September 21st, 2011 By Kevin Osborne | News | Posted In: Streetcar, Public Transit, NAACP, COAST

Does NAACP Approve of COAST Hijinks? (UPDATED)

little photo


Mark Miller isn't a subtle guy.

Miller, treasurer of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), recently apologized publicly after using the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to tweet a comment comparing the attacks to a political battle about the planned Cincinnati streetcar system.

Now Miller has posted an altered photograph on his Facebook page that some people believe is racist. The photo depicts a streetcar filled with young African-American males brandishing weapons. The streetcar has a sign that reads, “Banks & Freedom Center Only.”

The “Freedom Center” is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It's a downtown museum that commemorates the safe houses and secret routes, known as the Underground Railroad, that African-American slaves used on their way to northern free states in the 19th century.

The photo illustration was originally posted by D. Sean Farris, a University of Cincinnati student who is an intern with the Hamilton County Republican Party. Farris has volunteered on some local GOP political campaigns including that of Cincinnati City Councilwoman Amy Murray. Ironically, Farris is African-American.

Miller reposted Farris' photo on his own Facebook page. Farris' original comment under the photo was, “This is might actually happen (sic) Lol”

Although it's more understandable that a young, impulsive college student might not understand the controversy and implications created by the photo, a middle-aged, political veteran like Miller certainly knows. The photo's message: “If the streetcar system is built, scary black men will be coming after you, with guns.”

COAST opposes the streetcar system, and has teamed with the NAACP's local chapter in gathering enough signatures to place an initiative, Issue 48, on the November ballot. If approved, the charter amendment would would prohibit Cincinnati from building any type of passenger rail system on public roads or public rights-of-way through Dec. 31, 2020. Because of the issue's broad wording, written by COAST leader Chris Finney, legal experts say it also would block commuter rail and light rail projects, not just the streetcar.

Then-local NAACP President Christopher Smitherman helped create Issue 48 and has appointed Finney to the local chapter's executive committee as legal counsel. (Smitherman temporarily has stepped down from the presidency while he runs for City Council.)

Smitherman couldn't be reached for his comments on the Facebook image. Still, one wonders how the photo would sit with much of the local chapter's membership.

On Sept. 11, Miller generated buzz on Twitter with the following post: “3% of FDNY died 10 yrs ago by terrorism. Today Cincinnati lost 17.5% of fire companies by brownout to pay for a streetcar. Which is worse?”

When informed about the photo, Murray acted quickly to tell Farris that she didn't support it and thought it was improper.

“I don't think it's appropriate at all and I told him he needs to take it down,” Murray said. Farris has no official connection to Murray's campaign, she said, adding. “He's a college volunteer who will come and march in parades.”

** UPDATE: COAST treasurer Mark Miller informed CityBeat that he was upset about wording used in the blog item that stated he “posted” or “reposted” the photo in question.

Miller stated he was tagged in the photo by Farris, and hadn't “knowingly published the photo himself.” Fair enough. Although the screen capture posted on the blog item seems to make the photo's origin clear, we will reemphasize it again.

What's also clear from the screen capture is the photo was posted on Facebook on July 26. It remained tagged to Miller for several weeks, which is how CityBeat became aware of its existence. If Miller had been offended by the association, a quick and simple click could have untagged himself from the photo, so it wouldn't appear on Miller's “wall.”

Our wording was inexact. Instead of stating, “Now Miller has posted an altered photograph on his Facebook page that some people believe is racist,” the passage should have read, “Now Miller has allowed to be displayed on his Facebook page an altered photograph that some people believe is racist.”

Further, several people contacted CityBeat to state they've seen the same photo posted previously on COAST's blog. We've been unable to verify the allegation, as a visit to the blog revealed the photo isn't currently posted there. Whether it ever was, therefore, will remain unknown for now, along with who created the photo.
09.19.2011 at 08:37 Reply

the local NAACP is a head scratcher to me and the way they team up with COAST at every chance makes me wonder what the motive is. you'd think they'd want to bring jobs and opportunity to those living within the city, not becoming tools of a bunch of hyde park and anderson twits.


09.20.2011 at 01:26

Not that I agree with ANYTHING that COAST does (in fact, I'm about as fervent a streetcar supporter as anyone), but Hyde Park is in the City of Cincinnati, and many of us who live there are strong supporters of the CBD and OTR.


09.19.2011 at 10:55 Reply

If they local NAAACP had any self respect they would distance themselves from Mark Miller, COAST, and Smitherman. None of these characters help their image in the slightest. Miller also claimed that anyone who rode public transportation did not have a real job. According to him, you must drive to work or else you don't have a "real" job


09.20.2011 at 08:29

Mark Miller criticizing people for not having a real job is pretty hilarious. The so-called 'treasurer' of COAST who had his house forclosed on and couldn't pay his kids shcool bill wants to lecture all of us about financial responsibility? That's rich. I love how these 'modern conversatives' love to shove their doctrine of ignorance down everyone elses throats, but the second you take a look at all their personal lives theyre usually the biggest deadbeats of all.


09.20.2011 at 08:49 Reply

Did Miller post or was he tagged in the picture? If he was tagged, then non-story. If he re-posted, then fair game.


09.20.2011 at 10:03

I agree- it's not very clear.  This article needs to be revised to really clearly point out whether he reposted with an additional comment (it seems that way but is unclear) or whether he was just tagged and it showed up on his wall.


09.20.2011 at 12:17

I believe I saw this picture on COAST's blog (posted by Miller) as well although it appears to be gone.  They post similar "funny" poorly-Photoshopped pictures all the time.