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 24, 2007

Tarbell tossed off ballot

Howard Wilkinson reports

The last-minute effort by Cincinnati Councilman Jim Tarbell and two former Cincinnati school board members to become candidates for the Cincinnati Board of Education ended as quickly as it began Friday, when election officials said their petitions were short of signatures.

Tarbell, who is leaving city council early in September, put together a last-minute slate of school board candidates which included Anne Power, who was president of the board in the 1980s, and Sally Warner, who left the board two years ago after serving eight years.

The three-candidate team didn’t start collecting signatures on their nominating petitions until less than 24 hours before the 4 p.m. deadline Thursday. Each of them needed the signatures of 300 registered voters in the Cincinnati Public School District.

But officials at the Hamilton County Board of Elections said Friday afternoon that they fell short, with 264 valid signatures each.

A fourth school board candidate, lawyer Martha Good, who had the endorsement of the Cincinnati Democratic Committee, also fell short and will not be on the November ballot.
That leaves only four candidates running for three seats on the seven-member board – incumbent Rick Williams, Chris Nelms, the director of an inner-city baseball program; former Hamilton County recorder Eve Bolton, and Michael Flannery, a former WCPO reporter.

Behind the scenes of the NAACP sales tax vote

The Cincinnati NAACP voted overwhelmingly Thursday night to oppose an increase in the Hamilton County's sales tax to pay for a new jail (read the Enquirer story).

Although chapter president Christopher Smitherman said nothing at the meeting about his stance, his behind-the-scenes discussions (and opinions) were apparently enough to get County Commission President Todd Portune, who'd proposed the sales tax, pretty fired up.

Portune said Smitherman earlier said he would not take a stand on the sales tax issue and would let the organization decide on its own whether to support or oppose it. However that apparently did not happen, according to Portune.

Smitherman sent a memo to the executive committee prior to the Thursday vote outlining why he opposes the sales tax increase.

Portune, after learning of that memo sent his own letter to Smitherman expressing his disappointment.

The organization voted 95-14 to oppose the sales tax increase, an "important vote," Smitherman said afterward, given the group's mammoth effort to force the tax increase on the ballot. The issue of the memos did not come up and Portune did not attend the meeting because Commissioner David Pepper was already scheduled to be there. By law they would have had to announce before hand that two of the three commissioners were going to be there.
This morning, Smitherman sent out this release:
Dear Membership and Executive Committee,

Last night our membership voted to not support the proposal to build a new jail. I think the membership did an excellent job listening to both sides of the
argument. The membership overwhelmingly voted on Thursday, August 23, 2007
to oppose the building of a new jail. The membership as you are aware
makes the public policy direction for the NAACP.

Our membership is very concerned with the funding mechanism of a sales tax to
build the jail. This is a regressive tax which disproportionally impacts the poor. This was one of many issues that the membership expressed concern.

The membership has charged me to defeat this proposal on November 6,
2007. I will do everything within my power to represent the interests
of our membership. I am asking each of you to be prepared to vote on
November 6, 2007. We want 100% of NAACP members to vote in the
election. We also want to make sure that we influence our friends
and family to oppose this jail tax. Remember we would not even have the option to vote on the issue if it were not for the leadership of the NAACP Executive Committee and Members. VOTE NO ON THE JAIL TAX!

President Smitherman

So why'd Smitherman change his mind?

When Cincinnati NAACP President Christopher Smitherman changed his mind at the last minute about running for Cincinnati City Council (read the Enquirer story), many wondered if a visit this week by a national NAACP big whig had anything to do with it.

You see, the national office has rules prohibiting a chapter leader running for elected office. They require that person to resign their NAACP role during the campaign to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

But Smitherman initially said he would run anyway, defying the national office's rules (read the Enquirer story).

As the filing deadline approached this week, National NAACP Chief of Field Operations Nelson B. Rivers III paid a visit to Cincinnati.

The deadline came and went Thursday with Smitherman's name conspicuously absent from the list.

Smitherman said Thursday night he'd changed his mind because he decided that the NAACP was his priority and "It was very important for my (NAACP) camp that I stay."

