By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DOWNTOWN - Issues of race and crime collided in a debate among would-be Cincinnati councilmen Thursday when a boycott leader confronted Republican Terry Deters.
Monica R. Williams of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati challenged Deters on his statement that people are leaving the city because it's perceived to be unsafe.
"I go downtown and I see people - they may be coming home from school, or on their way to or from work, and they may be very good people - but they look exactly like the people I saw on the hood of the car last night on Cops. That's the perception," Deters said.
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"That's not perception. That's a racist statement," Williams said, walking out of the room.
The exchange led to an unusually blunt discussion of crime and safety in Cincinnati. The forum - for non-incumbent candidates only - was held at Christ Church Cathedral downtown.
Deters later said he believes the perception of downtown to be unsafe is "somewhat wrong." But he said that perception is drastically affecting neighborhoods such as East Price Hill, where he lives and owns a funeral business. "Anyone who is able to, black or white, leaves this city," he said.
Earlier, Deters said the police department needs fixing - first by putting more officers on the street, and second by promoting more minorities into command positions.
Fellow Republican Tom Jones, who is African-American, came to Deters' defense.
"When I fight crime in neighborhoods, I don't see it as a black or white issue. People are dying," Jones said. "We have 90 unsolved homicides in the city of Cincinnati, and most of them are black. Who's killing whom, and what are we going to do about it?"
But activist Brian Crum Garry, an independent candidate, took issue with the emphasis on crime in the campaign. "Crime is not the No. 1 problem in Cincinnati. Race and class are the No. 1 problem in Cincinnati," he said.
"I said City Council is the No. 1 problem in Cincinnati," Deters interrupted.
"I'm talking now. You can sit down," Garry shouted back.
Democrat Howard Bond and Charterite John Schlagetter struck more moderate tones. Both said racial diversity was a fact of life in Cincinnati, and that City Council ought to work harder on racial reconciliation.
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