Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Politics Extra blog has a new home

The Politics Extra blog has moved. Check out the new one here

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No (visible) ink allowed for Si's folk


Jessica Brown reports:

Union leaders met with Sheriff Leis today to voice their objections to the new tattoo policy. They offered some unspecified suggestions that would "make the policy acceptable to union members," said David Stanley, staff representative for the union. He said the sheriff will get back to the union on the suggestions. No timeline was given.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis is prohibiting his uniformed officers from showing their tats. (Read the Enquirer story here)

Anyone with visible tattoos on their arms must cover up. That means long sleeved shirts this summer for the 37 officers with lower-arm tattoos, while the other 663 officers get to switch to short sleeves.

By the way, ordering the new "summer-weight" long-sleeved shirts will cost the sheriff's office over $4,000.

Leis, who is allowed to declare policy for his office, also will not be hiring any new officers if they have tattoos that show when wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

Leis says the tattoos just don't present a proper image. Many other law enforcement agencies and even the U.S. Marines agree and have enacted similar policies.

Here's the entire rule book on "general appearance" for the sheriff's office detailing everything from fingernail length to gum-chewing habits. The tattoo rules are on page 5.

And, in case you're interested, here's the Ohio State Highway Patrol's rules on tattoos.

GASP! Banks Records Could Soon Be Online

Records of contracts and money spent on The Banks riverfront project could soon be online under a program proposed by Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine last week.

The Government Accountability in Spending Program (G.A.S.P.) is a county-take on a federal and state program to give taxpayers access to records showing how their money was spent.

DeWine said he hopes The Banks records will be among the first to be included.

Commissioners will schedule a work session to see how feasible the program will be to implement. And Commission President Todd Portune, who likes the idea of the program, had a suggestion: change the name.

"GASP is sort of comical," he said, as the audience tittered in agreement. "It's like (Portune gave a real gasp for emphasis). "t just has this connotation of people late at night in front of their computer screen saying 'Oh my gosh! Look at what I've discovered!' I think it takes away from the idea."

DeWine said he would be agreeable to a name change.

Note to readers

We apologize, but as you might have noticed, we've had problems uploading photos to blogger.

Lunch And Crowley's E.J. Proposal

UPDATE: Altman and Crowley are unable to make it today, but Merz will be there to answer questions.

If you're interested in Vice Mayor David Crowley's proposed environmental justice ordinance, there's a Thursday lunchtime forum on it.

Crowley, lawyer David Altman and Crowley's chief of staff, Rocky Merz, will be at the Christ Church Cathedral undercroft, 318 E. Fourth St., at noon to talk about the proposal, which was nearly three years in the making. Their aim is to add environmental reviews of some commercial projects to ensure the projects don't add to any negative health impacts on Cincinnati's poorer neighborhoods.

Bring a lunch, or buy one there for $5.

Commissioners: Where are our projects?

So the county spent a ton of time this spring holding public hearings, gathering input, forming committees and debating the merits of dozens of projects that were vying for State Capital Bill funding.

Well, it appears that was all for nothing.

The State Capital list came out this week from Columbus and none of the three projects that the county had specifically deemed priorities (stadium debt money, funding for jail projects) were on it.

Commissioner Todd Portune, frustrated, sent this letter to Gov. Ted Strickland. His point: why spend all this time and effort if it's not going to matter?

At Wednesday's commission meeting he and Commissioner David Pepper gave some more details about what they think went wrong.

Apparently historically Hamilton County has had a kind of haphazard way of presenting projects to the governor for consideration. It was kind of an every-man-for-himself deal, which resulted in all kinds of requests landing in the legislature's lap, without any sense of which ones were the most important.

So this year the county tried to prioritize the projects thorugh that public hearing process mentioned earlier. Problem was, after the committee finalized its recommendations, the local legislators and organizations still went ahead and pushed their own pet projects whether they were on the list or not.

"Apparently they (the state) had more proposals from Hanilton County than any other part of the state and that makes it hard to deal with us," said Pepper. "No one in Columbus has any idea what our real priorities are when we go through this and everyone else piles on and it really is a mess. We need to talk to the chamber and our local delegation about how to make this process mean something. It defeats the purpose and makes it harder for us to get our act together."

Added Portune: "I think its unfortunate."

