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Picking on Sick People and Their Helpers

By Gregory Flannery · October 11th, 2006 · Porkopolis
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  Christopher Finney seemed to forget his family values during an off-color tirade.
Jymi Bolden

Christopher Finney seemed to forget his family values during an off-color tirade.



It's usually religious scolds who fret about Halloween's influence on children, and their concern usually involves figments of our imagination: witches, vampires and such. But Kings Island's FearFest has aroused the ire of mental health advocates by presenting very real human beings as frightening and dangerous. A maze called "The Asylum" and the radio and TV ads promoting its collection of psychotic patients is patently offensive, according to Rosalyn Dadas, executive director of the Hamilton County Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She wrote Kings Island's new owners, asking them to close The Asylum.

"The implication is that mental illness is scary, that people with a mental illness are monsters and that mental illness is a cause of reckless and wanton behavior," Dadas wrote. "It is irresponsible of a large, well-respected Cincinnati attraction and large employer to appear to be intolerant and cruel to people with mental illnesses. Both of my sons worked there in security in the mid-1990s, one of whom was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. So you see, this is very personal for me."

But Kings Island has no intention of closing The Asylum, according to a letter by Lorrie Paul Crum, vice president for corporate communications for Cedar Fair, the park's owner.

"With only a few weeks of promotion remaining in the fall season, we couldn't pull advertising at this point," she wrote. "While it would seem responsive to your organization to do so now, it would be viewed as fiscally irresponsible to our unit holders at a time when Kings Island, as the largest of our newly acquired parks, must deliver its audience. Nonetheless, we wish to stress that all of the portrayals are meant to be more fun than frightening, and none are intended to offend anyone. It's usually religious scolds who fret about Halloween's influence on children, and their concern usually involves figments of our imagination: witches, vampires and such. But Kings Island's FearFest has aroused the ire of mental health advocates by presenting very real human beings as frightening and dangerous.

A maze called "The Asylum" and the radio and TV ads promoting its collection of psychotic patients is patently offensive, according to Rosalyn Dadas, executive director of the Hamilton County Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She wrote Kings Island's new owners, asking them to close The Asylum.

"The implication is that mental illness is scary, that people with a mental illness are monsters and that mental illness is a cause of reckless and wanton behavior," Dadas wrote. "It is irresponsible of a large, well-respected Cincinnati attraction and large employer to appear to be intolerant and cruel to people with mental illnesses. ... Both of my sons worked there in security in the mid-1990s, one of whom was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. So you see, this is very personal for me."

But Kings Island has no intention of closing The Asylum, according to a letter by Lorrie Paul Crum, vice president for corporate communications for Cedar Fair, the park's owner.

"With only a few weeks of promotion remaining in the fall season, we couldn't pull advertising at this point," she wrote. "While it would seem responsive to your organization to do so now, it would be viewed as fiscally irresponsible to our unit holders at a time when Kings Island, as the largest of our newly acquired parks, must deliver its audience. ... Nonetheless, we wish to stress that all of the portrayals are meant to be more fun than frightening, and none are intended to offend anyone. Nor, for that matter, are they meant to make light of the very real suffering of mental illness. Therefore, our marketing team certainly will keep your concerns in mind for future planning."

Ken Blackwell isn't much better. In his view, a health-care professional trained to treat mental illness is somehow a thing of scorn. Thus in a debate last week at the University of Cincinnati, he kept referring to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ted Strickland as a psychologist -- which is exactly what he is. Blackwell, the Republican nominee for Ohio governor, seemed to be grasping for ways to smear Strickland. Numerous times Blackwell mockingly called Strickland a psychologist and noted that Ohio's economy couldn't afford to wait while Strickland "put Ohio on the couch" to analyze its problems.

Blackwell also mocked Strickland's campaign story of growing up poor in southern Ohio, noting that cowboy singer, movie star and restaurant franchiser Roy Rogers grew up in the same town as Strickland, then saying to his opponent, "I knew Roy Rogers, and you're no Roy Rogers." Well, giddy up.

That seemed to score no points, so Blackwell tried a different tack, comparing Strickland to former Gov. John Gilligan, as though that were somehow damning. Blackwell didn't provide any context for his Gilligan mentions, but it's worth noting that Gilligan currently is Blackwell's wife's boss. Gilligan serves on the Cincinnati Board of Education, which supervises Superintendent Rosa Blackwell. Gilligan has clashed with her over proposals to scale back the district's building plan.

The Republican Longing for Anal Affection
Christopher Finney lost his cool last week. The arch-conservative attorney who is political mentor to Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich interrupted an Oct. 3 press conference held by David Pepper, Heimlich's opponent, unleashing a torrent of profanities at him and his staff. As Democratic challenger Pepper outlined his "10 simple rules" for cleaning up county government, Finney interrupted and called him "a trust fund, spoiled brat" and an "asshole," among other names. After Pepper's press secretary, Bridget Doherty, told Finney he was acting "infantile," Finney told her, "Kiss my ass." He then turned around, lifted up his coat jacket, patted his posterior and said, "Bridget, kiss it right here."

Finney was angry that Pepper criticized Heimlich's penchant for appointing his friends and campaign contributors to county task forces that help shape major policies. Finney, for example, is on the Tax Levy Review Committee and other county panels. Pepper has said county government is rife with cronyism and insider deals and that all such personal relationships and possible conflicts of interests should be publicly revealed.

During the press conference, Finney told Pepper, "You're trying to smear my name because you're a rich, fucking asshole." Finney said he's volunteered hundreds of hours to county task forces and revealed his business connections on documents filed with the state, adding, "I've never hidden anything, I have no secrets."

Pepper said Finney's outburst was telling. "His reaction to a simple call for transparency speaks volumes," Pepper said later. "These connections need to be disclosed. That's basic good government. The over-the-top reaction shows just how badly it's needed."

For more details about the gubernatorial debate and Finney's foul mouth, visit CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at citybeat.wordpress.com.



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