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, May 02, 2008

Ohio JFS: You Owe $134.5m

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said in a report released Friday Hamilton County should repay $134.5 million in state and federal funds.

The county, of course, completely disagrees. The ordeal stems from an audit released in 2006 accusing the county's Job and Family Services Department of commingling and misspending federal money.

Read the report here.

Mallory: Starting The Pig

Mayor Mark Mallory will be at the starting line Sunday morning, 6:30 a.m., for the 10th Flying Pig Marathon.

He'll be starting the race by blowing a whistle. He reiterated Friday his refusal to start races by firing a gun and said his office informs anyone asking him to start a race that he won't do so by firing a gun.

Crowley: Willing To Tinker on E.J. Plan

After working almost three years on his proposed Environmental Justice ordinance, it might seem logical that Vice Mayor David Crowley was wed to exactly what is written in the 13 pages.

But he said Friday he's having meetings with city administrators to talk about their questions and concerns about the idea, which proposes that many commercial new and expanding businesses be subjected to an environmental review. It says any business that didn't pass an environmental specialist's review for possible pollution of the neighborhood around the business would not be permitted to get any necessary health, building or zoning permits.

He's also working to address concerns from the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, which said in leters to council members this week that officials had significant concerns about the idea hindering business retention and job attraction.

"I'm willing to tinker, yes," Crowley said Friday afternoon. "We still have some work to do."

Get your Dann reaction here

We'll update as we get 'em:

David Pepper so far has come the closest to calling for Attorney General Marc Dann's resignation as a result the exploding scandal
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, who served in the Ohio Senate with Dann: "I have absolutely no reason to comment on this matter.” Updated: Mallory offered this reaction: “All I can say is it’s an unfortunate situation.”

Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper: “What's happened at the AG’s office is shameful, especially the harassment of women employees. The mess needs to be cleaned up immediately so our leaders can get back to the business of serving the citizens, and rebuild their confidence in the office. Based on the facts that have emerged to date, it's hard to see this happening without a change at the top.”

Clermont County Democratic Party chairman Dave Lane said he is "terribly, terribly disappointed" in Dann. "I’m not calling for his resignation, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if he did resign."

Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke called the scandal in Dann’s office "unfortunate" and an "embarrassment," but said he does not believe it has gotten to the point where Dann should resign. "If there is anything good about this, it is that it came early in his time in office," Burke said. "He has time to overcome it. And I don’t think there is any doubt he will travel all over the state working hard to overcome it."

Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes: "I hope it works out for him and his family. The choice is his and he obviously made a bad one." He declined to comment on whether Dann should resign. "It’s not my call."

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH): "I am extremely disappointed by all of this. Marc Dann should immediately call for an external investigation. This is wholly unacceptable."
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune: "It’s a tragic thing and it stinks no matter how you look at it. The thing that was additionally shocking to me was his statement or his admission that he wasn’t qualified for the office. Those statements have a far greater bearing on, in light of everything here, on whether he should remain in office or not."
"I’m not prepared to say whether he should remain in office or not, but those (comments) are the issues people in Ohio want to have a better understanding of."

Ohio Republican Party Deputy Chairman Kevin DeWine today reacted to the press conference held by Attorney General Marc Dann: "Marc Dann failed the people of Ohio, and he must resign immediately. The state's top law enforcement officer has allowed immoral, unethical and even criminal behavior to thrive under his own supervision and at times with his own participation. He turned the attorney general's office into a raunchy frat pad, lied to the press and lied to his own investigator. It's simply not acceptable that everyone but Dann himself will be held accountable. I'm confident the voters will terminate Mr. Dann's employment at the end of his disgraceful term if he does not do so himself sooner."Marc Dann has now exposed the taxpayers to potential litigation, and he should reimburse the state from his own pocket for that expense."Ohioans have been failed here by more than Marc Dann. This scandal exposes a very sad level of hypocrisy within the Ohio Democratic Party, whose leadership has done nothing to demand the higher standard and accountability they once promised."

