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, November 16, 2007

Cincinnati City Budget: Round 1

Titled "Strategic Investing to Strengthen Cincinnati," the city manager's proposed budget is out today. It's 434 pages long, with dozens more pages of exhibits and attachments.

If you care to read the whole thing, go here.

Council: Thanks, Nuxhall

Mayor Mark Mallory's office announced Friday afternoon that City Council will pass at its next meeting a resolution honoring Joe Nuxhall's contributions to Cincinnati and Major League Baseball.

From the mayor's statement:

“Like most of us in Cincinnati, I grew up listening to Joe Nuxhall call Reds games. He is a part of the fabric of our community. Baseball is a big tradition in this town and Joe Nuxhall is a big part of that tradition. He will be truly missed.”

Council takes Wednesday off, but meets again Nov. 28.

Boehner reacts to Nuxhall death

Rep. John Boehner, a West Chester Republican, had this to say today about the death of Cincinnati Reds legend and Butler County native Joe Nuxhall:

“Joe Nuxhall personified Cincinnati Reds baseball for six decades. He was an icon to generations of Southwest Ohioans, and to millions of baseball fans and families throughout Reds Country. He was also one of Butler County’s most distinguished citizens – a humble, good-natured man who never lost touch with his roots and always had time to lend a helping hand in the community he loved.

“Summer nights in Cincinnati will never be the same again without the voice of the Ol’ Left Hander crackling over the airwaves. To millions, even those who never met Joe in person, his voice was the voice of a good friend. Our community has lost one of its most beloved citizens. He will never be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with Joe's wife, sons, and all of his family and friends.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Budget Time Again

Last year's budget fight at Cincinnati City Council got so much attention, so let's talk about how this year's is going to go. Here's the scheduled, as outlined Thursday by John Cranley, chairman of council's finance committee:

Nov. 26: Finance committee starts meeting weekly.

Dec. 3: Administration comes to finance to answer council members' questions about proposed budget.

By Dec. 7: Proposed amendments due.

Dec. 10: An evening public hearing on the proposed budget.

Dec. 17: Cranley hopes to have a final proposal to finance.

Dec. 19: Cranley hopes to have a final budget on council's agenda.

Who'll Run Against Pat DeWine?

Lots of people think John Cranley might run for county commissioner. Today, he said no, that he's focused on City Council and City Lights, the development company he recently joined as partner.

Just for the record, we asked other recently re-elected council members if they're considering it.

So far, these have said no: Leslie Ghiz; Chris Bortz; Jeff Berding; and (through aide Brad Beckett) Chris Monzel.

Ohioans sharply divided on Iraq

Howard Wilkinson reports:

Ohio voters continue to be deeply divided over how the U.S. should proceed in Iraq and on whether or not this country should have been there in the first place, according to a new Ohio Poll.

And the new poll, conducted the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research, shows that the deepest and possibly most irreconcilable differences are between Republican and Democrats over the wisdom of the decision to go to war and what to do next.

Read the full poll here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

See The Same 9 Return

Clerk of Council Melissa Autry announces today that the 2007 Cincinnati City Council Inaugural Session is set for Sat., Dec. 1, at 11 a.m.

Should you choose to spend a weekend morning watching the current nine council members officially return for two more years, you can get in two ways: get a ticket from a council member for a seat on the first floor; or get into the balcony without a ticket.

Election 2008: Too close to call in Ohio

Howard Wilkinson reports:

If Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudolph Giuliani were facing off in the presidential election today, Ohio voters would be split nearly dead even, according to a new Quinnipiac Poll.

And having Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate – a job Strickland says he is not interested in – would not help the Democratic presidential candidate, according to the poll from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

The Quinnipiac Poll, which surveyed 1,231 Ohio voters between Nov. 6-11, showed Clinton with 44 percent support and Giuliani 43. That is an improvement for the former New York City mayor, who trailed Clinton in Ohio by six percentage points in an October Quinnipiac Poll.

