Messer blinded by class interests

Standard

Ryan Messer, President of the Over-the-Rhine community council, recently wrote of the need for a party that represents “urban interests.” Such a party, he says, would be fiscally responsible but socially progressive. Messer, who recently married his partner in Washington Park and lives in the highly gentrified area south of Liberty Street, laments the fact that neither the Republican or Democratic party matches the interests of the “urbanists” in the city. Without a shred of irony, Messer describes the process that the basin has undergone over the last decade or so:

In the past, the urban core of a city was predominately [sic] poor and Democratic, but that’s changing as people nationally and locally are moving back to the inner city, driving up property values. Those who are willing to pay a half million dollars or more for a condo tend to lean fiscally right yet embrace such socially progressive issues as urban renewal, transit and same sex marriage. For which party should they vote? The answer, it seems, is neither.

8f36b882638911e3907e121b5d90bda3_8He paints the transformation of Over-the-Rhine and the surrounding area as being of a natural origin, and that the new richer residents are moving in as a result of–not a constituent part of–that process. This description is tone-deaf to actual forces at play in more ways than one. His narrative is completely self-serving, Messer is a property owner and he has flaunted his class interests in the past. During the debate around the streetcar, Messer, a leader in the “Believe in Cincinnati” movement, made issue of the fact that his family’s financial interests were tied to the continuation of the project. He went so far as to threaten a lawsuit in order to “protect” his family’s investments along the proposed route. And in this latest opinion piece he ties Obama winning re-election in 2012 to his and his husband’s ability to file taxes jointly in 2014 (seeming to make the cause of gay marriage out to be over an economic relation, but that’s another discussion).

These show two great disconnects with reality. First, Messer ignores the fact that the majority of the non-voting electorate are the people he identifies as the traditional population of the urban core–“poor and Democratic.” Blacks make up about a 45% of Cincinnati’s population, and about 70% in OTR. This population has faced obstacles to actually being able to vote that harken back to the Jim Crow Era. Black men, disproportionately targeted by the racist and corrupt criminal justice system, the “New Jim Crow,” face high levels of disenfranchisement based on criminal histories, along with a slew of other setbacks coming out of prison that affect their ability to find housing, education and employment.

Even so, in the last presidential election Historic Black turnouts were a key indicator early on of an Obama victory. However, in the area of OTR north of Liberty, which still has largely black streets and is relatively untouched by the gentrification in the neighborhood’s southern half, voter turnout in the last presidential election was lower than black turnout overall (about 40% of registered voters in the precinct turning out, with 66% black turnout nationwide). But Messer’s focus is a different population, a wealthier, more conservative group, which have not been historically apathetic or disenfranchised in the political system in America. On the contrary, this group is representative of policy makers, now and historically.

Continue reading

A Rebuttal to Don

Standard

Several weeks ago, I wrote an article about the state of the local Green Party, drawing attention to their endorsement of John Cranley for Mayor in the upcoming elections. In a response, Don Rucknagel, co-chair of the Green Party, called the piece and uniformed attack.

Throughout his reponse, Don suggests that my presumed lack of knowledge of current economic realities in the city cloud my view of the election. I’ll let that assumption stand, because I am not overly concerned with being forced to prove something I never claimed to have knowledge of in the first piece, since that wasn’t the intention. I think it’s important to first say that my piece was less about the actual endorsements than it was about party politics, which is why I talked at length about Kshama Sawant and her campaign for Seattle council, running on the Socialist Alternative ticket. My original piece was not meant to be an attack on Gwen Marshall, but rather, what I perceived to be a local manifestation of the shortfall in the way that the party has functioned nationally since I have been politically aware.

Never-the-less, I will take on key point in Don’s response that, I think, illustrates that the Greens see this election as a zero sum game, like they have for so many elections before.

Continue reading

Don Rucknagel Responds

Standard

Several weeks ago, I wrote a piece questioning the Local Green Party‘s endorsement of John Cranley for Mayor, and offered some thoughts on the way forward for third parties in this period, using Kshama Sawant’s inspiring council run in Seattle as an example. Don Rucknagel, co-chair of the party, responded. This piece was published in Streetvibes, along with my rebuttal on Friday, October 25.

As Co-chair of the Hamilton County Green Party, I feel obliged to respond to Ben Stockwell’s uninformed attack on Gwen Marshall, my co-chair. There are some relevant facts that Stockwell seems not to understand. First, times are tough, revenues are down, and the City Council is striving to forestall bankruptcy. We have an $850 million unfunded pension liability that needs addressing. The major issue in this election is that the predominantly Democratic City Council, lead by Democratic Mayor Mark Malory and Democratic Mayoral realtor hopeful Roxanne Qualls want to blow $150 million on a vanity streetcar. The original proposal was for the Streetcar to run from Downtown up Vine Street to University Heights. But when the Governor withdrew his offer of $50 million, the project was scaled back to go to approximately Findlay Market.

The original route was problematical, because it is not clear that there are enough people downtown who will want to ride a streetcar to the stores on University Heights (likewise to Findlay Market), especially if the fare is more expensive than the buses that already go there. Ah, but it may allow people to walk to the University Medical Center (ten blocks from University Plaza rain or shine), or to the University of Cincinnati proper (3 to 9 blocks, depending upon destination) its proponents say. Because they need money to fund it, they are also flirting with a proposal to lease the City’s profitable parking meters($8 million/year) to Xerox in return for a $53 million loan for thirty years. The city would then be at the mercy of a national corporation, despite the proposed high tech nature of the parking meters . The situation may be even more complex than this, because the Port Authority may also be involved. Then there is the question of operating expenses. Qualls is eying Casino revenues. Neither Qualls nor Cranley are addressing the pension problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

Continue reading

Green Pathology

Standard

On September 5th, an email went out on the Hamilton county Green Party listserv to local members from Gwen Marshall, the leader of the group. The email concerned the upcoming mayoral election and how the party relates to it. What was contained in the email was a scathing attack on candidate Roxanne Qualls, former mayor and current city council member, and soft support for John Cranley, another former council member.

The email contains a key phrase that, I think, illuminates the current M.O. for the Greens, both nationally and locally: “There are 4 candidates for mayor, but only two who are really in the running.” This is essentially a manifestation of the “safe-state” strategy that has plagued Green Party politics since at least the 2004 presidential election. Simply put, the strategy gives de-facto support to one candidate (typically a Democrat) that they want to win, lest the other, more horrible candidate get into office. It is quite striking just how far this strategy will go, even supporting the better candidate over someone who may be running for the position in the Green Party itself, only seriously campaigning in states where the preferred candidate safely has the vote.

Continue reading