More on the Finney Connection

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This week’s issue of CityBeat, which hits the streets today, features an article about the selection of arch-conservative activist Chris Finney to serve as a legal adviser to the NAACP’s Cincinnati chapter.

The article details how Finney’s past work on anti-gay rights causes might be at odds with the national NAACP’s stance on repealing Proposition 8 in California, and the late Coretta Scott King’s impassioned defense of gay rights.—-

Not included in the article, due to space limitations, is Cincinnati NAACP President Christopher Smitherman’s response to some critics who say he should’ve selected a qualified black attorney for the post instead of Finney, who is white.

“This is not about, in this case, looking for an African-American attorney,” Smitherman said. “I’m trying to diversify my board.”

Finney has belonged to the NAACP’s local chapter for about three years, Smitherman added. With his recent appointment as “chair of legal redress,” Finney becomes one of two white members on the chapter’s executive committee.

“You have to practice what you preach,” Smitherman said.

Also, Smitherman isn’t overly concerned if Finney’s appointment upsets Cincinnati’s gay community.

“As if I would care what they think about that. They don’t have a relationship with the Cincinnati NAACP,” Smitherman said. “(Finney’s) been working and communicating with us. The question is, where are these other communities?”

In fact, Smitherman dismisses much of the criticism about the appointment as instigated by the Hamilton County Democratic Party. Noting that the local party has opposed the NAACP chapter’s last three efforts — blocking a sales tax hike to build a new jail, overturning City Council’s approval of red-light cameras and trying to revive Proportional Representation — he said thoughtful residents should be more angered at the party.

“There’s no issue that we’ve put on (the ballot) that the Democratic Party has supported,” Smitherman said. “People call Chris Finney radical, but it’s the positions of the local Democratic Party that are radical.”

Local Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke particularly upsets Smitherman. Burke’s law firm represented plaintiffs in the lawsuit that overturned the city of Cincinnati’s set-aside program for minority contractors, he said.

Further, Burke endorsed a backroom deal last year that prevented Democratic competition in the Hamilton County Commission race with Republican Greg Hartmann, and makes deals with the GOP to prevent Democrats from running for judgeships.

“Tim Burke cut a deal at a time when Barack Obama was at the top of the ticket, and all that entailed for voter turnout,” Smitherman said. “I don’t what to hear what’s in our best interests (from Democrats) when Tim Burke goes into a backroom and makes a deal with the Republican establishment for all those judges.”

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