Sunday, November 29, 2009

Black Friday Question

How much Black Friday shopping is about Christmas-present-giving-these days?

One of the best deals at Sears, for instance, was a deal on a washer and dryer. Are there really that many clueless men who honestly believe they can give their wives a washer and dryer for Christmas and still hope to have sex in the coming year? I tend to think a lot of the TV purchases are for personal use rather than gifts.

How about y'all? If you went discount-hunting Friday, was it for Christmas presents, or was it to pick up an appliance you needed at a good price?

How About Those Bearcats?

In an effort to appease those who think we need more sports posts, I thought I'd mention the excellent play of the Bearcats recently. But I'm talking here about the team coached by Mick Cronin.

For those who missed it, last week the 'Cats went to Hawaii (I know, being a student athlete is such a tough gig!) for the annual Maui Invitational. There, they beat Vanderbilt and Maryland, both of which were ranked as among the top 25 teams. That got them to the tournament final, where they lost in overtime to Gonzaga (thanks largely due to some bad late-game officiating). What was perhaps most surprising was the Bearcats' tenacious defense through the tournament. (Even in defeat, they allowed only 19 first-half points for Gonzaga.)

Yes, the real test doesn't start for a few weeks, first at the Crosstown Shootout against Xavier December 13, and then through the Big East schedule beginning with a December 30 homegame against UConn. But the season has started much better than anyone in the media expected it would.

Let's Go 'Cats!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Progress" v. The Metropole Tenants Association (Part II)

Note: this is a continuation of the post immediately below.

2. Does 3CDC have too much power in downtown and Over-the-Rhine? Truthfully, I have no idea. Certainly, we should talk about 3CDC and what it does. (And I don't think 3CDC would shy away from that discussion.) I definitely don't want to engage in some conspiracy-laden rant, accusing 3CDC of being some local version of the Trilateral Commission. But we should discuss, from time-to-time, what 3CDC does and whether it's good for a private organization to play the role in development decisions occupied by 3CDC.

At the outset, let me say this: 3CDC has, for the most part, done a terrific job in downtown and OTR. Anyone who doesn't believe that didn't drive up Vine Street five years ago and then again today. Anyone who doubts that 3CDC has made a lot of good decisions hasn't been on Fountain Square in the last three days--or, frankly, in the past three years.

Having said that, though, 3CDC has become something of the de facto planning commission for downtown. Maybe that's alright, because they have done a pretty good job thus far. But we should make sure the delegation of downtown planning to 3CDC is a conscious decision, and not one driven solely by momentum.

Last week, City Council debated the Queensgate Terminal project. Part of what was discussed was that the project would put Cincinnati Bulk Terminal out of business. Jeff Berding suggested that it's not City Council's job to favor one business over another, thereby creating "winners and losers". Maybe it's not. But it's something Council does more often than one would think. The remodeling of the Metropole is to be supported with $2.5 million from the City. An agreement to allocate that money will be a decision by the City that 3CDC's proposed business plan is better than the one currently in place. Notably, it will force the relocation of Roma's and the Subway Lounge. There's no guarantee that either of those will be successful in a new spot. So sometimes, the City does, indeed, choose winners and losers. 21c and its restaurant (which is Italian, by the way) win, and Roma's loses.

City Council routinely rubber stamps 3CDC proposals. My question: should it? Maybe it should. But let's make sure we talk about it every few years.

3. Why is this Legal Aid's problem? Finally, I have to wonder why the Metropole Tenants Association is represented by the Legal Aid Society. Is this really part of its core mission and services?

Some of Legal Aid's attorneys are my friends. The people who work there are dedicated, hard-working public servants, many of whom chose to work for Legal Aid even though they carry six figures of educational debt and could parlay their degrees into much more lucrative private practices. They are intelligent and capable, and they will no doubt represent the tenants zealously and professionally.

But is this type of class-action really the type of activity that Legal Aid should be spending time on? There are certain clients and cases that would go unserved if not for Legal Aid. Most poor people in the midst of divorce, foreclosure, social security applications, education law needs, and individual landlord-tenant disputes would not find representation in the private bar. As clients, they cannot pay a lawyer's hourly fee, and their cases are typically too small to justify a contingent fee arrangement.

With unemployment reaching double digits, the need for Legal Aid's individual services is larger now than ever. And that makes me wonder how Legal Aid is able to find the time to devote to a class action case. (Perhaps its plan is to merely see the case through its administrative phases, and to assist the tenants in finding private counsel should litigation be required.) The Metropole action, should one be filed, is large enough that there are members of the private bar who would take it on. Should it be left to the private bar, then?

I don't ask either of the questions raised in the post to demonize either 3CDC or Legal Aid. Both are organizations that (though very different) are extremely competent in their respective fields. Each is enormously important in the future of our city. But like any organization, it's fair to talk about their role from time to time. (Commenters, please take your meds before ranting here about either of these groups!)

"Progress" v. The Metropole Tenants Association (Part I)

I've been wanting to write about the coming conversion of the Metropole (located on Walnut between Sixth and Seventh) to a luxury hotel for some time. (Background: Enquirer; Streetvibes.) I've been reluctant to, for fear of what will appear in the comments. I don't want to feed the trolls who regularly comment in order to insult poor people. I also suspect, though, that the overwhelming part of our readership is fairly unsympathetic to the Metropole's tenants. Many of our readers consider themselves "urban pioneers" (a term I find patently offensive) who are somewhat sympathetic to the poor--so long as they don't have to live, eat, work, play, or pray alongside the poor. I'm a little afraid of what you'll have to say, too.

For me, this episode in the development of downtown Cincinnati raises three issues: the merits of the dispute between the tenants of the Metropole and the new owner of the building; the role and power of 3CDC in downtown development; and the role of Legal Aid in the provision of services to the indigent. I'll tackle each in turn over two posts.