So was the change-of-heart a coincidence? Or did he get a talking-to from the the NAACP powers-that-be?

The Enquirer asked Rivers during the chapter's general membership meeting Thursday night. Rivers said there was no talking-to because Smitherman had already decided not to run.

"There was nothing to discuss," Rivers said. "He said he wasn't running so it was a moot issue."

Rivers said he came to town because the chapter is an "important branch" and has been "doing good work" and because he wanted to participate in the meeting. Not because of the Smitherman candidacy controversy.

Rivers did, however, take time to give a detailed explanation of the national policy to the membership Thursday night after one of them asked him about it.

The local NAACP chapter does, indeed have a lot going on. It's set to host the national NAACP annual convention next year and just wrapped up a successful referendum effort to get a sales tax increase for a new jail on the November ballot.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Open thread on candidate filings

Jim Tarbell running for Cincinnati school board, Chris Smitherman not running for council - it's all on http://www.enquirer.com/

The official list is here (pdf)

Let us know what you think

Term limits? They're temporary...

Howard Wilkinson has the story here

Voinovich near site of fatal attack

It may have been a close call for Sen. George Voinovich in Iraq this week.

The Ohio Republican and three other U.S. senators visited Combat Outpost X-ray, near Camp Taji, north of Baghdad on Tuesday. One day later, two suicide truck bombs were set off at another outpost in the area north of Baghdad, killing four Iraqi soldiers, and wounding 11 U.S. soldiers and four Iraqi soldiers.

A U.S. military spokesman declined to say how close the outpost that was attacked is to Outpost X-Ray, which the senators visited. A spokesman in Voinovich's office confirmed that the attack was on a different outpost.

Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Republicans, and David Vitter, R-La., also were on the trip.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ad targeting Voinovich

It's called "Endless" and targets Sen. George Voinovich for not voting to end the Iraq war.

Watch the ad from Americans United for Change for yourself HERE.

Read the script HERE.

See the ad's documentation HERE.

Those Who Raise Money Together ......

There's a fundraiser coming up for a trio of Cincinnati City Council candidates - Democrat Jeff Berding, Charterite Chris Bortz and Republican Leslie Ghiz.

For $150 - that's $50 per person per candidate, you can have cocktails Sept. 5 with the three of them and their supporters at the Hyde Park home of Crystal Faulkner and Tom Cooney. Please join us, their invitation says, "and meet three of the most qualified candidates for Cincinnati City Council. Support these proven leaders that are working together for a better Cincinnati."

Among the 30 people on the host committee: Paul and Christie Ghiz; Chuck Kubicki; George and Betty Schaefer; Karl and Tracy Dostal; Trey Isgrig; Margaret Lawson; Pete Strange; and James Zimmerman.

Voinovich returns from Iraq and he's not talkin'

Three liberal anti-war groups unveiled television ads and a billboard today calling on Sen. George Voinovich to vote to end the Iraq war.

The attacks on Voinovich just as the Ohio senator is returning from a four-day trip to Iraq, Germany and Kuwait with fellow Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both of Tennessee, and David Vitter of Louisiana. Voinovich just got back last night. It was his first trip to Iraq.

While there, the senators met with Army Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, visited with soldiers and traveled to a combat outpost to meet with Sunni and Shiite leaders.

Voinovich, however, has declined to talk to the media about his trip until next week, spokesman Chris Paulitz told The Enquirer on Wednesday.

"He's going to spend some time and develop some thoughts on this," Paulitz said.

Voinovich got national attention in June when he said in a letter to President Bush that the U.S. should disengage from Iraq, including the gradual withdrawal of troops. He has been criticized, however, for voting against Democrat-sponsored measures in the Senate to force an immediate troop withdrawal.

"Talk is cheap," said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United For Change, which is paying for the ads. "We haven’t seen any votes to back up his comments."

The TV ads will run in Cincinnati starting today and continuing until the end of next week.

Additionally, the "Voinovich Double Talk Express" bus, sponsored by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq and Progress Ohio, is on a three-day statewide tour of Ohio, with a stop at Cincinnati City Hall this afternoon. The bus is carrying a giant billboard accusing Voinovich of being "on vacation" while U.S. soldiers serve multiple rotations in Iraq.

