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, December 21, 2007

Brunner Warren County lockdown "troubling"

As Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner grapples with new concerns about the integrity of Ohio's voting equipment, she continues to be asked about unresolved issues from past elections.

This week, Brunner was asked about the infamous Homeland Security "lockdown" in Warren County on Election Night 2004.

In an interview with Brad Friedman, author of the Brad Blog, here's what Brunner had to say about the incident:

Friedman: "Well, not to pick on Warren County again, but they locked people out of the counting room. They claimed that there was a Homeland Security warning from the FBI. Nobody at the FBI has ever said such a thing. They were clearly lying and as I understand those people are still running elections in Warren County. Doesn't that trouble you? And particularly as you're doing, recommending central counting, these guys are going to be in charge of the counting yet again in '08, and they've been told, you know, hey, you got away with it in '04."

Brunner: "We will look at the situation, because when I came into office people were where they were. And we'll look again at that situation and see what the best course of action is to prevent it from happening in the future."

Friedman: "I hope you will, because that one is just. . ."

Brunner: "It's troubling me, too."

Friedman: ". . .just mind-blowing."

Brunner: "It troubles me, Brad."

Friedman: "It troubles you, too?"

Brunner: "It troubled me at the time and it, it, I can't…I can't find any justification for it."

The complete interview can be found here:

Two of the Enquirer's original articles on the incident can be found here
and here:

If anyone has an "inside" information, here's another chance to tell us!


Red-Light Cameras "Voyeuristic"?

Greg Delev, a Cincinnati attorney who's running for the state House of Representatives in the 34th district, says the city's proposal for cameras that catch drivers running red lights is voyeuristic and "prostitutes the hard-working people of Cincinnati to balance a wasteful city budget."

It appears council's intent, he wrote in a press release this week, is more to generate money than to protect citizens and their rights to privacy.

“As Americans we should be outraged by this “big brother” mentality. My father came from a Communist country and even the Communists would not go to such lengths to control citizens or extort money due to budget shortfalls. If such extreme measures are taken to control our driving behaviors, then where does the infringement upon our privacy stop?”

When - not if - he's elected to the legislature, Delev wrote that he'll "end this practice so all citizens can enjoy a modicum of privacy from the government’s prying eyes. "

Cole Plays Santa

Councilwoman Laketa Cole will help pass out Christmas presents Saturday morning in Winton Terrace with members of the Cincinnati African-American Firefighters Association, A.L.L.S.T.A.R.S. Motorcycle Club and Sigma Gamma Ro Sorority.

In her press release Friday about the event, she quotes Santa as saying: “Ho, ho, ho! Happy Holidays to everyone.''

Happy Holidays From The Vice Mayor

Here's a holiday note/budget update sent out today by Vice Mayor David Crowley:

Dear Friends & Supporters:

At this time of year when I want to wish all of you the very best of the season whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or another special occasion. I hope you feel as blessed as we here in my office and at home.

As we come to the end of the year at City Council I am pleased to report that our efforts regarding the budget for 2008 concluded successfully with the inclusion of several items I am passionate about and feel deserve your attention.

To ensure proper staffing among all firehouses around the city, the Cincinnati Fire Department will have a new recruit class beginning in October of 2008. In addition to a new recruit class, the Department will maintain a separate dispatch center that will provide an additional degree of safety to our residents. These programs are essential because they provide our fire department with the personnel and resources needed to perform their jobs.

Also, I am very pleased to report that both the Center for Closing the Health Care Gap and the Office of Environmental Quality will continue to receive funding for their work and service to our city. I am a strong advocate for these programs that play such a vital role in serving our communities.

Furthermore, I am excited that our public view corridors proposal will receive funding. This is a unique program that is geared toward preserving the wonderful public views of our beautiful Ohio River, our downtown, the hills of Northern Kentucky, the Mill Creek Valley that our rolling hills provide to both residents and visitors.

I am sure many of you know that the city’s Human Services Programs have always been a priority for me. This year we made several adjustments to the budget to ensure that the poor and disadvantaged are not falling through the safety net. I am proud to have been a leader in this process, making sure Human Services’ programs and issues were not ignored.

Finally I appreciate your continued support of my work on Council and your confidence in returning me to Council again for my last term. I appreciate your suggestions, questions, comment yes and even the criticisms and I look forward to working with you in the New Year.

Happy Holidays,
David C. Crowley Vice Mayor

Going to Iowa, NH, Nevada, South Carolina?

Are you going to Iowa, New Hampshire or another early primary state to campaign for a presidential candidate?