The poll shows some serious obstacles among women, however:

- 46 percent of married Ohio women say they would never vote for Clinton.

- Meanwhile, 46 percent of single women say they'd never for for Guiliani.

Read the poll here

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Global warming meets its match

From Mayor Mark Mallory's office:

Mayor’s Climate Protection Steering Committee to Hold First Meeting

Event: Mayor’s Climate Protection Steering Committee – 1st Meeting

Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Time: 4:00 pm

Location: City Hall, Room 115
801 Plum Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Details: The Mayor’s Climate Protection Steering Committee will hold its first meeting. Vice Mayor David Crowley will chair the committee, which is composed of leaders from many segments of our Cincinnati community including government, business, environmental, civic, and labor organizations.

The Steering Committee will develop a regional plan to reduce Cincinnati’s contributions to global climate change. Four Task Teams will be created to develop recommendations in the areas of energy, transportation, waste, and land use. The Steering Committee is creating the Climate Protection Plan as part of the Mayor’s Green Cincinnati initiative.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the Steering Committee will establish responsibilities, form the task teams, and develop timelines. The meeting is open to the public.

Committee members:

Green Cincinnati Climate Protection Steering Committee

Chair – Vice Mayor David Crowley

David Altman, attorney
Willie Carden, Cincinnati Parks Department
Cathy Crain, Greater Cincinnati Foundation
Carl Evert, Cincinnati Environmental Advisory Council
Ned Ford, Sierra Club
Allan Harris, Cincinnati Environmental Advisory Council
Greg Hutzel, Green Building Council
Sandra Meyer, Duke Energy
Tony Parrott, Metropolitan Sewer District
David Pepper, Hamilton County Commissioner
John Rademacher, American Institute of Architects
Jim Reid, Greater Cincinnati Building Trades Council
Michael Setzer, SORTA
Ellen van der Horst, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
Brewster Rhodes, Governor's Office

Portune "frustrated" at divide with DeWine

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune today reacted to the press conference Monday at which Commissioner Pat DeWine and other opponents of the jail tax voiced suggestions to "solve" the overcrowding problem.

Portune told the Enquirer's editorial board that he wishes DeWine would work with him and Commissioner David Pepper on the budget and jail overcrowding issue.

He's "frustrated" that the board continuest to be divided on how to fix the problem. But he blames DeWine. He says the Republican commissioner is blaming Pepper and Portune for not adopting his ideas, but his ideas aren't real solutions, Portune said.

"We're divided because what DeWine is suggesting either doesn't work or is against the law," Portune said. "Don't throw things out there that you know won't work and call them solutions."

New poll on Ohioans and illegal immigrants

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Government health benefits, schooling and driving privileges should not be given to illegal immigrants, a majority of Ohio voters said in a poll released Tuesday.

More than eight in 10 favored tougher penalties for illegal immigrants, opposed them having driver’s licenses and were against them receiving government health and welfare benefits, according to the Quinnipiac University survey.

Sixty-one percent said the children of illegal immigrants should not be allowed to attend public schools, and about the same percentage said a wall should be built between the U.S. and Mexico.
The poll questioned 1,231 Ohio voters by telephone between Nov. 6 and Sunday and has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Three-quarters of Ohioans surveyed said that legal immigrants do more to help than hurt the country, while 67 percent said immigrants in the country illegally are hurting it.

Fifty-five percent said illegal immigrants should be able to work to apply for legal status, while 38 percent said they should be deported.

Full poll here

Celebrate With AMOS, Unions

This isn't much notice, but if you want to celebrate "some of the most significant social justice victories in Cincinnati's recent history," go to the Church of Our Saviour in Mt. Auburn tonight at 6 p.m.

The event's organizers: The AMOS Project, an alliance of 40 congregations and community groups working to address social justice issues in greater Cincinnati; United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1099, representing over 10,000 Kroger workers in Greater Cincinnati; Service Employees International Union Local 3, representing Cincinnati’s janitors; Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, and other grassroots allies.

