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, July 07, 2007

Fixed: Local delegation not so Bushy

Apparently there was a problem with the link. This should work.

Malia Rulon and Howard Wilkinson have the story in Sunday's Enquirer, but you can read it here

Paul Hackett back in the news

From, the Associated Press:

An ex-Marine at the center of a probe into whether Camp Pendleton troops killed between five and 10 unarmed captives during a battle in Iraq is a hero who faced vicious enemies and his actions in combat should not be questioned, his lawyer said Friday.

Former Cpl. Ryan Weemer sought a lawyer earlier this year because he was concerned Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents wanted to question him, attorney Paul Hackett of Cincinnati said.

“Weemer is an American hero,” Hackett said. “Every American should be on their hands and knees thanking their god that there are men in the American military like Ryan Weemer doing the heavy lifting their country requires.”

Read more here

Friday, July 06, 2007

Barack's coming back

Barack Obama apparently likes Cincinnati a lot.

The Democratic presidential contender is back in town Tuesday, July 17 for another fundraising event - again, at the Westin hotel. A Feb. 26 apperance at the same venue drew about 1,000 supporters, most of them writing checks to Obama's campaign.

The candidate's wife, Michelle Obama, showed up in May at the Indian Hill home of Barbara Gould for a fundraising event that drew about 100 people.

This time around, you won't have to have particularly deep pockets to get in on the fun - a $50 donation will get you a ticket to the general reception and access to the cash bar. A $1,000 check gets you into a private reception, where the bar is free and a "lite bite" will be offered (which we guess means you probably shouldn't cancel your dinner plans).

For $2,300 - the maximum an individual can contribute under federal election law - you get it all: private reception, free bar, "lite bite," and a photo of you and the would-be president you can hang on your office wall in a frame that will be considerably cheaper than the photograph.

For the private reception crowd, the fun begins at 5:30 p.m. 6 p.m. for everbody else.

More information: e-mail Barbara Gould at bgould@fuse.net

Need cash? Head to Indian Hill

The presidential campaign of John McCain may be reeling from bad polling numbers and low cash reserves, but McCain seems to know what to do about it - head to Indian Hill, the CheckSmart of American politics.

McCain heads to the sylvan enclave, where checks grow on trees, on July 31 for a fundraising event at the home of developer Bob Rhein and his wife Marilyn.

Former Ohio senator Mike Dewine, who stuck his neck out for McCain seven years ago and is doing so again as his Ohio campaign chairman, will be one of the co-hosts for the event. It's $1,500 per person for the VIP reception, 500 bob-per-knob for the general milling-about session.

McCain will be journeying deep into the heart of Mitt Romney country, where assorted Lindners live, all of whom have committed to Romney's campaign. And where the Lindners go, much of the rest of the corporate big-wigs of Indian Hill goes as well - although apparently not on Bob Rhein's country lane.

No doubt the event will raise a boatload of money; and no major candidate for president is more in need of it right now. The second quarter Federal Election Commission showed McCain's campaign with just $2 million in the bank; and the McCain campaign reportedly laid off as many as 100 staffers.

Harper Inspired By Cosby

Council candidate Andre Harper has started what he says will be bi-weekly "Harper Speaks" features on his Web site, http://www.andreharper.com/.

In the first, he writes about Bill Cosby's comments in 2004 about black students not graduating and black people being in prison. He says the comedian was unfairly criticized as attacking poor people.

Here's an excerpt:

"Perhaps Cosby is a traitor because he refuses to dismiss the poor or disenfranchised as people destined to live their lives as victims. He shunned those that profit from their misfortune, and so do I.

Cosby’s call to action is at the root of my decision to run for Cincinnati City Council. Despite the situations in which we were born, people like Cosby, Oprah and I are all successful because we have embraced education and self empowerment.

My campaign is centered on empowering Cincinnatians to control their own destinies.

Unfortunately, many of current community leader’s don’t embrace this philosophy. I have heard countless area leaders’ brag about how much funding they appropriated for projects or how much they fought issues, acting is if the community would perish without their leadership.

