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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grammer's Closes; Some don't care.

Cross-posted on the OTR Blog

Why should we be upset when an establishment we don’t frequent closes?

I recently saw a Twitter conversation between two people regarding the closing of Grammer’s in OTR. The twitterers (who will remain nameless) went back and forth with the one (person 1) saying they were sad (for the neighborhood) about the news and the other person (person 2) saying that those who didn’t frequent Grammer’s shouldn’t be upset because they weren’t affected by the closing.

Before I get in to the reasons why person 2’s logic is flawed, let’s establish a few things. Grammer’s was a neighborhood establishment. It had been there for over 130 years and was the only business in that general vicinity.

When ever a neighborhood establishment closes, we should all be saddened. Churches, schools, restaurants, bars, stores, and others all serve to anchor neighborhoods. They provide jobs, services, food, recreation, or other goods for the community’s residents and visitors.

The sudden closing of Grammer’s should sadden everyone for numerous reasons:

  1. The employees are now unemployed and were given no notice.
  2. That corner will now be more dangerous with a closed business there and no eyes on the street to police the area.
  3. The landmark building will now sit vacant, possibly declining in condition as no one monitors it.
  4. We now have one less business in OTR, a neighborhood working hard to improve its image.

Notice none of these four reasons are “I can’t go there now to enjoy a beer!!” Reasons like this are selfish and have no place in our community. While I didn’t frequent Grammer’s often, I will still miss being able to go there and get a beer. They were one of a few places that had Christian Moerlein’s Barbarossa on tap.

So before you say that people can’t be upset about a business closing because they didn’t go to it, move beyond selfish thinking, and look at how it affects the community and others.

What ever happened to empathy??

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Harry's Law

I finally got around to watching the first episode of Harry's Law. I DVR'd it because with school and everything, I rarely have time to watch shows during their regular schedule.

Anyway... I thought it was good. I know most Cincinnatians are going to say "but it portrays Cincinnati in a negative light!" How so? Does Law & Order portray New York in a negative light? Does CSI? No.

This show could be set anywhere in America. I think the story-line, while a little contrived, was inspiring. Kathy Bates is an amazing actress, and she portrays her character well. I think there is a lot of potential for growth with the plot, and it will be interesting to see where the producers go with it.

I should be getting around to watching the first two episodes of Police Women of Cincinnati soon, too. So busy...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Michelle Obama to blame for increase in pedestrian deaths??

The Governor's Highway Safety Association released the following statement about the increase in pedestrian deaths:

First lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to get people to exercise outdoors might be a factor in an increase in the number of pedestrian deaths during the first half of last year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. GHSA executive director Barbara Harsha said her organization doesn’t know why there were more deaths in the first six months of 2010 than in 2009, but the increase is notable because overall traffic fatalities went down 8 percent during this period, and the increase ends four straight years of steady declines in pedestrian deaths. But the “get moving” movement, led by Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to eliminate childhood obesity, could be to blame, Harsha told The Washington Examiner.

The GHSA laying blame for increased pedestrian deaths upon First Lady Michelle Obama's Get Moving campaign is completely deplorable and disgusting. The real problem is the structural deficiencies in roadway and streets design that ignore the safety and security of pedestrians by promoting the fast and efficient movement of automobile.

Until the highway engineers get it in their heads that pedestrian safety come first on American roadways, we will only hear more about this. Laying the blame on campaigns to reduce obesity will continue to be commonplace.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Police Women of Cincinnati

On Thursday, January 13, 2011 "Police Women of Cincinnati" premiers on TLC. This is the 5th installment of the Police Women franchise after Broward County, Maricopa County, Memphis, and Dallas. Below is the description of the show from the website:

"The latest installment of the hit POLICE WOMEN franchise moves to Cincinnati, Ohio - The Queen City - to follow four highly respected female officers with the Cincinnati Police Department. These fearless women will encounter intense cop drama and action as they patrol some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America, all while balancing kids, significant others, and life at home."

Let me first say that I very much respect the hard work that our men and women in blue do. It is a difficult job with long hours, and to also balance a family and home life can be quite a feat at times. To be a woman in this job is even more difficult because you have to deal with stereotypes and overcoming possible sexism and disrespect.

The description from TLC saying that these women "patrol some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America" is playing fast and loose with the facts. They do not cite where this information came from, leading many to assume this is true when in fact, it is based on a flawed survey from from 2009 declaring that a small section of Over the Rhine was the most dangerous neighborhood in America. This survey was refuted by HERE. This past year (2010), Over the Rhine moved down this same list, but was again analyzed and refuted by HERE.

