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 28, 2007

Mallory And The Music Festival

Mark Mallory was all about the Macy's Music Festival. He touted it whenever he got the chance - at a meeting two weeks ago of local news media bosses, at his Tuesday news briefing, on The Buzz. It was important, he said repeatedly, to get the message out that downtown Cincinnati is safe, fun and welcoming to everyone. That latter part was a reference to some years past, when some African-Americans felt less than embraced by hotels and restaurants here. The festival was canceled for three years after the 2001 riots.

He reminisced about how, when he was younger, he would cruise around downtown in his car on "jazz fest" weekend.

So when it finally came, he put on his suit and worked it like a man out to prove it was the place to be. (Or maybe like a politician campaigning. Anyway....)

He stopped by vendors' booths, he asked restaurateurs how it was going, he gave keys to the city to performers. He went to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which had more than 6,300 visitors - the organization's best day ever. He sent out a schedule of where he'd be and when.

He said Saturday that he'd run into a lot of folks from out of town. Some commented to him how polite Cincinnati police officers were - "I was happy to hear that," he said.

There's a New Blog In Town

In case you are interested in Northern Kentucky politics, here's a new blog you might want to check out. It has folks talking about possible city mergers and Karl Rove.

The Gateway To The Truth

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ruby loves Rudy

O.J. Simpson may not be welcome at restauranteur Jeff Ruby's establishments, but the door is always open for Rudy Giuliani, Ruby's favorite presidential candidate.

Ruby's downtown steakhouse will be the venue for a luncheon fundraiser for the apparent GOP frontrunner on Friday, Aug. 3 - an event that takes place before Giuliani is expected to head out to Timberwolf for the Sean Hannity Cincinnati Freedom Concert, which features country singer LeAnn Rimes and one-hit wonder Lee Greenwood.

Those who would like lunch with Rudy have three options - shell out $2,300 (the maximum allowed per cycle) for a private roudtable luncheon and photo op with Giuliani, $1,000 for a private reception and photo op; and $250 for a general reception with a Rudy stump speech.

Chabot the food critic

In case you wanted to know what Rep. Steve Chabot likes to eat (Chinese, he loves Chinese food!) or what he hates to eat (anything green, like asparagus or broccoli) the Capitol Hill newspaper filled with everything you didn't know you didn't want to know has it all: HERE.

Gilligan undecided on another run

Education reporter Ben Fischer writes:

John Gilligan, the 86-year-old member of the Cincinnati Board of Education, still says he hasn't decided whether to pursue another term in November.

But at the moment, his job satisfaction is extremely low.

Wednesday evening, Gilligan blasted his colleagues for not taking charge in a simmering debate over whether to place a tax levy on the November ballot to fund CPS. The board is planning its first meeting on the subject next week, just a few weeks before members must make a decision.

"Well, it's just ridiculous," Gilligan said. "If they really are going to go for a levy, this process should have been started six to eight months ago. You can't bring the general public up to speed on the complexities of financing the schools in a fortnight."

"We're in real trouble. And as you know, the essential part of this is, it's a public enterprise. And the public has to be brought up to speed about what these questions are, what the potential responses are, and (We must) give them a chance to sort it out. But they aren't given that chance."

Gilligan went on to say outside grassroots coalitions that typically help out during a levy campaign aren't being consulted.

"I think the most frustrated people in the whole enterprise are good-hearted and dedicated people who give their time and energy, like Parents for Public Schools and others, who are driven to almost idiocy by their inability to find out what in the world is going on.

"And it's through them that we have whatever chance we have of passing a levy, and advancing along the lines of improving the district to the benefit of the children in it. They're critical. "

Any two members of the CPS board can call a meeting on any subject, according to the board's bylaws.

Gilligan, it should be noted , has a history of trying to sell new taxes to voters. In 1972, then-Governor Gilligan signed into law Ohio's first income tax. According to many state political experts, the tax was a major reason his first term was also his only term.

So is he ready to try for four more years on the CPS board he just slammed? Gilligan, who uses a walker, answered the question with a joke.

"They've got me reduced to a stroller now. I'll be in an iron lung then."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is Sherrod Brown "beautiful" ?

The Hill certainly thinks so.

The Capitol Hill newspaper selected Sen. Sherrod Brown as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill." Note, however, that Brown did not make the "Top 10" list.

According to the newspaper, the 54-year-0ld freshman senator "may not be as sharply dressed as his home-state colleague, House GOP leader John Boehner" of West Chester "or as smoothly polished" as Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. But Brown’s "combination of rumpled cool and passionate progressivism makes him the unsung beauty of the upper chamber."

Proof? According to the new book out by his wife, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz, Brown "leaves his wife love notes, takes her to the theater, serenades her with the Beatles" and calls her "baby."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bortz on Benches

People are still questioning Chris Bortz about his idea to limit those advertising benches along Cincinnati streets, which passed council in June and took effect early this month. City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city doesn't have spare time or spare money to start a massive remove-the-benches campaign now, but that the ones that violate the rules will be taken out. He hopes to have all those that violate the rules off the streets by the end of the year.

