Saturday, June 28, 2008

Big City, Little City, Mega City

A few weeks ago UncleRando at UrbanCincy asked the question "What is a city to you?" I am going to extrapolate on this and ask, "What is a big city to you? I ask this because often when people think of Cincinnati, they think of it as a small city. They do so I think because of the context and definition that any city outside of NYC, Chicago, and LA is just a small town. This context I believe often stems from those who have lived in cities the size of Cincinnati their entire lives. Be it someone from Cleveland, Atlanta, Tampa, Denver, or Phoenix. I believe the false perception they acquire is that success and growth can only be achieved on a bigger stage or in this context a larger city. They then perceive where live as a small town. That is not unique to Cincinnati, but we have many shining examples of it. To a degree this is also influence by the notion of kids growing up and wanting to leave home, and thus leave the city they grew up in, but that spills over into wanting something "bigger," therefore a mega city is what they think they need.

I'm from a small city. It had a population of about 35,000 when I lived there and it is down to about 30,000 18 years later. For the Couty I grew up in it's MSA has around 133,000 people in it, a number also down. In another comparison, Hamilton county's land size is about 413 square miles, while Chautauqua county (where I grew up) is well more than three times the size at 1,500 square miles. I have two points: 1) My town is shrinking far more than Cincinnati, and 2) I lived in a small city. I knew basically everyone who was withing 3 years of my age. I went to school with nearly all of them. That is the definition of a small city.

Cincinnati is a big city. No matter how much people want to paint this area as a small town, it is not. Also, just to be clear, I am talking about the entire metro area, not just the actual city, but even there, we are still a big city.

What Cincinnati is not a mega city, on that much everyone should be clear. 100 years ago Cincinnati was a mega city, which I believe is why we are a special place still now. We have history and Institutions other cities our size don't have. We are not NYC or Chicago or even Boston or San Francisco. We never will be and I for one don't want us to be, however this city has special qualities that you can't find anywhere else.

I just would like people who live here, especially those who grew up here, to try and see this city from a different perspective. Take off the blinders used by the news media. Ignore the city hates who seek to either build up their own fiefdom out in the outlying areas or those who out to tear down the city from within in in order to enable a futile attempt to gain political power.

The first step is attitude. Don't expect things are going to stay they same, unless you are going to sit back and let them. All you have to is walk, run, ride the bus, hop in your car, or someday ride the streetcar and try out something new in your Big City.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You can't buy publicity like this.

Jerry Springer the Musical is opening at New Stage Collective tonight. So, naturally, we get tons of protestors...

(Yes, the same ones that protested Know's Corpus Christi a few years ago.)

For me, my thought is "If you don't want to see it, don't see it," however the group America Needs Fatima sees it differently. America Needs Fatima (not a link to them, but a background on their group) is an ultra-conservative, Catholic group that it seems most Catholics think is fringe and freaky. Freedom of speech and all of that, but hey-- they're getting the show more publicity than it could ever pay for.

And, why yes, those ARE jackboots. I'm so glad you asked.

The Banks Demo

The newest buzz at the Enquirer is the recently released "first look" at The Banks. It looks close to I would have expected. I still feel rather ambivalent about it. I want it to be built and succeed, but I don't see myself hanging out there with all of the tourists (aka people from West Chester et al).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One More Sign I'm Getting Old: Everyone Else Is Too Young

Is it just me, or is anyone else convinced that for the last couple weeks, Channel 5 has been letting one of its high school interns do its morning traffic reports? She's just so . . . young.

It's amazing how much a little Googling with turn up. The easiest Google hit, this Enquirer article, reveals that the new traffic reporter, Randi Lynn Robison, was previously a ski reporter for a television station in Park City, Utah. She moved to Mason with her fiance.

