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 31, 2007

Hey, you want to be a State Senator?


COLUMBUS – Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) today announced that the Ohio Senate Republican Caucus will accept applications to fill the 8th Senate District seat, which will become open when current State Senator Patricia Clancy (R-Colerain Township) steps down in early October to accept a position as Assistant Chief Probation Officer for the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. The 8th Senate District is comprised of communities in western and northern Hamilton County.

Interested candidates will be screened by a committee of Republican Senators on September 12th, beginning at 12:30 p.m. In addition to Senate President Harris, the committee will be comprised of President Pro Tempore Jeff Jacobson (R-Vandalia), Majority Floor Leader Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), Assistant Majority Floor Leader Robert Spada (R-North Royalton), Majority Whip Steve Austria (R-Beavercreek), Senator John Carey (R-Wellston) and Senator Bob Schuler (R-Sycamore Township).

Following Clancy’s departure, the full Republican caucus will vote to officially seat the individual recommended by the screening committee.

Interested individuals should submit resumes no later than the close of business on September 7th to the office of Senate President Bill Harris and to the office of Senate Chief of Staff Matt Schuler:

Senate President Bill Harris Chief of Staff Matt Schuler
Statehouse Statehouse
Columbus, Ohio 43215 Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 466-8086 (614) 466-2510
(614) 466-2776 (fax) (614) 644-5208 (fax)

Could DeWine be out of Banks talks?

A lawyer at Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine's law firm Keating Muething & Klekamp has become involved in the Banks project. But it is unclear whether that means DeWine will be forced to abstain from future Banks decision-making.

Attorney Joseph L. Trauth Jr. sent a letter to Cincinnati City Council and County Commissioners Wednesday on behalf of some prominent downtown property owners including the Lindners and the owners of the Scripps Center (see story here). The property owners are mad that Cincinnati Planning Commission gave the green light (see story here) for developers to potentially construct 30-story buildings between the downtown properties and the river view.

DeWine said Thursday of the letter: "I was surprised. I didn't know they (the law firm) were going to send that letter."

He said he will look into whether or not it presents a conflict of interest. City Council and County Commissioners must ultimately approve the Banks development changes. DeWine is the lone Republican on the three-member commission.

Tony Snow's leaving the White House

President Bush just announced that after a little more than a year on the job Cincinnati native Tony Snow will depart the White House where Snow has served as the president's press secretary. Below is the transcript of the president's remarks. He did not take any questions.

12:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good afternoon to you.
Tony Snow informed me he's leaving. And I sadly accept his desire to leave the White House, and he'll do so on September the 14th. He is -- it's been a joy to watch him spar with you. He's smart, he's capable, he's witty. He's capable of -- he's able to talk about issues in a way that the American people can understand.
And I don't know what he's going to do -- I'm not sure he does yet, either. But whatever it is, it's going to be -- two things: One, he'll battle cancer and win. And secondly, he'll be a solid contributor to society.
I do want to thank Jill and Kendall, Robbie and Kristi. They have watched a man they love take on a big job, and at the same time, fight disease -- with a lot of courage. And so I accept, I love you, and I wish you all the best.
And so I had to make a choice, who to replace Tony, and I've chosen Dana Perino. I did so because Dana is a smart, capable person who is able to spell out the issues of the day in a way that people listening on TV can understand. She can handle you all. She's capable of handling your questions.

QUESTION: She has done --

THE PRESIDENT: She has? Good. Okay. I'm glad to get a little -- I'm glad to get that choir singing. (Laughter.) So I'm not worried about her standing here at the podium. What I look for in somebody like Dana is somebody who will walk in that Oval Office and give me sound judgment and good advice. And I have found that over the course of the time I've known her she's capable of doing that. And she's also capable of running the shop that she'll be in charge of.
And so we say to the man we admire a lot: Good luck, Godspeed. And to Dana Perino: I'm looking forward to working with you and I'm looking forward to the American people to get to know you like I've gotten to know you.

QUESTION: You've lost a lot of members in your administration --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold up. (Laughter.)

MR. SNOW: Just a couple of quick comments. First, Mr. President, thank you and thanks for the honor of serving. This job has really been a dream for me and a blast. I've had an enormous amount of fun and satisfaction, and I'm proud to be working for you, and will continue after I leave working for the White House, to speak out about issues I care about.
I'm also proud and happy that Dana will be taking over as Press Secretary. She's an enormously capable woman, as you know, and somebody who more than capably filled my shoes while I was away on surgery, and somebody who really is -- as I told her before, she's going to find out talents that she wasn't even aware of. But I think this is one of those wonderful times where somebody who works very hard in public life and has demonstrated extraordinary capability is going to have an opportunity to serve a President. And I think she'll have every bit as much fun and fulfillment in this job as I have.

