The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on September 17, 1991 · Page 6
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September 17, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 6

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Cincinnati, Ohio
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Tuesday, September 17, 1991
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A-6Comment Till: CINCINNATI ENQUIRER Tuesday, September 17, 1991 THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER 11 - -L rr . r&U WILLIAM J. KEATING Chairman and Publisher GEORGE R. BLAKE Editor, Vice President THOMAS E. DUNNING Managing Editor THOMAS S. GEPHARDT Associate Editor DARRYX W. EVERETT Vice President, Advertising WILLIAM R. JOHNSTON Vice President, Circulation MARKS. MIKOLAJCZYK Vice President, Production JAMES A. SCHWARTZ Vice President, Finance GERALD T. SILVERS Vice President, Marketing Services A Gannetl Newspaper County jail Commissioners face decision on whether to commit millions " 1 OTT WANT m PLAYING WITH THAT LITTLE 40NE9?VC. MY, HE FAMILY WEGH'T EVEN C0MRH! " You are $42,277 in f Robert 5f r-d Clerc The problems Hamilton County has had over its jail situation are nothing less than criminal. First, it was a federal order to free convicted offenders from an overcrowded Justice Center, then a lengthy struggle with city officials over siting a proposed second new jail, and now uncertainty about funding, contracts and whether to proceed with construction. There oughta be a law. Of immediate concern to the commissioners is the county's agreement with contractors who submitted bids on a new minimum-security jail in Camp Washington. The bids, estimated at more than $90 million, came in at $73 million. That leaves a lot of room for inevitable cost overruns. But no matter. The county doesn't have the money to cover even the low bids unless a tax increase is passed. Discussions have focused on a V2C increase in the 5lM sales tax. Sheriff Simon Leis has recommended that the commissioners impose it on their own so that construction can begin. The commissioners want to put the issue on the May, 1992, primary ballot if the contractors agree to wait. : As if all that isn't chancy enough, there is another key element in the situation specifically, whether Hamilton County should build a new jail at all. Cuba Castro's downfall possible without Soviet troop support Very soon, U.S. Corrections Corp., a private firm based in Louisville, will provide the county with 800 inmate beds in a rehabbed Kruze Hardware warehouse at Sixth and Linn streets in the West End. There is a growing body of opinion here and elsewhere that this is the way cash-strapped governments should go in the future. Commissioner John Dowlin advocates a go-slow approach in Hamilton County. He has pointed out that the county has a long list of pressing needs, each with a hefty price tag. It would be a mistake, he says, to spend $73 million to $90 million on a new jail if it isn't absolutely necessary. He wants time to see if the Kruze alternative lives up to promises. Commissioner Dowlin's approach is reasonable. It is based on a premise that government officials are going to have to get used to that, contrary to rumor, the taxpaying public is not a limitless reserve of government revenue. Taxes already take almost 50 of the average family's annual gross earnings. Government simply must begin to look for economies. The commissioners are working now on their third 30-day contract extension. They have until Oct. 1 1 to decide what the next move will be. This decision must get top priority. is telling him now, however, that the glory days are over, that henceforth the Soviets will trade with Cuba on a free-market basis only. That's sour music to Castro. He apparently was infuriated by Gorbachev's announcement in Moscow of the Soviet plan without consulting him first. Cuba accused the Soviets of "inappropriate behavior." Inappropriate for Castro, perhaps, but not for the Cuban people and the wider world they're meant to join. Cubans, in fact, will profit if they use the new Soviet deal to leverage Castro out of office. Americans by the thousands, if not millions, would immediately want to help and do business with a free Cuba. To be sure, Castro may lengthen the line of Communist dictators dethroned. He is so deeply entrenched, with Cuba so wholly under his thumb, however, that it may take longer to get rid of him than it did for Eastern Europeans to win their freedom, once the dice were cast. But at least this die seems cast. program dubbed "Mission to Planet Earth" by NASA. The data to be gathered would be invaluable to Earth-bound environmental scientists. Everyone recognizes the perils that will follow from unchecked environmental damage and accepts the urgency for making corrections. But agreement often is lacking on the exact causes of problems like acid rain and ozone depletion. As long as that is the case, corrective measures will be slow in coming. Using space as a vantage point for making almost whole-Earth observations of environmental phenomena promises to clear up much of that uncertainty and disagreement. The success of this and succeeding missions in the Planet Earth series is critical. debt now Ms. Rosser believes he best system for Cincinnati would have no at-large seats a nine-member council all elected from districts. Besides making it more difficult for newcomers, especially women and minorities, to win election, she argues that at-large elections tend to