(****UPDATE AT BOTTOM)
One of the most common complaints among many residents over the decades is that Big Business controls City Hall and municipal government, not citizens. Although some officials have denied it, that seems to be the case when it comes to who will be the next city councilperson.
Although they've tried to keep it quiet, Councilmen Jeff Berding and Chris Bortz held a private meeting Wednesday to conduct interviews about Berding's potential replacement. Except Bortz and Berding didn't take the lead on the interviews; various corporate executives from the Cincinnati Business Committee (CBC) asked the questions, reliable sources have confirmed.
Three people were interviewed by the CEOs. They were:
**** Republican Brad Wenstrup, a podiatrist and U.S. Army veteran who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2009;
**** Charterite Kevin Flynn, an attorney from Mount Airy who first ran for council in '09; and
**** Republican Crystal Faulkner, a Hyde Park accountant who hosts a radio show on WNKU (89.7 FM) and frequently holds fundraisers for GOP candidates.
Among the people who conducted the interviews were Bob Castellini, owner of the Cincinnati Reds and who operates a fruit and vegetable wholesaler; Tom Williams, president of North American Properties and a Reds investor, who is the CBC's current head; and John Barrett, president and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group.
The list isn't all-inclusive; other CEOs also were involved in the questioning.
Interestingly, Berding was the sole “no” vote when City Council voted last month to reject Western & Southern's request to block federal funding for the Anna Louise Inn, a battered women’s shelter on Lytle Street downtown. The company was eyeing the property, located near its corporate headquarters, to develop high-end condos. A City Council majority reaffirmed its earlier decision to award $2.6 million in federal grants to the shelter, which will be part of a $12.5 million renovation that begins this spring.
Berding, who is sales and marketing director for the Cincinnati Bengals, announced Jan. 27 that he would resign from council “in a few weeks.” Officially, he designated Bortz to select his replacement.
Berding's resignation comes after he lost the Democratic Party's endorsement in 2009 for bucking the mayor and City Council's Democrats on a budget proposal. Although Berding has said he is quitting to spend more time at his Bengals job, it was announced shortly after he alienated the police and firefighter unions and some West Side groups, which had provided his primary base of support.
****UPDATE: Bortz has told CityBeat he didn't attend the meeting and wasn't aware it was being held, contrary to what sources connected to the meeting have said. Read more about the situation in this week's Porkopolis column, published on Feb. 23.