By The Honorable Dwight Tillery
Former Cincinnati Mayor
By the end of this month, Councilmembers Simpson, Winburn, and Flynn will finish their tenure on the City Council. In the case of Yvette Simpson, she was unsuccessful in defeating John Cranley for mayor. Charlie Winburn is term-limited, and Kevin Flynn decided not to run for reelection.
Councilmember Simpson is a very dedicated member of City Council. She seems always prepared for committee meetings and Council sessions. Simpson is smart, debates well, and pretty much supported the Council’s agenda. While I had nominal contact with her or her campaign, I’m not sure that she had any idea what was about to come against her in the final days of the campaign.
I remember meeting with her early June for a brief discussion, and she asked me, “When did they turn against you?” I know who she was referring to –the power structure– and I said, they were never with me.
The lesson that she was about to learn was that Black members of Council are great when they do what they are told and not make waves. If you are cooperative, the press, i.e., the Enquirer will reward you with at best no coverage; but if you’re willing to challenge the status quo—look out.
Simpson decided to challenge Cranley—a protégé of Tom Luken—but she had no idea how nasty this race would become. She wanted to appear as non-threatening as possible because she thought if she could just show the citizens – especially the White community – that she is smart, has integrity, and didn’t make waves, they would elect her. But Jason Williams, the political reporter for the Enquirer, went after her so relentlessly that it felt like the Cranley campaign was orchestrating it.
During the time period leading up to the vote on Children’s Hospital expansion – and her not making a committee meeting, Williams went after the Black members for missing the committee meeting with a vengeance.
Yvette texted me and said,” I’m not used to having my reputation smeared, but I’m sure you understand.” And yes, I do.
And of course, the Children’s Hospital expansion was the Cranley campaign way to find some issue against Simpson. Children’s Hospital was a bogus issue with clear racial overtones. Simpson was trying to get money for a poor and depressed Black community. It’s no different than the Democrats in Congress who are trying to hold the budget hostage for the passage of DACA; it’s what politicians do. Their job is to work for their constituency. Furthermore, it was well known by members of Council and many in the community that Cranley had the votes for the expansion. Again, Simpson got a raw deal on this, but politics can be dirty.
Councilmember Charlie Winburn is a seasoned politician and has a passion for politics. As a Black Republican, as he likes to say, he’s done well in this city where Democrats make up a large percentage of the vote. I spent six years with him during the nineties and He would have given John Cranley a run for his millions had he run against him.
Councilmember Kevin Flynn is someone I knew very little about before he became a member of Council. I invited him three times to come to the Center for Closing the Health Gap to learn about us, but he would respond with a grumbling voice, saying that he already knew what we did. How wrong. He had no clue, but was satisfied to attack the Center with misinformation, mischaracterization, and flat-out lies. Flynn’s attacks on Simpson and op-eds were shameful, dog whistling, and mean-spirited.
The day the Council was to vote on Children’s expansion, Flynn strongly suggested that Simpson was a “criminal,” which fits all too well the racial stereotyping of Black people. As a lawyer, he should know better than to make such an accusation. Councilmember Simpson, which seemed to matter little to most of the Council members. Additionally, and as a member of a legislative body, such accusations are way out of line. His appearance in John Cranley’s commercial attacking Ms. Simpson was a new low for a member of Council. In my forty years of public service, I’ve never seen that kind of behavior out of any sitting Council member. His career on Council has been lackluster at best, but I will give him credit to know when it’s time to go.