The victories they want to highlight: The Banks project’s workforce development provisions; the first-ever union contract for Cincinnati janitors; a contract for Kroger workers; elimination of WLW 700’s racist billboards; and successful initiation of AMOS’ grassroots “Get Out The Vote” drive which mobilized almost 3,000 new voters in the City Council elections.

Pat DeWine's ideas

In the wake of the sales tax defeat in Hamilton County, Commissioner Pat DeWine, an opponent of the tax, offers these suggestions in an e-mail to those on his mailing list.

Tuesday the voters of Hamilton County overwhelmingly rejected the sales tax increase that my fellow Commissioners attempted to unilaterally impose. The grassroots coalition that opposed the plan deserves a great deal of credit for overcoming the reportedly more than $1 million that the pro-tax forces spent on their campaign.

I think the voters made the right decision. Quite simply, the plan was too expensive (over 2.5 times more expensive than what was rejected last year) and would have imposed one of the highest overall tax burdens in the State. While a reasonable plan may have stood a chance of passing, the plan that was put before the voters was simply too expensive and too poorly thought out.

Now that the voters have spoken we have some hard work to do. But that's ok. The easy solution for politicians is always to simply raise taxes and put the burden on the citizens. But the hard work is for government officials to set priorities and think creatively to solve problems. I am hopeful that now that the voters have spoken, we can all work together on some real solutions that both improve public safety and protect the taxpayers.
In addition to addressing the jail space issue, we also have to deal with some serious budget issues in the County. Unfortunately, over the course of the past year the majority on the Commission has refused to enact budget cuts that I recommended. Instead, they had planned to take $13 million from the sales tax and use it to replenish the general fund reserves. Now that the tax has failed, we need to take some tough steps to get the general fund back on sound footing.

As I outlined in last week's Commission meeting, here's a few of the steps that we need to take right now:

The first priority has to be to make the necessary cuts in the County budget so that we can either continue to house overflow prisoners in Butler County or fund alternatives that reduce or eliminate the need for these spaces while at the same time stabilizing the general fund. Making budget cuts is never easy, but if we believe that public safety is really a priority we will make the cuts we need to make sure that we still have these spots available. Right now we are renting space in Butler County for $55 (which, by the way, is much cheaper than the combined operating and capital costs in the proposal that was defeated). Legislation is pending in the Ohio legislature that will allow us to lease space in Campbell County, Kentucky which is available for $44 a day. You may have heard the threats that some are making to release prisoners. Here's the reality-- it's a question of priorities. I am introducing cuts that will allow us to continue to ensure that we have the space we need. It will be up to the full Board to determine whether public safety really is a priority and if they want to maintain theses spaces or whether they want to spend money on other less important items.

Inmate Housing Press Release

The simplest and most cost-effective thing we can do to free up more jail space is end the practice of housing federal prisoners in our County jail. We have no obligation to house these prisoners for the federal government, and the federal government has made clear that if these prisoners are not housed here, they will be placed in a neighboring jurisdiction. Moreover, we lose money on these prisoners: we get reimbursed only $44 per day from the federal government, while we are paying $55 a day to rent spaces in Butler County. Last September, the full Board voted down the legislation I introduced to end the practice. I intend to introduce the legislation again next week. Let's hope, this time, they listen to the voters and join me in putting an end to the practice.
Federal Prisoners Motion

Use the Convention Center surplus for public safety needs: There is a surplus in the fund that was created to renovate the convention center that is projected to amount to approximately $84 million over the life of the convention center bonds. Last year, the majority on the Commission, over my objection, voted to use the $2.3 million generated in 2007 to fund the Cincinnati Film Commission, the Northern Cincinnati Conventions and Visitors Bureau and additional marketing for downtown. State Representative Tom Brinkman with my support and the support of Councilmember Chris Monzel proposed state legislation to allow us to use these excess funds for jail expansion and renovation. Unfortunately, the majority on the Board refused to support the legislation and without the support of the County, such legislation stands little chance of passage in Columbus. Now that the sales tax is off the table, I intend again to ask the majority on the Commission to support this proposal.
Convention Center Surplus Motion

