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A Streetcar Named Ignorance

By John Fox · January 16th, 2008 · Editorial

This week Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters lobbed a rhetorical hand grenade into the ongoing debate over crime, punishment and law enforcement, hitting Cincinnati's political leadership and Over-the-Rhine development with shrapnel. The truth became collateral damage as well.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Jan. 15 that Deters railed against those who failed to support November's sales tax hike that would have built a new county jail. Voters defeated the tax hike, which had moral and financial support from the Republican, Democratic and Charter parties and the corporate community.

In a column he wrote for Cincinnati Gentlemen magazine -- published as front-page news in The Enquirer -- Deters calls out "city leaders" for not supporting the tax hike and then regurgitates campaign slogans to claim that without a new jail criminals are running rampant. He tries to prove the state of decline in Cincinnati by stating that he wouldn't allow his 19-year-old son to head down to Main Street bars in Over-the-Rhine.

He ends his column by suggesting that Cincinnati City Council shelve its "trolley" proposal and redirect development money to a new jail, then give whatever's left over to Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. and "stay out of the way and let him do his job."

When you get the current issue of Cincinnati Gentlemen and open it to the page of Deters' column, a cardboard hand folds out and pats you on the head. Really.

I'm going to avoid trashing the messenger here -- though Deters is smart enough to know he's full of shit -- and focus on his message. It's a classic example of Cincinnati groupthink that's been fed to us time and again.

People such as Deters have attempted to put the rest of us in our places for generations by trying to convince us that Cincinnati is as good as it'll ever be, that change is harmful and that we don't deserve better. It's a civic quality that probably started out as good ol' German humility and somehow morphed into self-loathing.

Here's the real message:

� Jail overcrowding is not resulting in violent criminals being released. As Kevin Osborne points out on page 11, a new study finds that most of those jailed in Hamilton County have little or no history of committing violent crimes.

� Violent crime is down across the city, particularly in District 1, which patrols downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

� Over-the-Rhine is in the midst of a renewal, the latest example being Duke Energy's donation of solar panels for Findlay Market to help defray the city landmark's utility bills.

� Streetcars, not "trolleys," are a proven development tool for urban centers across the U.S.

� Streicher can't handle the crime-fighting funds city council already supplies him.

That might be news to Deters, but not to me.

Contact John Fox: jfox@citybeat.com



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