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 23, 2007

Voinovich skips Gore

Speaking of vice presidents...

Ohio Sen. George Voinovich didn't have much interest in the global warming policies being promoted by former Vice President Al Gore, who has been on Cloud 9 ever since his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" landed two Academy Awards last month and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Gore testified before the House and Senate environmental committees on Capitol Hill last Wednesday. Voinovich, a senior Republican member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, skipped the hearing.

Of the 19 members of the committee, only Voinovich and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., were unable to attend the hearing.

"He had a scheduling conflict," Voinovich spokesman Chris Paulitz said. "But if the former vice president would like to learn about harmonizing our economic, environmental and energy needs, then Senator Voinovich is more than happy to speak with him."

Indeed, the Republicans who did attend the hearing, had a few choice words for the former vice president.

Aside from Sen. James Inhofe's tiff with Gore over whether global warming even exists, Sens. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, did their best to give Gore a reality check.
"I guess I'm saying, how are we going to pay for all these things that you're talking about," Thomas said.

Said Craig: "Your 'Inconvenient Truth' spends a lot of time discussing the problem, but little time detailing solutions my constituents can live with."

No Boston for Cincinnati?

Mayor Mark Mallory's a little frustrated at what he sees is a holdup by some City Council members of the effort to replicate The Boston Gun Project in Cincinnati. The program, credited with reducing homicides in Boston in the mid-1990s, identifies gang-involved repeat offenders and puts them on notice that if they don't get out of the criminal life, officials will "pursue the longest amount of (prison) time in the worst place possible," the mayor said.

Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.'s working out a contract with the University of Cincinnati, where policing experts will help. Subcontracts will be signed with the architect of the Boston project - David Kennedy, now at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City - and with Children's Hospital Medical Center. The hospital is the "neutral convener" of the all the parties involved and trauma surgeon Dr. Victor Garcia will be the chairman of the steering committee. He has been pushing to bring the Boston model here for years.

Council authorized Dohoney to start working out the details March 14, but decided they didn't want to give the city manager a deadline. Councilman Cecil Thomas, chairman of council's
Law and Public Safety Committee who brought the authorization measure to council, wanted the negotiations finished in the first week of April. Councilwoman Laketa Cole also asked that council see the contract and approve it first.

Mallory is frustrated by those delays. He said Kennedy is close to pulling out of the deal and going instead to one of many other cities where people want him. The UC researchers need a couple of months to organize the program and identify the players before the actual street work - Garcia wanted that started by summer - can begin.

Mallory told The Enquirer's editorial board this week: "I just need everyone to understand that we've got to move on here."

Garcia acknowledged a "palpable frustration" growing within him and Kennedy.

He offered this statistic: the average age of a gunshot victim seen at Children's: 12.9 years.


Vice President Portman?

What do you think?

It's still more than a year from the 2008 presidential primary elections, after which the winning candidate typically chooses their vice presidential candidate.

But the buzz surrounding Terrace Park's Rob Portman, the White House budget director and a former area congressman, has already started.

Last Tuesday, Portman and his wife, Jane, were in Washington to attend the annual Bryce Harlow Foundation dinner, during which Portman was honored with the Bryce Harlow Award.

This award is given each year to a "distinguished public official who has contributed to the building of strong business-government relations." Previous honorees include Minority Leader John Boehner of West Chester (2005) and Vice President Dick Cheney (1992).

At the dinner, Portman was introduced by Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery, the top Republican on the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, who couldn't help throwing out publicly what many on the Hill have been saying privately:

"He'd be a great next vice presidential candidate," McCrery said - to much applause.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wanted: Wireless Neighborhoods

Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Monzel's on a tear against tangles of wires left hanging from poles throughout the city. He says they contribute to blight in neighborhoods.

So his staff has made up a Wanted poster for circulation to residents, urging them to report all bunches of wires to his office.

