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, March 09, 2007

LoParo lands job at Buckeye Institute

Carlo LoParo, Ken Blackwell's spokesman at the Secretary of State and Treasurer's offices the past 12 years, has been hired as vice president for communications at the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions.

Blackwell, a Republican who lost the November election for governor to Ted Strickland, joined the Buckeye Institute's staff last month as a Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow. LoParo also worked as press secretary for the Ohioans for Ken Blackwell campaign.


Standing room only for three former governors

Three former governors -- Bob Taft, John Gilligan and Richard Celeste -- will participate in a panel discussion Sunday afternoon in Columbus on state government, politics and education.
With Gov. Ted Strickland giving his first State of the State speech Wednesday, and rolling out his first budget Thursday, the ex-chief executives will be asked about their "lessons learned" in public office.

Former state Sen. Patrick Sweeney and Tom Suddes, a columnist and former statehouse reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, will moderate.

The afternoon event at the Hyatt on Capitol Square is totally booked, so it will be standing-room-only for any surprise visitors.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Terrific statesman, and not a bad golfer"

When Glendale Mayor Dr. Thomas Todd (on the left) retired this week so he could do more traveling, he told the Enquirer he wanted people to recall him as a man on integrity.

He's more than that, said two of the Hamilton County commissioners on Wednesday.
"He's a great human being and terrific statesman and not a bad golfer," said Commissioner Todd Portune," taking a moment to voice his thoughts on the man.

Added Commissioner Pat DeWine, "not a bad biker either."

Big Brother or big savings?

Hey county workers: don't go out gambling at the riverboat when you're supposed to be checking a sewer line in Wyoming or inspecting a building in Sycamore Township.

New technology might one day allow the county to track its employees whereabouts at all times- and save some money in the process.

County commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper are taking keen interest in new technology being used by the Hamilton County health district. The Enquirer reported Tuesday that the health district is using digital technology to help its workers download information while in the field, put inspection reports online, and eventually allow them to travel to the their job sites without stopping into the office first.

"They get their assignments on their phone and go out on their assignments from home. The GPS tracks them," Portune said. Portune and Pepper proposed a joint motion Wednesday--without including Commissioner Pat DeWine, the lone Republican on the three-member board -- to evaluate the $17,000 software program and see if it would make sense for any county departments.

"It's great for accountability, so it enhances productivity," Portune said, noting it would also save money in mileage costs if employees didn't have to stop into the office first.

"Commissioner Pepper and I are saying this is the kind of technology we should be employing throughout the county."

Ohio sold $55 million in Mega Millions tickets

Ohio sold more than $55 million in Mega Millions tickets since the last jackpot winner on Jan. 12 including $15 million this week alone for yesterday's record $390 million, state Lottery Commission officials said today.

Winning tickets were drawn in New Jersey and Georgia.

According to the state, about 29 percent of its annual $2.2 billion in profits went to public education last year, or $646 million. Of the total $144 million in sales in Hamilton County last year, about $31 million were local profits, of which nearly $9 million went to Cincinnati Public Schools.

Today's news story is here:

To see the full breakdown of Ohio Lottery proceeds by county, go here:


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

So what's this tax really for?

Everyone knows of it as the "jail tax." But what is it really?

County Commissioner David Pepper argues that a proposed income tax increase, that could be before voters as early as August, is about much more than just a jail.

"The actual proposal will include putting police on street, and programs to avoid re-entry," Pepper said.

It will also, of course, include the construction of a new 1,800-bed jail, he said. But his point is this: this tax will be about a comprehensive approach to fixing the overcrowding problem, not just building a better warehouse.

Pepper believes voters defeated an income tax levy in November because it dealt only with the jail. He hopes the difference in the next proposal -- the fact that it will be a comprehensive approach to solving the problem -- will also make the difference at the polls.

"Just building a jail will not make us safer," he said. "But a program that diverts prisoners, houses more inmates, and puts police on the streets, will."

Mallory headed to Washington

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and City Manager Milton R. Dohoney, Jr., are headed to Washington this week.

