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Solving Housing Abuses or Getting Re-elected?

By Katie Taft · July 8th, 1999 · Burning Questions
Cincinnati City Council's sudden and urgent investigation into housing operated by the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) is not what it appears to be, some city leaders are saying.

On June 29, Councilman Charles Winburn introduced a motion to have the Department of Buildings and Inspections, the Cincinnati Fire Division and the Cincinnati Health Department perform comprehensive inspections of the buildings maintained by CMHA.

The request was made by Winburn after he took a tour of five CMHA buildings.

Before that, several senior residents came forward to complain about safety concerns.

The motion, which passed in council on July 1, outlines 30 problems such as insufficient security systems and defective buttons designed to help people with disabilities open doors.

A report on the inspections is expected by Aug. 3.

Councilman Jim Tarbell did not sign off on the motion.

In news reports, Tarbell was quoted saying, "I have been around metropolitan housing 17 years and know it takes time to get these things done," as his reason for disapproval of the motion.

Was this the only reason for not agreeing with the motion Winburn introduced?

Tarbell said the quote was taken out of context.

His reason behind not supporting the motion is that he thinks Winburn is taking advantage of the residents for political gain.

"We are talking about public housing and, unless you have the resources to wave a magic wand to make problems disappear, it can be a very difficult process," Tarbell said. "The first step should be to work with the administration. That was never even attempted. It's the highest form of irresponsibility when the only reason to do it is to look like the champion of the elderly and poor."

Tarbell said that CMHA Director Donald Troendle has greatly improved public housing in Cincinnati since he landed in that position four years ago, and a motion like Winburn's only hinders further advancement.

Tarbell said he doubted that anything of real "substance will have taken place except for those people who will be in the spotlight around election time."

"This takes the city's resources, time and attention from the complaints that are substantial," Tarbell said. "Once the media attention and the cameras go away, this issue will be dropped. I've only been here a year, and I've seen it happen so many times before."

Is Winburn using the disgruntled residents and CMHA as a pre-election dog-and-pony show? Or does he have some substantive, long-range plan to improve public housing?

Winburn did not return four messages to answer the questions, which were explained to his aide.



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