Staff Picks

Learn about our picks for everything from the best political smackdown to the best clueless ass-kissing. These great Cincinnati policital picks were chosen by our staff of shrewd and unbiased reporters.

Mar 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Best Advocate For Change


he tireless

Adam Reilly

is full of youthful exuberance and uses it to help others. As a risk reduction specialist with Stop AIDS, Reilly has done extensive research, held focus groups, traveled to conferences and spoken with the city’s health commissioner about getting a needle exchange up and running in Cincinnati. Already common in more progressive cities, an exchange would help lessen the spread of HIV among drug addicts. Knowing the concept will generate controversy in the conservative Queen City, he’s already gotten support from police officers and local doctors. Reilly does this in addition to his full-time job as an HIV educator. If Cincinnati finally gets a needle exchange, after a noble but ultimately unsuccessful attempt in the 1990s by City Councilman Tyrone Yates, it will be solely because of Reilly’s drive. (Kevin Osborne)

Best Flip-Flop by a Corporation
After years of blaming the victim, the Cintas Corp. had a change of heart about an employee’s death while on the job. Just four days before a trial was slated to begin on a wrongful death lawsuit, the Mason-based uniform supplier settled the case for an undisclosed amount. The suit was filed by the widow of Eleazar Torres-Gomez, who was burned to death in an industrial dryer at a Cintas facility near Tulsa, Okla., in 2007 — all for a $9 an hour job. Too bad it took the company three years to find its conscience.

Best Flip-Flop by a Church
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati canceled an event slated for after-hours at Purcell Marian High School in November after learning of its true nature. The 912 Project, a group inspired by right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck, rented space for a supposedly nonpartisan speech by a black Tea Party activist. Once the media told the Archdiocese the event was entitled “Stolen History: What the Democrats, Progressives, and the Left Don’t Want You to Know,” it saw through the deception and made the group find another venue.

Best Political Smackdown
Alliances often shift in politics, but the dispute that ignited in December between Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding and his former allies in the police and firefighter unions was one for the books. After Berding pushed for police and fire layoffs, the unions distributed a flier alleging Berding had promised them privately to oppose the city’s streetcar project but reneged. Berding denied the claim and threatened to sue unless there was a retraction. No retraction occurred, and Berding didn’t sue.

Best Overdue Farewell
Speaking of Berding, the peevish councilman announced in late January that he would resign from office “in a few weeks,” despite having another year on this term. Having not accomplished much during his five years in office except losing his party’s endorsement (from the Democrats) and, amazingly, also pissing off his base of supporters (conservative West Siders), Berding decided to pack up his things and retreat to the safety of his office at his day job down at Paul Brown Stadium. The new year is off to a good start after all!

Best Avoidable Waste of Money
After a three-judge panel rejected his motion to let him avoid testifying at trial, Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. quickly settled a lawsuit filed by an ex-inmate at the county jail. The plaintiff was shot three times at point-blank range by a pepperball gun while shackled to a chair, yet Leis refused to discipline the deputy who did it. Instead, taxpayers coughed up $30,000. We guess ol’ Si doesn’t like explaining himself in public.

Best Rejection of Sleazy Tactics
During the heated campaign last summer and fall for the Ohio House’s 31st District seat, Republican challenger Mike Robison allegedly went around the conservative West Side saying Democratic incumbent Denise Driehaus had tried unsuccessfully to change her last name to that of her husband’s on the ballot, which she hadn’t. When confronted about the allegations, Robison declined comment — probably not something an innocent man would do. Thankfully, Driehaus prevailed in the election by 2,800 votes.

Best Show of Unity
After two intoxicated people yelled anti-gay slurs and assaulted two lesbians and passersby who tried to help them last August at a Covington gas station, the community rallied to show hate crimes wouldn’t be tolerated. Police stepped up patrols in the area, while the owners of six gay-friendly taverns organized a well-attended rally in support of tolerance.

Best Way to Shame the Rich
Just before the federal tax filing deadline last April, immigration reform supporters rallied at the main Post Office in Queensgate to declare and celebrate their willingness to pay their taxes. The event was held to publicize research that indicates allowing current undocumented immigrants — or “illegal aliens” — to become legal, tax-paying citizens would produce billions of dollars in new tax revenues. What a refreshing change from all the moaning and complaining of the spoiled Tea Party crowd.

