CityBeat Blogs - NAACP http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs-1-1-1-34-79.html <![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

In a reaction to economic sanctions pushed by the United States, Iran today stopped exporting oil to six European nations. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the nation would no longer sell oil to Greece, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal. Also, he appeared on TV to announce that an underground bunker complex for uranium enrichment needed to create nuclear energy is now fully operational.---

BP posted a net profit of $25.7 billion for 2011, just a year after suffering losses when an explosion on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The company and its partners — including Halliburton — will face trial beginning Feb. 27 in New Orleans that consolidates various lawsuits seeking damages for economic losses, injury claims and environmental violations.

Corrections Corp. of America, the nation's largest operator of for-profit prisons, has sent letters to 48 states offering to buy their prisons as a way to help alleviate their budget problems. In return, the firm is asking for a 20-year management contract, plus an assurance that the prison would remain at least 90 percent full. Can you say “war on drugs” and “police state?” I knew you could.

Political pundits say Mitt Romney must win the Feb. 28 Michigan primary to salvage his presidential aspirations. “As the son of one of the state’s legendary governors and the scion of an auto family,” Romney’s backers are confident of a victory there, Politico reports.

Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky comments on the recent spate of articles examining whether the United States is in decline. His conclusion: Yes, it is partially, but the reasons are mostly self-inflicted. “Corporate power’s ascendancy over politics and society — by now mostly financial — has reached the point that both political organizations, which at this stage barely resemble traditional parties, are far to the right of the population on the major issues under debate,” Chomsky writes.

Vatican officials tell Reuters News Service that a barrage of leaks about confidential and embarrassing information in the holy city during recent weeks could force Pope Benedict to clean up its administration.

Locally, the Cincinnati Museum Center is taking control of the troubled National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Museum representatives say the merger “will reduce payroll expense by sharing administrative work and eliminating redundancy in areas such as human resources and finance,” The Enquirer reports.

A local company is providing passengers the chance to join “the Mile High Club.” Flamingo Air, which operates at the city-owned Lunken Airport, offers hour-long flights for $425 a pop that allows couples to have sex while airborne in a private cabin. (We sense Citizens for Community Values about to launch a new fundraising campaign centered on this “scandal” even as we type.)

The city of Cincinnati’s attorney said there's no conflict of interest with Christopher Smitherman serving on City Council and also being the president of the NAACP’s local chapter. An assistant city solicitor explained that Ohio Ethics Law doesn't prohibit him from doing both jobs because the NAACP doesn’t currently receive any city funding.

 

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<![CDATA[Resident Files Complaint Against Smitherman]]>

A resident has filed a complaint with the city's Law Department, alleging that Christopher Smitherman’s dual role as a Cincinnati city councilman and president of the NAACP’s local chapter constitutes an abuse of corporate powers.

In his complaint, resident Casey Coston states that the NAACP’s status as a 501(c)(4) organization under the federal tax code allows it to lobby City Hall and participate in political campaigns and elections without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status. Such activities are a conflict of interest with Smitherman’s council duties, Coston alleges.---

The letter was sent today to City Solicitor John Curp by J. Thomas Hodges, Coston’s attorney. It asks Curp to review the matter and also seek an injunction preventing Smitherman from serving as chapter president. Further, it wants Curp to seek an advisory opinion from the Ohio Ethics Commission.

In a statement from Coston attached to the letter, he writes that Smitherman’s dual roles “raises serious questions of irreconcilable and impermissible conflicts of interest as it relates to his duties on City Council. Moreover, to allow him to continue in this capacity would represent an abuse of corporate powers and may be contrary to the applicable provisions of the Ohio Ethics Law, ORC 102.01(A)(1) et. Seq., and other governing laws, ordinances and regulations.”

Also in the letter, Hodges wrote, “The NAACP is an important institution in our nation and the city of Cincinnati. My client holds such (an) institution in the highest regard and has the utmost respect for its mission and role in the community. Neither the city of Cincinnati nor the NAACP’s integrity or authority should be compromised by conflicted leadership. Therefore, it is imperative that the city of Cincinnati investigate and take action to alleviate my client’s concerns on behalf of all citizens of the city of Cincinnati.”

Smitherman served a single term on City Council from 2003-05 as a Charterite, but was defeated in his reelection bid. He was elected president of the NAACP’s local chapter in April 2007, after an election fraught with controversy. He has since been reelected to that position several times.

Smitherman rejoined City Council as an independent after November’s election, finishing in eighth place to win a spot on the nine-member group.

A financial planner, Smitherman, 44, lives in North Avondale. In recent years, he has forged an alliance with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), an ultra-conservative group, and has tried to block the city's streetcar project.

In 2009, Smitherman collected enough signatures to place an issue on the ballot that would've required a public vote on any streetcar expenditures; it failed 56 percent to 44 percent. Last year, he placed an issue on the ballot to block all passenger rail projects in the city for the next decade; it failed 52 percent to 48 percent.

CityBeat called the NAACP’s national office in Baltimore for comment. A spokesman referred the inquiry to the Rev. Gill Ford, the NAACP’s national director for unit capacity building. A message left with Ford hasn’t been returned.

In an online article from August, writer Ishton W. Morton stated that the NAACP’s rules allow that “when Smitherman is elected to council, he will tender his resignation to the Cincinnati NAACP Executive Committee for them to accept or reject. If they reject his resignation, he would be able to resume his role as president.” He has since resumed the role.

Smitherman has garnered much controversy for his actions during the past few years, including for the threats he made to people attempting to photograph him at a public hearing in council’s chambers last May.

