ome powerful special interest groups know a secret that the average Cincinnati voter doesn’t: If you want to make your votes for City Council truly matter and have the greatest impact, don’t use all nine of them. That’s right: Even though you can cast nine votes in the council race, you really shouldn’t.
Using all nine votes just dilutes their impact and, more than likely, will result in the candidates you feel the most tepid about — those politicians who are your seventh-, eighth- and ninth-place choices — making it onto City Council. Cincinnati’s governing body is elected in a citywide field race in which the top nine vote-getters win a seat. Because most voters only feel passionately about a select few candidates, many people use the remainder of their votes on politicians they have mixed feelings about. Bad move.
Those votes typically have gone to mediocre incumbents, due to their greater name recognition, who get reelected time and time again. No one might feel particularly strong about “Candidate X,” for example, but if he or she is everyone’s ninth choice, including Republicans and Democrats alike, cumulatively that carries a lot of weight. That’s why Candidate X often finishes in the middle of the council pack, in fifth or sixth place, and constantly wins a seat in every election even though he or she might do laughable things like perform exorcisms in their spare time.*
(* Any resemblance to a current City Council member is purely coincidental.)
The strategy of withholding some votes is known as “bullet voting” or “short voting.” Whatever it’s called, it works.
That’s why the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors recently placed a large billboard at a prominent intersection, listing just five names that it urged voters to select for City Council. The names included four Republicans and one Charterite (who happens to be a registered Republican on the voter rolls at the Board of Elections); we’re not naming them because none of them are receiving CityBeat’s endorsement this year.
And that’s also why GOP leaders are urging party members to “vote five and stop.” In an email to the Republican faithful, Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou wrote, “Every vote that goes to a non-Republican candidate only hurts our five Republicans. After all, all five are competing for spots within the top nine. By voting for a non-endorsed Republican, you would be hurting Republicans.”
If you’re like most CityBeat readers, you might not necessarily be a Democrat but you do support progressive causes and candidates. So wise up, readers: Your political enemies are employing this strategy to great effect, and it’s time you did, too.
With that in mind, CityBeat presents its endorsements in the City Council race. Election Day is Nov. 8. All nine incumbents on council are running for election; that includes three members — Democrat Wendell Young and Republicans Wayne Lippert and Amy Murray — who were appointed to their seats to replace members who resigned. They are joined on the ballot by 13 non-incumbents and one official write-in candidate.
Here are our seven recommendations, in alphabetical order.
: A Charterite, this is Flynn’s second attempt at running for council; he finished in 13th place two years ago. A real-estate attorney from Mount Airy, Flynn says the current council is too polarizing and has failed by not starting the budget process earlier in the year. He believes more compromise and level-headedness is needed among members. Like most Charterites, Flynn also says council’s role should be to set policy and leave micromanagement to the administration. He opposes the city manager’s proposed garbage collection fee, supports improved public transit options and wants to keep Cincinnati’s property tax rate steady, so it generates the traditional $28.9 million annually, rather than rolling it back or increasing it to the maximum millage.
: Like Flynn, this is Hollan’s second council campaign; he finished 16th in 2009. A Westwood resident, Hollan is a neighborhood activist and former American Red Cross employee who owns a dental practice in Bond Hill. The Democratic candidate supports the city’s streetcar project and wants to create action plans for each of the city’s 52 neighborhoods using public input, to crack down on blighted properties and to increase early childhood education and immunization. Hollan also says no departmental budget should be off-limits at City Hall when seeking cuts, but adds that council should “fund the police to the best of our ability but not forsake those programs necessary to lessen their workload.”
: Perhaps the best-known name on our list, Qualls served a long stint on council in the 1990s including three terms as mayor when that position was a mostly ceremonial one. After leaving due to term limits, she studied public policy at Harvard University, then taught at Northern Kentucky University before returning to City Hall in 2007. Since her comeback, Qualls helped forge a package of reforms to keep the pension fund for City Hall retirees solvent. As chair of council’s Finance Committee, she also has been a voice of reason amid much inflammatory rhetoric and identified key factors fueling the city’s deficit such as large pay increases for police officers. Further, Qualls has worked to ensure the I-75/Brent Spence Bridge replacement project supports economic development in adjacent neighborhoods.
: After a shaky start on City Council, Quinlivan has evolved into the type of populist council member we like to see. A Democrat, she is a staunch supporter of the streetcar project, pushed to create “community entertainment district” zoning that reduces startup costs for restaurants and helped convince council to reverse course and accept a federal grant to open a health clinic in Avondale. Quinlivan has defended the city’s Office of Environmental Quality from political attacks and helped get a tax break for LEED-certified homes that use sustainable building techniques. Moreover, it was first-termer Quinlivan who courageously took the lead in explaining to the public how reasonable spending cuts could be made in the Police and Fire departments.
: CityBeat selected Riveiro as its “Person of the Year” in 2007 for his efforts at stopping a racist billboard campaign by WLW (700 AM) and for helping foster dialogue between local Latino immigrants and law enforcement. And we still like him. A Democrat, Riveiro is a Walnut Hills resident who is publisher of La Jornada Latina, a bilingual newspaper. If elected, Riveiro wants to promote local hiring through a policy that would prioritize hiring local residents for any Cincinnati public works project. He also wants the city to provide a 50-percent cut on its earnings tax for every new, well-paying job created during the next five years, to spur economic development. Moreover, we support Riveiro’s proposals for creating a one-time fee for banks when they foreclose on properties, and a daily fee for blight violations.
: Although this is Seelbach’s first campaign, the Over-the-Rhine resident isn’t a newcomer to politics, and it shows. He is vice president at The Seidewitz Group, a local marketing and consulting firm where he’s crafted commercials for several candidates. The Democrat also was a campaign manager and City Hall staffer for former Vice Mayor David Crowley, who died last year. Like Crowley, Seelbach is a true-blue progressive who supports the streetcar project and wants to create a partnership between the city, county and other local municipalities for a regional job training and reentry program for ex-felons. An openly gay man, Seelbach also has stumped for LGBT rights and was active in the effort to repeal the anti-gay Article 12 from the city’s charter in 2004. To encourage more recycling, he supports a phased, “pay as you throw” garbage fee.
: Young is a retired Cincinnati police sergeant who lives in North Avondale. A Democrat, he was appointed in summer 2010 to replace Laketa Cole. Since then, Young has had some good ideas, like repealing all city-only criminal offenses that entail jail time and instead relying on the state’s criminal codes and statutes; the action is estimated to save about $300,000 in police overtime, prosecution costs and jail rent. We’re especially impressed that the ex-cop stood up to the city’s police union and didn’t seek its endorsement because he knew it would require taking a no-layoffs pledge for police officers. “My loyalty is to the city of Cincinnati, not just the Police Department,” Young said. “I have to do what’s best for the city as a whole.” Now, that’s integrity.
Look for the rest ofCityBeat ’s election endorsements in next week’s issue. And don’t forget: Ohio polls are open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8. If you have questions about voting in Hamilton County, check out www.hamilton-co.org/BOE or call the Board of Elections at 513-632-7000. Also, in-person early voting at the board’s offices is available at various times beginning Oct. 24. Call for more details.