Blind Faith, Blind Budgets

Cincinnati City Council is basing a major budget policy that could cost taxpayers up to $8 million annually on data from a study they haven't seen in its entirety and have been blocked from obtai

 
Sean Hughes


Bill Clinton



Cincinnati City Council is basing a major budget policy that could cost taxpayers up to $8 million annually on data from a study they haven't seen in its entirety and have been blocked from obtaining.

As council begins setting priorities for the 2007-08 city budget, a five-member majority has endorsed a proposal to add 100 police officers to street patrol "as quickly as possible." Although some of the officers could be shifted from desk duty, others will have to be hired from outside current ranks, said Councilman John Cranley, the group's budget chairman.

But Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. already was ordered by council a few years ago to shift all available officers to patrol duties. If it turns out that all 100 officers eventually have to be hired, it will cost the city $8 million annually in salaries and benefits, Cranley said. The earliest that those officers could hit the streets would be late 2008 or 2009, after Cranley and some other council members have left office. Besides Cranley, Council Members Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, Leslie Ghiz and Cecil Thomas support adding more police.

Council's June 19 proposal is based on a segment of an independent study on police deployment issues. Then-Mayor Charlie Luken ordered the study in June 2005, and it was scheduled for completion by the following November — seven months ago. Nationally renowned police expert John Linder, a Cincinnati native who consulted with New York, New Orleans and other cities in the 1990s, conducted the study.

The study cost more than $100,000 and was paid with private funds from business groups such as the Cincinnati Business Committee and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, which allows the document not to be considered a public record under Ohio law — and thus avoid public scrutiny — until someone at City Hall is given a copy.

Cranley presented data from the study during a June 19 finance committee meeting that shows Cincinnati has fewer officers per capita than other high crime cities like Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. When questioned later, council members said they've never seen the full study and haven't been able to procure a copy. "We've asked and they won't give it to us," Ghiz said.

Editor's note: the day after council's finance committee discussed the study, Cranley finally obtained a copy and released it publicly at 4:50 p.m. June 20 just before this issue went to press. See the Porkopolis blog for more information.

Enquirer Stumbles, and Clinton Eyes Ohio
People who read The Enquirer's Politics Extra blog June 16 might have gotten the idea that David Pepper, Democratic candidate for the Hamilton County Commission, supports building a new jail in Colerain Township. There were a few problems, however, with the claim: There's no record that Pepper ever made such a proposal, he doesn't know anything about the township site mentioned and — in what's become a typical Enquirer trait — the posting didn't originally present any comments from other sides of the issue other than the group that issued the press release quoted in the blog.

The blog entry posted verbatim a five-paragraph press release issued by the Hamilton County Township Association. It quoted Kathy Wagner, a Symmes Township trustee who is the group's president, and listed Tom Weidman, a Sycamore Township trustee, as the media contact. Both are Republicans active in the local party, and Weidman does campaign work for Commissioner Phil Heimlich, who's running against Pepper.

According to the Enquirer blog and the press release, "Pepper proposed that the Educational Service Center, which Commissioners Heimlich and (Pat) DeWine would like to sell to the Educational Service Center Board, be the site of the new jail."

The township group cites two press releases issued by Pepper, on June 2 and June 6, as its source for the claim. Pepper's releases, though, only criticized commissioners for selling numerous county-owned properties without competitive bidding. Pepper's release supports an engineering analysis to determine the proper site for a jail, adding, "if that analysis shows that a purchase of property is necessary, swiftly move forward to conclude the siting and purchase of the necessary property."

After CityBeat blogged on The Enquirer's misleading post, an update almost as long as the initial entry was added with Pepper's comments.

People who read Rolling Stone magazine might have gotten the idea that, as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s investigative story suggested, Ohio's 2004 presidential vote was stolen by the Republicans. The June 1 article says that shenanigans out of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's office — including confusing and contradictory directions to county boards of election, purging of voter lists, allocation of fewer voting machines to inner city precincts and tampering with vote counts after the fact — resulted in as many as 357,000 votes going uncounted statewide in 2004, enough to have swung Ohio (and the presidency) to Sen. John Kerry.

Speaking at the annual convention of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies on June 17, former President Bill Clinton said he'd read the Rolling Stone story and, although he wasn't ready to pronounce the Ohio vote "stolen," was concerned about the GOP's tactics in 2004 and about future elections.

Asked by a staff member of the alt weekly in Athens, Ohio, if he'd be visiting Ohio this fall to help campaign for Democrats, Clinton said he would, then added, "Do Ohio voters really know how bad Ken Blackwell is?"

What You Missed on the Blog
If you missed CityBeat's Porkopolis blog earlier this week, you missed longer entries about each of the issues reported here as well as additional coverage of Cincinnati's city manager search. Why wait? Visit citybeatporkopolis.blogspot.com and get today's news today.



Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or pork (at) citybeat.com Bill Clinton told alternative newspaper staffers that he's concerned about Ohio elections.

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