By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Two years ago, leaders of Cincinnati Community Action Now pledged they would be different than any other blue-ribbon race commission ever formed by the city.Monday, CAN officials provided what many residents have been waiting to see since the April 2001 riots - action.
CAN leaders unveiled a list of programs they said would repair decades of neighborhood neglect, economic and educational disparities, and bad blood between police and African-Americans. They also announced which organizations would be responsible for executing the initiatives in the long term, and the establishment of a board of directors that would replace CAN's current co-chairs as monitors.
"For those who doubted us, it's happening," CAN co-chair Ross Love said. "We started out as Cincinnati CAN. We moved on to Cincinnati WILL. Today we are Cincinnati ARE.
"CAN is delivering what it promised to do in the beginning," he said. "We have put into place programs that can make thousands of more people self-sufficient in the years ahead."
For 24 months, the privately funded task force has been developing programs to address racial disparities in employment, education and the justice system. Those programs are now ready for implementation and are being transitioned into agencies with the skill and capacity to execute them for years to come, CAN leaders said.
The United Way of Greater Cincinnati, for example, will oversee the group's early childhood development program "Success by Six." The Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce will operate the Minority Business Accelerator, designed to increase the size and number of black-owned businesses.
The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati will supervise a program that finds jobs for "chronically unemployed residents." The Cincinnati Youth Collaborative will oversee the Partners in Education program, which develops partnerships between local schools and corporations.
CAN has also helped establish the Community Police Partnering Center, which will be a clearinghouse for the city's Community Problem-Oriented Policing Program. The commission has set up the Cincinnati Center for Arts and Technology, a facility that will offer tuition-free job training and placement for hard-core unemployables.
"These aren't just a list of programs," Love said. "These are things that will actually touch people's lives in a substantial way.
"To my knowledge, there is no other city attempting to do the full range of things that is being attempted here in Cincinnati," he said. "If we are successful in sustaining the programs, Cincinnati will become one of the most livable cities in the country."
CAN's progress has been largely overlooked amid the city's 22-month-old boycott, police and crime problems.
Mayor Charlie Luken, who formed the commission in the wake of the April 2001 riots, tipped his hat to CAN leaders and volunteers.
"I think they've done good, solid work on everything from the disparities in the criminal justice system to the efforts they are doing with Success by Six and even their influence on some things like the school levy," Luken said. "Now they are moving to a different phase."
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