1. Who's right: the tenants, or the landlord? Like most things, this isn't as black-and-white as those on either side of the dispute would have you believe. If the complaint to HUD is accurately described by the Enquirer (in other words, if the complaint really alleges that 3CDC is discriminating against the tenants because most are elderly or African-American), my guess is that it lacks much merit. I don't think 3CDC cares much about the age or race of the tenants it is displacing. Instead, 3CDC has a vision for downtown and this project is part of that vision, regardless of the tenants who are tossed out on the street. Remember, 3CDC's plans also call for the "relocation" of two commercial tenants, neither of whom--so far as I know--are owned by people who are minorities, elderly, or indigent.

But the tenants need to be treated with respect. To the extent that isn't happening, 3CDC should be ashamed. Federal law requires that a process be followed before federally-subsidized tenants can be displaced. The tenants' fear and anxiety is certainly understandable. I'm not indigent, and if my landlord announced that my building were closing in the next twelve months, I'd be apprehensive, too (I hate moving!), and I have the resources to find my own place. 3CDC claims that it will make sure it follows the law and that it will find appropriate new residences for the Metropole's tenants. I hope it keeps its word.

Ultimately, the question comes down to this: once a landlord accepts federal housing money, does that act as some sort of covenant that runs forever against the building, regardless of ownership? Certainly, that cannot be the case. Property owners must be free, assuming they follow the law, to opt out of Section 8. Take care of the tenants, but don't demonize the building's ownership for deciding to go in a new direction.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dear Gang of Five: It's Your Turn

Mayor Mallory didn't waste any time after Milton Dohoney issued his budget by passing the plan right to City Council, which will change on December 1st. So the message I took from this is: Gang of Five, it's your turn to govern, not grandstand. I'll be very interested in hearing the rhetoric from the likes of Ghiz and Berding and as of Dec 1st, Charlie Winburn.

I'm surprised I've not heard anything from Berding. Just a month ago he was claiming people would flee Cincinnati if police were laid off. What will his plan be now? Dohoney's plan cuts really deep everywhere and raises fees, but still must cut the public safety departments. Will he now try to govern, or will he and the Gang of Five change winds and not pander to the FOP and the Westside voters and finally face the music by cutting the CPD and CFD ranks without the rhetoric of fear filling talk radio and Twitter?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Playing Chicken, Part II

Well, it is no longer election season. Now we shall see who really will be honest and who will continue to grandstand on the City's Budget. The City Manager has announced his plan and it includes cutting 315 jobs, including 110 from the police department, and 47 from the fire department. So two departments (police and fire) making up 2/3rds of the budget will get only about 50% of the job cuts. I guess some might call that prioritizing public safety. I am sure the FOP's sock puppets will call it something akin to a nuclear bomb going off in the heart of the Westwood.

I really hope that City Council does not play games. I've not seen what's come out on Twitter today and I don't know what's be said on talk radio yet, but I honestly wish it will adult speak, not gamesmanship or juvenile rants about who won't shut up.

Most Dangerous Cities 2009: Where's Cincinnati?

So, the same flawed group is out with another Most Dangerous list, this time for Cities, but Cincinnati didn't make the list. I for some reason didn't read this in any of the local media. Cleveland made the list, but not Cincinnati. St. Louis is #2, but no mention of it.

I hope the local media learned that this website uses bad stats, but it would be good journalism to do another story about how Cincinnati is not on the list, but it incorrectly got on a worst "neighborhood" list by some bizarre misuse of data. I know not to expect the media to do follow-ups, but I hope they will and calling them out may guilt an editor/producer into assigning a reporter, thus letting them do their jobs. Instead I expect to ready more fluff, but its the holidays, so no one wants actual news to happen. The goes double for local TV news, who are the worst!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cincinnati Unchained November 21st

This Saturday join your fellow Cincinnatians and support local independent businesses in the annual Cincinnati Unchained. From the press release for this year's event:
On November 21, locally-owned businesses across Greater Cincinnati will urge area residents to support the city’s vibrant independent businesses by shopping locally-only. As part of Cincinnati Unchained, a shop-local event throughout Greater Cincinnati, participating businesses are asking residents to take one day to shop, dine out, and do other business only with locally-owned independent business.
A place to start would be the Gateway Quarter in OTR. Cool shops in the best neighborhood in the city.

You can help you neighbors by shopping at businesses that truly add to the community and local economy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime . . . . . A Report From The Breadline

Raise your hand if you think the United States has the best health care access and coverage in the world and if you think the United States is the richest and bestest country in the world . . . . Let's hear it for American exceptionalism . . . . .

But, lest we get all wobbly about the fact that 14.6% of our country does not have adequate food or feel too sorry for these hungry children, Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, comforts us by stating, “Very few of these people are hungry. When they lose jobs, they constrain the kind of food they buy. That is regrettable, but it’s a far cry from a hunger crisis.”

Now, doesn't that make you feel better, these people are not hungry, they have just stopped buying steak, caviar, and foie gras, and are eating ramen noodles instead. I mean, after all, what five year old doesn't love a steady diet of ramen noodles.

'Every Breath You Take, Every Move you Make'

Bring on "Big Brother!" Public Safety will improve with the installation of video cameras at various points around town. Starting in Downtown and Uptown, street corners will have 24 hour surveillance and will be able to better catch criminals and watch for medical emergencies.

OTR is being considered for this, and I personally say yes please!

I am trusting the police on this issue. I understand that every time I walk to Fountain Square, I will be captured in the surveillance. This invades my privacy on one level. It is legal. The police could just have multiple officers stationed at the same locations and watch me just as much. They would be witnesses to know that I walked by just as much as video tape would be. Stationing multiple police officers as each corner is obviously way too expensive, so not a practical option.

