Friday, November 7, 1997
Politicians: Job hunt
on your own time


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Looks like a bunch of short-timers got elected to Cincinnati City Council. And we're going to end up getting short-changed.

Funny, I could have sworn the ballot said they were running for a TWO-year term to fill each of the nine seats at City Hall.

But, as soon as the ballots were counted and the winners announced, it became painfully clear that this could be a council of seat-warmers and political appointees to be named later.

With the council wars over, new battle lines were rapidly drawn. Candidates looked ahead to the next election, the next challenge, the next office. Hats were thrown into the ring - openly or on the sly - for Congress, lieutenant governor, state Senate and county commissioner.

Roxanne Qualls - the top vote-getter and returning mayor - remained non-committal as she smiled her way through the buzz that puts her in the running for Congress or county commissioner or lieutenant governor.

Dwight Tillery - the second-place finisher to the mayor - admitted he's eyeing the state Senate as well as taking measurements for the lieutenant governor's office.

Charles Winburn - No. 4 on the voters' hit parade - made no bones about coveting a seat on the county commission.

Blame some of this on council term limits. The mayor and Mr. Tillery can't run again. Mr. Winburn has one more term left before he turns into a political pumpkin.

No one can fault them for looking ahead. Or wanting to better themselves by moving to a higher office. It's called ambition.

But being so forward-thinking so soon after the election strikes me as being downright tacky.

It's like taking your best gal to her favorite restaurant and watching her flirt with every guy in the joint.

Business as usual

Dwight Tillery sees nothing wrong with using your present office as a political springboard.

''This happens all of the time,'' he said. ''The people are used to it.''

As soon as the former mayor found out he won re-election, a stranger came up and said:

''Congratulations. Now, you're a lame duck. What's next?''

Mr. Tillery's mulling that one over. He plans to take a month to decide his next move. If he goes for the state Senate and wins, ''I will have served at least one year of my term on council.''

Before he makes a play for another office, Charles Winburn aims to ''fulfill my term on council. I don't want to let the voters down.''

But, he was quick to add: ''I would be lying if I didn't say being a county commissioner has been my dream since 1992.''

So, he's not closing the door on a change of jobs. ''Strange things happen on the county commission. People get old and retire. Other people move on.'' Dreams have a way of coming true.

To the mayor, it's a matter of practical priorities.

''Whether you're here a day, a month, a year or finish your entire term,'' she said, ''you should stay focused on the job at hand.''

Council members who look too far into the future, the mayor warned, risk overlooking the present.

''Politicians who do that end up losing elections.''

Meanwhile, voters wind up losing faith in the system.

Help wanted

As a voter, I feel cheated when politicians use their elected positions as stepping stones, wiping their feet on them to further their careers.

The people gave them their votes and their trust. In a democracy, there are no greater gifts. So, we deserve their undivided attention.

Council is expected to take care of Cincinnati, make it better. That means doing the job people elected you to do.

Fail to get that job done and you will let down the people who put their trust in your hands. Voter turnout will continue to sink. Voter cynicism will continue to soar.

Please note, there's nothing in that job description about running for higher office on our time.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

RADEL ARCHIVE