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

Powered by Blogger

Friday, April 25, 2008

Auditor highlighting county budget problems

Hamilton County is close to another budget crisis and Auditor Dusty Rhodes is making sure the public knows about it. The county's reserve fund -- the equivalent of a savings account-- is expected to be drained nearly dry by the end of the year.

"The projected ending balance is $0.5 million, or 0.2 percent of ongoing expenditures," according to a county memo.

Rhodes, is keeping track of the dwindling balance on his Web site (note the fund balance in red on the right.)

As we noted in a sidebar to this story on the impact of the housing slump, the problem stems from a revenues falling even shorter than expected this year. This comes after the county cut just about everything it could cut to close a $35 million 2008 budget gap. The county sent a letter to department heads this week informing them of the situation.

Conventions near their $1m goal

The team raising money for the National NAACP convention and National Baptist Convention in July and September, respectively, is only $50,000 short of its $1 million goal.

They say that's pretty good considering they've only been raising money for about 10 months. And it's good for the city, which hasn't always been thought of by African Americans as friendly.

Here's the story on the fundraising update.

And here's the press release if you want to see who's on the committee and what businesses are sponsoring the event.

By the way, the organzers say their estimated combined 50,000 attendance and $7 million economic impact numbers are probably low. The CVB estimates these things by a national, though localized, formula which uses the figure $298 per person staying the night. But they don't include people who just come for the day and don't stay the night. They also don't include money spent by the organizations on food, drink, florists, laundry and other services for attendees.

And don't worry, had organizers not raised enought money, the conferences would not have been cancelled, assures Julie Calvert, in charge of marketing for the CVB.

"It would have come from somewhere" she said. Perhaps even from the city or the CVB's budget, she suggested. But lack of corporate support would have made the city look bad and the conventions might not have had the needed amenities to make them stand out, she said.

CNN's King on McCain's troubles in Ohio

Reporters talking amongst themselves:

From CNN last night: Campbell Brown interviews reporter John King.

KING: Well, one of the questions about George W. Bush versus John McCain is, George W. Bush had all those Christian right voters. Will they stand with John McCain? Many of them don't have that same feel for him ...

One last state, no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. George W. Bush did it. But again, look at that, just barely. A big industrial state, a must-win for the Republicans. The economy is in trouble out here. It's a problem.

The State Republican Party is in shambles out here. That's a problem. And remember, John McCain picked that fight with the radio talk show host down in Cincinnati here. He has troubles with the Republican Party down here with Christian conservatives, with radio talk show hosts.

BROWN: Right.

KING: Ohio is a must-win state for John McCain, and if he's looking at it right now, he knows he has some work to do.

BROWN: All right. John King, mapping it out for us. John, thanks.

KING: Thank you.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another story about that Arizohio ticket...

Yes, guess who the Plain Dealer is talking about here today.

"He is relatively young. He is poised. He has plenty of economic experience. He has solid conservative credentials. And he has a reputation as a devoted family man."

Read the rest here

She Didn't Really Mean It Was Excruciating

Councilman John Cranley, as one might imagine, went on for quite awhile at Wednesday's special finance committee meeting on streetcars, specifically with money questions. At one point, he asked City Manager Milton Dohoney what would happen if the streetcar system failed and had to shut down in its first year.

The blog UrbanCincy said Cranley "belabored" the issue. Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls called it "excruciating."

She apologized during the full meeting of council Wednesday, saying she actually hoped Cranley would continue to push for answers to important questions.

But there are three women on City Council....

A representative of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce has apologized to her, Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz says, for failing to include her in an upcoming lunch discussion with her council colleagues Laketa Cole and Roxanne Qualls.

WE (that stands for Women Excel) Speak: Beyond Council Chambers is scheduled for May 15 and billed as an interactive discussion with Cole and Qualls "sharing their secrets to success with other leading business women."

Ghiz laughed it off, saying maybe being the first pregnant Cincinnati councilwoman and owner of her own law practice just isn't that interesting.

Or maybe because she's neither a motorcycle or bicycle enthusiast, hobbies mentioned for Cole and Qualls.

Click here to read the announcement.

Portune honored for work on The Banks

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune is being honored by the AMOS project for his work on The Banks project.

Here's the announcement.

The AMOS Project, a leading regional faith community group, will honor County Commission President Todd Portune as their Community Partner of the Year at the Celebration Banquet on Thursday.

Portune will be honored for his leadership on The Banks Project, ensuring that there was a community voice in the decision making process. Pastor Gregory Chandler, Sr. noted that Portune, “Exemplified the type of courage and faith that we can be proud of.”

