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Worst Week Ever!: City Council 2011

By Danny Cross · December 28th, 2011 · Worst Week Ever!
art18282wideaJeff Berding


Longtime tennis great and 1990’s camera-seller Andre Agassi once said, “Image is everything,” but it’s difficult to trust his judgment due to the fact that his cool hair was a wig and sometimes he smoked crystal meth. The same could be said for whichever new image the city of Cincinnati comes up with in response to City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan today asking various marketing firms how they brand our city to outsiders who  might want to invest or visit here. Among the marketing efforts demonstrated to Council’s Quality of Life Committee, which oversees marketing and to a lesser extent arts, culture, education, the environment and human and public service, was a video by the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network that showed a group of puppies playing with a kitten at Sawyer Point.


During a day and age when multi-million-dollar companies only seem to have their own interests at heart, it’s important to recognize when one involves itself in an issue for the betterment of society’s most vulnerable members. Such was the case today when Western & Southern Financial Group advised City Council not to award federal housing money to local women’s shelter Anna Louise Inn due to the fact that the life insurance company heard that the shelter’s renovated facility will house recovering prostitutes and homeless families in the same location. Western & Southern said such a practice is detrimental to both groups, in addition to being extremely concerning to the rich people who want to know what urban life is like without all the poverty and despair.


Most people have been to a party (City Council meeting) where one or more attendees (Jeff Berding) are obviously not welcome, but no one (real Council members) will kick them out for fear of looking like a dick to available members of the opposite sex (voters). The Enquirer today reported on such a situation, only instead of painting Berding as the dude who barfs off the porch after chugging a Little Kings that isn’t his, the story described the unpopular councilman as a guy who just tries too hard to do things. Berding in January announced his pending resignation from Council but has since continued his dickish ways, speaking out against the likes of Mayor Mallory, unions, panhandlers and Jordan Palmer even though he didn’t do anything wrong.


We at WWE! know firsthand how temperamental politicians can be — one little mention of the phrase “little tiny one” and several current City Councilmen start prepping their defamation lawsuits (even though whoever actually files it is pretty much admitting he has a micropenis). The AP today reported a similarly unreasonable reaction, this one by prominent conservatives in response to the likelihood of Sarah Palin running for president in 2012. Apparently a collection of angry right-wing thinkers, including George Will, Fox News boss Roger Ailes and the guy who came up with the line “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!,” believe that a Palin presidential candidacy would be disastrous, unlike in 2008 when selecting her as a vice presidential candidate was hugely successful.


A group of 100 local volunteers today helped clean up the area’s 10 dirtiest highway exit and entrance ramps as part of a program called the 2011 State Roadway Cleanup. Cincinnati City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan described the activity as a success, saying, “I talk about making Cincinnati cleaner, greener and smarter, so I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is.” Quinlivan also dispelled the urban legend that hours of volunteer work could not be applied toward future court-mandated community service hours when she told the group of super-pissed-off teens that picking up all those coney crates, Magnum wrappers and beer cans would pay off when they are later busted with pot or booze.


Have you ever showed up to a work meeting considerably late, severely unprepared and generally looking like crap because you accidentally drank 11 beers on a Tuesday? (Neither have we.) Two City Council members, however, showed up to their work meeting today needing to use the same excuse (“Wha happened?”) after being notified that a plan they voted for last week is about to charge police officers $5 an hour to work off-duty details.

Leslie Ghiz and Wendell Young said they didn’t know the plan would charge for each hour worked, instead assuming it was a $5 per-shift fee that police could easily make up by hitting up Skyline for free coneys twice a night like Young and his cop buddies used to do.


If you listened to Mayor Mallory’s State of the City speech on Thursday night, it’s likely that you were  impressed with his optimism for the city despite today’s challenging economic times. If you stuck around afterward to hear the official reabuttal by Amy Murray and Wayne Lippert, it’s also likely you said something like, “Who the fuck are these people?” It turns out that Murray and Lippert are current Republican members of City Council who, according to The Enquirer, responded to the speech by offering their profound thoughts on the problems facing the city, such as, “True change must come from the top,” and, “We are chasing a streetcar we can’t afford.” Lippert went on to describe how funny it would be to push Mallory off one of the streetcars as long as it wasn’t going too fast at the time.


Republicans on City Council today decided that saving the owner of a $100,000 home $10 a year is worth adding $8 million to the city’s $25.8 million deficit. The decision to keep the city’s property tax steady reverses a policy that for the past decade kept the rate at whatever raised $28.9 million, despite the fact that inflation made the city’s expenditures go up every year it happened. The newly defined Republican tax rate policy, explained by Councilman Charlie Winburn while nibbling a block of cheese, was described as follows: “As property values go up, the tax rate goes down in order to raise an amount of money that each year is less than what services cost the year prior. Should property values go down, the tax rate will stay the same, at which time the city will need to stop wasting money and taxing people so much.”


