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 22, 2006

Yes, we have a budget

Read Dan Klepal's story here

Read the budget motion here

And here's Leslie Ghiz's statement

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The lintel is falling!

Bill Weathers reports:

To reinforce his argument for the need for a county jail, Hamilton County Sheriff Simon L. Leis Jr. sent out a photo of deteriorating window frame at the Queensgate Facility to the county commissioners Thursday.

The photo illustrates some of the structural damage to the Queensgate facility that will eventually have to be repaired, sheriff’s spokesman Steve Barnett said this morning.
Paying for such repairs would be “putting good money after bad trying to patch this place up,” Barnett said.

On Wednesday, Leis met with the commissioners to ask them to approve spending public money so he could hire private attorneys to sue the commissioners and force them to build a jail.
The commissioners unanimously rejected the request, and Leis then said he would take the issue to court.

In November, Hamilton County voters defeated a proposed sales tax increase to pay for a new jail.

Sorry readers - For some reason, the photo wouldn't upload.

Here's the e-mail:

-----Original Message-----From: Barnett, Steve [mailto:SBarnett@sheriff.hamilton-co.org] Sent: Thursday, December 21, 2006 9:49 AMTo: pat.dewine@hamilton-co.org; phil.heimlich@hamilton-co.org; Portune, Todd; patrick.thompson@hamilton-co.orgSubject: Failing Lintel at the Queensgate Facility


Sheriff Leis requested that I forward the attached photo to you. The photo shows the lintel above windows on an outside wall of the Queensgate Facilty. As you likely know, a lintel is a horizontal piece across the top of an opening (as a window or door) that carries the weight of the structure above it. When a lintel fails enough the wall will collapse.

In addition to this severe structural damage at Queensgate, we have also been informed that the rear wall is bowing. That wall is located above loading docks and the inmates outdoor recreational area. This problem is more difficult to show in a photograph.

Steve Barnett

30 minutes on Columbus time

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory recessed Wednesday's city council meeting at 3:15 p.m., saying they were taking a break for "30 minutes, more or less" so council members could continue negotiating over a 2007-08 budget.

The mayor reconvened that meeting at 2:15 a.m. Thursday morning. "We are back from a 30-minute recess ... more or less," the mayor said to a roar of laughter.

Mallory, who spent years in Columbus as a representative in the House, and then as a Senator explained he was measuring time in Columbus terms.

"In Columbus, if you say a 5-minute break, it's an hour. A 15-minute break is two hours. And if you say a 30-minute break, it could mean anything," he said.

Council will reconvene its meeting tonight at 6, when they hope to have a budget to approve.

E-mails we get at 2:49 a.m.

Media Update

From Mayor Mark Mallory
City of Cincinnati

The Mayor reconvened City Council at 2:15 am after all day budget negotiations. A brief update was given on the status of negotiations, and the Mayor recessed until Thursday, December 21 at 6:00 pm.
Please contact me in the morning with any further questions.
Thank you.

Jason Barron
Communications Director
Mayor Mark Mallory

If you didn't make it until 2:30 a.m.

City Hall reporter Dan Klepal did. And he has the city budget update here

Cranley talking to Strickland's people today

In addition to leading a group of Cincinnati city council members in approving a budget, council member John Cranley will meet with Gov.-elect Ted Strickland's staff in Columbus to talk about appointments and transitioning into the office.

When asked if an appointment is imminent for himself, Cranley responded: "I'm not expecting anything. My intent is to see where the conversation goes."

Cranley said the trip won't impede negotiations on the city budget. "I'll be part of the process, either here in person or on the phone."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pepper's shoddy shoes become "famous"

Yesterday's blog item in this space about the holey shoes Hamilton County Commissioner-elect David Pepper is wearing (left) is drawing comparisons to Adlai Stevenson and an award-winning photo (at right).

Pepper, who while campaigning wore holes in the sole of his left shoe that also was missing its heel, admitted he hadn't taken the time to buy new dress shoes since his successful campaign seven weeks ago. He admitted today that the heels are missing from both of his shoes.

