Tuesday, May 22, 2001

City may offer free parking at Taste


Council members counter call for boycott

By Robert Anglen and Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Faced with demands for $50 million and threats of a boycott and protests during Taste of Cincinnati, city officials are fighting back with free pretzels and, possibly, free parking.

        Councilman Pat DeWine said Monday that the city is being held hostage by A Group of Concerned Clergy, the recently formed group calling for a boycott of this weekend's annual festival.

        Mr. DeWine said he is giving away 5,000 coupons for free pretzels from Mecklenburg Gardens restaurant, to be redeemed at Taste of Cincinnati. He urged people to attend to show support.

        “I was angered that some clergy members are calling for a boycott,” he told City Council on Monday.

        “All that does is hurt downtown businesses.”

        Councilman Chris Monzel proposed giving festival goers free parking in the seven city-owned garages. That measure may be voted on Wednesday.

        The ministers group Friday encouraged Cincinnatians to engage in peaceful protests during the Memorial Day weekend event to demonstrate the need for the city to begin resolving its racial problems. It also requested that the private sector fund Cincinnati Community Action Now, formed by Mayor Charlie Luken, with a beginning investment of $50 million.

        Meanwhile, information about the Concerned Clergy group is slow in coming. Only six of the 75 clergy who were said to have called for the boycott last week have agreed to their names and churches be disclosed.

        The Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church, is among them, but he has not returned repeated phone calls for comment.

        It is unclear whether other ministers in the group have allowed their names to be used. A spokeswoman for the group, Joellen Grady, declined to reveal the other clergy.

        One member of the clergy group said Monday that economic protests have a proven history of getting people's attention.

        Chaplain Richard Dysert, of New Spirit Metropolitan Community Church in College Hill, added that it is not concerned clergy who are holding the city hostage.

        “City Council has held the black community hostage for years with their constant promises and commissions where nothing ever happens and no money is ever put on the table,” Mr. Dysert said.

        “If that's the only weapon you have in a war and you don't use it, then shame on you,” said Jim Clingman, a member of the Cincinnati Black United Front and a supporter of the clergy's proposed boycott.

        Mr. Luken said a boycott would only make innocent victims of the people the ministers claim to be trying to help.

        Taste of Cincinnati, which draws about 500,000 people over three days and pumps about $25.3 million into Cincinnati's economy, helps to generate about 466 jobs, according to a University of Cincinnati study.

        “This issue is about jobs,” Mr. Luken said, telling would-be protesters, “If you have to do something, go out and dig a hole in your backyard.”

        Henry Warman, owner of Cafe Cin Cin New World Bistro downtown, said he understands the need for change but cringes at the thought of boycotts.

        “A boycott will just give people from out of town another reason to be scared to come downtown,” he said. “That would be a major impact on my business financially.”

Taste always a treat



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