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<![CDATA['Whites Only,' the Tea Party and COAST]]>

This week’s ruling by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that a Greater Cincinnati landlady violated a girl’s civil rights by posting a “whites only” sign at an apartment complex’s swimming pool is a decision that most rational people would say is just.

The Jan. 12 ruling means the commission, if it cannot reach a settlement with landlady Jamie Hein, could issue a complaint against her with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s Office would then represent the complainant, Michael Gunn, before an administrative law judge, who could impose penalties and punitive damages.---

Gunn, who is white, filed the complaint last spring after his biracial daughter visited him at his apartment complex and tried to use the pool. She found a sign posted that read, “Public Swimming Pool, White Only.”

The girl told her father about the sign, he said, and several witnesses corroborated her account before the commission.

Although Hein told ABC News in December that the sign merely was an antique from Selma, Ala., which she received from a friend, she said in an interview with the commission’s housing enforcement director that products used by the girl in her hair made the water “cloudy.”

"I was trying to protect my assets," Hein said in the interview.

Such an attitude might seem shocking today, but it’s worth noting that Sunlite Pool at Coney Island Amusement Park didn’t become racially integrated until May 29, 1961, after a nine-year struggle — well within the lifetimes of some of CityBeat’s older readers.

But is Hein’s attitude really all that shocking or uncommon? Consider the following.

Both U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), have spoken publicly against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That’s the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.

Ron Paul has said the law "undermine[d] the concept of liberty" and "destroyed the principle of private property and private choices."

Rand Paul has said he dislikes portions of the civil rights law because a restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate. “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” Rand Paul said in 2010.


Father and son, of course, represent the views of many Libertarians and are the darlings of the Tea Party movement.

Then there’s the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a group supposedly dedicated only to fiscal conservatism. Still, one of COAST’s leaders, Chris Finney, helped push the anti-gay charter amendment approved by Cincinnati voters in 1993.

While defending Article 12 in the 1990s, Finney said landlords shouldn’t be legally required to rent to gay or lesbian tenants if they didn’t want to do so.

During testimony in a 1994 court hearing, Finney was asked why sexual behavior should affect who can eat in a restaurant or be employed by a company. Finney replied, “Because there may be some who don’t want their family dining next to a homosexual couple whose actions they find offensive.”

No wonder civil rights leader Bayard Rustin remarked in 1986 that, “Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new ‘niggers’ are gays.”

By the way, COAST helped launch Rand Paul’s Senate campaign in June 2009. Birds of a feather.

Thankfully, voters repealed Article 12 in 2004. But the worldview espoused by the Pauls, Finney and their ilk would leave us with a significantly different society today, if they had their way.

Nevertheless, one Greater Cincinnati politician after another tries to cozy up to COAST, in an effort to win conservative votes. Among those who associate with the group are Brad Wenstrup, Charlie Winburn, Christopher Smitherman, Chris Bortz, Chris Monzel and Phil Heimlich.

As President Grover Cleveland famously said, “A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out."

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<![CDATA[Smitherman's Strange Assertions]]>

Based on the latest comments on his Facebook page, it appears Christopher Smitherman either doesn't understand the wording of Issue 48 or is deliberately trying to mislead voters.

On Wednesday, Smitherman wrote on his Facebook page: “Remember Issue 48 DOES not STOP light rail but it does force City Council to ask the citizens (sic) permission before spending $144 million. City Council does not want to ask the people (for) permission.”

As several legal experts have agreed, Issue 48's net effect will be to stop the planning and construction of any type of passenger rail project within Cincinnati city limits until Dec. 31, 2020 — even if the project is privately financed.---

If any type of passenger rail project was attempted after Issue 48 was approved, the charter amendment would have to be repealed.

In other words, it does stop light rail and would have to be undone first. Smitherman has a strange definition of “does not stop light rail.”

An impartial analysis by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area states, “This proposed Ballot Issue would amend the Charter of the City of Cincinnati by adding a new Article XVI. The amendment would prohibit the City from spending or appropriating any money to plan, construct, or operate a Streetcar System or any passenger rail transit in the City in existing public rights of way through the year 2020.”

And it's not just the League that interprets Issue 48 that way.

When The Enquirer interviewed six legal experts for an article it published on Sept. 18, the experts agreed that Issue 48's impact extended beyond blocking the streetcar project.

“All six experts — law and political science experts and ballot language experts — agreed that (Issue 48) could do more than just stop the current streetcar plan. It could stop any city rail project,” the article stated.

Later in the article, the head of a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group whose purpose is to make government and business documents more understandable said Issue 48's wording is confusing. “I think it could be applied more broadly,” said Annetta Cheek, chairwoman of the Center for Plain Language. “That could be a train, And heaven knows what else it could be.”

Smitherman didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

On his Facebook page, however, when responding to a critic, Smitherman wrote, “Asking permission does not mean STOP!” (Read the exchange at the bottom of this page.)

Smitherman has stepped down temporarily as president of the NAACP's local chapter while he campaigns for Cincinnati City Council. The chapter and the ultra-conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) are jointly pushing Issue 48. Its wording was crafted by attorney Chris Finney, a COAST leader who Smitherman also appointed as the local NAACP's legal counsel.

Rob Richardson, co-chair of Cincinnatians for Progress, the anti-Issue 48 group, said Smitherman probably is worried the ballot measure's wording overreaches and turns off some voters.

“He wants to lessen the consequences of what Issue 48 means,” Richardson said, referring to Smitherman. “He realizes that some people may not like the streetcar, but they don't want to ban all passenger rail. No city anywhere has done anything like this. It would hinder growth and economic development.”

Smitherman is trying to confuse voters, he added.

“Certainly, if Issue 48 becomes law, it would stop all passenger rail projects in the city. In order to overturn it, we would have to overturn Issue 48,” Richardson said.