The last time I checked, appropriations came from public budgets and not politicians’ pockets! This narcissistic leadership has led our community into the depths of despair."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hagan: If Libby's free, why not Traficant, too?

State Rep. Bob Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, asked President Bush today to commute the prison time remaining on the eight-year sentence of former U.S. Congressman James A. Traficant Jr., in light of Bush’s recent commutation of convicted former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

“If the President is going to coddle criminals in his Administration because he believes they have suffered enough, the least he can do is apply equal justice and release all of those whose crimes had far less impact on the public good than Libby’s,” Hagan said in a press statement.

Traficant, 66, was sent to prison in August 2002 for bribery, racketeering and corruption. With credit for good behavior, he's due to be released from prison in 2009, followed by three years of probation. His fans operate a web site here. And his prison artwork can be found here.

The nine-term Ohio representative became only the second member of Congress kicked out since the Civil War after his House colleagues voted 420-1 to expel him.

Hagan, who ran against Traficant in 2001, said Libby’s actions had more serious consequences than anything the former Youngstown congressman did.

“Libby lied to the FBI and a grand jury about the Valerie Plame cover-up, which undermined the nation’s intelligence operations,” Hagan said. “Add to that his role as Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff in promoting false reasons for going to war in Iraq – and it all outweighs anything Mr. Traficant has done.

“Libby is the first sitting White House official to be indicted in 130 years, and yet he walks away without paying his deserved debt to society.”

Hagan also expressed surprise in what he called "the President’s sudden fit of compassion. . .Is this the same Mr. Bush who touted his record in executing criminals in Texas?”

Hagan sent a letter to Bush, seeking the commutation of Traficant’s sentence.

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City Hall Works, But How Well?

It's a little on the dry side, this inch-thick report on how things work at 801 Plum St. But if you're one of those who thinks Cincinnati city officials should spend some time studying how they might do things better, here's your bedside reading material.

The City Hall Works Advisory Committee was formed a year ago. Members interviewed city officials and employees, studied each city department and did more detailed research on some departments, including public services, transportation and engineering. The 2006 budget included $100,000 for the work.

Jeff Berding, who suggested in 2005 a study about reinventing government, said he thinks the biggest immediate impact will be on the city's information technology department.

If you want to read the whole thing, start here.

Census Challenge PR from NYC

Mayor Mark Mallory's efforts to boost Cincinnati's population figures have gotten a lot of local attention in the last couple of weeks. But from the looks of this press release sent out nationally, it looks like he'd like the rest of the country to know, too.

Read the New York City PR firm's pitch:

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More reactions to the Libby sentence

Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township:

"The constitution gives every president the power to commute sentences that they deem too harsh. Every modern president has done so. Mr Libby will pay a price for his conviction. The specifics of that price are left to the judiciary and the executive. I have not read the briefs or the judicial opinion. Nor do I care to contribute to a partisan dialogue. The constitution grants these powers and my only obligation is to honor and defend it. "

Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Hebron:

"The President's decision is fair and will end this controversy. It is time for us to get past this and move on to other matters," said Davis' press secretary, Amanda Keating.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Cleveland:

"Sen. Voinovich is declining comment," his office said.

No responses from Sens. Mitch McConnell or Jim Bunning. Or, Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood.

Boehner backs Bush on Libby sentence

What House Minority Leader John Boehner of West Chester said:

“The President’s decision on Mr. Libby was the right one, and I believe it ensures that the interests of justice and fairness are both served. Given the fact that the prosecutor in this case never charged any individual with breaking the law with regard to the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s name to the media, I agree with the President that the sentence was excessive and support his decision to commute Mr. Libby’s prison sentence.”

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said:

“Comments by Leader Boehner and Congressman Blunt supporting the President’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence serves as a reminder that House Republicans refuse to hold their own accountable. A jury found Mr. Libby guilty of lying and obstructing a federal investigation. A judge then sentenced him to prison. But true to form, the House Republican leadership is lining up behind the President’s decision to shield Mr. Libby from accountability.

