Wednesday, December 08, 1999

Teacher's quiet plea against jail makes the biggest impact

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ELSMERE — A lot of people complained — loudly — about Kenton County's plan to build a jail in Elsmere. In the end, it was an English teacher's quiet words that helped change minds.

        When Kenton County Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd announced Monday that the new jail definitely will not go in Elsmere, he singled out the comments made by one person — Richard Tyler. The teacher, at a public meeting last month, challenged fiscal court to remember that democracy means listening to the people.

        Really listening.

        Mr. Tyler told the officials about growing up in Elsmere as a foster child, about returning to the community after college. And about wanting to raise his son and daughter in the same kind of Elsmere he has always known. He spoke from his heart, just like his church deacon told him to do.

        “I just wanted to plead with them to do the right thing,” Mr. Tyler said Tuesday, taking a break from teaching grammar to sixth-graders at Tichenor Middle School. “It feels good that it worked.”

        The 34-year-old, also a longtime youth basketball coach and now a high school varsity referee, almost didn't testify at all. He was coaching basketball that Saturday morning with Deacon Donny Carter of the First Baptist Church in Elsmere. They talked about going to the public meeting, but Mr. Tyler didn't think it would do much good.

        Mr. Carter, also chairman of the Erlanger-Elsmere school board, convinced him it was their responsibility to speak up.

        “We love this little city,” Mr. Carter said. “We just didn't need the jail here to interrupt it.”

        They spoke near the end of the three-hour hearing. Mr. Tyler heard a lot of people question facts and figures. So he went for the emotional side of the debate.

        Mr. Murgatroyd was touched. He said he knew right then that the fiscal court had to re-evaluate.

        Mr. Tyler thought maybe he saw something in the judge-executive's eye that day, something that gave him hope the official really did listen.

        Fiscal court finalized the deal termination Tuesday night by canceling its option on the property.

        “I'm glad he proved what kind of man he really is,” Mr. Tyler said.


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