Third Least Popular? Sure.

The Enquirer points out a Pew Research Study on Social & Demographic Trends that place Cincinnati third from the bottom of a list of cities people would most like to live.

I started this post by trying to point out the flawed methodology in the study, as I usually do for negative reports.  But the methodology was pretty solid.  So I looked at the part of the phone survey that gathered data for this list of cities.  The question went like this:

As I read through the following places, just tell me your first reaction: Would you want to live in this city or its surrounding metropolitan area or NOT want to live there?


READ IF NECESSARY: What’s your first reaction? Would you want to live in [INSERT ITEM] or not want to live there?
IF RESPONDENT SAYS THEY CURRENTLY LIVE IN THIS AREA, PROBE ONCE: “If you had a choice, would you want to live there, or not want to live there?”

So it really becomes a gut answer.  I say a name, you give me your first reaction.  And when I think about what my answers would be, all the superficial reputations I have for cities, good or bad, bubble to the top.

When I hear...  I immediately think of...
New York City Way cool, way hard to live there.
Cleveland Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. River caught on fire.
Dallas Hot, flat, crowded. Um, Texas.
Minneapolis Quite nice. Lakes and forests.
Orlando Hot, flat. Disneyworld. Lots of young people.
Portland Hippies wearing hemp and riding streetcars.
Sacramento Hot, flat, desert. Near Tahoe.
St. Louis Uh, they got that big arch.
Pittsburgh Very scenic. Hills and rivers.
San Diego Beach, beach, beach. First line of defense from Mexico.
Detroit Robocop.
Houston Even hotter than Dallas.
Las Vegas Desert. Water shortages. The Strip of course.
Los Angeles Way cool. Sprawling. Traffic.
San Antonio The Alamo. The Riverwalk. Um, Texas.
Philadelphia East coast, but not too east coast. Still expensive.
Phoenix Desert. Retirees.
Seattle Beautiful scenery. Lots of childless couples with dogs.
Tampa Beach. Retirees?
Washington, D.C. Lots of interesting things going on. Expensive.
Atlanta Big city. Southern hospitality.
Baltimore Inner harbor. Armpit of Washington, D.C.
Boston Scenic waterways. Lots of young people and colleges.
Chicago Scenic lakefront. Big city. Midwestern sensibilities.
Denver Mountains, mountains, mountains.
Kansas City Funny that Kansas City is not in Kansas.
Miami Expensive and pretentious. Pro athletes. Celebrities. Nice weather though.
Riverside Riverside? California? Isn't this just part of L.A.?
San Francisco Gay people. Liberal bastion. Technology.


I put those up very quickly. Now what about Cincinnati?  Obviously, I'm biased, but if really tried to pretend I was an outsider, what are the first things that spring to mind?  WKRP.  Rain man. Conservative.

And that's the problem we, and the likes of Detroit and Cleveland, face.  Of course, Cincinnati is a great place to live for all sorts of people.  But how would you know?   That's the work that's never finished. 

So I believe that Cincinnati might finish third from the bottom in a survey like that, even if I know it's not true. 

State-Of-The-Art Simulation Center... On Short Vine

Soapbox writes about the University of Cincinnati's Simulation Center (UCSC) in collaboration with Procter & Gamble.  The UCSC is a high-performance computing center for simulating products, systems, and processes that are related to P&G product lines.

For some reason, I think it's interesting that it's in the middle of Short Vine, an area I never took for advanced anything, despite its proximity to UC.  Ever since I've been able to drive, Short Vine has conjured up images of tattoo parlors, punk clothing and beauty product stores, Bogart's, and Top Cats.  Now, the only reason I walk the street is when I go to Martino's.

But I guess with all the new Uptown Consortium development on MLK, the area is changing.  I always thought that the Short Vine area would be one of the best neighborhoods to live in a parallel universe.  There is a library, post office, drug store, and grocery store - all the ingredients of a walkable neighborhood.  But of course, it's not one of the best neighborhoods to live in, yet.

In any case, here is the building.  I remember seeing the UCSC building being renovated a few years ago.  I remember thinking to myself, "that's interesting. Somebody's rehabbing that building. I wonder what for?"


