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, June 22, 2007

Republican vs. Republican, Round Two

You may recall Si Leis' letter countering Pat DeWine's letter on the jail tax. Now comes a Pat DeWine letter countering Si Leis' letter countering - uh, where were we?

Dear ...

You may recently have received an email or letter from Sheriff Leis regarding his support for the new sales tax enacted by my Democratic colleagues without a public vote. It's not common practice to attack fellow Republican officeholders and I don't intend to do that. But I do want to respond to the Sheriff's comments.

I certainly appreciate the need to expand the County's jail capacity. Last year I engineered the deal with Butler County that added 400 jail spaces at a cost that is much less than the current proposal - this was the largest increase in County jail space in 15 years. I also worked with Prosecutor Deters and Sheriff Leis to place on the ballot the proposal last year that was ultimately rejected. That proposal would have added the same number of spaces as the current plan, but would have cost $450 million less and been strictly limited to new jail construction

After the plan was defeated by voters at the polls, I put together a plan that would have added new jail space within the existing County budget by keeping our existing facilities open, making cuts in non-essential spending and building the space we need. Unfortunately, the Democratic majority refused to consider any plan except a costly new tax increase.

I believe that any plan must be consistent with Republican principles of limited government and controlled taxation and that the residents of the County must be allowed to vote on the plan.

Early this year, the Sheriff asked me to support the Democrats' tax plan that would include new jail space. I expressed concern about what I had learned regarding their intention to include significant new non- jail county spending in their plan. The Sheriff told me to my face that the Democrats needed to include this new social spending in their plan so that they could win support from liberal elements in their own party, and he asked me to put the tax on without a public vote.

Then, the Sheriff told me that he would campaign against me if I opposed the Democrats' tax hike.

Maybe the easiest thing to do at the time would have been to go along with the Sheriff and my Democratic colleagues and support the plan. But when I ran for the Commission, I said I was running "because our taxes are too high."

There is no way that I could support the plan that the Democrats enacted and remain true to my campaign pledge and Republican principles.

The Sheriff has been consistent in supporting ANY plan that will add jail space no matter the cost. Last year, he supported the proposal of then-candidate David Pepper, John Cranley and other City Council Democrats to build a casino in Over-the-Rhine to fund a new jail. He also supported the proposal that Commissioner Heimlich and I advanced to fund new jail construction for $450 million less than the current plan. As Commissioner, however, I felt I had a broader duty to the public, and couldn't support just any plan without considering the costs.

Now, to the specifics of the current plan. Quite simply, it is misleading to say that the current proposal is just about building a jail. It's not. The numbers don't lie. Of the $777 million their tax will generate only $198 million is slated for jail construction. Fully $92 million goes for new social programs. The rest goes for other new programs, subsidies for local communities, and County operations. The jail operating costs have always been paid for out of the County general fund. And that's the way it should be. As Commissioners, we have an obligation to pay for our County operations out of our existing revenue stream - not go to the taxpayers for a massive tax increase.

Despite its $777 million cost, it is UNDISPUTED that the plan will add fewer than 400 new jail spaces when you take into account the spaces we are currently using in Butler County. And in reality, it will be fewer new spaces than that.

You see, the Democrats have already announced that they intend to lease some of the new spaces to the federal government to house federal prisoners even though the federal government will not reimburse us ANY of the capital costs of the new facility. So the sad reality is that we are undertaking a massive spending plan that will only mean a minimal increase in the number of jail spaces. We'll have nicer space, but not much more.

As Commissioner, I am very concerned about the high rate of taxation in Hamilton County. Already Hamilton County taxpayers pay the second highest county property taxes of all 88 counties in the state, they pay the highest sales taxes in the region, and these taxes are literally driving people out of the County. Enough is enough.

I don't like disagreeing with the Sheriff. But I'm not going to back down on my stance: PEOPLE DESERVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE ON THIS HUGE TAX INCREASE.


Pat DeWine

Dann to reporter: "Go (expletive) yourself"

The Associated Press reports:

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Ohio’s chief law enforcer was caught on tape cursing a reporter outside a fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama because of an article about a woman Dann raised as his daughter landing a state job.

Attorney General Marc Dann, a Youngstown Democrat, was headed into the fundraiser Wednesday when he spotted Warren Tribune Chronicle reporter Steve Oravecz and shouted, “Hey Steve, write this down: Go (expletive) yourself!”

Dann and Oravecz declined to comment on Friday.

Television station WYTV caught the swearing on camera and posted it online.

