In Ohio, Columbus and Cincinnati exceed national average for college graduates

As the economy of the United States continues to become more knowledge-based, it is important to have a well-educated work force. The new data, released by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that Columbus (32.9%) and Cincinnati (29.6%) come in above the national average (28.5%) when it comes to the percent of individuals who are 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree. More from The Business Journals:

The U.S. Census Bureau, which keeps track of everybody’s progress, has just issued its latest update on educational attainment. These are its estimates for the 206.5 million Americans who were 25 or older as of last year. 177.4 million (85.9 percent) hold high school diplomas, and 58.9 million (28.5 percent) also hold bachelor’s degrees…It’s common to find areas where at least 90 percent of all adults have high school diplomas.

$450,000 donation from Duke Energy to advance construction at Smale Riverfront Park

Thanks to a $450,000 donation from Duke Energy, the Cincinnati Park Board will be able to move forward more quickly with the development of what was previously called the Main Street Garden at the Smale Riverfront Park.

The area is located immediately south of Great American Ball Park, and is now called the Duke Energy Garden. The narrow piece of park space is expected to be completed by spring 2013, and will connect the Smale Riverfront Park with additional riverfront parkland to the east (Sawyer Point, Bicentennial Commons, Theordore M. Berry International Friendship Park).

The Duke Energy Garden will include 12 “family-sized” porch swings, walking paths, and will help connect the Smale Riverfront Park with additional riverfront parks to the east. Rendering provided.

According to Cincinnati Park Board officials, this connection will be further established with the completion of the Ohio River Trail to Paddlewheel Park in fall 2013.

“The Cincinnati riverfront is more than just an entryway into our community,” Julie Janson, President of Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky, stated at a Monday morning press conference. “It serves as the front porch to Ohio. That’s why Duke Energy, through our foundation, is happy to be able to support the creation of the Duke Energy Garden in the new Smale Riverfront Park.”

According to park officials, the Duke Energy Garden will include 87 trees, thousands of smaller plantings, walking paths, a 150-foot granite seat wall, and 12 “family-sized” porch swings.

The porch swings will be suspended from “undulating” pergolas that will also offer park-users a bit of shade and protection from the elements while enjoying the swings, which have long been anticipated at the park due to their popularity elsewhere throughout the country.

Three additional phases of work are planned to follow the completion of the Duke Energy Garden at Smale Riverfront Park. Image provided.

“Duke Energy’s commitment to the vitality of this region has been demonstrated again and again by the company’s substantial investments in economic development, education, environmental and energy efficiency efforts throughout the region,” said Willie F. Carden, Jr., Director of Cincinnati Parks. “The establishment of the Duke Energy Garden in Smale Riverfront Park is another such gift that will provide a stunning new public greenspace in Greater Cincinnati’s grand new front yard.”

The majority of phase one work at the Smale Riverfront Park was completed in May 2012, but several features of phase one have yet to be funded or built, in addition to future phases of park construction to the west. Some of those features include a transient boat dock, playgrounds, additional gardens and tree groves, a carousel, and more promenades and fountains connecting the central riverfront park with the Ohio River.

Three additional phases of construction work will take place following the completion of the Duke Energy Garden, and it is expected that once fully built out that Smale Riverfront Park will attract approximately 1.1 million visitors annually.

Will the passage of Issue 4 pave the way for a future ward-based council?

Cincinnati’s sweeping 1924 voter-approved charter reforms were designed to enable the ouster of the Boss Cox Machine, and continue to form the framework of today’s municipal government. Although the new charter’s proponents, especially Murray Seasongood, celebrated the supposed perfection of their replacement City Manager System, the new city government was not designed for the long-term benefit of the citizenry so much as to keep the Cox Machine from returning to power in the 1927 or 1929 elections.

Since being implemented, the city manager and a nine-member council have remained a constant, but important features of the 1924 reforms have since been eliminated or replaced one-by-one by periodic voter-approved charter amendments.

Proportional representation ended in 1957, eight-year council term limits were introduced in 1991, and an independently elected mayor began in 1999.

Will the passage of Issue 4 pave the way for even more political reforms at City Hall?

The charter reforms destroyed the Cox Machine by changing nearly every feature of municipal government with the notable exception of council’s two-year term. Under Cox, an executive mayor reigned over a 32-seat council that was under machine control – although there might be significant turnover in a particular council election, new personnel had no real effect on the city’s direction.

With two-year terms, Cincinnati’s reform charter “good government” become chronically susceptible to flip-flopping and obstructionism due to at-large elections, the disappearance of the executive mayor, and tying the hands of a political machine that controlled who could run for council and how they voted once installed.