But Google gives us much better gifts. Here, courtesy Youtube, is Ms. Robison's "hosting reel," apparently a collection of clips from her Utah gig. Watching it, we learn two important things. First, she's not a high school intern (she's 25--she says she was 11 in 1994). Second, she's actually pretty engaging in the clips. So for those of you who aren't quite sure about her early performance, be patient: if history is any indicator, she'll quickly grow into the job and probably be a viewer favorite on the show. Let's hope Channel 5 gives her the time and room to make the job her own (I'm thinking she could be a younger, more feminine version of Bob Herzog, but I can't tell--there were no chicken dancing clips in the hosting reel).

Welcome to the 'Nati, Randi.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hey Glad Girls!

Great news for the Midpoint Music Festival: Robert Pollard will appear with his new band Boston Spaceships. This is a twist on the MPMF but one worth seeing! Last year the Pollard concert at Southgate House (benefiting Enjoy the Arts) was a big sellout with people coming from Japan and England to see his show! This concert will be the kickoff for his tour, so be sure to see it and rest of Midpoint. It is just over three months away.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Change Ahead?

It appears that in addition to the presidency, the future structure of Cincinnati municipal government may be at stake in the 2008 election. The Enquirer reported Friday that the executive board of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP has decided to have its full membership vote (this Friday) on whether to attempt to change the City Charter to require Council to be elected through "proportional representation." How does "PR" work? Essentially, voters would be given a ballot on which they would rank their choices for Council. For an explanation of how votes are counted under the system, go to this website and scroll down to "Single Transferable Vote or Choice Voting."

The city actually used the system from the 1920's through the 1950's. According to this history of PR, the end of the system in 1957 was fueled by fairly nasty, racist motives:

In Cincinnati, race was the dominant theme in the successful 1957 repeal effort. The single transferable vote had allowed African Americans to be elected for the first time, with two blacks being elected to the city council in the 1950s. The nation was also seeing the first stirrings of the Civil Rights movement and racial tensions were running high. PR opponents shrewdly decided to make race an explicit factor in their repeal campaign. They warned whites that PR was helping to increase black power in the city and asked them whether they wanted a "Negro mayor." Their appeal to white anxieties succeeded, with whites supporting repeal by a two to one margin.

In the same article (almost as an aside, despite its seeming importance), the Enquirer reports that Jeff Berding plans to ask Council to approve another Charter amendment for the November ballot. His proposal would implement the 2004 Election Reform Commission's recommendation (scroll to page 9 for the pertinent discussion) that Cincinnati move to a true "strong mayor" system of government. As noted in the linked document, under Berding's proposal, the Mayor--not the City Manager--would appoint administrative officers and department heads, like the City Solicitor, the Directors of Finance and Public Utilities, and the Superintendent of Water Works. The City Manager would be replaced by a "Chief Administrative Officer" who would serve at the pleasure of the Mayor (Council's advice and consent would not be required for appointment or removal) and have only so much power as the Mayor chose to delegate to ensure the day-to-day operations of the City. And the Mayor would no longer have a role in City Council (instead, Council would elect its own President, equivalent to the Speaker of the House in Congress, and select its own committee chairs).

Intrepid Cincinnati Blog readers will remember that we had a discussion about these issues earlier this year (here and here). If either or both of these proposals makes it to the ballot, I anticipate that we'll discuss it a lot more. But these are huge changes in the way City government would be elected and operate. If they're on the ballot, I hope we have a broad, City-wide discussion that isn't completely drowned out by the presidential and county-wide elections.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Obama's Cincinnati Connections

Today's New York Times contains an excellent profile of Michelle Obama. Quoted in the article, albeit briefly, is University of Cincinnati College of Law Professor Verna Williams.

As Cincinnati Magazine has previously reported, Professor Williams attended Harvard Law School with Ms. Obama. Her husband, David Singleton, the executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, was a classmate of Barack Obama at HLS.

The Obamas' ties to the local legal couple is old news, certainly. But now that Senator Obama is the Democrats' "presumptive" nominee, it's interesting to speculate as to who might be part of an Obama presidential administration (especially in light of today's news that the Illinois senator has a six-point lead in Ohio over the Republicans' "presumptive" nominee, Senator McCain). Add to the mix that Mr. Singleton and Professor Williams are each highly distinguished in the legal field--we've previously reported on his litigation successes (his pre-OJPC career is equally impressive), while she's a widely respected, well-accomplished legal academician--and speculation turns into outright daydreaming. How about a Supreme Court Justice Williams? Or a Solicitor General (or Attorney General) Singleton?

