Wednesday, January 23, 2008

'No' vote was because of race!

Well, there you have it ... Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop's explanation for why he voted against business owner Robert Robinson for a seat on the Lucas County Improvement Corporation board. (My post on the appointment vote where I asked why he voted no.)

According to his quote in The Blade,

"Mr. Konop said he cast the dissenting vote against Mr. Robinson - who is white - because the board is made up mostly of whites and needs to be more representative of the county's diverse culture."

So he voted in favor of the other two nominees who happen to be African-American - and against the white man because he was white. I guess the depth of his experience was irrelevant.

So let's take a look at the resume of the man Ben Konop rejected.

He started out at The Lathrop Company where he was an engineering manager, project manager and vice president of operations at one of their affiliates in Columbus.

He left Lathrop and went to National City Corporation where he spent 25 years in executive management in all aspects of the business. For 10 years, he was the Chief Financial Officer and became known as the 'turn-around' manager. He was assigned a special project in Indiana where he was sent to "avert a total acquisition failure. Employing strong leadership skills, within short period of time, the acquired bank was back to its place of high esteem within the Indiana community. Working with local management in a hostile environment, rapidly rebuilt strong relations with corporate and community leaders, got local buy in from employees and corporate administration plus restored morale..."

He's been the president of the UT Alumni Association, trustee of the Edward Drummond Libby Trust Fund (fbo Toledo Museum of Art), member of the Chamber of Commerce, Pr0Medica Health Care board, past chairman of the Corporation for Effective Government, and Chairman of the Resource Development Committee of the Board of Boys and Girls Club - among others.

While in Indiana, he served as a business advisor to the Indiana and Purdue University at Forty Wayne (IPFW), was a member of the Fort Wayne Area Chamber of Commerce and was the chairman of their Workforce Development Committee.

He's also been a guest lecturer at IPFW and the University of Michigan.

But Konop rejected him because he's white.

And let's remember, Konop says we need to be more accountable in terms of the economic development of the area and the LCIC needs to have better results for their efforts. So a person like Robert Robinson would certainly have a lot to offer - some would say much more than the president of the local NAACP whose profession is as a teacher and union steward - or a personal financial planner who happens to also own a newspaper that endorsed Ben for election (pages 4 and 14).

This is not to say that the other two appointees are not qualified for the board - but to reject an individual like Robinson because of the color of his skin is racist and should condemned.


jrs said...

You're on fire today, Maggie. Yes ! to nearly everything you've pointed out.

Shame about Konop's vote against Robinson - impressive resume and great business contacts. What's that expression about not seeing the forest for the trees ?

Luke said...

"outrageous"...I think that's a good word to describe Ben Konop's decision.

Maggie Thurber said...

Sadly, I think Konop will suffer no consequences as a result...

Lisa Renee said...

Or...had the real story been reported it could very well be that Ben supported another candidate instead of Robinson, like Olivia Holden.

I'm always very hesitant to judge someone based on a statement written in summation by anyone as opposed to a direct quote. When you read the Blade article, it's clear that is not a direct quote. I called Ben and asked him about that scenario, I realize that the relationship is such that it's not possible for you to do that Maggie, but should we condemn someone based on something that was stated as a summation and not an accurate representation of their full thoughts? I don't think we should no matter who it is, context does matter the majority of times. Even when it is a direct quote, which clearly in this situation it was not, cherry picking of comments is something we all have to try not to do if the larger context of the before and the after could give a different impression.

I don't feel Ben should have to suffer any consequences for what he was trying to do, LCIC should at least exhibit some of the diversity of the County and wanting someone with a background of small business expertise who also happens to be a minority woman a huge additional plus to at least making a small contribution to diversity.

As you know better than anyone sometimes the only way to express your disagreement/concern with something even if you know the two votes would make it pass is to vote no.

Maggie Thurber said...

Lisa - it's nice that you defend's also nice that he'll take your call.

Ben has never bothered to respond to any of my emails or phone calls.

In this post, I'm not criticizing the Blade's summation ... I condemn Ben for making race an issue in his dissenting vote. To me, he's saying that he'll reject an otherwise qualified individual because of the color of skin - that's racist and worthy of criticism and condemnation.

Personally, I condemn him more for not responding to his constituent (me), even if I also happen to be a radio talk show host.

When I ran in to Ben last week, he agreed with me that I do have a right to expect him to respond to my emails. Considering his comment to me (duly witnessed by others) and his continued lack of a response, he can expect to be 'judged' by what is written about him - absent his own clarification.

I'm sure that, if the statement was inaccurate, we'll see some sort of correction - and I'll update my post accordingly if that happens.

Unfortunately, in this instance Lisa, I again have someone else's understanding of what went on (yours, based upon your conversation with him) and that's no different than what the reporter has done, except with some higher expectations of accuracy on the part of the reporter.

What I do not have and what Ben seems intent on preventing is to have his comments and/or positions directly.

If he's concerned that my post has taken his position out of context, he can give me a call. But I won't hold my breath.

As an aside - there's more to diversity in this area than color of skin. My idea of diversity on the LCIC board would be to ensure business reps from various potential growth industries, varying sizes of companies, and businesses from locations from across the county.

The three individuals Ben supported (the two he voted for and Ms. Holden) are from Toledo- and their businesses are in Toledo as well. At least Mr. Robinson lives in Sylvania.

And don't forget that the City of Toledo also gets to appoint individuals to the LCIC board. I expect all of those appointments to be individuals who live/work inside the city limits. If the idea is a regional approach, I think it's more important to achieve geographic than racial diversity.

(For clarification, being the executive director of a non-profit agency, as Ms. Holden is, does not, imho, equate to the definition of 'business representative.' And I think her current service on the Workforce Investment Board is more applicable to her areas of expertise than the LCIC would be, especially considering how closely the WIB and LCIC work together.)

jrs said...

As reported by the Blade: "Mr. Konop said he cast the dissenting vote against Mr. Robinson-who is white-because the board is made up of mostly whites and needs to be more representative of the county's diverse culture."

While not a direct quote it is, in the reporter's choice of words, direct and straightforward - at least to me.

Perhaps someone should give Joe Vardon a call. I'm willing to bet that he stands by his statement. I wonder how he would feel knowing that Konop is back-pedaling the initial explanation of his vote ?

Hooda Thunkit said...

"But Konop rejected him because he's white."

Says it all, unless and until Ben chooses to further clarify.

But, I'm betting that Ben will just let it slide rather than to further justifying/clarify his racism. . .

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