View Larger Map

Cincinnati Is Cool

I can't remember where I saw this link, but I always enjoy reading about others' travels to our Queen City. In this edition, Chicago Carless goes into very specific detail about his weekend visit to Cincinnati, and why Cincinnati is cool. There's the usual praise for Skyline and Graeter's. There is also now what has been noticed for a third time by these visiting bloggers: an inexplicable schizophrenic quality to the fabric of the city and its people and almost palpable feeling of potential.

How to parse a city of aesthetic beauty, civic pride, high cultural amenities, and, at the most unexpected times, low social graces?

Again, Cincinnati and its identity crisis. Are we the North or the South? The East or the Midwest? Are we internet or manufacturing? Are we a small town with big city amenities? Or a big city with small town charms? What message does Cincinnati send?

There was no artifice here. Nothing was prettified. Just basic communication passing among familiar faces. Unexpected, a bit shocking in its primal quality. But not out of place. It did make me wonder whether inside the average Queen Citizen beat the heart of a conformer. We may be down, but we’re down together, and as long as we lie low, things can’t get much worse, so let’s just leave well enough alone.

To put it another way, perhaps: in Cincinnati, it is important to work hard, shut up, and do what you're supposed to do. It's why fancy nightclubs get so much guff. It's why people take comfort in things that have been the same and familiar for so long, and why people get upset when the Fountain gets moved 30 ft. to the north. It's why the most successful businesses here are still in manufacturing, consumer goods, and insurance, despite the best efforts of the biotech and internet sectors. It's why change happens so slowly, and it's why people segregate themselves with people who are alike.

However, in Cincinnati, it's also relatively easy to make a difference. If you want to be an up-and-comer, I don't think you have to compete with as many people like you might in other places.

These traits, positive and negative, make Cincinnati what it is: an easy place to live. Cincinnati gives quite a lot and does not ask for much in return. Friendly, inexpensive, and, despite the bellyaching, without lot of big city issues. You have world-class arts and professional sports. You can decide at 4 pm to take in a major-league baseball game at 7 pm that same day. (That may say more about our baseball team than it does our town.) People who move here tend to get stuck here. People who move away tend to come back. At least, that's been my experience.

Like his friend Dan at Park + Vine:

When he told me in 2006 he was ditching his Windy City communications career to open what I figured would be a glorified hemp shop in a marginal nabe of a secondary rust-belt town, I thought he had already begun smoking his product. As I purchased my recycled bicycle-tire wallet with the writing still on it from the happiest man on Vine Street, I knew Dan had made the right decision.

Here is a full list of recent visits to Cincinnati by bloggers.

Streetcars Hit Major Bump In The Road

So a diverse coalition of groups led by the NAACP want to put the streetcar on the ballot.

The NAACP recently launched a petition drive to place an issue on the November ballot that would amend the city’s charter to prevent Cincinnati officials from spending money on the streetcar project without first getting approval from city voters.

I definitely appreciate the sentiment. When the same group of people wanted to put the jail tax on the ballot, to let the people decide, I wholeheartedly agreed because I did not support the jail tax. I voted to put it on the ballot, and when it was, I voted against it (both times). But this time, I find myself on the other side of the coin.

I have quoted lots of evidence in support of streetcars on this blog already. The NAACP's main objection seems to be that there are better uses for the money.

Smitherman believes the money could be better spent elsewhere, such as in neighborhood business districts. Streetcar systems are a risky gamble that have failed in some cities, he says, and Cincinnati’s mostly would benefit people who own property along the proposed route and developers like Towne Properties, which is owned by Bortz’s family.

To be sure, it's a risk, and there are many other ways to spend the money. But let's say we take the $100 million required to build the first phase of the streetcar. The city has 52 neighborhood councils. We could give each neighborhood nearly $2 million dollars - a vast increase in their current dole - and it would certainly be put to good use. But the streetcar is projected to return $1.4 billion dollars in investment, investment that means new residents, new businesses, and higher payroll tax. Big picture here.

Also, the fact that the issue is for support of a charter amendment is a bit weird. To me - and I'm no lawyer - it's as if Congress passes an amendment to the constitution outlawing Amtrak.

In any case, let me clearly state my opinion: if this issue gets on the ballot, the streetcar proposal will fail.

Because while I believe that people are good-intentioned, the masses are dumb. The majority of people who even bother to vote will not even know about all the issues they will vote on until they are in the voting booth. Which means we will have a repeat of the kind of vote that put two stadiums on the riverfront, and of course a repeat of the vote that doomed the light rail initiative in 2002. (BTW, had the light rail initiative passed in 2002, we would have had running streetcars for the past two years already.) If it goes to the ballot, streetcars will not become a reality for at least another decade. And the NAACP has a very good record with getting issues on the ballot.

