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Lazy Reporters and Hungry Activists

By Gregory Flannery · October 4th, 2006 · Porkopolis
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  Beth Bryan (right), aide to U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, asks protesters to leave.
Matt Borgerding

Beth Bryan (right), aide to U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, asks protesters to leave.



This is what happens when reporters make assumptions: Falsehoods make it into print. Thus readers of The Cincinnati Enquirer last week learned that the staff of U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) served refreshments to a group of anti-war protesters conducting a sit-in in his office in the Carew Tower. Problem is it didn't happen.

It's true Chabot's staff let the protesters use the office water cooler, and it's true the protesters snacked on trail mix, cheddar crackers and grapes. But the refreshments came not from the office staff but rather from people supporting the sit-in.

The sit-in capped a week of anti-war activities, including a tent city at the Peaslee Neighborhood Center in Over-the-Rhine, leafleting at high schools urging students to resist the blandishments of military recruiters, and a march to deliver petitions to Chabot's office urging him to sign the Congressional Declaration of Peace. The sit-in Sept. 27 aimed to convince Chabot to sign the declaration, which calls for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by March 20, 2007, the fourth anniversary of the U.S. attack.

Chabot didn't sign the declaration, and seven protesters refused to leave his office. Charged with criminal trespassing were the Rev. John Rich, Barbara Wolf, Ellen Dienger, Sister Mary Evelyn Jegen, Shannon Isaacs, Ari Staiger and CityBeat News Editor Gregory Flannery.

Kristen Barker of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, who helped organize the sit-in, said passersby found it inspiring.

"When I was passing out leaflets in front of the Carew Tower, some people who were feeling opposed to the war but extremely disempowered felt so moved by the witness of those risking arrest that they decided to call Chabot's office on the spot," she says. "Rep. Chabot's phone kept ringing and ringing all day long as people called in."

Meanwhile Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley, the Democrat opposing Chabot's re-election bid, has a cheesy new TV commercial. An impersonator posing as George W. Bush makes a mock phone call to Chabot, thanking him for supporting the administration 92 percent of the time. The commercial ends with faux-Bush telling Chabot, "And thanks for not asking any pesky questions about Iraq. You're doing a heck of a job, Chaby!" But "shabby" describes Cranley's own position on the war.

While attacking his opponent, Cranley still is unable to bring himself to say if he believes it was wrong to invade Iraq or how he would have voted on authorizing the invasion. Even his campaign Web site -- the recent update of which was such a big deal that Cranley called a press conference to announce it -- only carps at Chabot without actually saying where Cranley stands. We do know he didn't send any refreshments to the protesters.

Mallory Has a Trick in His Pocket
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is using a loophole in city council's rules, known as a "pocket veto," to block a vote on making his office budget bear the expense for the mayor's bodyguard. Although city council's Finance Committee voted 4-2 last week to recommend approval, Mallory hasn't yet placed it on the full council's agenda.

Typically, most items are voted upon within two weeks after leaving a committee. But a rule change put into effect by the current council when it took office in December 2005 gives Mallory the ability to indefinitely delay the measure.

Council is concerned about the large amount of overtime incurred by Police Spec. Scotty Johnson, Mallory's bodyguard. During his first five months as bodyguard, Johnson had more than 203 hours of overtime, for which the police department paid him $8,587. At that pace, the department would be paying almost $21,000 in overtime to Johnson by year's end, in addition to his $58,000 annual salary.

Some council members question why paying any overtime is necessary, instead preferring that other officers be rotated into the bodyguard's slot once Johnson reaches 40 hours of duty in a week. Mallory specifically requested Johnson, a longtime friend, as his bodyguard in April, after activist Kabaka Oba was shot outside City Hall.

Under a council rule change approved in August, the mayor has no deadline for forwarding items for final approval after council committees have passed them. If the mayor chooses, the items can linger until the end of the year, when another new council rule -- known as the sunset clause -- nullifies all items that haven't been voted upon and cleans the legislative slate for the new calendar year.

Councilman Jeff Berding, an ardent Mallory supporter who is the front-runner to be appointed vice mayor when the next council term begins in late 2007, is mulling various compromises. One proposal would make the police department establish a policy for providing bodyguard protection and require a provision for avoiding or reducing overtime expenses.

The mayor knows what "is" is but stumbles over what a bodyguard is. All the details are available at CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at citybeat.wordpress.com.



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