The Streetcar Operator? Buy Local!!

buy local image

It was near the end of the campaign trail in 2013, and the Streetcar debate present throughout the Cincinnati City Council race was in full swing. As a candidate running for election to City Hall, I was a vocal supporter of the Streetcar project for two reasons; 1) I said it would have been a waste of taxpayer dollars to stop the project (in fact just Mayor Cranley’s delay ended up costing the city a million dollars), and 2) I was convinced that it would be an economic driver that would accelerate the momentum of reinvestment to the downtown basin. Other candidates rode on the anti-Streetcar “fiscal conservative” wave right into City Hall. But fortunately for our city, I was right (!).

Here we are on the precipice of 2015 and members of city council are now facing the question of who should operate the Streetcar. This Wednesday, December 9th at 1pm at City Hall the Major Transportation & Regional Cooperation Committee meets to take up motions asserting we should use SORTA workers (the men and women of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 627) to operate the Streetcar. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

An Unlikely Voice Rises at the Hamilton County Democratic Party Executive Committee Meeting, or “Sean Feeney Keeps It Real”

empty polls

On Saturday November 22nd, 2014 the Executive Committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party met for their first post-election gathering. Although the meeting was meant for Executive Committee members, there were many others in attendance. The agenda included the usual items following an election post-mortem, What went right? What went wrong? etc… I personally attended for the first hour and a half, and then had to leave. I was later caught up on what I had missed – as the meeting lasted for almost 3 hours.

County Chair Tim Burke had sent out at least two communications to committee members indicating his interest in having some “open discussion” prior to the meeting, and offered members to even forward in advance what topics they would like to see covered. This unusual offer sparked lengthy email chains among some members that I participated in. And although we certainly did not all agree on “what went right” or “what went wrong”, I can say this exchange with democratic party insiders was instructive, even if at times it got very tense.  Most importantly, it was healing because at least one or two things emerged that we agreed could be potential changes. The email thread ended with some niceties to ensure no feelings were hurt, and we agreed to see one another at the Saturday meeting.

Saturday came, but much of the meeting focused on “what went right”. The opportunity for “open discussion” did not really happen, and the meeting concluded with plans for some future committee work. There was one highlight of the meeting though, and that was remarks delivered by Sean Feeney, the endorsed candidate for Hamilton County Commissioner who lost to Republican incumbent Chris Monzel. Although Sean received a Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

The Con Plan….Shouldn’t Be A Con.

Editor’s Note: A Public Hearing Notice has been issued from the City of Cincinnati for the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan/2015 Annual Action Plan that will be held Monday, October 13, 2014 1:00 PM City Hall, City Council Chambers 801 Plum Street, Room 300. Citizens can participate in offering feedback to the draft plan, and their feedback is to be included in the response documents that are submitted to HUD. Written comments must be received no later than October 29, 2014 at 5:00 PM.

hud pic

The draft “2015-2019 Consolidated Plan” has been released for the public to view and weigh in. The “Con Plan” as it’s casually called, is the 5-year plan that sets the direction for how the City of Cincinnati will spend four federal grants: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Partnership Program (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA). Two of the four grants, the CDAB and HOME funds, are overseen by a citizen advisory board called the “Community Development Advisory Board (CDAB)” whose membership is appointed by the mayor. According to the Municipal Code of the city, the role of CDAB is to “advise and assist the city manager in planning the allocation of federal resources for community development, economic development, and human services in the city.” The board is mandated by the city’s Charter, and their participation is a requirement of HUD.

In usual fashion, an FYI Memo summarizing the draft was released by the City Manager on Sept. 29th to the Mayor and members of City Council. Since the only formal relationship between the CDAB Board and members of City Council is via the City Manager, let this serve as a communication to challenge the incorrect characterization of the CDAB board’s stance as an “explicit endorsement”. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

Hungry

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Streetvibes in the September 12-September 24th edition, a publication of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Pick up a copy from a Streetvibes vendor today!)
 
