority for our next governor," Bowman said in a news statement.

"Equality Ohio welcomes thoughtful discussion about the challenges Ohioans face every day, like access to health coverage," said Bo Shuff, director of education and public policy. "However, we are very disappointed in the manner the Ohio Republican Party chose to frame their press release on this issue."

The state GOP's news release, was titled "Strickland Not Straight on Domestic Partner Benefits" in its e-mail format.

“Ted Strickland can’t even go a week without contradicting himself,” state Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said. “He says one thing to one group of people, and he says something totally different to another group.''

The full news release appears here: http://www.ohiogop.org/News/Read.aspx?ID=1159

"Ohioans are wise to this scheme," Shuff said. "It's no longer fashionable to use the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for cheap political gain."

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