Just some food for thought on an otherwise slow day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gay Pride 2008

A beautiful day and a fun gathering of a great variety of people who live in our little town. I do think it is time the parade and festival moved downtown to Fountain Square or Sawyer Point. Cincinnati needs a Sunday afternoon convergence of Reds fans, opera fans, churchgoers, lesbian and gay couples with babies, drag queens and kings, and a few beautiful transgendered women that you straight guys out there unknowingly keep trying to pick up at the bar on Saturday night before you head to Crossroads or the Vineyard Sunday morning (both could be great worship spaces if not for being anti-gay -- ask your pastor before you yell at me and tell me I am wrong) --- you and I both know who you straight boys are.

Fountain Square in the Morning

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gone But Not Forgotten: Uncle Woody's

Via an email from a friend earlier this week, I read a rumor (or at least what I was hoping was just a rumor) that Uncle Woody's in Clifton had closed. I drove past the establishment a couple nights ago and can now confirm that Uncle Woody's is no more. The sign on the front has been taken down. In 1999, CityBeat profiled the bar and its owner, Buzzy.

Uncle Woody's is (was, *sigh*) right across the street from the UC College of Law (my alma mater), so on any given night you could find a bunch of procrastinating law students tipping back a few. The bar is so much a part of law school culture that Buzzy and his staff annually picked a list of graduates to be on its "Bar Review." The students got their names engraved on a plaque that hangs permanently inside; the award was more coveted than selection to UC's Law Review (an academic publication) or moot court. When I was a law student, we generally considered the place "our bar."

Uncle Woody's was born the same year I was (1974), and most of us thought it would be there forever. Generations of law students have fond memories of heading over there for drinks after (or sometimes instead of) class. (And after the last final exam of the semester. Always. For many, many drinks.) The Moot Court Board, as an enticement to alums for judging its competitions, hosted an after-event happy hour at Uncle Woody's; on those nights, the bar would be packed with graduates reconnecting and reminiscing.

I've been skeptical of claims that Ohio's smoking ban would hurt Ohio's bar business, but I wonder if Uncle Woody's might be one of the few actual casualties of the ban. Christy's, about a block away and also frequented by UC students, has a large, outdoor courtyard where smoking remains permissible; it's possible patronage shifted there and away from the mostly indoors Uncle Woody's.

Uncle Woody's, ye shall be missed.

On The Docket: Bush Administration Has Again Exceeded Its Constitutional Authority

In a 5-4 ruling today, the Supreme Court held that Congress is without power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for individuals being held at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration argued that trial by military commissions, as authorized by the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commission Act is an adequate substitute for habeas. The Supreme Court, in rejecting this position, has paved the way for Camp X-Ray prisoners to have their cases heard in federal courts.

Justice Kennedy wrote the decision of the Court, authoring an opinion that traces the history of the "Great Writ" back to Magna Carta. Here's a snippet:
The Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty, and they understood the writ of habeas corpus as a vital instrument to secure that freedom. Experience taught, however, that the commonlaw writ all too often had been insufficient to guard against the abuse of monarchial power. That history counseled the necessity for specific language in the Constitution to secure the writ and ensure its place in our legal system.
* * *
The Framers’ inherent distrust of governmental power was the driving force behind the constitutional plan that allocated powers among three independent branches. This design serves not only to make Government accountable but also to secure individual liberty. Because the Constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, like the substantive guarantees of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, protects persons as well as citizens, foreign nationals who have the privilege of litigating in our courts can seek to enforce separation-of-powers principles.
(internal citations omitted.)
Let's just remember that this isn't the liberal, liberty-loving court of the 1950's and '60's. And as the Times reports, it's yet another "harsh rebuke of the Bush administration."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On the Docket: Successful Challenge To Ohio's Lethal Injection Protocol

A Lorain County Common Pleas Court judge has ruled that the method of execution currently used by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections violates Ohio law. (Enquirer; NY Times.)

