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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Thursday, September 27, 2007

House Republicans pick Mecklenborg

Ohio House Republicans announced their selection today of Bob Mecklenborg to fill the soon-to-be vacated seat held by state Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township.

Earlier this month, Seitz was picked to fill the 8th District Senate seat held by Sen. Patricia Clancy, R-Colerain Township, starting Oct. 10.

Clancy is taking a job as assistant chief probation officer at Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

House Speaker Jon Husted announced Mecklenborg’s selection to the 30th District seat, which includes about 110,000 people in Delhi, Harrison, Green and Miami townships. The job pays $58,933 annually.

Mecklenborg must run for re-election next year. Dick Hammersmith, a political consultant who was passed over for the appointment, has said he’ll challenge Mecklenborg in the March 4 primary election.

Mecklenborg, an attorney, is founding partner of Hyle & Mecklenborg and former law director for the city of Cheviot.

A screening committee comprised of members of the House Republican Caucus, and led by Husted, chose Mecklenborg after a recommendation from Hamilton County Republicans. Appointment to the seat is expected after Seitz’ resignation and the OK of the rest of the 53-member House GOP Caucus.

"Bob Mecklenborg’s vast legal experience and dedication to public service are tremendous," Husted said in a prepared statement. "I’m looking forward to having him on the team."

"I’m both honored and humbled," Mecklenborg said. "I am grateful to have been selected by the screening committee today..."

Mecklenborg and his wife, Jan, have been married for 25 years and have three children – Jill, Rob and Laura. They live in Green Township.

Sparring over the CPS levy

Guest blogger Quan Truong reports:

The latest on the debate surrounding the Cincinnati Public School district’s appeal for a 9.95 mill levy:

The League of Women Voters held an issues forum at their monthly meeting Wednesday night.

Those who support the levy and those who do not, took the microphone and spoke frankly at the forum, in hopes of getting community members rallied on their side.

Mark Turner, an associate professor of Aerospace Enginnering at the University of Cincinnati, started the discussion by holding up his son’s math book. As a result of inflation, he said, the cost of everything, especially textbooks, have gone up significantly.

"My son is in the seventh grade – the district hasn’t had a levy since he was in kindergarten. That’s a long time," he said.

State Rep. Tom Brinkman argued the state has been extremely generous with educational funding.

"If this levy passes, it’ll cost $1,500 per student. There is not a single private school in Ohio that costs that much," he said.

Brinkman called the district dysfunctional and compared it to his children, saying "you take away their car keys and allowance til they get their act together."

Passing the levy, Brinkman said, would be supporting incompetence and he won’t support that until the district "gets its financial house together."

CPS Chief Operations Officer Tom Gunnell said he spoke at the forum not on behalf of the district but as a levy volunteer.

"The state report card would suggest otherwise," he said of Brinkman’s comments. "We’ve improved our performance for years – continual improvement. Is there room to grow? You bet there is and we’d like the opportunity to do that."

Turner said those who have doubts about the district’s performance should take a walk through the schools.

"Just look at the stats and go into any classroom. They’ll see for themselves."

Bikers for Berding

Bicyclists, that is.

An e-mail went out today from Jeffrey Schloemer, a Taft firm attorney who's a big supporter of extending a bike trail into downtown. He's volunteering to help with Jeff Berding's campaign this weekend and urging others to do so too.

In the e-mail, Schloemer says: "Jeff has been one of the true leaders on this bike/hike trail project. Without his work on it, we would not have come as far as we have in the last 6 months. And if he isn't on Council 3 months from now, we will have to work to rebuild coalitions to get the trail done."

City Council on Wednesday approved Berding's request to see if $2.6 million the city expects in federal transportation money could be spent on a bike/hike bridge over the Little Miami River.

Tarbell joins SORTA board

He was term-limited out of City Council then ran short on signatures in a bid for a Cincinnati school board seat. So now the constant public servant Jim Tarbell is joining the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority. The Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday approved the City of Cincinnati's appointment of Tarbell to the organizations board of trustees.

Joked Commissioner Todd Portune: "The good news is he didn't have to have any signatures!"

Tarbell is basically swapping places with SORTA member Roxanne Qualls. Qualls was appointed to city council to fill Tarbell's unexpired term, disqualifying her from serving on the SORTA Board so Tarbell, no longer a councilman, is taking her place.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jail/safety tax campaign kicks off Thursday

Here's the text of the release:

Dr. O’dell Owens, Local Leaders to
Kick-off Issue 27 Campaign


Dr. O’dell Owens, Hamilton County Coroner
Roxanne Qualls, City Council candidate, former Mayor
Rep. Bill Seitz, Republican Party
Mayor John Smith, Democratic Party
Hamilton County Police Chiefs Association
Todd Portune, David Pepper, Hamilton County Commissioners
Other Local Mayors and Elected Officials
Community activists and citizens

WHAT: Dr. O’dell Owens and other members of the Citizens for a Safer
Cincinnati will kick off their support of Issue 27. Dr. Owens sees first-hand the unfortunate toll violence takes on our
community. He will join other local leaders in kicking off the campaign Issue 27. a comprehensive safety plan for Hamilton County.

