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COAST’s Skewed Worldview and Bortz’s Flip-Flop

By Kevin Osborne · January 18th, 2012 · Porkopolis
Last week’s ruling by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that a Greater Cincinnati landlady violated a girl’s civil rights by posting a “whites only” sign at an apartment complex’s swimming pool is a decision that most rational people would say is just.

The Jan. 12 ruling means the commission, if it cannot reach a settlement with landlady Jamie Hein, could issue a complaint against her with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s Office would then represent the complainant, Michael Gunn, before an administrative law judge, who could impose penalties and punitive damages.

Gunn, who is white, filed the complaint last spring after his biracial daughter visited him at his apartment complex and tried to use the pool. She found a sign posted that read, “Public Swimming Pool, White Only.”

Although Hein told ABC News in December that the sign merely was an antique from Selma, Ala., which she received from a friend, she said in an interview with the commission’s housing enforcement director that products used by the girl in her hair made the water “cloudy.”

Such an attitude might seem shocking today, but is Hein’s attitude really all that uncommon? Consider the following.

Both U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have spoken publicly against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That’s the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.

Ron Paul has said the law “undermine(d) the concept of liberty” and “destroyed the principle of private property and private choices.”

Rand Paul has said he dislikes portions of the civil rights law because a restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate. “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” Rand Paul said in 2010.

Father and son, of course, represent the views of many Libertarians and are the darlings of the Tea Party movement.

Then there’s the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). One of its leaders, Chris Finney, helped push the anti-gay charter amendment approved by Cincinnati voters in 1993.

While defending Article 12 in the 1990s, Finney said landlords shouldn’t be legally required to rent to gay tenants.

During testimony in a 1994 court hearing, Finney was asked why sexual behavior should affect who can eat in a restaurant or be employed by a company.

Finney replied, “Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.”

By the way, COAST helped launch Rand Paul’s Senate campaign in June 2009. Birds of a feather.

Diehard Libertarians say that hotels, restaurants and other places that refuse service to blacks or gays eventually would go out of business after potential customers shun them for their views.

That’s a Pollyanna-esque view, however; there would be areas in the United States where such businesses would thrive. Some might even be pockets within Greater Cincinnati.

Thankfully, voters repealed Article 12 in 2004. But the worldview espoused by the Pauls, Finney and their ilk would leave us with a significantly different society today, if they had their way.

Nevertheless, one Greater Cincinnati politician after another tries to cozy up to COAST, in an effort to win conservative votes. They include Brad Wenstrup, Charlie Winburn, Christopher Smitherman, Chris Bortz, Chris Monzel and Phil Heimlich.

As President Grover Cleveland famously said, “A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out.”

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Speaking of COAST, the group has an unusual new ally.

Even though COAST has made opposing Cincinnati’s planned streetcar project its primary cause in recent years, it’s now aligning itself with the person who was the project’s prime supporter. Finney is co-hosting a political fundraiser next week with Chris Bortz, an ex-Cincinnati city councilman. The Jan. 23 event will raise money for Brad Wenstrup, a local podiatrist who is running in the GOP primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township).

The cost to sponsor the event is $500 per person. Admission is $125 per person, or $150 per couple.

In conjunction with the NAACP’s local chapter, Finney has mounted two unsuccessful ballot issues to stop the streetcar project

“Mr. Finney and I are able to set aside whatever city-related policy disagreements we have, or have had in the past, in order to support Dr. Wenstrup’s candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives,” Bortz told CityBeat.

Maybe Bortz’s new alliance shouldn’t be so surprising. Just a few days earlier, on Jan. 8, Bortz appeared on Business Watch on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) and suddenly announced he had a change of heart about the streetcar project. He said COAST’s pending lawsuit challenging the city’s authority to relocate underground utilities for the project should be decided first.

“I think it’s enough of a problem that the city should slow down a little bit in its move to build the streetcar,” Bortz said.

For good measure, Bortz said the city should wait until the public is firmly behind the project. (I guess two public votes aren’t enough.)

“It comes down mostly to the public reaction to the project … it simply won’t be expanded if the first phase is not a successful route and if the public hasn’t bought into the system,” Bortz said. “Given the current state of the economy, it makes good sense to slow down and rethink the approach to the streetcar.”

