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, August 17, 2007

Blackwell to address Indiana GOPers

Former Ohio Secretary of State and 2006 Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell – also a Cincinnati native – will be a featured speaker at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference in Indianapolis next weekend.

Blackwell is scheduled to speak at the Aug. 25 morning breakfast. The conference, designed to showcase the Republican presidential candidates, runs from Aug. 24-26.

“If anyone knows the importance of the Midwest when it comes to electing a president, it’s Ken Blackwell,” Indiana Republican Party Chairman Murray Clark said. “He served as chief election officer in Ohio when that state’s voters decided who would be president in 2004.”

Also scheduled to attend the conference are former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a GOP presidential contender, and former Sen. Fred Thompson, a likely GOP presidential contender.

If you're hungry ...

Put Wednesday, Aug. 29, on your datebook.

Democratic congressional candidate Victoria Wulsin is throwing a party!

The Indian Hill doctor, who narrowly lost to Rep. Jean Schmidt, in Ohio's 2nd District last November, wants to thank volunteers for their help with her campaign. Especially since she's so far raised more money than Schmidt for next year's re-match.

Anyway, Wulsin is throwing a Volunteer Party at the new Wulsin for Congress HQ in Anderson Township. Festivities start at 5:30 p.m.

"Food, fun, and a chance to hear Vic speak about her vision for the country and her plan to take back the 2nd district," her e-mail invite says.

Also: "We’d love to see you there - and don’t forget to bring an empty stomach!"

This is pretty cool

Want to see what your U.S. Senators and Representatives are paying their staff?

Check it out at Legistorm.com

Or, click HERE for Ohio salaries and HERE for Kentucky salaries.

The numbers are broken up into quarters, so you have to do some math. But it's still interesting.
Question for the weekend: Who has the highest salary? Remember, this is taxpayer dollars.

Petro wants court, not Congress

The Associated Press reports:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, prominent among potential contenders for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Deborah Pryce next year, says he would prefer to lead the Ohio Supreme Court.

Petro, 58, the state’s top lawyer from 2002 to 2006, said he would need to rule out a position on the court before he would pursue Pryce’s seat.

“Certainly, if I don’t run for Congress, one of the reasons I would’ve made that decision is because I’m thinking of other opportunities, and the Supreme Court in 2010 would be one of them,” he said.

“I look down the road and think about courts,” said Petro, who lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year to then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, the longest-serving chief in the country, will be forced from the job in 2010 because he will be over the age limit of 70.

His departure will leave open the most coveted judicial post in the state, and already other justices are positioning themselves to run.

Justices Maureen O’Connor and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, both up for re-election in 2008, have both been named as potential candidates. O’Connor said this week that she hasn’t ruled out a run for chief. Stratton, meanwhile, said a recent family illness has caused her to question whether she could mount two campaigns in two years.

Justice Paul Pfeifer, like O’Connor and Stratton a Republican, could also seek the top post. He is up for re-election in 2010. Some observers have suggested Pfeifer, a frequent and outspoken dissenter on the court, might even consider switching parties in a run for chief.

But Pfeifer said he has not advanced his own name for the job: “Folks tell me my name is mentioned, but it isn’t me promoting it.”

If a sitting member of the court becomes chief justice in 2010, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland would appoint a justice to fill the vacancy that was created. All seven sitting justices are Republicans.

Petro, now a lawyer in private practice, said Thursday that he’s been approached by Republican leaders, including Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, about running to replace Pryce in the 15th District in central Ohio, one of the most competitive districts in the country. He said he would decide whether to get back into politics within two weeks.

Pryce, who faced the toughest race of her career in 2006, said Thursday she would not seek a ninth term.

Democrats are backing Mary Jo Kilroy, a Franklin County commissioner who narrowly lost to Pryce last year, to run for the open seat in 2008.

Hillary here Sept. 5

Howard Wilkinson has the story here

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cole: These Neighborhoods Are Made For Walkin'

Councilwoman Laketa Cole continues her walks, this time in Bond Hill. She'll be there at 3:30 p.m. Thursday for a tour by neighborhood representatives.

“There have been recent shootings in Bond Hill and crime is on the rise, and there is a move to create a social service agency (which many residents are against) that will include 500 parking spaces adding to congestion and changing the complexion of the community," Cole said in a news release.

