Sunday, March 30, 2003

Collaborative: BUF bails out

Partners wanted

Cincinnati Black United Front leaders never lived up to their oath in federal court and their legal duties under the collaborative agreement signed last spring. Now that even the BUF acknowledges its boycott activities conflict with its legal obligations to make the collaborative a success, Cincinnati City Council has laid out its response for U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott, who oversees the class action settlement.

The city is right to ask that the BUF and all attorneys with conflicts of interest be removed from representing the certified class. There are attorneys representing the class who are suing the city and claiming monetary damages for other clients on grounds the city isn't keeping its collaborative commitments. In other words, the attorneys profit if the collaborative they're supposed to support fails. The city says the judge should eradicate such blatant conflicts.

The class includes all African Americans stopped, arrested or subjected to a use of force by police here. Given the BUF's record of badmouthing the city the past year, denying clear progress on police reforms, driving away business and using the divisive boycott to seek national attention, the city is wise to demand conditions that any new "representatives" should meet.

We believe the city is right to try to make the collaborative a success, provided this time it is matched with partners committed to being part of the solution. The city has every right to demand that the new representatives of the class not actively support the boycott or be affiliated with the BUF. If Judge Dlott allows the BUF to withdraw from its legal duties, which by the way were to "support working collaboratively with the city during the (five-year) life of this agreement," new representatives of the class could be named quickly.

Council argues that the new representatives should be "sufficiently broad-based to represent the entire class adequately." Council's statement goes on to say: "The very purpose of the boycott is to impose economic pain on local businesses, which no doubt has a direct toll on local workers.... In this way, the BUF is working directly against the class members it represents."

With the BUF out as the class representative, the partners to the agreement have a chance to start fresh. It could be the collaborative's last chance. Let's get it right this time.

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