Last week I heard from a reliable source that Western & Southern is paying attorneys to go over my posts in Cincyopolis. I can only assume they are exploring possible legal action against me. And for about an hour, I was terrified. From my first post I’ve always understood that their corporate culture prefers to settle disagreements in court where they almost always win.
But after the initial shock wore off, I found myself surprisingly calm, absolutely certain in the center of my being that I made the right decision to write this blog and try to get more people talking about public policy and real estate.
Here’s what I hope their lawyers will tell them:
My concerns about the properties of Western & Southern and John Barrett are ones of democratic process and the fair and equal application of the law. In almost a year of research, I have never identified a single instance of criminal activity on the part of this organization. I have, however, discovered patterns of inconsistency in the appraisals of the Hamilton County Auditor’s office that go far beyond any one individual or corporation. And I believe that City Council’s standard usage of Emergency Ordinances on development issues for more than thirty years has been illegal as it has made public discussion on these issues impossible.
I support the development of Western & Southern properties in the Lytle Park Historic District and look forward to the day when my condominium is not surrounded by empty buildings. As owners they are entitled to develop those properties in any way they see fit as long as these projects are in compliance with current zoning and developed with private funds. However, if they intend to use public dollars for these projects, concerned citizens have a responsibility to be a part of the conversation about the risks and rewards on such substantial, long-term investments.
My writing is not a personal vendetta. How could it be? My one and only meeting with the CEO of Western & Southern was a chance encounter on 4th St. where I found him to be both charming and forthcoming about his vision for the neighborhood. We may disagree about what the future holds for the economy and the proper way to make development decisions, but I’ve always tried to express my opinions with respect and appreciate the good this company has done for Cincinnati.
Lytle Park is not a corporate campus and never will be. It is a public asset and it sets a dangerous precedent when a single financial interest has a disproportionate influence in private meetings on design details. While Western & Southern’s potential contribution to the refurbishment of the park is not insignificant, it should be a genuine gift as opposed to an exchange for rights typically associated with private ownership.
We’re all in this together, Western & Southern, and what’s good for the citizens of Cincinnati is what’s good for your company. We’re your future condo-buyers, the ones who will eat in your restaurants, rent your apartments and reserve the rooms in your hotels, all of which will result in more tax revenue to fund our schools and basic services. More transparency is not the enemy, but an opportunity to engage with the market in a cooperative spirit to build the best city we can be. I’m not a real estate expert. But I have absolute faith that cities make better decisions out in the light of day with a wide variety of perspectives represented.
Like the rest of this community, I wish Western & Southern nothing but the greatest future success.