Report rips Dann office; 4 staffers gone

Jon Craig has the story here

Report from Clermont County

Barrett Brunsman reports:

MILFORD – Todd Portune and David Pepper can’t vote for Theresa Conover in the Democrat’s bid to replace Mary Walker as a Clermont County commissioner, but the two Hamilton County commissioners are urging others to do so.

“The future growth, stability, security and prosperity of both Clermont and Hamilton counties requires that we work together,” Portune said in a statement released by Conover. “The elected leadership of both counties collaborating on those issues … will revitalize our corner of the state.”
Portune, who is also a Democrat, said Conover “is the partner that I have been looking for on the Clermont County commission.”

Conover said regional cooperation is important, but added that the image of Clermont County is marred by cronyism and nepotism.

She would like to see “ordinary citizens” play a role in government, “instead of having our husbands and our brothers-in-law and our pals from the political party on all of our boards and commissions.”

Clermont voters will decide on Nov. 4 between Conover and Miami Township Trustee Ed Humphrey, who beat out Walker for the Republican nomination for her seat on the Board of Commissioners.

Pepper, also a Democrat, said in a statement that Conover “has the perfect credentials to make a very effective commissioner.”

Conover is a member of the Milford Board of Zoning Appeals and a former member of the Clermont County Planning Commission. She also is a former member of the Cincinnati Board of Zoning Appeals, and she served for several years as a neighborhood liaison on the Eastern Corridor Task Force of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.
“I would like to see principles of smart growth addressed – or at least analyzed,” said Conover, who has a bachelor’s degree in urban planning and a master’s in public administration.
Conover made headlines in 2006 when she brought to a halt a $40 million-plus housing development in her native Miami Township, across Ohio 131 from her 141-year-old farmhouse in Milford.

She claimed the safety of her children was at stake because of a road-widening project to accommodate the subdivision.

The developer of the Reserves of Grey Cliff finally agreed to a settlement after Conover’s deft maneuvering through the bureaucratic layers frustrated state, county and local officials – including Humphrey – who spent countless hours trying to resolve the matter.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Coates is "Listening"

Wayne Coates, a Democrat running against Rebecca Prem Groppe for Hamilton County Recorder kicked off his campaign Thursday with a "Listening Tour." He is traveling around Hamilton County hearing from property owners and attorneys about how he can best serve them as recorder.

"As an elected community leader, and a real estate broker for twenty-seven years I'm dedicated to constituent and customer service," said Coates in a press release. He currently works as a bailiff for Municipal Court Judge Ted Berry. "I intent to bring these traits to the recorder's office to improve public relations."

Coates also has a real estate office and is a former Forest Park city councilman and mayor.

Happy ending for unhappy ball field-UPDATED

UPDATE: The Community Fund has also agreed to renovate Forest Park’s six ball fields. Both communities’ renovations are expected to begin in June.

“We couldn’t be happier to have found Lincoln Heights and Forest Park,” said Charley Frank, executive director of the Community Fund. The organization fixes fields in Reds territory which is a large geographic area that stretches far outside Cincinnati. It’s renovated fields in Columbus, Indianapolis, northern Kentucky, Dayton and Louisville. “But there’s a whole range of Cincinnati suburbs that re right in our (target area) that we hadn’t met yet,” he said.

The Community Fund is actively looking for more fields and teams in need. If you know of one, go to www.redsyouthbaseball.org and let it know.

The Village of Lincoln Heights was hoping to get some state capital bill money to renovate its ball fields. But what it ended up getting was even better.

When Assistant County Administrator Eric Stuckey saw the request he immediately thought of an organization that could help: The Cincinnati Reds Community Fund.

He was familiar with it because his kid plays ball and Stuckey has helped coordinate cross-city match-ups through the Fund. So he hooked up the Lincoln Heights folk with the Community Fund folk and voila! The Fund decided to renovate Lincoln Heights’ Memorial Athletic Field (named in honor of residents killed in Vietnam) which is a big deal for that community.