Brian Rothenberg, executive director of Progress Ohio, said the group didn’t know Voinovich would be returning from Iraq the same time as their bus tour.

"Making one quick trip in and out in a day does not do as much as he could do with his vote in the Senate," Rothenberg said.

Meanwhile, Alexander and Corker told reporters in a joint conference call Wednesday that a strategy devised by Petraeus to work with local leaders and win them over to the U.S. cause has shown "clear success, province by province."

Also during the trip, the lawmakers visited injured soldiers at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and met with civilian contractors and officials in Kuwait.

Voinovich’s trip — and the ads attacking his position on the war — come less than a month before Patraeus is expected to brief Congress on the progress in Iraq.

DeWine booted from committee he started

Democratic Hamilton County Commissioners David Pepper and Todd Portune last week kicked their Republican colleague, Pat DeWine to the curb.

OK, not completely.

But they did boot a surprised DeWine off of the Shared Services Committee, which DeWine started last year to explore efforts to save county money.

Pepper initiated the move at the county commission meeting last week. He noted DeWine, in budget hearings a week earlier, had said if the $50,000 for the committee hadn’t already been spent, he would have suggested cutting it in favor of funding a contract to keep overflow inmates in the Butler County jail.

“I don’t see how someone can chair an effort when he has said in a public meeting that it isn’t a priority,” Pepper said.

DeWine called the move “symbolic of how petty things have gotten around here.”

“There’s a process I started that you want to remove me from and that’s fine. You’re the majority. That’s your right,” he told Pepper. “But I think that really says there is no interest in any kind of bipartisanship, diverse opinions or anything other than being petty.”

DeWine agreed that yes, he thinks it’s more important to keep inmates in jail than to spend $50,000 on a committee. But Pepper’s move was all politics, and it all comes back to the controversial jail issue, he said.

“I think we have reached a point where there is … an effort to shut out any dissenting viewpoint and removing people from committees because we don’t like where they stand on the jail sales tax,” DeWine said.

Portune seconded Pepper’s motion, but didn’t add to the discussion except to say “If we want to have a full discussion of personal accusations, that’s fine. But I prefer to spend it on more substantive matters.”

Portune will take DeWine's place representing the commissioners on the committee. Pepper noted later that DeWine is welcome to attend the committee meetings, but should no longer be the commissioners' representative.

And with that they voted DeWine off the committee.

He was in disbelief.

“I feel like I’m in fourth grade,” DeWine said then suggested wryly to his colleagues, “If you’d like, you could bring in a motion to take away my parking spot as well.”

Is the park district too white?

If you work at the Hamilton County Park District, statistically speaking, there’s a good chance you’re white.

Only 5 percent of the park district’s 1,217 employees are minorities, according to employment figures obtained by the Enquirer. The district defines minorities as African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans.

Employment numbers:

Total number of employees(2007): 1,217.

Total number of minority employees: 62.

But that doesn’t mean the district isn’t trying.

“Over the past few years, emphasis has been placed on minority recruiting to increase diversity in the park district’s staff,” the district stated in its 2006 recruitment report.

The district reported receiving 3 percent more applications from minorities in 2006 than it did in 2005, it said.

Recruitment efforts include:

  • Newspaper ads in The Cincinnati Herald, The Downtowner, Queen City Jobs Diversity Issue, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Job News and The Employment Guide

  • Online postings at Careerbuilder.com and Greatparks.org

  • Radio Ads on WIZF-FM (Wiz 101.1)and WDBZ-AM (1230 the Buzz)

  • Attending Local Job Fairs, including: Green Township Library, Delhi Library, Westwood Library, Jobs for Cincinnati Grads, Princeton High School, Cincinnati Arts and Technology Center, Mayor’s Job Fair

  • Contact with over 100 local Minority based Churches, Schools and Community Groups.

  • Hamilton County Park District Employment Open House

    Recruitment numbers:
    The number of minority applicants increased from 9 percent in 2001 to 19 percent in 2006. The number of minorities being hired increased from 5 percent to 9 percent during that same time period.
    Note: applicants are asked, but are not required to disclose race on their applications.

