My hero in the Cincinnati world of responsible journalism has been CityBeat until I read the article “Being Neighborly” (issue of Jan. 21), which contains many inaccuracies and misleading statements about Invest in Neighborhoods (IIN).
The members of IIN are 47 of the 51 city-recognized neighborhood community councils — four neighborhood councils have chosen not to join IIN. It’s not true that Community Councils are “a creation of the city government” as Councilman Chris Bortz stated in the article. Neighborhood community councils are grassroots organizations formed by neighborhood residents to enhance the livability of their communities and to address neighborhood concerns through civic participation. Many of Cincinnati’s councils were formed in the 1960s as part of a national grassroots neighborhood movement, but some, like Westwood Civic Association, are over 100 years old.
The CityBeat article states that IIN has had a rocky relationship with some members of City Council for the past two years. This could be because a member of City Council believed that IIN Executive Director Rick Dieringer had allegedly told people not to vote for that person during the council campaign. The council person wanted the IIN board, which hires and fires its executive director, to discharge Dieringer.
The president and several other IIN board members met with two City Council members who had expressed concerns and politely told them that the IIN board hires and fires its executive director, not City Council.
It’s not true, as stated by CityBeat, that IIN ignored City Council mandates to improve public participation. Several IIN volunteers served on a committee convened by Councilwoman Laketa Cole to review concerns about how representative the neighborhood community councils are of their constituencies and also to implement a universal set of bylaws for community councils.
The CityBeat article states that additional expenses were incurred to audit IIN records when Gerald Tenbosch, the former executive director, faced criminal charges for allegedly embezzling $70,000 from the Finneytown Athletic Association while employed by IIN. Coincidentally it was time for IIN’s annual audit. The city felt pressured to do an audit to quell public concern over possible improper handling of city money flowing through IIN.
IIN had already done its own audit and satisfied itself that no city funds had been misused. IIN coordinated its annual audit with the city’s special audit to minimize extra cost to the city. Everything was found to be in order.
I’ve been on the board of Invest in Neighborhoods for over 15 years, re-elected for consecutive three-year terms by the IIN membership — namely, the 47 Cincinnati neighborhood community councils. … Each year that I’ve been on the nominating committee we have tried to recruit nominees to produce board representation that is diverse by age, sex, race, ethnicity, class and geographic location.
The IIN annual meeting, all board meetings and Executive Committee meetings are open to the public. CityBeat was specifically invited to the last annual meeting.
If IIN’s performance was so “minimal” with “slippery practices” and “secretive decisions,” why would representatives from over 20 neighborhood community councils speak at the Jan. 15 meeting of Council’s Vibrant Neighborhoods Committee in favor of having IIN continue to administer the Neighborhood Support Program (NSP)?
I can’t help wondering if someone wants to punish IIN for its efforts to empower the city’s neighborhood community councils through the use of NSP funds. By not thoroughly investigating the facts, CityBeat appears to have inadvertently undermined the integrity of Invest in Neighborhoods. — Marvin Kraus IIN Board Member