By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A panel of national civil rights leaders listened to more than seven hours of emotional testimony from Cincinnati residents Saturday during a public forum to discuss the issues of policing in black neighborhoods, voting rights and economic issues.
But organizers expressed disappointment at the lack of attendance by Mayor Charlie Luken, city council members and business leaders.
Councilwoman Laketa Cole was the only member of City Council present, but she did not address the panel.
Luken did not attend the forum, held at the University of Cincinnati's African-American Cultural Research Center, because of a scheduling conflict. An aide to the mayor told the Enquirer that Luken submitted a written statement on Friday by e-mail.
But Ron Daniels, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which organized the hearing, said he hadn't seen the mayor's statement and expressed disappointment that city officials chose not to participate.
"We want to be crystal clear that every public official had a chance to respond," Daniels said.
The panel aims to report its findings in 60 days.
Cecil Thomas, executive director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, reported on some of the city's progress including the establishment of a new Citizens Complaint Authority, the hiring of an African-American city manager and successful school-business partnerships like the one at Taft High School with Cincinnati Bell. Thomas' comments were met with some grumbling from the audience.
"I don't want to paint a picture that all is well because it is not," Thomas said. "But Cincinnati is way ahead of a lot of other cities in the way it is approaching its problems."
Many of the panelist questions surrounded the city's agreement on police reforms. Some panelists questioned why plaintiffs in the agreement did not opt for a consent decree which would have eliminated some problems the parties are now experiencing with its implementation.
About 130 people came to listen or give testimony at the hearing.
SPECIAL REPORT: OHIO'S LOST MONEY
Money's gone, Ohio gets little back
Lawsuits, new laws might help crackdown
Wasted money? It all depends
Weak contracts waste tax money
TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Family, friends mourn slain soldier
Cincinnati Wing spreads smiles
Officials shun forum on race
Insanity verdicts hard to swallow
PULFER: Mammograms matter of life and death
SMITH-AMOS: Drug dealers ticked off by complaints
BRONSON: Justified shooting by a 'guardian angel'
Bells fill empty church tower
Lack of indictment draws reaction
AROUND THE TRISTATE
Tristate A.M. Report
Meeting set for west side
Good News: Cartoonist's work adorns art fair poster
Obituary: Marla Kimbrew Love involved in community groups
Obituary: Corwin Roush taught science at New Richmond
In search of perfect kids
Calling top graduates
Ohio Moments: Reds open Crosley Field
Bicentennial Notebook: Rail club shows role in history
$750K due for crash blamed on turtle
Dems hope for inspiration from mayors
Teacher accused in child porn case
Teen admits killing student for $6
Louisville duo hopes to end Israeli occupation