Process Reforms and Alternative Sanctions: A number of the opponents of the tax increase pointed out that we could reduce the need for additional jail space simply by instituting reforms in the manner in which we process prisoners. For example, in just four years the number of people in jail awaiting trial increased from 37% to 81%. We need to seriously explore the idea of a night court that would allow us to try minor nonviolent offenders more quickly, thereby freeing up additional space. In addition, in February, I introduced a proposal that the full Commission has refused to act upon that would have opened up 245 jail spaces by punishing people in a variety of alternative settings. If this is implemented together with ending the housing of federal spaces, we will have enough space available to replace virtually all of the space we are currently renting from Butler County. Now that the election is over, there are no excuses for not moving forward with these types of low-cost, high impact solutions.
Alternative Sanctions Motion

County Budget Reform: Because of some of the decisions that were made over the past year and because of some factors that are beyond our control, 2008 is going to be a tough budget year. Budgets are about setting priorities and we haven't always done a good job of that in Hamilton County. I've been pouring through the County budget, line by line, and the budget I will introduce will contain some very substantive reforms and significant cost savings. It won't be easy. Making budget cuts never is. But it is critical now more than ever, that we re-prioritize spending and make sure that we have our spending priorities in order.
The election is over. Now is the type for County elected officials to listen to the people and work together to address our challenges within our existing resources. As always, I welcome your input and thoughts.

Monday, November 12, 2007

An "Incredible Squandering" of Tax Dollars?

On the agenda for Cincinnati City Council's neighborhoods committee Wednesday: a letter from Jeffrey Bakst, an attorney in Mount Auburn who writes about what he calls "a complete lack of management in our city and the incredible squandering of valuable dollars..."

Here's what he says happened in "this very upsetting event," according to a September letter to council members:

In the last year, the city tore up the sidewalks from Kinsey Avenue down past Reading Road. The replacement sidewalks were beautiful.

But on Sept. 18, he drove to his office at Auburn and Kinsey avenues and found city workers tearing up the new sidewalks that had been put in seven months before.

Apparently the tearing-up was for a new gas line, "which is certainly a good thing for our community. However, it is quite obvious there was no planning done whatsoever, no attempt to cooperate with utility companies or visa versa....it has caused me great aggravation and damage to my property and wasted thousands of dollars. Regardless, you better start to take heed of what you are doing in the city or we are sure to go down the tubes. This was nothing short of gross mismanagement and it has cost the tax payers many thousands of dollars. Isn't it time that this kind of waste stops."

Another Thank You

Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz says thanks for re-electing her.

Read her note here.

The WeDemand list


TO: Press Organizatios

FROM: Jason Gloyd
Campaign Director

RE: WeDemand Coalition Discusses Solutions Today!

November 12, 2007

The WeDemand Coalition that placed the Super-Sized Jail tax on the ballot, and campaigned for the defeat of Issue 27, today denounced the campaign of fear and panic spread by Sheriff Leis and Commissioners Portune and Pepper, in the wake of the defeat of Issue 27 at the ballot, and introduced its own set of ideas to resolve the public safety and jail crowding issues facing our community. "Instead of coolly and rationally dealing with the incarceration issues facing our community," said WeDemandABetterPlan.Com Chairman Jason Gloyd. "Commissioners Portune and Pepper, and Sheriff Leis, have embarked on a campaign of fear and panic, appearing to retaliate against voters for their rejection of Issue 27." The Coalition proposed a series of significant initiatives to address the fiscal and public safety issues facing our County.

