Friday, November 30, 2007

Good News for Downtown: Grocery Store Coming!

Wednesday's Post reports that Avril Bleh Meat Market, the fabulous butcher on Court Street, plans to expand into the adjacent storefront and open a grocery store. This is terrific news for downtown. The store will be about 1,300 square feet.

People who have recently moved downtown from the 'burbs need to be cautioned: it's not going to be anything like the Hyde Park Kroger or a Walmart Supercenter. Instead, it sounds like it will be like the grocery stores you'd expect to find in the midst of New York City neighborhoods. Fresh meat, produce, dairy, but not necessarily a ton of dry goods. But that's what should be downtown: a typical, urban grocery store. We don't need no stinkin' supercenters.

The irony, of course, is that the grocery store will sit quite literally in the shadow of the Kroger Building. Kroger has consistently declined to build a grocery store downtown, claiming there's not a sufficient population base to do so. Even more shameful, though, is that company's failure to build a decent-sized grocery store in Over-the-Rhine--which certainly has enough residents to support a larger store than the abomination that sits on Vine Street a few blocks from corporate headquarters.

I just can't wait for summer again....some of the best food I ate this past summer was from Avril Bleh's little grilling stand in front of the store.

Missing Ballots

The Hamilton County Board of Elections screwed up. 100 ballots is not going to change council races, no matter how certain candidates try to alter mathematics.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

American Presidential Politics: "Do you believe every word of this book?"

Now admittedly, my view on this issue may be jaundiced, given that I went to public school a long time ago in the South before GOD and prayer were removed from public schools by the Satan inspired Warren Supreme Court (although I have never understood how people could believe in an omniscient, omnipresent, and all powerful deity and then believe he/she/it could be forcibly removed from anywhere). In my school, we had this old blind lady come in on a weekly basis and we would have actual honest-to-god bible study and prayer on a regular basis -- sometimes even glossolalia would occur -- and we would pray for all the non-believers (including Jews, Mormons, Muslims and, sometimes, Catholics). Ahhh, the fifties and early sixties. . . . .

But really, should I care whether my President believes every word of the christian scriptures? Does it matter if Mitt Romney believes every word of the Book of Mormon? Does it matter if Mayor Guiliani believed every word of scripture, except the ones about divorce and infidelity, when he was using taxpayer money to provide security when he met up with his then paramour, while he was married? Does whether a candidate believes every word of christian scripture inform whether they believe waterboarding is torture -- John McCain, who has been tortured, does believe it, while Governor Romney, who avoided military service (like Dick Cheney and W), thinks waterboarding might be alright for really bad dudes (again, like Dick Cheney and W).

I was glad to know that John McCain, the soldier, does not own a gun, that Fred Thompson, the TV star, owns two, but the whereabouts are a secret, and that Mitt Romney's son owns two that are in the governor's house for some reason. Also, it is good to know that Romney thinks asking people with "funny accents" who are working on his lawn for their papers is bad form, but that America's Mayor thinks that would be just fine, while Tom Tancredo thinks we should not ask, but just round them up. Ron Paul, on the other hand, is worried about our national sovereignty and believes that there is a secret conspiracy to merge the US, Canada and Mexico (Given the exchange rate between the US dollar and the loonie, it might not be a bad thing).

So this is what is important in America in the new century! Thank God, I could go to sleep after this debate with images of dreamy Anderson Cooper in my mind to calm the disturbance caused by the thought that this was the best we could do . . . . . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vigilantism Acceptable in Hamilton County

The Enquirer reports that the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney will not file charges against the owner of the N & M Minimart at Ninth and Elm. As you might recall, the owner, Wade Nassar, followed a robber into the street and fired shots at him as the robber fled. As recounted by the Enquirer at the time:

As soon as Nassar gave the man the money, he ran out the door and east on Ninth Street. When the robber took off, Nassar said he reached behind the counter, grabbed the .22-caliber handgun he keeps there and ran to the front door, opened it and started shooting, getting off five shots.
"How I missed him I don't know," Nassar said. "If I (would have) crossed the street, I would have killed him." Police heard the shots and responded. They weren't too thrilled about Nassar shooting his gun on a downtown street in an area across the street from a school.