Oravecz wrote an article the day before with the headline “Locals with ties to Dann get jobs,” that reported a woman Dann helped raise, 22-year-old Mavilya Chubarova, got a $37,000-a-year job with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Brunner, a fellow Democrat, hired Chubarova the day she took office and later promoted her to the new position of constituent coordinator, the report said. “She’s great,” Brunner said. “I liked Mia’s enthusiasm and her creativity.”

Dann’s office offered Brunner’s older daughter a job as well, but she ultimately turned it down, Brunner said.

POWR PAC Endorses Nine

In case you missed it in the paper this morning, the West Side's POWR PAC released its list of people it wants you to vote for for Cincinnati City Council.

Pete Witte, president of Price Hill Civic Club and one of the activists who interviewed 18 candidates, said the factors included the candidates' opinions on "holding the line on property taxes" and whether the endorsers felt they would be "effective-type people," people who eventually could put bickering aside and work together for the West Side.

Read the story here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Republican vs. Republican

Sheriff Simon L. Leis, Jr. sent out this email recently:

You recently might have received a solicitation letter or telephone call from Pat DeWine talking about the jail and safety plan that I and other County leaders have put forth.

This is a critical issue for our community. Unfortunately, Mr. DeWine’s effort to raise money from you was incredibly misleading. As a fellow Republican and as your Sheriff, I feel compelled to set the record straight.

A couple key points:

FIRST, we finally have a solution to our jail overcrowding problem. For too long, County Commissioners like Mr. DeWine have passed the buck on the biggest problem we have in the County—providing enough jail space to keep criminals off the street. For decades, I have asked repeatedly for their help, and they have refused. As a result, I’ve been forced to let thousands of prisoners back onto the street. And people wonder why crime is so high!

Finally, the current County Commission (except for Pat DeWine) has boldly stood up to help me solve the problem. We have worked closely on this issue all year, and, as have law enforcement leaders throughout the County, I commend them for their leadership.

The Comprehensive Safety Plan will build and operate enough jailspace for the long term. Early releases will end. It will add more police to the street, secure tougher sentences for the most violent offenders, and, through intervention, will reduce the number of non-violent criminals who become repeat offenders. This comprehensive approach is also the most fiscally conservative way to tackle this problem, because it builds a more efficient system and will lower future demand for jailspace.

SECOND, in his effort to solicit money from you and others, Mr. DeWine has misstated the facts. Contrary to Mr. DeWine’s letter, most of the money in the plan will go either to build the new jail in Camp Washington, or to operate that jail. When Mr. DeWine wrote that most of the money is going to “costly new programs,” he was misleading you. Beyond building the jail itself, most of what he calls a “costly new program” is simply the necessary cost of operating that new jail (for 30 years)--such as paying our hard-working corrections officers. As opposed to Mr. DeWine’s tax increase plan last year, which left the operating costs completely unpaid, the current plan is simply more honest about what the real costs of a jail are (to see a copy of the budget yourself, go to www.hamilton-co.org).

Mr. DeWine also is misleading you when he says our plan will only add 400 permanent beds. In fact, it adds almost 800 permanent new beds. And it replaces 800 other beds that have to be replaced almost immediately because, as the Enquirer reported, an 800-bed temporary facility we run today is crumbling beneath our feet.

FINALLY, I can tell you that Mr. DeWine has proposed no real solutions to this problem. His prior "band-aid" solution has already cost millions of dollars renting 300 beds from Butler County—those dollars are coming from the County’s rainy day fund, which is nearly depleted. There is no long-term funding source to keep Butler County going, leaving us in our predicament today. So Mr. DeWine’s temporary plan has not only bankrupted the County's reserves, it has failed to solve the problem.

And if he and Mr. Smitherman succeed in their current action, DeWine will force us to release those 300 prisoners, and then release more every day after that. As the Sheriff, and a former judge and prosecutor, I am not as comfortable as he is releasing prisoners back onto the streets.

Cincinnati and Hamilton County were once known for being as safe as any place in the country. Unfortunately, that has changed of late. We are now in a bind—high crime, not enough jailspace, and a reserve fund that is almost broke thanks to years of expensive band-aid solutions. Finally, we have a real answer to this crisis, and leaders with the courage to make the tough decisions. It's long past time that we put politics aside, and stepped up and solved the problem.
After years of watching as politicians dodged the issue, I believe this bipartisan, comprehensive plan is the most responsible path we can take. As you carefully consider the crisis we’re in, and the facts, I hope you will also support our effort.
Thank you for your attention.

