Lots of readers probably saw that Sunday story in the Enquirer about $25 million wasted by the Cincinnati Empowerment Zone and thought: “Here we go again. Yet another textbook case of government malpractice.”
But really, it’s worse than that. It’s also a textbook case of race hustling, politically correct cowardice and newspaper negligence.
In fact, finding out that the Empowerment Zone is a rip-off should be news to no one — at City Hall or at the Enquirer.
I visited the Empowerment Zone offices in 2002. When I asked for accounting, they got nervous. When I asked for examples of jobs created, they took me on a tour of companies that were shuttered and closed within a year or so. The tour was conducted by Empowerment Zone staffer Laketa Cole — now on City Council – and Empowerment Corporation President Harold Cleveland, who was not enthusiastic about discussing his board of directors, as I recall.
That’s because the board included George Beatty and his brother, Howard. Beatty, who ran the crime-magnet Parktown Cafe and June Bug’s, also ran the West End neighborhoods. Now he’s in prison, busted with his friend, Lawyer Ken Lawson, in a drug-peddling scheme. Howard Beatty is in prison, too, for killing activist Kabaka Oba in front of City Hall.
But back in those days, George “June Bug” Beatty ruled the West End.
I did some research in 2002 and found that the Empowerment Zone — fueled by millions in Clinton Administration grants – had spent $100,000 for martial arts training; $500,000 for holiday crafts, puppets, rhythm and movement; nearly $400,000 for hip-hop, choir and karate; and so on.
Believe it or not, the Empowerment Zone board tried to hire as its executive director the disgraced, convicted drug dealer Dr. Stanley Broadnax, who had once been the city’s health commissioner.
The big Empowerment Zone supporter at the time was Mayor Roxanne Qualls — who now tells the Enquirer she is “disappointed.”
Aren’t we all. But some of us are not surprised. We expected as much because we know that liberal “programs” that pour millions of tax dollars into poor neighborhoods are like rain in the desert that never reaches the ground. The cash is siphoned off by hustlers. The poor stay poor, and a few sharp operators get wealthy in the name of “social justice.”
Back in 2002, when red flags were waved in the faces of council members, they looked the other way.
And when I took my fat file of Empowerment Zone documents to editors at the Enquirer, they nodded and mumbled and gave me the brush off.
I figured the reason in both cases was that minority programs were untouchable. The riots were still too fresh. Riot instigators and protesters were making extravagant accusations of ”economic apartheid.”
So council members and city officials decided it was not worth picking a fight over a few million in federal appeasement cash.
Politicians without a backbone are common as government waste.
But editors are held to a higher standard. And in the Enquirer newsroom, the editors at the time — now long gone – couldn’t find their spines with a search warrant. A story like that was guaranteed to bring accusations of “racism,” regardless of the truth. So they ducked.
I wrote about the Empowerment Zone anyway. And as expected, I was called “racist.” I always figured that putting up with that kind of name-calling was just part of a newsman’s job. But political correctness and the newsroom diversity police have made cowards of us all.
So now we’re supposed to be surprised that the Empowerment Zone has “Little to show for $25 million,” as the Enquirer headline said?
The story by Jane Prendergast is good reporting, including:
– The Empowerment Zone contributed $6 for every $1 staffers put in their 401-K. Incredible.
– Cleveland, still CEO, earns $170,000 to run a tiny agency that can’t even account for the jobs and development it was supposed to create.
– The percentage for administration has been as high as 30-40 percent.
Good story. But it’s $25 million short and eight years too late.
It makes me wonder: How many millions could have been saved for taxpayers if the Enquirer had investigated in 2002 instead of 2010?