Will Tuesday be a transformative day when America elects our first African- American president and a wave of “Throw the bums out” wipes away decades of political dominance by religious and social conservatives? Will millions of new voters really join the election party in a frenzy of hope and optimism? Will fundamental change actually be at hand for the wars in the Middle East, the economy, health care, the environment and energy independence?
Or will you decide to skip voting, secure in the knowledge that none of it matters, and then snipe later that everything sucks?
At CityBeat, we’re fired up and ready to go. We’ve worked for months to explain the candidates and issues on Tuesday’s ballot, and this is our third (and final) week of endorsements. Are you ready?
Endorsements for President, Congress and Ohio Attorney General were published in previous issues of CityBeat; those endorsements are recapped below with links to the full text of the endorsements.
We also present our always helpful “Who’s Endorsing Whom” charts (click on the link above) that collect all of the media, political action committee and special interest group endorsements in one place. Check out which candidates and issues have fairly wide support and which actually have very narrow support (or no support at all).
Read up on CityBeat’s earlier news section coverage of the candidates and ballot issues in the news section. You’ll also find related news coverage in this issue: a report on Issue 8 support and opposition (the battle over proportional representation) and a Porkopolis column on why you can’t buy The New York Times at UDF.
Once you’ve read up, considered CityBeat’s endorsements and checked all of the other endorsements, you have one more duty to perform: Vote on Tuesday (if not before).
President: Barack Obama
During the past eight years, President Bush and his cronies have overstepped government boundaries when restraint was required and blew off responsibilities when they felt like it. A Barack Obama presidency will be 180 degrees from that cynical, disinterested, manipulative approach.
Obama has run a serious, focused, organized and inspirational campaign for president and at every step of the long, long process has emerged both victorious and humble. His management of the big picture atop a twoyear-long 50-state campaign bodes very well for his ability to lead the Democratic Party, Congress and the country over the next four to eight years.
His campaign has come across as planned out, strategic and thoughtful. Imagine a president who plans, strategizes and thinks. A crazy concept, we know, but that sort of leader is desperately needed right now.
U.S. Congress, Ohio 1st District: Steve Driehaus
Steve Driehaus has completed the maximum four terms as State Representative for District 31 on the West Side, accomplishing quite a bit in Columbus — most recently serving as House Minority Whip — and now takes on Rep. Steve Chabot, who has successfully defended his seat against well-known citybased challengers over the years.
Driehaus’ actions in the Ohio legislature to bring attention to rampant home foreclosures and to focus tax cuts on the middle class — as well as his promises to fight privatization of Social Security, to bring the troops home from Iraq, to provide better health care and education benefits to veterans and to invest more in public education — match well the mood of the country and the 1st District.
U.S. Congress, Ohio 2nd District: Victoria Wulsin
Incumbent Jean Schmidt has done little in her current term to mollify her critics, who contend she simply votes with the Bush administration and party leaders and offers no ideas of her own. Victoria Wulsin, who lost narrowly to Schmidt in 2006, practically started running again for this seat the day after she lost.
The Indian Hill doctor’s expertise in health care issues, of course, bodes well for a role she could have in shaping Obama’s reforms in the coming years, particularly when it comes to reducing drug costs and focusing on preventative care, two of her key issues. She will step in and make an immediate impact in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Congress, Kentucky 4th District: Michael Kelley
Rep. Geoff Davis is seeking his third term representing Northern Kentucky, and like his fellow Republican incumbents across the Ohio River he should be voted out of office. Michael Kelley MD, who runs a family medical practice in Crestwood, is waging a low-budget and thus low-impact campaign as the Democratic challenger.
His background in the medical field (similar to Victoria Wulsin) give him a leg up on one of this election’s key issues, enacting health care reform in the next Congress, but otherwise Kelley is a political neophyte in a very Republican district.
• Read previous full endorsement here.
U.S. Senate, Kentucky: Bruce Lunsford
Northern Kentucky native Bruce Lunsford is taking on one of the lions of Republican Party leadership, Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has come to symbolize the party’s failures over the past eight years. As one of the key legislators who dragged the U.S. into our current quagmires in the Middle East and with the economy, McConnell simply needs to go.
Lunsford is an entrepreneur who founded hospital management and other health care companies, created an investment firm to fund other Kentucky entrepreneurs, raised and raced thoroughbred horses and even started a film production company. A former member of the National Guard and Army Reserves, he stakes much of his campaign on redeploying the U.S. military from Iraq to Afghanistan to secure nuclear stockpiles there and in Pakistan and on supporting the troops with proper equipment and planning.
Ohio Attorney General: Richard Cordray
In an election to fill the remaining two years of Marc Dann’s scandal-plagued term, current State Treasurer Richard Cordray is the choice.
He worked in the AG office in 1993- 94 as the state’s first Solicitor General, who is appointed by the Attorney General to argue cases on the state’s behalf before the Ohio Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cordray has made a name for himself as Treasurer in just two years, returning more than $1.3 million owed to the taxpayers, restoring an interest rate reduction program for small businesses and proposing a Veterans Bonus for Ohio troops.
• Read previous full endorsement here.