“If, for example, in 2013 we had someone willing to privately finance a rail system using public rights-of-way, we would have to have an election first before any planning or discussion could occur,” he said. “We couldn't even engage in planning before that.”

The proposed charter amendment is long, composed of four sections. The trickiest one is its third section, which states: For purposes of this Amendment, (i) the term “Streetcar System” means a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way, (ii) the term “City” includes without limitation the City, the Manager, the Mayor, the Council, and the City’s various boards, commissions, agencies and departments and (iii) the term “money” means any money from any source whatsoever.

For the complete text of the ballot issue, which is a summary, click here.

Interestingly, Smitherman's opposition to Cincinnati's streetcar system puts him at odds with a resolution approved by the NAACP's national office in 2009.

The resolution is entitled, “NAACP supports the improvement and expansion of passenger rail transportation solutions to serve the nation's urban communities."

Part of the resolution states, “the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People urges the expanded use of federal transportation dollars, whether provided through stimulus funding or conventional federal funding allocations, and of state and local resources, to enhance existing passenger rail systems and to develop additional passenger rail alternatives in America’s urban communities, including streetcars, light rail and high speed intercity rail systems.”

Another section states, “in many urban communities existing and proposed passenger rail systems — ranging from streetcars, to light rail, to subways and to inter-city high-speed rail — can and will provide enhanced transportation options and opportunities to the public, and particularly to minorities and the poor, while reducing traffic congestion and pollution generated by automobiles and buses using diesel fuel or gasoline.”

Under the NAACP's structure, local chapters may decide on their own policy directives, but they are generally supposed to give some consideration and deference to the national office's positions.

 



 


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<![CDATA[Sheriff Urges 'No' Vote on Issue 48]]>

The person who often ranks in polls as the most popular politician in Hamilton County is breaking with his Republican colleagues and is appearing in a new radio commercial urging a “no” vote on Issue 48.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. asks residents to oppose the anti-streetcar initiative that was placed on the ballot by the NAACP's local chapter and the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). The commercial will begin airing Wednesday during the morning drive time period on WLW (700 AM) and WKRC (550 AM), two stations with predominately conservative, Republican audiences.---

In the ad, the sheriff says, “This is Sheriff Simon Leis. I am here to urge you to vote 'no' on Issue 48. This anti-growth charter amendment would drive away investment and make the city's deficit worse. Issue 48 could lead to layoffs and service cuts that hurt every neighborhood in Cincinnati. It's a bad deal any way you look at it. If you want to see a safer, stronger Cincinnati, join me and vote 'no' on Issue 48."
Leis' commercial puts him at odds with the Hamilton County Republican Party, which has made opposing Cincinnati's long-planned streetcar project one of its central issues in the 2011 elections.

All of the GOP candidates for City Council — Leslie Ghiz, Wayne Lippert, Catherine Smith Mills, Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn — oppose the streetcar and have urged a “yes” vote.

Leis, 77, announced in September that he wouldn't seek another term as sheriff when his current term ends next year, and planned to retire after a 40-year career in various elective offices. Leis was first appointed sheriff in 1987 and was elected to the office the following year. Since then, he's been reelected sheriff five times.

Also, Leis served as county prosecutor from 1971 until 1982, when he was elected as a Common Pleas Court judge.

If approved by voters, Issue 48 would impose an outright ban on spending any money on “a system of passenger vehicles operated on rails constructed primarily in existing public rights of way” until Dec. 31, 2020. The ban would affect any source of funding regardless if it came from local, state or federal governments or even if it was privately financed.

Many legal experts said the broad wording wouldn't only affect the streetcar project but also any type of passenger rail project including commuter rail lines along the Eastern Corridor or to places like Sharonville and West Chester, along with possible light rail service to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron.

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<![CDATA[NAACP Icons Urge 'No' Vote on Issue 48]]>

Although the current leader of the NAACP's local chapter is trying to block Cincinnati's planned streetcar system, two former leaders of the organization are coming out in support of the system in a big way.

Milton W. Hinton and Judge Nathaniel R. Jones have endorsed a “no” vote on Issue 48, the proposed anti-rail charter amendment that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot in Cincinnati.---

Issue 48 is being pushed by Christopher Smitherman, president of the NAACP's local chapter, in conjunction with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), an ultra-conservative group. Smitherman has temporarily stepped down as NAACP president while he runs for City Council as an independent.

Hinton served three terms as head of the NAACP's local chapter. Under his leadership, the organization grew from 700 to 3,500 members and achieved fair housing agreements, creation of a Citizens Police Review Panel and minority participation in riverfront development, among other activities.

Before he served 22 years on the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Jones served 10 years as general counsel to the NAACP's national office. In that role, he directed a long list of historic legal battles including the landmark Mississippi boycott case that affirmed the First Amendment rights of civil rights protesters.

Hinton and Jones will speak at a press conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday on the steps of City Hall, located at Plum Street downtown. They will discuss their support for affordable, growth-oriented transportation and opposition to Issue 48.

Also, Hinton has taped a radio commercial for the “No on Issue 48” campaign, which is now airing on WDBZ (1230 AM) and WIZF (101.1 FM), two radio stations geared toward a predominantly African-American audience.

If Issue 48 is approved by voters, it would impose an outright ban on any passenger rail project within Cincinnati city limits until Dec. 31, 2020. Due to its wording, the ban would affect any source of funding regardless if it was federal, state, local or privately financed.

Others who have urged a “no” vote on Issue 48 include the League of Women Voters, the Charter Committee and the Chamber of Commerce.

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<![CDATA[Candidates On: Assessing a Garbage Fee]]>

As part of CityBeat's continuing election coverage, we’ve once again sent a questionnaire to the non-incumbent Cincinnati City Council candidates to get their reactions on a broad range of issues.

