Voting and participating in the democratic process is a fundamental element of our democracy.
This is your chance as a citizen to vote for those people you would like to represent you on Cincinnati City Council and the Cincinnati Board of Education. These are the people that will decide how to spend your tax dollars. These are the people that will chart the course for the city. These are the people that will decide how to represent you to others around the country and world.
This is important.
There are many significant issues on today’s ballot. Issue 1 is asking voters to renew a tax levy for the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library. Issue 2 is requesting a tax levy renewal to provide maintenance funds for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens. And Issue 4 is seeking to majorly overhaul how the City of Cincinnati manages its pension system.
These are important issues.
In terms of representatives, voters in Cincinnati will elect a new mayor for the first time in eight years. They will also elect nine council members who, for the first time, will serve four-year terms.
These decisions are important.
As a result of continued state funding cuts for local governments, a wide array of school levies and other tax levies are on the ballot in communities across the region. Will these resources receive the funding they need, or will they experience trickle-down cuts from the state level?
That is an important question to answer.
There are 381 polling locations (find your voting location) serving Hamilton County’s 545 precincts, and each location is open today from 6:30am to 7:30pm.
Many experts believe that the turnout for today’s election will be less than 40% of registered voters. This and all elections are important. Make sure you get out there today and vote for the candidates you feel will best represent you, and support the issues you feel are important and add value to our community. It is your right and privilege as a citizen to do so. Vote.
During the month of August, UrbanCincy covered several new developments and events in the city’s urban core. We also published two editorials that generated much response from our readers and the local community. Our top 5 most popular stories for August 2013 were:
For years local officials and civic boosters have been calling for the merging of local government operations. A core issue that has not been discussed, however, is that of merging local municipalities entirely.
In Hamilton County there are 49 different political jurisdictions ranging from a few hundred people to approximately 300,000 in the City of Cincinnati. That is approximately 16,334 people per political jurisdiction. Certainly we are not serving our residents in the most effective and prudent way when there is so much fragmentation.
Many of the smaller communities, with just a few hundred a couple thousand people, have recently fallen on more difficult financial times. Both Arlington Heights (population 745) and Elmwood Place (population 2,188) have been embroiled in scandals revolving around their use of speed traps and cameras to generate revenue.
Smaller jurisdictions throughout Hamilton County should be merged with larger ones like Cincinnati and Cleves. Map by Nate Wessel for UrbanCincy.
“The Village Council needs to seriously consider dissolving the Village of Arlington Heights,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters proclaimed after the two theft indictments. “The Village seems to be nothing more than a speed trap with no checks and balances…Consolidating with another political subdivision is long overdue.”
In other cases, like Silverton (population 4,788), the jurisdictions have become so small that they can no longer be considered a city.
There are certainly some efficiencies to be gained by merging local police and fire departments in smaller communities throughout our region, but merging entire municipalities will reap much bigger savings.
In Hamilton County, some 15 communities could be easily folded into the City of Cincinnati. Many of these municipalities already are served by Cincinnati Public Schools and are either adjacent to, or completely surrounded by, Cincinnati’s city limits.
Most of these 15 municipalities have less than 5,000 people, and would surely benefit from the much broader public services offered by the City of Cincinnati. Larger cities like Norwood (population 19,207), Reading (population 10,385), and Cheviot (population 8,375) would also see improved public services and improved financial stability.
Furthermore, it would put an end to the many economic development incentive battles that are waged across these arbitrary political boundaries.
Each of the 15 communities could continue to maintain its identity by becoming a new official neighborhood within the City of Cincinnati, which would see its population grow by more than 77,000 people as a result, as they essentially function now in the region’s urban fabric. This would allow these places to stay true to their roots while also gaining more political clout, improved financial stability and public services, and expanded opportunities within a much larger political jurisdiction.
State budget cuts are continuing to cut into the core of local public operations, and at some point each of these communities will reach a point where “belt-tightening” will no longer achieve the savings needed to remain financially productive.
Plus, if you community’s sole purpose for maintaining its separate political jurisdiction is to maintain those positions, then it might be time to rethink your reason for being.
The apartment building known as St. Leger was built in 1905 and is situated at the intersection of Gilbert Avenue and St. Leger Place. The building has long been known as a problem property in the city, but is now being redeveloped by The Model Group.
The existing building and its 81 units for low-income renters had been the location of many criminal problems including being the scene of the city’s first homicide this year.
The process started late last year when the building was purchased by The Model Group. The original plan was to partially renovate the building and tear the rest down, but over time the developers have decided to move forward with a full-scale demolition of the property in order to make way for new construction.
