Singular motivation: Defend Covington

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer
Covington Board of Commissioners Meeting
Jan. 22, 2019
EDITOR’S NOTE: Covington Mayor Joe Meyer released a statement late Saturday in response to the harsh criticism the City of Covington was receiving on a national level over the video-taped confrontations in Washington DC.
At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Covington Board of Commissioners, the Mayor gave the following remarks on camera to clarify his Saturday statement, give context, and explain his motivation.

“Over the past 72 hours, our City has been dragged into a national shouting match outside our borders that has showcased the worst of human nature.
Over the past few days, we at the City of Covington have been cursed and threatened by email, over the phone, and in person.
Our City is collateral damage in an incident that had nothing to do with us, happened 500 miles away, and coincidentally involves a school that actually isn’t even in Covington.
Why are we being vilified?
One side thinks we promote racism, bigotry, intolerance and hatred.
The other side thinks we’re attacking kids.
In other words, we’re being found guilty of either condemning the students too harshly or not condemning them enough.
But if you read my actual words Saturday, it’s clear that condemning was not the motivation. My motivation was simple: Covington’s reputation was being attacked on a national level, and I stood up to defend it.
So I wrote about the City’s leadership in the areas of diversity.
And I suggested that what happened in Washington presents a timely opportunity for this region to come together and take a serious, sincere look at our core values as it relates to inclusion and diversity - an analysis that to date this region seems averse to doing.
I strongly believe in both of those points, and as Mayor of the Northern Kentucky region’s largest and most diverse community, I stand by them.
We in Covington woke up Saturday - two days before a federal holiday dedicated to diversity and unity - to see our reputation being eviscerated on a national and international level.
We were stunned.
My predecessors and I in both elected and appointed positions have worked hard for decades to create a place where all people are welcome. And I’m talking people of all skin colors ... ethnic backgrounds ... national origins ... religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs at all) ... income levels ... sexual orientations ... and gender identities.
Actions speak louder than words, and in Covington: 
  • We are the only City in Northern Kentucky, for example, to have a Human Rights Ordinance that protects ALL people. 
  • Our management ranks at the City are incredibly diverse. 
  • I just attended the opening of the Esperanza Latino Center in Covington - a new resource center for all of our residents with roots south of the Rio Grande. 
  • And last summer I personally led the City’s Pride Parade March, in which many City leaders and employees participated.  
These actions reflect our core values.
Yes, we still have work to do.
Last Saturday morning, I participated in a public conversation at a small Catholic Church on 10th Street where we discussed how we can become a more welcoming place.
Ironically, it was when I was leaving that event that I started hearing the tidal wave of accusations that Covington was a place that fostered hatred, vitriol, bigotry, discrimination, and racism.
Because of a confrontation in which Covington wasn’t involved, people were talking about boycotts and asking things like: 
  • Why would anybody ever invest in a City like this?
  • Why would a business locate there?
  • Why would anybody visit there, or shop there or eat there?
  • Why would anybody move there?
  • Why would anybody work there? 
This was a direct threat to the economic vitality, viability, and future of Covington, a threat whose premise runs contrary to our core identity.
So I defended the City. And I will continue to defend it.
And I was very careful not to join in the fury of the national storm that was focusing in a very personal and threatening way on these students.
Read my words.
And, by the way, I have quietly received many notes and phone calls of support from other leaders in the Greater Cincinnati region who complimented that message and our attempts to stay above the fray.
As for the students?
I feel terrible that they were duped into confrontation.
I hear that these students have been threatened and cursed.
That is simply wrong, and I urge people to stop it now.
What we can all agree on is the fact that this confrontation even happened damages us. And we can’t pretend that the damage to our reputations will just go away.
The scars will last a long time.
So yes, I feel bad for the young men, but I also feel bad for the institutions - the School, the Church, the City -- the community, and all of us.
These young men got caught up in something much larger than themselves. And in many ways, so did we.
I’m not surprised by the reaction of parents who have jumped forward to defend their sons at all costs. Who amongst us wouldn’t defend our kids?
But people, national forces are at work here.
Outsiders, business firms, causes, visiting politicians, and organizations ... they have all swept in to get us to push their ulterior motives.
We are being used as pawns in the national culture wars and the agenda of division. And these attempts will continue in the days ahead, unfortunately.
It does not benefit us to retreat into our political factions and take solace from the fact that like-minded people agree with us ... and to hell with the rest of the people.
And we need to get past the rush of passion to have a meaningful conversation.
As for me, and as for Covington: my motive during this storm has always been singular and straight-forward: To promote and protect this City’s image and identity as a welcoming place to live, visit, and do business.
Thank you.”