COAST’s Skewed Worldview and Bortz’s Flip-Flop

Last 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.


ast 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.”

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.”

Such an attitude might seem shocking today, but is Hein’s attitude really all that 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). One of its 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 tenants.

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.”

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

Diehard Libertarians say that hotels, restaurants and other places that refuse service to blacks or gays eventually would go out of business after potential customers shun them for their views.

That’s a Pollyanna-esque view, however; there would be areas in the United States where such businesses would thrive. Some might even be pockets within Greater Cincinnati.

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. They include 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.”






Speaking of COAST, the group has an unusual new ally.

Even though COAST has made opposing Cincinnati’s planned streetcar project its primary cause in recent years, it’s now aligning itself with the person who was the project’s prime supporter. Finney is co-hosting a political fundraiser next week with Chris Bortz, an ex-Cincinnati city councilman. The Jan. 23 event will raise money for Brad Wenstrup, a local podiatrist who is running in the GOP primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township).

The cost to sponsor the event is $500 per person. Admission is $125 per person, or $150 per couple.

In conjunction with the NAACP’s local chapter, Finney has mounted two unsuccessful ballot issues to stop the streetcar project

“Mr. Finney and I are able to set aside whatever city-related policy disagreements we have, or have had in the past, in order to support Dr. Wenstrup’s candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives,” Bortz told CityBeat.

Maybe Bortz’s new alliance shouldn’t be so surprising. Just a few days earlier, on Jan. 8, Bortz appeared on Business Watch on WKRC-TV (Channel 12) and suddenly announced he had a change of heart about the streetcar project. He said COAST’s pending lawsuit challenging the city’s authority to relocate underground utilities for the project should be decided first.

“I think it’s enough of a problem that the city should slow down a little bit in its move to build the streetcar,” Bortz said.

For good measure, Bortz said the city should wait until the public is firmly behind the project. (I guess two public votes aren’t enough.)

“It comes down mostly to the public reaction to the project … it simply won’t be expanded if the first phase is not a successful route and if the public hasn’t bought into the system,” Bortz said. “Given the current state of the economy, it makes good sense to slow down and rethink the approach to the streetcar.”

Of course, the most recent recession lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 — when Bortz was actively stumping for the project. But nevermind that.

What’s really going on here is that Bortz, a registered Republican who downplayed the affiliation in city races, is mulling a run for the Hamilton County Commission. To do so, he needs to shore up his conservative credentials, so he’s getting into bed with COAST.

There’s a term for people who change their views based on political convenience. Actually, there are several. 

I will let my readers decide which is most appropriate for Bortz.