Staff Picks

CityBeat staffers go public to share info on the area's best "pot calling the kettle black" moment, best forum for good ideas, best embarrassing video, best silver lining in a bad situation, best display of political backbone and more.

Best 'Pot Calling the Kettle Black' Moment:
Hoping voters wouldn’t be too concerned with facts, Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou tried a lame attack last June against U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Westwood) over the proposed “cap and trade” bill that sought to limit carbon dioxide emissions. Triantafilou wrote, “Mr. Driehaus’ party-line voting history is a far departure from the independent voice of Steve Chabot." Put down the crack pipe, Alex. Chabot’s voting record shows he sided with President Bush a whopping 92 percent of the time over the years. You can’t change history, no matter how hard you try.

Best Blast from the Past:
If you’re an area native and above the age of 35, you probably remember Bob Shreve. The crazy performer hosted Past Prime Playhouse, a weekly all-night movie show on WKRC-TV from 1966-85. Whether you remember Shreve acting in corny skits or schlepping Schoenling beer and other local products, he was a welcome face as you drifted off to sleep. Local TV historian Jeff Kidwell recently restored three old shows and is offering them on DVD via his fan Web site, Now if only someone could locate old Skipper Ryle shows.

Best Forum for Good Ideas About Cincinnati:
A group of young volunteers, Give Back Cincinnati, has conceived and launched Ignite Cincinnati, a night of good ideas with a performance twist. The evening, held at Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine, offers 14 presenters who take five minutes to talk about a subject, using 20 PowerPoint slides that advance every 15 seconds. It’s quick, smart and fun — and it’s been attracting capacity crowds. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; program at 7 p.m.; there’s usually a band afterward. You can follow the activity at @ignitecincy on Twitter.

Best Example of Why the Nati Always Needs Image Help:
When the Cincinnati Tea Party held its first rally on Fountain Square in March 2009, many attendees took out their hostility on the same local media they’d invited to cover the event. One of the worst incidents involved a mob threatening Angela Ingram, an African-American reporter for WKRC-TV (Channel 12). Video from WKRC’s newscast that night was picked up by Daily Kos, a prominent national blog that typically receives over 20 million visits per month. Commenters described the crowd as “goons” and worse. Sadly, we must agree.

Best Local Media Fight:
WCPO-TV (Channel 9) took aim at competitor WKRC-TV (Channel 12) in March with an ad blasting the latter station for not using live radar for its weather forecasts. It seems WKRC’s Doppler radar has been broken for the past 15 months and hasn’t been fixed for some reason. Did anyone notice? WCPO alleges live radar will inform viewers better, but do most people care about the weather beyond knowing the forecast for tomorrow and if roads are cleared? The money used to buy shiny new gizmos would be better spent hiring more reporters.

Best Proof You Can Come Home Again:
WXIX-TV (Channel 19) hired Matt Miller as its next news director in March. Miller, a School for Creative and Performing Arts graduate, is leaving a job in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to fill the post. Miller previously worked in the news operations at WCPO, WKRC and WLWT, meaning he’s well accustomed to the issues and concerns of Cincinnati TV viewers. Welcome back, Matt.

Best Local Public Affairs Program:
At a time when many local TV and radio stations are scaling back their commitments to public affairs programming, WVXU (91.7 FM) has remained firm in its support of Impact Cincinnati. The weekly panel discussion show, hosted by the inimitable Maryanne Zeleznik, provides in-depth information on topics affecting the Tristate that goes far beyond the soundbites offered by other outlets.

Best Embarrassing Moment Caught on Video:
U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) never seems to fare well when there’s a video camera nearby to catch her equivocating. At a Tea Party event in West Chester last fall, “Mean Jean” was taped replying to a woman who believes President Obama wasn’t born in the United States, “I agree with you, but the courts don’t.” A few months later, she jockeyed for a prime aisle seat at Obama’s State of the Union address so she could get the prez’s autograph. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “You’re a strange one, Ms. Schmidt.”

