On today's date in The Beacon archives, we published:•Where’s C.O.A.S.T.? New Jail Means Jump in Spending and Taxes (2006)
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Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati
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Recently, The Cincinnati Beacon was critical of those City Councilmembers who called David Crowley’s anti-war resolution an inappropriate use of Council’s time. In this interview, Chris Bortz provides detailed explanations for his own disagreements. This interview is not only noteworthy for the debate contained, but for the example of how details can dramatically change how an issue gets characterized. Whatever your position, your interpretation of Chris Bortz may change when comparing this interview to his soundbites from The Enquirer.
For background on this interview, please read “Cities for Progress: Anti-War Resolutions Come to Cincinnati?” This article is a follow up to the original Enquirer piece, including details about a national network of cities that have passed anti-war resolutions.
The Dean: How is it polarizing to join a network of 250 cities that have passed similar resolutions?
Chris Bortz: First, just because other cities do it, doesn’t mean Cincinnati should or must. Given the number of municipalities in the United States, 250 represents a small minority. Nevertheless, your argument seems to suggest that because 250 other cities have taken a position on a matter it would not be polarizing for Cincinnati to take a position as well. What is polarizing in our community may not be polarizing in another.
The Dean: Does Cincinnati exist in a vacuum?
Chris Bortz: Cincinnati does exist in a vacuum as it relates to city finances. John Norquist, in his book The Wealth of Cities, made an excellent case against city reliance on federal dollars. By allowing huge amounts of federal subsidies to enter the stream of commerce within urban centers, he says, cities lost their entrepreneurial edge, redesigned urban planning to make room for massive subsidized housing projects, concentrated poverty, eliminated public transit, cut massive highways through city centers, and allowed municipal budgets to grow without planning or control. Essentially, cities must learn to live within their means and focus energy on maintaining density and diversity to sustain a healthy economy.
On the national and international stage, Cincinnatians are citizens of the United States and have every right to participate in debates on those levels. If Cincinnatians wish to express their opinion about foreign affairs, we have mediums for doing so, and we are not on an island. We can vote for President, House and Senate seats, contact congressional delegates, march on Washington, write the media, and the like. City government is not the place for such debates, and a formal action by the legislative body should be as closely related to city business as possible.
The Dean: Why not use your platform to bring about social change? Isn’t that part of being a leader?
Chris Bortz: It is not my job as a City Councilmember to bring about change in foreign affairs. If that were my interest, I would have run for a different office. The business of running a city is very different than running a country. Our job in Cincinnati must be about paving streets, clearing snow, maintaining parks, policing the streets, and etc. Being a leader is as much about focusing available resources and energy in the right direction as it is about bringing about social change.
The Dean: How is the business of operating the City of Cincinnati demonstrably distracted by the simple passage of a symbolic resolution? Aren’t such suggestions unnecessarily polarizing?
Chris Bortz:This is an extremely biased question.
It isn’t just the simple passage of a symbolic resolution. It is answering media inquiries (like this one), spending time and energy in committee discussing something about which we have little information.
Am I supposed to research the federal approach to the War in Iraq? I know only what I have read in the paper and seen on TV. That is not a good foundation for making a decision. You know as well as I that the mainstream media doesn’t always get it right. They don’t always show all the facts. My opinion on the war may have no basis in reality. I have not been privy to troop strategy discussions, I have not discussed the pros and cons with the State Department or the Pentagon, I have not discussed the implications of the war in Iraq on the broader war on terrorism. It may be easy to say while out to dinner with friends that I oppose the Bush administration’s approach to the war, but that is most definitely an uninformed opinion. I take my role as an elected official very seriously. I do not have the time to research the war in Iraq adequately to cast an informed vote on the subject.
Your questions reveal your position on the subject. I would hope you would give some thought to these questions: Where does the line get drawn? Should City Council, as a body in session, take a position on the candidates for President or for Congress based on the amount of money they want to send to cities? Should we take a formal position on financial aid to African nations, funding for NASA, Social Security, Federal Income Tax policy, spending programs in Alaska, farm subsidies, import tariffs, trade negotiations with Japan, Medicare, and etc…? All of these things impact the federal budget, and therefore impact the availability of funds for cities. Where does it end?
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