A Washington, D.C. friend of Pepper's noted the blog item and photo were posted to another web site where he noticed it. The site compared the photo of Pepper's shoe to that of a photo snapped in 1952 of a seated Stevenson on the presidential campaign trail.

Here is what the web site of the Flint Journal said about the photo of Stevenson's shoes, taken by one of its photographers. The photo was a Pulitzer Prize for William M. Gallagher.

"1952 Journal photographer William M. Gallagher's picture of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson (right) and Michigan Gov. G. Mennen Williams would have been just one more picture of a politician until Stevenson crossed his legs, displaying a hole in the sole of his shoe. The flawed shoe was totally out of character for the aristocratic, intellectual Stevenson, who was having difficulty establishing himself as a candidate of the people in his race against Dwight D. Eisenhower. Gallagher's shot, taken with camera held at arm's length so Stevenson wouldn't realize what was happening, became one of the great political photos of all time and winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Gallagher was a Journal photographer from 1941 until his death in 1975, at age 52."

The photos show Stevenson with a hole in his right shoe, Pepper in his left.

"The best part is the hole in Stevenson's shoes is a whole lot smaller than mine," Pepper cracked.

Heimlich: I need a job

Today's Hamilton County Commission meeting was the last for Republican Phil Heimlich (pictured), defeated by David Pepper in the Nov. 7 election.

Heimlich took the opportunity at the close of the meeting to thanks lots of people for helping him in his four years on the commission -- after fellow commissioners Todd Portune and Pat DeWine spoke about Heimlich.

DeWine praised him for having the "guts" to take on issues -- like backing DeWine in a primary against then-fellow Republican Commissioner John Dowlin -- not many politicians would.

"Sometimes you don't get the credit for what you've done," DeWine said.

Portune lauded Heimlich for staying true to his beliefs even when politically unpopular and suspects Heimlich political career isn't over.

"My guess is this is not the end ... and we're going to see you resurface" on the political scene, Portune said.

It's been rumored that Heimlich could be talked into taking on U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, for the 2nd Congressional District race in two years. Heimlich's Symmes Township home is in the 2nd District.

Heimlich, though, said he has no clue what his future holds.

"The question everyone has been asking is 'What are you going to do?' I don't know short-term and I don't know long-term," Heimlich said.

Leis a "side show"

After Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. showed up at today's commission meeting and threatened to go to court to force commissioners to fund a jail, Commissioner Todd Portune called the incident "a side show."

Portune and fellow Commissioners Phil Heimlich and Pat DeWine were bothered at Leis' request. He wanted commissioners to approve spending public money to hire a private law firm so Leis could sue commissioners to force them to pay for a new jail -- after voters rejected such a plan last month.

After commissioners unanimously rejected Leis' request at today's meeting, Leis said he was going to court to get a judge to force commissioners to pay for a new jail.

After the meeting, Leis didn't want to answer questions from The Enquirer because he was mad the Enquirer quoted him two weeks ago -- accurately -- cursing about his suggestion that commissioners unilaterally impose a sales tax to pay for a new jail.

In that interview, which Leis knew was being tape-recorded, he said "Just build the son of a bitch" referring to the jail.

He also was upset commissioners are looking at taking some of the millions his office seizes from drug sellers to help pay for a jail. Leis was quoted -- accurately -- as saying that amount of money was "a pimple on the ass" of the total cost of a $230 million jail.

After the meeting, Leis criticized commissioners for spending $7 million to send up to 300 prisoners per day to Butler County to ease jail overcrowding at the Hamilton County Justice Center.

Leis said commissioners didn't have the money to pay for the $7 million cost of that program because it was supposed to be paid for by the plan to increase the sales tax -- an issues voters soundly rejected.

The question Leis refused to answer from The Enquirer, after he said that, was "If commissioners can't afford that $7 million, how do you expect them to pay for a jail?"

Later, he told other reporters the responsibility of paying for a jail is the commissioners' problem, not his.

Senate passes $1.8 billion capital budget

A few minutes after midnight, the Ohio Senate passed a $1.76 billion capital construction budget today which includes $700 million for the state's school facilities program and another $500 million in college and university projects.

