Friday, November 17, 2006

Singing a Different Tune



On Election Day, I filled in the little box on my ballot that said 'NO' on Issue 12, regarding building a new jail in Hamilton County.

Before Election Day, I read up on all the candidates and issues that would be on the ballot, including Issue 12. I read the information on the League of Women Voters Smart Voter website, which not only gives the actual verbage of the issue, but also outlines the issue and gives the most popular arguments for and against the issue. I had listened to reports about Issue 12, commonly known as “The Jail Tax issue,” on the news and I had read articles about it in the local newpapers and on several blogs. I also discussed it with family, friends, a co-worker or two and some strangers on a bus. I concluded that there were far more good reasons not to build a new jail than there were reasons to build one.

To me, this is the process of becoming an informed, active voter. Finding out the issues, doing some background work, discussing the issues with fellow citizens and then actually going to the polls and voting.

So I voted 'NO'on Issue 12. As it turned out, 151,973 other people agreed with me and Issue 12 was defeated.

Imagine my shock and anger, upon reading this article at the Cincinnati Beacon, to find that the peoples’ "No" vote doesn't amount to a hill of beans with certain members of our City Council, County Commission, and City and County governments. Instead of listening to the people they are supposed to serve, they are determined to build the jail anyway. They aloswant to close our pools, half our recreation center starting in poor neighborhoods first, and cut the Human Services budget (I guess to make up for the millions of dollars we have to pay back) but hey, to make up for it all, we must have a new jail.

One Council Member, Chris Bortz, has attempted to justify the logic of "The Voter is Wrong When The Powers that Be Don't Agree".
"We need a jail now. Leadership means recognizing when the polls are wrong. Leadership is standing up and pushing for what is right and what is needed even when it is unpopular to do so. The jail tax failed because it had become overly charged politically. Nevertheless, I hope the county focuses on what is needed and gets the jail built ASAP."
Nate Livingston at Cincinnati Black Blog says that this statement is basically a big F-You to the voters and I happen to agree. However, in a follow-up post, Chris took issue with this saying he would ""never present a cavalier or disrespectful tone to the citizens."

Whether he means to or not, Chris Bortz needs to wake up and recognize that it is an insult to me and every other person who voted against the jail every time he opens his mouth to support this issue.

We, the same 151,974 people who defeated the jail tax issue, are a lot of people to alienate by claiming that you know better than they do simply because you're on council. Bortz and others like him were put there to represent us, not dictate to us. Leadership is one thing. Deliberately doing an end run around the voters is quite another.

Even the generally clueless Enquirer has stated that the jail issue was divided clearly along socioeconomic lines. Despite their pre-election predictable fear-mongering endorsement of Issue 12 and despite the tactless title of this post-election article even they seem to realize why it failed.

People who live in wealthy neighborhoods supported the jail issue. They’ve got theirs and locking up the great unwashed is preferable to dealing with whatever problems poor people have.

People in middle class and poor neighborhoods voted against the jail. Considering that most of these folks are Black and that it is our people and families who get locked up first, last and foremost, we voted no. Do our neighborhoods have problems with crime? Yes, but a lot of those problems simply cannot be locked away.

Building a jail will not solve our County or City problems with crime. You and the rest of your elite co-workers and their power-hungry buddies need to spend more time trying to figure out how to better help Black folks, Hispanic folks, poor folks, and folks with physical and mental disabilities.

Citizens tell City Council and County Commission again and again that past and planned cuts to the Cincinnati and Hamilton County budget are devestating to real people not statistics. These changes affect our neighborhoods and families. We need help but not your version of it. You have convinced the wealthy neighborhoods that they need protection from dark skinned violent criminals yet you neglect to actually protect us from white-collar criminals who steal our tax dollars.

Yet the best you can do is say that we have to put up with more waste and money that seems to disappear. When we turn to you for help, the very folks we voted into office, you respond by saying more of us need to be locked up.

You are dangerously wrong when you say that the defeat of the Jail Tax was not a mandate from the people and it shows just how cluelesly out of touch you really are.

Issue 12 was a mandate from the people, by the people, for the people. It was a mandate that you listen. A mandate that you cannot and should not attempt to turn our city and county into a police state. A mandate that tax dollar waste and the lack of accountability for that waste will no longer be tolertated.

Stop listening to other people who go to bed with full bellies every night and start listening to folks who are doing without to make your life possible. Then maybe you'll understand how better to help folks than putting them down and backhandedly calling them ignorant for not going along with a plan that will not help them.

Keep yammering away about how we need a new jail and next year I will be singing a new song.

We’re taking no shorts
We’re taking no shorts
We don’t need a new jail
So don’t vote for Bortz

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