Blogs > Northern Ohio Local Politics

Politics is big in these parts, and we’ve got it covered. John Arthur Hutchison and other staff writers will offer their inside information on the events, big news and little moments of the local political scene in Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sines wraps up 10 years as a commissioner

As the year 2012 comes to a close it’s time to take a look back at the career of a retiring Lake County official.

For Commissioner Raymond E. Sines, his last official meeting after 10 years on the board was Thursday.
Sines has served since he was appointed by the Lake County Republican Party in 2003, and then won two elections to four-year terms.

During his time in office, he was the lone Republican on the three-member Board of Commissioners.
Sometimes Sines didn’t agree with his Democratic colleagues on the board, but what I think made him effective was that he choose his battles carefully.

He was the kind of commissioner who could sternly make his point during an open session and even staunchly disagree with a colleague, then crack a joke about the situation when the meeting was over.

Sines occasionally would say it takes two votes to get something passed by commissioners, which is certainly true. With that in mind, he had the understanding that no matter his opinion, there were two other commissioners who might not agree with him. So he had to work together with his fellow colleagues.

Even though he disagreed on some issues, including building a high-level bridge over Vrooman Road in Leroy and Perry townships or the creation of the Lake County Stormwater Management Department, Sines’ influence was noticeable.

I think his ability to be reasonable when it came to making decisions and his work ethic also made him effective.

When it came time earlier this year for the commissioners to announce a plan to increase the countywide sales tax rate by 0.5 percent to deal with budgetary concerns, Commissioner Daniel P. Troy frequently said that he wanted bipartisan support before he would agree to raise the sales tax. What that really meant was Sines needed to support it too.

Sines told me many times that he did not want to raise the rate, but he felt the county’s finances had gotten to a point where major cuts would have been needed and there was no certainty that services could be maintained to a level that residents expected.

When Sines recently reflected back on his tenure, he said the sales tax issue was one of his toughest decisions as a commissioner.

Part of what went into that decision was Sines also felt that the county Stormwater Management Department had more funding than was necessary and that if the other two commissioners would support cutting the user fees to property owners by 50 percent as part of an overall package, then he would support the sales tax increase.

So what ensued was the proposal spearheaded by Troy and agreed to by Commissioner Robert E. Aufuldish and Sines to raise the sales tax by 0.5 and decrease the stormwater user fees by 50 percent, plus reduce the rate property taxpayers pay to the county’s General Fund by 1.1 mills.

Because the sales tax package was a unanimous decision that made it much easier to implement and the issue did not have to be put on the countywide ballot.

Only a referendum could have defeated the package and there was never much hint of that developing. Meanwhile, the county’s budgetary situation appears to have stabilized.

At his last meeting Thursday, Aufuldish said Sines and the other two commissioners were able to put politics aside to get things done.

Troy said that Sines would be missed and he was able to work together with Sines not only as a commissioner but when the two served together as state representatives years ago in the Ohio General Assembly.

Sines noted at the meeting that the key to his life has been the support of his family who allowed him to do what he wanted to do.

He added that if a script were to have been written about how he wanted to live his life, it had contained everything he always wanted.

When Sines concluded his remarks about his retirement at the meeting, Troy and Aufuldish — in a show of class — gave Sines a standing ovation.

Swearing in ceremony

The Lake County Democratic Party will swear in Aufuldish and Commissioner Judy Moran, state Rep. John M. Rogers, Clerk of Courts Maureen G. Kelly, Recorder Ann M. Radcliffe, and Treasurer Lorraine M. Fende at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Performing Arts Center Theater at Lakeland Community College.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Kasich reveals intriguing turnpike plan

Gov. John Kasich finally unveiled his plan for the Ohio Turnpike and it doesn’t involve leasing the 241-mile toll road.

Many, especially community leaders in northern Ohio, had expressed concern that Kasich wanted to lease the turnpike and turn it over to a private operator.