If you'd like Cole to walk in your neighborhood, here's how to set it up: log on to www.cincinnati-oh.gov <http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/>, click on “City Council”, then “Laketa Cole.” Follow the link. Or call her office: 352-3946.

Ghiz: Westwood Parents Need Help

Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz was so concerned about the missing 15-year-old Boy Scout in Westwood, she spent some time Wednesday trying to help drum up more attention to the case.

She said she can only imagine what Tony Beard's parents had been going through since he went missing Sunday. As of last night, authorities believed the A student might be camping in Mount Airy Forest.

She went out for awhile last night to help search the forest, which she said was difficult for people because of the heat and because the foliage is so thick.

Qualls Keeps Tarbell Help

Some, knowing Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, said they thought among his concerns about leaving City Council would be the future of his two aides, Ron Wahl and Norma Walker.

Well, Walker planned to retire, but now will be sticking around to help run Roxanne Qualls' campaign. She figures the travel she'd planned will wait until after November. They're still working on finding an office, but were happy to say they got the required 500 signatures in four days after Qualls was announced last week as Tarbell's replacement.

Walker worked for years for former judge Ann Marie Tracey. She insists her new boss-to-be doesn't intend to run for mayor, despite the fact that Qualls recently registered the domain name quallsformayor.com. She said Qualls only did so to prevent mischief-makers from snagging that on the Web and doing God knows what with it.

Wahl will continue working in the office after Tarbell leaves Sept. 3. He's also Qualls' campaign treasurer.


Mallory: More Shopping, Kharkiv, No Guns

When Mayor Mark Mallory starts Saturday's 5k College Hill Rhythm Race, he'll be blowing a whistle to do it. He refuses to fire a gun, even a starter pistol.

"I think the symbolism is just bad," he said, explaining why. "It's just something I don't do."

Here's what else he's got going on:

1. He's talking with neighborhood groups about his Shop 52 plan to attract more retail throughout the city. He started with North Fairmount and South Fairmount, but has plans to meet with representatives of all 52 in the next couple of weeks. He hopes the activists take the information from Social Compact, the national non-profit that studied market potential here, and help him use it to attract grocery stores, retail, banks, etc.

2. He's talking about Soap Box Derby, in hopes of bringing more attention to it. He gave a proclamation recently to Vince Sprague, the Colerain Township 9-year-old who won the Derby's national championship last month in Akron. The mayor waxed poetic about how he and his friends didn't have a Soap Box Derby car, but modified an old Big Wheel instead. He wants to promote Soap Box Derby because he thinks it's a "great opportunity for bonding within a family."

3. He leaves Tuesday for Kharkiv, Ukraine, one of Cincinnati's sister cities. He and others were invited there by the government to talk about economic development opportunities.

Ohio's Governor in Exile

Avid readers of Politics Extra may recall Sean Swain, the convicted murdered who ran for Governor last year from his Toledo jail cell. He occasionally sent interesting letters to Politics Extra.

We got another letter from Mr. Swain today, in which he declares himself "Ohio Governor in Exile" and complains that state officials never responded to his request to find out how many write-in votes he actually got.

"I know from credible sources that I received at least six votes," he notes.

Other highlights:

- "I have not conceded the election. In fact, I was sworn in as governor in a ceremony here in Toledo on the same day Ted Strickland moved all of his crap into my office."

- "With Ted Strickland stealing my paycheck every week, I have to find a source of income."

He enclosed his resume, which had some dirty words which prevented us from reproducing it here. But it has lines we can safely say we've never seen in another resume, including:

- "I worked as a recyclable bottle clerk, hiding in the bottle bin, smoking cigarettes and eating Ritz Crackers and Cheeze Whiz that I stole from the store shelf. Entertained cashiers making fun of one-armed store manager."

- A membership in a group called "Writers Against Verbs."

Read the letter here

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hackett takes on Kucinich

Paul Hackett is back in congressional politics, but not as a candidate.

This time around, he is helping Democrat Rosemary Palmer, a former journalist and mother of a Marine killed in Iraq, who is taking on Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Ohio's 10th Congressional District.

Palmer, like Kucinich, wants to see the war in Iraq end now, but she is challenging the former Cleveland mayor in the Democratic congressional primary because she believes Kucinich has spent too much time running around the country in a Don Quixote-like run for the presidency, instead of tending to his congressional duties.

