The person who often ranks in polls as the most popular politician in Hamilton County is breaking with his Republican colleagues and is appearing in a new radio commercial urging a “no” vote on Issue 48.
Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. asks residents to oppose the anti-streetcar initiative that was placed on the ballot by the NAACP's local chapter and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). The commercial will begin airing Wednesday during the morning drive time period on WLW (700 AM) and WKRC (550 AM), two stations with predominately conservative, Republican audiences.
In the ad, the sheriff says, “This is Sheriff Simon Leis. I am here to urge you to vote 'no' on Issue 48. This anti-growth charter amendment would drive away investment and make the city's deficit worse. Issue 48 could lead to layoffs and service cuts that hurt every neighborhood in Cincinnati. It's a bad deal any way you look at it. If you want to see a safer, stronger Cincinnati, join me and vote 'no' on Issue 48."
Leis' commercial puts him at odds with the Hamilton County Republican Party, which has made opposing Cincinnati's long-planned streetcar project one of its central issues in the 2011 elections.
All of the GOP candidates for City Council — Leslie Ghiz, Wayne Lippert, Catherine Smith Mills, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn — oppose the streetcar and have urged a “yes” vote.
Leis, 77, announced in September that he wouldn't seek another term as sheriff when his current term ends next year, and planned to retire after a 40-year career in various elective offices. Leis was first appointed sheriff in 1987 and was elected to the office the following year. Since then, he's been reelected sheriff five times.
Also, Leis served as county prosecutor from 1971 until 1982, when he was elected as a Common Pleas Court judge.
If approved by voters, Issue 48 would impose an outright ban on spending any money on “a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way” until Dec. 31, 2020. The ban would affect any source of funding regardless if it came from local, state or federal governments or even if it was privately financed.
Many legal experts said the broad wording wouldn't only affect the streetcar project but also any type of passenger rail project including commuter rail lines along the Eastern Corridor or to places like Sharonville and West Chester, along with possible light rail service to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron.