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Group Pushes ‘Pro-Neighborhood’ Agenda

CUFA: Poor areas shouldn’t bear brunt of city budget cuts

By Andria Y. Carter · December 14th, 2011 · News
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Small victories often are the baby steps that lead to greater ones, especially for Communities United For Action (CUFA).

On Dec. 2, CUFA achieved a small victory for its so-called “People’s Platform” when City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced his proposed 2012 municipal budget that eliminated a projected $33.6 million deficit while also fully funding all city-operated health clinics, along with the operation of 28 swimming pools, as well as preserving the school nurse program.

The only swimming facilities being closed are the Fairview and Filson pools.

Dohoney said the city couldn’t sustain all 30 pools, noting that Cincinnati operated more pools that other similarly-sized cities. As an example, he pointed out that even much larger metropolitan areas like Dallas and Phoenix didn’t operate as many pools for their residents.

The recreation centers and pools, health clinics and school nurse program are several key components of CUFA’s People’s Platform, which encourages city officials to choose wisely in their financial governance and become more open to creative solutions to increase the city’s revenue streams, and not rely on knee-jerk cuts to social programs.

Marilyn Evans, CUFA’s director, said the organization is prepared yet again to appear before City Council offering solutions that invest in people and neighborhoods.

“This is not a debt crisis, this is a revenue crisis,” Evans says, regarding the city’s fiscal woes. And even though Dohoney has solved the deficit issues in the proposed 2012 budget, the one-time fix puts a Band-Aid on the city’s problems; in 2013, deficits may occur again.

Founded in 1980, CUFA lobbies on various issues ranging from cleaning up toxic dumps to promoting neighborhood redevelopment.

The organization tries to bring together people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds and different income levels so they can work on issues that affect neighborhoods.

Among its projects over the years, CUFA has fought to clean up environmental problems, including air pollution and illegal garbage dumps; negotiated Community Reinvestment Agreements with Bank One, Fifth Third, PNC and other banks totaling more that $750 million, which made money available for home loans and business loans in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods; and lobbied for the construction of more than 115 new and rehabbed homes for first-time homeowners.

Based in South Cumminsville, CUFA is a member of National People’s Action, a network of metropolitan, regional and statewide organizations that build grassroots political power to advance racial and economic justice.

In September, CUFA released its People’s Platform to City Council seeking action against what it dubbed the increasing influence of corporate power and the reluctance of government — local, state and federal — to provide oversight to this power. The organization believes that because the federal government helped bail out various companies and banks, these firms should be encouraged to help U.S. cities solve their economic woes, many of which were prompted by reckless practices on Wall Street.

CUFA’s platform calls for requiring corporations to pay their fair share in Ohio taxes; holding the banks accountable for all the foreclosed vacant buildings that they own by requiring that they post a $20,000 bond on each foreclosed property they own and to pay $500 for each foreclosure that they file with the courts; and helping revitalize Greater Cincinnati’s neighborhoods by focusing on putting people into the housing stock left vacant by foreclosures.

The group wants the city to turn these lots over to neighborhood groups or neighborhood development corporations. Also, it is lobbying to fully fund the city’s Office of Environmental Quality.

“They need to come up with ideas that create revenue, collect revenue and then talk about the budget,” Evans says.

After November’s City Council elections, in which four conservative incumbents were defeated, CUFA became hopeful. With the new progressive, Democratic majority on City Council, it appears that the elected body is more receptive to the organization’s aims.

Dohoney may not be following all of CUFA’s ideas but he is in agreement that redeveloping and stabilizing neighborhoods is crucial to solving the city’s economic woes. He proposes giving community councils and neighborhood business districts $5,000 to stabilize areas that need financial help. 

“I have often said that we must increase jobs in this community if we are going to become more financially sound,” Dohoney says. “This budget puts some resources back into areas that will help us grow the economic pie.” ©



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