Sunday, August 15, 1999

CAPITOL INSIDER


Introducing! The governor! (Yawn)

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Senior citizens apparently had better things to do last week when Gov. Bob Taft showed up at the Ohio State Fair to sign legislation intended to crack down on elder abuse.

        Moments before Mr. Taft took the stage, the public-address system crackled with an Elvislike announcement that “the governor has entered the building.”

        About 30 people moseyed in to join government officials and reporters already scattered around an auditorium. They politely clapped and walked down to shake hands with Mr. Taft afterward.

        Most people who arrived on buses for Senior Day at the fair stayed in the common area outside, which was jammed with tables of crafts and knickknacks.

        To make the rock-star intro duction mean something next time, perhaps Mr. Taft should find those glasses he wore in the '60s that made him look like Buddy Holly.

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        Folks at the Ohio Department of Education spent $380,000 on a study that, among other things, advised the agency to start returning calls from school officials and reporters.

        It appears it might take awhile to work out the customer service campaign, though.

        A low-level department functionary called the Enquirer's Columbus bureau three times within 10 minutes last week, checking to see whether we had received a fax.

        The “in” box of our fax machine was empty. So we asked the woman to try again.

        A few minutes later, the reg ular telephone rang. BEEP! It was the sound of a fax machine trying to connect. While we couldn't verify the source, the errant calls continued for the next several hours.

        The fax never arrived.

        “That's strange,” LeeAnne Rogers, a department spokeswoman, said the next day. “I don't think we had anything going out.”

        Strange, indeed.

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        Politicians love to shoot off their mouths. Last week, a crew of Statehouse denizens lined up to shoot off the historic cannons outside the building.

        The firings drew attention to the annual Civil War Encampment on the Statehouse lawn. “Celebrity cannoneers” included State Rep. Jackie O'Brien, R-Anderson Township.

        Leading off was Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor. Thankfully, she aims a cannon more accurately than she does her car. State officials gave Ms. O'Connor a driver earlier this year after she was involved in a pair of traffic accidents, including one where she backed into a state trooper's cruiser.

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        For a road that likely will never be built, the Colerain Connector won't go away.

        State Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati, persuaded Republican legislative leaders to add a provision to the state budget bill giving the city of Cincinnati land the state had planned to use for the roadway.

        Some people in College Hill and Mount Airy didn't like the idea, so they called Reps. Patricia Clancy, R-Colerain Township, and Cheryl Winkler, R-Green Township. GOP leaders promptly killed Mr. Mallory's scheme.

        Now Mr. Mallory is back with separate legislation to nix the project and give the land to the city.

        Backed by city and regional resolutions that the connector isn't necessary, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) had started the process of stripping the 50—year-old road plan from its list of projects.

        The department has backed off, well aware that Republicans control the state's checkbook. “We want to give the community a chance to discuss this before going any further,” said Brian Cunningham, an ODOT spokesman.

        Michael Hawthorne covers state government for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He can be reached at (614) 224-4640.

       



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