At a time when Over the Rhine is experiencing a resurgence with new bars and restaurants opening (MOTR, Neon's, Joe's, Lavomatic, Senate, Venice on Vine, Lackman, etc), new apartments and condos (Parvis, Lackman, Trideca, Trinity Flats, Duveneck, etc), other investments by 3CDC, and the streetcar beginning construction soon, this show can only harm the growth and increased investment in the neighborhood. I struggle every day to educate my friends about the facts of the neighborhood, and how the area is safer and cleaner than it was 6 years ago when I moved to Cincinnati.

This show is not going to discourage me from moving to and investing in OTR because I spend time there and know the neighborhood. However, the people in our region who rely only on the news reports on TV (many of which wrongly report locations of crimes), reality shows, and our biased hometown paper never get the facts. They are fed the sensationalist line that OTR is a dangerous haven of prostitution, murder, and other crimes and they blindly believe these reports.

When I tell people my experiences about the neighborhood they look at me sideways like I am some sort of crazed fool. While it has been a challenge convincing Elyse to look at apartments in OTR (I understand the hesitance) but she is willing to learn and experience and look past the sensationalism. We are already concerned that many of our friends from the burbs or other neighborhoods aren't going to be willing to visit us if we live there.

With this show coming online, people from the suburbs around Cincinnati are not going to want to spend time in OTR and people from outside the region are not going to want to move to Cincinnati. I'm afraid this show will be seriously damaging to Cincinnati's reputation. In the world of PR and marketing, perception is reality unfortunately. However, we should be working to make perceptions match the reality that OTR is a much improved neighborhood with a bright future.

As part of an ongoing blog series here, I will watch each episode and post my reactions afterward. I have DVR, so it may not be the same day, but I am interested in seeing how they portray this city that I love so much. One good thing I can see coming from this are some beautiful footage of Cincinnati.

In the meantime, I challenge all of YOU to watch a few episodes of the show and then go down to OTR and patronize one of the many establishments down there. If you need any recommendations, let me know!

Monday, January 3, 2011

BRT in Cincinnati?

City Council has a pending motion in the Livable Communities Committee to require the City Manager to work with SORTA to develop a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that works with current services and the proposed Streetcar system.

BRT allows more efficient use of buses and mimics light-rail by putting buses on exclusive rights-of-way.* Other systems implemented elsewhere have riders pay fares at the stops so that boarding is quicker and stops are set up more like rail platforms, giving a more comfortable experience for riders. Examples of this can be seen HERE, showing the level platforms more often associated with subway and rail, and HERE, showing a bus pulling up to a fully enclosed station. 

The motion would allow the City Manager to coordinate planning with SORTA, seek federal funding, and implement the plan. According to Metro, it would take about 4 years to implement. Federal funding is available and was used by cities like Chicago and Cleveland in the Midwest.

The motion identifies preferred routing along I-75 and 71, Reading Rd, Vine St, MLK, Madison, Queen City Blvd, and Harrison Rd and along publicly owned and abandoned rail rights-of-way.

What has me most excited about this is the use of abandoned rights-of-way. When I was in a studio in Spring of 2010, we worked on creating a comprehensive fixed rail transit system for the Cincinnati region. A major point of our routing was to use the existing public rights-of-way for the light-rail and commuter rail components. (Docs can be found HERE. From the link look at each separate neighborhood board. I will post the full map soon.)

It would be incredibly forward-thinking for council to leverage these existing rights-of-way for use in BRT. If, in the future, more money became available for true commuter rail and light rail lines, the BRT along the rail line and throughout the city could be converted to rail lines.

BRT is a great choice for today because it runs similarly to light rail with lower capital costs. It is not a true substitute for light rail, however. Conversion to true light rail in the future would be a best case scenario.

* BRT runs on exclusive rights-of-way through a majority of their routing in most cases. This can mean anything from dedicated bus lanes alongside other vehicles as seen in this rendering of a proposed BRT line in New York or completely separate from other vehicular travel along independent rights-of-way as show in THIS image of a BRT line in Cambridge, UK.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saying Good-bye to 2010 and Hello to 2011

In 2010, a lot has occurred. 

  1. Straights As for first time in college
  2. Got admitted in to DAAP
  3. Got a new job
  4. 3 years with the girlfriend
  5. Had my first car accident
  6. Volunteered with the Tarbell for County Commish Campaign
  7. Lost 50 lbs
  8. Started biking
  9. Started running
  10. Spent my first New Year's Eve party outside the house.
It was a great year overall. I accomplished a lot: had a few setbacks and a few firsts. 

