Pronouncing themselves "outraged," important members of Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's political base vented their frustration May 22 over his handling of plans for The Banks. More than a dozen groups — led by the NAACP, the Baptist Ministers Conference and the Building Trades Council — are demanding he expand the membership of an all-white, all-male advisory panel recently appointed to guide major decisions about the proposed riverfront neighborhood.
"How in the world can a mayor of this city, who is black, stand up and — after four white people were appointed to this board — stand there and appoint another white person?" said Bishop E. Lynn Brown of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
The five white men appointed to The Banks Working Group will make policy recommendations to quicken construction of the stalled project, which envisions condominiums, offices, shops and a hotel between the Reds and Bengals stadiums. Hamilton County commissioners, business interests and Mallory selected the panel's members.
City and county officials were sharply criticized for failing to meet minority hiring goals when building the $458 million Bengals stadium, which was financed using taxpayer money. The county had set a hiring goal of 15 percent participation and used the provision to win voter support for a sales tax increase, but only about 10.5 percent of construction dollars went to minority- or women-owned businesses.
The NAACP and other groups have begun a letter-writing campaign to pressure city council and county commissioners into adding four more members to The Banks Working Group.
"It's time-out for trust," said the Rev. James Pankey, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference. "We're going to challenge them to do it and force them to do it."
Among the elected officials attending the press conference, held at Jordan Crossing in Bond Hill, were County Commissioner Todd Portune, City Councilman David Crowley and State Sen. Eric Kearney.
Public Art and Quaint Political Customs
A colorful and poignant 100-foot-long mural will soon grace a wall in Over-the-Rhine at Our Daily Bread (ODB), across from the entrance to Findlay Market. The mural, painted by 85 high school volunteers, is one of more than 40 public artworks produced by the Artists-in-Reflection Program of the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation over the past five years.
More than 400 people per day find a hot meal at ODB and a connection to the social services they need. The organization also operates Kids Café, an after-school gathering place, in collaboration with the FreeStore/FoodBank. After working at ODB, the students who created the mural interviewed guests there and wrote oral histories of the agency. Photographs were used to develop sketches produced by students with faculty at the participating schools. Lead artist Jan Brown Checco oversaw the process from start to finish.
"The best thing that this new public art could achieve is a kind of bridge that allows people passing by ODB on their way to Findlay Market to glimpse the kind of good work that is happening in Over-the-Rhine," Brown Checco said.
The execrable "free speech zones" — carefully guarded areas where protesters are allowed to stand, usually outside shouting distance of the eminent personage — seem to have become a permanent feature of presidential visits. Northern Kentucky University set one up last week when George W. Bush went there to speak. In the old days — that is, before he stole the 2000 election — free speech wasn't considered so dangerous. But the hundreds who showed up at NKU to voice their dissent May 19 at least reminded us that the quaint old practice still lives on.
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