Best Event Proving Lawyers Have No Souls:
Prominent attorney Stan Chesley, who calls himself a Democrat, showed his real political affiliation is to power and access last June when he hosted a fundraiser for Schmidt. Held at his Indian Hill mansion, the event had a suggested donation of $500 per couple. As Schmidt was one of President Bush’s most ardent supporters and backs tort reform, we’d like to hear Chesley’s explanation of Schmidt’s hidden appeal. C’mon, Stan, pretend you’re talking to a jury.

Best ‘WTF?’ Moment by a Candidate:
Hoping to inject a little juice into his campaign against Mallory last fall, Republican mayoral contender Brad Wenstrup drew upon his experience as an Army surgeon in Iraq to make an outlandish statement about Cincinnati’s safety … or lack thereof. “I got back and heard on the radio that Cincinnati had just had its 56th homicide and it was only June,” Wenstrup said. “I felt safer in Iraq. I wanted my body armor back.” Oh, please. Next time you run for office, doctor, try a little more substance and a little less pandering.

Best ‘WTF?’ Moment by a Party:
Ex-Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Price Hill) was a familiar face on Capitol Hill for 14 years. He was finally unseated by Democrat Steve Driehaus as part of the Obama wave of increased voter turnout in late 2008 but began plotting his comeback within days of his defeat. To help him, the National Republican Congressional Committee selected Chabot for its “Young Guns” program this year, which is designed to offer training and assistance to challengers in districts deemed vulnerable to a GOP win. That’s all well and good, but at age 57 and with seven terms under his belt, how exactly is Chabot a “young” anything?

Best Proof Name Recognition Conquers All:
Longtime Cincinnati City Councilwoman Laketa Cole won a fourth and final term despite being involved in a traffic stop in May when motorcycles driven by her and her boyfriend were pulled over by police. During the stop, Cole called the city manager, prompting some to say she was trying to intimidate the cops. She said she wanted to make sure the expensive bikes weren’t damaged when being towed. No matter, a couple of months after her reelection, Democrats got Cole a cushy $78,000-a-year state job so she wouldn’t challenge Alicia Reece for an Ohio House seat.

Best Grassroots Immigration Policy:
Santa Maria Community Services opened an International Welcome Center in Price Hill last fall to assist international residents with various needs and help them acclimate to Cincinnati. The center links families with local service agencies and provides space for programs including English language courses, financial education and social activities. This neighborly attitude is exactly what’s needed to handle Cincinnati’s growing Latino community.

Best Display of Political Backbone:

Surprisingly, Mayor Mark Mallory and a Cincinnati City Council majority hung tough and demanded concessions from the once politically powerful police union. Mallory sought cuts last summer to help avoid a $28 million deficit or said 138 people would be laid off in the Police Department. After an ultimately unsuccessful public temper tantrum by the Fraternal Order of Police, it agreed to sacrifice just as other city departments had done.

Best Debunking of an Election Year Lie:
Just before last fall’s elections for Cincinnati City Council, local NAACP President Christopher Smitherman — always willing to make outlandish claims to scare his followers — wrote a whopper on the group’s Web site. He said Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke asked the Republican Party to endorse Councilman Jeff Berding, a dissident Democrat disliked by many in his own party. “Bullshit,” was Burke’s succinct reply. Smitherman reminds us of that old tale, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Speaking of which…

Best Shameless Display of Paranoia:
When Smitherman campaigned last fall to support a ballot issue that would have required public approval before city officials ever decided to sell the Greater Cincinnati Water Works, he pulled out all the stops. Smitherman claimed on his radio show that if the utility were sold to a private company the new owner might send lower quality or contaminated water to minority neighborhoods. Such a tactic, unheard of in modern U.S. history, would be technically difficult and likely incur great expense. The ballot issue was approved, but at the cost of Smitherman’s diminished credibility.

