CityBeat Blogs - Charter Committee http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-113.html <![CDATA[Decision Day for Streetcar]]> It's decision day for Cincinnati's $132.8 million streetcar project.

But hours before City Council expects to make a decision, it's unclear whether the legislative body has the six votes necessary to overcome Mayor John Cranley's veto and restart construction for the streetcar project.

The deciding vote will most likely come from Charterite Kevin Flynn, who says he's working behind the scenes with undisclosed private entities to get the streetcar's operating costs off the city's books. If that deal pulls through, Flynn would provide the sixth vote to keep going.

The project already has five votes in favor: Democrats David Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young. 

Three council members have long opposed the project: Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn and Independent Christopher Smitherman.

It's a big financial decision for the city.

If the city goes forward with the project, it would cost $53.9-$68.9 million, depending on whether the city convinces courts Duke Energy should pay for $15 million in utility costs, according to an audit from consulting firm KPMG.

If the city cancels, it will incur $16.3-$46.1 million in additional close-out costs, the same audit found. But it will get nothing for those tens of millions spent and could face costly litigation in the future. 

Council expects to make a final decision at Thursday's 2 p.m. meeting. Follow @germanrlopez on Twitter for live updates.

 

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<![CDATA[Qualls to Announce 2013 Mayoral Run]]>

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls will be formally announcing her run for the top spot in Cincinnati on Thursday.

Qualls’ campaign site has been up for some time already, and the vice mayor’s team had a meeting with political writers and bloggers on Nov. 26.

The vice mayor will be joined by current term-limited Mayor Mark Mallory, implying his support for her mayoral run. The event is taking place at 10 a.m. at Core Clay, Inc., a small women-owned business in Walnut Hills.

Qualls, who is endorsed by both the Democratic Party and Charter Committee, previously served as mayor from 1993-1999 after serving in Cincinnati City Council from 1991-1993. She returned to council in 2007.

Former city councilman John Cranley, also a Democrat, is also running for mayor. Cranley served on council between 2001 and 2007. His campaign will officially launch in January and former mayor Charlie Luken will serve as the honorary chair.

Republican Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann is also considering a run for mayor, but hasn’t made a formal announcement.

Cincinnati has an open mayoral primary, which means that the top two vote-getters will run against each other in the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hamilton County has been killing people more often than Ohio counties of similar size, despite actually asking for the death penalty less often. Today's Enquirer takes a look at the growing opposition to the death penalty in other states and recent legislation and task forces aimed at either studying its effectiveness or stopping the practice altogether. Prosecutor Joe Deters says he's going to kill all the people who deserve it because the law is still the law.

Would you like to pay tolls or higher gas taxes in order to have a new Brent Spence Bridge? No? Then you're like a majority of people who take the time to respond to Enquirer polls.

City Manager Milton Dohoney plans to ask City Council to raise the property tax rate in response to a projected $33 million 2013 deficit that everyone knows was coming.

The Community Press on the East Side says Norfolk Southern is willing to consider selling the Wasson Way right of way that some would like to see turned into a bike trail. CityBeat in March found the proposed trail to have support among cycling enthusiasts but some resistance from light rail supporters.

President Obama hooked up an 11-year-old kid with a note excusing him from class on Friday.

“He says, ‘Do you want me to write an excuse note? What’s your teacher’s name?” Sullivan told ABC. “And I say, Mr. Ackerman. And he writes, ‘Please excuse Tyler. He was with me. Barack Obama, the president.'"

Fortune magazine has taken exception to Mitt Romney's recent criticism of Solyndra, the solar panel company that went out of business despite a $500 million Department of Energy loan.

So last Thursday Romney held a surprise press conference at Solyndra's shuttered headquarters. During his prepared statement, Romney said:

"An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the Administration had steered money to friends and family and campaign contributors."

Romney then repeated the claim later in the press conference.

Small problem: No inspector general ever "concluded" such a thing, at least not based on any written reports or public statements.

Wisconsin Gov./Union Crusher Scott Walker holds a slight lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to a recent poll.

George Zimmerman is back in jail after what his attorney is calling a misunderstanding over telling a judge that he had limited money even though a website set up to fund his legal defense raised more than $135,000.