And Nassar wasn't shy about his intent:

Nassar said he gave the robber $400 – and then grabbed his gun and followed him out the door. That’s when Nassar said he fired his .22-caliber handgun at the fleeing robber. “I meant to kill the dude,” Nassar said minutes after the Nov. 12 robbery.

Why is this OK? Joe Deters says that the robber "forfeit[ his] right not to be shot." But this isn't about the robber's rights; it's about the legality of Nassar's conduct. With gun ownership comes responsibility. Shooting at a fleeing suspect--who's already outside your property--is not self-defense. If Nassar had hit and killed his target (whose name is Sanford O'Neal, and is obviously not a terribly sympathetic figure--a few weeks after the Minimart heist, he was arrested for allegedly burglarizing a homicide victim's house, an act made possible only by breaking through police crime scene tape), would Nassar still be a free man?

I'm not suggesting that Nassar be charged with attempted murder. But there should be consequences for firing your gun on a downtown street at someone who no longer poses a risk of harm to you. I'm not convinced that turning downtown into the Wild, Wild West is such a good idea.

Pay Attention, Suburbanites!

I know the air is a little thinner out there, but the author of the 4th letter to the Enquirer today needs to know that Hamilton County is not planning on building a "Trolley." The City of Cincinnati "approved" a plan to build a Streetcar. They have not really approved building one yet, but they like the plan for it. It is funny how people don't pay attention.

Next thing we'll get is someone writing a letter to the editor bitching about Cincinnati Public Schools for banning a play by Jessica Fletcher.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Method to the Madness?

I often wonder how independently the county administrator (Patrick Thompson) operates from the elected county commissioners. And the recent wrangling over the county's public safety budget makes me wonder even more.

Last week, Thompson made public a series of proposed budget cuts, including one requiring townships to pay for the deputies that patrol their streets. At the time, it seemed to be taken for granted that in the wake of the defeat of Issue 27, the county would discontinue funding for the patrols in Over-the-Rhine.

Yesterday, following a public meeting attended by several HamCo sheriff's deputies, we get this statement from Todd Portune:

"I expect the balanced budget will include Over-the-Rhine patrols. I expect it
will include no changes for township deputies. I don't know what we'll do to get
there, but I believe strongly we will accomplish our goals."

Here's my point: by raising the issue of county-subsidized policing for the townships, Thompson may have made it politically impossible for the OTR patrols to be de-funded. The average City resident, prior to last week's news reports, probably didn't realize the extent to which places like Greene, Colerain, Anderson, and other townships rely on the county for the provision of police services. How could the commissioners (particularly Portune and Pepper) have justified to City residents the expenditure of funds for public safety in the suburbs at the same time county funds for public safety in the City would be cut off entirely? The backlash from City residents would have been enormous (and perhaps rightly so).

So I wonder--was the issue of the township patrol budget floated intentionally, to ensure the commissioners would have political cover when they found money for the OTR patrols, or is that giving our local leaders credit for too much guile and foresight?

Those crazy suburban schools...

I've been doing theater for a long time, and had no idea that Ten Little Indians had an alternative name other than "And Then There Were None". Apparently the NAACP in Butler County has other ideas-- this alternative name (that few knew existed) will incite racism. Who knew? So these kids put in hours of work on a show that has nothing to do with African Americans (or Native Americans, for that matter) and it's all taken away because one group holds so much sway over the Lakota board. Convenient that Gary Hines does "diversity training", isn't it? I'm all into diversity and equality, but we can't rewrite history. Let's clean up To Kill a Mockingbird and Native Son and sanitize the slurs used against African Americans; let's sanitize Night and remove references to violence that surrounded the Holocaust. This cleansing doesn't benefit kids, it merely renders them unable to comprehend reality in which some people are racist and violent. There is indeed life outside of West Chester. Hopefully, Lakota will wise up and let the show go on-- but I won't bet on it.

Hot Air

It appears Greg Flannery and a couple of other activists are doing what ever they can to derail progress in OTR. It isn't good enough that the Washington Plan adds more green space. It has to create something that will cost more money and not be used to its potential. In fact what Greg wants is to keep more concrete in the area instead of helping add more oxygen to the atmosphere! Come on Greg, I thought you were Pro-Earth!

