Friday, November 10, 2000
The new guy <<
Portune is in for kidding
Dusty Rhodes can finally stop eating lunch alone.
Hamilton County's auditor and lone elected Democratic office-holder will soon be joined at the courthouse canteen by Todd Portune.
The longtime Democratic Cincinnati councilman won election Tuesday as a Hamilton County commissioner. Out goes Republican incumbent Bob Bedinghaus. In comes Todd Portune for a four-year term beginning Jan. 2.
So, make that a table for two. Dusty and Todd.
I'll be their waiter. I speak their language. We're all west-siders.
While taking their order, I can eavesdrop when Dusty tells Todd how he can expect to be treated at his new job. I can also tell the mustachioed diner what the people expect from their new commissioner.
The auditor told me Todd Portune can expect some good-natured kidding with the emphasis on good-natured when he takes office. He is, after all, the first Democratic commissioner elected in Hamilton County since dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
That was 1964, the year of the Beatles, said the auditor, dating things by his hot-wax DJ method.
The commissioner was Vincent Beckman. And when he was voted out of office in 1968, the No. 1 song in the country was the Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye.'
Since then, the County Commission has been all-Republican all of the time.
So have most of the county offices. Except for the auditor's quarters. Elected to that post in 1990, Dusty Rhodes has become the Democrats' answer to the lonely Maytag repairman.
Following the good-natured kidding, the auditor told me Todd Portune can expect, to get down to work, do his job and be very careful since he's one-of-a-kind to do it perfectly.
Petty party politics should not play a factor. They'll still want to beat his brains out in the next election, the auditor cautioned.
But the partisanship stops on Election Day. That never gets in the way of doing the people's business.
We, the people have a right to list the ways we expect the new commissioner to conduct our business. As Cliff, the waiter, I call this list The People's Menu of Expectations.
Ask Why? The county administration is not used to a commissioner asking: Why are we doing this?
Demand answers. (See above.)
Conduct open meetings. No secret executive sessions.
Save our money. If a project, like a stadium, has cost overruns, report them immediately. Better yet, don't let the costs run over in the first place.
Be humble, not arrogant. You were elected commissioner. Not God.
Put up bridges, not roadblocks, between you and your fellow commissioners.
Repeat over and over: The people, not special interests, put me in office.
Shun all of the people all of the time and you will get burned. This led to a certain incumbent's undoing just as much as the sweetheart deal he gave Mike Brown and his hapless Bengals.
Throw a party, on the house, invite the taxpayers and hand out souvenirs when the Reds' stadium opens.
The 2004 election is not that far away.
We'll be watching.
Remember what happened to Bob Bedinghaus.
Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
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