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County Rejects Voters' Judgment

By Gregory Flannery · May 16th, 2007 · Porkopolis
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  Make hula dance, not war: Mothers witness for peace at Mirror Lake.
Scott Beseler

Make hula dance, not war: Mothers witness for peace at Mirror Lake.



Voters last year rejected a proposal to raise sales taxes to build a new jail. Dissatisfied with that decision, the two Democrats who control the board of county commissioners want another vote -- only this time, they want fewer voters making the decision. Commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper want to hold a special election in August to decide on a tax hike of one half-cent per dollar for seven years and then one quarter-cent for eight years.

The No Jail Tax Political Action Committee, which led opposition to the measure last year, is again asking voters to reject the tax.

"The commissioners are thinking of putting the proposal either on the Aug. 7 or Aug. 28 ballot," says Suhith Wickrema, a member of the No Jail Tax PAC. "August elections are notorious for low voter turnout. There is a disproportional number of African-American and poor people in our county jail. An August ballot would mean that suburban white voters will be voting to add 800 more beds that may incarcerate a disproportionate number of African Americans and poor people."

The No Jail Tax PAC is urging people to attend the commissioners' public hearings on the proposal at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Bond Hill Recreation Center and 6:30 p.m. May 23 at the Sharonville Convention Center.

One reason the jail is overcrowded is because so many people are locked up for petty crimes that are largely specific to homelessness, according to the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. In cooperation with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center and the Drop Inn Center, the agency has released a study titled "Criminalization of Homeless Individuals in Cincinnati." The study looked at data from October 2005 through September 2006, tracking the repeated arrests of homeless individuals, primarily for open flask, "dumpster diving," spitting, public urination, littering, panhandling, trespassing and disorderly conduct. At a cost of $65 per night to hold a person in the jail, the study concluded that 53 homeless people who were arrested six or more times during the year cost the county $4.2 million, or an average of $35,100 per person -- more than it would have cost to put them in private apartments.

"The crimes they are arrested for are only crimes for homeless individuals," says Georgine Getty, director of the Homeless Coalition. "They can't help but loiter or urinate in public, given the lack of public restrooms. The system is set up to punish them. We are looking for a better, more effective way."

Homeless advocates and the No Jail Tax PAC argue that, instead of a new jail, more resources should be invested in social services that prevent crime. For more information on opposition to the jail proposal, visit Nojailtax.org.

We'll know Wednesday whether or not former Cleves Police Chief Mark Demeropolis is heading to jail (see "Chief Problem," issue of Jan. 26, 2005). He pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge of complicity to falsification. In return for the plea, prosecutors reduced the charge from felony tampering with records and dropped two charges of forgery, two other charges of tampering with records and a charge of tampering with evidence. Demeropolis also agreed to resign as police chief and as an investigator for the state medical board.

Demeropolis participated in a scam that allowed him to get license plates for vehicles without passing emissions tests and ordered a drunk-driving citation destroyed. He faces up to six months in jail.

Dealing with Once and Future Wars
Reclaiming the original purpose of Mothers Day -- established to promote peace, not treacly sentiment -- women and other peace supporters last weekend gathered at Mirror Lake in Eden Park. After a peace march to the Cincinnati Art Museum, participants enjoyed the Mother's Day for Peace concert. The observation, in league with a gathering in Hyde Park Square and in cities across the country, took inspiration from Julia Ward Howe's 1870 Mother's Day Proclamation: "Arise, all women who have hearts! Let us solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace."

If you doubt that war creates wounds that last for generations, remember the Turkish genocide against the Armenian people in 1915. That's what Armenian Americans are asking congressional representatives Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) and Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township) to do. David Krikorian of Cincinnati is asking people to contact the two legislators and urge them to support a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives officially acknowledging the slaughter.

The government of Turkey has long denied there was an organized genocide -- an issue of contention as Turkey seeks membership in the European Union. Last month Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland issued a proclamation acknowledging the Armenia genocide, making Ohio the 40th state to do so.



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