by Bob Fitrakis
Prior to the Chief James Jackson controversy, I can count on my middle finger the number of times I’ve supported Mayor Greg Lashutka in a political battle. The only other time concerned the building of Tuttle Mall in Columbus. Since I detest malls and that whole culture, I half-heartedly sided with the mayor’s position that a mall and its tax revenue would benefit the city more than the suburbs. Yet, on the Chief Jackson issue, I enthusiastically endorse the mayor’s inquiry. Hell, I believe the Big Guy’s showing some guts and character for the first time in his political career.
Now that an obscene gesture has been turned into a peace or victory sign, let me say that I think the mayor is ill-advised in his vilification of Gwendolyn Rogers, the head of Columbus’s Equal Business Opportunity Office. Lashutka’s voice has been joined by city council member Jennette Bradley, a fellow Republican who must live in a glass house. Bradley, who was quoted in Tuesday’s Columbus Dispatch as calling for a thorough investigation of Rogers’ office, must be forgetting the cloud of disgrace under which she left the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority. The Dispatch extensively reported mismangement and waste at CMHA while she was executive director of the agency.
As strongly as I believe the Jackson investigation is not racially motivated, I believe just as strongly that the media campaign against Rogers—led by the Dispatch—is racist. The Columbus Dispatch, I contend, is punishing Rogers because she refused to play the role of Good House Negress. During the last three weeks, Professor Vincene Verdun, an African-American law professor at OSU, has been questioning the legality of Mayor Lashutka “waiving” the Title 39 statute that set goals for the city purchasing goods and services from minority- and female-owned businesses.
Rogers has been doing her job in questioning how the mayor received sole power to waive a statute, particularly since she drafted the original statute that had the term “joint” power in the ordinance language. Simply put, the City Council and the mayor may be acting illegally.
Not surprisingly, no front-page stories appeared in the Dispatch on this dispute, unlike Rogers’ trip to Hawaii. The Dispatch’s coverage of Rogers’ trip amounts to guilt by location. The trip was to Hawaii, it must be illegal!
Make no mistake, Rogers is being McNeal-ed. This is a time-honored Dispatch technique, perfected first in the Soviet Union by another daily monopoly, Pravda. Associated in central Ohio with the Dispatch’s campaign against Palmer McNeal, being McNeal-ed means you’re tried and condemned by the multi-millionaire Wolfe family, their editorial lapdogs and their executioners masquerading as “objective journalists.”
Let’s analyze the initial hatchet job that appeared as the lead story in the Metro section last Wednesday, December 4. Reporter Barbara Carmen’s third paragraph reads, “‘Aloha,’ Rogers said when the phone rang.” The Dispatch editorialists make this seem equivalent to Rogers saying, “I kidnapped and murdered the Lindbergh baby.”
The article tells us that the 10th anniversary Conference on Counseling and Treating People of Color, “according to the registration brochure…is for administrators, social workers, physicians, nurses, dentists, health and mental health workers, and other professionals.” This insinuates, of course, that Rogers had no business being there. Let’s see. Rogers easily falls into the categories of “administrators” and “other professionals.”
To really appreciate Carmen’s character assassination of Rogers, you’ve got to go to the seventh paragraph. Here, the article says: “Rogers’ office is responsible for developing programs that help small companies sell goods such as backhoes, computer software, construction contracts and cleaning services to the City.” The last, obviously, isn’t a “good,” it’s a “service,” a term that Carmen must avoid at all cost.
Now, to understand what the Disgrace is doing, let me rewrite the paragraph for you as if it concerned a lackey politician that the Dispatch wished to protect: “Rogers’ office is responsible for developing programs that help small companies sell goods and services such as medical supplies, computer software for health care providers, mental health service contracts, and diversity training programs to the City.” Ever heard of the city Health Department? Rogers is responsible for making sure that diversified small businesses have an opportunity to sell goods and services to that department, a fact intentionally ignored by the Dispatch in its quest to publicly spank Rogers. “Backhoes,” indeed.
By Friday, the Rogers story had jumped to the front page—signaling that the Dispatch was organizing a public print media lynching. Council President John P. Kennedy in the second paragraph blusters, “This is not good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.” Oh? Kennedy’s never had to account in the Dispatch pages for what he might know about legislation that benefited those close to him. What about T & R Properties, John? (see Columbus Alive November 13, page four) Was that good stewardship?
Mayor Lashutka should know better than to open a two-front war in the black community. Particularly against an administrator whose main offense seems to be being “too uppity.”