Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chris Finney -- Part Three

Update: This blog was linked on Towleroad.com -- Thanks, Andy! -- and I wanted to welcome all the Towleroad readers over here to QueerCincinnati.com! To follow up with this story, there are lots of links in the follow posting, and you can check out my two other responses (Part 1, and Part 2). To sum up, for your benefit: Chris Smitherman, Cincinnati politician and President of the local NAACP and a historical supporter of LGBT rights here in the 'Nati, brought Chris Finney, arch-conservative firebrand and historical anti-gay activist, as the Chair of Legal Redress for the local organization. This details the further fallout of that decision...
I don't think we've ever gotten to a "Part Three" on any topic here at QueerCincinnati.com. Interesting. Those pictures are awful of both of them, btw.

I've been given the heads up by my "hacker" -- the mysterious person sending me links via my own account -- about two CityBeat bits that have come out about the Smitherman-Finney relationship. First, CityBeat (in its most recent issue) gives us a great lay out of Finney's history of anti-gay work here in town, including the first indication from Smitherman on his position: 
“Chris Finney has done a fabulous job for the NAACP over the last two years,” Smitherman says, referring to successful ballot issues that blocked a sales tax increase to build a new jail and repealed City Council’s decision to install red-light cameras at intersections. “He has earned our confidence in him with our legal work. I cannot be concerned with the interests of any other constituency group. I must look out for the interests of our membership.”
Hm. OK. Meanwhile, a blog post at CityBeat goes a little further into Smitherman's position:
Finney has belonged to the NAACP’s local chapter for about three years, Smitherman added. With his recent appointment as “chair of legal redress,” Finney becomes one of two white members on the chapter’s executive committee.

“You have to practice what you preach,” Smitherman said.

Also, Smitherman isn’t overly concerned if Finney’s appointment upsets Cincinnati’s gay community.

“As if I would care what they think about that. They don’t have a relationship with the Cincinnati NAACP,” Smitherman said. “(Finney’s) been working and communicating with us. The question is, where are these other communities?”

In fact, Smitherman dismisses much of the criticism about the appointment as instigated by the Hamilton County Democratic Party. Noting that the local party has opposed the NAACP chapter’s last three efforts — blocking a sales tax hike to build a new jail, overturning City Council’s approval of red-light cameras and trying to revive Proportional Representation — he said thoughtful residents should be more angered at the party.

“There’s no issue that we’ve put on (the ballot) that the Democratic Party has supported,” Smitherman said. “People call Chris Finney radical, but it’s the positions of the local Democratic Party that are radical.”
OK. Strange. George Ellis, President of Equality Cincinnati, in the former article, states that he would like to speak specifically to Smitherman about this appointment before any position is made. Ellis and I disagree on a lot, and I'll be interested to know the outcome of that meeting -- seriously, I would.

Smitherman has made, in the past, some excellent points about racism within the gay community. And I'm not going to say its unfair for him to go a step farther and ask where were these groups when the NAACP needed them? I think that's kind of the point of a progressive movment, isn't it? To build a movement, and to work together. So I'm not going to say Smitherman is completely off-balance by saying any of that. I think they are valid and interesting points to bring to the table when discussing LGBT-African American relations, especially in a city like Cincinnati. 

With no snarkiness, and absolutely no backstabbing or bitchiness, I'll say that I'm curious to know the outcome of a potential Equality Cincinnati-NAACP meeting over this very issue.

Meanwhile, friend Texas Liberal, a former Cincinnati resident, makes a fascinating connection: "Writing about this issue and seeing that Chris Finney is still causing trouble after I’ve been away from Cincinnati for 11 years reminds me of the Jean Sartre play No Exit. The same people year after year after year afflicting each other by dredging up bad memories and the inability to leave the room even though they may in fact have the option to go elsewhere."

And the Cincinnati Black Blog is up in an uproar over the -- ahem -- uproar: "The Beacon Boys are, quite predictably, mad about the appointment. They object to Finney because of his history of opposing special rights for white male homosexuals who want affirmative action and preferential treatment because of who they sleep with, even though there is no history of homosexuals, as a group, being denied jobs and contracts based on their sexual orientation." To which I have one response: why does anyone read the Cincinnati Black Blog? Why do I? I think it's just to get angry in the morning.

Finally, our friend Wolfie at Back2Stonewall.com is making waves trying to get in touch with the National NAACP over the appointment. He received this response: "As you know the NAACP’s national position does not condone any discrimination or denial of civil and human rights and that includes towards the LGBT community." He's waiting on further response.

As for me... well... 

...this is my first foray into politics, so I'm sitting back and listening, wondering, and reading. Except to say: maybe black folk aren't wrong. Maybe it's time we stood up for them at some point, too, instead of expecting them to stand up for us.

I'm just sayin'.