Hamilton Co. Commissioner: Chris Dole
Two of the three commission spots are up for election this year, with incumbent Democrat Todd Portune running again and Republican Pat DeWine declining a re-election bid to run for a county judgeship. County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann is the Republican Party’s candidate to fill DeWine’s slot.
Unfortunately, Portune and Hartmann — with the blessing of the local Democratic and GOP parties — struck a deal earlier this year to ensure they wouldn’t face endorsed opposition in their respective races. In addition, the parties agreed not to commit any money or volunteer help to challengers who bucked the arrangement.
Two challengers did decide that contested elections were preferable to back-room deals and are on the ballot: real estate developer Ed Rothenberg against Portune and Crosby Township Trustee Chris Dole against Hartmann. CityBeat endorses Dole.
The Portune/Hartmann deal is disappointing, to say the least. If neither candidate thinks an election campaign is worth their time and effort, then an election endorsement isn’t worth our time and effort. We’ve supported Portune in the past and are open to supporting him again in the future, but not this year.
Dole, however, is worth supporting. He’s run a good campaign despite being shunned by the Democratic Party, although some high-profile local Democrats are helping him, as are various local labor unions (he’s an electrician in his day job).
Dole proposes a task force to coordinate economic development among the county’s cities, villages and townships, and he supports improved mass transit. He proposes creating a better system for identifying criminal offenders who have mental health problems and diverting them from prison to other programs, helping with jail overcrowding.
• Related news interview here.
Hamilton Co. Treasurer: Steve Brinker
Hamilton Co. Recorder: Wayne Coates
Hamilton Co. Clerk of Courts: Martha Good
These three contested county races feature strong Democratic candidates running against Republican incumbents (in two cases) and a Republican challenger for the open clerk of courts office. The other county contests — sheriff, prosecutor, coroner and engineer — feature incumbents with no opposition.
Steve Brinker is an attorney and former Green Township trustee who has proposed that the county form a Land Reutilization Corporation to purchase or receive foreclosed properties and assemble them for development. The plan would dampen “flipping” of foreclosed properties and slow the negative effects of the current foreclosure crisis, plus it would raise money for the county through property sale profits and real estate taxes.
Wayne Coates is a former Ohio State Representative and mayor of Forest Park who also is focused on community revitalization, hoping to stabilize neighborhoods and property values through increased home ownership that the recorder’s office can facilitate. He’d also like improve access to the office’s public records.
Martha Good is an attorney and law school professor with more than 20 years experience in state and federal courts. She wants to end what she calls patronage in the clerk of courts office by pushing open and competitive hiring for office jobs regardless of political or personal connections, and she wants to restore public access to court documents while protecting private information.
Yes on Ohio Issue 1
(Constitutional Amendment to provide earlier deadline for filing ballot issues)
This issue would change the deadline for all citizen-initiated statewide ballot issues, requiring petitions and signatures to be turned in 125 days before the election. The current deadlines are 90 days before the election for new laws and constitutional amendments proposed by citizens (such as Issues 1, 2, 3 and 6 this fall) and 60 days before the election for votes to repeal new laws (such as Issue 5). This issue would also make the Ohio Supreme Court the sole authority to hear petition challenges and set specific deadlines and standardize procedures for appealing their rulings.
This is a fairly straightforward attempt to do away with chaos that’s ensued in the past when various election officials and courts didn’t finalize ballot initiatives in time for elections, causing delays in printing ballots or causing some ballots to be incorrect. All statewide ballot initiatives will now be treated equally, and citizen groups will know beforehand what’s expected of them and what the deadlines are.
Yes on Ohio Issue 2
(Constitutional Amendment to issue bonds for Clean Ohio)
This issue would authorize the state to issue up to $400 million in bonds to help fund the Clean Ohio Program, adding up to $200 million for conservation and preservation of natural areas and up to $200 million for environmental cleanup and redevelopment of both public and private land. No more than $50 million can be borrowed for each purpose each year. As principal is paid back over the years the state could issue more bonds up to the $400 million level, making this an open-ended bond authority.
Voters approved a similar bond measure back in 2000, and Issue 2 doubles the state’s capacity to borrow money for “greenfield” (parks, recreation facilities, natural resource management) and “brownfield” (polluted industrial sites) development. The initial $400 million investment in Clean Ohio has generated $2.6 billion in private investment, state officials say, creating nearly 14,000 permanent jobs in addition to construction jobs.
There is concern that the new bond authority, like the existing one, is open-ended and thus potentially a money pit for the state. The Ohio legislature, however, has the final say on funds and can issue fewer bonds if the state faces financial trouble.
• Related news story here.
No on Ohio Issue 3
(Constitutional Amendment to define water rights)
This issue would make explicit private property owners’ rights to make “reasonable use” of the ground water on their property and of adjoining lakes and water, although both rights would continue to be subordinate to the public welfare.
Although these rights sound “reasonable,” state courts have already upheld private property rights for water use. This amendment — placed on the ballot by the Ohio legislature due to a political stalemate — would be redundant and thus is unnecessary.
• Related news story here.