Do you know someone who is? The Enquirer wants to hear from you.

E-mail Washington correspondent Malia Rulon at mrulon@enquirer.com or call her at (202) 906-8145.

Be prepared to give your name, hometown - and be photographed. Thank you.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More about HC's budget

Hamilton County Commissioners approved the 2008 budget Wednesday. (Read the Enquirer story.)

Here's what the commissioners are saying about it.

Pepper/Portune press release

DeWine press release

Pepper: Vote for Team Lachey!

Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper appears to have joined the fan club of pop star Nick Lachey and his "Team Lachey" choir.

The chior is getting rave reviews on the NBC show "Clash of the Choirs" which airs at 8 p.m.
Yesterday before the commissioners delved into the weightier matters of the county's budget and parking rate increases, Pepper used some of his microphone time at the meeting to sing the choir's praises.

"I just want to congratulate Nick Lachey," said Pepper. He said he watched the show Tuesday night and thought the team did a great job. He also "That’s the best any show has made Cincinnnati has looked in a long time."

Pepper explained to the audience that you can vote up to 10 times on NBC.com and urged everyone to vote for the team.

"Plus, if they win, Children's Hospital gets $250,000!"

County Administrator Pat Thompson noted that the choir even includes a county employee from the Job and Family Services Department. His name is Jo'Ram Griffin, a clerical specialist in child care.

Click here to read the JFS release on their star.

Check out how "Team Lachey" is faring at www.nbc.com

Heimlich: Me too

Phil Heimlich plans to put an end to rumors that he might be getting out of his 2nd Congressional District tussle with Jean Schmidt by filing his petitions with the Hamilton County Board of Elections Friday morning.

Heimlich's task of ousting a sitting member of Congress of his own party got a little more complicated last week when State Rep. Tom Brinkman announced he, too, would join the GOP field in the seven-county southern Ohio district.

Heimlich, though, took the development in stride, telling the Enquirer that Brinkman, with no money and little time to organize a campaign, is "a non-factor."

Driehaus: It's official!

State Rep. Steve Driehaus, the Democratic party's annointed candidate in the never-ending struggling to oust Rep. Steve Chabot from office, is making it official today.

He'll show up at the Hamilton County Board of Elections at 2:15 p.m. to file petitions. As of Thursday morning, no other Democrats have filed in the 1st Congressional District.

McCain declares Ohio wide open

Many say that Ohio's March 4 presidential primary won't matter much, on either the Democratic or Republican side. John McCain, apparently, is not among them.

McCain, whose campaign seems to be getting back on track, took time Wednesday from his stumping in New Hampshire to do a conference call with Ohio reporters touting a significant Ohio endorsement - Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted.

Read the Enquirer's story here:

Charter weighs in on CPS levy

For what it's worth, the Charter Committee says CPS should hold off on another tax levy.

In a letter sent to board members this week, Charter president Michael Goldman said the party's endorsement of the schools' failed November levy had strings attached. And CPS has done little to reassure them.

Specifically, Goldman said Superintendent Rosa Blackwell's independent financial advisory panel was insufficiently independent.

Here's an excerpt:
"It is important that members of an advisory committee be comprised of people independent of the Cincinnati Public School administration, and include those who might be skeptical of school board or administration tax proposals. Only a truly independent committee can provide the community with the confidence that an appropriate financial strategy is recommended for the future of our schools. The committee appointed by the superintendent did not meet the criterion of independence."

Read the entire letter here.

The school board meets at 11:30 a.m. to make a decision on the levy. Through four meetings, the seven-member board has been unable to come to consensus on any one way forward. Charter's letter backs up the position of its endorsed board member, Rick Williams, who wants to wait until the November elections.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ooops, We Almost Voted For the Budget

True, Cincinnati City Council budget talks were much more hospitable this year than last. And much shorter. Council barely talked about the issue for two hours Wednesday.

Still, there were some sticky points. Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz and Leslie Ghiz questioned whether the $1 billion-plus package was actually balanced. They insisted it wasn't balanced because it relies in part on some revenue streams they consider too speculative - estimates of $1 million from new red-light surveillance cameras and $800,000 from contracting out for liability insurance.

Mayor Mark Mallory jumped in, asking budget director Lea Carroll if, in fact, all budgets relied upon estimated revenues. She said they do.

So the total budget packaged passed 6-3, with Berding, Bortz and Ghiz dissenting. The proposal to install red-light cameras passed 5-4, with those same opponents plus Chris Monzel. Monzel, Ghiz, Berding and Bortz also voted against giving $200,000 to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Then, after voting against the budget, the voting began on the 15 separate ordinances that make up the budget. Everyone voted in favor of the first one - until Bortz realized what they'd done. then he, Berding and Ghiz asked to change their votes.

