“From the Soup Line to the Ridiculous” by James Jay Schifrin

image032I’ll tell you this…you’ll have to go a long way to find a better promotion than the one last week that brought President Reagan to town for seven minutes.

A lot of people complained about the cost to local taxpayers. But think about the local benefits.

Traffic was snarled and parking was impossible, but at least police got a lot of overtime.

Mayor David Mann assured Cincinnati  that federal funds would be tripled by his actions. Usually a dissident Democrat, put aside petty partisan politics and made the chief executive feel right at home.

When asked why his welcoming address was delivered at the soup line protest on Fountain Square, the mayor explained, “I just couldn’t help myself. When I saw all those TV cameras, I just went sort of crazy.”

Not since the Kool Jazz Festival has the Westin Hotel had so much great publicity. La Rosa’s gave pizza to some free-loading White House staff members. And some lucky rich people got out of meeting the President or hearing him speak, but only after paying thousands of dollars for that privilege.

Local politicians weren’t so lucky. Their attendance was mandatory. Somebody was making a list and checking it twice. Those who couldn’t afford $1,000 for dinner had to find some way to sneak in. Most inventive was Patronage County’s own beloved Commissioner Swindle, who posed as a bus boy to gain entrance. Once inside, Swindle was seen stuffing his pockets with appetizers. “Waste not, want not,” Swindle was quick to tell a reporter.

But maybe Swindle is right. Any elected official who can afford $1,000 for himself and a guest just to listen to his boss give a speech certainly doesn’t need a pay raise. Not only that, he doesn’t need all that money he’s being paid right now.

This op-ed column first appeared in the Mt. Washington Press on December 9, 1981.