"We made it clear to everyone that we had adopted a community consenus process and that process was not give weight at the end. The other approaches and back room lobbying that had been a part of this process over the years in a bad way continued to play a role."

And now they have t-shirts to prove it

As we noted in this earlier blog, the county commissioners are Cincinnati Cyclones fans (they passed a resolution commending the team for a great season).

Well, now they have the t-shirts to prove it. Ray Harris, CEO of the Nederlander Group which operates U.S. Bank Arena (the Cyclones' venue) came to Wednesday's commission meeting to thank the commissioners for their support -- And to bring them some Cyclones t-shirts.

The Cyclones will take on the Las Vegas Wranglers and home this weekend, and in Las Vegas next week.

Noted Commissioner Todd Portune: "If we can’t make it to your game we’ll have to go on a fact-finding trip to Las Vegas."

About that 'Girls Gone Wild' rumor...

We're not the first to report about a Statehouse videotape in which former state Rep. Geoff Smith, a Republican from Upper Arlington, teases state Democratic Reps. Steve Driehaus of Price Hill and Todd Book of Portsmouth.

The Whistleblower newswire published an item on the alleged "Girls Gone Wild" episode in March here:

But to put persistent rumormongering to bed, readers can listen to Smith's rant in December 2006 here. Fair warning that his brief reference to a night out on the town with the "boys," in this case Driehaus and Book, is more than an hour into the Ohio House session, as Smith gives a farewell speech after his November defeat.

Driehaus explained Smith was asking women for kisses one night, while at a bar. According to Driehaus, Smith would tell female patrons that he and his legislative colleagues were "the advance team" for the "Girls Gone Wild" company that shoots video of vacationing college coeds.

During his House floor speech, Smith says who could forget "the little stint'' with Snoop Dogg and the "Girls Gone Wild" episode.

"Those pictures have been destroyed,'' Smith proclaims to howls in the House chamber.

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One for Barack, one for Hillary

When Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern announced his picks for the two open Ohio super-delegate slots, it was pretty well a lock that he would pick a Barack Obama supporter and a Hillary Clinton partisan.

That expectation has become reality.

It didn't take long after the May 10 Ohio Democratic Party convention, when the two superdelegates were approved, for Dave Regan, president of SEIU District 1199, to come out for Obama. His union has been on board with Obama for some time now.

This morning, the other super-delegate chosen by Redfern, Cleveland lawyer Craig Bashein, came out for Hillary.

That brings the Ohio superedelegate count to eight for Clinton, seven for Obama and seven up for grabs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Livingston, under review

We just noticed that Nate Livingston's blog, Cincinnati Black Blog, is "under review" by its host, Blogger, for possible violations of its terms of service. The blog is no longer accessible from its usual address.

No word what exactly triggered the review, but it comes amid "Operation Heightened Contradiction." We're sure you have your theories.

Senators react to Kennedy news

Doctors today said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., has brain tumor, a condition discovered after he had seizure and was hospitalized this week.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, released this statement this afternoon:

"Senator Kennedy is an inspiration for millions of Americans and a courageous fighter for working families across the country. I am honored to call him a colleague, a mentor, and a friend. He is more than a visionary member of Congress; he is an exemplary human being. My wife Connie and I send our thoughts and prayers to Ted and Victoria and the Kennedy family."

Sen. Jim Bunning had this to say:

“I am saddened by the news today that Senator Kennedy is suffering from a brain tumor,” said Bunning. “Mary and I are praying for Senator Kennedy and his family at this very difficult time. I know that he will meet this challenge head on just as he has every other challenge in his life. As he has proven every day throughout his career in public service, Senator Kennedy will never give up without a fight.”

Boehner's post in danger?

Politico reports:

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has put to rest questions about the future of NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), but he hasn’t quelled concerns of Republican members, aides and lobbyists who say Boehner lacks the “killer instinct” necessary to fend off an electoral disaster in November.

As usual in stories like this, no one is speaking on the record.

Read the rest here

Sheriff bans tattoos

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis is banning tattoos on his deputies — at least visible ones.

Jessica Brown has the story here

Pepper for AG?


Tim Burke told the Enquirer today that the other name he gave the governor’s office was that of Commission President Todd Portune.

"What I have said consistently is there are two people down here who could do this job and do it well and that’s Todd Portune and David Pepper." He didn’t know whether Portune is being considered by the governor or not.

