Monday, May 21, 2001

Maneuvers puzzle Heimlich observers

        You probably couldn't get him to do this, but if you could stand Cincinnati Councilman Phil Heimlich in the center of a well-lit room and circled him several times, examining his skull, you might be surprised at what you find.

        No bumps. No dents. No sign of spending the past several months being beaten like a tied-down goat by his fellow council members, large segments of the voting public and even many in his own Republican Party.

        Mr. Heimlich is the last of the term-limited council members. Two others — Democrat Todd Portune and Republican Charles Winburn — who had been elected to four two-year terms and couldn't run again have long
since bailed out of council.

        There are some in the leadership of Mr. Heimlich's political party who would like to see him do the same, so that one of the GOP's non-incumbent candidates could be appointed and run this fall as an incumbent.

        But Mr. Heimlich won't budge.

        Maybe it is because the GOP leadership has failed to find him a nice, soft feather bed to land on, such as the one Mr. Winburn got — a no-heavy-lifting gig on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that pays up to $70,000 a year.

        So far, Mr. Heimlich appears headed for a Wile E. Coyote-style landing on the canyon floor. Without an Acme parachute.

        Mr. Heimlich seems determined to drag a few road-runners over the cliff with him when he goes.

        Term-limited, lame-duck politicians tend to keep their heads down in hopes of reviving their political careers. But not our boy Phil. An afternoon with Mr. Heimlich at Cincinnati City Council is like watching a high school performance of Man of La Mancha, with the Republican councilman picking verbal fights with colleagues and generally tilting at windmills.

        A few weeks ago, he raged against the city entering into a collaborative process aimed at avoiding racial profiling lawsuits, arguing that the city shouldn't cave in and should fight 'til the last dog dies because it had a good case.

        He joined in the effort to oust City Manager John Shirey, who, in the end, resigned effective Dec. 1. If you had listened to Mr. Heimlich over the past few years, you might have thought Mr. Shirey had killed Archduke Ferdinand, broken into Watergate, and was arranging for an asteroid to strike Earth.

        Last week, Mr. Heimlich flailed away at the hide of the dead horse named Shirey, accusing him of interfering with a city investigation of misuse of city funds in the West End.

        People in political circles scratch their heads and wonder what Mr. Heimlich is up to and what he wants to do next.

        Is he running for mayor? Probably not. We know he wanted to be a congressman, but Rob Portman has that job. He may, as the champion of the anti-tax crowd, challenge Hamilton County commissioner Tom Neyer in the GOP primary next year.

        Whatever it is, there are those in GOP circles who believe he is acting strangely for a man who wants a political future.

        But, then again, Wile E. Coyote always seemed to scrape himself off that canyon floor.

        Email Past columns at


Nonfamily units boom in city
Numbers on family, non-family households
Hyde Park slaying puzzles neighbors
Flooding possible with rain forecast
Program aims to reduce riverside risk
RADEL: Downtown volunteers disband
BRONSON: The island America forgot
Teacher's heart transplant inspires Hughes
Penalty proposed for race profiling
- WILKINSON: Maneuvers puzzle Heimlich observers
Butler Co. commission will impose higher tax
County law enforcers honored
Local Digest
Miami U. leases building for community theater
Prospect House gives hope, help
You Asked For It
Arts Jam! draws people to day of creativity, music
Attempt to computerize fails
Bluegrass State grows gray
Mall developer to share role in Traficant case
Museum honors 'end of the pike'
State may extend Bank One deal
Townships, cities debate Ohio annexation changes