One point that is not mentioned in the article and is the key question against this idea is how long is the video tape stored? 24 hours of tape is a lot and takes up a ton of space, whether digital or not. How long will it be stored? How long will police have to trace your movements? There has to be some time restraint, unless they have as much server space as Google, so that time frame will be something that should be made public.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jim Knippenberg - Requiescat in Pace

What a sad thing to learn of Jim's death last evening. He was truly a legend in Cincinnati, the kind of person who knew everyone and, truthfully, knew a lot of gossip about everyone. Jim was a kind and generous man who loved life and lived it about as fully as one can. He will be missed.

Somewhere Jim is gathered at the bar with all his friends who went before, hoisting one and laughing that gregarious laugh. Some evening soon, all of those of us left here on this mortal coil should lift a glass to Jim and his life and memory. And in doing so, remember that "Life is rather like a tin of sardines - we're all of us looking for the key." Traveling mercies Jim.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Good News For CNN

National Cable News became a joke yeas ago and Lou Dobbs made CNN far worse than it needed to be with his insanity. His anti-immigrant jingoism, his embrace of birthers, and his out right anti-Obama stances were what you expect from outright biased news outlets like FOX. Lou Dobbs is now leaving CNN which does nothing but increase the credibility of the TV network. I think the cheers from Atlanta could be heard across the country when this was announced.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Serious Run or a Stunt?

28 year old Surya Yalamanchili is running of the Ohio 2nd Congressional District. By itself, that action is neither serious nor a Stunt, but when you add the fact the Yalamanchili was a contestant on "The Apprentice" television show, then I just don't see how this would be anything other than a stunt to provide him with attention to use for personal gain. Yalamanchili is a former marketer for Linkedln, so media stunts are not out of the possible sphere of his area of experience, so I am very doubtful of the seriousness of his campaign. If you want to run for political office, you need to do more than just issue a press release and have a website. You need an organization with people to help you and they must believe in you. The election is less than a year away, so he better start working on the basics if he doesn't want to be just an also-ran.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Remove Cole From Finance Chair

If there is one thing Mayor Mallory can do to improve City Council quickly, then it is removing Laketa Cole from the Finance Committee Chair. Her inability to work with, well, anyone, makes it an obvious need. She was the only person voting for her motion on the Property Tax rate in the committee session yesterday. So, now things are up in the air and someone with actual credibility wouldn't have let it get to this point.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Qualls Nixes Vice Mayor Slot

In this in-depth piece by Howard Wilkinson Roxanne Qualls stated she does not want the Vice Mayor's appointment. Here's the meat of what her future may hold:
Does she parlay her strong support among Cincinnati voters into a position of greater influence on the new City Council, such as an appointment to a major committee or as vice mayor?

Nobody knows; and Qualls isn't saying much.

No, she told The Enquirer on Friday, she isn't interested in being Mallory's vice mayor. Yes, she said, she might be interested in running for mayor in 2013, but "it's too early to talk about that." Yes, she said, she would consider a run for county commissioner, but is "leaning against it."

She clearly has City Wide support. That support will be something to think about in the future. A post as Finance Chair maybe something worth considering, especially if she can have more influence in getting some on the right to vote with her.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Oscar at 40: Does He Need a New Home?

The New York Times reports that Sesame Street has reached its 40th anniversary. The article points out that the show's sets have changed and now look "gentrified."

As a kid, my two favorite characters were (of course) Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch. PBS has already updated Cookie Monster for the new millenium, rounding out his diet with fruits and veggies and moderating his cookie consumption. (I don't know when the last time he was televised singing my favorite song, "C is for Cookie.")

But the article had me thinking: how many of today's kids come into contact with a trash can like that which serves as Oscar's home? Is it time for Oscar to trade in his metal can for a plastic "Herby"?

Downtown Restaurant Happenings (Mayberry's, Roma Trattoria, and Busken's)

None of these items seemed substantial enough for a full post, but each is interesting enough to be included in a round-up.

Mayberry's: Earlier this week, Mayberry's opened on Vine Street between Ninth and Court, in the space formerly occupied by Tom's Pot Pies. It's run by the same folks who own the Whole Food Market at Findlay Market. I stopped in for lunch on Tuesday and had (to go) a chicken Caesar salad and macaroni and cheese, both of which were quite good. A friend had the tuna melt and the tater tot casserole. He indicated the tuna melt was very good, but the tater tot casserole might just be an excuse to carbo-load (not that I ever need such an excuse). I'll note that I could smell the pot roast when I was there; it smelled great, but I was in the mood for something lighter. I'll definitely be back, as it's directly on my courthouse-to-office route.

Roma Trattoria: The big fight regarding the remodeling of the Metropole and its conversion to a luxury hotel will center on the relocation of its more than 200 residential tenants. But the sale of the Metropole will also force the relocation of two commercial tenants, Roma Trattoria and the Subway Lounge. I've never been to the Subway Lounge. Roma Trattoria is a great restaurant that will no doubt be hurt by taking away its Aronoff-friendly location. There are a couple spaces nearby that might be suitable: the space formerly occupied by Arloi Dee (on Seventh) and the space formerly occupied by the Maisonette come to mind.

Busken's: Finally, the Busken Bakery at Ninth and Plum (across the street from City Hall) will be moving in early December. It will take over a space on Seventh between Walnut and Main that was formerly occupied by Mythos (and, for those whose memories go back that far, occupied by Sushi Ray's before that). That seems like a sensible move to me, as the Ninth and Plum location always seemed to be a bit outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown (and thus lacking in foot traffic). No word yet on where the mayor and council members will get their doughnuts after the move, though.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Who Will Be the Next Vice Mayor?