Nearly $7 billion has been spent on public school construction and renovation projects since 1997, said state Sen. John Carey, R-Wellston.

House Bill 699 passed 32-1 after 30 minutes of debate.

About $60 million was approved for Cincinnati-area projects, excluding separate money approved for universities.

The capital budget also includes $120 million for road, bridge and water projects and $50 million in new Third Frontier projects.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No vote yet on the state capital budget

For those readers who like to burn the midnight oil, the Ohio Senate was still meeting tonight. It was bidding farewell to term-limited senators and others elected to Congress.

If you'd like to watch the end-of-the-year session live, go here

Bouchard named judge

A current assistant prosecutor is Hamilton County’s newest Municipal Court judge.

Bernie Bouchard will begin his new job Thursday after being appointed Tuesday by outgoing Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, before Taft leaves office at the end of the year.

Bouchard was the second of two Hamilton County Municipal Court judgeship Taft announced Tuesday.

Bouchard, previously a Hamilton County Juvenile Court magistrate, replaces Alex Triantafilou who now is a Common Pleas Court judge.

Bouchard holds undergraduate and masters degrees from Xavier University and a law degree from Ohio Norther’s law school.

Earlier in the day, Taft appointed Magistrate Richard Bernat to a municipal Court judgeship effective Thursday.

Mallory: Forced takeover of Delta bad for city

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory said Tuesday that a forced merger between Delta, which operates a regional hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, and U.S. Air would be a bad deal for the city -- and the entire region.

Mallory said such a merger would likely mean the airport would no longer be used as a hub.

"It would be bad for airline travel in general," Mallory said, adding the airlines have similar service routes, hubes that are close together and serve similar parts of the country. "It doesn't achieve anything."

In a prepared statement, Mallory wrote: "Delta should be commended for their commitment to their employees, their employees' families, and Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. A forced merger is never a good thing. We need to ensure that we maintain our Airport as a regional hub, that we preserve the quality of service, and that we protect the jobs that are vital to our region."

Mallory likely to veto Berding's budget

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory called the budget proposal supported by five council members – Chris Bortz, Jeff Berding, Laketa Cole, Leslie Ghiz and Chris Monzel – “unworkable” on Tuesday, indicating he would probably veto the spending plan if it is passed during Wednesday’s council meeting.

There are two competing budget proposals. The alternative budget has the backing of the mayor, along with John Cranley, David Crowley, Cecil Thomas and Jim Tarbell.

“From my standpoint, it’s not a workable budget,” Mallory said. “The cuts they propose to the Health Department and human services are unreasonable. It’s just not workable.”

The mayor doesn’t have a vote on the budget, but his opinion is important because he can veto the document and it would take six votes to override that action.

Berding said his group fully expects the mayor to veto their version of the budget.

“Then we’ll have two options: we can reach a compromise or we can pass a continuation budget” and keep working on it, Berding said.

There is a public hearing on the budget tonight at 6 p.m. at Cincinnati City Hall.

Poor, poor Pepper

David Pepper really pounded the pavement in winning the Nov. 7 election and becoming Hamilton County’s newest commissioner.

The proof is in his shoes (pictured).

When Pepper greeted a reporter today at his Walnut Street law office, the Democrat walked across a tile floor and his shoes clicked on the tile.

He was jokingly asked if he was wearing taps on his shoes as does Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr.

A sheepish Pepper picked up his foot to reveal that his left shoe not only had a huge hole in the sole, but also that the same shoe had no heel. Instead, it had exposed nails where the heel used to be.

He denied that he was too broke to buy new shoes after having loaned his campaign $350,000 to pay for television advertising.

Pepper, son of former Procter and Gamble chairman John Pepper, said he’s just been too busy since the election.

“I don’t do errands well,” Pepper said.

He takes office Jan. 2.

Hopefully in new shoes.

Bernat becomes a judge

A magistrate for 10 years, Richard A. Bernat (pictured) becomes a Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge beginning Thursday.

Two weeks before he leaves office, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft appointed Bernat, 60, of Colerain Township, to the judgeship to replace Elizabeth Mattingly who resigned to become a Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court judge.

