Remembering Pioneers and Putzes

John Zeh -- pioneering gay rights activist, advocate for the poor and community journalist -- died alone last week. He was 60, according to the Hamilton County Coroner's office, which is storing

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Matt Borgerding


Jim O'Reilly (left), Democratic candidate for judge, has support from David Pepper, who's running for county commissioner.



John Zeh — pioneering gay rights activist, advocate for the poor and community journalist — died alone last week. He was 60, according to the Hamilton County Coroner's office, which is storing his body. Attorney Scott Knox, a friend, is trying to find any of Zeh's surviving relatives.

"John was a remarkable guy who was involved with the founding of at least two important gay resources, the Gaydreams radio program on WAIF (88.3 FM), which morphed into Alternating Currents, and the Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition in 1978, which predated Stonewall Cincinnati," Knox says.

Zeh first attracted notice in 1981, when he was unsuccessfully prosecuted by then-Hamilton County Prosecutor Simon Leis on obscenity charges for discussing sexual lubricants on the radio. Zeh won when the charges were dismissed. But he didn't limit his work to gay rights (see "From A to Zeh," issue of June 11-17, 2003).

"He wasn't insular, having reported on Timothy Thomas' killing to make sure people knew the truth, fought the law requiring licensing of panhandlers, protested against the World Trade Organization and supported the release of black reporter Mumia Abu-Jamal," Knox says. "He was a very bright, very kind, very gay man who loved justice, whether for the gay, black or poor community."

Ronald Reagan had none of those virtues to recommend him.

Even so, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project (RRLP) carries on in its efforts to honor the dead former president. The group lashed out this week against Ohio Gov. Bob Taft for failing to issue a proclamation making Feb. 6 Ronald Reagan Day. So far 40 states have established the annual observance. Apparently forgetting the Gipper's 11th Commandment ("Thou shall not criticize other Republicans") his devotees resorted to pre-adolescent name-calling.

"Ronald Reagan was a man loved by the American people and citizens abroad," said Grover Norquist, RRLP chair. "Ignoring his legacy of leadership ignores the strength and value of democracy. Gov. Taft reminds us that he is a stupid, dumb, corrupt and rotten public official."

That being so, Taft's endorsement would seem a perfect fit for Reagan's legacy.

Cake Eaters and Cranley
Norquist isn't the only Republican attacking fellow party members. Last week State Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Milford) symbolically decapitated U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Milford), cutting — at the throat — a cake bearing her image. The mock execution came during a fund-raiser for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes. Last year the group gave Schmidt the Marie Antoinette Award for ignoring the plight of taxpayers.

Brinkman insists he bears Schmidt no ill will. In an announcement saying he won't run against her in the GOP primary, Brinkman said he prays for her.

"She will lie, back-stab and besmirch anyone who gets in her way," Brinkman said. "Shakespeare's Richard III has nothing on Jean. Nevertheless, she is on my prayer list. I pray for her every day."

One of the things for which Brinkman faulted Schmidt is her newsletter to constituents.

"Today I received in my home mail a four-page, four-color mailer from Jean at taxpayers' expense," Brinkman said. "It is clearly promoting herself for re-election. The depths this woman will stoop to prompt herself are uncharted."

Using public money for political campaigns is against the law. The trick is to do it without being obvious, as officeholders often issue updates and press releases highlighting their supposed achievements without ever mentioning the fact they're campaigning. It doesn't happen only in Congress, and Democrats do it, too. Last week Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley, a Democrat, had the clerk of council send a 10-page fax to newspapers and other news media. The news value was limited; Cranley announced that Council's arts committee had approved a $50,000 subsidy for the Covedale Arts Center.

"Without Cranley's efforts, the theater would have been torn down," the announcement said.

That might have been true, but it happened four years ago. In fact, most of the 10-page fax from Cranley consisted of copies of news articles from 2002. What's changed since then? Cranley is running for Congress against 1st District incumbent Steve Chabot.

James T. O'Reilly is running as a Democrat for the Hamilton County Court of Appeals seat being vacated by Judge Robert Gorman, the last Democrat on the court. O'Reilly is also the lone challenger on the countywide judicial ballot this year; all other elections will go unopposed.

A former state parkway police officer in New York, O'Reilly is a member of Wyoming City Council and has been an attorney for 32 years. As a law professor at the University of Cincinnati, he's published dozens of books, including a text on drug law that the U.S. Supreme Court quoted as the "expert" book in its field. O'Reilly has lectured widely on law reform and has testified extensively before the Congress, the Ohio Legislature and other public agencies.



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