Thursday, April 26, 2001

Lebanon cable ad vote raises objections

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — City Council's failure Tuesday to allow political ads on the city cable system disappointed school officials and irked a council challenger.

        Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night against an ordinance that would have permitted such ads to be inserted on national channels such as CNN and ESPN at the same rates the city charges other advertisers.

        “The people I've talked to ... don't want to see it on their cable,” Mayor James Mills said.

        Lebanon City Schools had planned to run commercials for the $50 million bond issue it's seeking in the May 8 election, school board member Norm Dreyer said Wednesday.

        “We were counting on it,” Mr. Dreyer said of the advertising ordinance. “We had nothing prior to last night to indicate to us that there was a problem.”

        Likely council candidate Gary Casimir says the vote smacks of censorship.

        “I think council and other members of the city administration are afraid of letting the light shine in,” said Mr. Casimir, who also is suing the city over planned Main Street reconstruction.

        Candidates can advertise with Time Warner, but more Lebanon residents subscribe to the city system. Time Warner ads go to a large zone that includes eastern Hamilton County and Mason.

        Lebanon has no ordinance forbidding political ads, but administrators turned down requests from county candidates last year and Lebanon schools this year.

        City Attorney Mark Yurick is investigating whether that's legal, he said Wednesday: “Any kind of advertising — assuming it doesn't break any FCC laws — is permissible at this point, I think.”

        That puts Telecommunications Director James Baldwin in the middle.

        “What am I supposed to do, then?” he said. “Run (political ads) and run the risk of upsetting the people I work for? ... If they've spoken, I'm obligated to figure out how to do what they want me to do.”

        Voting against the ordinance were Mr. Mills and council members Mark Flick, Jane Davenport and Ron Pandorf.

        Members Ben Cole and Amy Brewer voted in favor of political advertising. James Reinhard was absent.


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