Thursday, November 08, 2001

It's a deal

Politics isn't a dirty word

        So what kind of deal did we make on Tuesday? Are we going to be driving a lemon? Will we keep spinning our wheels?

        Choosing a government, of course, is more important than choosing a car. More expensive, too. With fewer written promises and no warrantees. But curiously similar. Persuasive sales pitches. A wide choice of models, colors and styles. Options and upgrades available.

        Air bags are standard equipment.

        The selection process starts with the exterior. The chrome. The color. The lines. It's superficial. It's unfair. But it's true. Remember how much more popular Roxanne Qualls became after she got a paint job?

        Next, we look inside. Cup holders? Headroom? Visibility? If we are doing our job as consumers, we open the hood as well. We try to check out the engine. What makes it run? How's the fuel consumption? We read consumer reports.

Kicking the tires

        Cincinnati kicked the tires of two candidates for mayor this year. Courtis Fuller was new on the market. Very low mileage. In fact, he spent most of his time in the showroom, unavailable for test drives. But buyers liked his style, and 45 percent of them wanted to sign a four-year lease.

        The other model, Charlie Luken, has been driven through some very rough terrain. The incumbent mayor has been criticized for his handling of the April riots. But at least we saw the way he negotiated the curves and knew he might have gotten a little dented, but he didn't break down.

        Automotively speaking, Cincinnati's City Council has comfortable seats but the steering vibrates at high speeds, yawing wildly to the right or left. We threaten to replace the parts or rotate the tires, but generally we leave things pretty much as they are. This year was no exception, including our consistent preference for the stick-shift models.

        Replacing Phil Heimlich, who was term-limited out, and Mr. Luken who was promoted, are the Davids — Crowley and Pepper — both from a family of fine cars. Familiar. Sturdy. Domestic.

The right road

        Have I exhausted your patience for analogy? Maybe you prefer your election talk straight. If so, I apologize. But I got the impression that a lot of people are weary of politics, that it is considered an unworthy activity even by some of the very people who want to make it a full-time job.

        Courtis Fuller promised “leadership that is not bound by political agendas.” A postcard from the campaign to defeat Issue 5 implored us to “Please help us keep politics out of public safety.” The mailing claimed that if Issue 5 passed, the hiring and firing of police and fire chiefs would “be determined by the whims of politicians.”

        Which is why we hold elections in the first place.

        If politicians do not govern as they have promised, if they do not protect our interests and our safety, then they can be replaced. That's politics in this country, where we have chosen elections over armed conflict. And where we have decided that we admire and support our armed forces, but insist that a civilian be in charge.

        So, Cincinnati is finally on the right road. We are allowing our mayor to steer, with a strong reminder from another candidate to glance occasionally in the rear-view mirror. And the rest of us will be along for the ride, hoping we've made the right choice. But, thanks to politics, it's not really a purchase. It's a lease.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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