Are Cleveland#039;s big federal jobs subject to politics?

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2005

Ohio voters helped President Bush win re-election late last year, and at least for some, that came with an expectation of a reward.

Northeast Ohio, home to the nation's poorest big city in Cleveland, was waiting for two huge job announcements: whether more than a thousand good-paying jobs at a military office would remain in the city and the possibility of 500 new administrative positions at NASA Glenn in nearby Brook Park.

Surely the Republican president could pull some strings in Ohio's favor, some thought.

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''Ohio helped put George Bush over the top,'' U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich said after the NASA Glenn Research Center in his district lost out in May to Mississippi in the coast-to-coast competition for the administrative jobs. NASA Glenn learned earlier in the year that it faces the loss of 700 of 1,900 its jobs by next year, a loss that may be trimmed back.

Kucinich's hometown is a rare Democratic stronghold in what has become a GOP state, and some have suggested politics were to blame.

Ken Kushlan, 44, who keeps tabs on the economy in Cleveland from his curbside vantage point selling hot dogs from a cart, said he expected more from Bush, given candidate Bush's campaign stops in the Cleveland area.

''I've lived here all my life and this is probably the worst I've seen it,'' he said. ''Bush could have done a little better than what he did.''

The economic news worsened for Cleveland when the Pentagon announced May 13 that 1,028 military payroll jobs located in a downtown skyscraper were likely to be consolidated out-of-state.

With the GOP in control of state government and Ohio's two U.S. Senate seats, ''You would think that since it's all Republicans, Ohio would be protected. Wouldn't you,'' Kucinich asked.

The White House dismissed the criticism as unfounded.

''This administration doesn't make decisions such as these based on politics. This president makes decisions based on sound policies for the entire nation,'' said Ken Lisaius, a White House spokesman.

He said Kucinich's criticism of the pending payroll job losses was particularly off-base, since the streamlining was proposed under a formula developed by Congress.

Alexander P. Lamis, associate professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, said some voters might expect favorable treatment if their state helps elect a president, but said it was hard to tell how many might share that idea. ''If they think that way, that's the wrong way to look at it,'' he said.

Despite what some voters think, Roger L. Beckett, director of special programs for the conservative-leaning Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University, said his analysis of the base closing recommendations shows little evidence of politics, with both GOP and Democratic areas targeted.

''If you look at the entire country, it seems as if politics did not play a role in their selection of bases,'' he said.

Beckett cited as proof his own involvement with a citizens group trying to save 1,000 threatened jobs at an Air National Guard Base in Mansfield in Republican north-central Ohio.

''That's a great example of how this seems to be a very objective process on the part of the Department of Defense and politics has not played a role in it,'' he said.

Overall, the Pentagon proposals would give Ohio about 241 additional full-time jobs, including an extra 1,758 jobs at the Defense Supply Center in Columbus and suburban Whitehall, and an additional 494 jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.

Since the election, Bush has visited Cleveland and Columbus, appointed Ohio GOP Congressman Rob Portman to be the nation's top trade negotiator and hosted Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey, a Democrat, to the White House for St. Patrick's Day.

Thomas J. Sheeran is a correspondent with the Ohio Associated Press' Cleveland bureau.