That field is used for football and baseball but needs new bleachers, fencing, water for the concessions, entrance road repairs, better handicap accessibility and public restrooms. It also has outdated playground equipment and no track, according to the capital bill request (which was $254,000.) The Community Fund expects to be able to do it for much less because of the organization's existing connections and contributions.

The community had been trying to gather money for it since 2000. Stuckey said the knothole team was unsure if they’d even be able to use it this year, which might have resulted in the team disbanding.

So the Community Fund came to the rescue. Not only are they going to rehabilitate the field, they’re going to sponsor the knothole team, Stuckey said. The community also hopes to use the improved field to expand its Lincoln Heights Days Celebration.

New twists in Dann saga

UPDATED: The report is due out tomorrow, followed by a Marc Dann press conference. Here's the release:
First Assistant Attorney General Thomas Winters and Executive Assistant Attorney General Ben Espy will hold a news conference on Friday May 2, 2008 at 9:30am to discuss the findings of an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. The news conference will be held on the 17th floor of the Rhodes State Office Tower.

Attorney General Marc Dann will hold a separate news conference at 11:00am on the 17th floor of the Rhodes State Office Tower.
Posted earlier:
The Plain Dealer reports today:

The State Highway Patrol was called in Wednesday to investigate the apparent ransacking of the desk of one of two women who filed sexual-harassment complaints against their boss in the attorney general's office.

Rex Elliott, the woman's lawyer, called it witness intimidation, a potential felony under Ohio law.

Meanwhile, it turns out that after Dann's wife scrapped plans to accompany Dann to a law-enforcement conference in Turkey in June, the attorney general picked his scheduler to make the trip.

Jessica Utovich, 28, who had no background in law enforcement, according to her resume, obtained an airplane ticket to accompany the 46-year-old Dann to the Second Istanbul Conference on Democracy and Global Security from June 12 to 16.

Read the full story here


Poll: Clinton strong in OH against McCain

Quinnipiac University's new poll:

Winning among white working class voters, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton holds strong leads over Arizona Sen. John McCain - and runs much better than Illinois Sen. Barack Obama - in three critical swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to three simultaneous Quinnipiac University Swing State polls released today.

If Sen. Obama is the Democratic nominee, he's in a tight race with McCain in Florida and Ohio, but takes Pennsylvania.

This is Sen. Clinton's strongest overall performance since the independent Quinnipiac University began special surveys two years ago in the three largest and most important swing states in the Electoral College.

Ohio: Clinton beats McCain 48 - 38 percent; McCain gets 43 percent to Obama's 42 percent.

Read the full release here

Obama - Another Tri-State Super-delegate

Joe Andrew, a former Democratic National Committee Chairman from Indianapolis, announced today that he's switching his support from Sen. Hillary Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama.

Read more about Andrews' announcement HERE.

Portman's first foe: Eric Cantor.

Who? He's a GOP congressman from Virginia. And in this NCAA-like veep bracket from Congressional Quarterly, he's Rep. Rob Portman's first round opponent.

Cast your votes!

"Your Team Ain't Schmidt" wins 2nd

You read that right... Rep. Jean Schmidt's team in this year's ACLI Capital Challenge race was called "Your Team Ain't Schmidt."

And, yes, they won 2nd Place... In the category for Worst Named Team.

Beating them for 1st Place was a U.S. State Department team, called "I-Rock, I-Ran."

3rd Place went to the USA Today team, called "USA Toadys."

4th Place went to Sen. John Cornyn's team, called "We're No Weanies, We're Corndogs."

Schmidt ran yesterday's 3-mile run in 22:50, which earned her 1st Place among U.S. House female runners. Her time was faster than the fastest U.S. Senate female runner, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who finished in 39:12.

So ... Schmidt is, again, the fastest female member of the U.S. Congress. But she didn't beat her time from last year of 22:41, which set a record at the race for the fastest time run by a female member of the U.S. House.

See all the results HERE.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You want what for that ticket?

