Final Friday 3/28/08

I can never remember the actual names of the galleries. I have to rely on their characteristics. For example, the Gallery With The Big, Tall Doors. The first photo below is what I usually refer to as the Hipster Gallery. That's followed by a couple photos of the Art Academy, who had their senior display out. Afterwards, we found our way to Nada, where we stood around awhile having drinks.

Posted by Picasa

George, Ol' Boy

Those of us who frequently browse the Enquirer's letters to the editor will recognize the name George Corneliussen, one of the more prolific contributors. Now, we can all put the name to a face!

Saddest Sidewalks?

Via CityKin, this post from a Minneapolis-St. Paul resident about his visit to Cincinnati is wonderful. It is well-written, with beautiful, helpful pictures of downtown, OTR, and the riverfront. Though he had some factual errors, such as with Fountain Square (pointed out by me in the comments) and with the streetcar progress (pointed out by others in the comments) and he somehow missed the Gateway area (though I'm not sure when he actually visited), I think his overall point is fair and pretty accurate considering it came from a weekend visitor to the city.

"If the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood were in Minneapolis, or Saint Paul, or San Francisco, it'd be one of the nicest, most interesting, most desirable addresses around. In Cincinnati, the very same neighborhood is languishing in a city that has spent all its investment capital on skyways and stadiums, leaving Over-the-Rhine to serve as an emblem of the tortured racial inequality that has marked America since its inception. It's why walking Cincinnati's streets you find the saddest sidewalks in America."
Cincinnati's languishing potential must be obvious, even to a visitor. What is not so obvious is the real progress made recently and still being made. The several lengthy and passionate comments on the post defend the status quo.

Also, his comment at the end also got me thinking about Cincinnati's interesting historical timing.
"As a far midwesterner, whose cities grew far later than did yours, I can only look at Cincinnati's intact beautiful buildings with envy and awe."
That is, the city was really a part of all the great East Coast city growths. But we were just a little bit too late, and a little bit too inland. Like how if the subway started just a little bit earlier, maybe the invention of the automobile would not have prevented it from completing. Too young for the historical quality in cities like New York. Too old for the planning in cities like Indianapolis.

Walnut Hills Kroger Leaving?

There is an interesting piece on the "grocery gap" here in Cincinnati over at the Daily Bellwether. And as far as possible solutions, I'd have to say that the very first comment is spot on. But I won't get into that right now. What caught my eye was the following small sentence

"...a Walnut Hills Kroger store informed City Hall it may leave due to lease problems."
WHAT?! I go to that Kroger's at least once a week. If it closes, it's down to the Kroger's on Short Vine, or the one in Hyde Park, neither of which I'm too keen on. The Short Vine Kroger is just too slow and annoying, and the Hyde Park Kroger's is just too big and ridiculous. Seriously, it's the only Kroger's that I know of that has three brands for every lunch meat at the deli. Is that necessary?

Startup Weekend Cincy, Part II

From a comment on a previous post:

"If Cincinnati is the Queen City, Then Columbus must be King"

Them's fightin' words. I say bring it, C-Bus!

Incidentally, I was voting on the poll with different email addresses, of course, when someone pointed out to me that you don't even need to do that. Submitting one email address multiple times is allowed. Great idea, bad data validation.

Startup Weekend Cincy

I followed the original Startup Weekend in Boulder very closely, even weeks after the original weekend. I was fascinated with the concept and wanted to see how it ended. I read intently the multiple blogs throughout the weekend itself. (I also noticed that the legal, marketing, PR, and design teams all finished their work first, and ended up sitting around, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the developers to finish the product. Does this mean that the developers had the hardest job in the room? Or maybe they just had bad developers? But I digress.) I read about their progress in the weeks following the weekend, and about the eventual launch, until their blog posts along with my interest faded away.

I came away convinced that the whole concept is not really realistic, especially when it comes to the product. Incorporating in a weekend, setting up equity in a weekend, even making a brand in a weekend is fine. You could even build a toy product. But I don't think you can really make anything beyond a toy until you have people working on it full-time. And for people to work on something full-time, you need to pay them.

