All right, everybody, turn your head to the right. No, wait. I'm a Democrat. So look over your left shoulder backward at the year 2005.
It's about over. What happened that mattered? Here's my list in the order that they pop into my head.
First, the door on the outhouse at back-country campsite No. 4 on the Steve Newman Perimeter Trail at East Fork State Park near Batavia is now missing. It was there in 2004, so I don't know why it's gone.
Then there's Ron Roberts.
He burst back onto the political landscape with a puffed-up job with the Republican-dominated Hamilton Country Board of Commissioners. He instantly got pub for jumpstarting The Banks project, where vacant Ohio land stares at a bustling Kentucky riverfront. But after back slaps from his Republican friends, it all fell apart when a key developer said Roberts' numbers really weren't there. So much for secret meetings and his storied skills of back-room manipulation.
Remember how the initial announcement played in the media? Democratic leaders jumped behind Roberts, feeling any whining would be seen as obstructionist. Republicans instantly became the power behind downtown action, so Roberts got a free victory lap and became a huge 2005 story.
Sure, some are saying the project is at least unstuck, but whenever it breaks ground Roberts won't be the hero. Who's surprised? He was pushed out of his former position as executive director of the Cincinnati Business Committee for maneuvers that aggravated as much as helped.
Speaking of the Republican Party, their 2005 sucked more than a Britney Spears record. Their mayoral candidate, the Rev. Charles Winburn, got trounced in the primary after party boasts that they'd win and increase spots on council. Then their Republican proxy candidate, David Pepper, lost in the general election to underfunded State Sen. Mark Mallory.
Republicans also lost Sam Malone's city council seat after he was charged with butt-whipping his son. It turns out Mount Lookout and Hyde Park voters love a get-tough political approach — but not that tough. Then the Republican who did win, Leslie Ghiz, ends up sounding more like a Democrat.
Jump up I-71, and their 2005 bad dream turns into a nightmare. Republican Gov. Bob Taft is now known nationally as one of the worst governors in America, both because he was convicted of campaign irregularities and because his policies have driven out jobs and hurt Ohio schools. Under his cloud, Ohio has gone politically from bright red to deep purple. For the first time in years Democrats are lining up to run for statewide offices.
Good God, then Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett nearly took down Jean Schmidt in Ohio's rock-Republican 2nd District, an event noted across America as a sign the House could go Democratic in '06. Then Schmidt blew her entire foot off by getting yelled down on the House floor for comments she quickly had to retract.
What other lawmaker is as widely known nationally as her? Many say former Congressman Bob McEwen will sweep her out in the Republican primary.
Eastward and national, 2005 has been as bad, with President Bush languishing in ugly poll numbers that will plunge again as people grasp his recent domestic spying program and the violence in Iraq continues.
It was the year someone finally grew balls at the University of Cincinnati. But as anatomically unusual as it might be, it was President Nancy Zympher. She took down men's basketball coach Bob Huggins with a smile on her face and hands over her ears. Her stern demeanor says, "Let them boo." She was the only one at the university who knew UC could win games even in a hard league and maintain a respectable image. How bold.
WCKY (1530 AM) flipped its format from classic oldies to a politically liberal talk-radio format. In conservative Cincinnati, that's kind of like LaRosa's announcing it's going to sell lawn mowers. But an audience seems to be building, and the first year will soon meld into another. And Xavier University finally concluded that WVXU's (91.7 FM) educational mission was long gone and sold it.
Just as 2005 is ending, Mallory begins putting his stamp on Cincinnati as its new mayor. With Carla Walker, former executive director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, at his side as chief of staff, freshly home from a job in Washington, D.C., after earlier finishing a degree at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Cincinnati's immense problems will get some unique strategies.
In 2005 the Bengals won football games — so many they're playoff bound. Imagine: When we can no longer remember what Mike Brown looks like, the team gets traction.
Yes, the Reds played baseball in 2005 but sucked. So let's get somebody to blame. Marge Schott? No. They're selling off her house furnishings. Carl Lindner? Sold the team. Pete Rose? He's got enough problems without taking the heat for the Reds. Big Klu? Waite Hoyt? C'mon, somebody take the rap.
Eric Kearney fooled us all this year, getting appointed to the unexpired state senate seat of Mallory after Pepper, Alicia Reece, Catherine Barrett, Steve Driehaus and Tyrone Yates were all brushed aside by the Democratic Senate Caucus. Kearney will serve intelligently and easily win re-election.
And the future? Here it is, no need to even live it: In 2006 Cincinnati City Council will settle back into selfish, partisan bickering. It's the only way we know. Huggins will become head coach at UNLV. Pepper will become U.S. Rep. David Pepper from Ohio's 2nd District. The Fraternal Order of Police will elect a woman president. Wait, they did that in 2005. The Bengals will return to the Super Bowl to defend their title. The Reds will still suck. Ohio will elect Democrats into every political office, including the chairmanship of the Ohio Republican Party. And I will become the Archbishop of Cincinnati.
Have a wonderful holiday!
PUTTIN' OUT THE BONE appears monthly.