Best Machiavellian Moves Behind the Scenes:

Republicans insist publicly they love the Tea Party movement. U.S. Rep. John Boehner calls them “great patriots;” Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou writes that he hopes to win Teabaggers’ trust. Meanwhile, Republican leaders across the state have tried desperately to recruit mainstream challengers to run against Teabaggers in the May primary. Also, up in Delaware County, GOP Chair Teri Morgan asked the sheriff for protection against Teabaggers at a party meeting, calling them “unreasonable and threatening people.” Dr. Frankenstein, your monster is on the loose.

Best Flip-Flop by a Local Politician:
Faced with many Democrats turning against him last summer due to his mean-spirited attacks on colleagues, incumbent Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding needed to throw some red meat to shore up his conservative base in an election year. That’s when Berding went on Bill Cunningham’s radio show to propose a 2.1 percent tax on the money collected by panhandlers, an issue sure to play well with Willie’s perennially angry audience. Less than 48 hours later, though, he withdrew it, stating city attorneys informed him it was unconstitutional. We’re sure Berding already knew that, but ya gotta score reactionary votes somehow.

Best Justification for Spell-Check:
As a reporter for WCPO-TV’s I-Team, Laure Quinlivan always had a producer to rely on to do the unglamorous grunt work for her pieces. Alas, her City Council campaign last summer wasn’t so fortunate. When Quinlivan distributed an e-mail in Democratic circles seeking volunteers for campaign events, one of the events listed was, “Monday — Labor Day Picnic at Coney Island featuring President Baraq Obama.” D’oh! I hate when that happens.

Best Reason Why Parenting Should Require a License:
Quinlivan also raised some eyebrows in January when she brought her 2-year-old son to a council committee meeting so he could publicly get a swine flu vaccination to prove it was safe. We also didn’t like it in 2005 when Christopher Smitherman had his young son testify before council about a proposed Taser ban, and we didn’t like it when Tea Party organizer Mike Wilson had his son lead a protest parade in 2009. Stop exploiting your kids for political gain.

Best Imitation of a Chameleon:
When longtime WXIX-TV news anchor Jack Atherton finally debuted as the new anchor for WLWT-TV in October after an absence from local TV screens for nine months, he was a changed man. Literally. We don’t know if Atherton spent his time off dieting, exercising or having surgery, but he was almost unrecognizable when he returned. It was TV’s biggest sudden, unexpected weight loss since Star Jones used to co-host The View.

Best Silver Lining in a Bad Situation:
Continuing to grapple with the changing economic realities of the newspaper industry, The Cincinnati Enquirer laid off 101 employees in July including columnist Peter Bronson and the entire Cin Weekly staff. During the unfortunate situation, Editor Tom Callinan pledged to refocus the paper’s resources on hard news and enterprise reporting. Surprisingly, Callinan kept his word. Several informative in-depth pieces have appeared in the past year , including excellent articles on the city of Cincinnati’s troubled pension fund and the excessive retirement perks offered to Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr.

Best Place to Score an Illegal Gun:
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg embarrassed Sharonville officials in October when he released video of an undercover sting operation at a popular Sharonville gun show. The video shows vendors selling weapons to undercover investigators after they told vendors they probably couldn’t pass required background checks, which is a violation of federal law. Bloomberg and others have long alleged Ohio is a major center for illegal firearm purchases. Hey, Mayor Virgil Lovitt II: Maybe you should stop offering excuses and have your police do something about this.

Best Overreaching by a Political Hack:
Never one to let the law or ethics get in his way in service of his political aims, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters pulled a shady maneuver in October when he convinced 12 Common Pleas Court judges to sign an order axing the law firm hired by county commissioners to help them on riverfront redevelopment matters. Deters, a Republican, opposes The Banks project, which is supported by the Democratic-controlled commission. Commissioners balked, and the Ohio Supreme Court voted 6-1 in December to issue a stay preventing Deters from firing the firm until it reviews the case.