Legal issues will be involved in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempt to ban giant sodas.

Jason Alexander has released a lengthy and quite thoughtful apology for referring to the sport of cricket as "a bit gay" during a recent appearance on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson.

Why do people on the West Coast get to see all the cool stuff that happens in space? First the eclipse and now the Transit of Venus, when Venus will cross paths between the sun and earth. Next time it will happen is 2117. And Australia got to see a partial lunar eclipse the other day, too.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Plans to put a culture tax in front of voters have been put on hold due to a potential conflict with a Cincinnati Zoo tax renewal levy that will be on the 2013 ballot. Backers of the culture tax — a 0.25 percentage-point sales tax increase that would raise $30 million annually — fear that overlapping the tax increase and levy could be confusing and potentially hurt the chances of either to be approved. The culture tax will likely be put on the 2014 ballot.

City Council this fall will consider a new form-based development code that will allow individual neighborhoods to create their own codes that supporters say will reinforce neighborhoods' existing urban fabric while aiding in development. Supporters include the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Cincinnati Inc. “For developers, there is more predictability and basically no battles. And once they know the parameters, (developers) can really turn their creativity loose,” David Ginsburg, president and CEO of Downtown Cincinnati Inc., told The Enquirer.

The Enquirer on Sunday checked in on the state's higher education situation, finding that many recent college graduates and families of potential college students are wondering if college is even worth it considering the high cost — “total student loan debt is nearing $1 trillion, or more than $20,000 for each graduate” — and lack of guaranteed return — “government data this year show that fully half of graduates 25 or younger are either unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t use the skills they learned in college." No word on whether Enquirer-endorsed Gov. John Kasich thinks his kids should skip college and go straight into the service industry.

A record number of participants ran in this year's Flying Pig Marathon over the weekend. The winners were Californian Sergio Reyes, who also won the men's race in 2009, and Rachel Bea, a Kenwood resident.

Joe Biden says he is “comfortable” with same-sex marriage, though he doesn't know the answer to the question of whether a second-term Obama administration would come out in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

Europe's election results have gone and spooked the markets, due to political uncertainty in Greece and the defeat of French President Nicolas Sarkozy by Socialist Francois Hollande.

Vladimir Putin is back in business in Russia, amid protests.

Al-Qaeda has released a video of an elderly American hostage who says he will be killed if President Obama doesn't agree to Al-Qaeda's demands, which include ending military strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

An ad campaign linking global warming believers to terrorists only lasted a few hours before public outcry forced the Heartland Institute, a libertarian organization funded by a bunch of corporations who don't want to stop polluting the earth, to take them down. One billboard included Ted Kaczynski's mug shot with the words: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

Poll watch: “Romney polling well with independents as Obama campaign kicks off.

The supermoon was in full effect over the weekend, reportedly “wowing” viewers.

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<![CDATA[Flynn Elected as Charter President]]>

He might not have won in November’s Cincinnati City Council elections, but Kevin Flynn has scored a victory elsewhere.

Flynn, who ran unsuccessfully as a Charterite in the 2009 and 2011 council elections, has been selected as the president of the group that endorsed him. The Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati announced today that Flynn has been elected president of the organization, taking over for Dawn Denno, who didn’t seek reelection.

Flynn is a real-estate attorney from Mount Airy who also teaches at the University of Cincinnati's law school. He has been confined to a wheelchair since a serious automobile accident in 2002.

During his first campaign in 2009 Flynn placed 13th among 19 candidates in council elections. The top nine vote-getters are elected to the group.

Last year Flynn finished in 11th place — ahead of three incumbents who lost reelection — among 22 candidates.

Flynn is excited about the new position.

“When we see the high level of partisan politics in our national and state governments, I appreciate the independent, creative leadership Charter fosters in our city,” he said in a prepared statement. “The Charter Committee will continue to focus on bringing the best governance to Cincinnati, including thoughtful changes to the city’s Charter, and to support a budget and budget process which serves the best interests of the citizens of Cincinnati.”

Formed in 1924, the Charter Committee helped end the corrupt political machine operated by “Boss” George Cox, a Republican who dominated City Hall and local politics, arranging tasks like fixing tax rates for friends and contributors.

