Extortion with governmental backing is still extortion.
Wednesday morning, the members of City Council finally voted on whether to approve the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital expansion in Avondale. By a vote of 6-3 — with Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young, and Charlie Winburn all abstained from voting, effectively voting “No” — the hospital measure passed. It was also supported by the Mayor, John Cranley. The measure allows Children’s Hospital to move forward on the expansion priced at well over $500 million, and maybe even upwards of $600 million. Not only would Avondale directly benefit in terms of job creation and business development, but part of that lump sum will be allocated to the neighborhood.
The Avondale Community Council will likely use the $11.5 million to fund housing projects and fill various other needs. On top of all that, the deal does not use any public funds — which is a rarity in this day and age of reckless spending by council [read: Streetcar]. With everything considered, this seems to be a deal both parties, and all factions, can get behind and push forward in a smooth manner. That is apparently not the case.
Hidden agendas are the rule, rather than exception, in politics. Yet this apparent hidden agenda is obstructing good policy from being conducted. Young, along with Simpson and Winburn, missed the originally scheduled vote. But Young was the only one without an excuse. Only three days, spanning the 62 days in July and August, had official council business scheduled. Skipping one of the few workdays — and one pertaining to something as important as the Children’s Hospital, no less — is not a good look in an election year. Councilman Young was even seen that night out campaigning at National Night Out.
Not only did Young disrespect those who elected him, he also disrespected his fellow Councilmember, Yvette Simpson. The mayoral candidate missed the vote as well due to a family emergency. Young had to have known that his absence would prevent the chamber from reaching the required quorum to hold a vote. But clearly the matter at hand, a vote dictating the future of a children’s hospital, was not important enough to him. If that does not paint an apathetic picture of Young’s attitude towards this issue, his actions Monday paint one deserving of much more concern.
“Simpson seeks to use her political clout to force a Boss Tweed-like coercion upon the hospital.”
Young, alongside Yvette Simpson, offered up a motion more closely resembling extortion, than responsible policy. Their motion — not adopted by Council in the vote this morning — would have forced the hospital to pay more than double what they have already pledged to give the neighborhood of Avondale. This would amount to anywhere from $27.5 million to $32.5 million. Such donations in the past, like Chicago’s East Side, merely lined the pockets of political cronies. Councilman Chris Smitherman dubbed the Simpson/Young motion a “shakedown.” Smitherman seems to be accurate in this assertion, as Simpson seeks to use her political clout to force a Boss Tweed-like coercion upon the hospital. One way or another, that’s cronyism. Cronyism could be playing a role, but a far more likely reason sits just three months away.
Having shocked the city in her primary victory over incumbent Mayor, John Cranley — Yvette Simpson seems to be desperate to maintain her momentum, and preserve her lead, come November 7th. With this in mind, she has positioned herself as a contrarian. Should Simpson’s efforts have succeeded, an incredible amount of pork would have been attributed to her efforts, as well as the solidification of herself as the anti-John Cranley. I am sure the latter to be far more important to her anyway. Unseating an incumbent is a difficult feat, and providing clear contrast is important. Simpson is succeeding in providing contrast — only in this instance, Cranley comes out as the adult, and she labels herself the juvenile extortionist.
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