Here are some specifics.

Is there more to this story? How is minority recruitment elsewhere in county government? Tell us about it. E-mail jlbrown@enquirer.com

Xavier announces details for Coulter visit

In a news release e-mailed to reporters today, the Xavier University College Republicans, in conjunction with the Young America’s Foundation, confirmed that they will host conservative author and political pundit Ann Coulter next month.

The speech will be held Thursday, Sept. 6, at 7:00 p.m. in the Cintas Center arena on the Xavier University campus. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Coulter is known for her satirical and abrasive sense of humor, generally hated by the liberal left and revered by conservatives. Most recently she came under scrutiny for her comments at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this past March, regarding Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

“It’s really exciting to have someone of the caliber of Ann Coulter coming to campus,” said Chris Wimsatt, Chairman of the Xavier College Republicans. “Our club decided to bring Ms. Coulter in response to leftist speakers such as Michael Moore, Joe Wilson, and former President Bill Clinton.”

Tickets for student are free with a valid student ID. Tickets for non-students and the general public are $5.00. Tickets will not be pre-sold. They may be picked up or purchased at the door.

Meanwhile, the protests for Coulter's speech are already in the works.

17 Council Candidates and Counting

If you can't wait for the final results after tomorrow's filing deadline, here's the 15 candidates the Hamilton County Board of Elections says have filed petitions as of today to run for Cincinnati City Council:

Jeff Berding, Laketa Cole, Minette Cooper, David C. Crowley, Greg Harris, Leslie Ghiz, Joan Kaup, Chris Monzel, Mitch Painter, Steve Pavelish, Roxanne Qualls, Cecil Thomas, Charlie Winburn, Wendell Young and George Zamary.

This afternoon, Brian Garry sent out a mass e-mail saying he'd filed. And Justin Jeffre says he'll be filing tomorrow too.

Board officials said they expected about seven more filings by Thursday's deadline.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Taxpayers will pay $8 million for morgue misdeeds

Jessica Brown has the story here

Eat, Drink and Listen

Oakley's community council starts the candidates' forum season off Thursday with appetizers, cocktails and speeches at the 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road. Candidates running for Cincinnati City Council and the Cincinnati Public Schools board are invited to the first-come, first-speak event.

Start eating and drinking at 6 p.m., before the vote-for-me stuff at 6:30 p.m. Each candidate gets three minutes.

Two of the organizers, Matt Jones and council president Dave Schaff, have other allegiances too. Jones works for Leslie Ghiz at City Hall and Schaff is managing Jeff Berding's re-election campaign.

Seitz aims for Clancy's seat

Jon Craig has the story here

Monday, August 20, 2007

Judge: Brinkman is "real culprit"

Two women convicted of falsifying election petitions to meet quotas for bonuses were put on probation and ordered to do 200 hours of community service, but a judge said they were minor players in a much larger “mean-spirited campaign.”

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman reiterated Monday what he said last month when Lois Mingo and Precilla Ward pleaded guilty to charges of election falsification: that State Rep. Tom Brinkman, who headed up the petition drive for the unsuccessful effort last year to repeal the city’s gay rights ordinance, should be charged.

“To cheat on petitions in an election is to really rob people of freedom. It’s the foundation of democracy,” Ruehlman told the women. “You have to pay for that.”

Ruehlman, a Republican, went on to say: “I still think real culprit is Rep. Brinkman.”

“I know politics,” Ruehlman said. “Somehow (Brinkman) falls between the cracks and is not prosecuted… the guy in power is the one who should have been indicted.”

Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout, was not in court Monday. When contacted by the Enquirer, Brinkman said “no comment” and hung up.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, a Republican, previously explained Brinkman’s conduct was in a “gray area” and was a not clear-cut violation.

A grand jury heard the case and declined to indict Brinkman, according to Deters.
Ruehlman said during the sentencing that Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor David Stevenson told him during pre-trial discussions in chambers that Brinkman changed signatures, but that Stevenson was now “backing off” that statement.

Stevenson did not return a call for comment.

Brinkman told the Enquirer last month that he made no changes.

