Sunday, December 03, 2000

Portune has own ideas for filling his council seat

But mayor, others prefer Cranley

        The most interesting aspect of the current tussle over which Democrat will take Todd Portune's place on Cincinnati City Council is that at least seven people want the job.

        In recent years, Cincinnati City Council has not been an institution that exudes an air of majesty.

        Most days, it is a body that has a hard time making up its mind; like the Miami-Dade canvassing board, it reacts mostly to whatever side manages to yell the loudest.

        This past week, a council majority proposed a new rule for council meetings that would limit members of the public to one two-minute speech on one topic per meeting.

        The council majority is pushing its “one speaker, one topic” rule as an attempt to move things along a bit.

        If they are smart, they will let it go, before some wag uses his or her two minutes to suggest that motor-mouth council members limit themselves to one speech per meeting.

        Council members - the Democrats, at least — have something better to do with their time: picking the successor to Mr. Portune, who last month became the first Democrat elected Hamilton County commissioner since Lyndon Johnson was president.

        The way it works in Cincinnati is that each council member — after being sworn in — designates which of his or her colleagues would name a replacement should that council member leave office early.

        Mr. Portune picked his fellow Democrats - Mr. Luken, Minette Cooper, Paul Booth and Alicia Reece.

        The soon-to-be departed Mr. Portune wants Scott Seidewitz, who ran a strong but unsuccessful campaign for council in 1999. He also created the Todd Portune and Bob Bedinghaus “Action Figure” commercials that helped beat Mr. Bedinghaus this fall.

        Mr. Seidewitz has lobbied for the job, and so have John Cranley, who ran against Steve Chabot in the 1st Congressional District; Melanie Bates, a state board of education member; and Dave Crowley, a Mount Adams businessman. Three others are out of the picture.

        Mr. Cranley, only 26 years old, was supposed to have been a sacrificial lamb in the congressional race this year. Instead, he ran a competitive campaign and impressed a lot of people. Now, he not only has Mr. Luken behind him, but most of the city's Democratic ward chairs, the building trades unions, and financier Carl Lindner.

        But Mr. Seidewitz has the blessing of Mr. Portune, who apparently attaches great importance to being able to name his own replacement.

        If Mr. Portune were out of the picture, Mr. Cranley would be the new council member by now.

        But, in the battle for Big Dog supremacy of the local Democratic world, Mr. Portune seems to want to gnaw this bone a little longer.
       Howard Wilkinson covers politics. He can be reached at 768-8388 or via e-mail at


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