Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Bronson: Kids, council need to do the right thing


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The video starts with a group of black teens hanging out on a corner. Flash to a squad car rolling up, and Cincinnati can't help thinking, "Here we go again: Nitro, meet glycerin.''

But there's no explosion. Instead of glorifying gangstas who resist arrest and fight the power, this rap video preaches, "Don't run."

"If they ask your name, show your I.D.," the kids nod. "The cops are just doin' their job. If you show them respect, they will show respect for you."

To adults, that's as obvious as not leaving the house with your pants around your knees. But for kids who are strangers to authority, "don't run" can be a matter of life and death.

Too bad the video produced by the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission was not shown at City Hall.

Council members who tried to raid the budget of the commission could have learned that it may be the only group teaching kids how to behave when they meet a cop.

And maybe council would get the "Do It Right" video message: If you want respect, show some.

Instead, last week's council meeting was the worst since the Law and Public Safety Committee started a riot in 2001.

Newbie Chris Smitherman blasted the human relations budget, but director Cecil Thomas said nobody even called to ask any questions.

Laketa Cole insisted that slicing a quarter of the commission's budget was not a cut.

Sam Malone promised voters he would work to stop the violence - then voted to gut an agency that's actually trying.

But the uncongeniality award went to Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, who introduced the sketchy idea to take $100,000 from the commission to fight black-on-black homicides. She insulted council members, then called for unity. She invited questions, then cut them cold. She shot down compromises, then complained council did nothing.

She insinuated rejection was a race thing. But white council members have thrown millions at programs to prove they are sensitive on race. They just haven't done much that works.

Her motion failed because it was a sloppy proposal presented like a ransom note. Reece is charming in person, but sometimes runs meetings like the bossy kid nobody wants to play with.

It was great news that four members of council tackled the epidemic of black-on-black killings. But watching it turn into a race battle showed that council needs more adult supervision than the only certified grownups - Jim Tarbell and David Crowley - can provide.

As I watched the meeting on tape, I never heard anyone mention the germ that spreads the homicidal disease: drugs.

The killing epidemic is too serious to be black vs. white. It's everyone's problem. But if council wants to cut something, how about the failed "historic Collaborative" that was no help when Nathaniel Jones died fighting with police?

Even Mayor Charlie Luken is losing patience with the deal designed to resolve relations between police and the community. "The only thing I know that works is proactive policing that is supported by the community. But the Collaborative has not been a part of that," he said.

Meanwhile, the human rights commission held a public information meeting about Jones' death and teaches hundreds of schoolkids to "Do It Right," with a video that saves more lives for $15,000 than feel-good programs do with $15 million.

Council should listen. "Don't run" - from cops, or the truth.

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E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com




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