Apparently Hackett agrees, because he is joining Palmer in a telephone press conference Wednesday to talk about Palmer's plans for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hackett, of course, is a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq himself - a fact that shot him into the national spotlight two summers ago when he took on Jean Schmidt in the 2nd District special congressional election.

Schmidt tribute to Portman

In her weekly column, Rep. Jean Schmidt pays tribute to her predecessor in the 2nd Congressional District - Rob Portman, who returned home to Terrace Park, Ohio, earlier this month after 15 years of service in Washington.

Here's what she wrote:
On Friday, August 3rd, a dear friend of mine boarded an airline flight back home to Cincinnati. He is quite familiar with the flight, as am I. The scheduled departure time is often more of a hope than a reality. But no matter when it pushes back from the gate, we are both glad to be headed home to our families.

We have made this journey hundreds of times. In fact, if my math skills are correct, he has done it some 1,500 times. However, this flight was different because I did not see him on the plane back to Washington, DC on Monday morning.

Cincinnati's Rob Portman has decided it's time to spend more time at home. For the last 14 years he boarded that Delta flight, out on Monday and back on Friday.

Rob was elected to Congress in 1993. It was a special election in late winter/early spring. I remember his bright yellow yard signs in lawns covered with a foot of snow. I also remember his campaign slogan, "Fighting For Us."

He lived up to that and so much more.

In 12 years in congress Rob went from lowest in seniority to Chairman of Elected Leadership. His work on pensions and the IRS affected the lives of millions. He did it all with a smile, with dignity, with integrity, and for no other reason than for the good of our country.

A little over two years ago Rob was confirmed by the Senate to be our United States Trade Representative. He became Ambassador Portman in Washington and around the globe. But back home he was still just Rob.

A year later the Senate again confirmed him, this time as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Two cabinet level posts in two years.

Two weeks ago, President Bush hosted a departure reception for Rob at the White House. At these types of events platitudes flow freely, but this event was unique. The Vice President took the microphone and described Rob perfectly. Vice President Cheney said Rob was the finest public servant of his generation. He truly is.

Rob left some truly huge shoes to fill here in the Second District. I will never be able to fill them entirely. But Rob is a role model for far more than I. Rob gave us almost 15 years of his life.

We paid him far less than he could have earned were it not for his desire to serve. He sacrificed thousands of nights away from home, missed school functions, missed precious time. Yet, even with these tremendous costs he and his family continued to serve. Actually, he did far more than just serve, he excelled.

I know I speak for all of us in Southern Ohio when I say to Rob, Jane, Jed, Will, and Sally, Thank you so much for what you have done. We recognize your sacrifice and honor your achievements.

It all began with a phrase, "Fighting For Us". It is my fondest hope that after a much deserved rest Rob will again choose to serve. We are so fortunate that "the greatest public servant of his generation" loves Ohio so much.

Lawmakers react to Rove resignation

House Republican Leader John Boehner of West Chester made this comment about the resignation yesterday of top White House aide Karl Rove:

"Karl Rove has served the President and the American people with dedication and distinction since 2001, and while he'll certainly be missed by his colleagues at the White House, I'm sure he and his family are looking forward to spending some well-deserved time together in Texas. Karl has my thanks for all of his years of inspired public service, and he and the entire Rove family have my very best wishes for the future."

Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican from Hebron, Ky., had this comment:

"Karl Rove is a brilliant political strategist who has worked tenaciously for the success of the Republican Party for decades. His hard work and enthusiasm for spirited campaigns will not soon be forgotten. I wish him the best of luck."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville had this comment:

"Karl Rove has made an enormous contribution to our country and our party. Now, as he leaves the White House and turns to new challenges, I wish him and his family well as they begin this new chapter in their lives."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Commissioner frustrated with COAST

Two prominent members of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes filed a lawsuit last week against Hamilton County and others accusing them of illegally giving hotel-motel money to the Film Commission. Read the Enquirer story here.

COAST members, Tom Brinkman and Mark Miller filed the suit as taxpayers, rather than on behalf of the group. But Commissioner Todd Portune says the suit is "all COAST." It's become a pattern, he said. And it appears clear that the relationship between him and this group is just going to continue to deteriorate.

Here are some of the comments on both sides that didn't make the paper.


"COAST ... apparently will stop at nothing to destroy the ability of Hamilton County government to promote the best interest of Hamilton County at large. They don’t want Hamilton County to be the kind of entity that an urban county has to be in order to be a growing, viable, interesting place to live and do business in. They have a very, very narrow view of what needs to be done in order to address the priority issues of the county and to improve the quality of life for people in the county."