Issue 4, which is prominently discussed with Terry Grundy during Episode 11 of The UrbanCincy Podcast, promises to stabilize and therefore improve the effectiveness of city government by replacing the chaotic two-year election cycle with four-year terms held in the same years as mayoral elections. This arrangement will enable a mayor to set a four-year agenda he or she determines practical given the makeup of council. The charter language reads:

“Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to provide that the members of City Council shall be elected at-large for four-year terms by amending existing Sections 4, 5 and 5a of Article II, “Legislative Power”, existing Section 3 of Article III, “Mayor”, existing Sections 1, 2a and 2b of Article IX, “Nominations and Elections”, and existing Sections 1, 4 and 7 of Article XIII, “Campaign Finance”?”

The current eight-year term limits, enacted in 1991, will remain in effect. However, those new councilmen elected in 2011 including Yvette Simpson (D), Christopher Smitherman (I), P.G. Sittenfeld (D), Chris Seelbach (D), and Wendell Young (D) will be able to keep seats for a total of ten years if they are reelected in 2013 and 2017. While Roxanne Qualls (C) is eligible for a four-year term following three two-year terms, it is expected that she will run for mayor rather than council in 2013.

Opposing Arguments
Opponents have cast Issue 4 as a “power grab” by those currently holding seats on council. They also claim that council members should have to “face the voters” every two years, insinuating that council is inherently susceptible to corruption while ignoring the obstructionism that is enflamed by the two-year election cycle. Opponents also claim that short terms force council members to engage the city’s neighborhoods every two years as part of their reelection efforts.

Other opponents, including The Cincinnati Herald, argue that Cincinnati City Council should serve two-year terms because the U.S. and Ohio House of Representatives serve two-year terms. However, the U.S. and Ohio House are each one arm of bicameral legislatures – Everett, MA is the only remaining U.S. municipality with a bicameral city council.

Reappearance of Wards?
Issue 4 opponents have also argued against four-year terms by suggesting that switching City Council to a ward system will lead to better neighborhood representation and better city governance overall.

Under the current at-large system, many of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods are being ignored in favor of Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, ward system advocates claim. The true motivation for wards, however, appears to be an attempt to break up the current Democrat majority, several of whom reside Downtown and in Over-the-Rhine.

If Issue 4 passes this November, we might see an effort in 2013 for sweeping charter reforms, including wards, intended to disrupt the potential eight-year tenure of Roxanne Qualls as mayor and a majority Democrat-led city council.

Those who would like to learn more about the Boss Cox era of politics in Cincinnati can do so by reading Jake Mecklenborg’s book, Cincinnati’s Incomplete Subway: The Complete History, which profiles how the charter reform government, led by Murray Seasongood, smeared the subway project in its efforts to embarrass Boss Cox.

What happens when urban farms get too big?

Urban farms are all the rage nowadays. Cities across North America have been incorporating them into the cityscape to fill the void left behind by shuttered industry, or abandoned housing. While the benefits seem to have been fully vetted, is there a risk to allowing urban farms to grow too large? More from Grist:

More than a few environmentalists have argued that urban farms must remain small or risk suburbanizing the city. One of the most prominent is Kaid Benfield, a smart-growth guru with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Benfield worries that urban farming, if practiced on a large scale, will dilute the walkability and density that defines cities.

“I support the growing of food in cities, and have even done it myself,” Benfield cautions. But it should be done in ways that support urbanism and not displace it…I’m not sure we’re talking about a city any more if we’re going to have fields of 20 acres and more.” By seeding large farms in the city, he says, “we risk locking in long-term environmental problems in terms of not having a healthy urban core. Central cities are starting to revive.”

One problem is that most of the best para-urban land (or land just outside cities) — which was once seen as ideal for growing food without huge transportation costs — has already been swallowed up by suburban development.

Episode #11: Urban Politics

On the eleventh episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Terry Grundy joins the UrbanCincy team to discuss urban politics, both in terms of the current election season and larger issues facing America’s cities.

We discuss the pros and cons Cincinnati’s Issue 4 and how big of an effect it would actually have on city politics. We also discuss some of the historical changes to the offices of the mayor and city council in Cincinnati.

Additionally, we talk about Issue 2 and how redistricting affects cities. Terry explains why political parties have taken different positions on cities, and why urban issues didn’t come up in this year’s presidential debates.

Finally, we discuss how other political issues, such as gun control and improving public schools, influence (or are influenced by) our cities.

Photo by Gary Jungling on Flickr.