By The Honorable Dwight Tillery
Former Cincinnati Mayor
Since the early Seventies, the Democratic Party has controlled the Cincinnati City Council. The party’s most loyal voters, Black people, make this possible. For many years, Blacks have voted for both Black and White Democratic candidates, while Black community conditions remain dismal and shameful.
Black people in Cincinnati are living in some of the worst conditions in the state, if not the nation. We lead the country in childhood poverty and infant mortality. The predominately Black neighborhoods, not all, are in need of desperate repair from housing to business districts. The gentrification of Black neighborhoods is well underway pushing Black residents out with nowhere to go. We have heard councilmember David Mann and others speak of Cincinnati as a tale of two cities, but the needs of Black people are not a priority for city council.
For example, has the Hamilton County Democratic Party had a platform prioritizing their most loyal voters’ issues? When Blacks face police misconduct, does the party ever issue a statement in opposition to abusive police behavior? The police/community collaborative seems to continue to exist between fantasy and reality. So, why has the party not taken a stand about this issue? It has not, and it will not, because Black voters’ interests are a low priority for the party.
Black people’s consistent support for the Democratic Party — no matter how they are treated guarantees their mistreatment. Recently, we watched Democrats make it possible for FCC to build a stadium in the West End and the council to fire City Manager Harry Black. All Republicans were on the same page as well as several prominent Democrats. The two Black democrats voted on the opposite side of the majority on both of these issues.
In the case of FCC, Councilman P.J. Sittenfeld, who received a big vote from the Black community, says he knows what is best for Black people in the West End. In the case of Harry Black, Councilman Greg Landsman said Harry needs to go because of 911, even though the investigation into the death of Kyle Plush, a Seven Hills High School student whose problems with a 911 call resulted in his death, has not been completed. Are they not watching the Black community, who is watching them on these issues? The majority of Black people don’t support the council’s decision on these matters.
Again, although Democrats control the council, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats run the city. This fact leaves many Black Democrats wondering whether their support of the Democratic Party makes any difference in their lives.
Democrats, White democrats in particular, talk great rhetoric while campaigning in Black neighborhoods, but when it comes to the wishes of the Black community, it is difficult to distinguish them from the Republicans.
People throughout this country are reexamining their relationship with both dominant political parties. Many have decided to create their own voting group or organization. However, Black people, the group that gets left out the most, is saying very little other than how they hate Trump.
Black people will be wise to remember the famous Speaker of the House Tipp O’Neil, who said, “All politics is local.” Black folks better open their minds to a new way of thinking or politicians will continue to take them for granted and their issues will remain unmet.
Candidates who run as Democrats fear every special interest group, but not Black voters. Black voters say they can’t vote Republican. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be the only choice if Black voters organize and support both Black and White candidates committed to their interests.
Party leaders choose candidate slates, which does not reflect the Black community’s desires. Perhaps it is time for Black voters to organize their own voting block and stop the despicable treatment by the Democratic Party. It is time.