62: That's So Cincinnati: From journalist to politician, get to know new City Councilman Steve Goodin
That's So Cincinnati
As a trial lawyer, former assistant prosecutor and ex-journalist, Steve Goodin might be the perfect fit for a seat on Cincinnati City Council at the moment. The Republican has a firm understanding of public accountability – something City Hall is sorely lacking in the wake of three council members being arrested this year on federal corruption charges. Goodin, newly appointed to council this week, has a clear vision for what he wants to do immediately after City Hall reopens later this month following a pandemic-related shutdown. "The public really needs, wants and expects at least a roadmap as to how the remaining council members are going to address systemic corruption," Goodin told The Enquirer's That's So Cincinnati podcast. "The sooner we speak to that in an intelligent and comprehensive way, the better."Goodin on Monday was appointed as the temporary replacement for Republican Councilman Jeff Pastor, who's suspended pending the outcome of his court case stemming from federal pay-to-play charges. In the wide-ranging interview, Goodin discusses how he believes his diverse career experiences have prepared him for the challenge of being on council. The 51-year-old father of three started his career as a news reporter for the News-Sun in Springfield, Ohio, his hometown. He's also served stints in the Peace Corps and Army. Several members of council do not have jobs and careers outside of City Hall, and Goodin believes that's led to a loss of perspective. On his decision to join the Peace Corps early in his career, Goodin said: "I just had a real desire to travel and do something radically different. So I went over to Africa and (was in) the Sahara Desert for a year. I worked as something called a 'sanitation engineer,' which meant I was digging outhouses. It was a fascinating experience. It expanded my horizons." In his work for Graydon Law Firm, where he's a partner, Goodin has focused on business litigation and municipal law. The latter has made him quite familiar with City Hall, where he's been hired to help fix the city's pension fund. It's helped him to have intimate knowledge of the city's charter, but the experience also has given Goodin insight into council's problems. "I've been sort of alarmed by the lack of fiscal literacy," Goodin said. "There needs to be a better stewardship of these funds. There needs to be better stewardship of our infrastructure, and we need people to, frankly, be more adult about this and to manage this like you would your personal finances, like you would your personal business and like you would your safety and the safety of your children." Goodin recalled times testifying in front of council while some of its members were interested in what was happening on their phones and laptops. "I have always been, particularly in the last few years, distressed by just the raw political gamesmanship that you see," Goodin said. "I've got teenage girls. I spend a lot of my time yelling at them to put their phones down when they're at the dinner table. Sometimes, I'd be testifying at council and people are playing on their phones. There needs to be a different, more adult approach to this job." Goodin doesn't have a Twitter or Facebook account, something he's not needed as a litigator. He said he plans create social media accounts to provide information to the public, but he doesn't care about the petty and uncivil Twitter fights that have distracted this council at times. "All the social media, particularly among some of the council members, has not been helpful," Goodin said. "It leads to this posturing. It leads to these false presentations of who folks are. It leads to people playing to small groups of people and not thinking about the city as a whole. It becomes sort of a weird echo chamber. My sense is, by and large, it's the same 200 or 300 people who are on Twitter weighing in over and over and over. I don't think that reflects the folks that I'm concerned about." So what is Goodin's concern? "We need to really get back to addressing the basic services, the public safety issues that our neighborhoods are seeing," he said. "It makes me kind of sick that those concerns have been pushed aside for people who are shaking-down developers. It's an absolute shame. There are folks who are depending on the government to provide services, to provide safe streets and that's been lost. The fact that that's not a priority –and now of all times (amid the pandemic) – is simply a disgusting state of affairs." Goodin plans to work on a comprehensive package of charter amendment reforms centered on more transparency around economic development deals and increased accountability for council members. He said he's not interested in small, piecemeal changes or creating bureaucratic commissions and task forces – something some of his colleagues want. "We know what generally needs to be done," Goodin said. "If we need a special ethics officer to convince people not to take bribes, then we have a bigger problem than we could've ever dreamed of. If we need another charter review committee – when all this great work has already been done – then we're just kicking the can down the road."
Episode 14: "Gang of 5 Update with Steve Goodin & Dan Knecht"
In a special episode, Vice Mayor Smitherman hand the reigns over to his private attorney Steve Goodin and Dan Knecht to give the legal explanation behind the "Gang of 5" and his noninvolvement in the case.