Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Race panel leaders to be named

Love, Lynch, Cody to head task forces

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken is expected to announce today the three key task force chairmen who will head his new race relations commission.

        The mayor is expected to name Ross Love, chief executive officer of Blue Chip Broadcasting; Tom Cody, a Federated Department Stores Inc. executive; and the Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the Black United Front, to the panel.

        “I'm very excited about being a part of this commis sion,” said the Rev. Mr. Lynch, who confirmed Monday that he has talked to the mayor about his appointment. “I think we have to seize this moment and move our community forward.”

        Creation of
a race commission was announced by Mr. Luken in response to the outbreak of violence and protest over the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, 19. The mayor said the commission would examine the roots of the violence that exposed Cincinnati's racial tensions and explore problems such as housing, employment and education.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church, said the success of the panel will depend on involvement from top-level businesspeople and grass roots organizations. He said taking an action-oriented approach that produces results is also critical to show that this commission has teeth and is not like past groups that have produced reports but no substantial change.

        “I think it is going to take immediate action right off the bat to convince people,” said the Rev. Mr. Lynch. “Timetables need to be set; report cards need to be given. We need to communicate to people what we are are doing, what our successes are and what our obstacles are. This will be a group committed to progress.”

        Mr. Love declined to comment Monday, saying he would wait until a formal announcement was made. Mr. Love was one of four people who met with Mr. Luken last week and said they wanted to upgrade businesses, housing programs, hiring practices and city services.

        Mr. Cody, executive vice president for legal and human resources at Federated, also declined comment. Mr. Cody, a manager of one of the city's biggest and most influential companies, is chairman of the board of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

        Addressing issues of police-community relations and economic inclusion will be at the top of the commission's agenda, the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. He stressed the importance of examining how policing is done in Cincinnati, as well as providing liveable wage employment for minorities and financial support for minority-owned businesses.

        Some details about the commission remain undecided, the Rev. Mr. Lynch said, such as how many members will serve on the panel or how often it will convene. He said Mr. Luken will most likely provide more details about the selection process and criteria for committee members when a formal announcement about the commission chairmen is made.

        One challenge for the group will be to include the voices of the protesters, primarily young African-Americans. The Rev. Mr. Lynch said it is critical that this commission uses a process that has substantial grass-roots input from all segments of the African-American community, including young people.

        Securing input from the full range of stakeholders in the white community is also vital to ensure a plan of action can be developed that will lead to substantial changes, he said.

        “It is critical that this be a body that has the ability to work with the community on strategies that will see Cincinnati rebuild itself and become a more tolerant community,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said.


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