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Council, Prosecutor Ignore Facts When Pandering

By Kevin Osborne · August 24th, 2011 · Porkopolis

Forget about those last-minute summertime picnics, Labor Day fireworks and Halloween hayrides. I wish November would hurry up and arrive.

That’s because it’s still 76 days away from the elections for Cincinnati City Council and the level of grandstanding by incumbents already has reached irritating proportions. Usually it takes at least until mid-September to reach this level of obnoxiousness, which bodes ill about what’s in store once campaign season is in full swing.

I wrote last week about how City Council’s conservative majority held a misleading press conference to talk about alleged zoning problems at a chili parlor that wants to expand in Oakley. As it turns out, though, a closer look revealed it wasn’t red tape and an unwillingness to move a mural that caused the delay but instead the owner’s own incomplete application to zoning inspectors.

Nevertheless, the majority — Chris Bortz, Leslie Ghiz, Wayne Lippert, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn — fed the “story” to a gullible TV news reporter, then held a press conference less than 12 hours later to address the supposed problem. (In fact, Winburn didn’t show at the conference but sent an aide in his place.)

Little did I think that the council faction would shamelessly exploit another situation so soon after the Oakley debacle. But it did.

Exactly one week after taking their brave stand defending chili and murals, the same members held another early-morning press conference, this time along the side of the road on Columbia Parkway in Mount Adams. The conference was just two days after Cincinnati police Sgt. Ron Schaeper was seriously injured on the parkway when his vehicle was hit head-on by a sport utility vehicle that was speeding and had crossed the center line.

In light of the tragic accident, the council members want the city’s traffic engineers to conduct a study on how to make the winding roadway east of downtown safer for motorists. “It’s an extremely dangerous street and we have a responsibility to make it safer,” Bortz was quoted in The Enquirer.

Well, maybe not that dangerous.

Statistics released by the city’s Department of Transportation and Engineering show Columbia Parkway’s accident rate is below the city-wide average.

There are plenty of streets that are far more dangerous.

In fact, the section of the road that so concerns Bortz and his crew isn’t even the parkway’s most accident-prone section; that dubious honor goes to the portion west of downtown. The road — technically known as U.S. 50 — is called Columbia Parkway east of downtown and River Road west of the urban core.

The latter section had 75 accidents during the 2007-09 period, according to the Ohio Highway Safety Program. By comparison, the section that concerns the council majority had just 15 accidents during the same period, or just one-fifth of the number affecting the West Side.

But the neighborhoods to the west — Sedamsville and Sayler Park — are much poorer and aren’t as politically well-connected as the posher enclaves of Hyde Park and Mount Lookout to the east where, not coincidentally, many contributors to Republican campaigns reside. The West Side accidents also didn’t involve a police officer, who is represented by a high-profile labor union that often stumps for council candidates it decides to endorse.

(For the record, it should be noted Winburn didn’t attend this press conference, either, not even sending an aide this time. Maybe Charlie just isn’t a morning person.)

And as noted in The Enquirer article about the press conference, the council majority doesn’t know how much the proposed traffic study “will cost, where the money would come from, or how long such an effort would take.” This same faction routinely criticizes their Democratic colleagues if they introduce a proposal without that information. In an election year, though, maybe it doesn’t matter as much to them.

Meanwhile, this council faction still hasn’t put forth a budget proposal to address a looming $33 million deficit facing City Hall next year, even though members have taken the time to blast the city manager’s proposed cuts.

Hey, Chris, Leslie and the rest: Where’s your budget plan?

* * * * *

Speaking of pandering politicians, we can always rely on Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters for some fact-free fear mongering.

Deters — who is careful to tell TV news cameras about how “outraged” he is by every crime he sees, no matter how big or small — never passes an opportunity to bash the urban core, playing to his base of suburban voters. This time, Deters opined to The Enquirer about an Aug. 20 shooting on Fountain Square, in which a police officer killed a teenager after the youth pulled a handgun during a scuffle.

“You cannot have this type of act in the city’s core,” Deters said. “You don’t see this in Times Square.”

For Deters, a trip east must mean a jaunt to Anderson Township, because it’s clear he has never been to Manhattan. But he could at least do some basic research before shooting off his mouth.

As several local bloggers have noted, a simple Google search reveals Deters’ claim is bogus. Or, to paraphrase The Wizard of Oz, “It’s not only merely false, but really most sincerely false.”

There were 103 violent crimes in Times Square in 2010 alone, according to the New York Police Department. That amount has been more or less consistent for awhile with 119 in 2009, 109 in 2008 and 161 in 2007. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, assault and robbery.

Here at home, Fountain Square doesn’t even come close to comparing. The Aug. 20 shooting is the first on the square since 2003. And what fear-mongers like Deters and the ultra-conservative COAST group won’t mention is that crime has dropped 33 percent in downtown and 48 percent in Over-the-Rhine from 2001-10.

As someone who regularly frequents both areas at night, I can tell readers I usually feel safe — although a person should pay attention to their surroundings, which is wise advice in any city.

Instead of wasting his time trying to make white surburbanites afraid, Deters should spend more time at the job voters elected him to do. Maybe Joltin’ Joe would have more time to do research if he hadn’t taken a second job moonlighting for Stan Chesley’s law firm, something that — although legal — most county prosecutors in Ohio don’t do so they can focus on their duties to the public.

Give us a call, Mr. Prosecutor, and we’ll show you how to use the Internet.

PORKOPOLIS TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (EXT.147) or pork@citybeat.com



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