Wednesday, May 02, 2001

Cincinnati CAN: 'Willingness to shake things up'

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Mayor Charlie Luken announced Tuesday the formation of Cincinnati Community Action Now (Cincinnati CAN), a privately funded task force to help improve racial equity, opportunity and inclusion.

        The commission chairmen are Blue Chip Broadcasting chief executive officer Ross Love; Tom Cody, a Federated Department Stores Inc. executive; and the Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the Black United Front.

Ross Love
    Ross Love, 54, is President and CEO of Blue Chip Broadcasting. Blue Chip is one of the largest African-American owned radio broadcasting companies in the country. Its stations in Cincinnati are a communications hub for the African-American community.
    Mr. Love is vice chairman of the United Way Community Chest board and is on the Cincinnati 2012 and Freedom Center boards.
    “Greater Cincinnati is at a crossroads,” said Mr. Love. “If we lose our sense of urgency and the need for immediate action ... we run the risk of a repeat of those difficult days of a few weeks ago.”
Damon Lynch III
    The Rev. Damon Lynch III, 40, is senior pastor of the New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine. He has been deeply involved in community initiatives including the Over-the-Rhine Coalition and Elm Street Development Project. He is also the leader of the Black United Front.
    “It's an honor and a challenge to be a part of this effort,” said the Rev. Mr. Lynch. “We have the opportunity to become one of the greater cities in the nation. We have to seize the moment, and I think this commission will bring about change.”
Tom Cody
    Tom Cody is executive vice president for legal and human resources at Federated Department Stores Inc. He is immediate past chairman of the United Way and Community Chest board and is chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce board.
    “Everyone who I've spoken to in the business community has clearly accepted the concept that action is what's needed, that results are what is needed,” Mr. Cody said. “Nobody has the time nor really the patience to simply sit in a room and study with no clear objective. We have to put together concrete actionable plans that can move our community forward.”
        Five “action teams” will focus on:

        • Education and youth development.

        • Economic inclusion.

        • Police-community relations and the justice system.

        • Housing and neighborhood development.

        • Image and media.

        The co-chairmen will name action-team leaders next week, Mr. Luken said, and each team will have advisers.

        Each action team will also seek community input, which can be offered through its Web site: .

        “We will make sure that the average person is heard,” Mr. Love said.

        That may mean about 50 people working directly with the commission and another 50-100 acting as advisers, he said.

        “We're looking for people who can bring expertise to bear. People ... who have a bias towards action,” Mr. Love said.

        Cincinnati CAN will be funded through corporate and foundation contributions.

        Unlike previous commissions, which made recommendations but had no power to implement them, Cincinnati CAN will work directly with those in power: city government, business leaders, educators and housing and social service agencies.

        Each team will identify initial “action steps” within 45 days, and the co-chairmen are expected to report to the city every 90 days, Mr. Luken said.

        “Making this commitment doesn't get it done, though.

        “There is no quick fix,” he said. “It will take courage, commitment and a willingness to shake things up.”

        Some in the community are skeptical.

        “It's all a bunch of smoke and mirrors,” said Edgar Pillow, of College Hill.

        “I think it's diversionary, and all it's doing is providing political cover for the mayor, City Council and the administration.”

        Mr. Pillow, who is African-American, said city leaders should bolster the powers of the existing citizens' police-review panel.

        “There hasn't been one signal sent to the black community that the mayor is serious,” Mr. Pillow said.

        James Duffy, an Anderson Township resident who is white, said a commission does nothing to address the real issue facing Cincinnati: that blacks and whites just don't understand one another.

        “It creates the illusion of progress, when no progress is really being made at all,” he said.

        Mr. Love said the commission will consider the recommendations of previous reports and the experiences of other cities.

        “A lot of our research is, frankly, already done,” he said.

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