Monday, November 26, 2007

City Council does the right thing (for once)

Well, at least part of it has. The Enquirer reports that the Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve the funding request from 3CDC for improvement in OTR. Hopefully, the rest of Council will support it as well. The only way that improvement will "stick" in OTR is if the City is backing it financially as well as with some lip service.

A Nice Donabedian Profile

After a big opening Winter season I'd bet Bill Donabedian, Fountain Square Manager, is liking the Enquirer's profile. It it actually quite fair to him personally and gets insight from people who have worked with him. The square looked great on Friday during the day. I'd like to know if anyone was there Friday Night and can chime in how the event went?

Plans For Washington Park Look Great

The plans to expand and renovate Washington Park look excellent. Here is a pdf map of the plan.

Something that was mentioned in the article was the Drop-In Center, but the reason for it being mentioned is not obvious to anyone not familiar with the underlying issue: the Bums must go. All of the renovation of the Park will be lost if the bums still camp out in the Park and along 12th Street. That is the big question about Park renovation. If they have no plans there, then it will not matter how nice it is, the bums will do two things: keep people away and they will quickly ruin many of the renovations.

OTR Development Needs to Move Forward

3CDC is getting the job done in OTR. City Council needs to move forward and fund the next stage of development.

It is great seeing the building on the corner of Vine and 13th Streets undergo a massive rehab. In the new plan it is good to see more money for Main Street.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mmmm, Pie....

When I'm eating lunch at my desk (or in Fountain Square), my favorite place to grab a sandwich is Fred and Gari's on Vine Street. It's one of those Cincinnati gems that have been around for a long time--you know, the kind that you're proud to know about when you mention it to a life-long resident of the City who's never heard of it.

This Thanksgiving, no one in my family was going to have time to do much baking, so I decided to order a couple of pies from Fred and Gari's--one pumpkin and one chocolate. Since Thursday (well, really, since Wednesday, when I first got a whiff of the pumpkin pie), I've been struggling to find words to describe how magnificent these pies are. They're so good they make you feel privileged to eat them, so good that you feel a little sad knowing that sooner or later (depending on your degree of self-control), they'll be gone.

Fred and Gari's: another one of the things that makes downtown Cincinnati a great place in which to live and work.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Plea to Governor Strickland

Governor Strickland, please send the State Police to Over-the-Rhine. Since I have been living in OTR I've seen 2 State Troopers patrolling, one on Vine St. and one on 12th Street. If the Sheriff can't find the money for it (or find the heart) and history shows that the CPD can't do it, please send in the State Troopers to patrol OTR. We don't need a massive task force, we just need the cars going up and down the streets of OTR to help send street thugs and suburban drug buyers scurrying for cover. If we can get the drug and petty criminals off the streets, then everyday life will improve for all law abiding residents of OTR.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Poverty and Homelessness: Who Cares?

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least among you, you did not do for me.'" (Matthew 25:41-45)

“And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (The Qur’an 5:32)

“Poverty is the worst form of violence." (Gandhi)

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." (Woody Allen)

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" (Matthew 19:21)

I thought I may as well weigh in on this discussion of homelessness and poverty that Griff and Donald have started. Perhaps I come from a very different place, but it seems that we as a society have decided in this The Second Gilded Age that we just don't care about poor and homeless people at all and see them as just reaping the harvest of their choices. For at least the last twenty-five years -- through the administrations of right wingers who believed in the literal word of scripture and Dick Cheney and left wingers who believed in both the holiness of scripture and blow jobs --, we have embraced social policies that destroyed the social safety net and that manifested a radical social darwinism. Systemically, we have said to poor people, "we are tired of you and your whining --- you are bringing us down --- don't you understand that the reason you don't have all that we have is because you have not worked hard enough, you are lazy and lacking in education, because you dropped out. Sorry that many of you had long long ago ancestors that lived in slavery, but we just don't care. You are on your own now. We have power and will move you where we want to move you and make social policy that is driven by what is convenient for us." So what happens when you to say to desperate people, "you are on your own to make do; you get what you get in this world because you get what you deserve"? A social policy built on the theology of the survival of the fittest means that it is power against power -- who knows who will win -- yet it puts us all in a war zone.