MS. PERINO: I knew I had to pull that out -- (laughter) -- so I could see over the top.
Thank you, Mr. President, and Tony. I am honored to have been asked and delighted to accept the position. It is bittersweet, of course, because we are all going to miss Tony Snow very much. And he mentions filling shoes, and I've said before, he leaves very big shoes to fill, and I only wear a size 6.
And I thank him for all he's done for us in the administration. He's given us a lot of laughter, even at 6:30 a.m. in the morning when we meet every day. And while I'm saddened to see you go, I'm very happy for your family. You are their biggest champion, and everyone that's watched you fight this cancer is inspired, and the way that you lead your life is one with optimism, and we all should follow your lead.
Over the years, since Scott McClellan hired me to be his deputy, I've gotten to know a lot of you in the room, and there's also a lot of new faces in this room. And we do have quite a bit of time left. The President has a very ambitious agenda. We are a nation at war, and the press office, the whole team, is going to be here to help support him sprint to the finish.
I have an open-door policy. I hope to see a lot of you upstairs -- would love to see more of your faces, rather than just the emails.
And, Mr. President, thank you for your guidance, and I appreciate all you've done for me and the confidence you've placed in me, and I aim to live up to your expectations.


QUESTION: How do you feel about losing everybody?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all.

END 12:51 P.M. EDT

Ghiz will fight CPS levy

From city councilwoman Leslis Ghiz:

Cites Unanswered Questions for Opposition to $65 Million/Year Tax Increase

City Councilmember Leslie Ghiz today announced her opposition to the $65 million public school tax levy that will appear on this November’s ballot. Ghiz said she will be working in the coming months to ensure that City taxpayers are aware of the reasons for her opposition. She even said she is considering introducing a resolution at City Council after the summer recess urging citizens to reject the levy proposal.

“Taxpayers in our City have seen three school levies proposed in the past five years,” Ghiz said. “At the same time, they are faced with the news that the schools will be hiring a brand new Superintendent while the School Board could turn over completely.”

“The School Board ought to be focusing on the pressing issue at hand: finding a credible replacement for its Superintendent instead of trying to pass massive tax increases,” Ghiz said. “Show me a long-term, strategic plan for our schools and I will be strong advocate for increasing funding for our school system. As it stands now, this is a completely irresponsible request of our homeowners.”

Ghiz noted that voters in 2004 approved a $65 million renewal levy that is set to expire in 2010 and costs the owner of a $100,000 around $300 per year. Under the proposed levy, the same owner of a $100,000 would pay an additional $300 per year. Ghiz said it is crucial for voters to send a message prior to any future renewal levy that the school system needs to undertake substantial reforms before coming to them for additional tax dollars.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Harris: Here's My Anti-Poverty Plan

A day after U.S. Census figures show Cincinnati to be the third poorest city in the country, City Council candidate Greg Harris releases an anti-poverty plan. A member of Gov. Ted Strickland's workforce policy board, he says he'll "advocate for comprehensive strategies geared towards building capital among minority populations that have endured a multi-generational disadvantage in wealth creation."

The plan includes: working with local unions to get more minorities in apprenticeship programs; working with "effective consumer education non-profits like Smart Money in Over-the-Rhine" to combat the fleecing of the working poor by check-cashing stores, high-interest loans and predatory lenders; and develop partnerships between the Great Oaks career and tech center with programs targeting high-school dropouts, at-risk students and the working poor.

Read the whole plan here.

Mystery Banks press conference cancelled

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune may have overstepped his bounds -- and in the meantime stepped on some political toes -- by publicizing that he was holding a Banks press conference this week.

The mysterious press conference between Portune, Mayor Mark Mallory and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher was originally scheudled for 10 a.m. Thursday. It was listed on the commissioner's weekly schedule, which was sent to the press Monday.

However, Portune then steadfastly refused to give the press any details.

He said he'd promised not to talk.

Mallory and Fisher's offices were similarly mum on the issue.

And in the meantime, grumblings surfaced during the week from those not so happy that Portune had spilled the beans about the conference in the first place.