With David Crowley term limited, the position of Vice Mayor will become vacant. The mostly cermonial position is not filled with much power, but it carries some influence. The Mayor gets to pick the person he wants, but it is often used as a way to reward or instill loyalty to a member of senior member of Council. Greg Harris may have been the logical choice for the Mayor, but now I don't know who he picks. Cole and Thomas are in his party with seniority, but wouldn't it be smarter for the Mayor to bring a foe into the Mallory camp by picking Chris Bortz? Bortz does not have the rumored eye on the Mayor's office that Qualls is alleged to have.

There are not other choices that gain the Mayor much. If there are better options, chime in.

Someone Tell Ghiz There's a Veto

I just heard Leslie Ghiz speaking on WVXU (mp3) about getting five City council members to reverse anything thing the lame duck council does, specifically on Property Taxes. Is she forgetting about something called the Veto? Here's the relevant part of the City Charter:
Section 6. Every ordinance shall be fully and distinctly read on three different days unless three-fourths of the members elected to the council dispense with the rule. No ordinance shall contain more than one subject which shall be clearly expressed in its title, and no ordinance shall be revived or amended unless the new ordinance contains the entire ordinance revived, or the section or sections amended, and the section or sections so amended shall be repealed. Council may adopt codification ordinances, codifying, revising and re-arranging the ordinances of the city or any portion thereof.

Any legislation passed by the council, whether in the form of an ordinance or resolution, shall be dated when passed. If the mayor approves the legislation, the mayor shall sign and date the legislation and it shall be effective according to its terms when signed by the mayor.

If the mayor does not approve the legislation, the mayor may veto the legislation and return it to the council within four days after passage with a notation of the veto on the legislation. The vetoed legislation shall be placed on the agenda of the council at its next regularly scheduled meeting. Legislation vetoed by the mayor and returned to the council may not be amended.

Upon motion passed by five members of the council, the council may reconsider the vetoed legislation. If six members of the council vote affirmatively to override the veto and enact the legislation, it becomes law notwithstanding the mayoral veto. It shall be effective according to its terms upon the affirmative vote and, if otherwise subject to referendum, the time for referendum on the legislation shall begin to run again from that date. Unless the council overrides the veto of the mayor at or before the second regularly scheduled meeting of the council following passage of the legislation, the legislation shall not take effect. Legislation enacted by the council over the veto of the mayor shall not be vetoed a second time. An ordinance placing on the ballot a charter amendment initiated by petition shall not be subject to a mayoral veto.

If the mayor neither approves nor vetoes the legislation, the legislation shall be effective according to its terms the fifth day following its passage. The effective date shall be noted on the original copy of the legislation by the clerk of council.
Every ordinance shall be published once within 15 days after its passage in a newspaper of general circulation in the city of Cincinnati, or a newspaper regularly published under the authority of the council. In the publication of every ordinance or resolution relating to improvements or to assessments upon private property for such improvements, the advertisement shall contain simply a statement of the title, number and date of the ordinance and resolution, a concise description of the private property affected, a summary of the nature of the improvements, the rate of any assessment levied or to be levied, and a reference to a copy of the said ordinance or resolution, which shall be on file in the office of the clerk of council. In the publication of all other ordinances or resolutions the advertisement shall contain a statement of the title, number and date of the ordinance or resolution, a brief statement of the nature of the ordinance or resolution, and a reference to a copy the ordinance or resolution, which shall be on file in the office of the clerk of council.

(Amended by Ord. No. 77-1999, eff. Dec. 1, 2001; election of May 4, 1999)
So, based on reading the above, the Mayor can veto Council ordinances and resolutions passed by council, and it requires 6 council members to override the veto. Now, other than measures to add Charter Amendments to the Ballot, there are no exceptions to the Mayor's veto power listed in this section I found.

If there is another section exempting the power of the Mayor on the veto, I invite anyone to post the link to it. I couldn't find it. I only found two sections mentioning the veto in a search of the entire Municipal code, including the Charter. The other simply was in Article III restating the Mayor has the power of the veto as defined in Article II, which is the section referenced above.

So, if the Mayor doesn't like what Leslie Ghiz and company wants, he can veto it. Why he's not used the veto yet, I don't know. If he doesn't use it now and going forward, then I'd like to know why. Leslie needs to work on getting 6 members of council to do something the Mayor does not like, not just five. Five is not the Magic Number when you don't like the Mayor.

Why do people keep underestimating the tenacity of the Mayor?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Truth Sometimes Does Win

Like the Mayor, I was a little bit worried about Issue 9 going into last night. Once the absentee votes came in, however, I was convinced that the night would end well for those of us opposing Issue 9.

The campaign by the those in favor of Issue 9 was filled with a combination of out right lies and scores of misleading comments from both Chris Smitherman and COAST. Top that disreputable combination off with a very confused Tom Luken and you get a campaign that got far too much unquestioning attention from the media regarding its clearly visible goal to damage the city. With great effort from the No on 9 team, that gaggle of strange bedfellows failed. Truth and common sense won out.

The defeat of this measure does do two things to make transportation improvements closer to happening. For the Streetcar it takes away a big hurdle to funding the project. Efforts can now confidently be taken to secure the Federal and State funding require to move forward on the Streetcar. We don't need to vote on it again. We just elected a Mayor and 6 council members who support the Streetcar plan. That is how representative democracy works.

We'll still get the crack-pots around to unfold their latest tin-foil hat reasons why more jobs, increased public transit, and the economic development of the urban core is a bad thing, but that argument is easy to refute. Until then, I really hope the handful of anti-city zealots at COAST will learn something from their big defeat.