AMOS has 40 member congregations spanning the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region. The award will be presented

Thursday, April 24
7:00 pm
Xavier University, Schiff Family Conference Center

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Strickland ready to stump for Clinton in Indiana, Kentucky

Gov. Ted Strickland said he's ready to campaign for Sen. Hillary Clinton during the two weeks leading up to Indiana's May 6 presidential primary election as well as before the May 20 primary in Kentucky.

"I've been asked to go to Indiana,'' Strickland said today. "If she needs me, I'll try to help her."

Strickland stumped for the New York senator Sunday in Pennsylvania, where she beat Sen. Barack Obama by 10 percentage points Tuesday.

"I'm very excited about the win,'' Strickland said.

Labels: ,

Team Lachey entertains Gov, statehouse

Photo by Dave Isaacs, Ohio House Democratic Caucus
Jon Craig reports from Columbus:

Statehouse halls came alive today with the sound of Team Cincinnati (sometimes known as Team Lachey).

Gov. Ted Strickland, former U.S. Sen. John Glenn and state Rep. Dale Mallory of Cincinnati found the local choir so inspiring, they kept asking for more “samples of their work,’’ as Glenn put it.

Nine members of the 20-member ensemble -- led to a nationally-televised “Clash of the Choirs” victory Dec. 20 by College Hill native Nick Lachey – were honored at the governor’s office.
Strickland, swaying from side to side as he entered his office, said, “Do we get to hear a little music? I heard they know how to sing.”
(When Lachey is not with the group - like today - they go by the name Team Cincinnati)

They sang Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.’’

“You’re very proud aren’t you?” Strickland said to Mallory. “If you’re going to sing another one, I’ll bring some of the staff in.’’

About a dozen of Strickland’s aides listened to Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.’’

So close you can almost taste it

Release your inhibitions

Feel the rain on your skin

“Incredible,’’ Strickland said. “In fact, they’ll do it again,’’ encouraging the Cincinnatians to repeat “Wonderful World.’’

Then, Sen. Glenn arrived for a meeting but asked, “Can we get samples of their work?”

“We’re running late, but you can give the senator a sample of your work,’’ Strickland said.

“Oh my God…an honor,” the singers said before breaking out into another round of “Wonderful World.”

The former astronaut told the choir they had “perfect resonance, the ring. You got it.”

Team Lachey is expected to sing -- again -- when the Ohio House convenes about 1:30 today, where Mallory, D-West End, will present a resolution thanking them for their NBC victory that won $250,000 for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center during a live four-night television contest.

“Thank you so much. You guys delivered,’’ Mallory said. “That was a heck of a contest. . . I know that it’s a team effort.”

Live video of this afternoon’s House session can be found here

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Novak: McCain will pick Portman

Larry Kudlow writes in National Review Online today (hat tip - Patrick Maloney)

Bob Novak, the highly distinguished veteran columnist and author, told the American Spectator New York dinner group last night that John McCain will defeat Barack Obama in November’s election, although the Democrats will enhance their majorities in both the Senate and the House.

Novak, who has covered elections for fifty years, speculated that McCain will pick former Ohio congressman Rob Portman (who also was President Bush’s special trade representative and OMB director) as his running mate, while Obama could choose former Sen. Sam Nunn as his.

On Portman, Novak said he’s young, will pass the conservative spell check, and can stand up in a debate.

On House's agenda: Team Lachey!

Jon Craig reports from Columbus:

Team Lachey, the 20-member amateur choir that won television’s “Clash of the Choirs” on Dec. 20, is expected to be honored Wednesday on the floor of the Ohio House.

State Rep. Dale Mallory, a West End Democrat, will present about half the amateur ensemble’s members a resolution. Also nicknamed “Team Cincinnati,’’ the choir won $250,000 for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center during a live four-night NBC television contest.

Chuck Merk, a Lakota West High School math teacher who sings with the choir, said about 10 choir members also have been invited to a private reception with Gov. Ted Strickland.

“He wants to meet us and honor us,’’ Merk said today.

College Hill native Nick Lachey, the choir’s director, is unable to attend Wednesday’s ceremonies.

“We appreciate good deeds,’’ said Cynthia Ellis, Mallory’s legislative aide. “They’ve done so much for Cincinnati. I’m tickled pink.’’

Team Lachey has performed locally several times since their nationally-televised victory including at the Reds’ season opener March 30. The choir sang “Amazing Grace” to mark the passing of Joe Nuxhall and fellow revered Reds Bob Purkey, Bob Howsam and Chief Bender this past offseason.

