U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D-6th District) met with a very small group of local Democratic Party loyalists Dec. 20 in the basement of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall. Among those who accepted invitations were Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken; former Congressional candidate Greg Harris and his former campaign manager, Greg Landsman; City Hall hopeful Jeff Berding; and environmental lawyer Dave Altman and his son, Michael Altman, editor of the online political magazine Queen City Forum and applicant for the position of executive director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
Tim Burke, chair of the county party, introduced Strickland, who's eyeing the governor's seat. Strickland quietly urged those gathered not to lose faith in the Democratic Party and its leadership prospects.
Yet conspicuous about this particular party of Democrats was that it lacked a single non-white face. One African-American man did eventually drop in and stand at the back. Also less than well represented: women. Altogether absent: young faces from grassroots movements such as the League of Pissed Off Voters that worked tirelessly through Nov. 2. Also missing: other local activists who call themselves "progressives."
In fact, but for the union hall setting and general alarm at the idea of privatizing Social Security — and without calling into question the motives of those gathered there, regardless of sex or race or age — on the surface it more closely resembled a cabal for The Man than a gathering of the party of the people.
Do all the people who embrace Democratic principles, or at least who voted for John Kerry, feel welcome in the Democratic Party? Does anyone even know what Democratic principles are these days?
Ominous meteorological prognostications sent Mayor Luken and other city officials to the city's salt dome in Camp Washington for a press conference Dec. 21. The prospect of snow wasn't just a convenient photo opportunity for Luken; he used the occasion to inform citizens of steps they should take to protect themselves: dress warmly, drive carefully, that sort of thing.
Printing deadlines prevented us from knowing whether Luken took advantage of a wonderful leadership opportunity later the same day. The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless held its annual Homeless Memorial Day at Washington Park. Held on the longest night of the year, the event commemorates the homeless men and women who have died in the past 12 months.
With Cincinnati recently named the third meanest city in the country for homeless people — a "promotion" from our previous sixth-place showing — Luken would have done well to spend a few minutes at the park.
Sometimes the Little Guy Wins
Campaign finance reports filed last week with the Hamilton County Board of Elections show that Citizens to Restore Fairness (CRF) won an even bigger victory over bigotry than first realized. We already knew its 54 percent of the ballots constituted a landslide in conservative Cincinnati. Only now is it clear just how much an underdog CRF was.
The two political action committees that tried to keep legal discrimination against gays and lesbians in the Cincinnati City Charter — Focus on the Family Cincinnati Committee and Equal Rights No Special Rights — spent $1.35 million on the campaign. CRF, championing repeal of Article 12 of the city charter, spent $847,000. CRF won despite being outspent by more than half a million dollars.
"There really never was any widespread enthusiasm for keeping Article 12, except among well-funded out-of-town organizations with no local roots," says Gary Wright, CRF chairman. "These outside organizations tried to buy the election and failed. All their poll workers and everyone else associated with their campaign seems to have been paid."
The CRF campaign relied heavily on volunteers. Some 3,000 people donated their time to CRF, according to Wright, and more than 1,000 donated money.
CRF's campaign finance report ran 477 pages — attesting to the many individuals who contributed — compared to just 32 pages for both of its opponents' reports combined. The biggest donor to the effort to keep legal discrimination was Family Research Council Action in Washington, D.C., which donated $777,000 in "media advertising."
"Our win shows that passionate volunteers supported by a broad coalition of civic, religious and business groups can trump a few people with a lot of money and a divisive message," Wright says.
Eric Huth has gotten his wish and got his job back. The Kings Mills postmaster fired the 23-year-old Army veteran because posttraumatic stress caused him to be late for four morning shifts in five weeks (see "Nightmares of War," issue of Dec. 15-21). Huth was part of the first thrust into Baghdad during the U.S. invasion last year.
Now the main post office facility on Dalton Avenue has hired Huth for an afternoon shift, according to Tim Breen, president of the American Postal Workers Union of Greater Cincinnati. Huth starts work Jan. 8.
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