WHEN: Thursday, September 27
1:00 pm

WHERE: Theodore Berry International Friendship Park
Outside the Pavillion
1135 Eastern Ave.
note: Park in the lot next to Montgomery Inn and walk to the event

POWR PAC Switches To Winburn

They didn't announce it, but if you check out the West Side group's Web site, you'll find they switched their previous endorsement of Melanie Bates for, as many suspected, Charlie Winburn.


The group's candidates forum is Oct. 8 at Price Hill Chili.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ombudsman job finally agreed on

Hamilton County has finally agreed on a job description for its ombudsman. They passed a resolution about it a few weeks ago and this week nailed down the details. To read the job description, click here. To read the Enquirer stories about this issue, click here, here, and here.

More sheriff complaints roll in

More people are jumping on the bandwagon of complaints about Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis. These folks, though, are taking their complaints to the state. The same letter was sent to Attorney General Marc Dann's office and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's office.

Most of them are members of or have been associated with the No Jail Tax Political Action Committee. However they say they are doing this because they work in the public sector and are concerned.

Read their letter here.

Politicians Downtown Hopping Around

Here's where to find your favorite Cincinnati politician on Saturday night during the Downtown Hop Around (http://www.downtownhoparound.com/):

Mayor Mark Mallory and Laketa Cole: McCormick & Schmick's (Mallory eats there a lot)

Jeff Berding: Nicholson's

Chris Bortz, with his uncle, former Mayor Arn Bortz: Palomino. (Chris' dad, developer Neil Bortz, will be at Jeff Ruby's)

Laketa Cole: Also McCormick & Schmick's

John Cranley: Boi Na Braza Brazilian steak house

Vice Mayor David Crowley: Plum Street Cafe

Leslie Ghiz and Roxanne Qualls: The bar at the Palm Court, Hilton Netherland Plaza

Chris Monzel: Great American Ball Park

Cecil Thomas: Scotti's

Endorsements for Jeffre

UPDATE: Haap adds one more - from Pamela Smitherman, wife of Christopher Smitherman, president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP.

Justin Jeffre's campaign announces that he "quietly collects surprising endorsements."

From who? Here's the list, according to a press release from Jason Haap, aka blogger The Dean of Cincinnati, Jeffre's partner in the Cincinnati Beacon:

"Bill Joiner, a Democratic activist who has been a vocal opponent of Jeff Berding, has endorsed Jeffre. "I have been a loyal Democrat for many years because I believe in traditional Democratic values," explained Joiner. "I recognize that not every Democrat lives up to those values, and there are others who are not Democrats but who, despite their party labels, embrace those Democratic values. I believe Justin Jeffre is one of those persons, and I am happy to endorse his candidacy for City Council."

"Former Democratic mayor of Forest Park and candidate for County Commission, Stephanie Dumas, has endorsed Jeffre, too. "His creativity, energy and willingness to seek innovative solutions makes him an ideal candidate to move Cincinnati forward," said Dumas. "Justin truly has a heart for the people."

Others, Haap says: The Southwest Ohio Green Party; CincyLatino; Democrat Jenny Edwards of the West End; Georgine Getty, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless; and Dan LaBotz, former columnist for City Beat and a visiting professor in history at Miami's Hamilton campus.

Jeffre said he is proud to be supported by such hard-working and dedicated people.

Ghiz's New Web Site

Leslie Ghiz has rolled out her new campaign Web site.

If you're so inclined, check it out at http://www.leslieghiz.com/. And sign up for her e-mail newsletter, The Ghizette.

Her campaign manager, Ted Jackson, points out that the site is powered by a local software company, Global Cloud.

Guest blogger Margaret McGurk reports:

Jim Tarbell, recently departed from Cincinnati City Council, has not resigned from his long-running role as downtown booster. He shared his thoughts about Cincinnati's future Monday night at a League of Women Voters dinner.

Invoking the explosive 19th century growth that defined the city, he painted a picture of revival based on, among other projects, a proposed downtown streetcar system due for a City Council vote next month.

"To be having a conversation about whether to have a streetcar system is crazy," he said. The question, he said, should be "When? How soon? How fast? How far?'

"It's friendly, its fun, it's efficient, but even more it's a vision, a statement about where we are going as a community," he said of the $100 million Phase 1 project that would run from Second Street to Findlay Market. Proponents predict it will attract billons in new development.

A new wave of development could recapture "the density and intensity" of the city's glory days, which were, he said, "replete with grandeur and wonders of all kinds." Tarbell suggested the population of Over-the-Rhine, now about 5,000 could grow to 20,000 through redevelopment.

Hamilton County newsletter online

The latest edition of Hello Hamilton County newsletter is now online. Find out what new role Communications Center director Bill Hinkle is playing, learn about a girl who is up for adoption, and find out about the Fresh Ideas program.


