Sunday, August 19, 2001

City cable rejects political ads

Ex-councilman reserves time on Lebanon system

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Former councilman John McComb has reserved a third of all available advertising time on Lebanon's cable system for the five weeks before the Nov. 6 election.

        The city-owned system doesn't accept political advertising, but Mr. McComb and an anti-tax group are challenging the policy in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

        “Political speech is probably the most important right we have,” Mr. McComb said Friday.

        Until the case is heard in mid-September, the city has agreed not to sell time reserved by the two parties, Telecommunications Director Jim Baldwin said.

        Mr. McComb, who is not running for office, has paid a deposit to run 1,000 30-second spots weekly from Oct. 1 to Nov. 6, according to city officials. The total cost would be $12,500.

        He has no specific plans for the time, he said.

        The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending & Taxes — which has campaigned against the stadium tax and school levies in Hamilton County — has reserved $250 worth of ads to run the week before the election.

        “We're desirous of spreading our wings,” COAST lawyer David Langdon said. “We want to make our name known outside Hamilton County.”

        The city can sell up to 3,130 local spots weekly on eight channels, including ESPN, Home & Garden TV, and the USA Network.

        The system has refused campaign ads since it went on the air 2 1/2 years ago, despite having no written policy against them. A proposal to permit them failed 4-2 in April.

        Councilwoman Jane Davenport, who voted “no,” repeated her concerns at Tuesday's council meeting: “I'm afraid there's going to be some political advertising that is going to make Lebanon seem like a not very nice place to live.”

        Also voting against political ads were Mayor James Mills and Councilmen Mark Flick and Ron Pandorf. Members Ben Cole and Amy Brewer voted in favor.

        If the case is not settled beforehand, it will be the second time this year Mr. McComb and city officials have been on opposite sides of a courtroom. In May, a Warren jury said the city must pay Mr. McComb $230,000 — triple the original price — for property that was taken from him through eminent domain.

        Mr. McComb is a controversial figure in Lebanon, having bankrolled the recall of Mary-Ann Cole and then taken her seat. He lost a re-election bid in 1999, and only two allies remain on council — Mr. Reinhard and Mrs. Brewer.


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