This past Thursday evening more than 40 people crowded themselves in a meeting room at the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce. The group was a diverse collection of individuals who had gathered for one purpose: to address safety concerns in the Main Street/Mulberry Street/McMicken Street area of Over-the-Rhine. The three policemen and chamber members in attendance could not believe the turnout, and mentioned their pleasant state of surprise several times.
Safety sector meetings like this are held regularly throughout the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood as engaged members of the community look to find out how they can continue to improve their neighborhood. At this particular meeting, the majority of the people in attendance were under the age of 35. The common thread, beyond age, was that they were members of the community, either living in or around the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, who wanted to help make a difference.
The momentous build-up and defeat of Issue 9, the anti-passenger rail amendment, in last year’s local election sparked a wildfire of community activism not seen in this area for some time. For the first time in my relatively young life, I became totally and thoroughly passionate about doing all I could to inform and educate others about the importance of rail transit in Cincinnati. It felt pretty good to be involved in a cause I believed in, and a strong bond was formed between those who spent their time rallying to defeat Issue 9.
Fast forward to today, and there is no doubt that the Cincinnati Streetcar will be built, and the 3C Rail Corridor plan is moving ahead thanks to our efforts to defeat the anti-passenger rail amendment. With these goals accomplished, many of us now must figure out what to do with all this energy, enthusiasm and excitement we have for the urban core.
I challenge you to get involved in your community.
There are countless ways to give your time and effort to strengthen and build your respective neighborhood. From participating in community councils to volunteering to serve with neighborhood groups, getting involved in your community not only builds up the place where you live, but it creates bonds between neighbors and truly builds a sense of camaraderie and sense of place. For too long, too many have chosen to close their doors and picket fences. Electing instead to stay inside a safe, often isolated, bubble of Anytown suburbia. The results have turned neighbors into strangers in cases where it should be anything but.
It is not just Over-the-Rhine that calls for your involvement. There are 52 neighborhoods within the City of Cincinnati, and many more throughout the region, that all have needs, goals, and a heavily established “old guard” that is eventually going to want to retire. The time is now for this generation to become actively involved so that the torch of community responsibility can be passed to us.
As I looked around the room on Thursday evening I was surprised to see that I knew at least a third of the people in attendance. They are not just my friends. They are my neighbors, my community. And we are ready and excited to invest in our area, strengthening Cincinnati and making it an even better place to live.