Nine of the 14 non-incumbents chose to answer our questions. Others either didn’t respond or couldn’t meet the deadline.

During the next few weeks, we will print the responses from the non-incumbents to a different topic each time.

Today’s question is, “City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. has proposed a garbage collection fee which, so far, City Council has resisted. What is your stance on this fee?”---

Mike Allen (Independent): “I am not in favor of a garbage collection fee. I am in favor of opening garbage collection, and many other services, to managed competition. When municipal workers are permitted to fairly compete, they win the job nearly 70 percent of the time. However, they find ways to provide these services with newfound efficiency and lower costs.”

Kevin Flynn (Charterite): “As presently proposed, I oppose the garbage fee. Call it what you want, a garbage fee is a tax, and a regressive tax at that. The need for the garbage tax goes back to the fact that garbage collection is, besides Public Safety, the other major component of the General Operating Budget. Unless we are willing to look at city finances as a whole, instead of focusing on only one piece, we will forever be facing this false argument. Let’s share capital between departments, analyze our Water Works and Sewer departments, audit SORTA, and enhance revenue collection of our existing taxes and fees before we raise taxes on those least able to afford the increase.”

Nicholas Hollan (Democrat): “Cincinnati is facing an economic crisis due to a lack of revenue. Drastic cuts have been made across most departments and it is clear we aren’t going to cut our way out of this challenge. As such, I am open to instating a modest garbage collection fee in an effort for the city to balance the budget and still provide basic services.”

Patricia McCollum (Independent): “I am against a garbage collection fee which is attached to an existing service.”

Catherine Smith Mills (Republican): “I do not support a trash fee.”

Sandra Queen Noble (Independent): “He's a morpher, over-charging folks for the grand larceny committed by public and staff officials dipping in the till. In '05, I ran for mayor. I offered a guaranteed cure for male-pattern baldness. I'd still do Mr. Dohoney, damn!”

Jason Riveiro (Democrat): “I believe in making recycling a program everyone wants to participate in. Garbage is a basic city service. I want to incentivize recycling instead of creating roadblocks for individuals; however, I am not in favor of a ballot initiative to tie our options in the future. I want to support the (Office of Environmental Quality) and use their ideas for revenue generation through recycling and other green initiatives as a the way to treat garbage.”

Chris Seelbach (Democrat): “I support a 'pay-as-you-throw fee,' which encourages less consumption and more reusing/ recycling. Almost every City our size has a garbage fee, but we shouldn’t charge the same amount to a household that consistently throws away everything they consume, opposed to a family who recycles and reuses as much as possible. This program would have a maximum and minimum fee and, depending on the weight of the trash, residents would pay along a sliding scale based on the previous months weight totals.”

P.G. Sittenfeld (Democrat): “I do not support a garbage fee. Taxpayer dollars should support basic services, and that includes trash pick-up.”

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<![CDATA[Does NAACP Approve of COAST Hijinks? (UPDATED)]]>

(** UPDATE FOLLOWS AT BOTTOM.)

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.
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<![CDATA[Smitherman Reelected NAACP Prez]]>

Christopher Smitherman was elected this evening to another two-year term as president of the NAACP's Cincinnati chapter. The former Cincinnati City councilman will focus on increasing the chapter's visibility on issues of health, education and youth violence during his next term, according to a statement he released.---

He was first elected as the chapter's president in April 2007 in a heated campaign against incumbent Edith Thrower, after Smitherman successfully appealed to the NAACP's national office alleging Thrower didn’t comply with the organization’s rules about how elections should be handled during initial balloting in November 2006.

In recent months, Smitherman has worked to include more minority contractors and construction workers in the Cincinnati Public Schools’ ongoing renovation projects. Also, the chapter is negotiating a deal with 10 area construction companies to ensure there's substantive minority representation on the workforce for large construction projects like the $400 million casino that will be built at Broadway Commons.

During his tenure, Smitherman has generated controversy for forging an alliance with the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), a conservative group, and appointing COAST leader Chris Finney to the chapter's board. Together, the groups led successful initiatives to block a Hamilton County sales-tax increase for a new jail and to require a public vote before the city of Cincinnati decides to sell its Water Works. An initiative to require a public vote on all rail-related projects that use taxpayer money, however, was rejected by voters.

All of the chapter's Executive Committee members were reelected tonight, including Juanita Adams as the chapter's first vice president, Beverly Morton as treasurer and Michelle Edwards as secretary.

The chapter didn't release any vote tallies.

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<![CDATA[Tea Party Spokesman Leaves Group]]>

Last week's Porkopolis column examined the in-fighting among the various Tea Party factions after the spokesman of the Tea Party Express wrote a satirical blog item about a letter from “Coloreds” to President Abraham Lincoln.

The not very funny but very hateful item was written by conservative radio talk show host Mark Williams, who was angered by the NAACP's resolution asking the political movement to denounce and expel its racist elements.---

On his blog, Williams wrote, “Dear Mr. Lincoln, We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing … Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for?” Williams wrote. “What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bailouts directly to us Coloreds!”

The item was roundly criticized as improper by the Tea Party Federation and Tea Party Nation, which called for Williams' ouster. The Express leadership refused and stood by the defiant Williams, who defended his remarks.

Less than two weeks later, however, Williams has reconsidered.

“Today, the Tea Party Express received a letter from Mark Williams expressing his desire to separate himself completely from the Tea Party Express,” the group's press release stated.

“Over a month ago, Williams stepped down as chairman of the organization to pursue other activities, but still offered to remain available as a spokesperson as needed in the future,” it continued. “Today, he went further to completely cut his ties to the Tea Party Express.”