John Cranley, finance committee chairman who shepherded the budget, cracked: "I almost thought it was unanimous."

Crowley: Still Deciding About Treasurer

Vice Mayor David Crowley said today during a break in the City Council budget vote that he'd been encouraged to consider running for county treasurer and that he took out the petitions but has not yet made up his mind.

There's a lot to consider, he said, given that he just finished a campaign.

The filing deadline is Jan. 4.

Who changed the school board?

It's no secret that organized labor, led by the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, was the driving force behind the November election's seismic shift on the Cincinnati school board.

But with the help of recently filed campaign finance reports, we can put a fine point on just how dominant the teachers' union was. First, an election recap: The union-backed slate of Michael Flannery, Eve Bolton and Chris Nelms finished 1-2-3 by a wide margin, booting incumbent Rick Williams.

The Flannery-Bolton-Nelms campaign was run out of a joint campaign entity, The Committee to Elect a New School Board. All told, direct union contributions made up more than 80 percent of the committee's funding. Here are the numbers:

Total raised: $52,143.16
Direct contributions from labor: $41,800

Cincinnati Federation of Teachers: $19,800
Plumbers & Pipefitters & M.E.S.: $7,500
IBEW: $7,500
Laborers' Local 265: $5,000
AFSCME Ohio Council 8: $1,500
Cincinnati Sheet Metal Workers: $500

Top individual contributors were Democratic fundraising mainstays Stan Chesley ($1,000) and Daniel Ticotsky ($2,500), and retired teacher Marsha McSpadden Clarke ($1,000).

Meanwhile, Williams raised $11,425, with $9,000 coming from frequent Republican donors Craig Maier and Carl and Edyth Lindner.

He serves until Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, the union-backed candidates take over CPS.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"We Demand" group wins award, $10K

An organization named for founding father Sam Adams has awarded the "We Demand Coalition" -- comprised of WeDemandAVote.com and WeDemandABetterPlan.com -- with a top award, a big-headed statue and $10,000 and, of course, the prestige.

All for the groups' work in getting the jail tax on the ballot and then successfully campaigning for its defeat.

The $10,000 award is nearly twice what the groups spent to defeat the tax.

The group accepts the award Thursday.

Read the press release here.
Here's the organization's Web site.

See who gave to "We Demand a Better Plan" here

Also, you can see who gave to Citizens for a Safe Community here

Cut the coffee, bring back 4-H

On the eve of the adoption of Hamilton County's 2008 budget, the three commissioners have released their recommendations on what should stay and what should go. They also hope to save lots of programs, including the OSU extension (4-H)and some economic development stuff.
Some highlights
Commissioner David Pepper wants to eliminate or reduce funding for buying coffee, bottled water and office furniture, among other things, saving a whopping $300,000.
Read all his suggestions here

Commissioner Pat DeWine wants to create a special criminal justice fund to pay to house excess inmates in Kentucky and have Cincinnati and Sheriff Simon Leis help pay for Over-the-Rhine deputies.
Read all his suggestions here

Commissioner Todd Portune wants to consolidate the county administration departments and is banking on a program to collect delinquent taxes to provide enough money to levies to fund some of other initiatives. Example: using Drake hospital levy money to help care for veterans.
Read all his suggestions here.

Who's in Hamilton County jail?

Jessica has the story here

You can read the report here (pdf)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Red-Light Cameras and More

There was a lot of talk at Cincinnati City Council's finance committee meeting Monday about red-light cameras, which Chairman John Cranley budgeted in as generating $1 million. But here are some more things in the budget package, which council is expected to vote on Wednesday.


1. $580, by taking out the water cooler in council chambers and ending the practice of providing bottled water to councilmembers. Cranley says it'd be better to drink Greater Cincinnati Water Works water anyway.

2. $60,000, by canceling the survey that asked citizens how they felt about city services.

3. $14,740, by eliminating 2% raises for council members and Mayor Mark Mallory.

4. $130,000, by cutting the recreation department's plan to replace computers.


1. $65,000, for drawings and construction of the Mount Lookout streetscape.

2. $250,000, for a consultant on planning and design for the I-75 corridor.

3. $500,000 for "street calming," aka speed humps.

4. $250,000 for the Center for Closing the Health Gap, run by former Mayor Dwight Tillery.

Ohio's vote: secure or not?

Jon Craig had this story Saturday

Did we miss anything in this report? What do you think?

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