And, as if to cap off the mystery with yet another mystery, the day before the big conference was to be held, it was abruptly cancelled with no explanation.

Portune's office had just resumed sending out the weekly agendas this week after a several-week hiatus.

Portune uses cop shooting to laud jail plan

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune is using the case of the Blue Ash man who was shot and killed by police (see Enquirer story) as an example of why his Comprehensive Pubic Safety Plan (a sales tax-funded new jail and set of safety programs) is needed.

Had it been in place, he said, perhaps there would have been a different outcome for the unfortunate Charles Bennett, he said.

“There’s no doubt had we had an intake and assessment program in place, my guess is we at least would have had a fighting chance to make a difference in that person’s life,” he said of Bennett. An "intake and assessment" program called Re-entry would be included in the safety plan.

Portune also noted that Bennett was in the county jail recently on a charge of possession of marijuana. He notes critics of the jail plan say people with minor convictions like that shouldn’t be taking up room in the jail.

They're obviously wrong in Portune's view.

"You can’t just look at these raw statistics and draw any real conclusions about the overall nature of the offender and their propensity for future criminal behavior," he said. "The comprehensive safety plan would allow us to have those tools in place."

As for the officers, Portune did take a moment to “commend their bravery." Then he got back on his soap box.

“We can either do the bare-bones minimum thing and continue to cut anywhere we can to scrape things together, or we can do what we all know needs to be done and realize we have this historic opportunity within our grasp,” he said.

Tarbell Is Leaving The Building

As you might guess, there's going to be a party for Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell. His resignation from City Council is effective Monday. His replacement, former Mayor Roxanne Qualls, will be sworn in Tuesday.

The party's 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at - where else? - Arnold's, downtown. Tarbell used to own the place.

Another YouTube Video

This one from movecincyforward, here's another YouTube video urging you to vote for some new faces for Cincinnati City Council on Nov. 6.

Set to Michael Jackson's "Beat It," there are photos of Sam Malone, Charlie Winburn, Roxanne Qualls and Minette Cooper. All of them, the screen says, contributed to the problems the city has today and none of them deserve (sic) a second chance.

"Vote for change, imagination and anyone who does not or has not worked on council."

Watch it here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Qualls' Committees

This from former City Hall reporter Gregory Korte ....

Just how deferential are City Council members to their newest soon-to-be colleague, former Mayor Roxanne Qualls?

At a meeting with Enquirer reporters and editors Tuesday, Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Berding -- whose committee oversees committee assignments* -- said people shouldn't expect a wholesale reorganization of the committee structure.

"There's no rearranging. We're just going to put her on every committee she wants to be on," Berding said. "And I think she wants to be on every committee."

* This, of course, raises the question: Who decides who's on the Rules Committee?

Eby Goes Snazzy

If there was an award for the Fanciest Media Packet By A Cincinnati City Council Candidate, it would probably go - so far, at least - to John Eby.

They're shiny red folders, arriving in bright red envelopes - four or five to this office alone. Inside, there are business cards, a CD with photos, a piece of the literature he's dropping, a press release, a media guide with everything from his daughters' names and ages to his answers on an AFL-CIO questionnaire and a six-page transcript of an interview with The Dean of Cincinnati, who apparently requested an Eby yard sign.

In the transcript, Eby says he apologized to David Crowley for referring to him earlier this year as "Osama bin Crowley". The remark was in connection to Crowley's initiative to get council to vote against President Bush's troop surge. Eby, an Army veteran, says he sent the e-mail with the reference in it while he was angry and that he "responded inappropriately on a personal level." He says he apologized to Crowley and sent an e-mail to the other eight council members, apologizing to them too. He was trying, he says, to draw attention to what he saw as the real issue at the time - council's inattention to the real business of the city.

Lachey Helps Jeffre

Cincinnati City Council candidate Justin Jeffre gets some fund-raising help from his high school friend Nick Lachey, with whom he performed in the band 98 Degrees. Lachey will be here Saturday night, 7-9 p.m., at Club Bang downtown - and you can be too, for $20 at the door.

The event was announced today via an e-mail from Jason Haap, aka The Dean of Cincinnati. He and Jeffre work together on The Cincinnati Beacon blog and monthly newspaper.

Haap also says Jeffre has been endorsed by the Southwest Ohio Green Party. The party announced earlier that it had endorsed local NAACP President Christopher Smitherman for council, but Smitherman did not file last week to run.