"Nothing erodes a neighborhood's quality of life like blight," the poster says. "While it can take on many forms, leaving it in place contributes to the 'broken window' theory and sends a message that no one cares about the community."

Here's the poster:


Clancy-Seitz primary clash next March?

Is is a political game of chicken, or will there be a primary for the 8th District Senate seat next March?

State Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township, said today that he will run a primary if necessary next year if Sen. Patricia Clancy, R-Colerain Township, seeks re-election. “I intend to run for the Ohio Senate seat in 2008,’’ Seitz said. “There could end up being a primary.”

Clancy said, “I’m planning on running.”

Seitz said he bowed out of a bid for Senate in 2004 since Clancy was term-limited out of her House seat.

Asked about a possible appointment as county director of adult probation to get her out of Seitz’ sights, Clancy said, “That’s a rumor.”

Seitz will be term-limited out of his House seat at the end of next year.

“People are trying to talk to him (Seitz) about different positions as well,’’ Clancy said. “We’ll see what happens.”

It seems a bit early to be talking about 2008, Seitz said, but at least two people already are vying for his House seat, Robert Mecklenborg, a lawyer in Green Township, and Dick Hammersmith, a political consultant.


Should Schmidt apologize?

That's the question the Ohio Democratic Party is asking in its latest newsletter.

This is what the ODP thinks Rep. Jean Schmidt should apologize for.

Read our previous blog posts HERE and read the stories in the Enquirer on this issue HERE and HERE.


Blackwell says Strickland "is abandoning" our youth

Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State and Republican candidate for governor last year, stressed the importance of abstinence education today before a speech about marriage.

One out of every three babies in Ohio is born out of wedlock, Blackwell said.

"Unless you're totally giving up on character development of our young people, abstinence education is a must,'' Blackwell told reporters. "I believe that young people of character can overtake instincts to engage in premarital sex."

Blackwell said he would not get into the specifics of Gov. Ted Strickland's first budget plan -- which would cut $1 million over two years in the abstinence-only education program -- "but I want to talk about the principle of abandoning the (state-funded) abstinence programs. In effect what you're doing is abandoning our young people. . .He's not just abandoning programs. He's abandoning our youth."

Strickland, a Democrat, has said he thinks abstinence programs don't work well in the long run.

Blackwell argued there's evidence abstinence-only programs work.

"I will engage in the budget discussion next month after we've had an opportunity to get into the particulars of the proposal," Blackwell said.

Blackwell, who works as a fellow with the Buckeye Institute in Columbus and Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., spoke today to more than 100 people at a luncheon sponsored by the Healthy Marriage Collaboration of Central Ohio.

"Marriage is a union between a man and a woman that frequently needs our attention,'' Blackwell said.

Blackwell drew the longest applause when he proclaimed, "I've been married to the same woman for 39 years,'' referring to his wife, Rosa, who is superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools. "Marriages that stay together and show that two individuals can commit themselves to one another happen to be the most powerful examples for our young people."

Afterward, Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said, "The governor believes that, considering the very challenging budget environment we find ourselves in, that this is an unwise use of tax dollars because there is no conclusive evidence that suggests the (abstinence) program works."

Dailey said Strickland has proposed other pro-child programs, including early care in education, that reduce teen pregnancy rates.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Stan's house vs. the White House

Former President Bill Clinton was in the hood tonight.

Actually he's still here. Over in Indian Hill at the 28-bedroom house of class-action lawyer and big-time Democratic fundraiser Stan Chesley...

The fundraiser for Clinton's wife started at 5:30 p.m. and was still going strong two hours later.

Who was there? Other than the co-hosts, we hear that Cincinnati City Council member John Cranley, who lost a bid for the 1st Congressional District seat, was there - along with Dr. Victoria Wells Wulsin of Indian Hill, who lost her bid for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

We also hear that former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro was there.

UPDATE: Current Attorney General Marc Dann was also there.

Apparently Clinton spoke for 45 minutes, took a bunch of pictures with people and chatted it up with a crowd of about 75-100 guests.

