Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Yates found real change in Schott

Inside City Hall

Greg Korte

To some, she was an unreconstructed racist. To others, she was a kind-hearted benefactor of children and animals - to make no mention of a 1990 championship baseball team.

To Tyrone Yates, she was both.

Marge Schott's death last week at 75 rekindled a debate over the baseball and civic legacy of the former Reds owner and automobile dealer.

Yates, the former vice mayor and now a state representative, was one of Schott's fiercest critics in the early '90s.

"They didn't tell the truth when they said she has not used slurs often," Yates said in 1993, arguing that anything less than a three-year suspension from baseball would be an outrage. "The public only knows the tip of the iceberg. They are the words of a stinging, deliberate racist."

Just three years later, Schott hired team controller Anthony Ward, a 31-year-old African-American man. Yates called him "the Reds front office equivalent of Jackie Robinson."

"You have to see Mrs. Schott up close to appreciate how much her perspective has broadened and deepened on this question," Yates said in 1996.

In meetings with civil rights leaders, Schott would wink down the table at Yates. He said he began to see a complicated woman who was "one of the most intelligent and sophisticated people" he'd ever met.

Today, Yates calls Schott "the quintessential American."

"Some people never change. And she did. And she was genuine in that," Yates said.

OUT ON A LIMB: You know a city employee is in big trouble when even his union representative won't defend him.

William Westerkamp, the 32-year-old radio technician accused of broadcasting racial and violent remarks over emergency frequencies, is charged with two felonies in the Feb. 22 incident.

"There are certain things that are indefensible, and this is one of them," said Randy Moore, vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Ohio Council 8 and Westerkamp's union representative. Westerkamp has a disciplinary hearing scheduled today.

"It's going to be very stinky," Moore said. "I'm going to advise him to waive his hearing. If he's going to say there's mitigating circumstances, I can't imagine what they would be."

OVERTIME: Remember that three-and-a-half hour hearing the Law and Public Safety Committee had last month to investigate excessive police overtime?

The meeting was scheduled at 3 p.m., meaning two officers - Lt. Kurt Byrd in public affairs and Lt. Dan Girard in internal investigations - were on overtime after 4 p.m. Total cost to taxpayers: about $236.

TELLING TIME: Time spent by City Council on its legislative agenda during last week's meeting: four seconds.

Time spent giving proclamations, speeches, congratulations to Pat DeWine on his primary victory, and debates on matters not on the agenda: one hour, eight minutes - or 4,080 seconds.

TEMPUS FUGIT: Former Mayor Arn Bortz turns 58 today. Former Mayor Dwight Tillery turns 56. That may bode well for Lauren Luken, should she decide to follow in the footsteps of dad Charlie Luken and grandpa Tom Luken. She turns 25 today.


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