Best ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ Moment:
A group of “concerned” Westwood vigilantes criminally trespassed last April at a vacant home in the 2100 block of Harrison Avenue that it claimed was a crime hotspot. Although city officials previously had boarded up the home, the group said that wasn’t sufficient and began nailing plywood to windows and doors. When cops were notified, the group scrambled. Eleven months later, the city demolished the home after no one bought it. Some of the same citizens then complained, stating it should have been bought and renovated. Hey, that’s the free market for ya.

Best Comeuppance for a Vile Remark:
Arnold Barnett, who was chair of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority’s governing board, is known to be a loose cannon who speaks first and thinks later. But his colleagues were shocked last fall when he used the word “kike” while arguing with fellow board member John Rosenberg, who is Jewish. Because the process for kicking someone off the CMHA is complicated, members instead settled for stripping Barnett of his chairmanship. We wonder if the board’s rules allow the use of a muzzle?

Best Timely Action by a Politician:
The ink hadn’t even dried on a letter written in December by two Hamilton County commissioners to State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) before Seitz publicly shot down their request. To avoid making tough decisions on how to close a deficit in the county’s stadium account, Democrat Todd Portune and Republican Greg Hartmann asked state lawmakers to let them impose a cigarette tax. Seitz replied: “There is no way on God’s green earth that I would ever support such poor public policy as to grant localized authority for higher cigarette taxes.”

Best Statement of the Obvious:
Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes likes playing the role of curmudgeon. His latest crusty act occurred in October, when the ex-deejay posted an item on the auditor’s Web site reminding voters they could vote “no” on renewals of property tax levies. Noting levy backers often point out renewals won’t raise a homeowner’s taxes, Rhodes wrote, “(I)t is also very true that if the levy were to fail, you would be paying less in those same future years than you had previously.” Thanks for the civics lesson, Uncle Dusty.

Best Hissy Fit that Became Public:
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, a top Democrat, and local Party Chairman Tim Burke exchanged snippy e-mails in January about who should fill a vacancy on the Board of Elections. Portune wanted an African American and proposed party power broker Dwight Tillery, who’s helped him raise money. Burke wanted to give it to Caleb Faux, the party’s executive director, stating he needed the extra $19,812 to supplement his meager party income. Why these former allies would turn on each other is anybody’s guess, but it sure was entertaining.

Best Idea Whose Time Has Come:
Inspired by fellow Charterite Kevin Flynn, Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Bortz has proposed a charter amendment that would require council members to resign within 10 days of filing a candidacy for another elective office. Flynn was angered that four of City Council’s nine members announced their candidacies for other offices within weeks of winning their council term. Bortz said the amendment would help ensure that people serving on council give their undivided attention to city affairs. We agree, and council members should be brave enough to put this issue before voters.

Best Organizing by Forward-Thinkers:
Determined not to suffer a replay of the defeat that a regional light rail plan had at the polls in 2002, a group called Cincinnatians for Progress formed last year. The group organized to campaign against Issue 9 — pushed by mass transit foes — which would have required a public vote on any rail-related spending by Cincinnati City Council. The group said the extra hurdle likely would kill plans for a proposed streetcar system and cut Cincinnati out of the 3-C rail project to link us with Columbus and Cleveland. Although down in the polls by double digits during the summer, effective campaigning led to a turnaround and the resounding rejection of Issue 9 in November.

Best Sign of Intelligent Life on the West Side:

Nicholas Hollan, a Democrat who ran last fall for Cincinnati City Council, organized the “Potluck for Progressives” picnic in September at a local park. The event’s motto was, “Being a Westsider and a progressive is not an oxymoron. We are thousands.” Well, maybe not thousands, but dozens of people attended, proving the ultra-conservative grip on the West Side is finally loosening.

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