With 800,000 federal employees on furlough and the House and Senate at a budgetary stalemate over the funding of President Obama’s health care plan no one understands, a Cincinnati City Council race seems pretty much like a sweat bee: a tiny annoyance.
What can we here on the ground level of governance learn from the people we allegedly sent to Washington?
On Oct. 5, as moderator I will be slogging through questions — ostensibly sent in by you — put to a room full of Cincinnati City Council candidates at The Greenwich for a candidate forum titled “Cincinnati 2014: Re-Imagining Progress.”
During that forum I am to serve as the conductor, to keep the trains moving in and out, to ask submitted questions and to keep the audience engaged.
But here is what I know going into this.
Here is who these people are, the ones I know something about, anyway.
There are nine candidate seats and 21 participating candidates.
Here’s your starting lineup: Amy Murray, Laure Quinlivan, P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn, Vanessa White, Mike Moroski, Tim Dornbusch, Michelle Dillingham, David Mann, Kevin Johnson, Kevin Flynn, Sam Malone, Wendell Young, Yvette Simpson, Christopher Smitherman, Chris Seelbach, Pam Thomas, Shawn Butler, Greg Landsman, Angela Beamon and Melissa Wegman.
Voters have nine council votes, but not casting all nine does not invalidate a ballot; cast as few votes as you’d like.
I am convinced so many do-nothings repeatedly get on our city council because voters get the Holy Ghost in the booth and punch holes beside names that were handed to them on Democratic or Republican (or black) tickets outside their respective polling places.
Some of these folks have been around too long or they keep reappearing as council candidates/members because perhaps there is nothing else for them to do in the private sector.
But what’s their platform?
What do they believe and where do they stand on issues that do not involve either light rail or parking meters?
Charlie Winburn could give it a rest and his absence would not be missed. He is guilty of always running on scare tactics and the fear factor, and his name brand recognition resonates mainly with arch- conservative black zealots; he is the only currently seated Republican on council. In 2008 Winburn took money — that included a “research” trip to Florida — from anti-gay mongers Citizens for Community Values to drum up support to squelch the adult ads in CityBeat.
Although David Mann’s is a comforting face around town, it’s mostly because he is familiar. Mann was on city council from 1974 to 1992, before the dawn of term limits, serving as mayor within that time from 1980 to 1982 and again in 1991. Tiring of local politics, he ran and won a U.S. House of Representatives seat in 1992 but summarily lost it in 1994 to Steve Chabot.
Laure Quinlivan successfully made the jump from TV news to politics, and then what? Well, she voted for the privatization of the parking meters.
The Hamilton County GOP beat the bushes back in our post-riot past and shook out a black Republican. His name is Sam Malone. He ran then on a platform of anti-thuggery, his grainy commercials showing footage of “wild” blacks in Over-the-Rhine looting stores and running through the streets. The frightened among us ate it up and voted Malone in for a single term beginning in 2003. And for two years Malone did little to nothing except garner negative media attention for beating his teenage son with a belt and for buying a house from the city while he was still on council.
Yvette Simpson came in like a refreshing thunderstorm and has been busy ever since, mainly creating more employment opportunities for young folks. I will keep my eyes peeled on Simpson and pray she does not go the self-serving way of former councilwoman Alicia Reece, who also started strong.
I am frankly confused by Pam Thomas. She was appointed her seat in April by her husband, ex-Cincinnati Police Officer Cecil Thomas, to fill his vacant seat, but only after losing a bid for Hamilton County Clerk of Courts. Thomas was also wrapped up in a black-women-in-public-office-are-incompetent freefall started publicly by Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler and finished up by GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou in an April 24 letter to the Enquirer.
This leaves Thomas with little identity beyond trying to find a place to land.
The only independent of the lot, Smitherman came back after a humiliating thrumming after his first, tense but thrilling stint on council and he’s been giving us what we’ve come to expect of him ever since: further alignment with an arch-conservative, anti-tax group and he hates the idea of streetcars. Smitherman barely squeaked in last time, just above Seelbach, but he’s smart and wily and he now seems to know how to at least play politics.
I don’t know Seelbach and Sittenfeld, except that they are two young white guys and one is openly gay and hangs around Main Street during Second Sundays. But Sittenfeld must be doing something right because he clocked big votes in 2011, coming in just behind Roxanne Qualls.
Michelle Dillingham and Mike Moroski are the two I am most interested in during this race.
Moroski actually has a platform that includes addressing the displacement of poor people and giving low-income people the chance to earn living wages, extending Metro routes and the creation of a low-income/homeless subcommittee that hears from service recipients and not providers.
Dillingham has done some stellar, in-the-trenches community work, including marching with Ceasefire Cincinnati when cameras weren’t around and converting blighted lots to community gardens. Plus, she came to my neighborhood and hung out, though many folks breezed past her, perhaps put off because her wheelchair-bound son was with her.
Amidst all the candidate bios and talking points Moroski and Dillingham remind me why we should vote.
It’s for the very same reasons they may not win.
CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]