No on Ohio Issue 5
(Referendum on whether payday lending law is enacted)
This referendum would affirm parts of a recent law passed by the Ohio legislature and signed by Gov. Ted Strickland that put new restrictions on short-term lenders in the state, often called “payday” or “check cashing” lenders. The law hasn’t taken effect as it awaits the outcome of Issue 5; if approved it would limit loans from those institutions to 25 percent of your monthly income up to a maximum of $500, limit you to four such loans a year, provide at least 30 days to repay a loan and restrict the maximum interest rate to 28 percent APR.
Currently, the maximum loan amount is $800, there’s no minimum repayment period and there are no limits to how many loans you can take out or what interest rate you’re charged. If Issue 5 fails, the new law is nullified and the current system continues as is.
In the current climate of outrage over home foreclosures and predatory lending, legislators enacted a form of consumer protection that tried to save the desperate among us from getting caught up with super-high-interest “payday” loans. But limiting us to four such transactions and requiring us to register to prove that we’re not overstepping our limits are the kind of government “help” that people start to resent.
If “payday” lenders are bad people and these loans are borderline criminal, outlaw them altogether. Pass a law that says no lending institution of any kind — including credit card companies — can charge more than 28 percent APR. Then let citizens do what they want with their own money and manage their own affairs.
No on Ohio Issue 6
(Constitutional Amendment to allow casino to be built in Wilmington)
This issue would authorize one privately owned casino to be built on a 94-acre site just off I-71 near Wilmington to offer all manner of gambling except sports and race betting. This casino would pay a tax of 30 percent of its gross gaming receipts (less payouts to winners) to fund the expenses of regulating the casino and to fund gambling prevention and treatment programs, with the remainder split 10 percent to Clinton County (Wilmington) and 90 percent to the other Ohio counties based on population. Counties can do whatever they want with the tax funds they receive.
Casino gambling is eventually coming to Ohio, which now borders four states with some sort of gambling. Once Kentucky allows gaming at its racetracks, Ohio will be completely surrounded by casinos. It’s only a matter of time, but this plan isn’t the way to introduce casinos to Ohio.
It’s one location operated by one company that’s trying to buy off support by spreading its tax dollars to all 88 counties in Ohio. Each county could use a little extra spending money — especially money that comes with no strings attached — but this just isn’t the kind of comprehensive plan for statewide casino gambling we need.
Wilmington could end up being a great spot for a hotel/casino complex in the future. Let’s make sure to include it in the larger plan to come.
No on Cincinnati Issue 7
(Charter Amendment to limit “red light” cameras)
This issue would prohibit the city of Cincinnati from using photo monitoring devices, also called “red light” cameras, to detect traffic violations unless a police officer is present to immediately and personally issue tickets to alleged violators. Council wouldn’t be able to enact legislation in the future to contradict this amendment.
City Council passed a motion late last year to direct the city manager to design and implement a “red light” camera system in the hopes of reducing accidents and raising revenue for the city. A vendor was selected, but in August council failed to approve the final ordinance, killing the plan. By then a citizen petition drive had gathered enough signatures to put this charter amendment on the ballot.
This issue appears to be moot, since the camera plan is off the table, but of course council could resurrect it in the future.
Still, it seems wrong to tie council’s hands in such a specific manner over the use of “red light” cameras. It’s an issue that council members should be allowed to hash out in public debate, which they did once already. Public reaction to the “red light” camera proposal was negative, and council pulled the plug.
Yes on Cincinnati Issue 8
(Charter Amendment to adopt proportional representation)
This issue would institute proportional representative (PR) as the election method for choosing Cincinnati City Council, beginning with next year’s election. As with the current system, called 9X, all candidates would run citywide and the top nine vote-getters would be elected to council. The mayor would continue to be elected in the current head-to-head manner.
The big change with PR is that voters would rank their votes, marking the ballot No. 1 through No. 9. As with the current system, you don’t have to choose nine but can stop at any number.
PR basically works by determining the winning votes needed to claim a council spot (10 percent of the total votes cast plus one); counting all the No. 1 votes first to see who passes that threshold number and declaring those candidates elected; passing on their remaining votes to whoever is named No. 2 on their ballots and seeing if anyone else hits the threshold and is elected; and continuing the process down to the No. 3 and No. 4 choices and so on until all nine slots are filled.
We’re not fans of the 9X system, and Issue 8 doesn’t address the fundamental flaw of dozens of candidates running citywide in an effort to finish ninth or better. But until a better system is implemented, we’re stuck with 9X, and PR puts a little bit of lipstick on that pig.
We’ve swung back and forth on this issue, struck on the one hand by its complex counting process and the cost of changing ballot systems but encouraged by the potential of deserving but lesser-known and/or independent candidates actually getting elected to city council. In the end, under PR only one of your votes for city council will count: likely your No. 1 choice and almost certainly one of your top two choices.
Up until now you had nine votes that counted, and under PR you’d have just one vote — and that’s a good thing. One person, one vote: That’s democracy.
• Related news story here.
WHO’S ENDORSING WHOM CHARTS researched and prepared by Margo Pierce. POLLS IN OHIO are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. POLLS IN KENTUCKY are open 6 a.m.-6 p.m.