The Line In The Sand

The City is aflame with opinions.  City Hall has received more attention that it has in a long while.  Cincinnati politics has become a veritable powder keg, and new lines are being drawn in the sand every day.

There are numerous people whose names keep coming up over and over again in conversations at work, home, or your favorite restaurant.  These names belong to politicians, Council candidates, City employees, activist groups (both conservative and liberal), and citizens who are making a name for themselves.  Whether parking, streetcars, budgets, or layoffs – their names come up in every form of conversation – casual or heated.  Hopefully, Mike Moroski comes up too as someone who can step back, look at the issues, distill information, separate fact from fiction, and has the courage to speak up.

If not, that name will soon get thrown in the mix.

The newest line to be drawn in the sand is one that has forced politicians to choose a side.  These “sides” are not marked by the traditional terms, “Democrat” and “Republican” – for it has become increasingly difficult to tell which is which.  No, this city has become separated by two new camps of people:  Those Who Desire Progress, and Those Who Do Not Desire Progress.

I would like to consider myself one who desires progress. . .for ALL of our citizens.  Not just the rich ones.  Not just the poor ones.  Not just the female ones.  Not just the male ones.  Not just the white ones.  Not just the Black ones.  Not just the Latino ones.  ALL of us.  To achieve that kind of progress takes courage and leadership.  It takes coming to the table with your intentions laid out before you.  For, when your intentions are laid out on the table for everyone to see you will always win – even if your idea fails.  This is called, “integrity,” and many of those running for office or parading around with COAST have seem to lost sight of that definition.  It would appear as if their definition of “integrity” is, “to get elected.”  For the record, I think that is a terrible definition.

Milton Dohoney released his proposed budget yesterday.  The good news?  130 police and fire jobs were saved.  The bad news?  Many other essential services and departments were slaughtered.

Many tell me that City government should not be involved in funding social services like the Freestore/Foodbank.  My response to them is that the nonprofit sector – one of the oldest in our Country’s pluralistic culture – is a sector born out of government failure.  The Freestore/Foodbank fills in where the City cannot.  And we, as elect leaders, have a moral & civic obligation to help our social services care for our most vulnerable citizens.

Many tell me that health clinics and the African American Chamber are unnecessary services.  Ask any of my low-income or minority friends if they are unnecessary.  You will get a very different perspective.  The services that are being cut in the latest budget draft are services that many in our community RELY upon to survive, and that provide vital proactive services that help alleviate the strains of poverty.  Without these services, more people will be led down a path in life that is destructive, not only to themselves, but to the greater community as a whole.  I wrote extensively on this topic just a couple of weeks ago in my post, “Proactive + Reactive = Active Communities.”  Check it out if you haven’t already.

What else is being cut?  My friends at the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) will be losing around $50,000 as the City is eliminating a contract with Hamilton County Social Services that helps to fund CIRV.  My brother, Mike Rogers, worked with CIRV for a time, and I have collaborated with the group since its inception.  They do work that no one else wants to do.  They go into the neighborhoods into which no one else wants to go.  They work with angry youth with whom no one else wants to work.  And they do these things so that we ALL can be safer and have a better life.  They help stop the problems before they arise.

The grand total that is being cut from Human Services Policy funding?  $721,150.

The Neighborhood Support Program funding is reduced by $279,950.  When the program began neighborhoods received $10,000.  Then $5,000.  This year they are getting $2,500 and only a few months to spend it.  What happens when you get money and a limited time to spend it before that money gets taken back?  Typically, you spend it on something that may (or may not) be what you need for long term growth.  In Lower Price Hill they may not have their newsletter this year.  Many other communities may not have a newsletter either – or flower boxes lining the sidewalk.  Perhaps you feel that these are unnecessary expenses – but you would be wrong.  The neighborhood newsletter keeps people a PART of their community.  It helps them feel connected.  When people feel connected, they tend to act accordingly and build a more cohesive community.  Flower boxes build pride in communities – especially communities that have lost some pride over the years.  Neighborhood beautification is smart, practical, and plans for the long term.