Of course, the most recent recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 — when Bortz was actively stumping for the project. But nevermind that.

What’s really going on here is that Bortz, a registered Republican who downplayed the affiliation in city races, is mulling a run for the Hamilton County Commission. To do so, he needs to shore up his conservative credentials, so he’s getting into bed with COAST.

There’s a term for people who change their views based on political convenience. Actually, there are several. 

I will let my readers decide which is most appropriate for Bortz.



01.18.2012 at 03:07 Reply

"Libertarians say that hotels ... would eventually go out of business as potential customers shun them (for discrimination)...............That's a Pollyanna-esque view."     It's also Pollyanna-esque to think the government can lead people from different identity groups to learn to like each other more by forcing them to trade with one another.  In fact, famed social researcher Robert Putnam(sp?) found that one of the main (if not the main)drivers of social isolation is the amount of ethnic  diversity in a location and also that the younger generation (after decades of constant exposure to what one can only describe as unrelenting pro-diversity propaganda)is no more comfortable with diversity than their elders.




01.19.2012 at 10:13

The goal of the civil rights act is not to "get people from different identity groups to like each other more." It's about giving people the opportunities previously reserved for one particular ethnicity. But thank you for your over-simplification. It really contributed to the conversation.


01.19.2012 at 03:06

Erich, your argument that the overriding rationale of the 64 Civil Rights Act was ensuring equal opportunities among ethnicities may be pertinent for government services like schooling, buses, etc.  but I think it fails to explain the need to police private exchanges......  Take the example of the apparently slightly crazy lady with the No Blacks sign at her swimming pool.  Take her at her word for a second.  What if the products most black females put in their hair (which apparently white woman don't use as much)does change the consistency of her pool water to such a degree that she feels she needs to spend valuable time and money remedying this so the pool provides comfortable conditions for people who have bad reactions to these chemicals.  Is it the federal government's role to step into this situation and determine whose opportunities (time, money, etc.) are being worse affected by either the trade or non-trade?  And this weighing of opportunities gained and lost would theoretically have to be done in every instance of trade in the country (including ones that do not sound as far-fetched as this case: like should cab drivers be forced to pick up members of ethnic groups they believe are more likely to rob them?).    ......So thus I think the overriding rationale for the passage of this part of the CRA of 64 was simply the reason for passing most laws.  Practicality.  It was simply unpleasant for many people to see signs and stuff that rudely stated that some people didn't want to trade with other people so they passed a law to outlaw it.  I am mostly a pragmatist so that's mostly OK with me.....  But I do object to Mr. Osborne's unfair dismissal of the libertarian ideological argument about the flawed logic in the law when as I hinted at above I think the overriding, non-pragmatist reasoning why the ideological liberal/left thinks we need such laws (that humans will be able to learn to live together in relative peace if they invest in a elite mega- ruling class the power to set up a universal system of rights that all people must follow)is probably more naive and almost surely more dangerous.


01.18.2012 at 10:58 Reply

Why is it that EVERYONE can see the threat from Iran, a country which MIGHT get nuclear weapons in the next 10 years but would have to deliver their ONLY warhead using a steam powered wooden rocket? Even if they were to do so successfully, a first generation warhead could kill maybe 50,000 people, whereupon the entire surface of Iran would be converted to craters and molten slag.

Why is it those same people CANNOT see the national security implications of a 16 trillion dollar debt and 100 trillion in unfunded liabilities? There are at least three countries now that could, if they desired sell off enough T-Bills, Mortgage backed securities and other cash equivalents to cause a crash in the dollar – thereby effectively cutting off imports like oil and gas, without which our transportation infrastructure will crash.

Did you know supermarkets only keep about 3 days worth of food on hand? Imagine there’s no diesel available and all the trucks are idled for a few weeks. Can you spell national emergency and martial law?

Did you know the loss of manufacturing in the US has left us dependent upon foreign powers for vital raw and finished materials? It takes YEARS to open a mine or a factory due to federal regulations.

You need to vote for Ron Paul, but if you can’t do that then for heaven’s sake store a couple of months of dry food.

Vote Vertebrate – Ron Paul is the only choice consistent with the principles of self preservation. Think of your family.