Sunday, October 24, 1999

CAPITOL INSIDER


Taft keeps unions, GOP happy

BY MICHAEL HAWTHORNE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Anybody wondering why Gov. Bob Taft is enjoying a protracted political honeymoon need look no further than a court decision handed down last week in Cleveland.

        Judge Eileen Gallagher of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court threw out a Republican-sponsored law that prohibited contractors from requiring union membership or the payment of union dues by workers on publicly financed construction projects.

        Mr. Taft let the bill become law without his signature during the summer, a ploy that enabled him to satisfy business-friendly Republicans in the General Assembly without (in the governor's mind) violating his pledge to block anti-union legislation.

        Labor leaders gave the Republican governor a standing ovation in March after Mr. Taft promised the Ohio AFL-CIO he would oppose GOP efforts to “dismantle the union tradition that has built the industrial foundation of this state.”

        Even though he let the anti- union bill become law, Mr. Taft predicted it wouldn't withstand a legal challenge. Judge Gallagher ruled it violated federal labor law.

        The question now is whether Mr. Taft will support spending tax money on an appeal that is sure to be pushed by legislative Republicans.

The poor school?
        Given how image-conscious politicians are, Mr. Taft chose an odd place to film a TV ad touting his support for state Issue 1.

        Mr. Taft says the initiative, which would allow the state to borrow money at lower interest rates for school construction, is the first step in his plan to repair and replace the state's crumbling school buildings.

        Most of the schools badly in need of repair are in poor rural and urban areas. Yet the TV ad shows Mr. Taft at the site of a new elementary school going up in New Albany, a fast-growing Columbus suburb that happens to be one of the richest districts in the state.

        “We chose that site because it was close to Columbus and could fit in the governor's schedule,” said Mark Weaver, a Republican strategist who produced the TV spot.

        Under the governor's construction plan, the Plain Local School District in New Albany wouldn't be in line for state aid until 2010. Because the district's property values are so high, 96 percent of the tab would be picked up by local taxpayers.

No party loyalist
        Soon after Ohio Republican Party leaders started a campaign to woo black voters away from the Democratic Party, the state GOP hired a Columbus talk show host to lead the effort.

        They may wish they had kept the initiative in-house. Cornell McCleary, the guy who's supposed to make the GOP more attractive to black voters, has endorsed the Democratic candidate for Columbus mayor, Michael Coleman.

        It wasn't just an endorsement. Mr. McCleary also used his radio show to accuse the Republican candidate for mayor, Dorothy Teater, of snubbing black voters.

Famous wives
        Longing for a spot in the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame? It might help to get your husband elected to public office.

        Three of the 18 women Mr. Taft is inducting into the hall Thursday are notable not only for their own accomplishments, but because of their famous spouses.

        The list includes Janet Voinovich, wife of U.S. Sen. (and former Gov.) George Voinovich; Annie Glenn, wife of former U.S. Sen. John Glenn; and Mary Regula, wife of U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Navarre.

       

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

       



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