During the December finale in New York, the ensemble sang “Sing A Song” by Earth, Wind & Fire, and the 1967 Louis Armstrong classic, “What A Wonderful World.” Choirs from Philadelphia, Houston, Oklahoma City and New Haven, Conn., also competed.

Burke won challenge for chairmanship

The Hamilton County Democratic Party upheld its end of the deal with Republicans last night at the Party's central committee meeting, despite efforts by some in the Party who wanted to break it by endorsing Chris Dole for Hamilton County Commission.

Read the story here.

UPDATE: GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou calls the deal dissenters "radical" in his blog and said he's glad the deal remains intact. Read it here.

The deal also prompted some competition for Tim Burke as he sought to be reinstated as Party chairman. Central Committee member Mike Wood challenged Burke for the job because he was "personally chagrined at the conduct last year about this deal where we're not running people against candidates," he said.

"I think we can do better. I think we need to do better," he said. Several people applauded.

Burke said he recognizes that "what I've been doing ... is far from perfect," but said the Party has had some big accomplishments. Among those, the Democratic majority on the county commission, four Democrats in county executive offices and an increasing number of Democratic judges.

"I think those are positive things," Burke said. "for those of you who support me, thank you."

Burke won reinstatement 99 to 15. All the previous office holders were also re-elected to their spots.

Dole said after the meeting he was disappointed that he wasn't endorsed and pointed a reporter to the second principle of the Democratic Party.

"We believe there is no substitute for fair and equal representation and strong public participation in a government chosen by election."

That, he said, says it all.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fewer female imates released early this year

No one's quite sure what's why, but early releases and "process only" releases of female inmates at the jail are way down from this time last year.

The news comes just five months after voters rejected a tax increase to build a bigger jail and fund public safety programs.

Hamilton County Administrator Patrick Thompson told county commissioners Monday that during the first quarter of 2008 no male inmates were released early or "processed only" -- a term used when inmates are booked, but are then released instead of kept in jail. The same held true for the first quarter of last year.

However, where female inmates are concerned, the numbers are way down.

When comparing the first quarter of 2007 to the same period in 2008, the number of early releases and process-only arrests for women decreased 65.6 percent (from 32 to 11) and 37.5 percent (from 1,106 to 521) respectively.

So what's causing the drop? No one really knows.

Thompson noted that the Criminal Justice Commission is working on several projects to reduce the jail population, but said "the full effect of these efforts will not be seen until later in 2008 and into 2009."

One of the commissioners suggested that the crime rate in Cincinnati is down, which could have contributed to the drop.

Winter is always typically a slow time of year for the jail, Thompson noted. He expects the numbers to increase.

Whatever the reason, no one is complaining.

GOP head rejects case-purge proposal

The Chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party denounces the Charlie Winburn/Nadine Allen plan to erase old warrants in Hamilton County.

Alex Triantafilou, a lawyer and former judge, said in his blog that the plan undermines the criminal justice system.

Read his comments here.

Banks czar named

The Enquirer is pursuing the full story, but here's a fairly comprehensive release from Cincinnati and Hamilton County. He'll make $175,000.

Banks Project Executive Named

Deatrick Brings Large-Scale Project Expertise to the Banks Project

Cincinnati, OH (April 21, 2008) - The City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County today have jointly appointed John F. Deatrick as the public parties’ project executive for the Banks, Cincinnati’s new premiere riverfront development.

“John has the solid experience in large-scale public project management and effective team building to successfully bring the Banks development to reality,” said City of Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. “There are only a handful of professionals in the country who can navigate the complex arenas of a project like this. John can do it and keep his eye on the finish line. We’re excited to have him on board.”

“John Deatrick is a talented public servant who brings a wealth of experience to the Banks project,” said County Administrator Patrick Thompson. “John will be an excellent addition to our Banks Project team. We welcome his leadership and experience.”

Deatrick will provide the City and County with professional oversight administration regarding:

· public funding and financing;
· public infrastructure development;
· mixed-use development; and
· the Joint City-County Small Business and Economic Inclusion Policy.

As the Banks project executive, Deatrick will provide oversight and direction to the Carter/Dawson team, which is serving as the master development team and for the Banks Project as well as the City and County’s Development Manager for the public infrastructure development. Such public infrastructure includes the design and construction of the garage facilities, street grid and utilities in the central riverfront.

“I look forward to joining the City, County and Carter/Dawson team to deliver the Banks development on the Central Riverfront. Together, we have the plan, the will and the ability to succeed,” said Deatrick.

