Voters Prevail on Issue 5, Sheriff Backs Down

Six years after Cincinnati voters decided that the city manager should have the right to hire the police chief and assistant chiefs from outside the police department's current ranks, an appellat

Oct 31, 2007 at 2:06 pm
CityBeat Archive

A state appeals court upheld the ballot initiative passed by city voters in 2001 that would allow Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. to be replaced by someone outside the Cincinnati force when he retires.

Six years after Cincinnati voters decided that the city manager should have the right to hire the police chief and assistant chiefs from outside the police department's current ranks, an appellate court agreed and ruled against the police union's challenge to the charter amendment. The First District Court of Appeals ruled Oct. 26 to overturn a lower court's ruling that the amendment — known as Issue 5 —violated terms of the local Fraternal Order of Police's contract.

Passed by voters in November 2001, Issue 5 removed civil service protection from the police chief and assistant chiefs. Issue 5 supporters said it would bring fresh perspectives to the troubled department and allow city officials to hold police supervisors more accountable. Opponents, including the police union, countered that it unilaterally removed a concession from its labor contract and made the positions vulnerable to political pressure.

During the past few years, the amendment was upheld by the State Employee Relations Board but then overturned by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.

In the appellate court ruling, Judge Mark Painter wrote that city voters were a "higher level legislative authority" and neither city officials nor the union can ignore the city's charter. The police union may still appeal the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis has agreed to mail letters to his 1,072 employees that will be written by a group opposing a sales tax hike for a new jail. An assistant county prosecutor who represented Leis and Hamilton County in the lawsuit said the settlement isn't an admission of wrongdoing.

Still, as the agreement provides every provision that anti-tax groups were seeking in the lawsuit and doesn't require them to make any concession to the blustery Leis, it does appear that the settlement is a tacit admission that the sheriff stepped over the line in regard to Ohio election laws.

Local activist Jeff Capell filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court after Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, Leis' fellow Republican and former protégé, declined to pursue complaints that Leis broke state election laws. Anti-tax groups were upset that Leis had included a letter in paychecks to his workers, urging them to support a sales tax referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot and encouraging them to lobby their families and neighbors.

The anti-tax groups didn't like the fact that Leis and County Commissioner Todd Portune allowed the lobby of the county's administrative building to be used by a pro-tax group for a press conference and allowed them to hang a large banner there. Under the settlement, the anti-tax groups also will be able to use the lobby and hang a banner.

Paying for War, Organizing for Change
Congress just approved $190 billion in new spending for the U.S. war in Iraq, and now President Bush wants $46 billion more. Ever wonder what the war has cost Greater Cincinnati?

The National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-profit research group, has been tracking the impact of the war on communities across the country. It estimates that the war will have cost taxpayers in the 1st Ohio Congressional District about $807 million through the end of 2007. If that number leaves you cold, NPP translates it as the equivalent of paying for 73 new elementary schools or 7,525 affordable housing units.

Want to see how much your community is paying to destroy and occupy Iraq? Visit

The cost of the war falls heavily on poor and working people. The AMOS Project hopes to turn out enough such voters to decide who wins a seat on Cincinnati City Council and who doesn't.

Hundreds of AMOS volunteers have knocked on doors in Cincinnati's "forgotten neighborhoods," targeting people who are registered to vote but don't go to the polls, according to the Rev. Gregory Chandler, AMOS president and pastor of World Outreach Christian Church in Bond Hill. More than 1,500 such people committed to voting Nov. 6, potentially enough to decide close races, Chandler says.

"These are voters whose communities are often overlooked, living in precincts that often do not vote," he says. "The average margin of victory over the last five elections between the ninth-place candidate, who wins a seat on Council, and the 10th-place candidate, who is left out, is 971 votes. We intend to mobilize twice that number of voters on Nov. 6."

The AMOS Project isn't finished yet. The religious group has a "72 Hour Plan," in which volunteers and organizers will make phone calls and knock on doors to make sure their contacts make it to the polls.

"We are returning our communities, our congregations and our souls to the decision-making table," Chandler says. "We are building a more just and more accountable city government."

For more coverage of Sheriff Simon Leis, Kentucky Col. Dan La Botz and other decorated leaders, check out CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at

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