For 2011, there are going to be a lot of changes in my life. I'm going to be graduating from college finally, and I'll be shoved headlong in to the working world. With that comes having to pay back student loans, being completely independent from mom and dad, and the uncertainty of the current job market. Elyse and I will also be moving. I really want to live in OTR, but we'll see... 

2011 is going to be scary, but I have a few goals I want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

  1. Get more involved in my community - I live in CUF, but will be moving in August. I want to get involved with a community council and activism. There are a lot of good things happening in Cincinnati, and I want to be a part of it.
  2. Network - I want to use every opportunity I have to network with new people and reach out and get involved with the things I am passionate about.
  3. Post on this blog at least 5 times per week - This one will be tough because school is going to be busy this winter quarter. I also need to complete this full website and put up my full portfolio.
  4. Lose 20 lbs - This is last bit of weight I want to lose. I want to have it off by March. This will make my total weight loss 70 lbs, from 220 to 150. 
  5. Complete my "30-by-30" list - Elyse and I are working on compiling lists of the 30 major things we want to accomplish before we turn 30. We're both turning 25 this year and have absolutely no idea what we want to do with the rest of our lives. By putting these lists together, we hope to at least know want we want to do in the next 5 years.
  6. Travel - I want to go to Chicago (never been) and Phoenix. My sister lives in Phoenix, AZ and has been bugging me to go visit. 
  7. Get a full time job - I'd love to have a full time job right after I graduate in my field, but I know the chances of that are relatively low. But I'm definitely going to try.
  8. Bike over 4000 miles this year - I love biking, and I've seen larger part of the city from my bike seat this past year. I think 4k miles is an ambitious but achievable goal.
  9. Run as many 5Ks and 10Ks as I can - I've found a love for running, so I want to maximize this as much as possible.
  10. Learn to dance - I'm thinking salsa dancing, maybe some ballroom-style dancing, swing dancing; I want to know how to dance when the opportunity arises, feel confident, and not look like a fool on the dance floor. I know Elyse will appreciate this one. 
I'm looking forward to a new year with new opportunities, challenges and rewards. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So Cincinnati City Council Passes a Budget...

... and its complete crap.

Yet again they are using one time stop-gap measures to fix problems cause by structural instability. You don't fix a building and call it habitable after the wall fell out by putting up a wooden beam and some plastic to cover the hole. And we can't continue to do this with the budget. Council needs to take a good hard look at all the programs, expenses, and sources of income in the budget and identify where savings can be had, where investments need to be made to secure increased future revenue, and look at what departments need to be right-sized.

I hope council begins working on next year's budget very soon, otherwise, we will be in this same position a year from now. I doubt they will make many difficult decisions, though, since election year approaches, and many fear for their jobs. They should.

It's only a matter of time before the whole building comes crashing down.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

$5 /gallon Gas by 2012??

The former President of Shell Oil is saying that Americans could be paying as much at $5 per gallon of gasoline by the year 2012. (Link Here) One other person quoted in the article stated that while he doesn't think that we'll see $5 per gallon by 2012, he does expect it within the next decade. 

What does this mean for Cincinnati?

For starters, the city currently supports no mode of transportation (other than bike) that doesn't run on petroleum-based fuels. This means that the populace is limited to modes that will be getting more and more expensive to operate. What we will see happen is increases in the costs of goods and services in the region. Because most products are delivered to their final destinations via truck, their costs are tied to the cost of transportation and the costs of fuel.

Currently, transportation costs range from under 15% to 20% of a household's annual income (HAI) within the City. Outside the city it ranges from 20%-28%. Housing costs average in the 15%-25% throughout most of the city. (Source) As fuel prices rise, more and more of a HAI will be used for transportation. With housing costs fairly stable currently, these increased costs will eat away at money that would be spend on other goods.

Since we already determined that those other goods are going to also get more expensive, this means that the households are going to have less money to spend on ever-more-expensive goods and services. 

How can we prepare?

The city needs transportation options that run on fuels other than petroleum based diesel and gasoline. Fixed-guideway transit such as streetcars, subway, and lightrail all run on electricity. As gas prices continue to increase, people will look more and more to alternatives to driving for their commuting needs. 

Cincinnati is currently planning on installing what is to be the first phase of a (hopefully) multi-phase multi-modal transportation system. The streetcar will work with existing Metro service to provide incentives for people to live and work in the center city where housing and transit costs are lower. Future projects that are already being explored include Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along major corridors and additional extensions of the streetcar lines. 

What can you do?

Call, email, snail mail our councilmembers and tell them that you support increased transit options and want transportation to continue to be a priority in this city.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Favorite Things - In Pictures!