“The American people expect anyone who breaks the law to be held accountable, including public officials. Unfortunately, the President and House Republicans believe there are exceptions.”

Brown blasts Bush over Libby

Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Lorain in northern Ohio, took a shot at President Bush last night after the president announced he would commute I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's sentence.

Libby is a former White House aide who was convicted of lying in the CIA leak case surrounding the release of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

"Independence day came early for Scooter Libby," Brown said. "I am disappointed in the President's decision to commute Scooter Libby's sentence. Scooter Libby was convicted of lying on a national security matter, prosecuted by a Republican prosecutor, sentenced by a Republican judge, and clearly the president doesn't want to be held accountable or hold his people accountable."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mayor issues press release on drinking fountain

After getting a lot of calls from people who wanted to report there was no drinking water in Washington Park, Mayor Mark Mallory's office announced this afternoon that the drinking fountain is working again.

Here's the release:

Media FYI
From Mayor Mark Mallory
City of Cincinnati

Washington Park Water Fountain Fixed

Cincinnati – In recent days, many concerned citizens have contacted City Hall about a broken water fountain in Washington Park, across from Music Hall. The concerned citizens were worried about the condition of the park and the need for access to water during the hot summer months.

Several weeks ago, the fountain was vandalized. It was filled with gravel and knocked over. The Parks Department has already addressed the problem and has informed the Mayor’s office that the fountain is now fully functioning.

The Mayor’s office has continued to receive the inquiries about this issue. We would like to inform citizens that the Parks Department has fixed the fountain. If you have any questions, please contact Parks Information at 513-357-2602.

Commissioners seek JFS reforms

Hamilton County's Department of Job and Family Services will have some new priorities under its new interim director Moira Weir.

Weir's promotion to interim director of the county's largest department is now in effect following the retirement of former director Rick Roberts June 30.

That leaves her free to begin on the laundry list of reforms proposed last month by Hamilton County Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper. The department, which oversees everything from child support to foster care to food stamps, has gained recent attention, not all of it flattering, for its abysmal adoption rate (which it has since hired new staff to correct) and for running background checks for foster parents following the death of Marcus Fiesel in Clermont County at the hands of his foster parents.

Some of the tasks include:

-Reviewing and dealing with the too-high worker turnover rate and worker caseloads

-Investigating the perception that JFS workers aren't paid fairly compared to workers in other county departments and in other counties

-Improving enforcement in child support and other types of cases

-Becoming more efficient

-Improving accountability. Perhaps setting up a complaint/suggestion box or web site

-Pushing forward on initiatives like Medicaid Outreach and background checks on foster parents. The latter woudl be expanded to the entire state, rather than just Hamilton County.

Baklava for Mallory

Danny and Kathryn Petropoulos, owners of the Blue Jay Restaurant in Northside, closed the place this week for vacation. But when Mayor Mark Mallory's office went looking for a neighborhood spot to hold a press conference about new city population figures, the family was happy to open briefly for him.

Mrs. Petropoulos baked some of her special baklava for the occasion.

The restaurant, at 4154 Hamilton Ave., marks its 40th anniversary this month. The daily and Saturday breakfast special: two eggs, home fries, and toast or a pancake for $4. Add a breakfast meat and it's an extra buck.

Here's Mallory posing with Petropoulos family members.

Kaup Files Her 500

Council candidate Joan Kaup announced today she's the first to file the 500 valid signatures required by the board of elections.

A release from her campaign says the early filing "is a testament to the organization of the campaign and the enthusiasm that Kaup's candidacy is generating."

The statement also said she expects to announce later this month that the campaign already has raised $40,000.


New pro-tax web site

We were tipped today to a web site promoting Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper's public safety plan and sales tax increase. It even has its own online petition that people can sign to support of the plan.

We were unable to immediately reach Brayden Miles, who is listed as the creator of the site. To view it for yourself: http://www.wedemandasolution.com/.

Are flyers harassment?

Some people circulating petitions to force a vote on a county sales tax increase say they are being “harassed” by sales tax proponents.

Sales tax proponents say that accusation is absurd.

The 0.5 percent sales tax would build a new jail and fund public safety programs.

