Puttin' Out the Bone

Lynch's Election Would Bring Needed Change

Aug 27, 2003 at 2:06 pm

Run, Damon, run. Give voice to the least among us. Stand up to the forces that run Cincinnati like it's their personal plantation. Be alone when you have to. Be stubborn when the cause is just. Get loud now and then. Take some abuse. But in the end, add something that doesn't exist.

That is the point. Put the Rev. Damon Lynch III on Cincinnati City Council and you add something that is missing: A rock strong fighter for a large segment of both black and white citizens who don't consistently get representation.

Let's be fair. There are a number of city council members who stand for something a lot of the time. I loved it when my friend, a rising star in Ohio politics, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, stood alone against the corporate oligarchy by saying no to a handout to Convergys. I believe Councilwoman Laketa Cole is beginning a long run as a significant political leader.

But no one has consistently grabbed the flag for the little people — working and poor men and women — whose needs and gripes are unpopular. No one gives hope to the kids of the streets whose frustration made Cincinnati shudder in April 2001. Lynch could be the one.

Look, Cincinnati is long overdue for a political paradigm shift, one where the directly elected mayor is the executive of the city. All big-time cities are run that way. The proper companion reform is to create a district-based city council. Maybe you mix in some at-large members, but the bulk of the political power should be wielded by men and women responsive to the people in their neighborhood.

Do you think for one moment Convergys could have walked over city council if a bunch of its members represented places such as Avondale, East End, Kennedy Heights, Over-the-Rhine, West End, Lower Price Hill and Camp Washington? Of course not.

Because nearly every existing council member is looking over his or her shoulder for white votes and corporate-connected campaign money, they jump through big business hoops. They play to Mount Lookout, Westwood and Procter & Gamble.

Don't you think on a nine-member city council that there would be one person who would see the boycott as just and deserving of a negotiated solution? I mean, if you ran a scientific survey in Cincinnati asking people if they supported the goals and tactics of the boycott, clearly more than about 10 percent would say yes. Yet every council member is too afraid of losing white votes and money to represent that real sentiment.

So let's get back to Lynch. He should run for city council as if he's running from a district. He should not worry about representing the entire city. The people of Hyde Park have lots of council members sucking up to them. Procter & Gamble is well covered. People whose lives depend on justice are not.

Could he win with such a narrow political focus? Yes, and that's the beauty of this upcoming race. He can be what is needed, he can be true to his core values and he can be the Lynch that so many of us admire and still win a seat on Cincinnati City Council.

He would first need to get nearly every African-American vote. If his political message and campaign style remains true to his life's work, he'll get them. Second, there would need to be a hefty turnout in the African-American community, and Lynch's place on the ticket will help drive it. That would help my friends Alicia and Laketa. Their names on the ballot will draw people over to Lynch as well.

Now let's talk about us white people. Lynch will in fact get a number of white votes, though to win a seat among nine he wouldn't even need that many. I talked to my sister-in-law Robin, and she intends to support him. Lynch came to the suburban private school where she works and impressed her with his message and demeanor. There'll be others like her, including my brother Jerry.

Many unionists, progressives, feminists and young people will grow Lynch's voter base, and he'll be celebrating on election night.

If his supporters take a page from the political strategy book of white people in places like Western Hills, Mount Washington and Mount Lookout, he'll place above the bottom dwellers. Study vote tallies from past city council elections and you'll see that voters in predominantly white wards don't use all of their nine votes. You see, in a nine-person field race, you are not required to vote for nine people for your ballot to be valid. (But if you vote for more than nine, it's pitched.)

So a person in Price Hill might vote for, say, Pat DeWine, Chris Monzel, John Cranley, Jim Tarbell, David Pepper, maybe Reece and Cole and stop there. Count them up. That's seven. Five whites and two blacks.

Mathematically, it means that the votes that person cast were more powerfully awarded, since the total number of votes received by the ultimate winners are less. It's called "power voting," "plunking" or "bullet voting."

So if African-American voters hit for, say, Reece, Cole, Lynch, Howard Bond, Sam Malone and Sam Britton and then gave a vote to David Crowley, the advantage works in reverse. If black voters get stingy and go with just Cole, Reece and Lynch, look out.

Lynch has the best chance to make sure that, with the departure of Minette Cooper from council due to term limits, African- American representation holds its own.

If somehow Bond and Britton caught political fire, Cincinnati could have its first, long overdue African-American majority.

Run, Damon, run. You've got the wind, righteousness and thousands of us behind you.