That concept had fostered concerns that tolls would dramatically rise and divert motorists to other roadways.
At first glance, it appears the governor heard and listened to those concerns, so give him credit.

Instead, the governor wants to use toll revenues to raise up to $3 billion for road projects. It will be interesting to see how this plan fits into Kasich’s next biennial budget to be proposed next year.

Kasich said on Thursday that his turnpike proposal would raise $1.5 billion through bond sales that would be paid back through future toll revenues, and $1.5 billion could be generated through matching local and federal funds.

Tolls for local passenger trips that are paid with EZ Pass would be frozen at current levels for the next 10 years.

For all other tolls (longer passenger trips and all truck trips), any increases will be capped at the rate of inflation, or approximately 2.7 percent annually, assuming sustained traffic growth at the historic 1 percent rate.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission would stay in place and turnpike job layoffs would not be needed.

Kasich said that raising the state’s gasoline tax was not the answer to solve a $1.6 billion highway budget deficit because an uncertainty economy, higher gasoline prices and more fuel-efficient cars have combined to reduce gasoline sales and state gasoline tax revenue.

Kasich wants to try a different approach by using the $1.5 billion acquired through bond sales help to fund road projects throughout northern Ohio and allow the Ohio Department of Transportation to spend the state’s gas taxes and federal funds on road projects downstate.

Diverting money generated by the Turnpike away to other projects will require approval from the Ohio General Assembly, so there will be some debate about exactly how and if that’s done.

Leaders from northern Ohio including Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald and three other county commissioners issued a joint statement after Kasich revealed his turnpike plan.

They seemed pleased that the governor decided not to privatize the turnpike but are concerned that gas tax money paid by people who live and work in northern Ohio will be used to pay for projects in other areas.

They also want to take time to evaluate the governor’s proposal and the overall impact it will have on the roads and economy in northern Ohio and will seek public comment to help guide and advise them when it comes to public infrastructure in Ohio.

Hmmm, is FitzGerald starting to act like he might be a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014?

Bipartisan redistricting?

A bipartisan plan to change the way Ohio draws state legislative and congressional districts cleared the state Senate by a 32-1 vote.

Under the resolution, a seven-member redistricting commission would be established, consisting of the governor, auditor, Ohio secretary of state and four members appointed by the legislative leaders in each chamber. The commission would elect bipartisan co-chairs, and none of the members could be a sitting member of the state Legislature or Congress.

Any plan proposed by the commission must receive five votes including at least one vote from the minority party.

The Ohio House of Representatives didn't have a chance to act on the proposal during the two-year legislative session that ended Thursday and that chamber’s vote is needed to put the measure before voters.

Perhaps the legislation will serve as a blueprint, but for now, what it means is we’ll just have to wait to see if the Ohio General Assembly is really serious next year when it comes to reforming the way these district lines are drawn.

Swearing in ceremonies

The Lake County Democratic Party will swear in Commissioners Robert E. Aufuldish and Judy Moran, state Rep. John M. Rogers, Clerk of Courts Maureen G. Kelly, Recorder Ann M. Radcliffe, and Treasurer Lorraine M. Fende at 2 p.m. Jan. 1 at the Performing Arts Center Theater at Lakeland Community College.

The Lake County Republican Party will swear in elected officials on Dec. 26.

Details weren't finalized as of press time, so call the party headquarters for details.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

U.S. Rep.-elect David P. Joyce hires legislative director

U.S. Rep-elect David P. Joyce announced he has hired John Miceli to be his legislative director.

Joyce, R-Russell Township, who will begin his first term in Congress in January, represents Ohio’s 14th Congressional District that consists of Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties, plus parts of Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage and Trumbull counties.

“Now more than ever, it’s crucial that the laws coming out of Washington empower small businesses to create jobs,” Joyce said in a news release. “I’m looking forward to working with John to create a pro-growth policy agenda that brings jobs to northeast Ohio.”