Charter successfully pushed to create the city manager form of government, which was designed to depoliticize the daily administrative tasks of municipal government.

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<![CDATA[Cramerding Runs for Treasurer]]>

A longtime campaign consultant has decided to jump into politics himself. Jeff Cramerding announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Hamilton County treasurer next year.

Cramerding, 38, of Price Hill, is a local attorney who has served as a consultant to numerous area politicians, mostly Democrats and Charterites. They include Denise Driehaus, David Pepper, Jody Luebbers and Chris Bortz.---

In announcing his candidacy, Cramerding unveiled a three-point platform that he says will curb abuses now common in county government. The platform includes a pledge not to allow so-called “double dipping” in the Treasurer's Office; promising to work full-time as treasurer to justify the $73,294 annual salary paid to the position; and institute merit-based hiring, to cut down on political cronyism.

Cramerding will run against Republican incumbent Robert A. Goering.

Asked why he decided to be a candidate himself after more than a decade of helping others seek public office, Cramerding replied, “I've become more and more frustrated. At some point, you become so frustrated that it's worse not to do anything than to run and have the risk of losing.”

Double-dipping is the practice where county employees retire, collect a pension, and are rehired in the same or similar jobs. In the past two years, 21 Hamilton County employees have retired, cashed in on unused s their pensions and then were rehired to the same position, sometimes at a reduced salary and sometimes not. Although legal, it's forced the county to tap into its general fund to get all the cash needed for the payouts. Among those double-dipping are County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, Deputy Auditor Roger Silbersack and Chief Deputy Sheriff Sean Donovan.

Regarding merit-based hiring, Cramerding said he wants to end the current practice of rewarding political contributors and party loyalists with positions in Hamilton County government.

Cramerding previously served as executive director of the Charter Committee, Cincinnati’s nonpartisan political action committee that runs independent candidates for City Council. Additionally, he has been active with several groups including Kids Voting of Southwest Ohio, the Center for Chemical and Alcohol Treatment, the Multi-Neighborhood Housing Task Force and the Price Hill Civic Club.

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<![CDATA[Ex-Mayor Inducted into Hall]]>

A longtime Cincinnati councilwoman who also was the city's first female mayor recently was inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.

Bobbie Sterne, 91, who served for a quarter-century on City Council, was given the honor during a ceremony May 26 at the Capitol Theatre in Columbus. She joins more than 350 people inducted into the Hall of Fame since its creation in 1977.---

Sterne was first elected to City Council in 1971 as a Charter candidate, and won reelection several times to serve through 1985. After a brief hiatus, she again served from 1987-98. Sterne was the first woman to serve as mayor in Cincinnati, during two terms from 1975-76 and from 1978-79.

Those inducted into the Senior Citizens Hall of Fame embody the productivity and enjoyment that should be a part of every person's older years,” said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, in a prepared statement.

Mrs. Sterne has spent her life making a difference in her community,” Kantor-Burman added. “She is a well-known public servant — not a politician — doing what is right, not what is politically expedient.”

As a founder and president of the Health Department Volunteers, she helped create Cincinnati's primary health-care system. Also, she organized an immunization campaign for inner-city children that was featured on national television and served as a model program statewide.

In the past, Sterne has remarked, "My mother always used to say, 'You have no right to ask people to do something you're not willing to do yourself.' In my family, you were brought up to leave the world a better place than you found it."

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<![CDATA[Bortz Probe Ends with Uncertainty]]>

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says allegations by two municipal workers that a Cincinnati councilman used a racial slur can neither be proven nor disproven, so the charge has been dropped as “unfounded.”

In a three-page memorandum given today to the city's Human Resources Department, Dohoney announced that there will be no disciplinary action taken against the two workers due to the administrative investigation concluding “there were no unbiased witnesses to the incident.”---

The alleged incident occurred at about 8:15 a.m. on May 19, outside of Bortz’ townhouse in Mount Adams, when sanitation worker Shawn T. Allen blew the horn on his garbage truck a few times because its path was blocked by the councilman’s parked car. According to a police report filed the next day by Allen, Bortz yelled at him, “Nigger, stop blowing that horn. I will shoot your ass.”