take power away from the people. Even a minority of at-large seats can become the catalyst for building special-interest coalitions. Ms. Rosser predicts a law suit challenging the way council is elected will follow this year's election. More, she believes the suit would have been filed even had districtat-large been on the ballot and won. For the time being at least, the 1987 Charter amendment making the highest vote-getter mayor will stand. But if PR wins approval, the votes would have to be counted twice once to determine who got the greatest number of raw votes and then to figure out who was elected. The board of elections should give more definite answers about the speed and capabilities of its computers. So far, the prognosis has not been very encouraging. Long waits for results are predicted. Think a minute about the wisdom and worth of the initiative clause in the Ohio Constitution. The only issue on the November ballot that was put there by city council is a proposal that serves the interest of city office holders most. Others either get there by petition drive, or don't make it at all. Robert Clerc is a member of The Enquirer's editorial board. democracy life, the public rudeness, the appalling laziness, the lack of responsibility for one s work, the acceptance of shabbiness. Perhaps the worst vice of all is the absolute lack of a sense of community, of any personal responsibility for society beyond the tight inner circle of family and friends. Society was the Communist Party and the Communist Party was society. It allowed no competition, no independent groups no PTAs or Boy Scouts or neighborhood garage sales or pressure groups or fund-raising organizations or private clubs, none of the molecules that bind with a normal society. Take the party away and nothing remains. The sense of a broader community, like democracy, must be taught and can be forgotten. When I lived in Moscow, never feared the Soviet Union. Seen up close, it wasn't a voracious superpower but a poor, bumbling, defensive hulk, a disaster for its people but nowhere near the threat it became in American eyes. A vacuum remains Now, with the lid of communism removed, I have looked into the abyss. For the first time, I'm afraid. This huge, unstable, devastated, terribly incompetent country has lost the Communist Party, which was the one thing that held things together, however badly. Nothing is replacing it. These people have suffered so terribly. With all my heart, I wish them well. But I have the persistent fear that this will all end badly. Russian history always does. Every reformer is followed by a new tyrant. After every lush Russian summer comes the cruel Russian winter, sweeping down on a people who, now more than ever, are defenseless before it. R.C. Longworth is the chief European correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. This recent bit of good news comes from the Tax Foundation: "Fueled by record spending at all levels of government, highly leveraged financing by corporations, and record consumer credit card spending, the total U.S. debt currently amounts to a $42,277 IOU for every man, woman and child in the United States." Further, the Tax Foundation takes no comfort in the long-standing defense that our gross national product (GNP) makes the debt manageable. Growth in U.S. debt has consistently outpaced the growth in GNP throughout the 1980s. Total debt stands at $10.6 trillion, almost twice the $5.4 trillion GNP. The key consideration in the term-limitation debate, whether arguing the local, state or federal level, is careerism. Mayor David Mann, who proposed an anti-limitation amendment rather than simply working to defeat the Vehr amendment, says that term limits would make councilpolitics the only job "where you would be penalized for your experience." He invited the electorate to imagine how successful Procter & Gamble would be if the company failed to make use of its executives' experience. But that's an apples-and-oranges comparison. P&G executives are careerists. They are schooled and seasoned in the professional skills needed to excel in their field. Most sign on for life, if not with the company then in the profession. ' Elective office, on the other hand, was never intended as a life's work. It has become that only recently, since television and soaring campaign costs have combined to make "name recognition" an almost insurmountable advantage for an incumbent. Getting back to the mayor's corporate analogy, it would be more accurate to compare the city manager and his profes- Dim hope BY R.C. LONGWORTH Chicago Tribune MOSCOW: Maybe it's just the look of the place. I've been reporting from Moscow, off and on, for more than 25 years and have spent about four years of my life here. But it's been two years since I spent much time in the city, and I was shocked to see how it had deteriorated. Moscow is a slum. The streets are caving in and sidewalks are crumbling from the daily pounding. Pollution is worse than ever. Chunks of buildings fall into unmowed lots. Grocery stores, of course, are empty of goods. Power fails, sewers collapse, the primitive telephones are full of whistles and squawks and crossed lines. Living in decay Apart from the Kremlin and some monasteries, it always was a dull, ugly city. But what kind of civic surrender has produced this shambles? What must it be like to live amid this decay, picking one's way through it day after day? The answer to the last question is written on every face. The people are exhausted, beaten down