The second thing to help transportation is to remove any hindrance to the high speed rail efforts to connect Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. This Federal plan was destined to pass Cincinnati by, but again the Truth won out.

Council Election: What the Hell Happened?

Well, the council on the surface has appeared to have flipped to a majority Conservative 5. I think we need a new name, the rebirth of the Fiscal Five maybe? I don't know what we are going to call them, but what ever it is, with Charlie Winburn making up the fifth member, I pity the other four ever getting a trustworthy answer out of the nutty soon-to-be council member.

The bad news from the council race was the loss of Greg Harris. It is really a terrible thing to lose Greg. He was a level headed council member who consistently worked to find good solutions and to date has issued the only viable 2010 budget plan that I hope people look at even after Greg leaves office. I hope to see Greg stay around politics in Cincinnati, we need more people like him running for office.

The question from Greg's loss is: what happened? Well, I've done some Ward totals comparison analysis between 2007 and 2009 and I see two trends.

1) The more conservative wards came out in big strength yesterday, especially on the East side with Mt. Washington, Mt. Lookout, and Hyde Park (Wards 1,4,5) with a 6.08%, 4.40%, & 3.85% increase in voter turnout. Key West side wards generally increased between 2 and 3% over 2007 as well, adding to the strength of the former minority 4.

2) African-American Wards generally only moderately increased, or in the case of Avondale (Ward 13), West End/OTR (Ward 17), and the West End (Ward 18) all decreased from 2007, with Ward 18 dropping a whopping -1.21%.

With the increase of conservative voters, liberals like Greg were left off more ballots and with the loss of the African-American voter turnout, Greg was put behind the 8-Ball. Cole's drop also supports this idea, as she was ninth after the final, yet unofficial numbers were reported last night.

In the coming weeks I likely look over the numbers more and compare trends with the Mayor's race and Issue 9.

Election Post-Mortem

The final election results are in. Once again, Roxanne Qualls was the top vote-getter. Greg Harris has been ousted from Council, and Charlie Winburn and Laurie Quinlivan will join the fray. What does all this mean?

First, the political breakdown is as follows: Council now has three Democrats plus a Charterite/Democrat; one independent (Berding); three Republicans; and a Charterite who leans Republican.

Next, the big question is on the 2010 budget. Part of that will depend on what happens with property tax. Crowley and Harris, as lame ducks, could be in favor of ending the property tax "rollback," which would constitute a significant tax increase. If that's so, a tax increase would pass if just three members of the newly constituted Council were in agreement. (The property tax millage must be finalized next week, before the new Council takes office.)

But if the property tax isn't raised, the budget will need to be reduced by around 50 million dollars. I thought Greg Harris had offered a plan that made sense: go to the unions (including the FOP) for concessions in 2010, with reimbursement made in 2011 and 2012. The problem, of course, is that 5 members have apparently made promises that there would be no police or fire layoffs. If they're unwilling to change their positions, then concessions are out of the question. (If I were a union member, and I knew that my employer would not, under any circumstance, reduce the size of its workforce, I'd vote against concessions). That may mean huge cuts in services: parks and recreation; health clinics; reduced trash collection.

I suspect Mayor Mallory learned a lesson as an incumbent executive. He knew he had won the race and, he acknowledges, he didn't campaign very hard. But this race wasn't about him. It was about the Council he'd be working with. Mayor Mallory is an extremely likeable guy who campaigns well. He needed to be on the trail more to support the Dems for Council. This was the first time Mallory was in this position, so the error is certainly understandable. The mayor will come to regret that his coattails weren't a little bit longer this year. But his personality and affability may make him uniquely able to bridge the divisions amongst the current Council to build a majority that can govern sensibly and effectively.

Jeff Berding may be the key to a governing majority. If he wishes to mend fences with the Democratic party, he may join forces with Qualls, Quinlivan, Thomas, and Cole. But he's been treated badly enough that it's unlikely he'll be looking to make peace. Instead, the Council Dems will have to find a way to offer him an olive branch if they wish to garner his vote on important issues.

Council committee chairs are appointed by the mayor, so expect little changes there. That means Cole probably retains the gavel in Finance. But membership (and vice-chairs) are elected by Council, so there should be some shake-ups in the composition of the committees.

Finally, there's one thing I don't understand, perhaps because I've only lived in Cincinnati since 2000: why does Roxanne Qualls do so well in these field races? Don't get me wrong. Qualls is smart as hell, and I enjoy hearing her pontificate on public policy; she resembles liberals who are about 30-40 years older than she is. (Qualls often reminds me of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.) But Qualls isn't terribly charismatic, at least not in the traditional politician sense of the word. And "smart" doesn't always get you very far with the electorate; we live in a county that twice sent George W. Bush to the White House. It's got to be more than mere name recognition. What's the answer? Why does Qualls do so well with so many demographic and geographic groups across the city?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Council Race

Alright, yet another post.

98.50% of City precincts have reported. I'm not sure the last 1.5 percent will change the running order much. If not, the order of finish is:


Greg Harris is in 10th place, a full .7% behind Quinlivan.

This Council is going to present a much greater challenge for Mayor Mallory with respect to building a governing coalition. I'm not sure that I see either Winburn or Quinlivan being consistent party-line voters.

Mayor's Race: Mallory Wins

Ok. One more post. If you didn't see it on WCPO: Brad Wenstrup has conceded the race to Mayor Mallory. We should thank Wenstrup for being willing to serve his community, even if he was ultimately rebuffed by the voters.

And congratulations to Mayor Mark Mallory. I voted for him last time, and did so again this time. His first job will be to rebuild a fractured Council. But his talents may be uniquely suited to doing just that. Time will tell.

