Saturday, January 22, 2000

Portune: Politics blocks naming to TID board

Commissioners say no vacancy exists for seat

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Councilman Todd Portune says Hamilton County Commissioners rejected him for the county Transportation Improvement District board because he is running for a commissioner's seat in the next election.

        But commissioners say there just aren't any vacancies, and when there is they will appoint whomever they want. That may or may not be Mr. Portune.

        “They are using a technicality to say there are no openings,” Mr. Portune said, adding that the move threatens cooperation between the city and the county.

        Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus denied any attempt to snub Mr. Por tune.

        “This is another example of Mr. Portune doing everything he can to portray every situation as if it relates to his bid for county commissioner,” he said.

        Mr. Bedinghaus contends the position Mr. Portune wants on the board is held by Councilman Phil Heimlich, who is supposed to serve for another year.

        Recently, the City Council — including Mr. Heimlich — voted to put Mr. Portune on the board.

        “I'm happy to be on it, happy to be off of it,” Mr. Heimlich said. “Since the majority of council wanted to put Todd on the board, I was happy to support him.”

        Even though the city clerk notified the county about the decision, that's not the way it works, Mr. Bedinghaus said. Just because the City Council has a member on the board now, it doesn't make the appointments. That is up to the commissioners.

        Under state law, The Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District Board is composed of the three county commissioners, the county engineer and one representative each from the state House of Representatives and the Senate.

        County commissioners are also allowed to make one other appointment. And when the board — which primarily oversees work on Fort Washington Way — was formed less than two years ago, that appointment went to a City Council member.

        That doesn't mean commissioners will just “rubber stamp” any decision the council makes, Mr. Bedinghaus said, adding that commissioners will have to decide who to appoint if Mr. Heimlich makes an official resignation.

        “Todd has never had any interest in this before,” Mr. Bedinghaus said.

        Mr. Portune said the mayor is expected to contact commissioners about the need for a city representative to stay on the board.

        “This issue is larger than just me,” he said. “It is not a positive move by the county.”

        Commissioner Tom Neyer, chairman of the board, said he is sure the commission will reappoint someone from the city once Mr. Heimlich resigns.

        “I don't think Bob (Bedinghaus) is the one politicizing this,” he said. “We have important work to do at the TID. My goal is to make sure we do it and not get distracted by this silliness.”


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