UPDATE: The former president also presented Chesley's grandaughter with a 13th birthday cake! And he gave Indian Hill Mayor Tom Rink a U.S. flag, apparently a custom at Chesley fundraisers.

So what did the former president have to say about Chesley's new home?

"Stan, this is the first time I've been in your new house and I gotta tell you, your house makes the White House look like public housing!"

Or something like that.


Read Howard Wilkinson's story about Clinton's visit in today's Enquirer HERE.


Pretty please, Congress, help us pay for these

Mr. Mallory went to Washington two weeks ago to lobby for federal funding for local projects. He and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. took Capital tours with Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, and Geoff Davis, R-Hebron.

He gave the men a list of things he'd like money for. But the list had to officially come from the city with council's endorsement. Council approved it Wednesday night.

Here's the list of projects: The Central Riverfront Park project (aka The Banks park); the Brent Spence Bridge project; a police records management system required by the collaborative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice; a street construction project for Mehring Way and the central riverfront, also key to The Banks project; redevelopment of the Queen City Barrel property; improvements to Interstate 71; a sewer project for Eastern and Delta avenues; a study of streetcars; and the improvement of Beechmont and Wilmer avenues.

Total cost: more than $21 million.


Doing more for the disabled

People in wheelchairs shouldn't have to worry about being hit by oncoming traffic while trying to exit a parking garage.

They also shouldn't have to worry about too-small parking spaces or bathroom stall coat hooks installed too high up, said Hamilton County commissioner Todd Portune He floated a proposal Wednesday that would require any new county-supported building project with a budget over $1 million be reviewed to determine whether it is “welcoming” to the disabled.

"I want to make sure ... what we construct is useful for all our citizens," he said.

Portune, who used to be wheelchair-bound and now uses a walker, said he had a bad experience recently in the Fountain Square parking garage. Though technically compliant with the American with Disabilities Act standards, the handicapped parking spaces were too small, the ramps are poorly placed and the layout forces wheelchairs to turn blind curves into oncoming traffic, he said.

"It lacked in many respects," he said. Portune sent the owner, 3CDC a letter to that fact and "they are working to address the problem," he said.

DeWine makes a pitch for McCain

Former Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville has found a way to spend his leftover campaign funds: On his good friend, Sen. John McCain, the front-runner for the GOP nomination for president in 2008.

DeWine supported McCain's bid for the presidency over that of President Bush in 2000. He's also heading up McCain's campaign team in Ohio.

In an e-mail letter sent to supporters today, DeWine explained why he's supporting McCain:

"I have known John McCain for almost 25 years. We both were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. I worked closely with him during our years together in the House and during my 12 years in the U.S. Senate. No one is more qualified to be our next President. While our Party is truly fortunate to have such a strong field of qualified candidates, I believe that John McCain has what it takes - the experience, knowledge, and foresight - to lead our Nation. He is decisive. He has guts. And, he leaves no room for ambiguity or uncertainty in his reasoned policy decisions.

"I don't agree with John McCain on every issue. But, I do know that when we elect a President, we elect the Commander-in-Chief. We elect someone who is going to be making life and death decisions every single day. There is only one person I want making those decisions - and that person is John McCain.

"The fact is that the future and security of this country hinges on next year's election. The Presidency requires a person of sound judgment, with an extraordinary grasp of foreign and military affairs - someone who can navigate our country through very dangerous and unchartered waters. Again, that person is John McCain.

"Over and over, John has proven his leadership. He was right about Iraq and the need for more troops. He was also right way back in the fall of 1983. I remember John giving a courageous speech in the House against extending our military presence in Lebanon. He believed our presence would not be sufficient to keep the peace, nor were we prepared to exercise our full military capabilities. Less than one month later, 241 U.S. military personnel lost their lives in Lebanon.

"John McCain, like he has so many times, stepped forward. He didn't sit back. He didn't cower. He knows both the strengths and limits of our military forces. That kind of understanding is vital if a President is to exercise measured judgment on when and where to use our military to defend and protect our country and our interests.