Deatrick is expected to assume his duties on June 2, 2008. Deatrick will be technically employed by the County, but his salary of $175,000 will be shared jointly by the City and County. He will report to the City Manager and County Administrator regularly as well as the Joint City-County Banks Steering Committee, charged with implementing policies relating to the Banks project.

Deatrick’s duties include:

· Monitoring the public infrastructure project budget and schedule;
· Assisting in the development and awarding of construction trade bid packages;
· Coordinating inter-governmental and intra-governmental communications and resources at the federal, state, county and city levels; and
· Proving administrative oversight regarding implementation of the City-County Small Business, Economic Inclusion, Workforce Development, and Responsible Bidder policies, procedures and programs.

After conducting an extensive search for the position, Dohoney and Thompson agreed that Deatrick, who is formerly the City of Cincinnati’s Director of Transportation and Engineering, would be the best candidate for the position, in part, because of his familiarity with large-scale city-county projects.

He served as project manager for the Fort Washington Way Realignment and Reconstruction project, an award-winning, $330 million transportation cornerstone of the Cincinnati central riverfront. The project reconnected the central business district with the central riverfront, completely replacing the expressway system linking I-71, I-75, I- 471, and US 50 and opening up 18 acres of riverfront land to now facilitate the Banks project and the Central Riverfront Park.

Deatrick most recently served as the chief engineer/deputy director of the District Department of Transportation for the District of Columbia. While in D.C., he established and managed the team working with developers and local and federal agencies on the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. This multi-agency effort is rebuilding the southeast and southwest areas of the city to accommodate a new home for the Washington Nationals, and the redevelopment of vacant industrial land and abandoned public housing into a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood.
He has more than 35 years in public service and is a licensed professional engineer in Ohio and the District of Columbia; a chartered engineer in the United Kingdom; and a certified planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners.

On April 2, the groundbreaking was held for the Phase 1A of the development, which includes about 300 apartments and 80,000 square feet of retail, the construction of which is targeted to be completed in 2010.

At full build-out, the total Banks project will be a 2.8 million square foot development on 18 acres along Cincinnati’s downtown riverfront. Once completed, the Banks will be Cincinnati’s largest single, mixed-use development and be comprised of a dynamic blend of residential, office and retail components.

The Banks development will drive approximately $600 million in private investments; bringing more than 3,000 residents to the area while creating a new office, retail and entertainment center.

Dole or Deal? Meeting tonight

Jessica Brown reports:

Hamilton County Democratic Party’s Central Committee will be asked tonight to endorse Chris Dole for Hamilton County Commissioner.

An endorsement of Dole, a Crosby Township Trustee, would effectively break a controversial deal between the Democratic and Republican parties to not endorse anyone against the other party’s candidates in the commission race.

Although party chairman Tim Burke is urging against the endorsement, he will have no veto power if the majority of the 198-member central committee decides to endorse Dole.

Frustrated about the deal, Dole decided to run as an independent against Republican commission candidate Greg Hartmann for the commission seat being vacated by Commissioner Pat DeWine. DeWine, a Republican, is running for common pleas judge.

Burke and then-Republican Party Chairman George Vincent agreed to the deal last year because they felt it would help their parties retain current seats and allow them to focus their resources on other races. Critics said it deprived voters of choices on the ballot.

Thomas Luken, former congressman and former Democratic Party chairman, said a motion will be presented at tonight’s meeting to endorse Dole. He sent a memo to central committee members over the weekend urging the endorsement.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. tonight at the Laborer's Hall, 3457 Montgomery Road in Evanston.

Late inning update: Obama scores

It's now Hillary Clinton 7, Barack Obama 5.

The Obama campaign just announced they've picked up their fifth Ohio superdelegate: Former Darke County Democratic Party chairwoman Enid Goubeaux.

Only 9 Ohio superdelegates still up in the air.

Cincinnati Stays Self-Insured

Council hoped to save $800,000 by switching to an outside, independent insurance agency for liability insurance. In fact, members budgeted accordingly, voting to put $1 million in the budget for judgments against the city - $800,000 less than originally allocated for 2008.

So now, city financial staff, after looking into the idea, say it's "safe to conclude" that $800,000 in hoped-for savings will not happen.

City Manager Milton Dohoney cautions in a memo that he might be coming back to council some time this year asking for more money to pay for lawsuits and settlements. He said the $1.8 million recommended by the administration to be allocated for judgments was based on history.

This comes after last week's news that the city faces a $1.1 million penalty from the IRS because the Cincinnati Retirement System failed to send 1099 forms to the federal government in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. Dohoney attributed the mistake to changing personnel and a new computer system.