Best Use of Number-Crunching
When a group of clergy analyzed payroll data and found that the number of local residents working on the massive Banks riverfront project — partially funded by taxpayer money — was lower than those provided by Hamilton County’s consultant, officials were skeptical. But lo and behold, a subsequent county analysis reached a similar conclusion. It found just 8.7 percent of workers lived in Cincinnati, and 22.1 percent lived in the county. Kudos to the AMOS Project for forcing officials to take another look and promise to do better.

Best WTF? Moment at City Hall
Facing term limits, Cincinnati City Councilwoman Laketa Cole used her political connections to win a state government job that was never posted. When selecting her replacement on council, though, Cole didn’t pick the Democrats who were the next highest vote-getters in the last election (Greg Harris and Bernadette Watson). Instead, Cole picked the only person who would agree to keep her office staff, Wendell Young. Although a nice guy, Young is a three-time loser in past council elections — in 2005, 2007 and 2009 — never finishing above 14th place. We’ll see if he can finally get elected this fall as an incumbent.

Best Online Double Standard
The Enquirer last spring stopped allowing reader comments under its online articles about the death of St. Xavier High School football player Matt James, who fell off a balcony while on spring break in Florida, causing some readers to blame his alleged inebriation for the incident. For years previously, however, the newspaper seldom if ever stopped vile, racist comments under articles about shooting deaths in poor African-American neighborhoods. After many complaints about the disparity, The Enquirer finally stopped allowing comments on all crime-related stories. A wise but belated move.

Best Speaking Truth to Power
The Obama adminstration made a big deal last August when it withdrew the last “combat troops” from Iraq, claiming it meant the prez kept his central campaign promise. The action largely was a meaningless photo op, said Dan LaBotz, a local activist and then-Socialist candidate for the U.S. Senate. He noted Obama was keeping 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, as well as hiring 7,000 private security guards. “In reality, the U.S. is leaving behind a permanent occupying army in a country that has become in all but name a U.S. colony,” he said.

Best Disappearing Act
A vile e-mail circulated last September among conservative Republicans that contained a link to the Wikipedia page for Cincinnati City Hall. The entry had been changed to include a lie about then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill). It said he had filed a successful lawsuit in 2003 to remove a statue of Jesus from the building. Except there was never a statue and never a lawsuit. Someone’s going to Purgatory for that one. Thankfully, the lie quickly was deleted once publicized.

Best Defeathering of Chickenhawks
When State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) was seeking reelection last fall to the Ohio House’s 28th District seat, some bloggers began questioning whether she earned all of the military medals she wore. Pillich, who served for eight years in the U.S. Air Force and another eight in the reserve, provided documentation for each model — and noted it also could’ve been verified using the Internet. Now might be a good time to note that Pillich’s GOP opponent, Tea Party leader Mike Wilson, never served in the military. Ultimately, she beat Wilson by about 600 votes.

Best Step Up for a Local Reporter
Hagit Limor, who heads WCPO’s I-Team, was named president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ national organization in October. During her tenure, Limor wants to increase access to training for journalists across America and begin the process to create international chapters of SPJ. Here’s hoping she is successful.

Best Detour of an Agenda

Unfortunately, Limor’s term as SPJ president got off to a rocky start in January, when its leaders voted to retire SPJ’s Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. Thomas, the longtime White House reporter, raised a furor last year when she said publicly that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Europe and the United States. After months of internal debate about whether SPJ should distance itself from Thomas’ anti-Semitic remarks or whether SPJ should support her right to free speech, SPJ’s board voted to stop handing out the award named for her. Limor, who was born in Israel, was criticized (along with other SPJ leaders) for being too sensitive to Thomas’ anti-Israel remarks.

Best Display of Double-Talk
When CityBeat interviewed Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz last spring about possible conflicts of interest between his family’s development firm and the city’s streetcar project, he laid out his best arguments about why none existed. But Bortz conveniently failed to mention he’d already received an advisory opinion from the Ohio Ethics Commission stating he did have a conflict. Once the letter was revealed, Bortz claimed he was under no obligation to publicly disclose the letter because he requested it as a private citizen, not as a councilman. (And we’re under no obligation to believe anything else you say, Mr. Bortz.)

