It's finally over and done with.
After years of criticism by his opponents and at least one similar attempt two years ago, the Cincinnati Democratic Committee voted this morning to un-endorse City Councilman Jeff Berding. CityBeat first mentioned the current effort in early July.
By an almost 3-to-1 margin, precinct executives voted to rescind Berding's endorsement. The final tally was 47-17, with six people abstaining.
Berding gave a speech on his own behalf, stating he is a Democrat but proclaiming that defending police officers' jobs and ensuring public safety trumps party loyalty. Opponents noted after the meeting that the plan Berding publicly opposed -- proposed by Mayor Mark Mallory and three council members, all fellow Democrats -- prevented layoffs and resulted in concessions from the police union.
Some precinct executives are angry that Berding recently held a press conference with Councilman Chris Bortz, a Charterite, to criticize a budget plan put together by council’s Democrats, led by Mallory and Councilwoman Laketa Cole. Berding was asked to contribute ideas to the plan to help avoid a $7.7 million deficit this year but chose not to, council sources said.
Berding also voted against the environmental justice ordinance, a proposal supported by council’s other Democrats. He then tried to introduce a motion to delay implementation for up to a year pending more review, but Mallory blocked an immediate vote and sent the motion to a council committee for discussion.
Other actions that have drawn ire included Berding's high-profile criticism of other Democrats, particularly on the WLW (700 AM) talk show hosted by arch-conservative Bill Cunningham.
The final straw in the current effort to oust Berding occurred when he proposed delaying the city's promised payments to the school district in order to save police jobs, angering the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.
Vice Mayor David Crowley, one of the people seeking to pull the endorsement, couldn't attend today's meeting because he's in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. But Crowley's wife, Sherri, addressed the precinct executives on his behalf. She said the un-endorsement action was needed not just because of any one action but due to Berding's years of disloyalty to the party.
Among the people speaking in Berding's defense was Susan Cranley, a Board of Education member who is the mother of ex-City Councilman John Cranley. The younger Cranley pushed to hire extra cops in the early 2000s despite Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr.'s objections, and those positions were among the 138 police jobs targeted for the layoffs.
After his own speech this morning, Berding left the meeting before the vote was taken. He already had conceded yesterday that he would lose the dispute.
Once the vote was taken, precinct executives then voted to endorse Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls, an incumbent Charterite who ran as a Democrat in the 1990s.