Later on May 20, the Cincinnati Police Department issued a public statement in which it claimed Allen had retracted the allegation of ethnic intimidation that he filed against Bortz. But Allen went on a radio talk show on May 21 and said he never retracted it.

That's when local NAACP President Christopher Smitherman became involved. He said a second sanitation worker on the scene, Alice G. Folson, told him that she heard Bortz used the slur. Folson, however, didn't hear Bortz make a threat.

Based on Allen's apparently conflicting remarks, Dohoney had investigators from the Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA) investigate the matter. The agency typically reviews allegations of misconduct lodged against police officers.

Given the unique dynamic at play here, after consultation with the Human Resources and Law Departments I determined that it would be better to have someone other than Public Services supervisory staff obtain statements from those involved,” Dohoney wrote in his memo.

That request was not intended for this to become a CCA investigation, as this is not the type of situation that CCA was created to address,” Dohoney added. “However, because CCA staff has the skill sets for questioning people and obtaining statements, I requested they perform a special assignment for the city manager.”

The memo states Bortz acknowledges an encounter occurred, but denies using a racial slur or threatening Allen.

In the initial report and the first interviews with Mr. Allen, his allegations were reportedly consistent,” Dohoney wrote. “During the third interaction it was reported that Mr. Allen indicated he was not sure what he heard, but he denied that he had made it up. The reported 'not being sure what he heard' statement was reported in the media as a recantation.”

The memo continued, “Since the CCA staff interviews of Mr. Allen took place after the discussions with Police, he was able to be questioned about the reported change of story. Mr. Allen indicates that after talking to Police on two occasions he felt intimidated when they came to his house for the follow up. He does not allege that they threatened him, but since he now knew a councilmember was involved he felt uneasy about being questioned at his home.”

Also, the report states that Allen “did not recall telling police that he was not sure what he heard.”

There were no unbiased witnesses to the incident,” Dohoney wrote. “Messrs. Allen and Bortz’s alleged exchange where Mr. Bortz separately said he would shoot Mr. Allen was not overheard by Ms. Folson. There is no way to independently prove whether Mr. Bortz did or did not say that.”

Interestingly, Dohoney wrote, “Both employees are consistent in saying Mr. Bortz used the N-word coming out of the house initially.”

 **** The full text of Dohoney's report follows:

To: Hilary Bohannon, Director, Human Resources

Andrew Glenn, Director, Public Services

From: Milton Dohoney, Jr., City Manager

Copies: Scott Stiles, David Holmes, Ken Glenn, John Curp, Terry Nestor

Subject: Racial Slur Allegation

This is clearly an out of the norm situation and because of that, I determined that it needed to be addressed in a meticulous manner.

Two Public Services employees, Shawn Allen and Alice Folson, lodged a complaint against Councilmember Chris Bortz. The employees alleged that on the morning of May 19, 2011, Mr. Bortz used a racial slur. Mr. Allen alleged that Mr. Bortz threatened to shoot him.

Due to the allegation of a physical threat against Mr. Allen, it necessitated that this incident needed to be reviewed along parallel but clearly separate tracks. Determining if a crime had been committed was the sole province of the Police Department. The responsibility for the administrative review fell to the Administration.

Given the unique dynamic at play here, after consultation with the Human Resources and Law Departments I determined that it would be better to have someone other than Public Services supervisory staff obtain statements from those involved. I decided to ask Director Ken Glenn of the Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA) if his office would perform the questioning of the parties. That request was not intended for this to become a CCA investigation, as this is not the type of situation that CCA was created to address. However, because CCA staff has the skill sets for questioning people and obtaining statements, I requested they perform a special assignment for the City Manager. CCA’s role began and ended with their speaking with Ms. Folson and Messrs. Allen and Bortz.

Allegation

Both employees indicate that Mr. Bortz’s car was impeding their attempts to turn onto the private street where Mr. Bortz resides. The employees acknowledge that Mr. Allen layed on the horn in an attempt to roust the car’s owner to come out and move it. The employees further allege that Mr. Bortz used the “N” word upon emerging from his residence to get Mr. Allen to stop blowing the horn as he was proceeding to move his vehicle.

Subsequent to that, Mr. Allen alleges that Mr. Bortz approached him while he was still in the cab of his truck and used the “N” word a second time, adding a threat to shoot him.

