Sunday, March 21, 2004

Go ahead, make Si's day

Click here to e-mail Peter Bronson
San Francisco has Rice-A-Roni, the Golden Gate and gay weddings. Cincinnati has cheese coneys, the Big Mac and Sheriff Si Leis - who will make sure cable cars will climb Carew Tower before there are gay weddings on the steps at City Hall.

"I would make an arrest," Leis said. "By law, you can't have a male marry a male or a female marry a female." He said same-sex marriage is a misdemeanor, with a $500 fine and six months in jail.

"It's an outrage. It destroys the very fiber of our country. I don't understand why they're afraid to do something about it" in San Francisco.

Leis said the question was raised in a phone call between Hamilton County Chief Deputy Sean Donovan and Brendon Cull, an aide to Mayor Charlie Luken.

"He said Charlie was thinking about marrying someone," Donovan recalled. "They said they're doing it all over the country, it would put us in the forefront.

"I told them I'll guarantee we'll be down there and make an arrest, and that was the end of it."

Donovan said he thought it was all a joke. Luken said, "We were just kidding around. We do that all the time."

But the sheriff was not amused. "If he does that, you know where he will be," he said, pointing to the county slammer above his office. "He will be upstairs."

Liberals like to loathe Leis, but voters love him. In June, he marks 17 years as sheriff. Unopposed again this fall, he probably will win with 60 percent of the vote again.

"The core city is somewhat more liberal than the county as a whole," he said. "If I had to run only in the city, who knows what would happen."

Instead, he's a reminder that Hamilton County is Si Leis country. "The problem is that people in positions who should be taking a stand are not," he said. "A lot of the time you have to take an unpopular stand. But the politicians are afraid."

True to his word, he doesn't flinch. Samples: :

• On public safety: "If one of my officers is involved in a shooting incident, I'll defend that man to the bitter end. You don't see that with City Council. What the hell do they expect those officers to do when they have a confrontation like that? People have to recognize that sometimes an officer has to use a weapon."

• On the county: "I hate to see City Council members in the county commissioners office. City government has not been functioning well, but the county always has. I see that eroding now in the last two years" since ex-council members Todd Portune and Phil Heimlich became commissioners.

Portune recently sent Leis proposals for new programs. "It ain't gonna happen here," he said, referring to politicization of the Cincinnati Police. Leis said it's just election-year posturing. "He's been around for four years and he never came around here before." His blunt reply to Portune had a P.S. : "I hope you will not use this office to further your political agenda."

• On his future: "Never say never, but I am not stepping down (after re-election)."

• His answer for most of the above: "Metro government. The nucleus of the county is the city. The way the city goes, so goes the county."

Cincinnati won't be throwing Rice-A-Roni at gay weddings if Leis has anything to say about it. We're not San Francisco - but the sheriff does sound like that famous San Francisco cop, Dirty Harry Callahan: "Go ahead, make my day."


E-mail or call 768-8301.

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