"The bottom line is this: I've watched John McCain for years. I know him, and I'm for him. Please join me with your support. Whether it is through a financial contribution or your volunteer efforts, John needs your help. Visit www.JohnMcCain.com to join the team.

The e-mail included a link so people could donate online to the McCain campaign. It also contained this disclaimer: Paid for by Mike DeWine for U.S. Senate and authorized by John McCain 2008.


Who's hosting Bill Clinton tonight?

Other than class-action lawyer and big-time Democratic fundraiser Stan Chesley, whose home the fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential bid is taking place at, here are the other co-hosts:

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory
Former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune
Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper
Deborah & Jim Cummins
Richard Lawrence
Francie Pepper

According to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Enquirer, the event will kick off at 5:30 p.m. and ticket prices start at $2,300 per person.

Checks should be made payable to "
Hillary Clinton for President Exploratory Committee." They are NOT tax deductible.


DCCC sounds off on Schmidt

Of course we'd hear from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on this story... Here is what their release says:

Mean Jean Strikes Again: Claims Deplorable Conditions at Walter Reed Were “Overblown” By Media

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports today that Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH-02) thinks the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed were “overblown.”

Statement from Jennifer Crider, Communications Director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

“Jean Schmidt must be living in a parallel universe. In Mean Jean’s world the Iraq war is going well, Congressman Jack Murtha – a decorated Marine – is a coward, and the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed were simply ‘overblown’ by the media.

“Jean Schmidt supports the President’s war, she should also support our veterans' who’ve bravely served in Iraq and Afghanistan.”


- Republican Congressman C.W. Bill Young told Army leaders of that he witnessed a wounded soldier lying in a pool of urine and another one with a head injury who three times fell out of his hospital bed. [St. Petersburg Times, 3/08/07]

- Soldiers recuperating at Walter Reed have been housed in rodent-infested quarters. [Washington Post, 2/18/07]

- In Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall was torn and hung in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stood in his shower and looked up, he could see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. [Washington Post, 2/18/07]

- "I hate it," Spec. George Romero, 25, who came back from Iraq with a psychological disorder. "There are cockroaches. The elevator doesn't work. The garage door doesn't work. Sometimes there's no heat, no water.” [Washington Post, 2/18/07]


What Iraq, Afghanistan veterans have to say about Schmidt

This just in from VoteVets.org ...
Site pattern of disrespect for warriors

NEW YORK - Iraq war veterans today expressed their outrage that Rep. Jean Schmidt would assert that the conditions that many troops lived in at Walter Reed were 'overblown.' Jon Soltz, Iraq war veteran and chairman and co-founder of VoteVets.org, said:

"Once again, Jean Schmidt has no understanding, credibility, or respect of and for our military. How anyone could ever maintain that those troops who lived in squalor at Walter Reed's Building 18 were just "overblown" cases is the height of unsensitivity. Let her talk to those troops and their families and tell them that it wasn't really a problem.

"Rep. Schmidt, of course, showed the height of disrespect when she called a decorated Vietnam veteran a coward on the floor of the House of Representatives. So this is becoming a pattern on her part.

"The only thing that's overblown here is the notion that Jean Schmidt respects those who served our nation in combat."

VoteVets.org is a pro-military organization committed to the destruction of terror networks around the world, with force when necessary. It represents the Voice of America's 21 Century Patriots - those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. It primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on behalf of troops, veterans and their families.



He's on the Internet now....

Council candidate John Eby wants everyone to know his Web site, www.johneby.com, is live as of today. There he is on the page, standing in front of a lovely photo of the skyline.

The Westwood Republican already has been endorsed by the party. He ran unsuccessfully in 2005, but notes on the site the endorsements he got that year: the Fraternal Order of Police; the International Association of Fire Fighters; Right To Life; The Cincinnati Homebuilders Association; and The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Eby shares some of his views, including that when a majority of City Council members voted in February to oppose President Bush's troop surge, he "blew a gasket."