Bernat earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and a law degree from Chase College of Law.

A magistrate hears cases referred to him by Common Pleas Court judges. The cases can be criminal, but most are civil and range from protection orders to jury trials.

Prior to becoming a magistrate, Bernat had a private practice.

Taft continues to make judicial appointments before he leaves office. Judicial appointments are made by the sitting governor. Taft, a Republican, is appointing Republicans including Bernat.

Bernat has served on the Northwest Board of Education, the Hamilton County Board of Zoning Appeals and was a member the Greenhills Forest Kiwanis Club.

As a Municipal Court judge, Bernat will be paid $107,500 per year.

The Hamilton County magistrate’s job that was posted today pays $76,198-$103,171.

Freedom Center in line for $2 million

Jon Craig has the story at Cincinnati.com here

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yates: Limit campaign contributions

After watching a record $2.7 million spent on this fall’s Hamilton County commission race, one state lawmaker had to do something.

State Rep. Tyrone K. Yates, D-Evanston/East Walnut Hills, (pictured) has decided to introduce a bill – by no later than the first quarter of next year – that would limit the amount individuals could give in county-wide elections.

Yates, who represents Ohio’s 33rd District. Admits “it is almost impossible” to take money and power out of the political process, but views his daft bill as a way to make it more fair to all potential candidates.

Yates has a draft of the bill that would limit campaign contributions in county races – where there currently is no limit – to between $2,500 to $10,000 per individual.

Yates’ plan, he added, is to avert the “financial thermonuclear war” that took place this last election when both Commissioner Phil Heimlich and successful challenger David Pepper raised more than $1.3 million – each doubling the previous record for a commission race when Heimlich raised $592,867 to win his 2002 race.

Heimlich relied on a few big-bucks contributors – Carl Lindner, Richard Farmer, Robert Rhein -- for much of his money this time. They contributes tens of thousands at a time.

All but about $500,000 of Pepper’s money came from his family – or his own pocket.
Pepper, who defeated Heimlich 53-47 percent despite being outspent, believes Yates’ proposal is a great idea.

“These races shouldn’t be attracting these kinds of dollars,” Pepper said.

Heimlich is skeptical, saying the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that limits can’t be placed on the amount a candidate can give from his own campaign.

“It won’t work. If you limit contributions,” Heimlich said, “that means people who have vast wealth like my opponent control the process.”

Pepper received about $460,000 from his parents – his father, John Pepper, is the former chairman of Procter & Gamble – and the candidate loaned his campaign $375,000.

He did that because that was the only way to offset Heimlich’s multiple contributions for large dollars from billionaires.

Much of the money paid for television advertising.

“My goal in life is not to enrich television stations,” Pepper said.

In the final few weeks of the campaign, Pepper looked at polling and saw he had the lead, looked at the endorsements and saw he was winning most of them. But when he looked at the finances he saw what he expected would be an onslaught of spending by Heimlich’s camp that could offset the polling and endorsements.

“That was the only way to keep up with (Heimlich),” Pepper said of the money he loaned his campaign and his parents’ contributions.

Heimlich, though, accused Pepper of relying on his parents and family money to win the election – noting that one of the reforms Pepper preached for during the campaign was a limit on contributions.

That’s the point, Pepper countered.

Were there limits on amounts individuals can give, Pepper’s family wouldn’t have been able to give the money it did.

“I raised more money without (family) money than has ever raised before and the truth is that wasn’t even close,” Pepper said.

Pepper admitted he essentially wiped out his personal finances by loaning his campaign $375,000. He hopes to repay that loan from future campaign contributions.

There are limits on city, state, federal and presidential races, Yates noted, so there also should be on countywide races.

“By having campaign limits, we’ll have a more responsible debate (on issues),” Yates said.
Yates’ draft bills calls for the limit to disappear if a candidate announces he will self-fund his campaign.

Heimlich, whose parents gave their son $25,000 in campaign contributions, said it was unfair even his well-to-do family – his father is the noted doctor Henry Heimlich, his mother heir to the Arthur Murray dance estate – couldn’t compete with the Pepper wealth in the race.

