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The Legacies of a Freedom Fighter and a Tyrant

By Gregory Flannery · December 13th, 2006 · Porkopolis
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Marching in support of human rights Dec. 10 are (L-R) Sister Theresa Falkenstein, Sister Mary Jennings, Julie Przybysz, Kelly McDermott and Sister Francis Margaret Maag.
Graham Lienhart

Marching in support of human rights Dec. 10 are (L-R) Sister Theresa Falkenstein, Sister Mary Jennings, Julie Przybysz, Kelly McDermott and Sister Francis Margaret Maag.



If Tom Mooney had been there, he would have been proud. Members of the Cincinnati School Board took turns remembering the late teachers' union leader at their Dec. 11 meeting. Mooney, who was president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers when he died last week, had been president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers for 21 years.

The board passed a resolution recognizing his accomplishments, and members shared their memories and thoughts before giving a framed copy of the resolution to Mooney's son, Ruairi Rhodes. Rhodes recalled attending board meetings at which his father represented labor and his mother, Virginia Rhodes, represented management as a member of the school board. He thanked both groups for their condolences and proceeded to use the opportunity in a way he believed his father would have.

"My father often took a militant stance at these meetings," Rhodes said. "My father believed in the right to a public education that could help youth excel, here in Cincinnati and across the nation. He believed in social justice on a local and global basis, and he obviously thought public education was the perfect platform to achieve this. So tonight, in honor of my father's militancy, I would like to draw in some of my own personal experience and make a suggestion to everyone here this evening."

Rhodes then detailed some of his work in West Virginia with the Service Employees International Union, which successfully lobbied for increased funding for nursing homes in that state.

He had a similar suggestion for the Cincinnati School Board.

"So I ask tonight -- in honor of my father's work, in light of pending negotiations, in the face of corruption and under-funding in the state of Ohio and to combat the privatization of education -- that the board and the union form a relationship that's kind of a 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' kind of understanding that is conducive to waging an aggressive fight that is drastically needed to secure a future for the students who were here tonight."

Rhodes left the podium to a standing ovation.

The timing couldn't have been more appropriate when the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center took to the Purple People Bridge on Dec. 10 with signs and banners denouncing torture and the death penalty. The event had been planned in advance, marking International Human Rights Day. But the death that day of Chile's former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, made the commemoration all the more poignant.

Backed by the Nixon administration, Pinochet took power in 1973, overthrowing a democratically elected socialist government. The torture and murder of dissidents marked his 17-year rule. After leaving office, he told an interviewer for CNN, "Human rights? That's an invention of the Marxists."

Pinochet spent his final years dodging court cases filed by victims of his brutal regime, a fitting warning for U.S. leaders who have institutionalized the use of torture in their so-called war on terror.

Metro a Bargain Even With Fare Hike
A 25-cent fare increase to ride Metro buses is one step closer to reality, but the proposal's biggest hurdle is yet to come. The board of trustees that oversee the Southwestern Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) unanimously approved the fare hike Dec. 12, but Cincinnati City Council still must decide on the final OK.

SORTA operates and manages the Metro bus system. Because the city of Cincinnati gives about $35 million annually to SORTA from its earnings tax revenues, which funds roughly half of SORTA's budget, council approval is required for major policy changes like fare increases. When SORTA last increased fares in 2005, some council members initially resisted the proposal, stating that Hamilton County should kick in more money to help pay for the regional bus system's cost.

Councilman John Cranley, who heads council's Finance Committee, is an outspoken advocate of changing how SORTA is funded, calling the current process unfair to city residents, especially those in poorer neighborhoods.

Any city council decision on the fare hike probably won't be made until January, after officials have finished drafting the 2007-08 municipal budget later this month. It would take about two weeks after council's decision to implement the fare hike, meaning it could be in effect by mid-January.

If approved, Metro's fares would be raised 25 cents across the board, increasing the cost for travel within city limits from $1 to $1.25 and from $2.25 to $2.50 in outlying suburbs in Butler and Warren counties. SORTA says the fare increases are needed to cover rising costs for fuel and health care coverage for its workers, as well as reductions in state funding. Although the proposal would result in a cumulative increase in fares of more than 55 percent since 2004 for some routes, the Metro system still would have some of the lowest base fares in the nation, SORTA officials said.

For a full-color photo of the Chilean tyrant and for more details about the school board and SORTA meetings, visit CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at citybeat.wordpress.com.



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