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune is getting up at 3:30 a.m. Thursday morning and he's a little ticked at the reason.
He's getting up early to drive all the way to Dayton's airport in time to catch a morning flight to Washington DC.
Why Dayton, you ask? After all, CVG is much closer to the commissioner's Green Township home.
Well, a round trip flight from Dayton costs around $500. That same flight from CVG costs more than $1,500, Portune said.
He pointedly mentioned the price discrepancy during Wednesday's commission meeting. He intends to also raise the point with lawmakers Thursday.
"Lack of competition is contributing to these fares," Portune said. Groups of local officials have already been to Washington to drum up support for keeping the Delta hub open. But talk about fares was completely missing from that conversation, Portune said.
"Fares didn't come up. Lack of competition didn't come up," he said. He hopes to meet up with some of the legislators to explain his point Thursday.

The primary reasons for the trip though, is so Portune can seek support for a green-build project by the Metropolitan Sewer District. The district is being forced to update its sewers at a cost of several billion dollars, resulting in double-digit percent increases for sewer customers. Portune said the U.S. EPA and the Department of Justice unexpectedly withdrew support for a green-build project that would have saved money for the district -- and the county water customers. Portune hopes to talk the groups into supporting the project again.

No News, But Some Sunshine At City Hall

City Council's meeting lasted, oh, 5 minutes today. The most anybody had to say about anything was during the Sunshine Committee report.

That's Mayor Mark Mallory's designation for Jeff Berding - chairman of the Sunshine Committe. That means Jeff notes birthdays, etc.

Today, Berding thanked Cecil Thomas for "captaining" a City Hall basketball team that beat a police team Saturday in a fund-raising game for the United Negro College Fund. Mallory said he was "proud that none of you were injured, because you're old." David Crowley said he was just happy he ran up and down the court several times without getting exhausted.

Leslie Ghiz announced that Berding's getting married. "Somone grabbed at him," she said. "It's great." No announced date for his marriage to Lindsay Bumbaugh.

Other random stuff from 801 Plum St.:

1. Thomas said he's thinking about suggesting that council members get four-year terms, instead of two-year ones. He said it's just too hectic to have to campaign so often. He's going to ask around and see if there's any support among his colleagues for the idea.

2. Two Mallory staffers are gearing up for Sunday's Flying Pig Marathon. Ryan Adcock has run several marathons. This is Jason Barron's first.

3. Chris Monzel planned to take a tour today of the center that takes calls to 591-6000, the city's general service number. His office has gotten some complaints about how the place resolves calls and how fast.

4. A motion from Berding: to tell City Manager Milton Dohoney and the Office of Environmental Quality to report on the feasibility of an anti-idling policy for all applicable city vehicles. He also wants to track how much gas goes into each vehicle and the vehicle's mileage, to figure out what cars in what fleet are gas hogs and if there's anything that can be done about it.

5. Also from Berding (is he trying to steal Monzel's overflowing trash can issue?) made a motion to direct the administration to make it a "top priority" to empty those corner trash can smore frequently. The motion also asks for a report on the cost of more frequent emptying of cans in high-traffic areas like downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Mount Adams and the CUF neighborhoods.
These photos, taken by Berding aide Shawn Baker, helped prompt the motion:

Obama - 2 more Tri-State super-delegates

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential front-runner, picked up two Tri-State super-delegates this week.

Yesterday, Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky endorsed Obama, D-Ill.

Read the story in the Louisville Courier-Journal HERE.

Today, Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana announced that he too will endorse Obama.

Read the story HERE.

Voinovich: Food prices too high

Sen. George Voinovich says food prices have been rising steadily in the last few months - and he wants to know why.

Voinovich, the top Republican on the subcommittee on oversight of government management, the federal workforce, and the District of Columbia, send a letter today to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking for a study and report on the rising cost of food.

Voinovich wants to know: What are the major factors contributing to the rise in food prices both nationally and globally? What role do federal ethanol incentives play in this crisis? What effect will permanently high food prices have on our economy? And, which groups in our country are most affected by high food costs?

“We need to stop debating whether there is a problem and start taking action to help people deal with the problems that are so obvious in their daily lives,” Voinovich said. “Before you can start to fix a problem, you have to know the cause.”