It’s always good to hear a story about a Cincinnati politician standing up for what he or she believes in. (Remember when Mayor Mallory gave that poor guy some money from a corporate sponsor of a TV show? Shit changes lives.) That’s why it was great to learn today that two of our esteemed Republican City Council members did the same, as Chris Bortz decided to leave the room during a one-hour discussion about his family’s company receiving the go-ahead from council to make mass money off a Clifton Heights development and Leslie Ghiz told everyone to shut the fuck up about it. The Enquirer put it more succinctly, explaining how Ghiz warned her colleagues about “glass houses,” which was assumed to mean that others have secret conflicts of interest, until Ghiz noted some plaster falling off the Council chambers ceiling and said if anyone yells too loud the roof could cave in.


It’s refreshing to hear Cincinnati City Councilpersons discuss forward-thinking concepts — remember when they figured out a way to get the garbage picked up for free so no one had to pay for it? Buncha geniuses. The eight members of council who actually made it to today’s meeting (Cecil Thomas had something else to do) offered another such provocative concept: allowing taxis to drive around the city picking people up. The 8-0 vote officially changed the code governing public vehicles, which apparently previously did not allow taxis to drive around looking for people who needed rides, and will allow cabbies other perks such as parking at meters for 15 minutes in order to take a bathroom break. Councilman Wendell Young called the change a “no-brainer” and noted that for a fee the cab drivers will take people wherever they want to go.


Knock, knock. Who’s there? A conservative. A conservative who? A conservative who hates poor people and hopes they all get sick and die. Those of us who find this joke to be offensive (and waaay lacking in subtlety) were forced to consider its sociological truths when reading today’s Enquirer story about Cincinnati City Council conservatives denying city health officials the opportunity to accept federal funding for a health-care clinic in Avondale. Councilpersons Chris Bortz and Leslie Ghiz say it’s a bad time to expand the clinic, as the city might have to reduce its involvement with clinics because leaders such as themselves  are faced with a growing budget deficit. Health Commissioner Dr. Noble Maseru noted that the funding would allow the clinic to no longer need operating funds from the city, which would save $200,000 per year, to which Ghiz told him to “get a real job.”


Remember how conservative City Council members voted against increasing the property tax rate despite property values going down and it adding $5 million to the deficit? (Sorry if you were trying not to.) The Enquirer today reported that despite conservatives’ fear that keeping taxes the same would result in a mass boycott of business expansion and development in the region, it turns out that a quick comparison of tax rates in nearby areas finds Cincinnati’s to be quite low. Chris Bortz, one of the five council members who doesn’t care about the deficit enough to not cut taxes for rich people, said it’s likely that the cuts the city will be forced to make will largely affect poor people so it’s no big deal.


Sometimes Cincinnati City Council members debate an issue, take a vote and do what’s best for everyone in the community instead of  the people whose votes they need to keep their $60,000-a-year part-time jobs. But other times a conservative majority might vote to block a local health clinic from applying for federal funds, even though it would save the city $200,000, better serve poor people and reduce uninsured emergency room visits. Council today reversed its recent decision to do just that, after Councilman Charlie Winburn changed his vote from “No, screw them” to “OK, fine, but don’t ask for the $200K back after it runs out.” Council Republicans warned that being a social safety net isn’t the city’s role, although Chris Bortz noted that police are good.


Speaking of our bros and sisters over at The Enquirer, the newspaper’s editorial board today took an interesting approach to its City Council endorsements by explaining why it didn’t endorse certain incumbent candidates. Those who were told “G’s up, y’all out” were Republicans Leslie Ghiz and Charlie Winburn and Democrat Cecil Thomas (The Enquirer didn’t offer an explanation for why it isn’t endorsing Republican Wayne Lippert because nobody knows who the [expletive] he is). The non-endorsement story described Ghiz as having a penchant for starting arguments that have been “personal, petty and nasty,” while Winburn’s “unpredictable behavior” was noted along with Thomas’ problems fully grasping budget and finance issues. Ghiz responded by posting a childish birdcage reference on Facebook and then deleting it five minutes later.


Cincinnatians on Tuesday voted for a new collection of City Councilpersons, and today locals woke up to good news and bad news. (You want the good first, right?) The city elected a majority of Democrats, an African-American majority and its first-ever openly gay candidate. The bad? Most of the names on East Side yard signs lost, meaning Republicans wasted a lot of money they could have used to pay higher property taxes for the stadium deal they approved. Four members of the conservative majority that spent most of last year either blocking the mayor’s initiatives or Twittering — Chris Bortz, Leslie Ghiz, Amy Murray and Wayne Lippert — were ousted, paving the way for Mayor Mallory and the seven Democrats on council to do things they want to do as long as Chris Smitherman doesn’t fulfill his goal of representing every political party every created (the Whigs get in the way of everything). 


There was a different vibe over at City Hall today than what many familiar with the scary building are used to: smiles (Yvette Simpson), hugs (Chris Seelbach), eye contact (P.G. Sittenfeld), temporary reprieve from all evictions of demons (Charlie Winburn). That’s because Council’s new class includes three young members who promise to be more civil and enthusiastic than the grumpy East Siders they replaced. Local Chamber of Commerce representatives say the election of Seelbach and Simpson, both 32, and Sittenfeld, 27, is a sign to newcomers that Cincinnati is a market with new opportunities to get involved because current leaders care so little about the community that they move away after losing elections. 



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