Thursday, March 25, 2004

Working for a safer Avondale

New community manager leads push for redevelopment

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ozie Davis III, recently hired as community safety manager by the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Local Initiative Support Corporation, pauses to talk with Margie Wells-Davis as he walks Wednesday along Burnet Avenue in Avondale.
Photos by GLENN HARTONG/The Cincinnati Enquirer

Former Miami University football player Ozie Davis III, walks Wednesday along Burnet Avenue between Erkenbrecker and Forest avenues. This area is targeted for redevelopment.
AVONDALE - When he walks along Burnet Avenue, Ozie Davis III doesn't have to introduce himself as the man just hired to make the neighborhood safer.

Everybody already knows him. Davis grew up here and moved back a decade ago after playing football for Miami University and earning master's and law degrees at Indiana University.

Now he raises his son in a house on the same street where he lived as a boy.

"I guess I have sort of been preparing for this job my whole life,'' David said Wednesday, walking along Burnet past boarded-up buildings, graffiti and school-age children. "I'm working in my neighborhood with people I've known all my life. This is awesome.''

His new employer, the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Local Initiative Support Corporation, plans to redevelop the Burnet Avenue corridor. His boss, Renee Mahaffey Harris, said the development depends on people feeling and being safe.

That's where Davis, 38, comes in. After college, he practiced law briefly but quickly realized it wasn't for him. He ran his own sports marketing company until Monday, when he became the corporation's community safety manager.

He's familiarizing himself with neighborhood programs, including Community Problem-Oriented Policing and the Injury-Free Coalition at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Davis will introduce himself today at a neighborhood safety meeting at 7 p.m. at Hirsch Recreation Center. It's the third in Councilman David Pepper's series of meetings for police officers and residents in the city's most crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Davis sees building better relationships between the people who live and work in Avondale with the patrolling police officers as his most important job.

"I don't believe we're whispering to police officers here, telling them things,'' he said. "But I think we can. And we need to. But we have to build trust first.''

The Local Initiative Support Corporation was started in 1980 by the Ford Foundation as a catalyst for community development. The corporation provides grants, loans and equity investments to community development corporations.

One of Davis' mentors, Dr. Margie Wells-Davis, said she thinks Davis just might be the key to realizing this promise of redevelopment.

"Ozie's not a quitter,'' she said. "And he has roots in this community. He has great ideas. ... And people are tired of the way it is.''


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