by services that don't work, by repairs that don't get done, by the need to stand in lines for three hours per day, every day, week after week, Sundays included, just to stay alive. Muscovites don't walk. They trudge, they slog, like sleepwalkers. Can people so tired remake their world? By all accounts, nearly 99 of all Muscovites spent the three coup days just trudging about their daily rounds. Some people cared budding entrepreneurs, the intelligentsia, those with a stake in the new order. The rest didn't. That's no base for a new democracy. And a base is needed, because the hard times are just coming. The Soviet economy is a continent-size failure. The reforms that we write about, such as privatization, are the icing on the cake, the last act. First come the basics, such Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to withdraw Soviet troops from Cuba and cut its economic umbilical cord to Moscow could hasten Fidel Castro's downfall. The action was the best evidence yet that Gorbachev, at last, is serious about breaking his own country free from its tortured past. Clearly more Western aid, investment and other help await the Soviet peoples once Moscow has made unmistakably clear where it is headed, that it no longer wants to prop up the thinning ranks of Marxist countries. Americans, for example, would never consent to dispatching funds to Cuba via Moscow. The Bush administration has succeeded, apparently, in making that plain to Gorbachev. Soviet trade and other subsidies reportedly reached as high as $8 billion a year for Cuba at one point. The Soviets have sent less in recent years, partly because they had less to send. But the spigot-tightening was partly based, as well, on Castro's recalcitrance and refusal to adopt any of the Gorbachev reforms. Gorbachev Space sional city administrators to P&G executives. City council should more closely resemble the board of directors, which is not a career position and usually includes bankers, doctors and professionals from other callings. The failure of a districtat-large plan to make the November ballot imposes a big limitation on the voters' choice. Proportional representation (PR) will be on the ballot by virtue of a successful petition drive. With PR, each voter lists nine choices in order of preference. After all the votes are cast, it is determined how many votes are needed to win election. Once a candidate clears that number, all remaining ballots naming the candidate first go to the second choice on the ballot. Or something like that. If districtat-large were on the ballot along with PR, voters would be able to vote for both, either or neither. If neither were to pass, then 9X would be retained. The electorate's choice would have included the three most talked-about electoral systems. As things stand, voters can vote yea or nay for PR. If the nays carry, then 9X wins by default. The choice is between two at-large systems. At least one candidate for city council is not at all pleased with that prospect. Democrat Shirley Rosser, in fact, was less than completely satisfied when the 6-3 districtat-large plan was still alive. for Soviet t Perhaps the worst vice of all is the absolute lack of a sense of community. J J as trust. Trust, as in "First State Bank and Trust Co.," is the basis of our economy. I give you a piece of paper, called a check, and you take it, because you trust me or the bank, and business gets done. Russia just doesn't have this. No checks. No credit cards. No trust. No handshake deals. Everything in triplicate, by hand. Or risk. That's another basic. Just by growing up in the West, we understand that if you go into business, you take a risk. You borrow money, and you pay interest, and you try to find a niche, and you compete on price or quality or both, and you just might go broke. Russians don't understand this, any of it. I once talked with Leonid Abalkin, a leading reform economist who went on to be Gorbachev's economic czar, and I asked him how a young Russian who wanted to open a business went about finding the money. I had to ask the question three different ways before I realized that Abalkin (who, remember, is about as hip as Russian economists come) simply didn't understand what I was talking about. "No young Russian would want to do this," he protested. End of subject. And, possibly, end of reform. So, in Moscow, I contemplated this, and grew sad. It's not just that literally everything has to be ripped up by the roots and regrown, but that virtually no one has any idea how to do it, or how much it will cost, or how hard it will be. Still left are the Communist vices the endemic corruption, theft as a way of NASA's 'Planet Earth' mission marks start of critical period NASA's "age of environmentalism" began the other day with lift-off of the space shuttle Discovery. The mission made that launch the most important for mankind since the inauguration of space exploration 30 years ago. Discovery carried the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), a $740 million research vehicle. Plans call for the satellite to be released in high orbit over the Earth where it will remain for at least V2 years, transmitting critical environmental data to scientists on Earth. UARS will give scientists the capacity for "seeing" 98 of the globe. It will transmit measurements of the ozone layer, stratospheric winds and energetic particles that affect Earth's environment. The experiments are part of an ambitious environmental

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