Miceli graduated from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2008 and Ohio University in 2004.

Prior to working for Congressman-elect Joyce, he worked for U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette for four years, starting off as a staff assistant giving Capitol tours. In 2012, Miceli was named one CQ Roll Call’s 30 Hill aides to know.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

U.S. Rep.-elect David P. Joyce hires district director

U.S. Rep.-elect David P. Joyce announced that he has hired Streetsboro resident Nick Ciofani to serve as his district director.

Joyce, R-Russell Township, who will begin his first term in Congress in January represents Ohio’s 14th Congressional District that consists of Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties, plus parts of Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage and Trumbull counties.

“Nick has worked in the district for several years and his extensive knowledge of northeast Ohio will allow our office to provide the best constituent services possible,” Joyce said in a news release.

Ciofani graduated from Hillsdale College in 2002 and Solon High School in 1998.

Prior to accepting his new position with Joyce’s office, Ciofani ran the Twinsburg office of U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette and worked in the finance department for the city of Solon.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Ohio provisional ballots trended Democratic

President Barack Obama won Ohio by a slightly higher margin than initially reported after provisional and later arriving absentee ballots were included in the official count for Ohio.

Unofficial results available the night of the election had Obama winning Ohio by two percentage points and it was enough for the state to be put in the win column for the president who was on his way to an Electoral College victory.

It’s not as important now, but it’s interesting to note that the official results certified Thursday by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted show that Obama beat Republican nominee Mitt Romney by three percentage points.

Obama defeated Romney 2,827,621 to 2,661,407 or 50.67 percent to 47.69 percent, official results show.
In this case, and in the grand scheme of things, one percentage point really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s over, nothing has changed.

The addition of provisional and later arriving absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election favored the Democratic presidential ticket.

Because the race was fairly close the provisional ballots could have played a much larger role had the election in Ohio been just a little bit closer.

What if Romney had been slightly ahead in Ohio on election night and then the state’s electoral votes came down to waiting for the addition of the provisional and absentee ballots?

Obviously that wasn’t the case, and Obama went on to secure the necessary 270 Electoral College votes even without Ohio.

I was surprised that Ohio was called in Obama’s win column on election night so quickly — a little after 11 p.m.

This wouldn’t be a remake of the 2000 presidential election when terms like hanging chads were in vogue as the nation waited to see how the vote in Florida would be concluded.

In Lake County, the addition of provisional and later arriving absentee ballots also favored leaned toward the Democratic presidential ticket as 2,461 votes were added to Obama’s official total and 1,594 votes to Romney’s. Official figures show that Romney won the county 58,744 to 57,680 or 49.50 percent to 48.61 percent.

The pattern also holds true in Lake County for the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Republican Josh Mandel, who is Ohio’s treasurer.

Brown officially won Lake County 54,981 to 52,795 or 48.27 percent to 46.35 percent.
When the provisional and later arriving absentee ballots were added in, Brown gained 2,085 votes and Mandel gained 1,460 votes, when added to unofficial results.

Ryan candidacy?

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, has been mentioned by some as a possible Democratic candidate for Ohio governor in 2014 as he comes from a strong base in the Youngstown area.

Others typically included in that conversation as possible candidates are former Gov. Ted Strickland and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, has recently indicated that he intends to seek re-election.

Ryan’s chances at a possible nomination probably weren’t helped this week when it was revealed that he was arrested by Lexington, Va. police in August for a misdemeanor charge of public intoxication, according to the Youngstown Vindicator. A Virginia judge recently dismissed the charge.

Ryan called the charge “garbage” and said that he wasn’t intoxicated, but had been walking strangely because he had thrown out his back, the newspaper reported.

The Ohio Republican Party pounced on the news and called on Ryan “to provide a credible explanation about his 2 a.m. arrest.”

Swearing in

Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell, 11th District Court of Appeals Judge Diane Grendell, and Geauga Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri will be Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Geauga County Probate Juvenile Courtroom A. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer will officiate.

