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The Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Jailed

By Gregory Flannery · December 20th, 2006 · Porkopolis
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  Calling for more -- not less -- emphasis on social services in the city budget are (L-R) Dan La Botz, Michael Patton and Thomas Dutton, protesting near Fountain Square.
Graham Lienhart

Calling for more -- not less -- emphasis on social services in the city budget are (L-R) Dan La Botz, Michael Patton and Thomas Dutton, protesting near Fountain Square.



The people who successfully campaigned against a sales tax for a new jail have turned their attention to proposed city budget cuts. Members of Cincinnati Progressive Action (CPA), a human rights action group, demonstrated Dec. 19 on Fountain Square to highlight what they see as inequities in city spending and priorities (see "Clinical Decision," page 13.)

"The city manager and the council -- which have given away tens of millions to Kroger, Saks, Convergys and 3CDC -- are now proposing a budget which will leave many low-income people in this city without social services, without their health clinic, without recreation facilities," said Dan La Botz, spokesman for CPA. "It will leave people feeling more frustrated, more desperate and more angry. We had riots in this city five years ago for just these reasons. What are these people thinking? Are their memories so short?"

Many CPA members were part of the No Jail Tax PAC, which opposed the Hamilton County tax levy in the Nov. 7 election. The group likewise opposes the hiring of additional officers for the Cincinnati Police Department, arguing that adequately funded human services are the long-term answer to the city's violent crime.

"While we need more security, hiring more police is not necessarily the way to get there," La Botz said. "We need jobs, we need health clinics and mental health facilities. Above all we need social justice in the city's priorities, in its fiscal politics, its budget and its long term planning."

CPA has produced a White Paper, "The Cincinnati City Budget for 2007-2008: Unfair, Unwise, Unacceptable," that details its critique of tax abatements and giveaways to corporation. The paper is available at nojailtax.org.

One aspect of Cincinnati's crime problem got national attention on prime-time TV Dec. 18. While the Indianapolis Colts knocked around the Cincinnati Bengals on the football field, commentators marveled at length at the Bengals' criminal records, with eight of its 53 players now having been arrested in various venues for sundry offenses. The NFL has reportedly offered help to Bengals owner Mike Brown, according to the hosts of Monday Night Football. The publicity no doubt improved Cincinnati's beleaguered image across the country.

Roxy Takes the Bus, YMCA Pulls the Drain Plug
Is this the return of Roxanne Qualls? The popular former mayor has been nominated to fill a vacancy on the mass transit board that oversees the Metro bus system. Mayor Mark Mallory selected Qualls to join the board of trustees that governs the Southwestern Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA).

Qualls served as mayor from 1993 to 1999 under a system that awarded the mayor's seat to the top vote-getter in the at-large city council race. She left politics seven years ago, when term limits forced her from office.

Since that time Qualls moved to Boston for a few years to teach and earn a master's degree at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Upon returning to Cincinnati in 2003, she began teaching an executive management course in Northern Kentucky University's Political Science Department. Qualls made headlines in 2004 when she made an early endorsement in the mayoral race, throwing her support behind Mallory over incumbent Mayor Charlie Luken. Luken eventually chose not to seek re-election.

County commissioners make the final decision on the city's nominees to the SORTA board, although the vote typically is perfunctory and most nominees are approved.

The Williams Branch YMCA in Walnut Hills is closing its pool effective Dec. 31 and shifting its swimming programs to the Melrose Branch less than one mile away. It comes down to a matter of excess capacity, according to Andi Ferguson, associate vice president of the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati.

"We're streamlining our aquatics operations," she says. "The rationale is we have another pool eight-tenths of a mile away. All of the classes we're keeping intact. We're just moving them."

One member of the Williams Branch contacted CityBeat, expressing concern that the pool closure reflected racial insensitivity. Ferguson scoffed at the suggestion.

"The pool we're directing people to is still in Walnut Hills," she says. "It's within walking distance. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about what that means. If I were telling you we were closing that pool and people could go to Anderson Township, we'd be having a different conversation."

The Cincinnati Board of Education had its "Come to Jesus" moment last week. Hear the school choir and learn about the NAACP's ongoing election debacle at CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at citybeat.wordpress.com.



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