The Jail Nastiness
Can anyone figure out the Hamilton County jail mess?

Last year we suffered through that ugly back-and-forth between supporters and opponents of a new jail plan. Democratic County Commissioners David Pepper and Todd Portune tussled with Republican Commissioner Pat DeWine, the Democrats became unlikely bedfellows with hardnosed Republican Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. Conservative anti-tax groups found themselves strangely aligned against the jail proposal with liberal leaders in some African-American communities. And voters overwhelmingly rejected it at the polls.

When the news recently emerged that Hamilton County paid Butler County some $834,000 for unused jail space, nasty finger-pointing started all over again.

Hamilton County has been paying Butler County for jail space to house up to 300 prisoners daily, in order to handle Hamilton’s criminal overflow. For a period of time — mostly in the two months following the election — Hamilton County was paying for that cell space but not filling it.

This time, Sheriff Leis blamed former county commissioner (and criminal hardliner) Phil Heimlich for negotiating a bad contract with Butler County. Heimlich retorted that Leis bungled prisoner transfers. Leis attacked Butler County: “They held us up” was his inflammatory quote in the media. Butler Commissioner Charles Furmon shot back: “I don’t like being the scapegoat for being a good neighbor.” He and fellow commissioners noted that their county actually lost money by agreeing to terminate the Hamilton County inmate deal in 60 days instead of 120.

We just want to sigh with exasperation and say “Boys, boys, boys!” The people you represent want trustworthy information and trustworthy leaders. If Hamilton County truly needs more jail space to keep behind bars the kinds of offenders who shouldn’t be released early, stop this bickering and put together a modest, economical and legal proposal that people can understand and support.

Deters and Leadership 101

We had just finished our Power 100 rankings for the February issue, saying that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters (No. 19 on the list) is “well-positioned to move up the political ladder.” Then Deters had an essay published in which he asserted that downtown isn’t safe, and he’d seize his son’s car keys if he was heading to the Main Street district for the evening.

This is the same Deters who not long ago said riding a streetcar through Over-the-Rhine would be like a trip in Jurassic Park.

If Deters wants a future in higher government, we suggest a refresher course in Leadership 101: Represent your community well, speak highly of its attributes and do your job to make it better. Bashing your city this way accomplishes nothing except to fuel fear and misunderstanding.

Patricia Corbett

Patricia Corbett

In the world of Cincinnati arts and music, no name stood out like Patricia Corbett. She distinguished herself for decades with her backstage role: Underwriting productions and providing critical funding for the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, UC’s College-Conservatory of Music, May Festival, the School for Creative and Performing Arts — just to name some. Riverbend’s J. Ralph Corbett Pavilion is named for her late husband, who founded the door chime company NuTone in 1936 and earned millions.

Through the Corbett Foundation, the couple funneled some $65 million into Greater Cincinnati’s cultural landscape, including $7 million to renovate Music Hall. Mrs. Corbett gave millions more, including $2 million to Northern Kentucky University to establish the Corbett Theatre.

When Mrs. Corbett recently passed away at the age of 99, the Cincinnati arts world lost its most generous friend and benefactor — and the community lost a model of philanthropy. She leaves a legacy that will be difficult to match.