There has been a lot of talk recently about the pending layoffs of our police and firemen & women.
Let me make this perfectly clear – I do not want to see this happen. Let me make another thing perfectly clear – for a city our size, the ideal number of police would be three per 1,000 citizens.
That number is currently around 2.8. Not bad. This seems to say that we are at a stable point. It also seems to say that we could do better by .2.
And now, thanks to COAST and Friends, Milton Dohoney’s “Plan B” is dangerously close to being enacted because there is no other alternative. If the parking lease had gone through unaffected by ideological whims and self-aggrandizing motives, we may not be in this spot. But alas, we are.
So, instead of whining about it, I am going to outline a terrifying prediction of what could potentially happen – a scenario I will NEVER allow to happen once I am elected to City Council.
I have engaged in conversation with all kinds of people over the course of the past two months. They all have one thing in common – they truly care about Cincinnati. That said, they certainly do not all feel similarly about how Cincinnati can achieve financial stability and long term viability. But hey, it’s a free country – we can all disagree and still get along. I think.
One thing we all need to come to terms with before we continue – the City’s departments, all except safety, have been gutted. That’s a fact. Safety has not undergone cuts in many, many years. Now, before you say to yourself, “here it comes, he’s gonna say we need to cut safety,” let me finish. I do not feel we should cut safety this year. I don’t. I do feel we need to hire recruits in an ethical manner and not promise people things with only tomorrow in mind. We need, as elected leaders, to promise people things with the FUTURE in mind. The LONG TERM future. That said, we cannot increase our force, but we also do not need to cut it.
How? Well, I’ve said it numerous times, and I’ll say it again – Capital Investment.
Without boring you with another long-winded Streetcar rant, I will direct you here and here. Oh, and here. Whatever you do, please don’t go here. If you do, take some ibuprofen before you do. And maybe some Maalox.
So, back to my numerous conversations I have been having with concerned citizens. Some have suggested cutting things like parks & recreation, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, pools, community centers, free health clinics, and other public services that many in our community rely upon for healthy and safe gathering places for their children.
I have asked these very same people, who may have their own pools, their own safe neighborhoods, their own private clubs, if they understand that many in our community rely on these free public places to help them teach their children to make positive life choices. I have asked these very same people if they have ever looked at the statistics of who occupies our jails. I have asked them if, in their opinion, the poor young people who run through the prison system like it has a revolving door are somehow “less than.” That last one doesn’t get too many answers. Why? Because it makes people confront their own biases, prejudices, and bigotry.
Are our brothers and sisters in jail somehow “worse” than those of us who are not in jail? Were they given faulty genetic codes? No. Most of them were born into poverty and inherited a generations-old opportunity gap. As a result, they had very little chance of making it out alive – or with their freedom.
This is another fact.
Community centers and free health clinics are proactive in nature. They help to stop problems before they arise. The Police force is proactive as well – very much so – but it is also the primary reactive element of law enforcement. And we need it. However, reactivity without proactivity is simply punishment. Reactivity WITH proactivity is progress. It is fighting for what’s right and doing so in a cost-effective manner. It’s a win/win.
The more people in prison – the more money we pay in taxes.
The more people making healthy life choices and joining the work force (as opposed to wasting away in prison) – the more we, as a community, thrive.
This is not some liberal conspiracy, it is cold, hard, economic fact.
Are there some people who NEED to be in prison? Yes. But that number is WAY below the current numbers. Punishment is big business nowadays – just look at the onset of the privatized prison system. That should be evidence enough that something is wrong. Very wrong. With an equal focus on proactive AND reactove measures, we could reduce these numbers, boost the economy, and all become richer (spiritually AND financially). There is absolutely nothing wrong with money, or private clubs, or personal swimming pools – I was raised around them – but there IS something wrong with them when they exist on on the backs of the poor.
We need the CRC as much as we need the Police Force. This is something I have been advocating for no less than 12 years, and I was so happy to see the Cincinnati Enquirer say something to this effect in today’s cover story (April 26th, 2013).
When Mike Rogers and I ran Choices Cafe we helped Br. Mike Murphy (pictured above) begin the HELP Program. You may have heard about it. Currently, there are over 300 folks in the program, all with felony convictions, and all who want to become productive members of society. However, we, as a community, have failed them time and time again by underfunding schools, not providing affordable quality rehabilitation programs, and continuing to make financial decisions that widen the opportunity gap. Shame on us.
My friends in the HELP Program work very hard to advocate for themselves, but they need a little support. Like we all do. When I was 17 I got into some trouble with the police as I was making poor life decisions. Thankfully, I had two wonderful parents who had worked very hard and made a good life for me. They also had money and could help send me to the best schools and get the treatment I needed to get back on track. As a result, I have thrived in my life and this is why I am so driven to give back. If my parents had not had money, I may very well have been on the Drop Inn Center floor – not serving on the board.
What did I do to DESERVE this love and assistance? I was born. That’s it. I was born to my awesome parents. Another cold, hard fact – not everyone is born to awesome parents, so we need to provide awesome & FREE community programs that help those who need it the most in their direst times of desperation. If given the opportunity, people will rise to the top. However, with no opportunity, certain segments of our population are relegated to a lifetime at the bottom.
And I will not stand to see this continue.
Who represents the voiceless? Do you? If you do, then join the Team and let’s make sound financial decisions that protect our proactive and reactive elements that make our community better. Let’s show the Nation that Cincinnati cares about her most vulnerable citizens. Yes, it takes a lot of hard work on behalf of the individual seeking service, but without creating situations where people can begin to actualize their true potential, then we will simply repeat the mistakes of the past time and time again – thereby making it more and more difficult, with every passing year, for those struck by poverty to EVER see the chance at a different life. I, for one, am tired of seeing us repeat those mistakes. I, for one, believe that we can do better.
I was inspired yesterday by a number of people. I was inspired by my new friend, Jai, who helped remind me that all of these thoughts are right on target with where Cincinnatians what to go – i.e., FORWARD. I was inspired by Luke, Angela, Bryna, and all of the students at the Permaganic Eco Garden at 1718 Main. The work they are doing there is life changing, transformative. They are reaching out to the youth, those who were born into seemingly impossible situations, and teaching them life skills, job-readiness, and peace. And still, they were being bullied by developers who City Hall – namely Laure Quinlivan – told to back off. It’s time to celebrate these small victories of what is possible in our City. Perhaps it was this inspiration that led me to pen this post. Or perhaps it was the fact that I cannot, and will not, continue to listen to political ideologues argue about issues without ever bringing our city’s poor into the conversation.
I am over NOT talking about the elephants in the room.
I have spent my entire adult life walking in solidarity with the poor. Now it is time for me to learn more about what our Police need to alleviate their burden. As a result, I will be doing a ride along in District 3 on May 31st. I very much look forward to learning. One thing I already know – a tight bond between the Police and the social service sector is a recipe for success.
I may not know much about math, but I do know this:
Proactive + Reactive = Active Communities.
What is it that it says on our City’s flag?
Oh yeah – Unity Assists.