On July 8, an interesting private meeting will occur that could influence who sits on Cincinnati City Council next year.
At the request of Mayor Mark Mallory, a high-powered group of Democratic officials will convene behind closed doors to discuss growing discord on council. Specifically, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke will meet at Burke’s downtown law office with Mallory and four of the five Democrats who sit on City Council.
Burke can meet with only four people who sit on the nine-member council because having any more attend would constitute a quorum and make the session a public meeting under state law. Presumably, Vice Mayor David Crowley, who’s facing term limits and cannot seek reelection, will be the odd man out and stay home.
Mallory called the session after CityBeat’s blog reported last week that some Democratic Party precinct executives were angry about recent actions taken by Councilman Jeff Berding, a Democrat who’s running for his third term. Those precinct executives are trying to build support for calling for a special meeting of the party’s Executive Committee to rescind Berding’s endorsement.
Mallory hopes to persuade council’s other Democrats to quash the effort in the name of party unity.
The precinct executives want to strip Berding of his endorsement and instead give it to Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls. Although she’s running as a Charterite, Qualls is a registered Democrat and has been elected as a Democrat in the past.
Some precinct executives are angry that Berding recently held a press conference with Councilman Chris Bortz, a Charterite, to criticize a budget plan put together by council’s Democrats, led by Mallory and Councilwoman Laketa Cole. Berding was asked to contribute ideas to the plan to help avoid a $7.7 million deficit this year but chose not to, party insiders said.
Berding also voted against the environmental justice ordinance, a proposal supported by council’s other Democrats. He then tried to introduce a motion to delay implementation for up to a year pending more review, but Mallory blocked an immediate vote and sent the motion to a council committee for discussion.
Proposed by Crowley, the ordinance requires an environmental assessment be done for certain types of projects proposed in neighborhoods that are deemed already adversely affected by toxins and pollution.
The angry precinct executives noted that Berding frequently votes in accordance with Bortz and council’s two Republicans, Leslie Ghiz and Chris Monzel, despite promising during the endorsement process to stop criticizing fellow Democrats and try working with them.
Berding, an executive with the Cincinnati Bengals front office, has met some resistance each time he’s sought the party’s endorsement.
During an April 2007 meeting of precinct executives, when Berding made his pitch for the endorsement, he apologetically told the crowd, “I have tried to work with any and all members of council and our mayor to get the job done. I admit sometimes I have done well in that area and other times I’ve been less successful,” before vowing to work better with his Democratic colleagues.
Some political observers think it’s likely that Mallory might be secretly cursing Jason Haap right about now.
When Haap, the local blogger known as “The Dean of Cincinnati,” announced last week that he wouldn’t run as a third-party candidate in this fall’s mayoral race, the reason given was financial.
Haap intensely dislikes the city’s current system that calls for holding a September primary if more than two people seek the office. He’d hoped his candidacy would prompt City Council to offer a charter amendment to abolish the primary in favor of an “instant runoff voting” system that’s cheaper and more effective. Holding the September primary would cost an estimated $413,000, which Haap says is a waste of money.
“I cannot, in good conscience, single-handedly cost Cincinnati nearly a half million dollars,” Haap said. “Rest assured, this will be the last time I willfully withdraw from a mayoral primary. I want City Hall on notice that they must reform this wasteful and undemocratic system. From now on, I will make sure someone forces the primary each cycle if they refuse simple, common sense, cost-effective solutions.”
Instead, Haap — a schoolteacher — is running as an independent for the Cincinnati School Board. Ironically, he offered a more detailed platform of issues in his mayoral campaign than either Mallory or Republican Brad Wenstrup has so far.
But the unintended effect of Haap’s withdrawal means the well-connected Mallory can’t raise as much money for his campaign that he might have otherwise.
Under Cincinnati’s charter, the contribution limits for the mayoral race are $1,100 from individuals, $2,700 from political action committees (PACs) and $10,500 from political parties or legislative campaign funds. Those limits start over from zero if a primary is held, meaning that big-cash contributors can donate a second time to a campaign.
Without the primary, typical donors like corporate PACs, labor unions and the Lindner family will be restricted to giving just one time only. Maybe they can give the extra money to a charity of their choice.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is exiting stage left. Praise the lord.
In a surprise announcement July 3, Palin said she not only won’t run for reelection as governor next year but also won’t even finish her first gubernatorial term. She’ll resign her office later this month.
By not even completing her term, it’s difficult to envision Palin ever moving to the national political stage and running for president in 2012. This brings to mind some of Palin’s fiercest defenders during last year’s presidential campaign — including Hamilton County Republicans — who obsessively sung her praises and said she had the mettle to be commander-in-chief, even more than Barack Obama.
Palin hinted that her next job would be in the private sector. Who wants to place bets that she’ll be hosting a TV talk show within the year? Personally, I’d like to see her play Tina Fey’s crazy sister on 30 Rock.
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