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sinker? Changeup? Curveball? He's not saying

More questions today at Mayor Mark Mallory about his preparations to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day, April 2.

This time, Fox 19 videographer James Berry brought it up at the mayor's weekly media availability. Berry wanted to know what kind of pitch Mallory plans to throw.

The mayor was coy: "That, of course, remains a mystery until I get the signal from the catcher."
He did admit to a little practicing - "I'm loosening up the arm a little."

He'll do the toss on his 45th birthday.

"It's just a fun thing to do," he said. "I'm honored to be asked."


Schmidt says Walter Reed claims "overblown"

Rep. Jean Schmidt wrote in her weekly column sent out to reporters on Monday that after hearing about the "deplorable living conditions" at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center from a Feb. 18 story in The Washngton Post, she decided to take "several hours" to travel to the hospital in Washington, D.C., to see the situation "first hand."

So what did our investigative congresswoman discover, only a month after the story broke?

"I toured all four outpatient housing facilities, and was pleasantly surprised to find that three of the buildings contained clean living spaces, updated television and computer access, and full access to cooking units or cafeterias," Schmidt wrote.

That's not all she found.

Schmidt: "I also toured Building 18, which is the focus of the Washington Post's story. This building, which stood empty for years and is slated for demolition, was put back into use for housing purposes due to the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan . While I believe that this building is beneath the standard of what is acceptable, I think it is wrong to suggest that mold found behind an air conditioner somehow is an excuse to say that all of our veterans are receiving substandard medical care. It is important to remember that the building in question is an apartment building, not a medical facility. Further the building was scheduled to be torn down within two years.

"There is no question that Building 18 should have been upgraded or not in use at all. Postponing Building 18's demolition and allowing its use for living quarters was a poor management decision, and the decision makers should be - and have been - punished."

Her conclusion?

"I found the situation at Walter Reed to be overblown by both politicians and the media."

Read Schmidt's full column, titled "My Examination of Walter Reed Army Medical Center," on her congressional Web site HERE.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Kentucky delegation more powerful than Ohio's

The Kentucky congressional delegation may be smaller, but its eight members are far more powerful overall than the 20 lawmakers representing Ohio, according to a new set of congressional power rankings released last week by Congress.org.

Most of that is due to Sen. Mitch McConnell's position as Senate minority leader. According to the rankings, the Louisville Republican is the fifth most powerful member of that chamber.

Sen. Jim Bunning of Southgate was much farther down the list, coming in at No. 64. But even he outranked Ohio's two senators.

Surprisingly, Ohio freshman Sen. Sherrod Brown was listed as more powerful than former governor and eight-year veteran Sen. George Voinovich. Brown, a Democrat, was listed at No. 84 while Voinovich, a Republican, came in at No. 90.

In the House, Minority Leader John Boehner of West Chester was ranked fifth out of 435 members.

Everyone else in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky delegation, however, was listed on the bottom half of the power chart: Rep. Steve Chabot was No. 296, Rep. Mike Turner was No. 324, Rep. Geoff Davis was 397, and Rep. Jean Schmidt was No. 409.

The average of the scores ranked Ohio 40th among all states while Kentucky was 25th.

(This post was also included in today's "Inside Washington" column. Read the read of the column to find out what your lawmakers did in Washington last week, from bills introduced to what bills passed.)


As if there's any doubt...

Charlie Winburn's having his first fund-raiser Tuesday night for his Cincinnati City Council campaign. But he's not announcing yet that he's actually running.

Remember, of course, that the Republican Party has already endorsed him as one of five candidates expected to run this fall. Still, Charlie's not announcing yet.

Supporters meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Queen City Club.

The 56-year-old was term-limited off council four years ago and ran unsuccessfully in 2005 for mayor.

"We're in this to win," he said today.

But he's not announcing anything yet.


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