Ms. Folson indicates that she was performing her duties at the rear of the truck, including using the compactor, and therefore did not hear any threat allegedly being made.

After that reported exchange, but before the workers left the area, Ms. Folson indicated that she briefly engaged Mr. Bortz in a cordial conversation about departmental/political issues. That is how the situation reportedly ended.

Aftermath

The employees have indicated that Mr. Allen did not know who Mr. Bortz was but Ms. Folson did, having attended several sessions of City Council.

This incident occurred at approximately 8:15 a.m. The workers reported the incident to their immediate supervisor, and upon completion of their route went to the District 5 police substation to lodge a complaint.

CCA staff was able to obtain a statement from Ms. Folson the day after the incident (Friday, May 20). Mr. Allen did not attend work the day after. He also was not at work going into the following week. CCA staff was not able to get a statement from Mr. Allen until May 26. They met with Mr. Allen at the offices of the NAACP.

It was my decision for CCA staff to not pursue obtaining a statement from Mr. Bortz until after we had statements from both employees.

Councilmember Bortz Rebuttal

Mr. Bortz was interviewed by CCA staff in their offices on Monday, June 2, 2011. Mr. Bortz reported that it was the horn that brought him out of the house. He indicated that both the horn and the truck itself were loud. He indicates he did make some comment to Mr. Allen about blowing the horn and that he was moving his car. He denies using a racial slur right after coming out of his house, and further denies threatening to shoot Mr. Allen or making a second slur.

Mr. Bortz acknowledges that he and Ms. Folson had a brief but pleasant conversation about broader city/departmental issues before they left. He alleges that he was unaware there had been an “incident” until he was contacted later.

Undisputed Facts

Mr. Bortz’s car was at issue in prompting Mr. Allen to blow the horn.

There was no one else outside except for the three parties involved.

Mr. Bortz and Ms. Folson had a brief, non-incident related conversation before the parties went their separate ways.

Disputed Facts

Mr. Bortz used the “N” word coming out of his residence.

Mr. Bortz used the “N” word a second time and made a verbal threat of bodily harm to Mr. Allen (only).

Reported Recantation

M. Allen had three interactions with Police that all took place prior to CCA being able to get a statement from him: 1) the initial filing of the complaint at District 5; 2) the initial interview Mr. Allen had with two District 1 detectives (because the alleged incident took place in District 1); and 3) the follow up interview with the same District 1 detectives. These interviews were not taped. That, however, is not inconsistent with normal practice given the nature of the conflict.

In the initial report and the first interviews with Mr. Allen, his allegations were reportedly consistent. During the third interaction it was reported that Mr. Allen indicated he was not sure what he heard, but he denied that he had made it up. The reported “not being sure what he heard” statement was reported in the media as a recantation.

Since the CCA staff interviews of Mr. Allen took place after the discussions with Police, he was able to be questioned about the reported change of story. Mr. Allen indicates that after talking to Police on two occasions he felt intimidated when they came to his house for the follow up. He does not allege that they threatened him, but since he now knew a councilmember was involved he felt uneasy about being questioned at his home.

However, in giving his statement to CCA staff, Mr. Allen indicated he did not recall telling police that he was not sure what he heard. He then indicated that his initial report did happen on the morning of May 19, 2011.

Resolution

I have personally listened to and/or read the statements of the parties involved. There were no unbiased witnesses to the incident. Messrs. Allen and Bortz’s alleged exchange where Mr. Bortz separately said he would shoot Mr. Allen was not overheard by Ms. Folson. There is no way to independently prove whether Mr. Bortz did or did not say that.

Both employees are consistent in saying Mr. Bortz used the “N” word coming out of the house initially. Both Ms. Folson and Mr. Bortz described their brief conversation that took place after the alleged slur as cordial/pleasant.

The only finding that can be made here is Not Sustained, meaning there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove this happened. Because of this finding there will be no administrative/ disciplinary action taken against either Ms. Folson or Mr. Allen.

This matter is now closed.





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<![CDATA[Worker Alleges Bortz Used Slur (UPDATED)]]>

(**UPDATE FOLLOWS BELOW)

A sanitation worker has filed an incident report with Cincinnati Police alleging City Councilman Chris Bortz threatened him and used a racial slur while doing so.