This Doesn't Mean "Yes" On Streetcars

Issue 9 is clearly going to fail. But I'd better not hear streetcar supporters tell me this means Cincinnatians favor streetcars.

You told us that Issue 9 was about more than streetcars. It was about all passenger rail. And even more broadly, it was about our form of government. We're supposed to, you told us, trust our elected officials to make these decisions.

I remain relatively ambivalent about the streetcar. I thought Issue 9 represented bad government and voted against it accordingly. But don't tell me my vote translates to approval of a streetcar.

No on Nine Winning Big!

The votes are almost all in, and I think Issue Nine will fail! A last
minute prediction.

Live-Blogging Results

I'm in the office late tonight, so I'll be live-blogging election results as they're available from the BOE. I will continue to update this post as the night goes on; feel free to use this as a comment thread, as well.

8:10 PM: HamCo BOE has released some results. 0 precincts reporting, but constitutes 6% of registered voters. Must be absentees.
  • Issue 9: losing, 51.72-48.25. Too close to call.
  • Issue 8: Passing, 65-35.
  • Mayor: Wenstrup and Mallory in a dead heat.
  • Council: VERY early results: Harris losing, all other incumbents winning, plus Winburn and Quinlivan.
10:25: Still holding at about 10% of precincts city-wide, 5% county-wide.
  • Mayor: Mallory, 56-43. Expect this lead to grow through the night.
  • Council: Harris is first out, but only by .01%. Cole is in ninth. Winburn and Quinlivan in 7th and 8th, respectively. Twenty-five percent of all council ballots cast thus far have under-votes.
  • County-wide levies are all winning by a healthy margin, except Issue 4, which is losing 51-49. It'll be close, but I expect it'll pass.
  • The Cincinnati school levee also passing, 55-45.
10:30: Finally, updated results. 16% of precincts county-wide, 23 % city-wide.
  • Mayor: The race tightens again. Wenstrup with a narrow lead now.
  • Council: Holding as before. Qualls doing extremely well.
  • School board: Looks like Bates, Cooper-Reed, Ingram, and White. Haap lagging well behind in 11th, beating only Curtis Wells.
  • All county-wide levies are now passing.
  • Issue 9 is failing, 54 to 46.
Honestly, folks, I don't know what to make of the mayor's race. I don't know what precincts have reported in, but the fact that Issue 9 is now being soundly defeated and the mayor's race is this tight is leaving me perplexed.

10:40: More results. 55% of city precincts; 35% county-wide.
  • Mayor: Mallory back to a ten-point lead. I'm really curious now as to which precincts the last batch of votes came from.
  • Council: These votes are from heavily Democratic wards. Cole's up to 5th, Quinlivan to 5th. Ghiz would be last on: Watson first out; Harris in 10th.
  • All county-wide levies passing. School board levy passing.
  • Issue 9 failing, 56-44.
11:10: 78% of city precincts.
  • Mayor: Still Mallory, but a little tighter: 53-46.
  • Council: Order: Qualls Thomas Bortz Berding Ghiz Monzel Winburn Quinlivan. Harris in 10th, down by .5%, which is looking like a lot right now.
  • Issue 9 being handily defeated, 56 - 49.
  • All county and the Cincinnati school levies are passing.
At this point, you've got the news outlets covering the races. I've got an early morning and am headed to bed. Look for some analysis from Griff and me tomorrow.

Some Random Election Thoughts

As Election Day winds down, I had a few thoughts to share.

First, I hope Greg Harris retains his seat. Conventional wisdom holds that as an appointee, he is the most vulnerable of the incumbent Council members (though I suspect it may be a long night for Jeff Berding), but Harris was the only candidate to offer a specific path forward to closing the looming budget gap. His approach to police and firefighter concessions--pay cuts (but no layoffs) next year that would be restored in 2011 and 2012--is a long-term approach that should be acceptable to the unions. I don't agree with Harris on everything (and particularly not on his stance on "environmental justice"), but he is thoughtful and overall, an asset on City Council.

Second, I hope County voters see the merit in Issue 4 and approve it. The levy--the former Drake levy--funds the Drug Court and other important programs that provide avenues to rehabilitation and re-entry. Drug addiction is a problem that nearly anyone, given the right circumstances, could be susceptible to. I can't tell you how many people I've represented for unlawfully possessing prescription drugs whose addiction started with a legal prescription following an injury of some sort. And even street drugs can afflict nearly anyone. (Have Cincinnatians really forgotten Josh Hamilton already?)

Finally, I'm hoping we can have a reprieve of the current hyper-political climate, at least for a few months, before it's time for the 2010 campaigns to begin in earnest.

Congratulations, New Lawyers

This past Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court announced that 957 applicants achieved passing scores on the July 2009 bar exam. They will be sworn in during public ceremonies in Columbus on November 9. The state's passage rate was 81.3 percent overall, and 87.8 percent for first-time test-takers.

Locally, University of Cincinnati graduates had an 89 percent pass rate overall (first among the nine Ohio law schools), and 91% (third) for first-time test-takers. Dayton's overall bar pass rate was 78 percent, with 82 percent of first-timers passing. NKU (Chase) grads passed at rates of 73 percent overall and 84 percent for first-timers.

Congratulations to all the newly-minted attorneys. Please immediately remit your registration fee to the Supreme Court.

Lowest Shot of the Campaign

If you want proof that Mary Kuhl is a complete jerk read no further than this tweet post from earlier today. She really is unhinged and needs to go away. I hope every Member of Westwood Concern, PWR PAC, and the Westwood Civic Associate takes note of her comments. She is a cancer on the Westside and if she is ever listened to again, she will drag down good people.

