Neyer takes painful fall

BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When we were growing up, there was a neighborhood kid named Timmy whose job was to take the rap.

Timmy didn't want the job, but he was stuck with it. Timmy, you see, was a victim of circumstances. He was a rather hefty boy, a bit on the dim side and not fleet of foot, so whenever some mischief would take place - garage windows broken by errant baseballs, firecrackers tied to the front doorknob of the neighborhood crank - the rest of us would beat feet from the scene of the crime and Timmywould be left holding the bag.

The rest of us would watch from a safe distance, laughing our heads off while Timmy would plead for mercy and blame it on some phantoms who had disappeared into thin air.

Well, Tom Neyer Jr., the newest Hamilton County commissioner, is neither hefty nor slow-witted, but he gets our vote for Timmy of the Week.

Mr. Neyer, a 31-year-old commercial real estate developer who was appointed a county commissioner in February, said this week that an emergency communications tax issue should not be on the November ballot in Hamilton County. The county, he said, needs more time to study the new technologies for police and fire departments. He explained that his commissioner colleagues, Bob Bedinghaus and John Dowlin, had suggested he be the point man on this issue. Mr. Neyer took on the assignment with typical enthusiasm.

The only problem was that, out in the suburbs and townships, where Hamilton County's great mass of Republican voters lives, police and fire chiefs screamed bloody murder when they learned of Mr. Neyer's plan to delay the tax levy vote until next spring. Hamilton County voters have already rejected the communications upgrade twice when it was paired with a jail expansion plan and a property tax rollback.

The chiefs, many of whom say their present communications systems are outdated and unreliable, wanted to roll out the issue on its own for an up-or-down vote as soon as possible.

In the suburbs, the chiefs carry a considerable amount of weight; the people who vote on levies and sales taxes generally take them seriously. If you are a politician who runs countywide, they are the kind of people you want on your side.

It is not uncommon in the clubby Republican atmosphere of Hamilton County government for fellow Republicans to go out of their way to give the new kid on the block an issue or two that he can call his own. It's a good way for an appointed officeholder who is relatively unknown - and Mr. Neyer certainly fills that bill - to get some exposure before he has to go before the voters.

But more often than not, it is a mom-and-apple-pie issue that gets handed to the rookie, one that is unlikely to ruffle any feathers or leave unsightly blemishes.

Go on out there and run with it, said Mr. Neyer's good friends, Mr. Bedinghaus and Mr. Dowlin. It's your issue, buddy boy; we're behind you 100 percent.

So, on Monday, Mr. Neyer stuck his neck out and the police and fire chiefs promptly chopped it off. Meanwhile, his commission colleagues went south; they were suddenly unavailable for comment, as the saying goes, leaving Mr. Neyer hanging out there to do his Ralph Kramden homina-homina routine all by his lonesome.

We would not have been surprised to find Mr. Dowlin and Mr. Bedinghaus hiding behind the county highway garage, rolling on the ground in hysterics.

Welcome to politics, Timmy.

Howard Wilkinson's politics column appears Sundays.