Portman to get award

Terrace Park's Rob Porman will be in Washington tomorrow to get an award from a fellow Ohioan.

What's interesting about this award is that Portman - a Republican - will be presented the award by former Ohio Sen. John Glenn - a Democrat.

The award is actually named for the former senator. It's the John Glenn School of Public Affairs’ 2008 Excellence in Public Service Award. The former senator will present Portman with the award at a private reception at the Cosmos Club in Washington, according to a release.

The award is "presented annually to an individual whose career exemplifies the highest standards of service in the public interest," according to the school.

Portman left the White House last year to return to Cincinnati, where he practices international trade law in the Cincinnati office of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. He also teaches Public Budgeting at the Ohio State University.

Portman has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate for Sen. John McCain, the presumed GOP presidential nominee. He also has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial or senate candidate (if Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, retires).

Candidate meet and greet

CincyPAC will hold a Congressional Candidate Meet & Greet event Thursday.

Here are the details:

  • Who's invited: First and Second District congressional candidates Steve Chabot, Steve Driehaus, Jean Schmidt and Vic Wulsin.

  • When: Thursday May 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

  • Where: Mixx Lounge, 1203 Main Street

  • Questions/RSVP: e-mail sean@cincypac.com

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Mallory's Up To These Days

Here's some of what we learned at Tuesday's weekly press briefing with Mayor Mark Mallory:

1. He's working on solidifying Operation Hospitality, though it might not be called that permanently. That's the effort last year to make sure people felt welcome downtown when they came for the Macy's Music Festival. The effort will continue this year, he said, and during other summer events as well.

2. More than 2,500 young people showed up two weeks ago for the third annual job fair. Some employers ran out of applications.

3. A basketball game Saturday at the Mount Washington rec center put city officials and employees against police officers for a game that raised $7,000 for the United Negro College Fund. City officials - including Jeff Berding, David Crowley, Cecil Thomas, Scott Stiles and four of the mayor's staffers - won, 30-27. "And nobody got hurt."

4. Twenty neighborhoods have committed to sponsoring cars in the Soap Box Derby, one of the mayor's favorite topics. It's in June, but builders have to go to a May 22 workshop to learn what to do. Find out more at http://www.cincinnatisoapboxderby.com/.

5. There are efforts under way to get the control tower at Lunken Airport on the National Register of Historic Places.

Environmental Justice In Cincinnati?

Supporters of Vice Mayor David Crowley's Environmental Justice ordinance spoke for more than an hour Tuesday at his health, education and environment committee, where he introduced the idea and brought it up for discussion. Among the supporters: the local Sierra Club; local and state chapters of the NAACP; Communities United for Action; former mayor Dwight Tillery, now director of the Center for Closing the Health Gap.

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, however, raised "significant concerns" in letters to each council member and asked that they "work to prevent ratification" of the ordinance as currently drafted. The letter came from former city solicitor Rita McNeil, who's now the Chamber's vice president for government affairs. It cites a hindrance of business retention and job attraction as among the ordinance's possible side effects.

The ordinance, which wasn't put for a vote yet, would stop any new commercial business or expansion if an environmental review of the proposed project found that the business could have a significant, cumulative effect on pollution in an area and/or on the health of people living there. The premise is that Cincinnati's lower-income and heavily minority neighborhoods bear more of the brunt of toxins than do other neighborhoods.

The discussion got a little testy between committee member Jeff Berding and lawyer David Altman, who worked with Crowley on the idea almost three years and presented the ordinance to the committee. The ordinance, based on national poverty levels, includes virtually the entire city as a potentially affected "environmental justice community" once the poor neighborhoods are designated and the mile radius around each is drawn. Excepted are parts of College Hill, Mount Washington, Oakley and Hyde Park.

Berding wanted to know if a business that wanted to avoid an EJ review could ask where Cincinnati zoning would allow it to locate. Altman, at one point, suggested maybe Berding should actually read the ordinance. Berding said he had read the ordinance.

