By Bill Woods
So begins a major political year. As this piece is being written, the House of Representatives prepares to send the two Articles of Impeachment over to the Senate. After taking a final vote, the House will adhere to a tradition that calls for enclosing the Articles in a box and officially walking them over to the Senate. The Senate trial comes next presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts.
What are the prospects for the trial in the Senate? Back in December, it appeared that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel planned to rush the process to a speedy conclusion with the Republican majority voting to dismiss the two Articles; thus acquitting the President of any wrongdoing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to put a hold on sending over the Articles has kept impeachment in the public eye, and several Republican Senators are now balking at McConnel's dismissive approach. Further, new evidence about Trump's skullduggery in Ukraine keeps emerging. Even so, the chances of throwing the President out of office seem very slim.
Meanwhile, the cast of candidates running for the Democratic Presidential nomination begins to shrink. Senators Corey Booker and Kamala Harris recently left the race, and only six candidates took part in the last debate in Iowa. At the moment, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders appear to be dividing up the liberal wing of the Party, while Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Amy Klobuchar battle for the moderates. Finding a candidate that can unite progressive young voters, suburban moderates, African-Americans, and blue-collar whites are the Party's difficult priority.
Many of these candidates will find their way to Ohio by mid-February to woo Democratic voters before the State's March 17th primary. Locally, some interesting primary races are also taking shape. Two Democrats, Nikki Foster and Kate Schroeder compete to take on Congressman Steve Chabot in November. In the same primary, three Democratic hopefuls vie for Todd Portune's seat on the Hamilton County Commission. Former City Council member and State Representative Alicia Reece, Kelli Prather, and former State Representative Connie Pillich all seek this position.
The race for Hamilton County Sheriff is also drawing local interest. The current Sheriff, Jim Neil, a Democrat, is being challenged in the primary by Charmaine McGuffey. Neil has taken a lot of criticism for the number of immigrants who have been deported after they have been sent to the County Jail. Critics have called for an end to his Department's informal cooperation with ICE.
While all this political campaigning takes place, life goes on for Cincinnati City and Hamilton County Governments. At the first Community Issues Forum of 2020, County Commissioner Denise Driehaus and Councilman David Mann informally talked with attendees about what to expect this year. Driehaus, who is currently chairing the Commission, stressed that the passage of the 2019 Sales Tax increase has really stabilized the County budget. Mann emphasized that Council will confront another tough process balancing the City budget, and voiced regret about how recent Council's have continually cut the City's percentage of the property tax.
Although they primarily dealt with basic nuts and bolts issues in their Forum discussion, Driehaus brought up some new concerns. She wants to see the County do more to address growing poverty in the region, and she specifically talked about the need to fund projects such as the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that address the affordable housing crisis. She also noted the County's efforts to deal with growing drug addiction. She touted the County's new 98-bed dormitory at the jail designed to assist inmates to begin the process of drug rehabilitation.
Mann noted his involvement in the City's establishment of the Housing Trust Fund last year, but he didn't discuss the need to adequately fund it. In response to a question on tax abatements, he did talk about the current review of the whole abatement process and some potential reforms. Neither Mann or Driehaus brought up any major, new initiatives that would require raising new revenues. January then starts what will be a big political year in this country. Furthermore, Ohio and Greater Cincinnati will be places of importance for both national and local campaign activities. It behooves us as citizens to be active participants in these political events that will have an impact on our future.