Represented at the press conference were the NAACP, COAST, Cincinnati Progressive Action, the Green Party of Ohio, the Libertarian Party of Ohio, No Jail Tax PAC, and the Hamilton County Business Owners Association. These groups' members, and others, gathered 55,000 signatures to place the sales tax issue on the ballot, and coordinated the county-wide campaign to defeat Issue 27, resulting in a 56% victory on election day. Many of the ideas were embraced by the entire coalition, and other ideas were advanced by individual group members. The issues advanced were:

The manufactured and retaliatory safety crisis
1) Within hours after the defeat of Issue 27, the Sheriff announced that he would start releasing this week 300 inmates, to make up for the 300 beds in Butler County that he and Commissioners Portune and Pepper claim we no longer can afford. This is clearly an attempt to retaliate against the voters for rejecting Issue 27, as the jail beds in Butler County have been contracted through the end of the year.

2) Commissioner DeWine presented budget saving proposals in January of 2007, and then again in August. Although the majority of those savings were rejected at that time, the Commission now appears poised to adopt all of them in its 2008 budget. Had they adopted them earlier, it would have resulted in $2.5 million in savings, paying for the Butler County contract for 150 days into 2008. If there is a crisis, it has been exacerbated by the majority on the Commission itself. We wish they had not put themselves in this position.

3) The County could easily prioritize its spending to fund Butler County indefinitely or to alleviate the need for some or all of the Butler County spaces if it so chose. The reality is that the County has chosen not to prioritize safety spending, resulting in the "funding crisis" and "safety crisis" they now claim. Once again, the coming weeks will present a series of proposed budget savings going forward to fund Butler County well into 2008.

Major new funding sources proposed
In addition to re-prioritizing funds from other, lower priorities, to the so-called pressing fiscal and safety crisis, the Commissioners and Sheriff also have several options to generate millions upon millions of dollars per year to fund inmate retention in facilities other than Butler County.

4) First, in early 2007, the Commission learned that it had a huge surplus income stream from the hotel/motel tax increase to build the new convention center expansion. Commissioner Pat DeWine, Councilmember Chris Monzel and State Representative Tom Brinkman, Jr. proposed at that time that this income stream be re-directed into the public safety issue. The Commission at that time refused. Commissioner DeWine and State Representative Brinkman will re-introduce that idea this Wednesday, asking for the Commission endorsement of legislation allowing the diversion of this income stream to inmate retention costs. In 2007 alone, the Commission spent $2 million from this fund on "convention promotion" and for a grant to the Film Commission, clearly lower priorities than public safety. This income stream will generate an estimated $84 million over the life of the convention center tax.

5) Second, Ohio law requires cities, villages and townships who charge inmates under local ordinances or resolutions only, to pay the cost of incarceration, both pre-trial and during their sentence. Our investigation has revealed that the County for some reason is not levying these charges to certain municipalities and townships, but is charging to others. Although the City of Cincinnati has jailed hundreds of individuals under the new marijuana ordinance and housing code, the County has levied no charges at all against the City for housing these inmates in recent years. Commissioner DeWine will propose that the County immediately charge back costs of incarceration due to local ordinances and resolutions, to the extent that state law so allows, immediately. "If the City of Cincinnati wants to make laws that target low income and minority individuals and jail people as a result thereof, then the City of Cincinnati should pay the cost of that incarceration," said WeDemandABetterPlan.Com Chairman Jason Gloyd. "The same applies to each of the other 47 jurisdictions in Hamilton County."

6) Presently the Sheriff spends money from drug forfeitures outside of the priority setting by the Commission. His "priorities" have included funds for teddy bears, coloring books, and donations to the Boy Scouts (we are not kidding). Today there is a balance of over $6.5 million sitting in these funds! The coalition calls upon the Sheriff to direct at least half of these funds into incarceration of dangerous criminals that need to be kept off of the streets. In addition, the Sheriff should consider selling portions of his armed vehicle fleet, including two helicopters, a hovercraft, a tank, and other excessive equipment.

