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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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Winburn: 50% fewer people shot, I promise

On his new Web site, City Council candidate Charlie Winburn says crime was at a 20-year when he was in office last and that it skyrocketed when he left. He was on council from 1993-2001 and was chairman of the Law & Public Safety Committee for some of that time.

If re-elected in November, he promises to - within two years - reduce the number of calls for shots fired and for people shot by half. He says he's uniquely qualified to do this.

He writes this campaign letter "with much angst" about rising crime and signs it, "Fondly, Charlie."

Check out his crime ideas here

And if one vote-for-me Web site wasn't enough, here's # 2


Friday, April 27, 2007

Billboards Near Houses

Councilman Chris Bortz has a proposed ordinance in his economic development committee that would keep billboards at least 200 feet from a residential boundary. The topic is scheduled to come up again May 8.

Here's a new one Councilman Chris Monzel has heard complaints about. It's at Ferguson Road and Glenway Avenue, near Western Hills High School. Residents of Prosperity Place, which runs behind the billboard, can see it from their houses.

Bortz said he has been working with billboard companies for months on some new rules and that it "would be a shame" if a new billboard popped up while those arrangements were being worked out.


Thursday, April 26, 2007


House Minority Leader John Boehner - a REPUBLICAN - has been caught lighting up at the National DEMOCRATIC Club.

Read more about the Barclay smoker's scandalous smoking habits on The Washington Post's blog, The Sleuth HERE.

Schmidt vulnerable from both sides?

Politico sure thinks so. Read their take HERE.

Comparing jail (and "public safety") plans

The number crunching has begun.

A new comprehensive safety plan was proposed Wednesday by Hamilton County Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper, both Democrats.

On Thursday, this side-by-side comparison was released by Portune and Pepper showing how the plan compares to the one proposed last year (which was defeated by voters), the one proposed by Republican Commissioner Pat DeWine, and the one proposed in February by the county administration.

Also Thursday, DeWine's office (via aide Charlie Norman) released this comparison on how much the jail/public safety plans will cost.

No surprises here - UPDATED

Greater Cincinnati's all-Republican U.S. House delegation all voted AGAINST the supplemental bill intended to pay for the Iraq war last night. The three Republican senators from Ohio and Kentucky also voted against it.


Well, for one, it requires President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops out of Iraq starting Oct. 1 with a goal that all troops will be out six months later. For another, it is loaded up with countless pork projects... Read more HERE.

Here's the vote tally:

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester: Nay
Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood: Nay
Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township: Nay
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville: Nay
Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Hebron: Nay
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville: Nay
Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate: Nay
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland: Nay
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain: Yea

See the House Roll Call vote HERE.

See the Senate Roll Call vote HERE.

The bill passed the House last night 212-208. It just passed the U.S. Senate 51-46 with three senators not voting.

JFS records release called "circus"

County Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper on Wednesday criticized the "circus-type atmosphere" surrounding the release of information on county foster parents' criminal records.

The Enquirer reported Wednesday that background checks on Hamilton County foster parents and other adults living in their homes revealed that 12 percent have arrest records, something County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann called "shocking."

County commissioners had approved the ongoing background checks at the urging of Commissioner Pat DeWine, following the death of Marcus Fiesel, who died in foster care in Clermont County in August.

But the media attention, according to Pepper and Portune, may prompt knee-jerk decision making that actually harms children and families, they said.

"We are creating this very risky circus-type atmosphere that could lead to bad decisions," Pepper said. "I’m worried that we literally could be removing (children) from a home when they need to be in that home because they’re overreacting."

DeWine, a Republican who pushed for the legislation, defended the scrutiny.

"I don’t know that you can call too much attention to that," he said. "The reality is, problems in the system have been swept under the rug for far too long. People in this county ought to know about this.

"I think sunlight is the best disinfectant," he said. "At the end of the day needy families are going to suffer because of the mistakes that were made there(at the Department of Job and Family Services.)"

Pepper and Portune, both Democrats, said while it's OK to call attention to the issue, officials need to let the investigations run their course. They have hired an independent consultant to review the flagged foster case files.

"Let's not over hype this stuff," Portune said. "Let’s let the process work and let those individuals do their jobs correctly."

Even County Administrator Pat Thompson agreed.

"It’s frustrating when we have to deal with this on the front page of the newspaper," he said. "Though we’re all for sunshine, we need to give him (the consultant) a chance to do his job.

Thanks to the "Master of Disaster"

Gary Miller has become associated with disasters in Hamilton County -- in a good way. This week he was recognized for his work.

Miller is retiring as Director of Preparedness for the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Red Cross after 34 years of service.

"If there has ever been a fixture and a presence of calm within a storm; any time there is a disaster locally and volunteer are called on to go elsewhere; if there is anyone the Red Cross is associated with, it's Gary," said County Commissioner Todd Portune during a commission meeting Wednesday.

Commissioners approved a resolution recognizing Miller for his service.

