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Election Aftermath, Teabaggers and a Politicized Prosecutor

By Kevin Osborne · November 4th, 2009 · Porkopolis

Believe it or not, Cincinnati City Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz is a nice person.

I’ve been covering Ghiz as a reporter and columnist since her first council campaign, back in 2005. On a personal level, she can be funny and intelligent and prone to uttering newsworthy quotes. Like every public official I’ve covered, sometimes I agree with her, sometimes I don’t.

But one memorable thing about Ghiz was she didn’t fit the standard Cincinnati mold of a Republican politician. While fiscally conservative and anti-abortion, she parted ways with the GOP on some social issues. An example is gay rights: Ghiz was frequently endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans and Equality Cincinnati, something that would never happen to her GOP colleagues like Chris Monzel and Charlie Winburn, council members who have more in common politically with Carl Lindner Jr. and Glenn Beck.

In fact, Ghiz once dated City Councilman John Cranley, a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, before each married other people.

Anyone who spoke with her knew she was genuinely interested in making Cincinnati a better city. That Leslie Ghiz, however, has been nowhere to be seen in this year’s City Council elections.

Instead, we’ve been treated to a much harder-edged, angry and occasionally rude candidate. The biggest symptom of this change was the much-publicized “Twitter-gate” involving Ghiz tweeting during council meetings — usually about Democratic Councilwoman Laketa Cole. The caustic comments Ghiz micro-blogged provided something akin to a circus sideshow fascination this summer and fall.

One of her tamer comments from a meeting was, “Council majority is trying to pull a fast one. Won’t allow vote on property tax rollback until after the election.” The whole affair erupted Oct. 26 when Ghiz told Cole “You never shut up” after Cole barred Ghiz from speaking at a committee meeting. It all has a distinctly Desperate Housewives vibe, a distraction from real issues and rational debate.

I don’t believe for one minute this is the real Ghiz. Like many political observers, I think she’s trying to appear more conservative and combative than she truly is, in preparation for campaigning to become a Hamilton County commissioner next year. After all, she’ll have to appeal to voters in places like Sharonville, Colerain Township and Reading, who seem to enjoy Rush Limbaugh-style politicians.

By the time this column is published, the election will be over and readers will know whether Ghiz made it back to council to serve a third term.

In all likelihood she will, and it’ll serve as a great platform to make headlines while she ramps up a commission campaign in 2010. Let’s take a look at her probable challengers for the seat David Pepper is vacating, according to sources in the Democratic and Republican parties.

On the GOP side, the name most frequently mentioned is Sycamore Township Trustee Tom Weidman. He’s best known as campaign manager for his good friend, Phil Heimlich, during his unsuccessful 2006 reelection bid for county commissioner.

Another possibility is Jeff Ritter, a Convergys Corp. employee who’s been a Colerain Township trustee since 2006, and Sharonville Mayor Virgil Lovitt II, who’s teamed up with Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat, on a few issues.

Some people have also talked about State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) running for the commission seat, but insiders said he has no intention of leaving his position in Columbus.

On the Democratic side, potential candidates include Cranley, current City Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls, Harrison Mayor Joel McGuire and Whitewater Township Trustee Hubert Brown.

Although we all might be burned out on elections right now, recharge your batteries. The 2010 campaign already has begun.

* * * * *

Mike Wilson, the leader of the Cincinnati Tea Party movement, has decided to seek political office next year and held a fundraiser Nov. 4. (See, you thought I was exaggerating above.)

A Springfield Township resident, Wilson wants to challenge State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) for the Ohio 28th District seat in 2010. In a statement to supporters, Wilson said he plans on running as a “Tea Party Republican.” It’s unclear, though, whether he intends on seeking the GOP’s endorsement, which some party leaders are ambivalent about, or to be listed as an independent on the ballot.

A campaign Web site states, “In the end, impacting policy means affecting elections. Some of us will run, others will offer their support, but all of us will be needed to break the cycle of politics as usual. Mike’s opponent raised over $130,000 dollars (much of it from union sources) for her race in 2008. Mike has set a target of $30,000 before the end of the year to get off to a good start and to demonstrate that this is a serious challenge.”

Admission to Wilson’s fundraiser was $32.50 per person, or $55 per couple.

Regardless of whether Wilson reaches his funding goal, someone should remind him of the 28th District’s location. The fundraiser was held at Willie’s Sports Café in West Chester, which lies outside district boundaries.

* * * * *

“So, if you’re serious about eliminating wasteful spending, what about the Sheriff’s Office?”

That’s the question I’d like to ask Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters after he persuaded 11 local judges earlier this month to sign a letter ordering Hamilton County commissioners to fire the private law firm that handles riverfront development issues.

Deters said the Prosecutor’s Office can offer the same legal services for commissioners without incurring millions of dollars in outside fees. The county is facing a budget crunch and has been laying off some workers, furloughing others and cutting some services since earlier this year.

The county commission hired the private lawyers in 1997 to help oversee construction of the Reds and Bengals stadiums as well as The Banks project. It was done, commissioners said, because the Prosecutor’s Office botched lease negotiations with the Bengals. That lease was widely criticized for the lavish perks it gave to the team, which now is putting the county in a financial bind.

But Deters maintains that Ohio law allows commissioners to hire attorneys only as long as the fees don’t exceed the prosecutor’s annual salary in each year. About $11 million has been spent so far. Commissioners dispute Deters’ interpretation and believe his action violates rules set by the Ohio Supreme Court.

A local attorney asked to comment on the incident said the Prosecutor’s Office probably wasn’t up to handling the intricate details of lease negotiations but any rationale for using outside attorneys has expired. Deters wants to give the public perception of cuts before his office will likely face reductions next year, the attorney added.

That may well be, but why does the Sheriff’s Office also need an attorney on its staff? If Deters is serious about cuts, he needs to offer his services to Simon Leis and ask Leis to boot his attorney.


PORKOPOLIS TIP LINE: 513-665-4700 (ext. 147) or pork@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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