Oh, and I just got another heads up from my hacker that Christopher Smitherman hosts a show every Saturday from 5:00pm-6:30pm on 1230am/WDBZ. It's a call-in program, apparently. I don't know. Again, I'm just sayin'

Update: I don't know if you are following the comments, but the story is starting to take off just a bit. Check out the run on Box Turtle Bulletin, 365Gay.com, and Lavender Newswire.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

In order to avoid any concerns that Equality Cincinnati is dodging the issue, how about writing and posting a public letter to George Ellis? Ask him if and when Equality Cincinnati is meeting/talking with Smitherman to discuss the Finney appointment?

QueerCincinnati.com said...

Oh, I wasn't suggesting that at all -- seriously, that's why I threw all that in there about my comments not being bitchy/etc. Seriously. Curious to know what that meeting would turn out like.

But, great suggestion!

Wolfie said...

Wolfie's been busy this morning recontacting the NAACP and following up. (Not much news there) But also forwarding all the info and links I have to various G&L News sources.

I'll be writing a post soon. I am so shocked and applalled by wall this. Finney....Smitheren

UGH

Need to move back to Boston I think.

Anonymous said...

Christopher Smitherman letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer supporting repeal of anti-gay rights ordinance, 10/24/04

Audio of Chris Finney call-in to Cincinnati NAACP president Chris Smitherman's radio show, WDBZ-AM, 2/28/09

Anonymous said...

Wolfie: Need to move back to Boston I think.

Why not bring Boston here instead? The Edge does non-Beantown stories and might be interested in the NAACP-Finney strange bedfellows story, especially now that two articles have been published by CityBeat. Hmmm?

Anonymous said...

Smitherman is all about Smitherman. He simply does not play well with others and is simply concerned with his own power. This is a dig at Mallory and the Hamilton County Democratic Party. If you don't agree with him and support HIM, you are an enemy. Being opposed to discrimination should not depend on who is contributing to your campaign or knocking on doors for you - unless you are Chris Smitherman. Machiavellian whiner.

Anonymous said...

And rascism in the gay community is NOTHING compared to the homophobia in the black community. Just sayin'.

Wolfie said...

Actually I have sent the info to many. Edge included.

http://www.back2stonewall.com/?p=1154

Wolfie said...

Well I sent it to Andy @ towelroad and he posted a snippet and linked here to Barry's posts and also to B2S.com where the CityBeat Links are.

Wolfie said...

Dammit forgot link

http://www.towleroad.com/2009/03/pam-spaulding-had-her-eyes-opened-at-the-north-carolina-equality-day-of-action-in-raleigh-we-had-people-come-from-as-far-awa.html

Anonymous said...

Okay got it posted at Box Turtle Bulletin -

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/03/26/10148

Anonymous said...

Cincinnati NAACP appoints anti-gay activist to board by Gabriel Arana, Box Turtle Bulletin, 3/26/09

Cincinnati NAACP appoints anti-gay lawyer to board by 365gay Newscenter Staff, 3/26/09

Anonymous said...

Why Does the Cincinnati NAACP Hate Gays? (P.S. Black LGBTs, You Don’t Exist… As Usual) by Sapphocrat, Lavender Newswire, 3/26/09

Wolfie said...

Democratic Underground picked it up from 365 Gay HOPEFULLY it will be all over the net by this time tomorrow

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=221x123975

Lez get Real hopefully will be posting something soon too. Hopefully Pam, Edge. Advocate, Washington Blade, and HiffPo will pick it up also.

I've had a productive day!

Anonymous said...

From Heimlich's legacy: 'Across-the-board cheapskate' by Robert Anglen, Cincinnati Enquirer, 11/29/01

(Jenny Laster, president of the Grass Roots Leadership Academy) says (Phil Heimlich) operates with impunity against minority organizations.

"If that sounds like I'm calling him a racist, well, if the shoe fits, then I'm sorry," Ms. Laster says.

Mr. Heimlich has been taunted at council meetings by angry protesters, accused of being a racist and of going after African-American groups that receive taxpayer money.

Last year, four black civic and business leaders wanted Mr. Heimlich gagged and called for city officials to investigate him.

...Chris Finney, a lawyer and member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, calls Mr. Heimlich a hero whose single-minded intensity could take him a long way in politics...Mr. Finney takes exception to people who call Mr. Heimlich a racist.

"It's an absurd and ridiculous accusation," he says.

...But Mr. Heimlich's methods have sometimes brought criticism from his own colleagues. Nowhere was his isolation from council more evident than at the funeral for Timothy Thomas, the 19-year-old whose shooting death by police sparked the April riots.

As all the other council members filed past the casket, Mr. Heimlich stayed outside the church, helping a local church group pass out box lunches.

Mr. Heimlich says he didn't attend the funeral because he wanted to avoid any conflicts his presence might cause.


###

From The Finney Invitation by Kevin Osbourne, CityBeat, 8/28/06

(Here) is the full text of the invitation that attorney Christopher Finney sent out to supporters Aug. 23, seeking sponsors for a "meet and greet" event for Phil Heimlich on Oct. 4....