"Nick Lachey is a great promoter for Cincinnati, and I am proud to have his support for my City Council campaign," Jeffre said in the e-mail. "I'm looking forward to engaging a debate about the issues facing our community."

Here is the new campaign Web site.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More reaction to Gonzales resignation

"This decision is clearly not one that Attorney General Gonzales has taken lightly. He has dedicated years of his life to public service, both in Texas and at the federal level, and I wish him and his family all the best as they enter the next stage of their lives. The work of the Justice
Department is indispensable to our Global War on Terrorism, and as we move forward, I trust that the next Attorney General will continue an aggressive approach against those who aim to harm our nation."
-- House Republican Leader John Boehner of West Chester, Ohio.

"I hope we can now move on with the very real issues that face our nation. A new Attorney General will again face the same challenging issues. It is my hope that a new Attorney General will find a new environment of cooperation and negotiation on the Hill. I want to thank Alberto Gonzales for his service and recognize the sacrifices of his loving family."
-- Rep. Jean Schmidt, a Republican from Miami Township, Ohio.

“Attorney General Gonzales had lost the faith of the American public, and his resignation was long overdue. His tenure in office will forever be remembered for abusing the rule of law and politicizing a department that, as the legal watchdog of all the American people, must necessarily be independent and above reproach. It is my sincere desire that President Bush and my colleagues in the Senate work to ensure that the next Attorney General demonstrates unwavering commitment to the protection of our civil liberties and the safety of our citizens.”
-- Rep. Zack Space, a Democrat from Dover, Ohio.

"Alberto Gonzales has dutifully served our nation as Attorney General during a challenging time in our history. I thank him for his service and for his unrelenting pursuit of security for our nation. I wish him the best of luck as he prepares for a new chapter in his life."
-- Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican from Hebron, Ky.

Rep. Steve Chabot was unavailable to comment because he is traveling overseas on a congressional trip to Darfur, according to spokesman Todd Lindgren. Rep. Mike Turner's office did not respond to a request for a comment.

Tarbell Out, Qualls In

The swearing-in ceremony for Roxanne Qualls is set for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4. It takes a special session of council, which has been called for by Mayor Mark Mallory.

There's other related business too: appointing David Crowley as vice mayor; appointing a new chair of council's Arts, Culture, Tourism and Marketing Committee; appointing a new council representative to the city planning commission; approving committee memberships for Qualls; and appointing a new SORT board member to fill the position now held by Qualls.

Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell's resignation is effective Monday, Labor Day.

Pavelish: I'm in property rental

Steve Pavelish, a candidate for Cincinnati City Council, says he's in the process of trying to retire from the property rental and rehab business. His wife, Kathleen, died in January, and he says it's time for something new.

That's why he's pitching himself as "the only candidate running to be a full-time council member."


KY, OH senators react to Gonzales resignation

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned this morning, amid criticism over his handling of eight U.S. Attorney firings. Read the story in USA TODAY here.

Here are how Kentucky and Ohio senators responded to the news:

“I thank Alberto Gonzales for his public service and wish him well in his future endeavors. It is my hope that whomever President Bush selects as the next Attorney General, he or she is not subjected to the same poisonous partisanship that we’ve sadly grown accustomed to over the past eight months.”
-- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville.

“I wish Alberto Gonzales the best on his future endeavors. The Justice Department needs strong leadership to combat the grave threat of terrorism. I hope the democrat majority does not turn the confirmation process of the next Attorney General into another political circus. The nominee should be treated fairly through the confirmation process.”
-- Sen. Jim Bunning, a Southgate, Ky., Republican.

“While the senator believes Congress has a duty to conduct oversight, he also understands the president has the right and responsibility to fill his own cabinet. He is looking forward to reviewing the future nominee and will work with his colleagues to help ensure a thorough but speedy process.”
-- Chris Paulitz, spokesman for Sen. George Voinovich, a Cleveland Republican. Voinovich was unable to comment himself on Gonzales' resignation because he is on vacation, Paulitz said in an e-mail.

“Senator Brown believes the attorney general's resignation is long overdue. His tenure has been marred by incompetence at best and outright deceit at worst. Senator Brown hopes President Bush will put politics aside and nominate someone we can all be proud of for this important position. The American people deserve an attorney general whose first allegiance is to them, not the President.”
-- Bethany Lesser, spokeswoman for Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from northern Ohio. It was unclear why Brown was unable to comment himself on Gonzales' resignation.

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