Petition circulator Josh Weitzman said he and another circulator were "followed" as they attempted to gather signatures at a weekend festival. The followers handed out these flyers to everyone Weitzman asked to sign the petition.

"It reached the point that I was ready to go to the police and tell them to stop following me," he said. "They're trying to get their message out, but its harassment and intimidation to a certain extent."

But in fact, he didn't call police, and hasn't decided whether he will. After all, is it illegal to hand out flyers?

One of the so-called "harrassers" is sales tax proponent Pete Witte, a Republican who ran for Cincinnati City Council in 2003.

"Harassment? Ouch!" he said, when told of the allegations. All he and fellow volunteers are doing is handing out informational flyers and making sure potential petition signers have both sides of the issue, he said.

"We're encouraging possible petition signers to consider their options and the risk of delaying the kind of safety plan this county has needed for some time," he said. "The goal is to make sure people are fully informed when they're being asked to sign a petition." No harassment or intimidation involved.

Republican Commissioner Pat DeWine (who cast the sole vote against raising the sales tax) says its an attempt to thwart the referendum effort

"It's really sad that my colleagues on the Commission and their supporters have chosen to celebrate Independence Day by trying to prevent the citizens of Hamilton County from exercising their right to vote," he said. "Fortunately, the voters are smarter than that and despite the concerted efforts to block a public vote, I have every confidence the petitioners will succeed in collecting the necessary signatures to place the tax hike on the ballot."

Commissioner David Pepper (who with fellow Democrat Todd Portune, passed the sales tax in May) said the volunteers are doing nothing wrong.

Yes, "volunteers" have been handing out the flyers, he said. And yes, he and Portune have been working (though handouts, e-mail etc) to explain the safety plan to constituents, Pepper said. Yes, they have even used their personal money -- not county money -- to send letters to fellow Democrats.

But "the idea that our attempt to explain the issue is anything other than a first amendment debate is ludicrous," Pepper said.

He likened it to Republicans and Democrats handing out infomation on their candidate slates at the polls on Election Day. There's nothing shady about it.

Smitherman, Smitherman, Smitherman

Chris Smitherman says he can be both NAACP president and city councilman.

Ben Fischer has the story in today's paper.

This didn't make the paper, but from the "strange bedfellows" department, here's some praise for Smitherman from COAST chairman Jim Urling, from an e-mail to Fischer:

"Chris Smitherman has shown this community tremendous courage and leadership in organizing the petition drive to repeal the sales tax increase forced upon us by Commissioners Pepper and Portune.

In the era of Bob Taft and Jean Schmidt, Todd Portune and David Pepper, who thoughtlessly embrace imposing burdens of ever higher taxes and spending upon the beleaguered citizenry, it is indeed rare that a politician from any political party shows the backbone to oppose the burden of oppressive taxation on our citizens.

COAST will consider Chris Smitherman's candidacy very warmly when it issues its endorsements for Council this fall. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude for his leadership at this critical time in our community. COAST will not soon forget his sacrifices at this important time."
Meanwhile, Greg Korte analyzes Smitherman's election loss on his Footnotes blog.

Mallory can't get enough of being mayor

Looks like it is official now. Mark Mallory will run for a second term as mayor in 2009.

Mallory is having a heavy-hitter fundraising event July 11 at the Westin downtown, with an impressive set of event hosts - Barbara Gould and Stan Chesley, who, between them, account for the bulk of the Democratic fundraising in these parts; and Hamilton County Coroner O'dell Owens, whom some believe would like his own shot at being mayor of Cincinnati some day.

Gov. Ted Strickland is expected to stop by to help the mayor sell some tickets.

A check for $125 - delivered to the mayor's mother, Fannie Mallory, his campaign treasurer - gets you in the door, but if you want to wear the title "Gold Sponsor," it will cost $500. Give the mayor an even grand and you can call yourself "Platinum Sponsor."

Don't give the mayor's campaign all of your money, though, because you will need some of it for the cash bar. Take all the hors d'oeuvres you want, though. They're free.

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