Here's Bortz's latest elaboration, from an e-mail exchange with Stephen Dapper, a guy who writes that he might just line his property with the benches:

"The bench company pays the city $30 per year per bench to use the public right of way. In turn, the company charges anywhere from $18 to $35 per week to advertisers. The company earns, net of permit expense, a minimum of $900 per year per bench. There are over 1,000 benches in the city. The math is straightforward. In effect, the company makes a substantial profit by using the public right of way. Given the quality of the benches, it is clear that the company’s profits are not plowed back in to the product. Graffiti is not removed and trash accumulates on and around the benches. The city has no say over the content of the paid advertising, the quality or type of bench used, and, until recently, could not legally remove illegally placed benches. Interestingly, the last time the city tried to deal with the issue, the company offered free advertising to community groups and community councils to win political support.

There is no absolute First Amendment right to use the public right of way for profit by placing paid advertising. That kind of speech (commercial speech) is protected, but the State (read the government) has no obligation to offer public property for private, for-profit use.

My intention is remove the advertising benches and replace them with nice park style rod iron benches or something similar. It is the first step of many which I hope will clean up the area around the bus shelters, not to mention all along the neighborhood business districts. I believe if you clean up the environment, people are more likely to keep it clean. Furthermore, as the "broken windows" theory goes, people are less likely to commit crime.

Unfortunately, some people have the notion that I intended to just remove the benches. Of course, that would be callous, and was never my intent.

Please don't hesitate to write again if you feel I have missed your point."

Crowley: Lifetime Achievement Award

David Crowley gets a big honor Thursday night from the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based group working for the civil rights and equality for gays, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

HRC President Joe Solmonese will present the award at 7 p.m. at the Contemporary Arts Center.

Crowley, whose press release about the award mentions he has two gay children and two straight ones, said he was humbled.

"I have always done what I believe is right and that's what I'll continue to do," he said.

"This is not only an issue for Cincinnati, it's a national problem. We are taking steps in the right direction here, but unfortunately the problem continues to exist elsewhere. I am proud of the fact that this national organization is recognizing the work done in Cincinnati and I hope we can continue to be a role model for other cities in America in this area."

Crowley helped push for the repeal in 2004 of Article XII, which forbade council from including homosexuals in the city's anti-discrimination laws between 1993 and the time of the repeal.

He also authored, in 2006, an ordinance to add sexual orientation to the city's human rights ordinance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This Week With Mark Mallory

The usual weekly press conferences with Mark Mallory have been on hiatus the last couple of weeks while City Council's on summer break. Until today, when he had a few things to say.

Mostly, he focused on this weekend's Macy's Music Festival and events surrounding it, saying he really wants people to come downtown and give the weekend a try. He knows some people, especially locals, have been uncomfortable about coming to the party in years past - after the 2001 riots and other issues.

"The message for this year is very clear - everyone is welcome in downtown Cincinnati," he said.

Also on his agenda:

1. He met Monday with representatives of Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann's office to talk about new ways the state agency can help Cincinnati fight crime;

2. Tuesday morning, he toured some of the seven MuralWorks projects, which employed 84 kids for the past almost six weeks. He says the project shows the importance of investing in young people, while also leaving a lasting effect on communities.

3. Wednesday, he meets with new Office of Environmental Quality Director Lawrence Falkin, who started the job July 2. Falkin was most recently with the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department in Kansas, where his title was deputy director for natural resources.

4. Friday, he meets with representatives of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Brown, he said, has offered to help Cincinnati, so Mallory wants to meet with Brown's people to talk about how.

5. Also Friday, he's going to the Cincinnati Police Department's promotions ceremony, where 24 become sergeants and eight become specialists.

He offered this comment about the pending closure of The Cincinnati Post: "I've always found the Post to be a quality paper. And I think it's absolutely going to be a major loss. Absolutely."

"Innovator" DeWine

If you happen to read the "Innovators in Action" report turn to page 22. You'll see a familiar face.
Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine's column "Using Competition Because Taxes are Too High" was selected as one of the 10 published in the most recent report. DeWine joins folks like Governor Jeb Bush (page 3) and Mayor Rudy Giuliani (page 8).
For those who don't keep up with such things, "Innovators in Action" is a respected national publication issued annually by the Reason Foundation, a public policy review organization. It promotes things like choice, transparency, competition and innovative thinking within government.
Editor Geoffrey Segal puts it well:
"Put a candidate on the campaign trail and watch him raise the banner of reform—but once in office, elected officials quickly discover that the road to reform is congested with failed programs, entrenched special interests, and a lack of political will.
"Innovators in Action showcases the efforts of visionaries who have moved policy from the theoretical to the practical. Thanks to this remarkable group of reformers, government has become more responsive, more effective and more efficient."

DeWine's column in a nutshell: He thinks taxes are too high. He forms a managed competition program to save the county money. He trudges through layers of swampy bureaucracy to get it done. The program's doing well.

To read the full report (remember he's on page 22) click here.
To read DeWine's reaction to being selected, click here.

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