CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Too bad for Republican Charlie Winburn that things hang around the Internet forever. In 2005 -- when he was running for mayor of Cincinnati -- Winburn offered a Violent Crime Prevention Strategy that called for hiring 200 new cops and building a brand new jail. At the same time, Winburn was calling for tax cuts.
Now it is 2007. Winburn has the Hamilton County Republican Party's endorsement. And his own Republican Party is backing a 15-year sales tax increase that would be used to build a new $198 million, 1800-bed jail. It would open in a Cincinnati neighborhood called Camp Washington if voters approve. The county's Democratic Party is backing the plan too. It will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. There is opposition from the NAACP and an assortment of groups including COAST, a conservative anti-tax organization founded by State Rep. Tom Brinkman, who once helped run Winburn's city council campaigns.
Winburn in 2005 filled out a Smartvoter.org questionnaire about his top three priorities if he were elected mayor of Cincinnati. This is what he told the League of Women Voters:
"1) I will fight for safer neighborhoods by implementing my comprehensive Violent Crime Reduction Strategy. Under the plan, 200 additional police officers will be hired in four years and a new jail will be constructed to prevent the early release of violence criminals.
"2) I will work to reduce taxes and create a fairer system that would reward loyal Cincinnati residents with lower property taxes rates."
"3) As Mayor, I will implement the Fast Track Development Model that will make it easier for builders and contractors to build in Cincinnati. Developers have found the City of Cincinnati's process of development a bureaucratic nightmare that is cumbersome at best. As Mayor, I will develop a process that is efficient, effective and user friendly for all residential and commercial developers."
It is parts 1 and 2 that have attracted attention from political insiders, who see Winburn's statements at the time as bordering on being ridiculously out of touch with financial reality. They point to the current campaign for a new jail tax as suggesting he is a hype-meister with little grasp of the actual ability of local government entities to generate revenue for big ticket construction projects finance at the local level. Political officials in both parties agree there is no way today to "reduce taxes" and build a new jail, plus pay for the staff to run it and other programs that go along with operating a correctional facility. And political officials in both parties say there was no way to do it in 2005, when Winburn promised he could while running for mayor.
Charlie Winburn has a new crime reduction plan that he says he'll push to implement if he's elected to City Council. If you read it, you'll see one of his proposals is to erect a tent to hold prisoners. He also wants a new jail, but says the Hamilton County Commissioners should handle the financial arrangements. And what is their plan? Raise the sales tax to generate $736 million over the next 15 years.