2010 already is beginning to look a lot like 2009 at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
In a memo issued Dec. 1, an executive with The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s Virginia-based owner, wrote that newspaper employees must take another five-day, unpaid furlough within the first quarter of the year. Bob Dickey, Gannett’s U.S. community publishing president, blamed the continuing weak economy.
With all the last-minute deal-making and back and forth among Cincinnati officials, some residents remain confused about details of the city's operating budget for this year. At least, that's the impression CityBeat gets based on its feedback.
Among the most asked-about items is exactly which city-owned swimming pools are affected by budget cuts to help reduce Cincinnati's $54.7 million deficit. In all, 19 of its 33 pools won't open next summer.
This week’s issue of CityBeat profiles three of the candidates in the hotly contested race for Ohio’s 1st Congressional District seat. Not surprisingly, two of the candidates are claiming that the other misrepresented or distorted his views.
The campaign of Republican incumbent Steve Chabot took umbrage at a paraphrased statement from his Democratic challenger, Steve Driehaus, that pertained to housing issues. It read, “Worse, Chabot hasn’t proposed any legislation that would help the wave of foreclosures and resulting blight that has swept the West Side over the past few years.”
Katie Fox, Chabot’s spokeswoman, noted the congressman addressed the foreclosure and mortgage crisis by passing a bill in December in a compromise with U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that gave bankruptcy judges the discretion to modify the value of a mortgage to the true market price and to adjust the interest rate. It applied only to debtors who file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and lack the income to pay their expenses, according to The Hill newspaper.
The Driehaus campaign responded by pointing out the statement referred to Chabot’s entire 14-year period in office, and specifically stated that the mortgage crisis was causing blight on Cincinnati’s West Side for years before Chabot acted.
Meanwhile, Driehaus also is criticizing TV commercials that Chabot and the national Republican Party are airing that allege Driehaus hasn’t taken a stance on the $850 billion Wall Street bailout plan approved recently by Congress. Chabot opposed the plan.
Driehaus says he’s made it clear he would’ve reluctantly voted for the plan had he been in Congress. “We had to do something, but I think it’s ridiculous that pork spending was put into this bill,” he said. “It would be irresponsible for Congress to allow the financial markets to fail.”
Further, Driehaus criticizes local republicans for waging a whisper campaign alleging that he doesn’t support Barack Obama, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. Some West Side residents perceive Obama as too liberal for their tastes. Driehaus has appeared at events with Obama, and his Web site features a photograph of him with the Illinois senator.
Not everyone’s convinced of Driehaus’ sincerity, though. Democrat Eric Wilson, an outspoken Obama supporter who’s running for the seat as an independent write-in candidate, said, “I know the political games. You go to the West Side of town and don’t mention Obama’s name at appearances.”
— Kevin Osborne
As CityBeat did in the 2007 and 2009 election cycles, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.
Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.
During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.
Today’s question is, “With the city facing a potential $33 million deficit next year, what specific cuts and/or revenue enhancements would you propose or support to eliminate the shortfall?”
U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, about two months into his new job representing Ohio's 1st District, is one of 18 Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee to send a letter to the CEO of Northern Trust in Chicago warning him to stop spending federal TARP bank bailout money on golf tournaments, parties and posh hotels. Committee Chairman Barney Frank initiated the letter to "insist" that the CEO "immediately return to the federal government the equivalent of what Northern Trust frittered away on these lavish events."
Two far-reaching ideas by Cincinnati's fly-by-the-seats-of-their-pants City Council is being sharply criticized by people with extensive experience in policing issues.
As City Council acts surprised about a $58 million deficit that's loomed on the horizon for months, an amount that's only fluctuated slightly due to changing revenues, members last week proposed abolishing the Cincinnati Police Department's patrol bureau and contracting those services to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
UPDATE: Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Harris, a pledge opponent, said Berding's description of the pledge is disingenuous. "Did Berding's anti-layoff pledge in any way make furloughs a condition? No," Harris said. "The effect of the pledge would have been to prevent the FOP from making any concessions because they wouldn't need to. The manager's only leverage is the threat of layoffs."
ORIGINAL ITEM: Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding believes a council majority is being self-defeating by refusing to sign a Berding-created pledge not to lay off police officers or firefighters in 2010 or 2011.
The new year already is looking a lot like the old one for employees at The Enquirer.
Workers at Cincinnati's only remaining daily newspaper got some bad news Wednesday: They can expect to take another five-day furlough during the first quarter of 2011. Robert J. Dickey, who is U.S. newspaper division president at The Gannett Co., The Enquirer's parent firm, announced the latest round of furloughs in a memo sent to workers.
According to 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, Wilmington, Ohio is "a little bit like Katrina without the physical damage, ground zero for unemployment." Last night, 60 Minutes featured a segment profiling Wilmington as its largest employer prepares to shut down. Pelley's words are a strong statement for a small town that's near and dear to my heart.