Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Study: 'Jury still out' on reforms

Reece tells authors to 'bring in some investors'

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

AVONDALE - Mayor Charlie Luken said Tuesday that Cincinnati needs people who are committed to helping find solutions to crime and race-relations problems, not outsiders who come to critique the city, then leave.

Luken was responding to a 35-page report released Tuesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based legal and educational organization that studied economic, police and voting issues in Cincinnati last year.

The report credited city officials with progressive steps such as the Community Problem Oriented Policing program, which teams police with residents to identify and solve crime problems, and the historic collaborative agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice to reform practices in the Cincinnati Police Department.

But it also took city and business leaders to task for failing to address other social, educational and economic inequalities or enter into discussions with organizers of the nearly 3-year-old boycott of downtown Cincinnati.

"I didn't think there was anything in it (the report) that was unexpected," said Luken, who met with Ron Daniels, executive director of the center, Tuesday. "What I think the report misses is the successes that we have had. ... I think Mr. Daniels needs a little more time on the ground before he makes any recommendations."

Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, who met with Daniels for an hour, said she appreciated the report but would have welcomed additional resources more.

"I told him if he really wants to help, then bring in some investors, builders and developers that can help us rebuild our neighborhoods," Reece said.

"We need doers and people with skills and resources. Those are the things we are thirsty for in the community."

During a news conference at the Vernon Manor Hotel in Avondale, Daniels declared that "the jury is still out" on the fragile police-community relations progress.

He spoke of Cincinnati's need to move from at-large to district elections - a change being considered by an electoral reform commission.

Daniels also pledged to provide resources and other support to the Cincinnati Boycott Council - a coalition of three civil rights groups leading the boycott.

He said he planned to organize a meeting in Washington between boycotters and national organizations.

"Representatives from the city have been painting a rosy picture all across the country that the boycott is over," Daniels said.

"This will be a chance for the Boycott Council and its allies to tell their story."

Daniels said the Center for Constitutional Rights also has some of its top attorneys evaluating if some legal action can be take to address racial disparities and discrimination in Cincinnati.

Boycott leaders said Daniels visit was timely and welcome. They said much of the progress that city leaders tout hasn't trickled down to disenfranchised people on the streets.

"The reality is nothing has changed, no matter what has been written or what has been said," said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, a member of the Boycott Council. "The people who are hurting are still hurting. You can't say Cincinnati is healed when you are not the one affected by the disease."

The boycott began in July 2001 after some residents became upset over the apparent lack of social and economic change following the city's worst riots in more than 30 years.


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