The press release also included a copy of Williams' resignation, part of which is excerpted below.

“I feel compelled to separate myself from any further involvement with the Tea Party Express so that I can pursue other interests and to free the tea party movement from any more distraction based on my personal comments or blogs,” Williams wrote.

“The media coverage over a recent satirical posting on my personal MarkTalk.com blog risks injuring the Tea Party Express, the tea party movement as a whole, and the people in this movement who I respect and admire so much,” Williams added. “It has become increasingly unacceptable that the media and our domestic enemies continue to anoint me as the official voice of a massively diverse and broad-based movement.”

Hmm. Isn't a “spokesperson,” as Williams was deemed by the Express, by implication the “official voice of a massively diverse and broad-based movement?”

Don't feel sympathy for the Express, because it knew the type of vitriol to expect from Williams. In the past, he’s called President Obama “the former Barry Soetoro, Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug turned anointed,” and referred to President Carter as a “creepy little faggot.”



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<![CDATA[Tea Party Speaker: Revive 'Jim Crow']]>

For the past year, we’ve written occasionally about how many in the Tea Party movement are inspired by racism, fear and hate. When we have, we’ve gotten angry e-mails and blog comments telling us that just isn’t so. Like clockwork, Teabaggers then go and say something to prove our point.

Well, they have again. And this time it’s a doozie.---

As media outlets are beginning to report today, the opening speaker at the first national Tea Party Convention in Nashville said he wants to revive the use of a “literacy test” to determine who gets the right to vote.

The speaker, former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), said President Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."

At one point, Tancredo said Obama was elected by "people who could not even spell the word 'vote'..."

As any student of U.S. history can recall, so-called literacy tests were regularly used in the South for nearly 100 years to deny the vote to African-American people, until Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Typical questions included obscure items in history and just plain odd inquires like, “How many bubbles are inside a bar of soap?”

It’s important to note that white Southerners weren’t subjected to such “tests.”

In his speech Thursday night, Tancredo criticized "the cult of multiculturalism" that he believes has gripped the nation. Obama’s election has energized conservatives, he added. “This is our country. Let's take it back,” Tancredo said.

ABC News reports that Tancredo's speech “received enthusiastic applause at times.”

At most political conventions, the opening speaker is selected based on someone who represents the party's views and who is expected to help set the tone and theme of the event.

Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington chapter, said Tancredo should apologize.

Shelton called Tancredo’s remarks "outrageous" and "insidious" in an interview with Raw Story, a progressive Web site. "This is the politics of denigration."

About 600 people have paid $549 to attend the convention, which ends Saturday with a speech by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Tancredo should be wary of getting what he wishes. As we’ve seen at several Tea Party rallies and health care reform protests, attendees have brandished signs stating, “Stop government-run health care, keep your hands off my Medicaid.”

Let’s see how local Tea Party leaders spin this speaker's ugliness.

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<![CDATA['Choo-Choo Trains' and Hidden Motives]]>

The COAST/NAACP anti-streetcar petition crew is causing all sorts of debauchery and grabbing headlines for its attempt to garner support for a sweeping, all-inclusive anti-rail ballot initiative. And it is exhausting.---

My favorite comments on the issue have already been posted on the Cincinnatians for Progress blog and re-posted at least once (at CincinnatiBeacon.com), but I think it’s so significant that I’d like to put it here at CityBeat, too. This is an excerpt from the unabridged Enquirer editorial by Dan Mooney with Cincinnatians for Progress:

“One thing particularly dangerous about a ‘referendum,’ as opposed to a race for mayor or City Council, is the amount and source of cash that can be spent to persuade the public to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Candidates for council or mayor have strict contribution limits, and can only accept money from individual contributors or duly registered political action committees.

“But if Cincinnatians vote on whether to joint the (Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland) high-speed connection, corporate power brokers can write unlimited checks. Watch what happens this November when proponents and opponents of casino gambling start buying millions of dollars of television time. The ‘message’ voters hear is not always what motivates these big donors. Casino ‘opponents’ will warn about the potential harm of gambling to our community’s social fabric, in ads paid for by casino operators from across the Indiana border who just don’t want more competition. The same motives will drive any passenger rail referendum in Cincinnati. Would oil companies or car manufacturers write big checks to prevent Cincinnatians from leaving their cars at home and take a train to work, Columbus or Chicago? Would Delta want to keep people flying rather than taking a train to Chicago or Cleveland? You betcha.”

This is so critical to understand as this petition storm kicks up and the players seem so conspicuously strange.

Why is the NAACP so invested in this petition? What does blocking rail-centered transportation alternatives have to do with the “Advancement of Colored People?” Who really are the people behind COAST, and what things do they own that they need to protect against rail transportation?

The answers, of course, may be benign and entirely non-scandalous — but it's warranted (and good form, really) to inquire about such things.

The rhetoric swirling around this petition and the streetcar debate is pretty ridiculous.

The other day, COAST pointed out that the proposed streetcar route goes through census tract No. 16, or “The Worst Neighborhood in the Country." They then go on to explain, “Sheriff Leis even went out of his way to send special patrols there to augment city forces two years ago. Those patrols were widely praised at the time for a significant reduction in crime. The study range, incidently (sic), encompasses the patrol period, which leaves one wondering how much worse it was beforehand. But then again, it's hard to beat No. 1. Clearly we have a long way to go.”

Heaps of academic research and real-life case studies in other cities show us that more traffic and life on a street leads to a reduction in crime, and streetcars are redevelopment projects as much as they are transportation projects that will encourage fixing up and investing in the real estate there.