Strong Finish

Something else to watch for, which I'll comment more on tomorrow, is how the GOP council candidates finish. Assuming Leslie Ghiz returns to council, which is likely, then speculation turns to when will see leave council. She's on many people's lists for GOP candidates for the Hamilton County Commissioner's race next year.

If Ghiz ran for higher office, she would likely resign her seat on Council and her replacement would likely fall to either George Zamary or Amy Murray. Murray might have the inside track if the GOP wants to keep the female vote more in play, but traditionally the top vote getter in the last election gets the appointment, except for the case of Ghiz, who beat Chris Monzel in her first election in 2003, but when Pat DeWine's seat opened up, Ghiz was overlooked in favor of Monzel. Ghiz's vote total that year was less than 1,000 greater than Monzel, so one might think if Zamary or Murray far outpaced the other, then the appointment would be more forthcoming to the higher finisher.

If the Earth aligns right, this would be moot if Ghiz loses. I am still wishing for that, but am not holding out hope.

Mullane's to Reopen

I'm sorry to interrupt election blogging, but this news seemed too good not to pass along. (It's actually relatively old news, but I'm just learning of it, and haven't seen any of the usual suspects mention it yet, either.)

It appears that Mullane's is going to reopen. Mullane's was a small, eclectic spot on Race Street near Garfield that closed in 2002. It'll be in a different space, but will still be called Mullane's Parkside Cafe.

You can check out the "Friends of Mullane's" website here, and become a Facebook friend of Mullane's here.

Mullane's was such a great place. I remember ending a date there with dessert. (Given that I'm still single, the relationship clearly didn't take off, but I'm not blaming Mullane's.) I think a lot of downtown and OTR residents are excited about the restaurant's return.

Who's Voting - Some Analysis

Plum Street Studios has an analysis of some of the general trends of absentee voting, which includes early voting. The Conventional Wisdom is that absentee voters tend to be more likely white, older, and more Republican. With the increase of early voting, I think those numbers are less true on the age element, so I believe Democratic absentee voters have increased in recent years, but I think they are still likely to be white voters.

The Enquirer's Greg Korte gives his analysis of the numbers and believes voting trends will hold true from the 2007 election, discounting the younger demographic that turned for the 2008 presidential election. It think it will be clear that the 2008 numbers will not hold up this year and the average age will rise significantly, but I believe it will be lower than in 2007, which I think puts the vote up in the air on a few points. I believe revolves around who the younger African-Americans will vote for, which logic would dictate helps African-American candidates, but I don't see it shaking up the big picture. Maybe 1,000 votes would be in play, something on that scale. 1,000 more votes may swing one candidate up a spot, but unless thats 10th to 9th, it will not make a big difference. It may be the difference between Winburn and Watson getting the open spot.

All of this could be totally wrong and 2008 voter registration movement may carry the voter turnout in the City up from 2007. It goes back to GOTV and in local elections there tends to not be much of that type of effort, so the CW of past elections wins out. We'll have an idea in the morning.

The Polls Are Open

The Polls opened up in Ohio this morning and will remain open until 7:30 PM tonight. Be sure to check that your polling station as not changed via the BOE website's poll search.

If you have an absentee ballot, you can still return it, but it must be received by the Board of Elections before 7:30 PM tonight. You best bet is to hand deliver it. The Hamilton County Board of Elections is located at 824 Broadway, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Monday, November 02, 2009


That's the number of messages from robo-calls that were on my answering machine today. Wow.

Interestingly, two of these were about Jeff Berding. One was from David Crowley, reminding me that "Jeff Berding is not a Democrat." The other was from Eric Kearney (a Democrat), supporting Jeff Berding.

I'll be glad when tomorrow is over.

Queen City Survey Signs Off

Dan from Queen City Survey posted yesterday that his blog is ending. He may spin off some of his featured content in other forms, but the blog will end, at least for now. Good Luck Dan and I hope to keep reading your interesting take on Cincinnati in other forms.

TV's Here to Keep You Ignorant

I guess I should thank John Kiesewetter for reporting on TV's continued indifference to society, but I'm not sure John has a problem with that. It is an injustice to the community that local TV stations will provide close to no coverage of important local elections. It is sad that the stations will still get more complaints about interrupting "So You Think You Can Dance?" for two minutes than calls wondering why they are not covering the fate of State Issues #2 and #3. What's ironic is that he mentions "V" the remade TV show that includes a totalitarian take over of the news media. That part of the fictional TV show is much closer to reality than not.

Monzel Lies in Campaign Ad

So, I disagree with Chris Monzel on most things, but I respected him for being a person of personal principle. Well, now he's lying in his campaign TV spot about the streetcar, so that respect has gone out the window. Where does he lie:

1. The streetcar does not just go a "few blocks" as he put it. No matter how you want to define blocks, saying that from the Riverfront to Clifton is a few blocks is like saying the Ohio River is a tiny creek.
2. Building the Streetcar will benefit the entire city and region. The jobs created to build it will come from across the city. The property value increases with result in more tax revenue for the city, which benefits the entire city. Monzel knows that a strong central core of a city is critical to being prosperous
3. The projected cost is 185 million, not 200 million. I guess he could claim a rounding error there, but seriously, come on...
4. Monzel clearly implies the city would be funding the full 185 million, which Monzel knows to be false. The Streetcar plan calls for Federal and State funding that will make up the bulk of the project. That money will not come for anything else, so there is no money to divert to a pet project he wants to use to buy off votes.

If you are against the Streetcars, fine, I can agree to disagree with you, but those I've talked with who are either unsure about it or just against it, don't lie about the plan or about the goals. Here Monzel knowingly makes false statements about elements of the plan and overwhelmingly misleads on everything else. That's a lie where I come from. Spinning details in politics is a gray line, but Monzel knows better and has held a higher standard in the past. This is a new low for him. I guess he's worried about his re-election chances and wants to get every ignorant voter to the polls he can. This type of ad is not worthy of a candidate. If you've heard this type of tactic in the past, most of the time its from a 3rd party group, who tend to do the dirty work in place of the candidate. Monzel gets dirty all on his own.