"He’s been a real mainstay in the area of public safety and is a nationally recognized figure of emergency response for the Red Cross," Portune said. "For anyone whose been in the midst of that type of disaster, a friendly face is so meaningful. They know everything is going to be OK. That’s what he’s been for 34 years."

According to the resolution, Miller, also known affectionately as the "Master of Disaster," is among only seven people in the American National Red Cross who are qualified to serve as job director of a "level five" national disaster (the really bad ones.)
He's served on more than 29 national disaster operations including in New York after the Sept. 11 attacks and in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. He also led relief operations in Cincinnati during the 1997 floods, the 1999 tornado and the Styrene leak in 2005.

A humble Miller thanked the commissioners, and as a good leader does, didn't forget to give recognition to the Red Cross volunteers. "We couldn't do it without our volunteers," he said.
Miller will be honored again at a Red Cross dinner Friday.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Something everyone agrees on

It doesn't happen every day that the Senate passes a bill that all four Ohio and Kentucky senators – three are Republicans and one is a Democrat – not only vote in favor of, but are all co-sponsors on the same legislation.

The bill? It's the America COMPETES Act, which contains several measures designed to improve math and science education in the United States.

“Too few students are entering careers in math and science, and it is affecting our competitiveness in the global arena,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Lorain in northern Ohio. “This legislation gets to the root of the problem by enhancing educational opportunities in the math and sciences.”

Sen. George Voinovich, a Cleveland Republican, said that as he's traveled Ohio, it's become clear to him that the economic framework the U.S. needs to be renewed.

“It is government’s responsibility to provide the best infrastructure so that the American economy can compete in the global marketplace,” he said.

Said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville: “This bill received broad bipartisan support because it is an investment in our children, our schools and in the future of America. Our two parties’ cooperation in passing this legislation shows us how we can and should work together to accomplish important things for the American people.”

Sen. Jim Bunning, a Republican from Southgate, also co-sponsored the bill and voted for it.

The bill passed late Wednesday on a vote of 88-8 with four senators not voting.

The Banks? Let's Wait A Little Longer

Hamilton County commissioners on Wednesday morning passed a resolution showing their "commitment to the success of the Banks by shifting responsibility for implementation of the Banks Project to the Port Authority following the completion of the transition work of the Banks Working Group pursuant to an agreed-upon Mission Statement, scope, charge and Rules of Governance and Procedure, and revising and amending the Agreement that created the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority ....."

And so on.

But when a resolution with exactly the same wording came up about four hours later at Cincinnati City Hall, it didn't go straight through like Councilman Chris Bortz wanted. Instead, Mayor Mark Mallory suggested it go back to Bortz's economic development committee, which meets again May 8.

Mallory said he did that because there hadn't been adequate time for public input.

"There is no rush on this," he said. "Remember we've been talking about it for a year and a half."

Action isn't necessary anyway, the mayor said, until there's an actual Banks plan.


New sales tax plan introduced

Hamilton County commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper today introduced a new "Comprehensive Safety, Corrections and Criminal Justice System Reform Plan" that will seek a 15-year sales tax increase to build a new jail and fund a slew of additional programs including more cops on the streets and a juvenile crime-reduction program that specifically involves behavior related to lead poisoning and/or poor health.

They have not decided whether to go to voters in August or November, but public hearings on the plan will be scheduled May 16 and 23.

To read the general resolution, click here. (Resolutions were also introduced with specific election dates of Aug. 7, Aug. 28, or Nov. 6)

To read the press release, click here.

To read Todd Portune's motion and explanation of the proposal, click here.

It Didn't Take Long ....

Less than two hours after Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday voted 8-1 to oppose the possible May parole of Roland Reaves, a press release arrives by e-mail from the Hamilton County Republican Party.

Its headline? "Crowley Stands Up For Convicted Cop Killer."

Maggie Nafziger, executive director of the party, accused Crowley of slapping the entire police department in the face and said maybe Crowley would like Reaves to get out of prison, live in his neighborhood and shop at his grocery store.

Crowley was the only one to vote against Republican Chris Monzel's resolution to oppose parole for Reaves, who was first sentenced to death for the 1974 killing of Officer David Cole. That sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

Crowley, a Democrat, said he didn't feel it was appropriate to weigh in, that the question should be left to the Ohio Parole Board.

"I'm not in a position to judge what this man has done or not done for his freedom," he said.

Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell voted in favor of opposing parole, but later said he had mixed feelings and somewhat agreed with Crowley.

Councilman Cecil Thomas was on the force with Cole at the time of the killing. He remembered the incident as "very cold, callous - just outright murder."

Councilman Jeff Berding, a fellow Democrat, blasted Crowley, questioning whether Crowley used "flawed logic or has a warped value system."

He pointed out that Crowley thought it appropriate in February to ask council to weigh in on the war in Iraq.


Harris: Grass roots, hilltops and valleys

Want to see and hear City Council candidate Greg Harris' speech before his endorsement by the Democratic Party? He promises a grassroots campaign and to fight just as hard for the people in Cincinnati's valleys as those who live on the hilltops.