The streetcar is not a transportation plan. It is a development plan. The point of the streetcar is not to get people where they need to go. It's to get people to stay. It's to get people to live, work, and stay where we want them to stay, namely, in the city. I believe it's a distinction easily lost.

Also see UrbanCincy's strong reaction to the NAACP petition.

I Wonder...

The Enquirer has reported on this Sayler Park couple charged with starving their newborn baby to death.  From browsing the comments, lots of people have jumped all over this couple.  Commenters have called them drug abusers, stupid, the reason for contraception, etc.  All these things could be true.

But after reading the story (and this earlier one) carefully, there's nothing to suggest any of these things.  There was no mention of drugs in the story at all.  The couple had no criminal record (though her uncle and and mother were arrested the same day for bank robbery, which does not look good).  And they had from the sound of it three healthy kids already.  And the story says there was formula in the house.

Maybe they weren't bad people.  Maybe the baby refused food (it happens).  Maybe they were ignorant of their options, didn't have insurance, and were afraid to go to the hospital.  Maybe the baby had a condition. 

Who knows.  There's no way to tell unless personally involved in the case.  The prosecutor must have had additional information, right?

If he did not, then he broke up a decent family and sent three kids to foster care (which is no picnic) for a long time.

Walnut Hills Kroger Staying (For Now)

A little late on this news, but it is worth mentioning.  The Kroger in Walnut Hills will be staying for at least two more years.  After that, who knows.  But it's a good sign. 

Now, imagine if one of the proposed streetcar routes that goes from Downtown/OTR across Broadway Commons and up Gilbert into Walnut Hills was actually built.  I guarantee you Kroger would find a way to keep that store open.

Previous posts on the Walnut Hills Kroger here and here.

Twenty-Five Things

5chw4r7z tagged me, so I must succumb.

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you and post it. At the end, choose 5 people to be tagged. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

I am also fortunate enough to been tagged with the 25-item version, and not the 7-item version that has also been circulating. I don't have much time, so here goes.

  1. I grew up in Northern KY.
  2. I spent two years in Santa Barbara, CA, getting my Masters. I really went so I could live on the beach.
  3. Other than that I have lived in the Cincinnati area my entire life.
  4. I last visited the Philippines in 2000. Need to make time to go again.
  5. I am one-quarter Filipino and three-quarters Chinese.
  6. I speak no foreign languages.
  7. My research area in graduate school was in machine learning and information retrieval.
  8. I once took (and passed) the motorcycle course at Great Oaks. That is the only period of time I've ridden motorcycles.
  9. I have two tattoos (vagaries of youth).
  10. I am an Eagle Scout.
  11. I once wandered around Hong Kong for a week.
  12. I love Northern KY and Cincinnati equally. (Southeast IN can suck it.)
  13. I am exactly 6' tall.
  14. I maintained a personal blog from 1997 to 2005, writing 246 entries. Only, in 1997, they weren't called "blogs," they were called "online diaries."
  15. On that note, once I discovered "the web" in college I couldn't stop. I spent hours in the computer lab hand-coding websites in HTML, learning vi and Unix in the process. I like to think all those sleepless nights did some good for my career. It certainly did not for my social life.
  16. I am a pretty good hearts player.
  17. I am stalling after 16 items.
  18. I have over 70 first cousins, but I don't see any of them very much.
  19. I could talk about software for hours, but no one would listen.
  20. In another life, I would be an illustrator.
  21. I would love to write a book (but wouldn't all bloggers?). I could go fiction or non-fiction, either way.
  22. I can competently water ski, downhill ski, wakeboard, snowboard, ice skate, and mountain bike. I have skydived, scuba dived, white-water rafted, and rock climbed at least once.
  23. I played basketball in high school. Never started varsity except for senior night.
  24. I started Make Cincinnati Weird and the Cincinnati Dealer.
  25. The Dealer was a ton of fun, and, at its peak received 300 visits a day and was mentioned in several print publications and once on radio.

I'm tagging Ashish, Mike, Kevin, Maya, and Gina, mainly because they are all in my feed reader and have not been tagged yet.