So, I’m pretty sure this explanation doesn’t accurately articulate their objection. And if Christopher Smitherman calls the streetcar project a “choo-choo train” one more time, I’m going to freak out.

What’s really going on?

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<![CDATA[Chris Finney Serves Two Masters]]>

Chris Finney must be feeling rather schizophrenic lately.

The local attorney and arch-conservative activist is offering his services free of charge to the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter, where he is chair of legal redress. His duties include assisting the chapter’s efforts at advancing the interests of the area’s African-American residents.

At the same time, Finney continues his legal work for ex-State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. and their political group, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST). His latest effort there is a lawsuit trying to overturn the Ohio law prohibiting former state lawmakers from lobbying in Columbus for one year after they leave office.---

Brinkman wants to be an unpaid lobbyist for COAST so he can persuade lawmakers not to give additional state funding to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located along Cincinnati’s downtown riverfront. Brinkman alleges the law infringes on his free speech rights and is discriminatory because it doesn’t prohibit ex-lawmakers from lobbying on behalf of state agencies or political subdivisions without a waiting period.

COAST opposes a proposed $3.1 million allocation for the Freedom Center.

After the Freedom Center opened in 2004, it reported a $5.5 million deficit in its first year as paid attendance didn’t reach estimates. Later the museum cut about $3 million from its annual budget and called on former Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper to help raise $10 million for an endowment.

Also, Cincinnati City Council approved giving $800,000 to the museum in 2007 to help pay off $25 million in construction debt. During the past three years, the Freedom Center has received about $10 million in taxpayer money from various sources.

COAST has said the museum shouldn’t be dependent on taxpayer funding to remain open, but museum supporters note that several local attractions like the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Cincinnati Zoo receive public subsidies, adding that singling out the Freedom Center for criticism has racist undertones. Critics, however, reply that those organizations seek approval of tax levies from voters.

The Freedom Center commemorates the historic safe houses and secret routes, known as the Underground Railroad, that runaway slaves used on their way to northern free states in the 19th century. Many stops are located throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

COAST has made a veritable cottage industry out of criticizing the Freedom Center over the years, including reports about African-American exhibits bypassing the facility, the amount that museum executives are paid and holding swanky cocktail receptions for lawmakers.

“When the museum was originally promoted, it promised to bring one million visitors to Cincinnati from all over the world,” COAST’s Web site states. “Today, the Freedom Center attracts fewer than 62,000 paying visitors, and they are mostly children from the area forced to go there on school field trips. These visitors generate near-zero economic activity for the city because they come and leave on school buses, not stopping to spend additional cash.”

Some critics, notably local Democrats, allege that Finney is providing free legal services in return for Smitherman wooing black voters to join the local Republican Party.

Still, maybe we should have seen this unusual turn of events coming.

In April 2008, Smitherman told The Cincinnati Beacon that the museum needed to reach out to local organizations more and that it might be able to raise money if it did so.

“I have been very concerned about the Freedom Center’s financials and their approach on gaining new financial resources,” Smitherman told The Beacon. “Partnerships and collaboration are the keys to a successful strategy for the center. This includes grassroots institutions and grassroots people.”

In related news, local blogger Nathaniel Livingston Jr. is asking the IRS to investigate the NAACP’s local chapter for allegedly using its tax-exempt resources to intervene in the upcoming Cincinnati City Council elections.

During his weekly radio show on WDBZ (1230 AM), Smitherman recently urged NAACP members to oppose Democratic candidate Jeff Berding and to “vote down” the Democratic ticket. As a registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, federal law prohibits the local chapter from directly or indirectly participating in a political campaign for or against any candidate.


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<![CDATA[NAACP Speaks/Sings To City Council [Photos]]]>

The NAACP turned out to the City Council meeting Wednesday to start the conversation about a disproportionate amount of city contracts awarded to non-minority contractors. Many of the speakers said that of the $1 billion worth of contracts awarded by the city, less than 1 percent were given to minorities.---

Here are photos from the event:

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NAACP member Elizabeth Sanford of Walnut Hills waits for the City Council meeting's session of comments from the public to begin.

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NAACP Health Committee Chair Victoria Straughn applauds the speakers during the session.

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Dozen of NAACP members filed the room to speak about the vast majority of city contracts going to non-minorities.

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Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory listened on for well over an hour to the comments, which usually last about half as long.

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The main floor of the council chambers was so full that many people sat in the balcony.

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NAACP member Eugene Smith of Kennedy Heights applauds after the crowd spontaneously sang "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

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<![CDATA[Odd Musings About 'the Odd Couple']]>

Maybe Christopher Smitherman, the Cincinnati NAACP’s president, is cagier than most people think.---

Smitherman spent much of late March defending his selection of an anti-gay rights activist as the legal advisor to the NAACP’s local chapter against a barrage of criticism and national publicity. The appointment came at about the same time as the national NAACP announced it supported the repeal of Proposition 8, which prohibits same sex-marriage in California.

Smitherman appointed Christopher Finney as the local chapter’s “chair of legal redress.” Finney wrote Article 12, a charter amendment passed by Cincinnati voters in 1993 that prohibited city officials from passing any laws that protected gays and lesbians from discrimination or hate crimes. It was repealed in 2004.

Some local bloggers and activists believe Smitherman is using the dispute to “shame” members of the LGBT community into attending a City Hall protest organized by the NAACP and surreptitiously bolster its turnout. The protest, scheduled for Wednesday, is aimed at getting more city contracts awarded to minority-owned businesses.

During his impassioned defense of Finney, Smitherman blamed Cincinnati’s LGBT community for not doing enough to support the city’s African-American community and the causes it advocates, even though the LGBT community allegedly seeks help from blacks. Also, Smitherman said he would rely on Finney to help with the push to overhaul the city’s set-aside program for municipal contracts in an effort to steer more to minority-owned businesses.