Altman also said "certain members" of city council are very aware of areas in the city where kids suffer more from asthma - Cecil Thomas, for example. Berding and Chris Bortz took exception, saying of course all city council members are concerned about kids with asthma. Altman said he never meant to suggest otherwise.

The city administration hasn't yet weighed in, but the ordinance already has five votes in favor.

Firefighters in Trouble

Mayor Mark Mallory says he thinks City Manager Milton Dohoney is handling the efforts to improve the off-duty conduct of Cincinnati firefighters well and he supports Dohoney's idea of a code of ethics for the fire department.

"We certainly hope that that would take care of any problems that may exist," the mayor said Tuesday.

The code suggestion came in a memo dated last week, four days before the latest arrest of a firefighter, Ryan Norman, 31, of Mount Healthy. He was arrested Friday in New Mexico and accused of transporting more than 200 pounds of marijuana.

Check out the story about Norman here.

And here's more of what Dohoney suggested last week to Fire Chief Robert Wright:

1. Collaborating with the fire union on alcohol education and information on how to avoid or get help for domestic violence situations:

2. Make drug and other convictions a factor in promotions.

Dohoney also agreed with other ideas Wright sent him. Among those: Ethics and character workshops; and incorporating the "expectation of ethical behavior" in performance evaluations.

He said he did not agree with tying compensation to ethical behavior because "in our profession of public service, performing ethically should be a given and we should not pay extra to get it."

Once A Cop, Always A Cop

UPDATE: Thomas said today he was on his way to a meeting last night when he saw people fighting in the middle of Reading Road. He saw the man with a handgun. The man had started to drive off when Thomas flagged down Fangman, who drove after the man.

Thomas followed Fangman, who got out of his cruiser with his gun drawn. The man got out with his gun, but quickly dropped it and was arrested. Fangman realized when he saw the gun close up that it was a BB gun, one made to look like a real gun, Thomas said.

The whole thing apparently started when a young man got involved in a fight with the arrested man's daughter and wife.

Thomas, who retired in 2000 after being a police officer 27 years, said all his old training came right back to him - "just like riding a bike."

Councilman Cecil Thomas, a retired Cincinnati Police officer, helped police make an arrest Monday night in Avondale. He saw a man holding a gun and flagged down an officer.

The man holding the gun was Phillip Randle, 56, of Avondale. His gun was a BB gun.

The officer was Keith Fangman, former president of the Cincinnati chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Check out the story here.

County to city: pay up for your criminals

UPDATE from Jane Prendergast:
Mayor Mark Mallory, in his weekly press briefing Tuesday, said he hasn't yet been convinced that the city owes this money to the county. He was unaware of any previous payment deal, he said, and hasn't "seen anything in writing" that shows the agreement.

"Certainly, if there was," he said, "we will adhere to it to the best of our ability."
Jessica Brown reports:

From now on, the city of Cincinnati must pick up the tab for anyone jailed solely for having a joint in their pocket, violating a city building code or breaking any other Cincinnati-specific law.

Hamilton County, which bears the cost of running the county’s jails, is reinstating a decades-old policy of billing Cincinnati for the $65-per-day cost of housing inmates on city charges. The policy applies only to inmates behind bars for violating a municipal law.

McCain camping out in Ohio

While the Democrats duke it out next door in Indiana, John McCain is clearly trying to lay the groundwork for a fall campaign in the battleground state of Ohio, scheduling his second trip here in two weeks.

Thursday morning, the Arizona senator will hold a "Town Hall Meeting" on the subject of health care in a ballroom at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Cleveland. Last week, McCain made the rounds in the economically-distressed Mahoning Valley.

A Gilligan Institute, but he won't be the skipper

Jon Craig reports from Columbus

John J. Gilligan has been a city councilman, congressman, school board member and governor.

Now, he is going to be an institute.

The Gilligan Institute, a new non-profit organization, has been formed to study the career of the Clifton resident and encourage discussion and debate on politics and government in Ohio.
Incorporated last month, the Gilligan Institute is based in Columbus for now, not in Gilligan’s hometown.