"The AP said Pepper was one of them. They gave four names. I’m not even sure if there is a list of four people. I do know that David has developed a very good relationship with the governor because they’ve both been campaigning very hard for Hillary (Clinton)."

Commissioner David Pepper told the Enquirer he doesn’t know much about the process and said it would be premature to comment on whether he’d be interested in the job.

"If someone put my name out, I’m honored, but I don’t know anything more about it. I’ve spent my day doing county business. I really like what I do and where I am and the county’s got a lot of issues to focus on. At this point everything else is speculation. I think the governor’s handled the situation very well and I think he’ll make the best decision."

The Associated Press has this story:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A longtime county prosecutor in Dayton and a Hamilton County commissioner are on a list of potential Democratic replacements for former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.

Mat Heck, Montgomery County prosecutor since 1992, told The Associated Press Monday that he is being considered by Gov. Ted Strickland. David Pepper, a Hamilton County Commissioner since 2006, is also in the mix, said Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke and a Democratic state lawmaker with knowledge of the governor’s deliberations. ...

Pepper said he didn’t know whether he was on the list and didn’t have much to say on it.

“I think the governor has responded well (to the Dann scandal) and I think he’ll make the decision that’s best,” said Pepper, whose father was a former chief executive of Proctor & Gamble Co. and currently serves as chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Co.

Burke was asked by the governor’s staff to make suggestions for possible replacements for Dann. Of the two names Burke gave the governor’s staff, Pepper’s was the one they focused on, he said.

“He’s somebody who has an excellent relationship with the governor,” Burke said. “He has impressed the governor. He’s one hell of a hard worker.”

Dann resigned Wednesday under threat of impeachment. On May 2 he admitted to an extramarital affair with a subordinate that he said contributed to an atmosphere that led to sexual harassment complaints against a top aide in his office.

Strickland’s office will not discuss candidates for his replacement. However, Strickland said earlier Monday that he has spoken about the job with another person whose name has figured prominently in discussions of who would replace Dann – state Treasurer Richard Cordray.

Strickland said he had talked with Cordray because he is part of the inner circle of statewide Democratic officials he consults, but also about taking the job. He emphasized he has been talking to others as well.

“We are looking at a large number of individuals, their qualifications and their experiences,” Strickland said. “I am in an information gathering period of time right now.”

Strickland said he had not yet decided whether to appoint an interim attorney general and have someone else run in a November election to replace Dann, or to have the replacement he appoints also run as a candidate.

Cordray has declined interview requests to talk about the attorney general job.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason is also being considered. Spokesman Ryan Miday said Monday he did not know whether Mason had spoken with Strickland or his staff about the job, but said it would “be an honor” for the governor to consider him.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Changes coming to Politics Extra

A note from the blog administrator:

Starting later this week, this blog will be published in a new blog tool on a brand-new Cincinnati.Com website.

It will be the same Politics Extra you love and curse, but with some improvements. And don't worry - we'll still link back to this one.

Eventually, any bookmarks and links to this blog will take you to the new one.

Once we start posting to the new blog, you'll be able to get in and get a sneak peek at the new website before anyone else.

And more more change: You will have to register (it's free.) You will have a unique registration name under which you can post comments.

Questions? Comments? You can email blog administrator Carl Weiser at cweiser@enquirer.com

Singing Moms for Obama

We don't make this stuff up.

Here's the release:

Cincinnati native, Dawnyell Reese, inspired by The Life Of Senator Barack Obama and his race to become the President of the United States has created a new website.

She began this site hoping to showcase moms who want to sing and show their support for the candidate.

Dawnyell was classically trained at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her pure, soprano voice and powerful vocal executions have garnered the admiration and support of many local gospel artists, friends and family.

Dawnyell invites everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to visit singingmomsforobama.com to leave comments and share their own songs.

City official's kidnappers get prison

Kimball Perry reports:

A Mount Washington man who robbed a man who turned out to be the city of Cincinnati’s director of community development was sent to prison Monday.

Reginald Rice, 36, was sent to prison for two years by Visiting Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Gorman after being fund guilty last month of robbery and kidnapping.

Rice and Nicholas Donnerberg, 24, of Mount Washington, were arrested after a Jan. 18 incident where they were accused of kidnapping Michael Cervay at gunpoint in Anderson Township and walking him several blocks so he could withdraw $330 from an ATM.

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