Friday, June 15, 2001

Race task force

Panel can't risk more delay

        Cincinnati CAN must be careful. It runs the risk of being mislabeled Cincinnati CAN'T.

        The mayor's task force on race relations operates at such a deliberate pace, it missed today's deadline for its first progress report.

        Much is at stake here. The task force is charged with saving our city. Healing wounds. Joining forces. Improving people's quality of life.

        Ross Love, one of the task force's three chairmen, assured me this week he is “very pleased with the progress we are making.”

        Stay tuned, he said, for some important announcements.

        “Within 60-90 days we will be announcing some very significant changes.”
       Hope it's worth the wait. This old town urgently needs to change for the better.

        Not to rush the task force, but here's a gentle nudge: Live up to your name.

        CAN stands for Community Action Now.

        So far, there's been little community action of the now variety.

        The task force has been in the talking stages for nearly two months:

        On April 16, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken called for the commission's formation.

        On May 1, the mayor named Cincinnati CAN's three chairmen, social activist Rev. Damon Lynch III, Federated Department Stores executive vice president Tom Cody and Mr. Love, founder, chief executive officer and president of Blue Chip Broadcasting.

        They head a commission of community and business leaders responsible for six action teams:

        • Education and Youth Development.

        • Economic Inclusion.

        • Health Care and Human Services.

        • Police and the Justice System.

        • Housing and Neighborhood Development.

        • Image and Media.

        The three chairmen have met just once with leaders of the six teams.

        “The team leaders have met separately,” said Chairman Love. “Some of the individual teams have been meeting, participating in public forums and formulating goals.”

        He realizes this may sound like all talk and no action.

        “I know some people want to hear more sooner.”

        But he asks for patience. “We're in the start-up mode,” he said. “It takes time putting this organization together.”

        On May 1, the mayor said he expected “each team to identify initial action steps to "jump-start' their work within the next 45 days.”

        Forty-five days later, the task force still needs people to hold the jumper cables.

        “We still have to get all the team members in place,” explained Chairman Love.

        “We want to make sure we have the right people on the right team. That way we can make good progress defining the areas the teams pursue and identifying specific objectives.”

        He wants the commission to run smoothly. And succeed.

        Me too. Just don't take too long.

        The mayor's task force must get it right. Previous commissions on race relations in Cincinnati produced reports that gathered dust and generated no action.

        This time, the stakes are extraordinarily high. A failure to act in a timely manner could doom the city.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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