Migrant Mother after Dorothea Lange
Photo: Migrant Mother after Dorothea Lange by Robert Mann (Philadelphia)

Last week I made a quick stop at a local fast food joint to pick up a warm “home-cooked” meal for my family. A disheveled, tired, and slightly overweight middle-aged white woman prepares my order while I stand watching. Our eyes meet and I try to offer a warm smile – I worked for many years in the thankless fast food industry, so my empathy comes easy and is genuine. Taking my cue she hesitantly says, “Boy it’s hot out today,” I quickly respond “No kidding!” wanting to assure her I’m accepting of her small talk. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

Cincinnati Stands with Ferguson

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Streetvibes in the August 28th-September 11th edition, a publication of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Pick up a copy from a Streetvibes vendor today!)

NMOS pic Aug 2014

On August 14th a “National Moment of Silence” to honor victims of police brutality spread across the nation stemming from a call to action via Twitter (hashtag #NMOS14) by Feminista Jones, a New York activist, writer, and social worker. Rev. Damon Lynch III hosted the Cincinnati gathering for Michael Brown and other victims of police brutality at his church, the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn. A large group of mostly African-American men and women gathered to pray, talk, and plan for what to do next. Local newspaper clippings from 2007 covering the murder of Timothy Thomas by Cincinnati police were hung on posts surrounding the courtyard where well over 100 people sat in a large circle.

crowd pic at NMOS 2

The conversation after the moment of silence centered on reflections of people’s experiences following the tragedy of the shooting of Thomas in 2007 (many of the activists who worked on Cincinnati police reform then were in Roselawn this evening), and what needs to happen here in Cincinnati today to continue to fight for justice. A mother expressed worry that her son could be shot down by police, an elder called for unity among the faith community, a young woman tearfully called out for guidance for the youth in Cincinnati to help them respond, and know what to do. Several people spoke of the need to continue to educate their communities about how to respond to the police. What are their rights during an encounter with a police officer? Do they know how to make a report if they feel they were unjustly treated? That although gains were made since 2007 following the federal consent decree to overhaul our police department, vigilance and instruction is still needed. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

Crimes of Hate: “You are not worthy, and when I attack you no one will care”

hate crimes against homeless pic

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Streetvibes in the August 14th-August 27 edition, a publication of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Pick up a copy from a Streetvibes vendor today!)

The National Coalition for the Homeless based in Washington D.C. has recently published their annual report on hate crimes against the homeless titled, Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed against Homeless People in 2013”.  The report breaks down the numbers and locations of murders and assaults against persons who were targeted simply because they were homeless. Among the disturbing trends? A 24% increase in hate crimes against homeless persons since last year (in 2013: 18 homicides and 109 violent attacks). Of these, Ohio accounted for 1 of the murders (Dayton), and 3 of the non-fatal attacks (Cincinnati, Canton, and Newark).

Just last week across the street from Washington Park three young men waited outside the Drop Inn Center (our local homeless shelter) and attacked John Hensley who was leaving the shelter to go to work. They did not steal any money or property, they simply laughed as they kicked and punched him to the ground. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

“Declaration of Respect”… 3 years later and still waiting

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Streetvibes, a publication of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless.)

On Thursday, July 24, 2014 citizens converged in front of the Duke Energy Convention Center to protest Walmart CEO Bill Simon, who was scheduled to speak at the National Conference of the Urban League in downtown Cincinnati. Organizers of the rally made it clear they were not there to oppose the Urban League, but rather to bring attention to Walmart’s business practices that are contributing to America’s underemployment crisis. Rally participants handed out fliers with stark points: “As the largest employer of African Americans, Latinos, and women in the country, Walmart’s scheduling practices make it impossible for many of its workers to get the hours they need or to take the steps necessary to join the middle class. Hundreds of thousands of Walmart workers earn less than $25,000 a year and many cannot get enough hours to make ends meet.”

