Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Women's City Club aims to raise questions

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When Ruth Cronenberg assumed the presidency of the Woman's City Club, she wanted to ensure that the voices of women throughout Greater Cincinnati were heard on important community issues.Cronenberg plans to be just as passionate about making certain the voices of protest and progress get equal time tonight at 7:30 when her civic group holds its annual fund-raiser at the Plum Street Temple downtown.

The program, "Justice in Cincinnati: Progress and Challenges," will feature a panel discussion with parties involved in the city's historic collaborative agreement.

Among those expected to attend are Roger Webster, president of the Fraternal Order of Police; Scott Greenwood, an attorney for the ACLU; City Councilman David Pepper; and John Williams, a spokesman for collaborative monitor Saul Green.

Cronenberg said Juleana Frierson, chief of staff for the Cincinnati Black United Front, might also be in attendance.

Mayor Charlie Luken declined to attend because of an illness in his family, she said.

"We want to understand what has happened and what needs to happen in our city," Cronenberg said.

"In a hour and a half we can only begin to hear the story, but I think it is something people need to hear.

"I know people are doing things, but we need to find out what they are and where the gaps are and what we can try to do better," she said.

The Woman's City Club announced last week that it would keep its event downtown, despite pressure from boycotters and the loss of its keynote speaker, book author Barbara Ehrenreich.

The 88-year-old philanthropic organization was harshly criticized by city leaders for initially agreeing to honor the boycott and move the fund-raiser outside of the city.

Cronenberg said the civic group has been receiving mixed messages from the community since its reversal.

"Some people have asked for their money back," Cronenberg said.

"But so far, I've seen more checks coming in from people who support us than money going out the door."

The Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, the boycott group that contacted Ehrenreich and urged her not to come, has said it would picket the event.

Amanda Mayes, co-chairwoman of the boycott group, said last week that she had no interest in attending the forum because it breaks the downtown boycott.

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com

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