That said, the weekend itself - those 48 hrs. or whatever - sounds like a bitchin' time!

So when I caught an item on Cinplify about Startup Weekend Cincy, I was interested. I saw on the home page that the Boulder II weekend has been scaled back to focus on just the project, and not about incorporating a company. And I saw that new Startup Weekend cities were up for voting. And I saw that Columbus was the running away with first place (those damn Rubyists)!

So vote for Startup Weekend Cincinnati. And vote often.

More coverage from UrbanCincy.

Brian Kelly Lays It Down

In a sports story about how the UC football team will play a 2012 game vs. Ohio State in Columbus instead of at home, Brian Kelly expresses his goal of getting the Bucks to play the Bearcats not just every few years, but every year.

Asked how he would go about persuading Ohio State to play UC every year, Kelly said: "I'll be such a pain in (Ohio State coach) Jim Tressel's butt that sooner or later he's going to go, 'We've got to do something about it or move out of the state.' And I don't think Ohio State is going to move out of the state."
Reading that quote, I realized how rare it is for someone in local media to talk like that. At least, that's my impression. Refreshing.


Traveled to Indianapolis last weekend to visit Jin. We went to the Children's Museum on Saturday, and then walked around downtown a lot on Sunday. Of course, I could not have left my camera on the kitchen counter at home any more than I did, so, no pictures.

The one thing I have to say about Indianapolis, and downtown in particular, is how well-planned it is. The metro government oversees the entire county which is the city itself. The war memorial in the city center sits exactly in the middle between the east and west borders of the city, and sits exactly in the middle of the north and south borders.

We walked along the canal, a completely fabricated waterway that curves around from the northern edge of downtown to the southern edge. If you follow it, it will take you past a central museum district, past the state capitol, and end up close to the Artsgarden, an glass-enclosed greenspace sitting above an intersection. The Artsgarden is part of a skywalk system that allows you to walk from any number of hotels to shopping, the convention center, and the RCA dome all without feet hitting the pavement. Personally, I don't believe skywalks are a good idea, but it seems to work there.

Everything in the center of the downtown, and less so the further away from it, seems like it was deliberately built to get you to stay put.

Now, Indianapolis will not deny the fact that it was planned from day one. Which makes comparing it to Cincinnati a bit unfair. Cincinnati, like other east coast cities, are older, and developed more organically. Plus, Indianapolis is very flat. So Cincinnati development has faced some historical and geographical constraints that Indy has not.

Still, one gets the sense that in Indy, the metro government Gets Things Done. In Cincinnati, the city, county, port authority, quasi-private entities, and businesses just get in each other's ways.

Portland's Urban Growth Boundary

Over on Queen City Survey, a suitably harsh post about Council's recent streetcar vote.

"Finance Committed voted 5-2 in favor to approve $800,000 for preliminary studies required for federal funding applications. The studies would include the Uptown-downtown link."
Qualls and Cranley dissented. I never liked Cranley, but I wonder about Qualls. I voted for her in the last election, and I know she has an extensive academic background in urban policy. Something is not sitting right with her, and I wonder what it is.

As far as Monzel - if this were put to a referendum it would flat out fail. So to Monzel, I say BOOOOO.

Over on the Enquirer's Politics blog, a post about the same subject elicited (as of this very moment) 56 comments. I've been hearing a lot about why you can't compare Cincinnati and Portland because of Portland's Urban Growth Boundary laws. John Schneider weighs in on this one in a comment:
"Critics say that Portland’s Streetcar is successful only because of that city’s Urban Growth Boundary, a sprawl-limiting measure that enables Portland to achieve the density necessary for its many great urban projects, a density of 3,939 persons per square mile. But here’s the thing -- even without an urban growth boundary, Cincinnati is 8% denser than Portland, with 4,249 persons per square mile."

Well It Feels Like Winter Now

I stayed home yesterday and Sarah left work early. We got enough food, firewood, movies and treats to last all weekend!

After about 30 straight hours, the sun finally peeked through.