"This (lawsuit) just shows county commissioners are squandering money on all kind of ridiculous things. Now they’re saying we need more tax money for a jail crisis. If theywouldn’t have wasted it in the first place they wouldn’t be in this situation.
I see it in government all the time. We try to elect local officials that should be good caretakers of the funds. They can’t say no and they can’t say no to their contributors. It's another example of county commission squandering money."

Happy Anniversary, Milton Dohoney

Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney marks his first year in the job Tuesday. His evaluation process continues this week. But here's more of what some council members think about him:

Jeff Berding: He gives him high marks for fiscal management, for managing the process of moving to a program budget, which Berding things will allow for more effective evalution of spending and planning. He thinks Dohoney's also very good at motivating high performance and gives him good marks also for verbal and written communication.

He called Dohoney's arrangement to let workers, eligible for little training from the city because of budget cuts, in on professional development opportunities being held by private companies: "It's an awesome thing."

Any improvement suggestions Berding has can't be directed only at Dohoney, he said,but are more problems with the system. He would like to see more long-range, strategic planning and some city-wide goals to be developed and adopted by council. He has suggested having planning retreats.

"I think he's the right guy. I hope he's our city manager for a long time."

Chris Bortz: "I think he's doing a stellar job. He's really focused on what I think are the key priorities in terms of the internal workforce and his vision of the city as a whole in the region."

"He's aggressively pursuing economic development. He's using that momentum to also direct city resources in a focused way...I think he's earned a great deal of respect within the administration. I have no criticisms that I can levy at this point."

"I feel virtually completely aligned with his mission, as I understand it."

He also said he hears passion in Dohoney's speeches: "His heart's really in it."

Chris Monzel: "I've been ipressed wth his demeanor and the way he handles himself. He has a whole different way of dealing with people than the two previous city managers. It's refreshing to see different styles of management."

"You know they say still waters run very deep. That's definitely with him. He just has this personality that's very calm, very reassuring. He's not very excitable. There's a lot there. I think he just brought a wealth of experience with him."

"I think there's a lot to him that we haven't even seen yet."

Laketa Cole: "I will say that I have been very impressed with demeanor. He's staying the course. I think he's very methodical in how he works through things. You can tell he's not trying to sit there and make friends with various members of City Council or the mayor...He communicates. That's what I like."

Cecil Thomas: "I think he's done an exceptional job in staying focused, in not really getting caught up in the politics." He said he hopes the current trends in economic development and crime decline can continue.

John Cranley: "I think he's doing a great job. I've noticed that he's focused on trying to improve the efficiency of service delivery and of the morale of the workforce...He lets the council and the mayor work out the political deals...So far, I think he's doing great."

If progress continues, he said, on the anti-violence Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence and with economic development, "I think he'll be superb."

David Crowley and Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell declined to talk about this now. They're members of the evaluation committee and wanted to let that process play out before commenting publicly.

Tarbell did point out that when he opposed Dohoney's hire last year, it wasn't because he disliked Dohoney. He said he did so because he wanted the city to hire David Rager, who had the job on an interim basis.

Here's this from Mayor Mark Mallory, who's the only one who could fire Dohoney, not that anyone's suggesting that:

"I think it's working very well. It should be clear to everybody now why I fought so hard to get him here."

After council members and the executive search firm finalized a list of qualities, Mallory added one: sense of humor. "This can be a tough town. And if you can't laugh about it, you're in trouble."

"It helps that he's a good person. And he's an extremely well qualified person...I couldn't be happier. We're certainly in agreement about where we have to take this city."

Dohoney's management style "allows me as mayor to focus solely on that global vision and to really think about how we move the city, how we elevate city government. He's really very good at keeping me from having to deal with some of the more technical details."

Show Your Non-Support on a T-shirt

Brought to you by the same people who sell the Oktoberfest shirts that say, "Grab your sausage and have fun!", come faux campaign shirts for each Cincinnati council incumbent.

Here's a couple: For Cecil Thomas, former police officer and chairman of council's Law & Public Safety committee - "Committed to Filling Our Jails with Petty Criminals"; for John Cranley - "Vote for Cranley Since You Don't Want Him in Congress"; and for Leslie Ghiz - "CAUTION: Candidate Explosive Without Warning".

Check them out here.

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