Lawyers hope to reduce the penalty amount through negotiations with the IRS. But if that doesn't work, Dohoney said the city likely would have to issue judgment bonds to pay for it. City spokeswoman Meg Olberding said the city has to do that for judgment amounts - like the $6.5 million paid in 2006 to the family of Roger Owensby Jr., who died in police custody in 2000 - that are big and/or unexpected.

Hillary 7, Obama 4

Hillary Clinton picked up another Ohio superdelegate Saturday - Rep. Tim Ryan, the Youngstown Democrat who is eyeing a run for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

The Ryan pick-up brings Clinton's total to 7 committed superdelegates. Barack Obama has four, with another 10 still up for grabs.

Ryan, who is considering a run for the Senate seat of incumbent Republican George Voinovich, was to have been the keynote speaker at the Clermont County Democratic Party's Golden Donkey Dinner in Eastgate Saturday night, but he cancelled when his mother became ill.

Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper - another Clinton supporter, though not a superdelegate - was Ryan's pinch-hitter.

Not much mystery in Ryan's endorsement - Clinton won 63 percent of the vote in his northeast Ohio district in the March 4 primary, compared to 35 percent for Obama.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sen. Brown says he didn't know bill already existed


Brown's Communication Director Joanna Kuebler said Brown was not trying claim he wrote the bill. She said a staff member would have written the legislation and Brown was not aware that an identical House bill existed, Kuebler said.

"It's common to have a House companion bill to a Senate bill," Kuebler said. "It helps move along the negotiation process."

"He would never take credit for something that wasn't his," Kuebler said.

Kuebler said Brown wants to focus on the issue, not which side of Congress it originated from.

"He's not happy with the misconception -- he wants this to be about the firefighters. He wants this bill to go through," Kuebler said.

Kuebler said it was not clear on Sunday if a member of Brown's legislative staff had been talking to someone in the Colorado congressman's office.

The Enquirer is waiting for returned phone calls from Perlmutter's office.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced a bill last week aimed at reducing firefighter fatalities, a bill with the same name and exact language as a bill introduced in the U.S. House nearly three weeks ago.

But at a news conference Saturday to tout his bill, Brown said - in reply to a question from a reporter - that he did not know there was a related bill in the House.

Carrie Whitaker has the story here

Here's the full release:


Cincinnati, Ohio — In the wake of the deaths of two firefighters in Colerain Township, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today highlighted efforts to promote fire safety standards at the Cincinnati Firefighters Union Local 48. Brown’s legislation, the Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act, would promote consensus safety standards to reduce the number of avoidable deaths among firefighters.

According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, more than 100 fire fighters die in the line of duty each year, while tens of thousands of additional fire fighters sustain work-related injuries. While the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other groups have developed industry safety standards, they are voluntary and often ignored by fire departments. Brown’s bill would encourage the adoption of national consensus fire fighter safety standards and promote fire department compliance with such standards.

“We shouldn’t have to think twice about bolstering the safety of our fire fighters,” Brown said. “Our first responders put their lives at risk daily across Ohio. We should take this opportunity to prevent fire fighter injury and death.”

The Firefighter Fatality Reduction Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to determine the rate of fire department compliance with standards for safe operations, staffing, training and fitness among career, volunteer, and combination fire departments. It would create a task force to explore the adoption of safety standards by fire departments and provide recommendations to the Congress, states, and localities on how to increase fire department compliance with safety standards. This bill would not mandate federal oversight of local fire departments, but instead would explore how the federal government could best promote fire fighter safety standards and assist fire departments with compliance.

Brown is also the sponsor of the Fire Fighter Higher Education Incentive Act of 2007 which would help federal, state, city, and county fire districts recruit highly educated fire fighters by forgiving student loans taken out by firefighters under the federal Perkins Loan program. Given the high costs of college, many fire fighters struggle to afford higher education. However, fire fighter responsibilities have become complex and dependent on advanced technology. All employees in fire protection would be eligible for the benefit, including fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMT), rescue workers, ambulance personnel, and hazardous materials workers. Under current law, Perkins debt for teachers, nurses, military, and law enforcement officers can be forgiven.

“Loan forgiveness is both well deserved and an effective recruitment tool,” Brown said. “America’s fire fighters literally put their lives on the line for us. The least we can do is give them access to the same benefits as other first responders.”

Jim Borgman
Today at the Forum
Paul Daugherty
Politics Extra
N. Ky. Politics
Pop culture review
Who's News
Roller Derby Diva
CinStages Buzz....
The Foodie Report
Classical music
John Fay's Reds Insider
High school sports
UC Sports
CiN Weekly staff