Charlie Don't Surf

So I take that either Charlie Winburn's robo-call targeting African-American voters is valid and Winburn would support the Mayor's Majority on council, or he is pandering and lying to the African-American community in hopes they won't notice his Republican political stances. Charlie is claiming he voted for Obama, but is siding with the hard right conservative FOP senior leaders who are totally negative on the city and have been the biggest problem with police relations with the African-American community for years. Some of these yahoos would just as soon drop Napalm on certain parts of the city and start over, than actually get off their duffs and protect and serve all of the citizens in this city.

I really hope people don't fall for this, but it unfortunately works with elderly people, who are one of the biggest targets robo-callers hope to reach. I hope some tech-savvy grannies read this blog.

Cincinnati Opera Online Auction Begins

Check out the items up for bid in the Cincinnati Opera's Online Auction.

Also, don't forget the Cincy Opera will be having the Opera Ball After-Party on November 21st, so buy your tickets now ($30 pre-sale, $40 at the door).

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Post-Release Control Is Not Parole

This morning's Enquirer contains a story about people being freed from prison without being placed on "parole," even though, by law, they should be supervised following their release from prison. Sharon Coolidge picked up on an important issue here, as there are some people who should be supervised upon the expiration of their prison term, and the courts should make sure their sentences are properly announced.

I've not seen the Enquirer's stylebook, but it's apparently the newspaper's policy to use the word "parole" to mean any form of supervision following a term of imprisonment. I think I've talked about this issue before, but it's an important one that we should all understand.

Most people's understanding of "parole" comes from movies like The Shawshank Redemption. An inmate is given an indeterminate sentence (for instance, "10 to 20 years" or "25 to life") and at some point after the minimum sentence has been served, he comes in front of a parole board, who can decide to let him go free under some form of supervision. And that's exactly what parole is: the release of a prisoner before his full sentence has been served. This is the definition one would find in either Black's Law Dictionary or Merriam-Webster.

Until 1996, Ohio used a system of indeterminate sentencing system, so parole was common. In the '90's, though, the public cried out for "truth in sentencing" laws and the General Assembly responded. Now, apart from murder, defendants get definite sentences. A judge says "1 year" or "10 years" or "20 years," and that's how long a defendant serves. The only way that sentence can be substantially shortened is by the judge or with the judge's approval.

But when the legislature changed the law in 1996, it realized that some defendants wouldn't be ready to transition back into society without assistance or supervision. So for some offenses, once a defendant serves the full term imposed by the judge, he'll be supervised by the Adult Parole Authority for up to five years. This supervision is called post-release control, or PRC.

The problem the Enquirer points out is that in the past, some judges failed to inform a defendant (at the time he was sentenced) of post-release control. I wasn't practicing in the late 1990's, but that doesn't seem surprising. Judges had never had to inform defendants of parole, so why tell them about PRC? Besides, the judges have nothing to do with whether a defendant is placed on PRC. In some cases it's mandatory, and in others the Adult Parole Authority has discretion to require some individuals to serve a term of PRC. (Today, most judges use a script in sentencing hearings, and the PRC admonition is part of that script.)

In a series of cases, though, the Ohio Supreme Court has held that PRC is part of a defendant's sentence. That means that the judge has to announce it along with the rest of the sentence. Permitting the APA (part of the executive branch) to supervise someone on PRC even though that wasn't included in the sentence violates the principle of separation of powers. But the Supreme Court created an easy fix: as long as a defendant is still serving his sentence, a court can recall him from prison and re-sentence him. A judge can do that years (or decades) after a defendant has been sentenced. The error cannot be fixed, however, once an inmate is released. And, in fact, if PRC wasn't part of the sentence and the APA places the inmate under its supervision anyhow, it has to release the inmate once the error is realized.

So the Enquirer is right, in substance. Some inmates who have served their sentences may not be supervised once back in society as the legislature had intended. But in discussing this issue, it's helpful to know that these are all people who served their full sentence, and are not defendants released early at the discretion of the parole board.

What Constitutes A Tax Increase?

This past week, we saw more drama in City Council, this time over whether--and when--to change property tax rates for 2010. City Council has three options: leave the millage the same, a move which would--because of increases in property values--generate about $400,000 more in 2010 than in 2009; raise the millage to the maximum allowable; or "roll back" the millage rate to generate exactly the same amount of money it did in 2009.

First, let me say at the outset: I have no position on the property tax rate. I think Council members and candidates should make their positions clear prior to Election Day. It appears some may favor leaving the millage alone, while others favor rolling it back. I've not heard anyone suggest raising it to the maximum millage permissible. Frankly, I don't care when Council takes this action, assuming members have given voters some inkling of their intentions prior to the election. (Council members are, of course, free to remain silent until after Tuesday. And voters are free to withhold their votes on that basis.)

But I'm curious about those who describe the maintenance of the current millage as a "tax increase." Is that really a fair description? If you spend more money this year than last and therefore pay more sales tax, you wouldn't complain about a sales tax increase (assuming the rate stayed at 6.5%). Similarly, if your income went up and you paid more income taxes, you wouldn't (assuming a flat tax rate) think you suffered from a "tax increase."

It seems to me Council has three options. Leave the property tax alone, increase it (perhaps dramatically), or decrease it ("roll it back"). Others seem to suggest there are just two options: roll back the millage (which they say is leaving it the same) or "increase" property taxes.

What's your take?