Go here

Divisiveness over unity

Sounds like a given, right? Cincinnati City Council should be in favor of unity. Having just been through the scare of a threatened march by neo Nazis and all.

But when Councilman Cecil Thomas surprised his colleagues this afternoon with a resolution in support of a Statement of Unity - attached to it was a list of 162 supporters, from Buddhists and rabbis to the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati - it got sent to committee rather than being passed immediately like Thomas wanted.

Councilman Chris Bortz asked that the idea be sent to Thomas' Law & Public Safety Committee for more discussion. He said he isn't against unity.

"I just felt like it should be something that should be more fully discussed," he said.

There are some pointed phrases in the statement. Like these:

1. "We stand in solidarity and support of the African-American community in Over-the-Rhine..."
2. "We are committed to a new Cincinnati and will hold the city accountable to the progress..."
3. "...we are committed to working together until Cincinnati reflects the type of city that does not attract hate groups...."


Not your typical lunchtime discussion

Rep. Steve Chabot hosted a 12:30 p.m. briefing today about missing persons and unidentified remains. About a dozen young House staff members snacked on sandwiches and chips while listening to Debra Culbertson of Blanchester describe how she's followed leads that her daughter was tossed into a woodchipper or dismembered and thrown into the Ohio River – all to no avail.

Culberson's daughter, Carrie, was kidnapped and murdered in 1996. Carrie Culberson's ex-boyfriend, Vincent Doan, was convicted of the murder but a body has never been found. Debra Culberson has fought for the last decade to require that unidentified human remains to undergo DNA testing. Currently, only five states, including Ohio, require such testing.

"With today's technology, that's totally unacceptable," Culberson told the group. "I want to be able to find Carrie and give her the Christian burial that she deserves."

Culberson appealed to the staff members from other congressional offices to speak to their bosses about getting involved in this issue.

"Dead people don't vote. Dead people don't pay taxes, so it's hard to get people to listen," she said.

Chabot, a Westwood Republican who is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, said legislation he authored has helped by requiring states and local communities that receive federal funding for DNA testing to report test results for such remains to a nationwide FBI database.

But too many people still don’t know about the database, he said.

Chabot said he plans to introduce a non-binding congressional resolution this week, which is National Crime Victims Awareness Week, to call for continued federal funding for DNA testing, better cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement, training for officers involved in these types of cases and greater accessibility of the federal DNA database to local coroners and medical examiners.

Chabot said his father, who was 78, died nine years ago this week and he finds it comforting to visit his father's grave and "talk to him in my own way."

"Debra doesn't have that opportunity to go to a particular location," he said.

We Can't Believe He Ate The Whole Thing

Roast beef, corned beef, American cheese, lettuce and tomato on grilled rye. Mayo on the side.

That was Mayor Mark Mallory's version of the Izzy's "Mark Mallory Screwball" sandwich, named of course after the mayor's errant pitch Opening Day. This weekend, he tried the sandwich, which is any two meats chosen by the customer.

The sandwich was much better than its namesake pitch.

"It was spectacular," Mallory said. "Absolutely delicious."

He followed it up later Saturday afternoon with a lemon sorbet "smoothie deal" at Graeters.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What Boehner said 90 days ago - UPDATED

On CNN Jan. 23:

CNN Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel: “How long can you and your membership give the president and give the Iraqi military, before you say, you know what, you're not doing your job?”

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester: “I think it will be rather clear in the next 60 to 90 days as to whether this plan is going to work. And, again, that's why we need to have close oversight, so that we just don't look up 60 or 90 days from now and realize that -- that this plan is not working. We need to know, as we -- as we're -- we move through these benchmarks, that the Iraqis are doing what they have to do.”

Today marks the Day No. 90, according to Democrats, who have been pitching this story like crazy. So does Boehner think the troop escalation plan has worked?


Boehner spokeswoman Jessica R. Towhey had this to say about the 90-day statement:

“Boehner’s remarks were consistent with what [David H.] General Petraeus told senators during his confirmation hearings – that as we move toward summer we will have a much better idea about the progress, or lack of it, we are making. General Petraeus is giving a briefing to lawmakers tomorrow about the progress we’ve made and the challenges that remain, and Boehner hopes his Democratic colleagues will actually show up this time so they can hear a progress report together.”


ABC News reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., plans to skip today's bipartisan briefing with Gen. Petraeus.

Boehner's statement on Pelosi's decision to skip the briefing:

“It is shameful that while our troops wake up every morning and courageously face death in defense of our freedom, the politicians in charge of Congress can’t even find the time to meet face-to-face with their commander. ... This is just the latest example of Democrats willfully ignoring the consequences of retreat, both for the region and for the safety and security of the American people.”

NAACP complains about Banks

Read Jessica Brown's story here

Monday, April 23, 2007

A killer list

Jane Prendergast and Jessica Brown report today that two Cincinnati City council candidates and a Hamilton County commissioner have compiled a list of the 1,500 most dangerous criminals in Cincinnati and Hamilton County - those with the propensity to commit murder and other acts of violence.

Read more here

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