News: Remember the Cows That Didn't Get Away

Foibles, missteps and dumb ideas in 2002

Jymi Bolden

The message is upside down and backwards, but it's still true: City Councilman Pat DeWine wraps Cincinnati City Hall in red caution tape.

Itall goes back to the cows. Everyone knows about the one that got away from the slaughterhouse in February. The mad dash of Cincinnati Freedom, as the cow is now known, brought her freedom, life and fame. The happy beast now cavorts on a New York farm sanctuary for escaped farm animals.

But what about the other cows — the ones who played decoy to help ensnare the fugitive? Mayor Charlie Luken didn't give them a key to the city. Artist Peter Max didn't take them away to a life of udder luxury.

After nearly two weeks on the run from Cincinnati Police officers and Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies, Cincinnati Freedom was finally captured near Mount Storm Park. She was double-crossed, lured by the sound of fellow cows in a temporary cattle pen set up to trap her.

The snitches did their job.

They tricked Cincinnati Freedom. What has been their lot? You guessed it — they're hamburger.

The case of the runaway cow provides an apt metaphor for Cincinnati in 2002, illustrating how half-measures so often substituted for real change and how city leaders tended to miss opportunities for doing the right thing.

Consider some of the past year's foibles:

· Cincinnati City Council entered into an agreement with the Black United Front and American Civil Liberties Union to reform the police department. But the city refused to pay the plaintiffs' legal bills, instead calling for private contributions. Luken even asked for donations from Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg, whose cancellation of performances boosted the civil rights boycott of Cincinnati.

· After the second March for Justice took to the streets on April 7, city council members expressed outrage at reports that protesters had climbed atop and defaced a memorial to police officers killed in the line of duty. Councilman Pat DeWine demanded an investigation and prosecution — until the police chief explained that no laws had been broken.

· In the summer DeWine wrapped City Hall in red tape to illustrate his concern about the city's development policies. He wasn't prosecuted for defacing the building.

· While mounting a public relations blitz urging people to visit, shop and stay in hotels downtown, intended to counteract the effect of the boycott, city council held its planning retreat in another county.

· In yet another effort to make downtown a friendly place, Luken lashed out at Streetvibes, the monthly newspaper by and for the homeless. Luken chided the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless for "arming panhandlers with newspapers," as though the publication were being used as cudgels on unwary citizens. Yet in 2001 Luken had been so enamored of the same paper that he issued a proclamation setting aside "Streetvibes Day."

· The mayor's welcome mat isn't for everyone. When former President Bill Clinton expressed an interest in visiting Cincinnati to try to facilitate interracial dialogue, Luken hemmed and hawed, seeming more annoyed than pleased at the prospect of such a high-profile visitor.

· Two of Cincinnati's most notorious police officers — each indicted in the death of unarmed African Americans — found work in suburban police departments this year. Stephen Roach, acquitted of negligent homicide, went to work for the city of Evendale. Robert Jorg, whose trial for involuntary manslaughter ended in a hung jury, is now working for the Pierce Township Police Department.

· Vice Mayor Alicia Reece apologized for allegedly threatening to have Cincinnati firefighters silence a CityBeat columnist. Without admitting she'd made the threat, Reece blamed her conduct on stress caused by concern about her mother's health and on her perception that the columnist had accused Reece of incest with her father.

· In an effort to keep the Ku Klux Klan from mounting a cross on Fountain Square, city council passed a law banning everyone from putting anything on the square, reserving the site to its own use for a seven-week period. When a federal judge threw out the law, the city appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which — to no one's surprise — ruled the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies even in Cincinnati. ©

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