The issue changed Tuesday at Cincinnati city hall, but the tone didn’t.
Council member Cecil Thomas
, chairman of the city’s Law and Public Safety Committee, blocked a motion backed by members Jeff Berding
and Leslie Ghiz
, that would have the city and Hamilton County work together on building a temporary jail.
The idea is for City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr.
and County Administrator Patrick Thompson
to work together in hiring a project manager who will recommend where to build the jail and what type of jail to build. The structure is meant to hold at least 500 female inmates and open beds at the Hamilton County Justice Center.
But Thomas decided against moving that motion forward because, he said, he wanted a task force to examine the county’s jail problem first.
Berding said the two issues aren’t mutually exclusive. Let the manager and administrator get started on the temporary jail, he said, the task force is supposed to look ways to build a permanent facility.
“Let’s not play politics with the issue of crime and public safety,” Berding said.
Thomas wasn’t swayed.
“This is not an issue of politics,” Thomas said. “It’s an issue of making sure we know what we’re doing. There are an enormous number of short-term solutions that the city and county have been unwilling to do because of the old way of doing business.”
That led Ghiz to dress down Thomas.
“You are clearly mistaken,” Ghiz said. “I’m actually quite appalled that I’m sitting here in the Law Committee and you’re holding up a motion like this. It’s speaks to your leadership. It’s disappointing. We’ll figure out a way to move this forward, with or without you.”
That exchange happened just minutes after Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory
said the discourse between council members has recently been below what is expected.
“We need to respect one another in expressing our differences,” Mallory said. “I’m not sure that’s happening. The rules that govern how we conduct ourselves in council apply to committee meetings. There will be a reminder on that.”
Council members and all three county commissioners held a press conference two weeks ago during which they agreed to work together on building a temporary jail so that the county doesn’t have to pay to ship overflow prisoners to outlying counties. That effort is supposed to happen at the same time that the task force works on the larger issue of how to finance a permanent jail.
At the end of the Tuesday’s meeting, Berding began to apologize for leading a discussion that “was not helpful.”
Ghiz walked out in the middle of his comment.