The two positions staked out by Smitherman are somewhat strange.

First, as several critics have noted recently, the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter did not take a stance on the repeal of Article 12 in 2004. Many other prominent organizations and officials did, including the mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, several top CEOs and the Archbishop of Cincinnati. But the NAACP didn’t, so Smitherman’s claim that repeal supporters depended on African-Americans and “owe” them something in return, in political quid pro quo, rings hollow.

Secondly, as local blogger Nate Livingston Jr. noted, a written statement from Finney's law firm — dating to the 1990s — outlines its opposition to affirmative action, quotas, set-asides and racial preferences. The letter was written by David Langdon, who was an attorney with Finney's firm at the time. Although Langdon is no longer in business with Finney, they still work together on special projects, including COAST/NAACP ballot initiatives, and on matters related to Article 12.

Langdon’s letter stated that set-aside programs were unconstitutional.

“Affirmative action policies — whether quotas, set-asides or preferences — by their very nature, breed racial intolerance," Langdon wrote. "As a society, our conduct and behavior, and, to an extent, our attitudes and prejudices, our (sic) driven by our laws. You see, laws that create preferences based on race or gender alone inevitably result in governmental discrimination. In order to prefer one, government must discriminate against another. And with every instance of discrimination, there is the potential for literally generations of racial intolerance, prejudice and hatred.”

How Finney reconciles his law firm’s conservative legal philosophy with his NAACP work is unclear. Also unclear is why Smitherman trusts Finney to operate in the NAACP’s best interests on this issue.

Since CityBeat last covered the Finney controversy, both Equality Ohio and Equality Cincinnati have issued statements about the appointment.

“We at Equality Cincinnati were disappointed at the recent news regarding the retention by the local NAACP chapter of Chris Finney as legal counsel. We hope this does not signal a change in what we can expect from the NAACP in the future,” stated George Ellis, the local group’s president. “As the leader of an LGBT organization, I take my duty to the entire LGBT community quite seriously. And I take seriously the dual nature of many of their identities. Many of our members are women and LGBT, or persons of color and LGBT, or persons of various faiths and LGBT. Equality Cincinnati must be mindful of these dual or multiple group identities in order to best represent our community.”

Some local gay residents criticize Equality Cincinnati for the tepidness of its response. Also, they noted the statewide group issued a statement on the controversy almost a week earlier than the local group.

Equality Ohio’s statement read, in part, “It is very odd that an organization with civil rights at its core would appoint a person who has demonstrated opposition to equal protection for all people. While homophobia has an adverse affect on LGBT people in general, it has an even more serious impact on LGBT African-Americans, exacerbating existing issues of under-employment, HIV/AIDS, and access to appropriate healthcare.

“We hope that in the 17 years since he wrote the charter amendment effectively exiling LGBT people of all colors from full citizenship and protections in Cincinnati, Mr. Finney has learned not just the value of LGBT people but that of all people and families in Cincinnati.”

Local activist Will Kohler, who runs the Back2Stonewall blog, is urging LGBT residents to boycott Smitherman’s City Hall rally.

“The protest called by Smitherman out of anger and rage is supposedly to protest the city of Cincinnati’s flawed (contracting program) which the city itself is well aware and in the process of fixing,” Kohler wrote. “Mr. Smitherman is well aware of this fact but still calls a protest to do nothing more to show his power.

“Do not enable Christopher Smitherman and show up for this protest! Show your support for minority and small businesses instead by calling or writing City Hall and the mayor’s office and telling them of your support instead. But DO NOT feed Smitherman’s power trip or bend to his will. He has insulted and belittled us. To support HIM at this moment would be not only hypocritical but also paint our community as weak and apathetic.”

We have a photographer scheduled to shoot the protest, and it will be interesting to see what the turnout is like.


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<![CDATA[Who 'Evoked' First?]]> In defending his selection of an anti-gay rights activist to become the Cincinnati NAACP’s legal advisor, Christopher Smitherman scolded critics for daring to invoke the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.---

Speaking on his WDBZ (AM 1230) radio show last weekend, Smitherman addressed the local LGBT community. He criticized them for mentioning King when discussing their own civil rights struggles.

“But the bottom line is your community as it deals with racism in the African-American community, you’re not there,” Smitherman said. “You're absent. And then when it's convenient for you, you start evoking (sic) Dr. Martin Luther King. Proposition 8 lost in California because the (gay) community isn't properly engaging the African-American community. And you're showin' up at the last minute trying to build bridges and have relationships, and it doesn't work that way.”

A few Smitherman supporters also have rallied to his defense, stating it’s not fair or appropriate to compare the African-American community’s struggle for civil rights with the struggle by the LGBT community.

Except…

It was Smitherman himself who first mentioned King’s name and legacy in connection with gay rights.

When a coalition formed to repeal the anti-gay Article 12 in 2004, some conservative groups circulated campaign literature in the black community that implied King didn’t support gay rights and would have urged that Article 12 stay on the books. The tactic drew an angry rebuke from the King Center and the late Coretta Scott King, the reverend’s widow, who said that she and her husband supported gay rights.

Around the same time, on Oct. 24, 2004, then-Cincinnati City Councilman Christopher Smitherman had a letter to the editor published in The Cincinnati Enquirer. His letter quoted Mrs. King, then he personally urged the passage of Issue 3, which would overturn Article 12.

The letter stated: “Those who oppose the repeal have used Dr. King’s image to promote discrimination. Their actions are shameful and disrespect the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Nov. 2, we should all keep in mind the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and vote ‘yes’ on 3.”