“If you put those kinds of limit on it, guys like me don’t have a shot,” Heimlich said.

What it cost
In this year’s race for Hamilton County commissioner, a record $2.7 million was raised by both candidates:
* Incumbent Republican Phil Heimlich -- $1.39 million for 134,595 votes. That’s $10.33 per vote;
* Commissioner-elect David Pepper -- $1.341 million for 151,999 votes. That’s $8.82 per vote.

Read the candidates’ full campaign reports at the Politics Extra blog below.

Thompson = Good but not great

Hamilton County Administrator Patrick Thompson (pictured) got high marks in his job evaluation today – but he didn’t get all of the bonus money possible.

Republican Commissioners Pat DeWine and Phil Heimlich gave Thompson high marks for his first year in the $210,000-per-year job.

They also cast the two votes last fall that resulted in Thompson getting the job.
Thompson, 47, of White Oak, came to Hamilton County from Jefferson County, Colo., just outside Denver.

He was brought in to rein in government spending and address Hamilton County’s uneasy financial picture.

In addition to his base salary, Thompson’s two-year contract includes two incentive clauses that could have resulted in him earning an additional $14,000 this year.

He earned one incentive – and the $7,000 bonus that came with it – by submitting a proposed 2007 budget that wasn’t higher than the current budget.

Commissioners approved Monday a temporary budget that eventually will result in a $255 million 2007 budget -- $1.5 million less than the 2006 budget.

Thompson also could have received another $7,000 bonus by submitting plans to save at least $10 million in county spending through managed competition.

Thompson presented ideas that resulted in $5 million in savings, but has laid such a strong framework for the other savings, commissioners believed, that they gave half of that bonus.

In all, Thompson received $10,500 in bonuses.

Commissioner Todd Portune, who cast the lone vote opposing Thompson’s hiring last year, couldn’t be reached to comment on his review of Thompson.

Commissioner campaign finance reports

Here are the final campaign finance reports from the Hamilton County Commissioner race where Democratic challenger David Pepper defeated incumbent Republican Phil Heimlich. Each candidate spent more than $1 million.

Here is Pepper's report.

Here is Heimlich's report.

Inauguration details

From the Strickland inaugural committee

Strickland-Fisher Inaugural Committee Announces Details of Swearing-In Ceremony
Strickland Chooses Second Harvest to Benefit from Inaugural Celebrations, to Visit Cleveland Foodbank Today

Columbus, Ohio – The Strickland-Fisher Inaugural Committee announced today that the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony of Ted Strickland as governor and Lee Fisher as lieutenant governor will take place at 11:30 a.m., January 13th, 2007, on the West Lawn of the Ohio Statehouse.

The event will be non-ticketed and open to the public.

Thomas Moyer, Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, will administer the oath of office for Strickland. Stanley Fisher will lead the oath for son Lee Fisher. Strickland will give his inaugural address following the oaths of office.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Ted and Frances Strickland, joined by Lee and Peggy Fisher, will greet the public in the Statehouse Atrium.

Additional inaugural festivities, including the Ohio inaugural ball, will be announced in detail in the coming days.

Strickland encourages those Ohioans attending the inaugural festivities to remember those who are hungry in Ohio by donating a bag of non-perishable foods or making a monetary donation to the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

"As we celebrate the joy of the season," Strickland said, "we can give hope and sustenance to our less-fortunate neighbors by making a contribution to Second Harvest's network of foodbanks. I can think of no better way to mark the beginning of our new administration."

The Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks is the state's largest charitable response to hunger. Its 12 regional foodbanks serve more than 3,000 member charities throughout Ohio, touching all 88 counties.

"We are honored and humbled to be selected to benefit from the inaugural events for Governor-elect Strickland," said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. "Governor-elect Strickland has been an extraordinary leader in his long-time commitment to fighting hunger in our state and across the nation."

Governor-elect Strickland will tour and meet with volunteers at the Cleveland Foodbank today. The Cleveland Foodbank, a regional foodbank of Second Harvest, serves more than 150,000 people annually.

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