‘I have not and will not apologize for fighting more for our community’
By Camille Allen with Cincinnati Herald Staff
Mayoral candidate and Councilmember Yvette Simpson showed that she cannot be bullied and is not afraid to stand up for the Black community. It was known last week that there were six votes in favor of the Children’s Hospital expansion, but the vote was delayed, seemingly to allow time for Simpson to be attacked by some media outlets and business leaders. City Council voted 6-3 Wednesday to approve required zoning changes that allow Children’s Hospital’s 10-story expansion in Avondale to go forward.
Voting yes were Vice Mayor David Mann and Councilmembers Kevin Flynn, Amy Murray, P.G. Sittenfeld, Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach.
Councilmembers Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young, and Charlie Winburn voted against the expansion.
On Monday, Simpson made a motion that included a larger financial investment in Avondale by Children’s Hospital for housing development and community improvement, and required significant improvements in the health of Avondale residents. Avondale is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, both in terms of income and health conditions.
Testimony from approximately 20 neighborhood residents and Children’s President and CEO Michael Fisher were heard by the Council before councilmembers commented and voted.
Avondale Community Council President Patricia Milton said, “The residents of Avondale are turning to you, our government officials, to balance the scales of injustice against a rich hospital who until planning this project have not invested in the Avondale community. Check their IRS Schedule H to verify. What will $11.5 million do for Avondale in the next five years? It amounts to an investment of pennies per day per resident.”
Arguing against Simpson’s motion, Fisher pointed out that Children’s Hospital is not requesting any financial support from the city. He added, “We are deeply involved in our community of Avondale and doing our best to service the medical needs of all of Cincinnati.”
Simpson said she fully understands the role of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital services and how much they benefit the city. She added that she is proud of the hospital’s high ranking and would do nothing to discredit them. Her concern is that the expansion will greatly benefit the city, but not the residents of Avondale who are losing housing and families.
Simpson said she has supported countless initiatives and tax breaks that she believed were in the city’s best interest, but has seen little improvement in the conditions for those who need the most help. She does not want to see this happen again in Avondale. She added that she is in favor of economic growth for the city, but her hope is that the hospital will agree to do more to improve Avondale because the struggling neighborhood should not be excluded from these benefits. Simpson said she is fighting to give voices to the people of Avondale and most importantly, the children of Avondale.
Simpson explained that the hospital does the important work of saving lives of countless children, yet neglects to fully take into consideration how this expansion will affect the lives of children who live in this area, she said. “The impact of the expansion on Avondale is real and significant,” she said, adding that “homes will be torn down because of the expansion, and some are homes that have been in families for generations.”
“Research suggests,” added Simpson, “that our children’s trajectory is determined largely by where they grow up.”
Where Cincinnati Children’s Hospital thrives in medical achievement, they lack in community engagement, she said. Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld, who voted in favor of the expansion, agreed that Children’s Hospital underperforms when it comes to engagement in the community.
Essentially, Simpson is requesting a partnership. Cities around the United States have taken it upon themselves to improve communities and health outcomes by partnering with hospitals to do exactly that, Simpson said. A stronger partnership between the hospital, the city and the community will create a brighter future for Cincinnati.
“My request is simply that we all do more, today, together,” she says. “They say if you have more than enough, you build a longer table, not a taller fence. I believe we have an opportunity today to extend our table to our neighbors. I will fight for a longer table.”