Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Chicago Way comes to Cincinnati

The Chicago Way comes to Cincinnati

We would like to think the recent attempted shakedown of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital by community groups would be the exception of the way business is done in Cincinnati, but if City Council and the Mayor’s office are taken over by politicians doing the bidding of shakedown artists expect it soon and perhaps permanently to become the “Cincinnati Way.”

Here’s how the shakedown works: Either self-appointed “community organizers,” or – worse – those leading non-profits already funded with tax dollars claim historic oppression of their community, their constituency, that can only be remedied with huge infusions of cash from developers otherwise trying to grow the tax base, bring jobs, and bring a new or expanded business to town. They make similar demands of cash from the City and County governments themselves.

Thus, these community organizers use their political clout to extract cash from elected leaders and to block the needed governmental cooperation to achieve the progress such as a zone change, a building permit or a street improvement.  In the past, in a professionally-run city like Cincinnati, these things were largely “ministerial” matters handled by bureaucrats on a routine, non-political basis.  But under this new way of doing business, the elected political leaders, and their now hyper-political administrative appointees, block the needed governmental approvals until their extortionate demands are met.    

Simple zone changes become pitched political battles, or silent means of killing projects for developers who have not paid off the right people.

For more than 50 years, they have done business like this in Chicago and the locals know it is wrong, but they laughingly call it the “Chicago Way.”  In order to get anything done you must make a political contribution to your alderman and payoff powerful community groups.

We read with some amazement that the Obama Presidential Library is the focus of one such shakedown right now (read here).  President Obama has committed to bringing this economic development windfall to Chicago’s economically-troubled south side.  (This article claims that the Bill Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock bought a $1 billion real estate boom, and the George W. Bush library is worth $50 million per year to the Dallas area.)

But rather than thanking President Obama for bringing this important development that any community would welcome with open arms, community organizers are demanding a “community benefits agreement” from the Library organizers to allow the project to go forward.  They want a commitment of “jobs” and a commitment of cash to “permit” him to bring his official papers into their neighborhood.

Even more amazingly, the community organizer-in-chief has declined their offer and stood up to the new generation of community organizer bullies.  He said “no.”

The exact same “community benefits agreement” is what powerful political leaders were demanding from Children’s here in Cincinnati.  And lest we think Cincinnati dodged a bullet when a narrow majority of Council and Mayor Cranley rejected the extortion, the same shakedown artist – former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery – happens to be one of the largest donors to Denise Driehaus and Todd Portune, the democrats that are the new majority on the County Commission.

Read here how Tillery’s “Closing the Health Gap” has accomplished precious little for the enormous infusion of tax dollars it has received from City Hall for years.

But just last month – outside of the counsel from their official advisors on the Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee and the Elderly Services Advisory Committee – the new democrat majority on the County Commission jacked the Senior Services Levy up 37% and tucked in there a little gift for Dwight Tillery’s nonprofit.

Of course, the Senior Services levy is a favorite with voters – who would not want to help Cincinnati’s elderly?  But for Portune and Driehaus to give such a gift to their key political supporters, on top of the same shakedown artists demanding millions from the Children’s Hospital development signals a new and dangerous direction for our City and County – the new “Cincinnati Way.”

Issue 5 – the 37% higher Senior Services levy – and the Children’s Hospital shakedown are two sides of the same coin: a new way of doing business in Cincinnati.

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