For the first time in its history, the Charter Committee has selected three winners for its Gumption Award. All three people were involved in defeating Issue 9 — which Charter describes as the “anti-progress charter amendment" — in last fall’s election.
This year’s winners are Bobby Maly, Rob Richardson and Joe Sprengard, all of whom were the founders of Cincinnatians for Progress (CFP). The group was formed last year to campaign against Issue 9.
If it had been approved, Issue 9 would’ve required a public vote on any rail-related project that goes through Cincinnati and uses city taxpayer money including the streetcar system and the proposed high-speed rail connector with Columbus and Cleveland advanced by President Obama.
The charter amendment was supported by an unusual coalition including the NAACP’s local chapter, the Southwest Ohio Green Party and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes.
Opponents included CFP, Cincinnati City Council, Mayor Mark Mallory, the Chamber of Commerce, radio talk show host Bill Cunningham and others.
Although polling showed the amendment winning by a double-digit margin in summer 2009, CFP’s intensive campaigning resulted in it being defeated on Election Day in November by 56-44 percent.
“Never in the history of this award, has the Selection Committee selected three winners for the award,” the Charter Committee stated in a press release.
“This unprecedented action speaks to the tremendous gumption these three men exhibited in their successful grassroots effort to soundly defeat Issue 9, the ‘anti-progress charter amendment.’ The efforts of Maly, Richardson and Sprengard generated incredible enthusiasm, provoking hundreds of volunteers to speak up and take action,” the release continued. “Many of those who volunteered had never before been involved in the political process, but thanks to these three men, they have become active participants in democracy.”
** Maly heads Model Property Development, which specializes in urban historic rehabilitation work in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Also, Maly serves on the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee, the Newport Housing Development Corp.’s board of directors, the Washington Park Master Plan steering committee, and is co-chair of the Effective Governance action team for Cincinnati USA’s Agenda 360 program.
** Richardson is a construction market representative for the Laborers Employers Cooperation and Education Trust for the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida. Also, Richardson is an attorney who serves "of counsel" with the law firm of Branstetter, Stranch, & Jennings, where he specializes in labor law and class action litigation.
** Sprengard helped launch General Nano Inc., a University of Cincinnati nanotechnoloy spin-off company specializing in the commercialization of carbon nanotube materials. General Nano was formed at the request of the U.S. Air Force, and the company is currently establishing its operations and building its customer base which includes some of the top defense contractors, aerospace companies, and cable and wire manufacturing firms.
The award ceremony will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. June 23 at Venue 222, located at 222 E. 14th St., in Over-the-Rhine. For more information, contact Kit Higgs at 513-476-0890 or Margie Rauh at 513-235-7995.
The Gumption Award commemorates Charlie Taft, a longtime Cincinnati City Council member known as “the reformer who never quit reforming.” Award winners reflect Taft’s independence and commitment to do what he believed was right, even in the face of adversity and criticism, Charter officials said.
The biennial event celebrates the accomplishments of leaders in the community who exhibit courage and common sense in leadership. 2008’s winner was the late Tommie Thompson, an advocate for housing issues that affect women, the elderly and low-income people.