Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Cheney too busy chatting to try Cincinnati chili

By Gregory Korte
Enquirer staff writer

Vice President Dick Cheney poses Tuesday afternoon with Congressman Steve Chabot of Westwood and Chabot's mother, Doris Chabot of Covedale, at Price Hill Chili during a campaign stop.

Vice President Dick Cheney was so busy talking, he had to take his three-ways and cheese coneys to go.

But before he left, he sat down with folks at Price Hill Chili for a 50-minute chat about the campaign, terrorism, health care and the economy.

The discussion soon turned to Price Hill issues.

Crime is the No. 1 issue on people's minds in Price Hill after the deadly shooting of an Elder High School student last month, Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, told the vice president.

Price Hill Civic Club president Pete Witte and Cincinnati Councilman Sam Malone asked Cheney what the Bush administration was doing to reduce urban violence and stabilize neighborhoods.

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Cheney's answer: Policing is mostly a state and local responsibility, but the Bush administration was trying to help out by having federal prosecutors aggressively tackle gun crimes.

The Department of Homeland Security is trying to make terrorism funding to cities more flexible "on the theory that you guys here in Cincinnati can make better decisions about how to spend money in Cincinnati than we can in Washington," said Cheney.

That seemed to satisfy the Republicans in the room - but not the Democrats who weren't there.

"That's a ridiculous response," said state Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Price Hill, who lives a block from the restaurant. "It tells you how out of touch the president and vice president are with urban America.

"What the vice president didn't say is that they did not fund the COPS program, and that they're not doing anything about the foreclosure crisis in Ohio," Driehaus said. "This is the same administration that just left the assault gun ban to expire. They've done nothing on housing, they've done nothing for crime."

Several dozen protesters - mostly from the Sheet Metal and Building Trades unions - gathered at Prout's Corner, adjacent to the chili parlor. They attracted a small number of Bush-Cheney counter-protesters.

Republicans came from as far as the East Side for some chili and a chance to meet the vice president. In fact, the place was almost as packed as a Friday night after an Elder football game.

In the room by the back door, with the 40-year-old NCR cash register, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, held court at a table of 10 invited guests. Republican leaders and elected officials took the booths on either side.

Owner Sam Beltsos, who has built Price Hill Chili into a West Side landmark over 43 years, said he probably lost money on the vice presidential visit - but he didn't care, given the publicity.

When Cheney said he planned on taking some chili home with him, a round of applause came from an adjoining room, where crowds listened on a loudspeaker.

"Is that the only thing I said that they liked?" Cheney joked.


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