Best Rebuke by Voters
Even in a year with Tea Party fever sweeping the land, uber-conservative Chris Finney struck out at the polls. The erstwhile leader of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was defeated in his bid to become a Republican precinct executive in Anderson Township. Finney lost in the May primary to James Ginocchio, a former assistant Cincinnati solicitor. Better luck next time, Chris.

Best Unintentionally Hilarious Press Release
We can always count on the hysterical white men who lead Citizens for Community Values to provide us with a good laugh. The best one last year occurred just before July 4th, when its excitable leader, Phil Burress, issued this warning to followers: “Homosexual activists have taken center stage in downtown Cincinnati’s July 4th celebration. Rather than have their Pride parade in June as usual, they chose Independence Day to flaunt their sexual desires … if you decide to go, please be forewarned that you may be exposed to deviant behavior.” Oh, please. You wish, Mr. Burress.

Best Shameless Begging for Cash
Speaking of CCV, the anti-porn crusaders in November sent an e-mail to supporters seeking donations to avoid a $150,000 shortfall in its budget. Of course, the e-mail didn’t reveal that CCV pays more than $268,000 in salaries and other compensation to its three employees or that it foots the bill to send a politician to Florida on a “fact-finding” junket. (Yes, we’re referring to you, Charlie Winburn.) We suspect the group’s followers don’t make nearly as much on their jobs as Mr. Burress and his cronies do.

Best Sucking at the Public Teet
Alex Triantafilou, the Hamilton County GOP chairman, complains a lot about the size of government at all levels. But that didn’t stop Alex from pulling strings last year when Green Township trustees were looking to hire an executive assistant. He had his soon-to-be-ex-wife apply for the job even though she didn’t meet the minimum requirements and had missed the application deadline. Alex’s ex was hired despite the fact she scored more poorly in an interview than several other women. Can you say “patronage?”

Best Warning on Political Donations
An October report compiled by the Center for Public Integrity concluded politicians often use money donated to political action committees (PACs) for purposes other than those outlined in their mission. One example cited was the “Ohio’s Future” PAC organized by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park). Although it’s supposed to be focused on creating ideas to improve the state’s economy, the report found donations were spent on items like renting private jets and leasing a posh Cincinnati club for a “kickoff event.” Caveat emptor, y’all.

Best Purveyors of Local TV News
It’s no secret we don’t like much of what passes for news these days on local TV. The four newscasts in town — like their counterparts across the nation — mostly are filled with sensationalistic stories and mindless blather that don’t educate their viewers or enrich their lives much. (Do we really need a segment testing reaction times of drivers who are texting, just to see them knock down mannequins of kids?) But three stations each have a reporter who’s the exception to this trend. Tom McKee at WCPO, John London at WLWT and Jeff Hirsch at WKRC are old-school veterans of the biz, and it shows. Each produces thoughtful pieces that go beyond sound bites and truly serve the public interest. Give them all a raise.

Best Request That Went Unheeded, Pt. 1
Back in June, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. told City Council that Cincinnati’s deficit would be larger than previously expected in 2011. To help offset the shortfall, Dohoney recommended ending a property tax rollback, which only saves most homeowners $15 or less annually, but would have a huge cumulative effect on the city’s coffers. Council said no, so we all were treated with weeks of hand-wringing, trash-talking and wacky ideas by members as they cobbled together a spending plan at year’s end. Well, at least they got to make their symbolic but largely meaningless stand.

Best Request That Went Unheeded, Pt. 2
During the Kroger Co.’s annual shareholder meeting last summer, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals once again asked the firm to change how it kills poultry. PETA wanted Kroger to use a more humane method that slowly replaces the oxygen that chickens and turkeys breathe with a gas that puts them to sleep. Currently, the company uses a process that dumps the birds onto conveyor belts and slams them upside down by their legs into metal shackles; the birds are still conscious when their throats are cut, and many are then scalded to death in defeathering tanks. Yikes.

Best Adherenceto Principle

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio held its collective nose and supported an anti-abortion group in October that was being investigated for its plans to erect billboards that then-U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Price Hill) said contained false information. The ACLU said an Ohio law restricting false statements in political campaigns is unconstitutional, adding that “speech is rarely black or white” and the law could quell political dissent. Driehaus eventually dropped his complaint against the anti-abortion group, and lost the election.