“That’s where it’s most convenient for most of the people involved in the project to get together,’’ said Gilligan, a Democrat who was Ohio’s 62nd governor.

The institute was founded by former senior members of the Gilligan administration, Gilligan’s son, John Jr., and daughter, Kathleen Sebelius, who is governor of Kansas. The institute will kick off its first official public event May 15 with a presidential campaign briefing by two nationally-known political experts.

The institute will be staffed by volunteers on a barebones budget, according to Bob Tenenbaum, Gilligan’s former press secretary from 1971-74.

“It’s very moving to have people get together to try and put something like this together,’’ said Gilligan, 87, in a telephone interview from his home in Clifton.

Jim Friedman, who served as Gilligan’s deputy campaign manager and first chief of staff, said the institute will do its work across the state and that basing it in Columbus was more for convenience for some of the volunteer staff.

“Programs will take place in a variety of places,’’ he said.“Like anything else, we’re going to crawl and walk before we start sprinting,’’ Friedman said.

Gilligan first entered public office in 1953 as a member of Cincinnati City Council. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the 1st Congressional District, and was elected governor of Ohio in 1970.

Gilligan’s term as governor was highlighted by a major overhaul of Ohio’s funding system for education as well as significant reforms in environmental protection, corrections, mental health and mental retardation. He also created the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“We really tried to develop an administration that was responsive to the needs and desires of the people and at the same time was responsible,’’ Gilligan said.

Gilligan introduced personal and corporate income taxes, which was unusual among states at that time. “The term tax would send a number of people up the wall,’’ he said.

“We needed the revenue, especially in education. . . People have said the income tax caused my defeat’’ for re-election in 1974. “I don’t believe that at all. . . The income tax didn’t beat me. It was my unshining personality,’’ Gilligan said with a self-deprecating tone.

He continued in public service as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1977 to 1979, taught at the University of Notre Dame and directed the university’s Institute for Public Policy and Institute for International Peace Studies, and directed the civic issues forum of the University of Cincinnati School of Law. In 1999, at the age of 78, he was elected to the Cincinnati Board of Education, where he served two terms before retiring from the board in 2007.

Proceeds from the May 15 event will help underwrite the cost of a biography of Gilligan, commissioned by the Gilligan Institute and authored by Mark Bernstein, a Washington, D.C.-based writer who has written biographies of the Wright Brothers and Ohio entrepreneurs Charles Kettering and John H. Patterson. Bernstein’s contract keeps his writing independent of the Institute, according to Friedman, with hopes of publishing in 2010.

Friedman said the book will be more than a biography. “It’s going to look at Ohio politics through the 20th century through his career,’’ he said, and how Gilligan shaped politics.
Bernstein also has written numerous newspaper and magazine articles, many of them with Ohio historical themes.

Gilligan’s former aides plan meetings soon with Bernstein. Gilligan said he’s available as needed for the book project, including interviews, but wondered how helpful he would be. “Especially since I have no memory,’’ he joked.

CQ's latest take on our races

Congressional Quarterly, the respected Washington magazine, puts both the 1st and 2nd Congressional districts in the "leans Republican category."

Their take in this week's issue:

OHIO 1 -- Steve Chabot, R
2006: Chabot 52%, John Cranley (D) 48%

The "Battle of the Steves" has been quiet recently, as it's been clear for a year that state Rep. Steve Driehaus would be the Democratic nominee against Chabot, who's seeking an eighth term in a politically competitive district that takes in most of Cincinnati. Democrats point to Driehaus' political base in the district's more Republican-leaning suburbs, though Chabot showed resilience and strong political skills two years ago in overcoming a determined Democratic challenger in a terrible election year for Republicans. The incumbent began April with $1.1 million in the bank, twice the cash reserve of the challenger.

