When CityBeat heard the Westwood Civic Association was planning a so-called “West Side Summit,” the group's leader responded that he was seeking input from various West Side neighborhood groups and that they could help set the agenda.
A recent e-mail exchange between WCA President John Sess and a Community Press reporter, however, in which Sess attempts to get publicity for the event, paints a somewhat different picture about its purpose.
WCA sent invitations to the Oct. 5 summit via e-mail to organizations and individuals in East Price Hill, Lower Price Hill, Mount Airy, Northside, Riverside, Sayler Park, Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, South Fairmount and West Price Hill, among others.
Although the invitation lists several topics that will be discussed, Sess told CityBeat earlier this month that the summit's agenda would evolve as topics are suggested by invitees. But an e-mail exchange with reporter Shauna Steigerwald, who works for The Enquirer's chain of small neighborhood newspapers, appears to conflict with Sess' statement.
When Steigerwald asks for information about the summit, Sess replies in a Sept. 28 e-mail, “This is an attempt to meet with the neighborhoods services (sic) by District Three and those adjoining District Three. We need to define our neighborhood boundaries, get in sync with the enforcement of the Chronic Nuisance Ordinance and discuss crime trends and how to address them.”
When Steigerwald writes back to ask if the event is free, Sess replies on Sept. 29, “The idea is to educate the neighborhoods on Westwood's efforts in enforcing the Chronic Nuisance Ordinance, which penalizes irresponsible landlords of multi-unit apartment buildings. We also plan to discuss neighborhood boundaries, crime trends and other issues brought forth by the attendees.”
Whether any time would be left for topics suggested by other neighborhood groups during the two-hour summit is anyone's guess, but the planning isn't as egalitarian as first presented.
Also, there are indications the supposedly nonpartisan Civic Association is catering to Republican candidates.
The original invitation read, “This is not meant to be a candidate's forum since WCA will host a candidates forum on Oct. 7th at the Town Hall. However, candidates will be invited to attend and hear our concerns.”
Sess' e-mail reminder to attendees, though, includes Mike Robison, the GOP candidate for the Ohio House 31st District seat, and Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Monzel, the Republican candidate for the Hamilton County Commission.
It does not include incumbent State Rep. Denise Driehaus or County Commission candidate Jim Tarbell, two Democrats.
Also on Sess' e-mail list is Cincinnati Police Capt. Russ Neville.
The bottom line: The summit's agenda, date, time and location are all dictated by a single neighborhood, and two political candidates were invited but their opponents weren't. Autocratic, much?
In summer 2009, some Civic Association leaders pushed the idea that Westwood should secede from Cincinnati and become its own city, because they felt city officials were neglecting its needs. The empty threat got a lot of media attention — mostly from The Enquirer and Channel 12 — but the idea wasn't vetted by residents and went nowhere.
The West Side Summit will be held from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 5 at Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave.
For more information, Sess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.