The alleged incident occurred Thursday morning outside of Bortz' townhouse in Mount Adams, when the worker blew the horn on his garbage truck a few times because the vehicle's path was blocked by the councilman's parked car.---

According to the police report, sanitation worker Shawn T. Allen said Bortz yelled at him, “Nigger, stop blowing that horn. I will shoot your ass.”

The police report lists the possible charge as ethnic intimidation, a fifth-degree felony. Such a charge carries a penalty of between six and 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.

A detective is investigating the complaint to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

Bortz contacted The Enquirer Thursday night to notify the newspaper about the allegation and preemptively offer a denial. In an Enquirer article published today, Bortz said, “I would never use that term. And anybody who knows me knows I'm neither menacing nor a racist."

The councilman told the newspaper he couldn't remember exactly what he yelled, but it was something like, “There's no need to honk, I'm moving my car."

Bortz is seeking his fourth and final term on City Council later this year.

Bortz was part of a council faction earlier this year that unsuccessfully pushed to implement “managed competition” for garbage collection service as a method for reducing costs, which potentially involved privatizing the service and laying off municipal workers.

(**UPDATE: A Police Department spokeswoman emailed the media, stating -- "At 3:30 this afternoon the Public Information Office received a phone call from Lieutenant Colonel James Whalen, Interim Police Chief, to advise that the criminal investigation related to this report of Ethnic Intimidation has been closed:  UNFOUNDED.  The victim has retracted his allegations and the investigation has been closed.")

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<![CDATA[Charter Uninvolved with Simpson's Dem Nod]]>

A Charter Committee leader says the group wasn't aware that one of its endorsed candidates — who also happens to be a Charter board member — was seeking the Democratic Party's endorsement.

But Charter chairwoman Dawn Denno said Yvette Simpson, the board member who's running for Cincinnati City Council this fall, won't have to give up her Charter endorsement. Simpson can remain cross-endorsed in the race because she first sought Charter's endorsement, Denno added.---

As detailed in this week's Porkopolis column, some candidates and other party insiders are upset about the process used to recommended the Democratic Party's nominations for City Council. Simpson was a last-minute addition to the Democratic slate, which will be voted on April 7 by precinct executives.

Simpson was added for diversity because the Democratic slate didn't include any African-American women — although it does include two African-American men, a Latino man, a gay man and two white women.

Other candidates who sought both the Charterite and Democratic endorsements said they were told by Charter leaders that non-incumbents couldn't be cross-endorsed by both parties. Also, some rank-and-file Democrats involved in the process dislike that Simpson was abruptly added onto the recommended slate; they would've preferred someone with a history of working for the party.

We didn't weigh in at all on this,” Denno said. “This happened outside of Charter.”

The Charter Committee will allow its candidates to seek a secondary endorsement, but won't endorse any candidate actively seeking another party's endorsement either before or at the same time that the person is seeking Charter's nod.

Denno said she spoke to Simpson and is comfortable the candidate didn't have to agree to any stipulations or deals with the Democrats that would be untenable to Charter, such as changing who her successor-designee would be or agreeing to vote a certain way on specific issues.

They didn't seek anything from her. They didn't ask for her to give anything away,” Denno said. “We do not want to give another party an advantage over one of our candidates.”

With that in mind, it's unclear exactly why Democrats sought to add Simpson to their slate, other than she is a black woman.

Reportedly, Simpson was encouraged to run for City Council by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, while Simpson was a student in Qualls' public administration classes at Northern Kentucky University.

Asked if a candidate could seek Charter's endorsement while simply keeping it a secret that the person also is seeking other endorsements, Denno conceded it's possible.

Now, could people mislead us? Yes, they could,” she said. “We've been burnt like that in the past. We've lost a seat that way before.”

Although Charter often is treated like the city's third political party, it doesn't qualify as one under state law. As such, its candidates are registered with other parties. For example, Qualls, Simpson and Kevin Flynn are registered Democrats, and Chris Bortz is a registered Republican.

Several non-incumbent candidates in this fall's council race said Simpson's cross-endorsement gives her an unfair advantage that was denied to others, and possibly was granted to ensure another Charterite was elected to council.