Best Reason to Get Up Early
Women and men alike who’ve awakened before dawn during the week and turned on their TVs probably have stumbled across the best-looking person in local broadcasting. We’re referring to WLWT’s traffic reporter Brandon Hamilton, who appears from 4:30-9 a.m. on weekday mornings. With his sparkling eyes, dazzling smile and perfectly coiffed, spiky hair, Hamilton will ease your way into the day and put a spring in your step. We see a modeling or acting career in this kid’s future.

Best Clueless Ass-Kissing
Enquirer columnist Krista Ramsey wrote an Op/Ed profile last summer commemorating Joe Deters and his 12 and a half years in office, making him the longest-serving Hamilton County prosecutor in history. That’s all well and good, but then Ramsey had to go and praise Deters for his work ethic and long days spent at the office. What planet are you living on, Krista? As almost anyone who knows Deters can tell you, he’s rarely in the office. That leaves him ample time to moonlight at a private job, unlike most county prosecutors, for Stan Chesley’s firm.

Best Evidence Karma Exists
Speaking of Chesley, the prominent tort attorney is facing possible disbarment in Kentucky. An official with the Kentucky Bar Association reviewed Chesley’s handling of a $200 million settlement in a case involving a faulty diet drug and concluded Stan had conspired to keep too much of the money. Chesley’s actions were a “a cover-up of thievery,” the official said, adding it was “shocking and reprehensible.”

Best Coup D’etat That Wasn’t
People who know Brad Beckett, longtime aide to ex-City Councilman Chris Monzel, know that Beckett likes political intrigue. When Monzel was elected as a Hamilton County commissioner last fall, Beckett secretly lined up another job as Butler County’s top administrator, beginning Jan. 1. Two commissioners there hatched the plan privately but one abruptly changed his mind Dec. 31, leaving Beckett without a job. Nevertheless, we’re sure Brad appreciates the high drama of it all.

Best Comeuppance for a Hothead
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) issued a report this winter that found the Cincinnati Metroplitan Housing Authority (CMHA) discriminated against minority tenants and job applicants. HUD concluded the agency’s policies kept black tenants out of certain neighborhoods, and targeted blacks more severely than whites for rule violations. Much of the blame has been laid on Arnold Barnett, the fiery ex-board member who resigned after calling another member “a kike.” Barnett also signed a confidential agreement with HUD to settle discrimination charges.

Best Shameless Hypocrisy

Dusty Rhodes, the ex-radio deejay who’s been Hamilton County auditor since 1990, often made headlines railing against people who “double-dip.” Double-dipping is when a person retires from public service so he or she can begin collecting a pension, then gets rehired or reelected to the same position so the person can also draw a paycheck. Rhodes has called it “an abuse of the system.” So it was surprising when The Enquirer revealed in September that Rhodes had quietly filed to do the same thing eight months earlier. Rhodes tried to defend the action, but as he himself once said about the practice, “You can put all the lipstick you want on the pig. But at the end of the day, it’s still a pig.

Best Champion of Public Art
Hurray for Cincinnati City Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, a forward-thinking activist who is using her leadership of council’s Quality of Life Committee to champion the idea that the city needs to get more involved in promoting an expanded and improved public-art program. She wants to use 1 percent of casino tax revenues for an outdoor sculpture contest with results voted on by residents. It’s the kind of thing the Internet and social media were made for, as well as an idea that could be copied nationwide. And we say that even realizing the potential risks — like a colossal, granite statue of Pete Rose straddling the new I-75 bridge. Egads!

Best Bald-faced Lie by a Politician
Months before he became House Speaker, U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-West Chester) told one of the biggest whoppers of his career. After Congress passed a financial reform bill in July, Boehner promised to work toward its repeal, alleging it “institutionalizes” taxpayer-funded bailouts of failing banks. Not true, replied the nonpartisan In fact, the bill created a fund — paid for by banks — that would be used to rationally dismantle troubled fiancial institutions and sell their assets instead of relying on taxpayers, like in 2008. Didn’t the good brothers at Moeller High School teach you that lying is a sin, Johnny?