And, how can it be that we have a museum down the road a little ways dedicated to the literal truth of the Hebrew scriptures when it comes to science and creation, yet have a society of literal believers who do not believe Jesus literally meant what he said when he said "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." So contrary to all scientific findings, dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time, but Jesus was just kidding around when he said this. Hmmm. . . . . .

Give a Bum a Fish

If you need more evidence that many charities servicing the alcoholics and drug addicts in Washington Park are not working towards helping these people live normal lives, then I don't think you read the article.

First you have three churches who bring food down for one day. Sure, that gives the bums something to eat for a day. Does it help them kick drugs or booze? No, it saves them buying food that can then be used for drugs or booze.

Second you have the "homeless" advocates (yes, I put that word in quotes on purpose) who in my opinion admit that they don't really want to help these people and improve the neighborhood, instead they want to force people to see the bums.

Well, how many times has Georgine Getty worked to move the bums away from the drug dealers and the corner stores with cheap booze? She does nothing but really make me want to protest her organization and the Drop Inn Center if they don't take any and every offer to move out of Over-the-Rhine. Her answer is:
"If you have a problem seeing homeless folks, you should end homelessness," Getty said.
If you are a person hanging out around the park there are three possible things wrong you: 1. You are a drug addict 2. You are addicted to alcohol or 3. You are mentally unbalanced and can't afford treatment. If the Georgine doesn't want to find ways to treat those problem, then she doesn't want to help anyone in Washington Park. Giving a man a meal for one day does nothing to help him with why he is in the Park.

Finally, if you have a problem with wanting the bums to live normal lives, then you want the bums to keep on being bums so you can keep the funding for your ineffective programs.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Feed the Homeless, Break the Law

Stories like this one (noting that a consortium of churches that organized a free lunch in Washington Park are acting contrary to Cincinnati ordinances, as the city won't issue a permit for such events) are likely to become more common as OTR development continues. If CityLink is built (and remember, our court of appeals just said that it can be), there no doubt will be an increased effort to shut down the Drop Inn Center.

Ultimately, the problem of providing for our city's homeless is going to be an excrutiatingly difficult issue for Mayor Mallory and City Council. It's true, of course, that many associate "homeless" with either "criminal" or "panhandler," and to the extent that happens (regardless of whether that mental association is based on reality), a visible homeless population hurts development efforts. But it's also true that in America's cities, the homeless have always tended towards the inner-city. CityLink probably won't cause a migration of our homeless population to the West Side (and if it does, what happens to redevelopment efforts there?).

True solutions (e.g., finding ways to eradicate homelessness) are unlikely, as both city and county leaders are likely to slash the few dollars that are presently slated towards social services. How we treat our homeless (who are often some of the most vulnerable among us) will say a lot about what our City will become in these transitional times.


Murder me God down in that basement,
murder my dreams so I stop wantin,
murder my hope of him returnin,
strangle the pride that make me crazy!
Make me forget so I stop grievin.
Scour my skin till I stop feelin.
Take Caroline away cause I cain't be her,
take her away I cain't afford her.
Tear out my heart
Strangle my soul
Turn me to salt
A pillar of salt
a broken stone and then...
"Lot's Wife"
Caroline Or Change
I had the opportunity over the last two weeks to catch three performances of the New Stage Collective's production of this amazing musical collaboration between Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori. New Stage Artistic Director Alan Patrick Kenny is really doing some daring things with this group. As Caroline, Taylore Mahogany Scott gave a heartwrenching performance in an emotionally difficult role. In yesterday's closing performance, she just blew the doors off the song "Lot's Wife" and left the audience gasping. The entire cast was great, so if you missed this show, you missed one of the theatrical highlights of the year. You also missed one of the most racially mixed audiences I have seen for theater in Cincinnati. Check out this theater on Main Street in OTR ( They are doing some challenging and daring things for our little town, including Take Me Out and Jerry Springer, the Opera. (Posted by Jack)


Please join me in welcoming three new blog contributors: Julie, Donald, and Jack. I'll still be blogging, so you've not rid yourself of my brilliant typing.