Billing itself as “the good government people,” Charter was formed in 1924 to help end the corrupt political machine created by "Boss" George Cox that ran City Hall. The group successfully pushed to create the city manager form of government, which was designed to depoliticize the daily administrative tasks of municipal government.



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<![CDATA[CBC Interviews Berding's Replacement]]>

(****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.

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<![CDATA[Bloggers File Official Complaint]]>

Three activists associated with The Cincinnati Beacon blog have lodged a formal complaint with the city's attorneys today, alleging some City Council members “behaved secretly and in contradiction of the charter” during a recent budget dispute.

Also, other critics are researching whether the council members' action violated state law.---

Bloggers Jason Haap, Justin Jeffre and Michael Patton each submitted letters to the City Solicitor's Office, asking that it examine whether the council members acted improperly when they contacted Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. about a proposal involving police patrols.

The members met with The Enquirer's editorial board Dec. 15 to unveil a budget-cutting plan that includes contracting patrol duties conducted by the Cincinnati Police Department to the Sheriff's Office. The council faction hadn't discussed the concept previously with Mayor Mark Mallory or City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., and it hadn't broached it publicly in any committee meetings. It did, however, approach Leis about the idea.

Leis told City Council that he could hire the patrol bureau's 790 employees for $75 million, or $10 million less than what the city currently pays. Those patrol officers, however, belong to the police union and a labor complaint has been threatened.

Mallory opposes the proposal, describing it as “a brazen and shameless attempt at union-busting.” The mayor noted it came just a few days after the council faction sought $9.2 million in concessions from the police union.

Members involved were Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz and Wendell Young. Ironically, Qualls and Bortz were endorsed by the Charter Committee — Cincinnati's de facto third political party — which emphasizes the need to follow the rules spelled out in the charter.

Haap and his fellow bloggers allege the overture to Leis violates Article III, Section 2 of Cincinnati's charter, which specifies the mayor's role. It states, "The mayor shall be recognized as the official head and representative of the city for all purposes, except as provided otherwise in this charter.”

"This complaint has nothing to do with the idea itself," said Jeffre, in a prepared statement. "We think the community should have a deep discussion about ideas for saving police jobs and funding for basic human services. But someone needs to hold politicians accountable to their own rules. The charter is our city’s constitution and it needs to be followed and respected by our public servants.”

Haap added, “In his official response to the city, published on his office's letterhead, Leis says he was contacted by 'representatives' of the city. But the charter says the mayor is the official representative of the city. What is the point of having an official representative if council members are allowed to do whatever they want?"

Also, some City Hall insiders are questioning whether the faction's meeting with The Enquirer's editorial board violated Ohio's open meetings laws.

That's because the four elected officials who attended the private meeting are all members of City Council's government operations committee. Its jurisdiction includes "government efficiency, shared services, facilities, work place safety, operations improvements through technology, and comprehensive charter and election reform" -- which fits what was discussed with editors.

That committee — which is chaired by Berding — only has five members. Thus, four members constitute a majority and should comply with the laws, sources said.

Whether the four might suffer any repercussions from their action remains unclear.

CityBeat will update this item as more information becomes available.

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<![CDATA[Charter Hosts Budget Forum]]>

As Cincinnati officials consider deep budget cuts to avoid a $60 million deficit, one of the early proposals calls for possible layoffs in the Police and Fire departments.

The Charter Committee, Cincinnati's de facto third political party, will host a forum Nov. 17 to outline the problems facing the city. Featured speaker will be Lea Eriksen, Cincinnati's budget director, who will provide background information on municipal finances, and outline the city's revenues and expenses.---

The forum, which is free and open to the public, will be held noon-1:15 p.m. at Garfield Suites hotel, located on Vine Street downtown, across from the main library. Because seating is limited, anyone wishing to attend must RSVP to info@chartercommittee.org.

Billing itself as “the good government people,” Charter was formed in 1924 to help end the corrupt political machine created by "Boss" George Cox that ran City Hall. The group successfully pushed to create the city manager form of government, which was designed to depoliticize the daily administrative tasks of municipal government.

Some critics, however, say an unintended consequence of the city manager form of government in recent years is that it lessens the accountability of the mayor and City Council.