The case, litigated (at least as to this issue) by the ACLU, was handled in a novel way. The challenge to the protocol was brought on behalf of two pre-trial detainees. In other words, this isn't the typical, last-second petition for a stay of execution; instead, it's about two men who might be sentenced to death if they're found guilty.

The court's decision is also unique in that it isn't based in the federal constitution's Eighth Amendment. (In fact, the US Supreme Court recently all but foreclosed challenges to the three-drug method of execution based on the cruel and unusual punishment clause.) Instead, Judge James M. Burge relied on an Ohio statute that requires ODRC to effect an inmate's death by using "a drug or combination of drugs of sufficient dosage to quickly and painlessly cause death." The judge's ruling requires ODRC to use a single, large dose of barbituates to kill the two defendants, if they're found guilty and sentenced to death, rather than the three-drug cocktail currently used by most states that utilize they death penalty.

The ruling only impacts the two individuals who were before Judge Burge, but I'd be surprised if this argument wasn't made in capital cases in Hamilton County.

Monday, June 09, 2008

CCV Is Bored

The CCV has grown tired of stamping out freedom for women, gays, and lesbians, and has now chosen to attack the freedom of speech and of the press.

Someone needs to find the Right Reverend Charlie Winburn a demon he can exercise. I'm thinking he try someplace out in Blue Ash or Indian Hill.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Last Day of Fringe!!!

Today is your last day to catch the Fringe Festival. Here are some good shows to try and see!

3:45PM - In Rehearsal
4:45PM - Undertow
5:00PM - Next to Not
6:30PM - UnMasked
7:00PM - Mortem Capiendum
             - Don't Make Me Pull This show Over...
8:00PM - Burning Man Redux
             - Anna the Slut and the (Almost) Chosen One
             - Fricative
9:00PM - Your Negro Tour Guide
9:15PM - Oatmeal and a Cigarette

Don't forget the after-party that beings at the Know Theatre at about 10:00PM, so come have a drink and here the announcement of the Pick of the Fringe.

Friday, June 06, 2008

You Asked For It

With only a little bit of fanfare, Avril-Bleh opened its grocery store on Court Street a couple weeks ago. Based on my quick trip there, the store offers some fresh produce, some dry and canned goods, a couple of coolers worth of beverages and dairy, some frozen food (including pints of Aglamesis' ice cream), and a deli counter that serves sandwiches to order.

The store keeps the same hour as the butcher shop, so it's closed on Sunday and Monday.


This week, my practice took me to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a few days. While I was on the hotel shuttle, I struck up a conversation with the driver about Charlotte. He asked me where I live. When I told him I live in Cincinnati, his immediate response was, "Have things settled down at all up there?"

Just one, isolated conversation, but it's eye-opening to see the lingering impact of the events that occurred in the early part of the decade on people's view of Cincinnati.

Anybody Heard Of Google?

So the Cincinnati School Board names five semifinalists for the position of Superintendent and within twelve hours has to withdraw one of the names -- Earl Watkins of Jackson Mississippi -- because of a male on male sexual harassment charge that no one, including the hired search firm, knew about. How stupid and inadequate can a process possibly be? What kind of politics is driving this process?

As an experiment, I sat down at my computer this morning and Googled the following: "Earl Watkins" Jackson Mississippi. The very first listing on my search results was a December 2006 television report from WLBT of Jackson with the headline -- "Principal Alleges Sexual Harassment by JPS Superintendent". The JPS Superintendent referred to here is Mr. Watkins. Result No. 2 from my Google search was an April 7, 2008 report from the Jackson Free Press (who knew Jackson, Mississippi had an alternative newspaper -- probably has a "creative class" population about the size of Cincinnati's "creative class) with the following lede: "JPS Superintendent Earl Watkins Resigning: After months of controversy stemming from a sexual harassment charge by a male educator, JPS Superintendent Earl Watkins announced tonight that he is resigning, effective June 2009."

