Yates: Appoint Black Member to Banks Group
State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D-Walnut Hills) sent letters today to local officials and the Cincinnati Reds owner, asking them to appoint an African American to an advisory group that will help set policies on how to develop Cincinnati’s riverfront.
Noting that 44 percent of Cincinnati’s population is black, Yates stated that the appointment of five white males to fill all of the seats on The Banks Working Group was a “historically and socially important oversight.” Excluding black people from the panel will cause “dashed hopes, missed opportunities for collaboration and participation, and a further feeling of important … stakeholder groups not having a decision-making role.”
Yates sent the letters to Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, Hamilton County Commission President Phil Heimlich and Reds CEO Robert Castellini. All three appointed members to the working group, and Castellini is its chairman.
The NAACP’s local chapter, the Baptist Ministers Conference and other groups also have protested the appointments. Because the advisory panel will draft policies about workforce inclusion and minority hiring, an African-American perspective is needed, they said.
In his letters, Yates states that appointing a black member is “a necessary and a right thing to do.”
“Editorials in The Cincinnati Enquirer insist that the best people for the job must be chosen; I fully agree,” the letters continue. “Unfortunately, it is a sad commentary on our city to suggest that almost half of Cincinnati is not qualified to serve. Every public project must have a mix of a diversity of experiences, opinions and talents in order to be successful.”
Mallory, who is black, previously has said he opposed any changes to the working group’s makeup. Cincinnati City Council and Hamilton County commissioners will have final approval on any policies drafted by the working group and will ensure workforce development policies are sufficient, Mallory said.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials created The Banks Working Group in April to quicken the process of selecting a developer. Proposed in 1999, the Banks project has stalled over funding and jurisdictional issues, particularly who will pay for $68 million in parking garages. Sales tax revenues were supposed to pay for the garages but are far below projections.
The Banks will involve $200 million in public funding to supplement $600 million in private investment to develop a vacant eight-block area located just north of the Ohio River.
— Kevin Osborne