OHIO 2 -- Jean Schmidt, R
2006: Schmidt 50%, Victoria Wulsin (D) 49%

Wulsin, a physician, is taking another shot at Schmidt, who won her first full term in 2006 by only 2,500 votes in an overwhelmingly Republican district in and east of Cincinnati. Schmidt took only 57 percent in the March primary against state Rep. Tom Brinkman, the latest evidence that many Republicans simply don't like the person they sent to Congress in 2005 to replace Rob Portman. Still, Wulsin is challenged by GOP criticism that she is too liberal to represent the district

Monday, April 28, 2008

Check Out Crowley's Environmental Justice Idea

Vice Mayor David Crowley on Tuesday brings up his proposed Environmental Justice ordinance for the first time at council's health, education and environment committee, which he chairs. The committee meets at noon in council chambers.

For an early look, click here for the 13-page ordinance.

County enacts hiring freeze

Hamilton County Commissioners are making official their informal hiring freeze. And they're urging other departments to follow suit.

According to a county memo circulated Monday:

"The county's financial position has worsened due to a decline in projected revenue of $7-8 million compared to budget. In addition, according to the March 2008 general fund budget projections, several departments are projected to exceed their 2008 budget."

Therefore the administration recommended a hiring freeze. An informal freeze has been in place for two years, saving the county $2.5 million, said Administrator Patrick Thompson.

However, the freeze will affect only 300 of the more than 3,000 positions paid for by the county's general fund. The commissioners don't have control over the payrolls of other elected officials' departments. Although commissioners are asking those departments to freeze new hires too, they can't make them do so.

Thompson hopes, though, that they will follow suit.

"What the commission is trying to emphasize is the serious nature of our financial condition," he said. "It also sends a message to the individual elected officials that we’re asking for their support."

Fisher's staying where he is, Strickland says

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said during his Cincinnati visit today he hasn't given any thought to possible appointees for Attorney General, should a vacancy exist at some point.

But Strickland did rule out Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who's been mentioned as a possible replacement for current AG Marc Dann. Dann's office is ensnared in a scandal surrounding sexual harassment allegations against some of his top staffers.

Fisher served as AG from from 1991 to 1995, but today is director of the Department of Development. Dann has said he won't resign, but Strickland would get to appoint a successor if he ever did leave.

"Listen, I want to tell you my Lieutenant Governor is so good right where he is, I can't think of him as going anywhere else," Strickland said.

Strickland didn't respond to speculation that former Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken would be an option also.

McCain back in Ohio this week

He's in Cleveland Thursday, according to the Plain Dealer.

Substituting for John Schneider....

at tonight's Blue Chip Young Republicans streetcar debate will be Councilman Chris Bortz. He said this afternoon he'll be filling in for John Schneider, chairman of the Alliance for Regional Transit.

On the other side of the issue: Councilman Chris Monzel.

Join them tonight, 7 p.m., at Monty's in Norwood, 4108 Montgomery Road.

Quoting Spiderman's Uncle Re The Banks

Comparing The Banks with Columbus' Scioto Mile, both starting this year, the (relatively) new Banks Blog says the two Ohio cities compete like siblings. The Banks is a bigger project, while Columbus, the blogger writes, has been rebranding its city in sections, like Short North.

"As Spiderman’s uncle would say: “with great power comes great responsibility”. Here in Cincinnati, we interpret that as “with great perfectly located real estate development opportunities comes great expectations”.

The blog, brought to us by Live Green Cincinnati, appears to be ready to give intricate details of the project's progress. Now, there are even photos of tire tracks made by excavation equipment.

Read it here.

Only one state has AG office in DC - Ohio

WASHINGTON -- With Marc Dann's colorful personnel problems keeping Ohioans in shock or stitches, few have noticed his pioneering ways. The Ohio attorney general has installed a former campaign aide as his man in Washington, D.C.

Craig Mehall has a unique job as the nation's only full-time Washington liaison to a state attorney general, according to a Plain Dealer query of the 49 other state attorneys general. Mehall, 40, justifies his unusual $98,000-a-year job, as does Dann, as a way to tap into Washington cash and congressional pork that might not come Ohio's way otherwise.

Read the full story here

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