Now the Cincinnati School Board paid some search firm $40,000 to vet these candidates. Nobody paid me anything to do a two second Google search --- who generated a better product? So here's a challenge readers, help the CPS out and do quick Google searches on the remaining four candidates and report your findings to the School Board. Maybe we can send them an invoice for our consulting work.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Indie Summer At Fountain Square

Friday nights all summer will start out with Fountain Square's Indie Summer Music Series. Three good local bands will be playing each week. Tomorrow night's line-up has:

Make sure you have a few beers and tip Well! Tips go to support Enjoy the Arts, a great organization.

Stay afterwards for Singer/song writer night from 10PM to Midnight.

RFK - A Remembrance

On this, the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, I find myself thinking of Kennedy's statement in inner city Indianapolis on the evening of the day on which Martin Luther King was assassinated. He was told by law enforcement and all local elected officials not to go, but he went anyway. Imagine the crowd on that April night in 1968 in that pre cellphone and email and Blackberry day. Most had no idea that King had been killed. In fact, if you listen to the audio of that tape, you can hear the horror and heartbreak in the crowd as Kennedy himself breaks the news to them. Speaking extemporaneously, Kennedy said:

I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening, because I have some -- some very sad news for all of you -- Could you lower those signs, please? -- I have some very sad news for all of you, and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world; and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black -- considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible -- you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization -- black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand, and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to fill with -- be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond, or go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poem, my -- my favorite poet was Aeschylus. And he once wrote:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart,until, in our own despair,against our will,comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

On that day in April, 1968, I typed those words from Aeschylus on a small index card and have carried it with me every day since then as a remembrance of dreams and hopes lost and of dreams that continue to live and of the constant pain of life that gives birth to dreams. Two months later, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy was shot and killed immediately following his victory in the California primary.

On a day when there can no longer be any doubt that a person of African ancestry -- a biracial person -- will be the Democratic Party candidate for the Presidency in November, I find myself thinking of those days in 1968 and of the hopes born in those days, many of which have long been forgotten by many of us in a sea of accumulated wealth and debt and scandal and change and cynicism and irony, and I find myself wondering how much of the symbolic and realized hope and dreams contained in the candidacies of Senator Obama and Senator Clinton find their root in the hopes of Bobby Kennedy and 1968. So on this day, do we offer the image of Barak Obama to those elementary school children creating chaos at Porter-Hays School as an image of exceptionalism owing to his good luck and his rearing by a strong single white mother or do we offer the image of Barak Obama as an image of aspirational hope that points a way to these children beyond the real but, all too easy, excuses of racism and discrimination to hope and success and not failure --- an image that says you too, can be a candidate for President and maybe even President someday if you work hard enough.

Today, I hope that we join with Bobby Kennedy and "dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Party Politics?

Is the effort to ouster Caleb Faux by Council members Bortz, Ghiz, and Monzel an anti-Democrat tactic?

More Is Not Enough

The last letter to the editor titled Downtown Needs More Restaurants is a hugely telling letter.

I am just dumbfounded that someone would write this letter. I am also equally astonished that the Enquirer would print this letter. I guess someone is going to write a letter and complain there aren't enough big-box discount stores downtown that are open at 6AM.

By the way, Lavomatic is open Sunday morning for Brunch at 10 AM. It isn't that bad of a walk from Aronoff Center, but extreme convenience is something too many people are accustomed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cincinnati E.A.T.S.

Food, friends, charity-- three things that go together (or should), and is, in a nutshell, what Cincinnati E.A.T.S. (Epicurians About Town Society) is all about. It's an eating group recently formed by some YP-types (though most certainly not only for YPs!) who want to take over restaurants on their slow days to meet new friends, eat great food, and support good causes. Their first outing is on June 10 at Lavomatic. For $36, you get a 3-course meal (including, I hear, the rhubarb-pistachio pavlova, which is fantastic) , and a portion of the proceeds go to 7 Days for SIDS (started by the de Cavels after their daughter died from SIDS several years ago).

Want to join me? Check out Cincinnati E.A.T.S' website and RSVP by June 8th.