I figure I should do a photo-list of some of my favorite things. Some are in Cincinnati, some are back home. All the pictures were taken over the last few years with my Canon point and shoot. Enjoy:


Shelly - 11 years old. My favorite Calico. She's at my parent's house
Caley - 6 years old, I think. Also at my parent's house. I'm her favorite. When I'm at my parent's house she never leaves me and sleeps in the bed with me.
Ozzy - 3 years old. At the parent's house. Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The MOST energetic dog ever. And I'm allergic to his slobber.
Death Ray - 5 years old. My old roommate, Nick, and I got her when we lived on Euclid with some other guys. When she was a kitten, she would dart around the house and up and down the stairs. The name came from the fact that she seemed like she would take out anything in her path... like a death ray.
Maddy - 3 years old. Had her when Nick and I lived together. Two years ago, I gave her to my grandma. She is now much fatter.
 Plants (One of my new-found passions is horticulture):
             My mom's gardens:

           Krohn Conservatory:

West End and Queensgate with Union Terminal featured
Western Hills Viaduct
Fountain Square
Carew Tower - Where I currently work on the 28th and 29th floors
AND my beautiful girlfriend, Elyse
 New York City:
Chrysler Building from Empire State Building
Cincinnati in NYC
Grand Central Station
Church... can't remember which one now. St. Patrick's?

Hotel from Home Alone 
Elyse at her 24th bday at Murphy's Pub in Clifton Heights. <3
I love urban 'ruins' - I spotted this in Eden Park.
Old Cincinnati Water Works building in Eden Park. I believe this building was the control building for the old reservoirs that were next door in the park.
Old retaining walls from the previously mentioned retaining walls.
Old wall that contained the lower reservoir.
This photo reminds me of something one might find in Rome or Greece.
Union Terminal - a beautiful art deco building. Formerly was the major train station for Cincinnati. Now houses the Cincinnati History Museum, Natural History Museum, Children's Museum, Cincinnati Historical Society, Omnimax Theatre, and Amtrak station with 3 day-per-week service with the Cardinal. Maybe someday we will see real passenger rail service return to this grand building
View from inside the rotunda. 
Nipper Stadium - one of the oldest college football stadiums in the country. Home of the University of Cincinnati Bearcats Football Team... and the Bearcat Bands

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brent Spence Bridge

There was an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer today regarding the Brent Spence Bridge rebuild project.

2011 a big year for Brent Spence plans

"After years of talk but very little action tangible to the public, 2011 should be the year when Greater Cincinnatians and Northern Kentuckians finally learn what a new Brent Spence Bridge will look like.
People also can expect to see how the interstates leading to the bridge on both sides of the Ohio River will be reconfigured, where new entrance and exit ramps will be built, and which homes and businesses might be displaced by one of the biggest public works projects in the region's history.
"Even the glacial-paced timetable that envisions the new bridge being completed by 2022 assumes there will be no major financing or design snags and that none of the dozens of things that could go wrong on a $2.3 billion-plus project will cause delays, an iffy proposition for a development of such magnitude."
When I read the article in the paper, I was hoping to see some mention of transit in the article. The only use of the word was mention of the Transportation Reauthorization Bill that will need to be passed this upcoming year. I am still holding out hope that there will be inclusion of right-of-way or infrastructure for future light rail connection from Downtown Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky and possibly on to the airport. 
With the project being estimated to cost $2.3 BILLION, it would only make sense to include provisions for mass transit. There have been recent studies (here, here, and here) that have shown that driving is on the decline, and with gas prices expecting to rise ever higher (here, here, and here in the coming years, forward thinking transportation planning would behoove area engineers and planners regarding this project. The combination of higher prices and younger people generally driving less will have two impacts: the projection of higher vehicular traffic in the next 20 years will most likely not be met, and the demand for more transportation options - including fixed rail transit - is going to increase drastically. 
What is also frustrating is that fact that we have, between I-471 and I-71/75, 6 Ohio River bridges - 2 interstate, 1 pedestrian, and 3 local vehicular. The Taylor-Southgate, Roebling Suspension, and Clay Wade Bailey Bridges are relatively under-travelled. It is my opinion that it would be possible to route more local vehicle traffic to these three bridges and reduce the travel demand on the Brent Spence. This could potential save the region billions of dollars and prevent the construction nightmare that will exist over the next 10 years while construction on the new span occurs. 
This money would be much better spent by putting it toward a comprehensive regional commuter or light rail system that is integrated with local bus and streetcar service. This combination of services would serve the suburban commuters who work in the city as well as provide convenient and efficient local transportation options for the residents of the city to complete day-to-day tasks, travel to work, and visit friends and family.