Courtney Moore works as a cashier at a Cincinnati Walmart. She was recently interviewed for an article in the New York Times (Part-Time Schedules, Full-Time Headaches by Steven Greenhouse July 18, 2014) bringing attention to the harsh realities part-time retail workers face across the country as they try and piece together an income. On the sidewalk in front of Duke Energy Center Courtney tells me her hours were drastically cut when she told management she had enrolled in school. Then when she was scheduled it was not consistent, was at odd times, and was for only 4-hour shifts. Workers receive their schedules only one week in advance. Courtney shares it is common practice for a worker’s hours to get cut if they call in sick, or ask for time off. “When I told them I was starting school they cut my hours so much I had to get a second job at McDonald’s.” I asked her are there raises? She replied, “Rarely. Cashiers make $8.35 an hour. I’m here today to ask the CEO to raise the wages.”

Courtney Moore photo (walmart rally interviewee #1)

Courtney Moore supporting better shifts and wages

Ms. Sophonisba also works for a local Walmart and tells me “I am here to support better working conditions, better wages, and regular hours for the associates.” Although Sophonisba is full-time and enjoys a relatively consistent schedule, many of her fellow workers are not so lucky. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

Classism rears its ugly head in “Letters to the Editor”

NIMBY!

Executive Director Elizabeth Brown of Housing Opportunities Made Equal (our local fair housing agency), had a letter published by the Cincinnati Enquirer “We need more, not less, housing assistance” on June 21, 2014. Two published responses to her article followed, the first asserts that since we have made “no progress” in solving this basic problem (housing), then it makes “no sense” to continue. I’m not sure I follow the logic (?). The second response to Elizabeth’s article is titled “Poverty clusters benefit no one” published on July 3rd. Within hours I had submitted my reply to Ms. Wong’s article. I haven’t seen that my response has been published, and as the days pass I suspect it won’t be. Fortunately The Cincinnati Forum exists to help give voice to alternative positions, and so here is my “Letter to the Editor”:

I always watch with interest as citizens rationalize and justify their opposition to the development of housing that is affordable for people whose incomes fall below the federal poverty line. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s editorial “Poverty clusters benefit no one” is no exception.  Perhaps it is my social work training that encourages “people first” language that has fine-tuned my listening to recognize discrimination. Perhaps is it my wearied awareness that the residents mentioned are not even referenced to as people – but as “concentrated poverty” as in Ms. Wong’s article. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

Testifying for Affordable Housing

meme for Manns motion 

(Thanks to Kate Gallion for this meme)

Over-The-Rhine has lost hundreds of affordable units since its “transformation”. On June 23, 2014 I joined over 20 affordable housing advocates at City Hall for the Budget and Finance Committee meeting. Many of us testified to support a motion by Vice Mayor Mann that would have required specific language resulting in the creation of affordable housing in the Preferred Developer Agreement for properties north of Liberty. Citizens have the opportunity to testify before Council at City Hall for 2 minutes, and below is my testimony I delivered to Chairman Winburn and the committee. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum

Guest Writer Bonnie Neumeier: WHERE IS OUR SENSE OF COMMUNITY?

Editor’s Note: The following are the notes Bonnie Neumeier read from at the “Homes for All” Summit held at the Cincinnati Art Academy on June 6, 2014. Many attendees of the evening were moved by Bonnie’s words, and the Cincinnati Forum thanks her for sharing her notes with us so that they may be shared more widely.
 
OTR mural

I have lived in Over-the-Rhine for over 40 years. I paid $33 a month for my first apartment in Over-the-Rhine. Two of the apartments I lived in still had the owner living next door; or in the building I was living in. There were many more “Mom and Pop” landlords serving people with low incomes back in the early 70’s. I saw an advertisement the other day for the rental of a townhouse apartment for $2015 a month.

People in our neighborhood are a “displaced” people. Shoved off their lands when someone else found a reason to make a profit on the land we call home. We feared that when our neighborhood became an historic district, gentrification would follow. It has. We were 99 percent renters and 95% of our housing was substandard and needing upgraded and improved.

In 1973 a 65-year old male living with the disease of alcoholism was the face of homelessness. In 2014 that face is a 9-year old child. And the numbers continue to grow. In that picture something is tragically going wrong. Read more ›

Posted in Cincinnati Forum