Sheriff Simon Leis

New developments in jail tax

The Wedemandavote folks say they actually have until Monday, July 16, instead of next Friday. They say the law gives them 45 days to gather names, rather than 30.

To be safe, they're going to submit them on (gulp) Friday the 13th of July.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Chamber has endorsed the tax:

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber today announced its support for the Comprehensive Safety Plan advanced by Hamilton County Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper. The Chamber recognizes that a new Hamilton County jail and enhanced treatment services for offenders is a key component to reducing crime in this region.

“Reducing crime is a top regional priority,” said Ellen van der Horst, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. `

Early Retirement Has to Wait

One of the biggest issues on City Council's agenda last night was City Manager Milton Dohoney's proposed early retirement incentive package. Part of his effort to cut $1.5 million from the budget, it would allow employees with 28 years or more to retire with full benefits, something that usually doesn't kick in until the 30-year mark.

Some council members were concerned about losing institutional memory. The plan then was revamped to remove some employees from eligibility, those who work in "enterprise" jobs like water works and parking. "Enterprise" meaning money-generating.

But that caused backlash too from some employees who think the offer should be extended to everyone. Among those was Michael Heitz, assistant superintendent of the Metropolitan Sewer District's wastewater treatment division. "Please," he said, "don't create a new category of second-class employees."

Mayor Mark Mallory held the issue until council's next meeting Wednesday, the last meeting before summer recess.

The first $10,000

Cincy Blues Fest, which happens in August, gets the first $10,000 from the new $600,000 fund for small arts organizations and special events.

This is the money, remember, that was part of the council controversy last month over whether to give $800,000 each in capital money to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati Art and History museums and Music Hall. All four ultimately got the money, but not until after weeks of battling back and forth between council members, some of whom wanted the big four to get $1 million each. That's what the budget called for, they said - $4 million for arts capital, and nothing for small arts and festivals.

Blues Fest has been funded by the city for years, so it wasn't a difficult decision to fund it again, said Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, arts guy who spearheaded the plan to set up the fund for smaller groups to share.

But he doesn't expect to give out any more of the money until council approves a policy, in the works, for how to spend it.

Crowley's Feeling Better

Councilman David Crowley broke his pelvis in two places in a bicycle accident Saturday. He was trying to avoid one pothole and hit another.

He expects to be on crutches for a month to six weeks.

"Other than a lot of pain and crutches," he said in a memo to colleagues, "I am fine."

The potholes have been fixed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

If You Were Mark Mallory, 2.0

Since blog readers hated our first pretend-you're-the mayor of Cincinnati game last week, it's time to try it again. So, if you were Mark Mallory, this week you'd announce:

1. That you videotaped a welcome message being played at the regional Jack and Jill of America Inc. convention in Cleveland, a welcome encouraging attendees there to come to the group's teen conference scheduled here next year. Jack and Jill is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, primarily African-American children. http://www.jack-and-jill.org/.

2. You had a great time Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, dropping - not waving - the flag to start the Busch series race. "I just can't tell you how much fun that was being that close to cars going that fast."

3. You're happy about the kickoff of your summer jobs program. "Summer employment should really just not be an option." You'll continue pushing the next two years for more private businesses to hire more kids.

4. You're meeting with officials of DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) America to try to get the group to have its 2010 conference here.

5. You're going to a cookout today hosted by the mayor of Silverton and tomorrow will cut a ribbon to open a $1.2 million improvement to Columbia Parkway.

6. You'd be getting ready to leave for the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in L.A., where you'll join a workshop about preparing for the 2010 Census.

Boehner in the Oval today

Pool report from Jim Gerstenzang of The Los Angeles Times on a Photo-Op President Bush did today with House Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner of West Chester:

The president was seated in an armchair in front of the Oval Office fireplace; the vice president was next to him. The House members were seated on the sofas. Topic of the day was the delivery of a letter signed by 147 Republican House members pledging support of any presidential appropriations veto. A game attempt at a question--What do you think of Bloomberg?--was turned aside by the president, who said it was a fine news organization. Among the cast of characters: Boehner, Blunt, Lewis. Transcript to come.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


We've gotten lots of fun stuff about Rob Portman today.

The White House pool report from his goodbye press conference:

Pool Report #2
June 19, 2007

New OMB director in the Roosevelt Room

Two short rows of seats were set up facing the podium for the announcement. Portman, who apparently still has the run of the place, showed up early with his wife, found the room full of journalists, and quickly retreated. The trio of Bush, Portman and Nussle later arrived together from the general direction of the Oval. Nussle's family entourage included his mother-in-law, which the president noted with approval. All three spoke (see transcript), Portman made a few jokes, Bush mugged a little bit, and then it was over.

