John Barrett was quoted in the paper on May 14th, 2013 as saying the Anna Louise Inn (ALI) deal was a “win/win.”
A quick bio for those of you who are unfamiliar with Mr. Barrett. John Barrett is the CEO of Western & Southern financial group. He has invested MILLIONS of dollars into Cincinnati and, historically, has been a good steward of Downtown Cincinnati’s development. That is, until recently when he acquired, through years of lawsuits, the ALI from Cincinnati Union Bethel (CUB).
Years ago, when Mr. Barrett began lobbying to buy the ALI (which is OWNED by CUB), the community came out in support of ALI. Every member of City Council supported CUB’s right to keep ALI in its current location on Lytle Park because, once again, they OWNED the property. I will not proceed by recounting all of the court cases that followed, as I want this post to be short and to the point. All I will mention is that the lawsuits ended up having their desired intent – they held off CUB’s ability to renovate ALI for so long that they would HAVE to accept Mr. Barrett’s terms and sell the property. You see, the Federal Tax monies that CUB needs to continue supporting the women at ALI was about to expire, and they had to make a decision – keep spending money they didn’t have in court fees & lose out on the Federal monies, or agree to play ball with Mr. Barrett.
Painting someone into a corner is NOT a “win/win” situation. It is tantamount to bullying.
ALI got $4,000,000 and the women who live at ALI will be “allowed” to live in their home for the next two years while their new facility gets renovated. These are both good things. CUB will also be able to harness the power of the Federal monies – also a good thing. What is NOT a good thing is that, after YEARS of community & bipartisan support, Mr. Barrett still got his way.
I have worked with low-income people throughout the entire course of my adult life. I have advocated for affordable housing and rehabbed buildings for this purpose. Years ago, when I reached out to 3CDC to form a relationship with them, my intentions were questioned by many of my affordable housing cohorts. Still, I pushed on with the ethos that making friends is the surest and most effective form of protest. To date, I have formed numerous excellent relationships with folks at 3CDC, and I have been impressed with how they have managed the redevelopment of much of our downtown core. No one is perfect, but I feel they have been good stewards of their role in Cincinnati, all told.
I have felt quite fortunate to find myself with good friends in ALL of the nonprofit worlds of Cincinnati – from 3CDC to our region’s social service leaders. It is this bridge building upon which we, as a city, need to focus if we are to continue our forward momentum as a City known for progressivism and tolerance.
Which brings me to my point.
After lunch with my friend, Evan Hennessy, and after a day to digest the news I received from Pete Witte yesterday that ALI was sold to Mr. Barrett, I have come to this conclusion: Mr. Barrett needs to resign from his Board position at 3CDC.
3CDC has proven that they are interested in working with social service agencies in redeveloping Over-the-Rhine (OTR). Yes, the relations can be a bit tricky, but the principle parties at 3CDC have shown me that they are willing to listen and put their money where their mouth is (just look at Mercer Commons, which will have a number of affordable units in it when all is said and done).
Mr. Barrett, who holds great opinion-making power on the Board of 3CDC has proven that he is not of the similar mindset. A nonprofit redevelopment corporation as important as 3CDC deserves to have objective, compassionate, and well-intentioned people on their Board. I feel that Mr. Barrett has shown, quite publicly, that he not only does not hold the low-income members of our community in high esteem, but also many of the initiatives 3CDC has completed or has in the works.
Mr. Barrett has contributed much to the City of Cincinnati. It is a real shame that he may be remembered only for this attack on ALI and CUB – however, I hope this is not the case. I truly wish he had backed down years ago from the ALI fight, but he didn’t. The reason he won is because we let him win. There is often no ramification for folks like Mr. Barrett. While asking for his resignation from the Board of 3CDC may not seem like much, it is at least a step toward letting him know that WE, the citizens of Cincinnati, do not appreciate his latest acquisition of ALI, or the manner through which he acquired the property.
Anna Louise Inn deserves better.
3CDC deserves better.
Please join me in calling for Mr. Barrett’s resignation from the Board of 3CDC here. If you agree with this proposal, please share this blog post on your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIN profiles.