Funding for The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance which helps perform reduced cost home energy audits will be eliminated.  So will the Urban Agriculture program.  The environment took a hit on this version of the budget.

Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, The African American Chamber, Office of Environmental Quality. . . . . .CUT, CUT, CUT.

Greater Cincinnati Film Commission. . . . . . .CUT.

The Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills – CLOSED.

The pools in Camp Washington, Fairview, Filson, Spring Grove Village, and Ziegler – CLOSED.

Oh – and your water bill and property taxes will go up.

But. . .Thanks to COAST and others, you will NOT have to pay more at your parking meter.  Not just yet, at least.  Eventually you will though – because the rates HAVE to go up sooner or later.

I do not get angry very often.  But I am angry today.  I am angry that essential services AND police & firemen/women are getting the axe.  I am angry that political ideologues are being allowed to govern our City’s future and impede our progress.  I am angry that a petition gathering movement led by COAST was billed as “giving citizens a voice” – apparently that “voice” doesn’t matter when it concerns the streetcar, an issue citizens voted in favor of TWICE.  I am angry that COAST is allowed to get away with “representing” the common citizen, but only on issues that they deem “worthy” – or issues that line Chris Finney’s pockets in lawyer fees.  I am angry that, because of the parking injunction, we are losing numerous VITAL proactive services from which our low income brothers & sisters benefit.  I am angry because our taxes will continue to rise as long as more and more people fill our jails instead of getting the care they need on the FRONT END.  I am angry that an issue like leasing the parking has given people a voice in our city who only use their voice to take us 15 steps backward.  I am angry that John Cranley releases a commercial that does nothing but dispense more misinformation and attack Roxanne Qualls instead of telling the truth and saying what HE believes – John is a smart man and I know he is better than this – I know he has ideas for the betterment of our City, and I want to hear them.  I am angry because I have worked my heart out in Over-the-Rhine rehabbing buildings for affordable housing, advocating for the homeless, supporting small businesses, and standing with those with whom no one else wants to stand only to see Cincinnati lose traction in a matter of months.  I am angry that COAST and crew are latching onto the streetcar as some sort of perverse Holy Grail and connecting it to EVERYTHING that they do not like in the city whether or not it has ANYTHING to do with the issues they stand behind.

I am angry, yes, but I am also hopeful.  I am hopeful that there are enough people in the city who WANT to see us grow and move forward on behalf of ALL our citizens.  I am hopeful that you will give me a chance in November to be that voice of reason, courage, and integrity on City Council.

Don’t let fear-mongers control your opinions.  If you hate the streetcar and the parking lease, so be it – just know WHY you hate it.  Do NOT hate it because COAST told you to.  And don’t LIKE it because I told you to.  It is time we all laid our integrity on the table so that we can get on the right track.  After all, it will take all of us coming together to move forward.

I stand on the side of progress.  We need the parking lease – we need the City to win the court case.  We need to plan better for the future, evaluate our current asset revenue, invest in capital projects that will increase our competitive edge (like the streetcar), and not allow ideologues and lawyers to run the city.  The citizens and elected officials run the city – at least, they are supposed to.  We need to take the power back from age-old, stale ideologues and put it right back in the hands of those who GIVE power to elected officials – the people.

The current budget is tragic.  Worse than I thought it would be.  I do not blame Milton Dohoney – he has a job to do and he has been held up at every turn and with every suggestion.  He is doing what he needs to do.  But we forget that this mess could have been avoided beginning in 2001.  We are in triage mode, and that is no way to govern.  Hopefully, we will come out on the better side of this and be in a position to plan ahead from now on.  One thing’s for sure, “business as usual” is NOT working at 801 Plum Street.

So, join me on this side of the sand.  The good news is, there’s a nice big palm tree over here and the sand is not quite as hot as it is over there on the side with Those Who Do Not Desire Progress.  In fact, it feels pretty good on this side of the line.

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