Julie Mason
Houston Chron

Portman himself:

This is a great opportunity at OMB to make a big difference. It can also be a tough job sometimes. Although my title was Director of OMB, other titles sometimes came my way -- Dr. No. (Laughter.) Tightwad. (Laughter.) Budget hawk. Penny-pincher. (Laughter.) And some not suitable for a television audience. (Laughter.)

And Tony snow on his "fellow Cincinnatian"

One of the things that Rob brought to this -- to OMB was long experience in Congress, and prior to that, as a member of the first Bush White House, as well as serving as a U.S. Trade Rep and the Budget Director. And we're going to miss him a lot. I mean, he and I are fellow Cincinnatians. But at this point, too, you take a look -- and Rob's kids are 12, 14, and 17; their father has been commuting back and forth to Washington for 14 straight years. His 12 and 14-year-old have never seen Daddy at home during the weekdays. As a parent of a teen -- and many who understand parents of teens -- it's very important for Rob to get back. Clearly he will remain engaged in politics in Ohio, there's a little bit of that going on. But on the other hand, he's returning home.

Rob Portman is comin' home

Malia Rulon has the story here

Monday, June 18, 2007

A YouTube Commercial Against The Jail Tax

You might recognize the theme song from CSI: Miami in this anti-jail tax ad from COAST, the key words courtesy of The Who in 1971: "We don't get fooled again."

The ad says commissioners David Pepper and Todd Portune chose to ignore the voters' defeat last fall of the prior tax and enacted one anyway. It points out that the lone Republican on the commission, Pat DeWine, thinks that's wrong.

It urges you to join the fight via WeDemandAVote.com and PatDeWine.com.

Tip your hat to the new constitution and see the ad here.

And in case you ever find yourself in a heated game of conservative rock trivia:

The song topped a National Review list last year of the top 50 conservative rock songs of all time. Here's why, according to John J. Miller, who helped compile the list: "The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song, an oath that swears off naïve idealism once and for all. “There’s nothing in the streets / Looks any different to me / And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye. . . . Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.” The instantly recognizable synthesizer intro, Pete Townshend’s ringing guitar, Keith Moon’s pounding drums, and Roger Daltrey’s wailing vocals make this one of the most explosive rock anthems ever recorded — the best number by a big band, and a classic for conservatives."

Cranley Recuses Himself

Updated, 1:30 p.m. - see below

After several people asked him about a possible conflict of interest, Councilman John Cranley decided Monday to take himself out of the leadership role in the debate over the future of the Hilltop Concrete Co. site in Lower Price Hill.

When Hilltop moves out, part of the 30-acre site will be taken up by the relocation and lowering of the Waldvogel Viaduct. But Queensgate Terminals wants the rest of the site, for an operation that would take containers from barges on the Ohio River to railroad cars.

The company sued the city after the city refused to grant it a new driveway access. A settlement of that suit in February resulted in the city's agreement that it would lease the property to Queensgate. But council members didn't like the proposed lease and rejected it.

The company has since talked about a new proposal - including the possibility that the city could get $4 million a year from the project, based on a per-container fee of $20 a day. Opponents doubt that figure. No official proposal has been submitted. Company spokesman David Martin says Queensgate's in no rush, that officials want to meet with neighborhood residents to explain the operation to them.

Chris Bortz, who co-authored with Cranley a resolution in March to keep the spot greenspace, said he still likes the park idea but wants to hear more details from the company.

So, back to Cranley. He planned to push the greenspace plan this week, but decided against it Monday after the conflict questions. He says he still doesn't see any conflict, but wants to avoid even the appearance of one and doesn't want to do anything to take away from the merits of the greenspace idea.

Bortz thinks it's best to take more time, let emotions calm down and get more information before presenting any options to council.


Councilman Chris Monzel is writing a new resolution to keep the Hilltop Concrete Co. site greenspace.

That comes after today's economic development committee meeting, where chairman Chris Bortz said the greenspace resolution all nine council members signed in March was moot because the proposal it was in response to has already been rejected by council. So Monzel said he would replace the resolution with a new one.

"Since John's gone from a leadership role in this," he said, "I want to step in and do it."

About 30 people got up and left council chambers after Bortz said the issue would not be discussed because there was no pending proposal either from the company or about the greenspace.

He also said he didn't want to push forward the old motion, which he co-authored with Cranley, because he didn't want to put a colleague into a conflict of interest situation.