CHRIS FINNEY: Why am I so supportive of Phil Heimlich?

For more than 10 years in public life, I have watch Phil consistently make wise and sometimes politically difficult decisions to move our community forward. When we needed to confront Damon Lynch and the rioters, Phil Heimlich stood up to the liberal City Council and demanded tough action. On the County Commission, Phil has steadily pursued a policy of fiscal responsibility...This fiscal reform has been done, predictably, in the face of stiff and consistent opposition from a liberal cabal of social service groups, left-wing media and, yes, liberal Democrat Todd Portune.


###

From Heimlich's Mentor Has Cussing Fit by Kevin Osborne, CityBeat, 10/13/06

Heimlich lists Three Centurions No. 2 as a source of income. A real estate investment firm, Three Centurions was co-owned by Heimlich, (Chris) Finney and former Heimlich staffer Jeff Eichorn. The trio eventually transferred ownership to their wives.

###

Heimlich, Finney, and Three Centurions: An Open Letter to Enquirer Editor Tom Callinan, The Cincinnati Beacon, 4/25/06

###

From New Hamco board shifts direction by Kimball Perry, Cincinnati Enquirer, 1/3/07

Portune also announced he, as the expected president of the board beginning Monday, has accepted the resignation of Chris Finney, the conservative head of the commissioner-appointed Tax Levy Review Committee....Finney is a real estate business partner and close friend of Phil Heimlich...Finney, who spewed a profanity-laden rant at Pepper during a Pepper press conference during the campaign, has served on the TLRC for many years.

###

From Cincinnati NAACP Executive Committee Appoints Chris Finney as
NAACP Attorney,
NAACP press release, 3/20/09

Christopher Smitherman, President of the Cincinnati NAACP says, "Chris Finney is an exceptional attorney with courage. The status quo knows that we will be fighting together for fairness and justice in Cincinnati as a team going forward."

###

Letter to the editor, Cincinnati Enquirer, 5/27/01

Greater self-reliance beats more dependence

Peter Bronson hit the nail on the head in his analysis of the customary response to riots arising from racial tensions on Sunday May 20. Unless Community Action Now takes a non-traditional route -- which I certainly encourage them to do -- we can all expect more social spending and jobs programs that will not work any better than today's social spending and jobs programs.

The answer is greater self-reliance by members of presently dependent communities and greater self-determination through charter schools and vouchers on the education front. I hope Mr. Bronson's message is heeded by leaders of Community Action Now and other community leaders. It was insightful.

Christopher Finney
Anderson Township

Anonymous said...

Astonishing new discovery raises disturbing questions about Chris Finney's provenance!

SEPARATED AT BIRTH?

Anonymous said...

Good idea from the Lavender Newswire article:

I'm also hoping — but not counting on — a statement from the national Green Party. Believe it or not, Smitherman declared himself a Greenie in 2007, when he was weighing another city council run. Don't you have to, oh, I don't know, actually agree with a party’s platform before you can represent it? See, there’s this little matter of the Greens’ Ten Key Values, and it sure looks like somebody isn’t too concerned about either Value #2 or Value #8…)

Here are those values:

2. SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
All persons should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. We must consciously confront in ourselves, our organizations, and society at large, barriers such as racism and class oppression, sexism and homophobia, ageism and disability, which act to deny fair treatment and equal justice under the law.

8. RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY
We believe it is important to value cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity, and to promote the development of respectful relationships across these lines.


Wolfie, Barry, we know (and are grateful!) that you're already working overtime on this, but if you want to try getting a public statement from the Greens, here’s their contact info.

Anonymous said...

The National Black Justice Coalition has worked with and will continue to build relationships with prominent Civil Rights organizations as well as continue to work in coalition with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations (LGBT). Contact Us.

Anonymous said...

Anti-Gay Lawyer Appointed to Cincinnati Chapter of NAACP by Gizem Unsalan, GO Magazine, March 27, 2009

Anonymous said...

NAACP Recognizes Local Gay Activists by Eric Flack, WLWT-TV Cincinnati, 7/17/08

Their mission is the same, but gay rights activists said the NAACP has not always been supportive of their efforts...The two groups came together Wednesday night to bridge the gap between their worlds...Two Cincinnati leaders were recognized for the work they’ve done for both causes as well.

George Ellis is president of Equality Cincinnati and one of the architects of Cincinnati's human rights ordinance, which outlawed discrimination in housing and jobs based on sexual orientation.

He said sharing the spotlight with the NAACP highlights the shared history of the two movements.


###

From Smitherman and Finney in Bed by Kevin Osbourne, Cincinnti CityBeat, 3/25/09

Equality Cincinnati, which endorsed Smitherman in his two council campaigns, hasn’t yet addressed the issue.

"Christopher Smitherman has always been and, in my mind, continues to be a friend of the LGBT community,” says George Ellis, Equality's president. "I haven’t had the chance to talk to him about it, and I wouldn’t want to express any opinion until I have."