Article 25

Editorial: A Hypocritical Monopoly

In Uncategorized on 07/21/2011 at 8:29 pm

Josh Spring’s executive restrooms and restrictive rules

By Gregory Flannery

Support Streetvibes. Its vendors work hard to make a living. I’ve been saying that ever since I started working with other volunteers to launch Article 25.

Support Streetvibes. I’ve said it at public meetings, on Facebook and in a column in the inaugural edition of Article 25. This is what I wrote: “People have asked whether Article 25 is competition for Streetvibes. It isn’t. I urge people to support Streetvibes, whose vendors work hard to make a living. Distributors of Article 25 work hard to make a living, too. My hope is that the people of Cincinnati will read both newspapers, each with its own point of view. My hope is that people will support the idea that having more newspapers is useful to dialogue, useful to the conservation of freedom of the press, useful to democracy, useful to human rights.”

I buy Streetvibes. I wear my Streetvibes T-shirt in public. When writers and photographers for Streetvibes, which I used to edit, ask if they can also contribute to Article 25, I welcome them. When Streetvibes vendors ask if they can also distribute Article 25, I tell them, “Of course. Distribute both newspapers so you can make more money.”

I thought the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, which publishes Streetvibes, would adopt the same attitude. After all, the Homeless Coalition claims it wants to help homeless people and others struggling against poverty. Furthermore, Josh Spring, executive director of the Homeless Coalition, assured me in writing that Streetvibes vendors are free to work for both newspapers. I contacted him after Streetvibes vendors reported they were threatened with firing if they distributed both papers. This is what Spring wrote in a June 3 e-mail:

“I don’t think anybody at the Coalition told a distributor she or he would be ‘fired’ for distributing Article 25. I say this because we have discussed this topic as a staff and all agreed that no such thing would ever be said (or done). Honestly, I am guessing that, as often happens, a rumor started or something was heard the wrong way, etc. I know we have said nothing of the sort nor will act in such a way.”

Unfortunately, however, Spring’s actions haven’t matched his words. Streetvibes vendors have repeatedly told us that the staff of the Homeless Coalition, including Spring himself, warned that they must not distribute Article 25 and Streetvibes at the same time.

My efforts to communicate further with Spring on this issue have gone ignored. My understanding is that the Homeless Coalition wants Streetvibes vendors to sell that paper at certain times and Article 25 at other times, rather than offering both newspapers at the same time.

I hope the Homeless Coalition will change this petty rule that aims to maintain a street-paper monopoly in Cincinnati by penalizing people who are trying to earn a small income. Why not let homeless people offer both newspapers and increase their earnings? If the Homeless Coalition truly wants to help homeless people, wouldn’t it place their interests first?

Therein lies the root of the problem. The Homeless Coalition no longer places the interests of homeless people first. Instead, the Homeless Coalition has become an institution that places its own interests first. Witness its recent protest against the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), organized under the rallying cry, “Everybody Poops.”

Decrying 3CDC’s odious disfigurement of Washington Park, including the closing of one of the few public restrooms in Over-the-Rhine, Spring and his allies carried toilets to the neighborhood. Parking his ass on one of the toilets, Spring held a sign criticizing 3CDC’s failure to replace the facility.

Well, then. Here’s a suggestion. The Homeless Coalition has two restrooms in its offices at 117 E.12th St. But homeless people aren’t allowed to use either of them. If Spring is committed to letting people poop in peace and dignity, why doesn’t he share one of the two restrooms that are directly under his control?

We agree that 3CDC is a malevolent force in Over-the-Rhine, displacing low-income people from affordable housing, desecrating human graves in order to build an underground parking garage in Washington Park and, yes, denying homeless people access to sanitary facilities.

But why is the Homeless Coalition imitating 3CDC? Why doesn’t the Homeless Coalition do what it wants the city of Cincinnati and 3CDC to do – namely, respect the fact that everybody poops?

Similarly, why doesn’t the Homeless Coalition allow Streetvibes vendors to diversify their product line and increase their earnings by distributing Article 25 at the same time?

We understand that the coalition has the right to set its own rules. So does 3CDC, which Spring has criticized for not hiring neighborhood residents. It’s time for Josh Spring and the Homeless Coalition to do the right thing. It’s not enough to point fingers and criticize corporations when the Homeless Coalition is itself denying homeless people access to restrooms. It’s not enough for the Homeless Coalition to say poor people need jobs when the Homeless Coalition is inhibiting them from earning more money by distributing Article 25 at the same time as they distribute Streetvibes.

If you agree, please call Josh Spring at 513-716-7455 and tell him so. Write him at joshspring@cincihomeless.org and tell him so.

Support Streetvibes. Support Article 25. The people who distribute these newspapers deserve to make a living. They don’t need harassment from the Homeless Coalition.

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