Some great pictures of downtown from 5chw4r7z.

Election Wrapup: CPS Levy Passes

The CPS levy finally passed, which is good.

Some people are not pleased. Such as this lady.

I am writing to voice my displeasure with the passage of the Cincinnati school levy. I estimate the levy will raise the property tax on my home by at least $800, which is an amount my middle class family, like many others in the area, simply cannot afford. The primary consequence Cincinnati will see as a result of this will not be better schools, but increased flight to the suburbs by middle class families where the schools are better and crime rates and taxes are lower. I love Cincinnati, and I don't want to move, but my family may be the next family to move to the burbs.

- Deborah Gates, Columbia Tusculum
So many themes spring to mind when I read that letter.
  1. First of all, the levy adds an estimated $240 in taxes on a $100,000 home. So Miss Gates of Columbia Tusculum owns a house in the mid $300's. Now, I hesitate to even bring this up, because I'm uncomfortable classifying people based on these things, and I know that $300,000 does not buy as much house as it used to, but it makes me wonder if Miss Gates is truly middle-class (and makes me wonder what truly is middle-class anymore anyway)? And I wonder where she sends her kids for school?
  2. Because it's true that the schools, crime, and taxes are all better in the suburbs, obviously. If her kids attend private schools, I understand why, and I understand why still paying property taxes is upsetting. (Which is why I believe that vouchers and charter schools are in the solution somewhere, but they must be held to the same standards as public schools - the government cannot afford to fund public education the same way it cannot afford to fund health care, but I digress.) But if she loves this city so much, then she should know that, as I've said in previous blogs, the future of this city long-term depends on having publicly-funded education that parents will not hesitate using. And the levy helps achieve that goal. If her kids do attend public schools, then Miss Gates should support the levy anyway.
  3. Not to mention that in all this CPS is doing a good job and is setting the trend. In the appendix of the book about teachers that I read, there was a list of around a half-dozen school districts around the country with forward-thinking teacher-payment systems. CPS was one of them. Additionally, in the last CityBeat before the election, there is a great article on the importance of CPS and the great progress it has made.
    " person in particular, Joe Nathan, suggests that CPS could serve as a model for other districts. He represented the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for seven of the years it was involved with local schools and was so impressed he wrote an opinion piece for the The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune praising the district.

    'Powerful progress in the Cincinnati Public Schools may help efforts to improve Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools,' Nathan wrote in 2007. 'Despite its problems, CPS grew from a four-year, 51 percent high school graduation rate in 2000 to a four-year, 79 percent graduation rate in 2007. It also eliminated the graduation gap between white and African-American students. Graduation rates for all students increased. Cincinnati appears to be among the first (if not the first) major urban districts to eliminate this gap.'"
    So CPS is improving. How is it improving? Why do you think they spend all that money?

Election Wrapup: Democratic Turnout

So voting closed without too much controversy, IMO, though some counties ran out of Democratic ballots. That's pretty stupid, but to be expected. I mean, it's not like this has happened before, right? Oh wait - I found this gem at the bottom of a post-election article.

"Tuesday's primary was a mirror image of what McCain did in Ohio's 2000 primary.

In what came to be called the "McCain effect," the rolls of registered Republicans swelled across the state as McCain attracted independents and crossover Democrats in his failed bid to slow George W. Bush's march to the GOP nomination and the presidency. In that election, twice as many Republicans cast ballots in Hamilton County as Democrats, and some counties ran out of Republican ballots. Bush won the Ohio primary with 57 percent of the vote."

So it's happened in the past, and I'll bet it'll happen in the future, probably for the Republicans again. What's that they say about the cyclical nature of things?

But it wasn't a big deal for me, because my polling place didn't run out so I didn't have to wait in line. If I did have to wait in line, I might be more upset.

Some of those that waited in line have claimed that the county should have printed up enough ballots based on the assumption that every registered voter would vote for one party or the other. That sounds reasonable to me. The Dealer reports on some precincts finding another solution.

In any case, if we went to all-electronic voting, maybe we wouldn't have these problems.