The petitions were an effort by Equal Rights Not Special Rights to overturn a gay rights ordinance passed by Cincinnati City Council in spring 2006 that protected gays and lesbians from discrimination.

The group, chaired by anti-porn activist Phil Burress, collected two signatures more than the 7,654 signatures needed to get the referendum on the ballot.

Equal Rights Not Special Rights contracted with Brinkman to help collect signatures. Brinkman in turn used some workers from Labor Ready, a temporary job agency, to help collect the signatures.

Mingo, 48, of St. Bernard, and Ward, 33, of Winton Place, worked for Labor Ready. Each earned bonuses based on the number of signatures they collected. It’s not clear how much the bonus was.

Citizens to Restore Fairness, an offshoot of Equality Cincinnati, a local group that works for the rights of gays and trans-gendered people, challenged the petitions. They filed a complaint with the Hamilton County Board of Elections saying many of the signatures were phony.

In several instances the names and addresses of the signer were crossed out and replaced with the addresses of registered voters in order to make the signatures valid.

Burress withdrew the petitions, but the complaint was forwarded to prosecutor’s office.
Prosecutors determined campaigns are allowed to strike out information on a petition, but only if it’s done ‘under the direction and by the authority of the signer.”

Brinkman told prosecutors a lawyer had wrongly advised him that the addresses could be altered.

David Miller, vice president of public policy for Citizens for Community Values, a sister organization of Equal Rights Not Special Rights, said Brinkman did nothing wrong and that the right people were prosecuted.

“Anyone that commits election fraud needs to be prosecuted,” Miller said. “We encouraged this action to be taken as soon as we heard about it. Tom Brinkman did the same thing.

“Those who have committed election fraud have been properly prosecuted and sentenced,” he said.

Gary Wright, the former president of Equality Cincinnati, who filed the complaint against Brinkman with the Board of Elections, said he still isn’t satisfied.

He wants an independent prosecutor to look at Brinkman’s role in the fraud.

“The prosecutor’s office can’t possibly be objective,” Wright said. “The judge let the prosecutor’s office off too easy.”

A Blackwell made the news today

And it's neither Ken, nor Rosa:

You can check the story out here:

Conyers to speak to NAACP

Howard Wilkinson reports:

Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, will be the keynote speaker at the annual Freedom Fund Dinner of the NAACP’s Cincinnati branch on Oct. 5.

Conyers, who is in his 21st two-year term as a Detroit-area congressman, was a vocal critic of voting procedures in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election. In Jan. 2005, after hearings in Washington and Columbus conducted by Conyers, then the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, the committee’s minority staff issued a report critical of then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, saying voting irregularities in Ohio may have disenfranchised thousands.

The Cincinnati NAACP’s 52nd annual Freedom Fund begins with a 6 p.m. reception on Friday, Oct. 5 at the Duke Energy Center, followed by a dinner and program. Next August, the Cincinnati branch will host the NAACP’s annual national convention.

For information on tickets for the Freedom Fund Dinner, call the NAACP office at (513) 281-1900.

Cincinnati Democrats make CPS endorsements

The Cincinnati Democratic Committee endorsed three first-time candidates for the Cincinnati Board of Education on Saturday.

Former judicial candidate Martha Good, former Hamilton County Recorder Eve Bolton and Aisha Nurredin (pronounced NURE-DEEN), a University of Cincinnati outreach coordinator and school volunteer, won the endorsements.

Good and Bolton are both veterans on the local political scene. Bolton served one term as Hamilton County recorder in the 1990s, and has run unsuccessfully in several elections since then. In 2006, she narrowly lost to Dale Mallory for the Democratic nomination for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Good lost a 2005 race for Hamilton County Municipal Court judge.

The party interviewed other candidates who were not endorsed, but co-chair Aryeh Alex would not identify them.

“Both the nominating committee and the executive committee unanimously agreed on supporting these three,” Alex said.

None of the three have formally filed to run in the race, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections. The filing deadline is Thursday.

The November school board elections are guaranteed to bring at least two new members to the seven-member board. Three seats are up for election, and incumbent Democrats Florence

Newell and John Gilligan are retiring. Rick Williams is the only incumbent who has announced his intentions to try for another term.

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