7) Commissioner DeWine will be presenting a series of budget cuts to re-prioritize spending in the direction of public safety instead of frills at the County. As other coalition members have not analyzed these options, these are proposals from Commissioner DeWine only at this point.

Process changes to alleviate "crowding" crisis
8) As was emphasized during the Issue 27 campaign, 81% of the persons in jail in Hamilton County are simply awaiting trial. That's up from 37% only six years ago. The reasons are (i) excessive bonds and (ii) the slowness of bringing people to trial. Judges could start immediately to alleviate the crisis by setting reasonable bonds for all, allowing all but those who present a safety threat to others or are a true flight risk. It may be helpful to the Judges to set a "bond matrix" to help them to ascertain a reasonable bond amount, taking into account home ownership, family in the County, employment, the severity of the crime, etc. The excessive bond placed on Marc Frison, who it scheduled to be tried Tuesday for having a pocket knife in his backpack when entering the Courthouse, is illustrative. Mr. Frison has served 61 days in custody not because he is a threat to public safety or because he is a flight risk, but because Judge Winkler chose to set an excessive bond of $100,000.

9) The coalition will propose establishing a night court to try minor criminal offenses more quickly, freeing jail spaces.

10) The coalition has called for months for the termination of the policy of housing 35 federal inmates in the justice center. These inmates take up needed space for no reason. The federal government will not set them free; it will find spaces elsewhere. In addition, the County loses money by housing federal prisoners since they reimburse us less than what it cost to rent beds in Butler County.

11) Last February, Commissioner DeWine introduced a resolution that would have freed up 245 jail spaces through a variety of alternative punishments. The full Commission, however, refused to implement these ideas during their campaign to pass the jail tax. Now that the election is over, the County should move forward immediately with the proposal. This proposal and the proposal to end the housing of federal inmates alone would free up virtually as many spaces as the County is currently renting from Butler County.

12) The coalition will approach the Bar Association for more pro bono attorneys to represent minor criminal defendants to process their trials more quickly.

13) Lawmakers and judges should consider an "amnesty" program for minor (non-violent) offenses with outstanding warrants older than five years if the financial penalties were paid. This could be a potentially significant revenue raiser.

14) The Commissioners should release the new reports from the Vera Institute and the Criminal Justice Commission before implementing their policy changes and fiscal decisions. Why has the work and draft reports of these Commissions been maintained as secret throughout the campaign and still until this day?

For further information please contact Jason Gloyd at (513)240-4996

Berding: Hey, Thanks!

Councilman Jeff Berding won re-election last week in spite of some belief that he might not.

He was spotted Monday morning on Dana Avenue and Madison Road, waving a sign that said, "Thank you." He did the same thing last week at Glenway and Warsaw avenues, and on Reading Road at the Norwood Lateral.

"I just think it's appropriate to thank people," he said today. "It's just something I wanted to do to show I'm grateful."

If you want to drive by him and honk, he'll be at Columbia Parkway and Delta Avenue on Tuesday starting at 7:30 a.m.

A Five-Party Town?

Jason Haap, aka The Dean of Cincinnati, helped Justin Jeffre and Michael Earl Patton campaign for City Council.

ven though Jeffre and Patton did win seats lats week, they did something else, Haap says - get their respective parties, the Southwest Ohio Green and the Libertarians, recognized in Cincinnati.

Here's his math: Quoting the city charter, he says "political party" means a party whose candidate got at least five percent of the votes cast for council. Using the elections board's number of 59,246 ballots counted in Cincinnati, five percent would be 2,962 votes.

Both Jeffre and Patton collected more than 2,926.

No more "tri-partisan" around here, Haap says on his blog, http://www.cincinnatibeacon.com/, it's "penta-partisan" now.

Seen Any Garry Signs?

Brian Garry says you won't.

After his unsuccessful bid for City Council last week, his team started taking down his signs at 7 a.m. the next day. He says by noon Wednesday, "practically every Garry sign had been successfully retrieved."

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