What for? Why to lobby for funding in next year's federal budget, of course!

The pair will be on Capitol Hill this Thursday meeting with members of the Greater Cincinnati congressional delegation, including Reps. Jean Schmidt and Steve Chabot, both R-Ohio.

Strickland scolds agencies on eating out

A week before he unveils his first two-year budget, Gov. Ted Strickland today released a list of spending by 76 state agencies and commissions.

"It is troubling that such a large amount was spent over the last two years, even as we face such a difficult budget environment and our state faces such great needs in education, job creation and healthcare," Strickland said in a prepared statement.

Keith Dailey, Strickland's spokesman, said the governor has ordered an immediate, temporary freeze on meals and local seminars upon discovering nearly $4 million was spent during the past 20 months, half of it by eight departments.

Read Strickland's announcement here:

An Excel file detailing agency-by-agency spending is here:

A cheatsheet translating state departments is here:


Mallory Hearts Oysters

Jane Prendergast reports:

Mayor Mark Mallory is a big fan of downtown’s new McCormick & Schmick’s on Fountain Square. He eats there a lot.

Today, though, the trip had a purpose beyond the mayor’s desire for fried oysters, which he ordered and declared "excellent." He met with the restaurant chain's regional managers to talk about the restaurant’s success in a spot where some critics said there wouldn’t be enough business downtown to keep such a place in the black.

He learned at the meeting that Cincinnati delivered the corporation its strongest opening in years, second only to Baltimore. The company started more than 30 years ago in Portland and now operates about 40 restaurants across the U.S. Cincinnati’s opened in November.

"I think that tells a story of the strength and vitality of downtown Cincinnati," Mallory said. "People do want to be there."

$1 million for an election?

Update below

Jessica Brown reports:

The Enquirer reported today that Todd Portune wants a sales tax vote in August.

Now it turns out that could cost taxpayers $1 million, according to County Commissioner Pat DeWine.

Voters defeated the sales tax measure in November. But Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune says the jail likely can’t be built without this tax. He wants to rework the proposal and change state law to allow an Aug. 28 special election on the issue. Law currently allows tax issues to appear on the ballot only in primary or general elections.

DeWine, the lone Republican commissioner, opposes the move.

“It is simply wrong to spend over $1 million in taxpayers’ money in a transparent attempt to reduce voter turnout,” he said.

The last four special elections in Hamilton County averaged a 30 percent voter turnout rate, he said.

“This is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the democratic process by deliberately putting this on the ballot when people will least notice it,” he said.

The third commissioner, David Pepper, sides with Portune. The county is currently spending millions from its reserve funds to house prisoners in Butler County and is running out of money, he said.

“If there’s a proposal that’s ready I support doing it sooner rather than later,” Pepper said. “There’s a level of crisis that Pat perhaps doesn’t appreciate.”

Updated 6 p.m.

Portune says the county would have spent nearly $1 million anyway had they decided to put the issue on the May ballot. He estimated it would have cost $850,000. So cost isn’t really the issue, he said. Commissioners decided not to pursue a May vote because there were too many proposal details still to be ironed out.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Petition drive started in response to strip club law

A Cincinnati man began a petition drive today, in response to a Sharonville group's legislative effort to place further restrictions on strip clubs and other adult-oriented businesses.

David Howard of Finneytown created a petition here.

Citizens for Community Values has collected more than 220,000 petition signatures and is asking state lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 16, which would limit club hours and keep patrons at least six-feet away from exotic dancers. The full initiative, as introduced in the state Senate, can be found here.

If the Ohio General Assembly passes new strip club rules by the end of next month, they become law. A proposed initiative goes on the Nov. 6 ballot only if state legislators fail to vote, or make changes that proponents don't agree with.

For more details, see today's article here:

Citizens for Community Values would have to collect another 120,000 by Aug. 8 to place the statewide initiative before Ohio voters on Nov. 6.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Prez candidates here early and often

Howard Wilkinson has the story today

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