UPDATE: City Councilman Chris Bortz called Thursday morning to say that although Councilman Jeff Berding included Bortz's printed name as a co-sponsor on Berding's motion, Bortz won't sign the pledge. "I think it's premature to sign a pledge at this stage," Bortz said. "I support the thrust of it."—-
Also, although Bortz's voter registration form indicates he's been a Republican since the 2000 primary, he said that was only done for national elections and he doesn't consider himself a member of the GOP. "I'm not a Democrat, I"m not a Republican, I'm a Charterite," Bortz said. "I take the side of non-partisanship. I think (partisanship) is destructive."
The Charter Committee, however, isn't recognized as a political party under state law and the committee's leaders frequently correct media that refer to the group as a party.
ORIGINAL ITEM: Even as Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. meets with leaders from the police and firefighter unions Thursday to seek budget concessions, a City Council faction will hold a press conference on City Hall's steps pledging not to layoff any public safety personnel in the 2010-11 budget.
Councilman Jeff Berding, a Democrat, organized the noon press conference. Also scheduled to attend or sign the pledge are Councilmembers Leslie Ghiz and Chris Monzel, both Republicans, and Chris Bortz, a registered Republican who is running for reelection as a Charterite.
The council members will be joined by leaders from the Fraternal Order of Police and Local 48 Firefighters Union and residents from the Westwood Concern neighborhood group.
Union leaders recently rejected a request from Dohoney and a City Council majority to take a six-day, unpaid furlough to help avoid a $7.7 million deficit this year due to sluggish tax revenues.
"Difficult economic times require city leaders to make tough decisions regarding budget priorities," according to a press release prepared by Berding's office. "There is no greater priority than the safety of our citizens. Layoffs to police officers and fire fighters send a message that city elected officials are unwilling to make public safety the top priority.
"In times of increasing violence, despite some recent progress, layoffs would be a serious mistake that we cannot afford. Layoffs of 100 police officers would be about equivalent to closing one of our five police district offices. Citizens anywhere in the city would be understandably outraged to see their neighborhood police officers laid off. Residents would be angry if the fire department was slowed in their response to a fire or medical emergency due to closed fire houses.
"The answer to our budget deficit is ultimately to grow our tax base. But we will never grow our tax base if businesses and residents see police and fire layoffs, the measure of a dying city."
Berding asked the five other City Council members to sign the "no layoff" pledge, but they declined. Generally, they agreed it would be inappropriate to limit Dohoney while he's negotiating with the unions. Four of those members — Democrats Laketa Cole, David Crowley and Greg Harris, along with Charterite Roxanne Qualls — plan to release a statement to that effect on Thursday.
Critics of Berding's pledge say it's unfair to exempt the police and fire departments from budget cuts while all other city departments are asked to make sacrifices.