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<![CDATA[They've Got Gumption]]> For the first time in its history, the Charter Committee has selected three winners for its Gumption Award. All three people were involved in defeating Issue 9 — which Charter describes as the “anti-progress charter amendment" — in last fall’s election.

This year’s winners are Bobby Maly, Rob Richardson and Joe Sprengard, all of whom were the founders of Cincinnatians for Progress (CFP). The group was formed last year to campaign against Issue 9.---

If it had been approved, Issue 9 would’ve required a public vote on any rail-related project that goes through Cincinnati and uses city taxpayer money including the streetcar system and the proposed high-speed rail connector with Columbus and Cleveland advanced by President Obama.

The charter amendment was supported by an unusual coalition including the NAACP’s local chapter, the Southwest Ohio Green Party and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes.

Opponents included CFP, Cincinnati City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory, the Chamber of Commerce, radio talk show host Bill Cunningham and others.

Although polling showed the amendment winning by a double-digit margin in summer 2009, CFP’s intensive campaigning resulted in it being defeated on Election Day in November by 56-44 percent.

“Never in the history of this award, has the Selection Committee selected three winners for the award,” the Charter Committee stated in a press release.

“This unprecedented action speaks to the tremendous gumption these three men exhibited in their successful grassroots effort to soundly defeat Issue 9, the ‘anti-progress charter amendment.’ The efforts of Maly, Richardson and Sprengard generated incredible enthusiasm, provoking hundreds of volunteers to speak up and take action,” the release continued. “Many of those who volunteered had never before been involved in the political process, but thanks to these three men, they have become active participants in democracy.”

** Maly heads Model Property Development, which specializes in urban historic rehabilitation work in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Also, Maly serves on the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee, the Newport Housing Development Corp.’s board of directors, the Washington Park Master Plan steering committee, and is co-chair of the Effective Governance action team for Cincinnati USA’s Agenda 360 program.

** Richardson is a construction market representative for the Laborers Employers Cooperation and Education Trust for the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida. Also, Richardson is an attorney who serves "of counsel" with the law firm of Branstetter, Stranch, & Jennings, where he specializes in labor law and class action litigation.

** Sprengard helped launch General Nano Inc., a University of Cincinnati nanotechnoloy spin-off company specializing in the commercialization of carbon nanotube materials. General Nano was formed at the request of the U.S. Air Force, and the company is currently establishing its operations and building its customer base which includes some of the top defense contractors, aerospace companies, and cable and wire manufacturing firms.

The award ceremony will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 23 at Venue 222, located at 222 E. 14th St., in Over-the-Rhine. For more information, contact Kit Higgs at 513-476-0890 or Margie Rauh at 513-235-7995.

The Gumption Award commemorates Charlie Taft, a longtime Cincinnati City Council member known as “the reformer who never quit reforming.” Award winners reflect Taft’s independence and commitment to do what he believed was right, even in the face of adversity and criticism, Charter officials said.

The biennial event celebrates the accomplishments of leaders in the community who exhibit courage and common sense in leadership. 2008’s winner was the late Tommie Thompson, an advocate for housing issues that affect women, the elderly and low-income people.

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<![CDATA[Changing of the Guard]]> A familiar face in local politics has traded in one job for another.

Jeff Cramerding, the longtime executive director of the Charter Committee, quietly resigned from that position on Sept. 2 to become a full-time campaign consultant. Cramerding was hired by Charter — Cincinnati’s unofficial third political party — in December 2000.---

Although not well-known by the general public, Cramerding is a controversial figure in political circles.

Supporters say he is a brilliant political strategist who has helped manage several winning campaigns, including Democrat David Pepper’s 2006 race for the Hamilton County Commission and Charterite Chris Bortz’ 2005 campaign for Cincinnati City Council.

Also, Cramerding has provided campaigning advice to City Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz, a Republican, and Councilman Jeff Berding, a Democrat, in the past.

Critics, however, call Cramerding arrogant, adding that he cannot accept criticism. Additionally, his role as a registered lobbyist at City Hall for a real estate development firm in 2003 has been questioned.

The Charter Committee hasn’t yet selected Cramerding’s replacement, according to a spokeswoman.

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