Kids for Immigration Reform

Here's a release about a Tuesday immigration reform rally on the steps of City Hall:

Immigration Reform Now!
Of Greater Cincinnati

Contacts: Natalie Fair-Albright, International Center of Greater Cincinnati (513) 621-0284
Pamela Dixon (513) 235-5564

Press Release

Cincinnati, OH -- Tuesday, June 19th at 11:00am there will be a children’s rally for immigration reform. This will take place in front of Cincinnati City Hall at 801 Plum Street.

This is to highlight that immigration reform is a local issue and not just a national issue. It does directly affect families here in the Cincinnati area. It is also to send a message to our politicians that family unity is an integral part to any immigration reform, whether it takes the form of allowing a means for parents of children to become legal, or for those that are already legal and perhaps even U.S. citizens to still be able to petition for their close relatives, such as adult children and parents, to rejoin the family living here, or for American citizens who have open their hearts and have included in their families, children adopted from other countries.

Family has been and hopefully still is one of our most important American values.

Hopefully the children will also learn a little about our local government so the lessons they learn in school will no longer be something just in a book, but will be made real by personal experience.

Strickland first Ohio gov to speak to Muslim dinner

Gov. Ted Strickland spoke at Ohio's 10th annual banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Sunday night.

Jennifer Nimer, the Ohio chapter's legal counsel, said it was the first time an Ohio governor spoke at the annual dinner. About 350 people attended.

"On behalf of all Ohioans, (my wife and I) appreciate your vision to promote justice and mutual understanding. We gather under CAIR-Ohio's theme this year, ‘American Muslims: Connecting and Sharing,’ to do just that, to connect and share and get to know each other better," Strickland said, according to the national organization's daily news brief.

Strickland also expressed appreciation for "the Muslim traditions of strong family, hard work, and education," and presented a proclamation honoring CAIR-Ohio’s work.

CAIR Chairman Dr. Parvez Ahmed and several imams also spoke.

"Our speakers were truly inspirational and left the audience with a renewed sense of commitment and motivation," CAIR-Ohio President Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin said in a prepared statement.

CAIR is America's largest Islamic civil liberties group. It has 33 offices and chapters in the United States and Canada including Ohio chapters in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.

Update: Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the governor also read this Jan. 6, 1941, State of the Union quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt as part of his informal remarks: "We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression - everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way - everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want - everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear - everywhere in the world."


Portman in Novak column

White House Budget Director Rob Portman gets a mention in Robert Novak's column in today's Washington Post:

It is an offensive pressed on Bush by congressional GOP leaders and by his own budget director, Rob Portman, a former member of the House Republican leadership as a congressman from Ohio. Portman believes the 2006 electoral catastrophe in his state was caused mainly by Republicans losing the mantle of fiscal responsibility. Unless it is retrieved, Ohio -- and the presidency -- will go to the Democrats in 2008. By vetoes that would slice more than $20 billion in Democratic spending, Bush is seeking to transform that outlook. It will trigger an epochal political struggle in the months ahead.

Obama in Ohio - but not for long

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will be in Ohio tomorrow... But he's only passing through town, according to his campaign schedule:


Washington, DC -> Cleveland, OH

Washington, DC
Senate in Session

Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
2660 Woodley Rd NW, Washington, DC
Event Begins: 8:00 AM
Remarks: 9:50 AM

Washington Hilton
1919 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC
Remarks at 12:00 PM

Cleveland, OH
No Public Events


Youngstown, OH -> Pittsburgh, PA -> Washington, DC
No Public Events


Washington, DC -> TBA
Senate in Session

Turner paid his wife's firm: Updated

Rep. Mike Turner paid his wife's company, Turner Marketing, for campaign services, according to a report out Monday from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a liberal watchdog group based in Washington.

Turner's personal financial disclosure report lists his wife's employer as "Turner Marketing," aka "Turner Effect," but does not say what her salary is.

The CREW report says, based on campaign documents, that Turner paid his wife, Lori, $51,099 for campaign work since 2001. Turner represents northern Warren County.

UPDATED - Turner offered this comment Tuesday:

"My wife has never been paid for working on any of my campaign for mayor or congress. My campaigns have used the staff of her company for marketing services such as websites, yard signs, literature, etc. and paid fair market rates. This represents less than 1% of her company's revenues. Surely, no one can expect me to seek loyal marketing services from her competitors."

Turner isn't alone. According to the report, some 72 members of the U.S. Houe paid more than $5 million in campaign funds to relatives or their relatives' companies during the past six years.

CLICK HERE to read the story in Monday's USA TODAY.

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