Deadline reminder

The weekly deadline for information to appear in this column is each Wednesday at 5 p.m. Email or fax is preferred.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

U.S. Rep-elect David P. Joyce hires communication director

U.S. Rep.-elect David P. Joyce announced that he has hired Hudson resident Christyn Keyes as his communications director.

Joyce, R-Russell Township, will take over in January after he won the Nov. 6 election for Ohio’s 14th Congressional District, which consists of Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula and part of Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage and Trumbull counties.

“Christyn grew up in the district and together we’ll work hard to make sure we’re effectively communicating with each and every constituent,” Joyce said in a news release. “I look forward to an ongoing conversation with the people of Northeast Ohio so that I can serve them to the best of my ability.”

Keyes previously worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee and for U.S. Rep. S. .

She graduated from Miami University in 2010 and Hudson High School in 2006. Christyn’s parents, Greg and Sue Keyes reside in Hudson.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Will bipartisanship re-emerge in Congress?

When thinking back to this past presidential election, it was one of the most intense and longest in terms of covering an election cycle.

The state of Ohio and the Cleveland media market were flooded with television commercials, radio advertisements, direct mailings, and dozens of visits to the region by the two major party presidential candidates. There was a lot of negativity overall, and it seemed like the spirit of bipartisanship had died.

Well, the election is over and the country has moved on but the real question is whether anything will change.
The country’s next national challenge for federal lawmakers and a re-elected President Barack Obama is how to deal with the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

If you’re not sure what that is, it’s basically trillions of dollars of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases that will go into effect after the end of this year if nothing is changed.

Many economists seem to think if that happens, the nation’s economy will be in peril and the country could fall back into a recession.

The concern is whether the current political climate in Washington, D.C., will make it difficult for anything to get done.

Sure, some congressman and senators won’t be back in January when the next session of Congress begins.
The U.S. House of Representatives is still controlled by the Republican Party, and the U.S. Senate is still controlled by the Democratic Party.

During the next few weeks, there will be lots of political posturing by both parties on exactly what to do to avert the cliff.

There already are lots of arguments by Republicans lawmakers about whether letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the top 2 percent would be a tax increase causing some to violate their pledge not to raise taxes to Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Republicans also want entitlement program reform to be part of any discussion when it comes to tax hikes and spending reductions.

Will the Democrats overreach after feeling they have political capital to spend with Obama’s re-election?
The economy was a prime topic during the election, so let’s hope that Congress and the president can come to some sort of agreement and find a way to move the country along.

Election-weary Americans are tired of the bickering.

Mentor-on-the-Lake shakeup

Now that Mentor-on-the-Lake Mayor John Rogers has been elected to serve as the state representative for Ohio House of Representatives District 60, he soon will need to resign as his city’s mayor.
This means there will be some turnover involving the city’s elected leadership.

Mentor-on-the-Lake’s city charter states that the city council president shall serve as mayor until the next municipal election if there is a vacancy for the mayor’s position.

Currently the council president is David Eva. The city charter then states that council by majority vote will then need to appoint someone else to serve on council. If council fails to fill the vacancy within 30 days, the mayor will fill the vacancy.

Swearing in

A public bipartisan swearing in ceremony for all the recently elected public officials in Geauga County will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 26 at Park Elementary School Auditorium in Chardon, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor will preside at the ceremony. 

Inaugural ceremonies of newly elected Ohio Supreme Court Justice William Michael O’Neill, a South Russell Village Democrat, will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 27 at the Eighth District Court of Appeals Of Ohio in Cleveland.

Bolton Republican Women’s Club

Group holds its next meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at Lake County Republican Party headquarters in Painesville. See Heidi Callender.

LaTourette farewell roast

A retirement party for U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette will be held at the Croatian Lodge in Eastlake from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 8. Cost is $45 per person. Contact the Lake County Republican Party for reservations.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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