In most years, primary elections are sleepy affairs that feature a few local tax issues and maybe one or two contested races. Then every four years the presidential campaigns come along, and everyone's focus is a little sharper.
Still, Ohio had little chance to make a difference this year when the presidential primaries were reconfigured into Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, ganging up more than 20 states into a mini-national election. Surely the Democratic and Republican nominees would be decided by March 4.
Not so fast, and stop calling me Shirley.
Democratic Presidential Primary: Barack Obama
History will be made this year no matter whether Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama is chosen to represent the Democratic Party in the general election. Americans will be one step closer to electing our first woman or first African-American president.
And so this primary battle is as much about themes and character as it is about specific policy proposals. The basic difference comes down to Clinton's experience as First Lady and senator vs. Obama's freshness.
You can argue over degrees of difference in their plans for the economy or for dealing with immigration, but Clinton and Obama aren't far apart on the solutions that interest progressives. So why do we favor Obama?
The federal government -- and the country in general -- needs real change now. After 20 years of Bush/Clinton/Bush presidencies, we just can't add four more years of another Clinton.
The bitter partisanship of Bill Clinton's two terms and the current President Bush's two terms has produced little progress in this country or around the world. It's difficult to see a Hillary Clinton presidency transcending the same kind of bitter recriminations and revenge.
Obama offers all the benefits of a fresh start and carries the hopes and dreams of millions of citizens who've said, "What's the use?" The day President Obama is inaugurated is the day the world changes -- and it's time. It's simply time.
Republican Presidential Primary: No endorsement
Sen. John McCain (link) clearly is within reach of the Republican Party's official nomination, and a win in Ohio might put him over the top. We wish him well and hope he finishes a distant second in November.
Democratic Primary for 2nd U.S. Congressional District: Victoria Wulsin
Indian Hill physician Victoria Wulsin (link) returns for her second run at the 2nd District, losing a very close battle in 2006 in her first general election experience.
Wulsin has competition in this primary election from Indian Hill attorney Steve Black, making his own first run for public office.
Known for her pledge not to accept the health insurance plan provided to members of Congress until there's serious health care reform, Wulsin has latched on to what's proving to be a popular issue in the presidential campaigns. As a doctor, she has genuine interest in and knowledge of how Americans struggle with health care issues.
She's also on board with Democrats nationally -- again, starting with the presidential campaigns -- in calling for immediate troop withdrawals from Iraq. It'll be interesting to see how that plays against Schmidt's ultra-patriotic image in this district.
Wulsin is ready to take on and defeat Schmidt in a rematch.
Republican Primary for 2nd U.S. Congressional District: No endorsement
Issue 10 (Cincinnati Public Schools Levy): Yes
This five-year levy provides additional operating funds for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), basically replacing the district's last new operating levy, which was passed in 2000 and has now expired. This tax is for 7.89 mills for every $1 valuation of your property, costing the owner of a $100,000 house $240 per year.
Last fall, CPS asked for a 9.95-mills levy and was defeated 58-42 percent. CityBeat endorsed a "yes" vote on that levy as well.
Issue 10 will raise an estimated $51.5 million per year to fund the school district's "emergency requirements." All Ohio school districts are required to come before voters to ask for both new and renewing tax levies; Cincinnati voters passed the district's renewing levy in 2004 and passed the district's one-time building construction tax levy in 2003.
As Margo Pierce points out in her story "Good Urban Schools" here, CPS is in better shape than at any time in recent memory. Test scores and graduation levels have improved, making Cincinnati one of the best performing big city districts in Ohio. Parents are involved in many schools, and new buildings are going up all over town.
There are a lot of negatives, starting with the projected $72 million deficit for next year. And there's the expected uncertainty surrounding the search for Superintendent Rosa Blackwell's successor.
Three new school board members were elected in November at the same time voters defeated the tax levy, showing the public's mood for change at the top and change in how the district approaches its finances. The board has come back to voters with a smaller levy request, and CityBeat supports it.
The district's students, parents and teachers deserve financial support now that they've demonstrated improved performance and are starting to move into new classroom facilities. There will always be bumps in the road for large urban school districts -- at least until the Ohio Legislature finally fixes the state's school funding system -- but Cincinnati Public Schools is near the top of the class.
Issue 17 (Cincinnati Zoo Levy): Yes
This five-year renewal levy asks for an increase in the previous levy rate and provides funds for maintaining the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. This tax is for 0.46 mill for every $1 valuation of your property, costing the owner of a $100,000 house $9.44 per year.
The five-year levy that's expiring now was for a rate of .4 mill and was approved by voters 66-34 percent in 2003. The Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee said the property tax increase requested by Issue 17 falls within the rate of inflation.
Issue 17 will raise an estimated $7.2 million per year to provide approximately 23 percent of the Zoo's annual operating budget. Tax proceeds can be used only for direct costs of Zoo operations in the feeding, care and health of animals; horticulture; and maintenance.
Hamilton County voters have supported a tax levy for the Zoo since 1982, though there was one year (1997) the levy failed due a dramatic increase in requested funds coupled with public concern over the organization's finances and management. Those concerns haven't returned during the tenure of the two most recent executive directors, including the current leader, Thane Maynard.
Maynard has a pragmatic agenda of continuing to create animal and plant exhibition space on the Zoo's land-locked acreage by moving more parking off-site. He and his staff have been good stewards of taxpayer funds -- which aren't used for these construction projects -- and CityBeat backs continued support of the Zoo.
POLLS ARE OPEN 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Tuesday. See "What's at Stake Tuesday" here for information on other contested races and ballot issues. See CityBeat's Ohio Primary section for full coverage of Tuesday's races, candidates and issues.
CONTACT JOHN FOX: email@example.com