In 2004, at least, Smitherman believed it was acceptable to “keep in mind” King’s statements when thinking about gay rights. That was one year before his unsuccessful re-election bid to City Council, when he was courting gay and lesbian votes.

Less than five years later, Smitherman apparently has had a change of heart.

Smitherman has been embroiled in controversy since his selection of Christopher Finney as the local NAACP’s “chair of legal redress.” Finney wrote Article 12, a charter amendment passed by voters in 1993 that prohibited city officials from passing any laws that protected gays and lesbians from discrimination or hate crimes. It was repealed in 2004.

Some local LGBT activists have written and called the NAACP’s national office, asking leaders there to overturn Smitherman’s appointment.

Meanwhile, the dispute continues to garner national coverage. It was included in Tuesday’s “10 Random Thoughts,” by James Withers, a contributing editor, at the 365Gay Blog, which is operated by the Logo cable TV network.

Smitherman ranked number eight on the list.

Withers wrote, “Christopher Smitherman, the Cincinnati NAACP chapter president, warned gays and lesbians about consequences if people kept giving him grief about picking homophobe Chris Finney to be his group's legal advisor. Smitherman, you are no Michael Corleone. Keep the empty threats to yourself. Really.”

Capice?

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<![CDATA[Smitherman Warns Gay Community]]>

Facing national criticism about his decision to appoint an anti-gay rights activist as a legal adviser, the president of the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter issued a warning on his radio show this weekend.


Christopher Smitherman, the local NAACP president, talked about unspecified consequences if the gay and lesbian community continues pushing for the ouster of Chris Finney, who Smitherman recently appointed as the group’s “chair of legal redress.” He made the remarks on Smitherman on the Mic, a show he hosts Saturdays on WDBZ (AM 1230.)---


“I think you should be very, very cautious LGBT community,” Smitherman said. “I think you should be very cautious moving forward. I don't think this is a tree you want to bark up. But if you want to go there, if this is what you want to do, we can go there.


“But the bottom line is your community as it deals with racism in the African-American community, you’re not there,” he continued. “You're absent. And then when it's convenient for you, you start evoking (sic) Dr. Martin Luther King. Proposition 8 lost in California because the (gay) community isn't properly engaging the African-American community. And you're showin' up at the last minute trying to build bridges and have relationships, and it doesn't work that way.”


Also, Smitherman challenged local gays and lesbians to participate in the NAACP’s upcoming rally at Cincinnati City Hall to protest the low amount of city contracts that are awarded to minority-owned businesses.


“So we're going to City Hall on April the 8th. We'll see if the LGBT community shows up in masses saying, ‘I'm standing with the Cincinnati NAACP demanding economic justice in this town.’ Or will they be quiet like they always are?” Smitherman said.


Smitherman has faced mounting criticism over his choice of the controversial Finney, who is perhaps best known as the person who wrote Article 12, a charter amendment passed by voters in 1993 that prohibited city officials from passing any laws that included sexual orientation as a protected class. It was repealed in 2004.


Among his past comments about Article 12, Finney once said that landlords shouldn’t be legally required to rent to gay or lesbian tenants if they didn’t want to do so, a remark that some critics compared to people who refused public accommodations or services to African Americans before the 1960s. Further, Finney has said restaurants shouldn’t be required to serve homosexual couples if other customers object.


Smitherman has said Finney shouldn’t be judged on one issue alone. He noted that Finney has been a loyal NAACP ally, and helped the group draft several ballot measures in the last few years.


In the last week, Finney’s appointment has been covered by 365gay.com, the news Web site of the Logo cable TV network, which is owned by CBS; and popular gay blogs like Towle Road, Lavender Newswire and LGBTN.


Critics believe Finney’s appointment is inconsistent with the sentiment expressed by Julian Bond, the national NAACP’s chairman, in a recent letter to California lawmakers urging the repeal of the anti-gay Proposition 8.


Bond wrote, “Proposition 8 subverts … basic and necessary safeguards, unjustly putting all Americans, particularly vulnerable minorities, at risk of discrimination by a majority show of hands.”


During his radio show, Smitherman repeated a sentiment he told CityBeat last week, stating, “Why in their minds do they believe that the Cincinnati NAACP needs to check in with them on an appointment to our board? And what would make them think that I would look out for anybody else's interests other than our membership's interests?”


Black gay men in Cincinnati are generally treated poorly by their white counterparts, Smitherman said.


“Now this doesn't mean that there aren't gay members of the Cincinnati NAACP because I can name some white brothers by the name, i.e. Victor Fabro, white male, gay, he's out, who's very supportive of the NAACP. He stands with us, he comes to marches,” Smitherman said.


“But he's not carrying the banner of the institution. The institution is quiet. And the only time ... and I'm supportive ... I've been supportive of these issues. Matter of fact, not in lock step with the African-American community. Now you write me having been absent and I've sent messages and told you to engage the African-American community differently.”


Cincinnati’s white gay community could begin healing the rift by purchasing a table at the chapter’s annual Freedom Dinner fund-raiser, the president said.


“I've never seen you at a Freedom Fund dinner,” Smitherman said. “We have a fund-raiser, matter of fact, we've had 54 of them. I've never seen you come in and buy a table. And I bet you if you did buy one, you were there because you wanted something. Like your issue was on the ballot and y'all were up against the wall and you wanted something.


“But you don't come and support our Freedom Fund dinner here in Cincinnati,” he added. “I don't know what goes on in New York. I don't know what goes on in Cleveland. I don't know what goes on in Alaska. I don't know what goes on in California … But I don't see the gay community showing up and supporting our institutions. So it's just beyond me that I'm getting all of these e-mails.”


Equality Cincinnati hasn’t yet issued a statement about Finney’s appointment.


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