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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Pension charter amendment headed to the ballot

A group that wants to change the pension system for city of Cincinnati employees has enough valid signatures to place a charter amendment on the November ballot, according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

The group, Cincinnati Pension Reform, turned in 16,116 signatures and 9,726 turned out to be valid signatures of Cincinnati voters. They needed 7,443 to make the ballot.

The group paid nearly $70,000 to a California firm that specializes in putting paid petition circulators on the ground in Cincinnati and gathered the signatures within a few weeks.

The charter amendment would put city workers hired after January 2014 into a retirement plan which would require the city to contribute up to nine percent of a worker’s base pay.

The city’s pension system is currently in serious trouble – it is only 61 percent funded and has already contributed to the city’s bond rating being lowered.

But city council has gone on record as saying the Cincinnati Pension Reform charter amendment is the wrong way to fix the system.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who is a candidate for mayor, put out a statement Monday critical of the charter amendment.

“Under the guise of ‘reform,” a well-funded out-of-state group is pushing an amendment that spells economic disaster for the future retirees and the city’s budget,’’ Qualls said. “Current and future retirees need an income they can live on. This amendment is a budget-buster for retirees and the city.”

Another mayoral candidate, former council member John Cranley, has also come out against the charter amendment.