Thursday, October 26, 2000

Racist graffiti targeted by stadium workman

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Andre Steed saw the terrible writing on the wall while working at Paul Brown Stadium: Images of hooded figures looking down a well, a black stick figure and a noose, the letters “KKK.”

        The racist words and images — along with many others of a graphic sexual nature — were scribbled inside approximately 50 portable restrooms on the construction site of Paul Brown Stadium this summer.

        Mr. Steed filed complaints in July with his supervisor, stadium project managers, Hamilton County and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

        “We're not living in the 1960s anymore, and yet we're still dealing with these same issues,” Mr. Steed said. “I'm working on that job and I feel unsafe. This stuff was there for the duration of the job.”

        Mr. Steed told Hamilton County commissioners Wednesday that nothing was done about the situation. He believes every complaint was met with legal posturing, and that no one was willing to help solve the problem.

        Hamilton County Administrator David Krings said the county took the complaints seriously.

        A July 27 memo from the safety department of construction manager Turner Barton Malow D.A.G. addresses the issue with all stadium contractors:

        “Racial, ethnic and gender slurs are particularly offensive and workers should not have to be subjected to these narrow-minded, bigoted and otherwise negative displays,” the memo states. “Anyone caught participating in this activity will be subject to being permanently removed from the job site.”

        Mr. Steed said the memo was written only after his complaint.

        “That was not a sincere effort to get rid of the problem,” Mr. Steed said. “They just did that for legal reasons.”

        The county will continue the policy during construction of Great America Ball Park. The county also is going to create a “workplace hot line” number for people who want to make a report anonymously.

        Also, Mr. Krings said, graffiti on portable restrooms will either be painted over or the unit will be removed from the grounds.

        “We may not be legally responsible, but we don't want to be associated with that type of vandalism,” Mr. Krings said. “At the ballpark, it will either be removed or cleaned up. If we catch somebody doing it, they're out.”

        Removing and cleaning the graffiti was a problem at Paul Brown Stadium this summer.

        Rumpke Portable Restrooms came in to clean the units three times a week. The company typically either washes off the graffiti or paints over it. But Rumpke couldn't get the paint to cover over the drawings this summer, according to a July 26 memo from Bob Viox, division manager for Rumpke Portable Restrooms.

        “We have been having trouble getting our paint into us due to a packing problem from our supplier,” the memo says. “As soon as paint becomes available, I will get some to you or we will have to switch out more untis.”

        Dan Streyle, project manager at Paul Brown Stadium, said he wasn't made aware of the problem until late August, after most of the units had been removed.

        Mr. Krings says the county will work with its project manager to make sure everyone feels safe during construction of the Reds ballpark.

        Mr. Steed said he hopes it works: “Being discriminated against is a horrible feeling,” he said. “It knocks your motivation and robs your self-esteem.”


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