CAFA Says Vote For These

The Friends of CAFA (Cincinnati African-American Firefighters Association) PAC released its endorsements for Cincinnati City Council:

Incumbents Laketa Cole, John Cranley, David Crowley and Cecil Thomas, and challengers Brian Garry, Greg Harris, Sam Malone,Wendell Young and Charlie Winburn.

Chairman is Edward Turner Jr., blackfirepac@aol.com

Chabot and Schmidt: High roller, cheap date

If you were Jean Schmidt, you might well think that, sometimes, life in politics is not fair.
Here's her 1st Congressional District colleague and fellow Republican, Steve Chabot, sitting on a campaign fund of $413,932, as of the June 30 FEC reports, and he's holding a fundraising breakfast at the Queen City Club next Monday where tickets go for $1,000 a pop.
$1,000 a pop; and the guy doesn't even have a GOP primary opponent. Schmidt, of course, does, in the form of Phil Heimlich; and, yet, as of June 30, the incumbent 2nd District congresswoman had only $85,169 in the bank, plus a $309,126 debt from the last time around because of the personal cash she lent her campaign.

So Schmidt, with her $85,169 in her pocket, is holding her own Queen City Club fundraising breakfast Friday morning. The ticket price for her fundraiser? The bargain-basement price of $250.

So, it costs four times as much to have scrambled eggs and a fruit cup with the congressman who already has about five times as much money in the bank already as his colleague, the congresswoman from the 2nd District, who not only has a Republican primary opponent but a couple of Democrats who want her job and are already raising a whole lot more money than she has.

Makes one wonder if the difference between the two GOP incumbents is that the 2nd District congresswoman couldn't draw a crowd at $1,000 per head.

Even if she offered an unlimited breakfast bar.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Driehaus weighs in on CPS construction

State Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Price Hill, waded into a minor -- so far -- controversy regarding the Cincinnati Public Schools' schools rebuilding project today.

In a press release, Driehaus said he's opposing a proposal from CPS officials to completely rebuild the old Westwood school on Montana Ave., rather than renovate the school as originally planned. Some neighbors are upset with the plan.

“I think tearing down Westwood School would be a travesty,” said Driehaus. “Cincinnati Public Schools has to be far more sensitive in preserving the architectural integrity of our neighborhood as we move forward in the name of progress.”

In a plan described in Saturday's Enquirer, CPS believes it can save $11.5 million by rebuilding Westwood, Clark Montessori in Hyde Park and Rothenberg school in Over-the-Rhine. The plan would need approval by the school board.


"No decision has been made," said CPS spokeswoman Janet Walsh at last night's board meeting. "The reason we went to the community was really to get their opinion. But we felt that as the new assessment indicated, a new building would provide a better environment for students in many respects for $3 million less than renovating the building, that it was at least worth considering on behalf of students and taxpayers."

Walsh's $3 million figure includes the savings if the new buildings include a gymnasium (still considered optional), and the total cost, including state funding. The $1.58 million quoted in Saturday's article only includes savings to local taxpayers and excludes a possible gym.

Winburn: My Ads Are Coming

Charlie Winburn and Sam Malone were passing out campaign literature outside City Hall today as the hundreds of retirees left after the public hearing about their health care costs.

Winburn says his first commercial is taped and promised it will be more "powerful" than the last ones he ran. Remember when he was running for mayor, his television ads illustrated his stance that no neighborhood was immune to crime by showing bullets with neighborhood names - including Hyde Park - on them.

The ad showed a masked man loading a revolver and said that one of the thug's bullets might have your name on it.

"City leadership," it said, "is literally playing Russian roulette with your life."

That drew criticism from people who said he was just trying to scare people into voting for him.

Winburn says his ads will focus on crime again, but he wouldn't say much more. Malone did say he has seen the ad and agreed it was as provocative as last time, if not more so.

Dems pick their candidates

As expected, the Cincinnati Democratic Committee endorsed two more Cincinnati school board candidates over the weekend -- Chris Nelms, a prevention educator for Children's Hospital Medical Center, and Michael Flannery, the former WCPO television reporter.

The pair joins Wyoming teacher and College Hill resident Eve Bolton on the Democratic slate. All three are first-time school board candidates.

Incumbent Rick Williams is now the one school board candidate without a Democratic endorsement in a smaller-than-usual field. The four will battle for three seats in November.

You'll recall that the Democrats had already announced their three candidates in August, but two of the three couldn't get enough signatures on their nominating petition. Flannery and Nelms are their replacements.

“These candidates truly believe in the Democratic principles and are determined to make a difference for our children,” said Committee Co-Chair C. Freeman McNeal, in a press release.

Flannery did not pursue the endorsement in the party's first attempt at fielding a full slate.
However, Nelms did interview with the Democrats before the filing deadline and was turned away.

In an interview earlier this month, Democratic Committee co-chair Aryeh Alex said Nelms didn't get the nod at first because he was "a little politically green" and was unknown to the party leaders. But he will now have the full backing of the party as the race continues, despite the original reservations.

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