“It wasn’t a positive space,” Thea Munchel, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation (WHRF) real estate development officer told UrbanCincy, “The development that Model Group is proposing will transform Five-Points and rejuvenate Evanston.”
While the WHRF focuses primarily on Walnut Hills, its coverage area also includes this part of Evanston as well as some other neighborhoods adjacent to the historic neighborhood.
The new development’s name, St. Ambrose Apartments, was chosen to honor Evanston’s reputation in the educating community after the Patron Saint of Learning.
According to the developers, St. Ambrose Apartments will have 26 new townhouses and flats – a net reduction of 55 residential units – and will contain one-, two- and three-bedroom units priced at an affordable level for families. Developers also say that they will be working toward LEED certification for the proejct.
Work on the project began yesterday and the development is anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2014.
“Demolition of this longtime problem property is emblematic of the turnaround in Evanston that is happening right before our eyes,” said Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls (C), who launched her mayoral campaign just blocks away. “It illustrates the impact that one problem property can have on an entire neighborhood. This is a great day for Evanston.”
The $120 million Smale Riverfront Park will celebrate its next wave of progress two months from now when the Women’s Committee Garden and Duke Energy Garden are opened to the public – more than doubling the central riverfront park’s completed acreage.
According to officials from the Cincinnati Park Board, the project is still on-time and on-budget thanks to an influx of private contributions.
Originally, park officials had planned on approximately half of the project’s cost being covered by state and federal funds. While those funds flowed early in the project’s life, they have all but dried up over the past two years.
“We got into this pretty aware of what the challenges were, but the biggest challenges thus far have probably been the state and federal funding,” stated Smale Riverfront Park’s project manager, Dave Prather. “It’s been a pretty big adjustment when half of the funding you were counting on hasn’t come, but thanks to the private funding we’ve been able to stay pretty much on schedule.”
Prather says that the city leadership understands the realities facing both their state and federal partners, but that without the private and local support the project would most likely be behind schedule.
He is, however, optimistic that things will turn around and says that the park board is working on other ways to get state and federal dollars. One such element that could be the beneficiary of such efforts is the planned 1,000-foot transient boat dock which may be eligible for up to $3 million in grants from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Watercraft.
Should such funding fall into place, Prather says that the boat dock could be operational as early as May or July 2015.
“We received $3 million in the State capital fund three years ago, and that’s what we thought we would get as we worked through the phasing plan,” Prather explained. “Hopefully the state will get back in the business of being able to help with significant capital projects.”
That $4 million will go towards accelerating the construction timeline of phase four of construction work which will now include the PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground and carousel. According to Prather, both of these projects will now be completed by May 2015 – in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
One of the features that will be open in two months is the new riverwalk, of sorts, that will run from the Walnut Street Overlook approximately to Sycamore Street immediately south of Great American Ball Park. One of the key features of this riverwalk, Prather notes, is that the guardrails will be 48 inches in height instead of 42 inches so that both pedestrians and bicyclists can enjoy the pathway.
“Our observation has been that you can’t tell cyclists where to go,” said Prather who noted that he is an avid cyclist himself. “So we’re going to construct the closest to the river pathway to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists – right where they both want to be.”
While much work is left to do, both in terms of construction and securing funds to continue construction, the project team maintains excitement for the transformation they are overseeing.
“I’ve been an architect and a planner for the city for years, and a lot of the time you spend a lot of time and energy on plans that don’t get built,” Prather concluded. “This one [project] is different…we’re just on a roll and it’s awesome to have ideas that everyone embraces, you feel right about what you’re building, and you get the resources to actually build it. We’ve gotten a lot of cooperation from the city and county, and I feel like we’re all rowing in the same direction.”
Officials hope to complete the 45-acre park in its entirety by July 2017, excluding improvements to the river’s edge that will need to be coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Cincinnati region scores better in several metrics that most American cities with regards to commuting patterns.
That is according to new study released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Out-of-State & Long Commutes, which shows that Cincinnatians spend three fewer minutes commuting each way when compared to the average American. The study also finds that only 2.9% of Cincinnatians spend more than 60 minutes one-way during their commute, as compared to the 8.1% national average.
“It is well known that Hamilton County draws a lot of commuters to work,” said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau statistician who studies commuting.
The draw of Hamilton County is strong. According to the Bureau, more than 188,000 people commute to and from Hamilton County each day, placing it at the top end of the spectrum in the U.S. Within Hamilton County, however, the East Side has it better off with lower average commute times, by about five minutes, as compared to the West Side.
The study also found that a mere 3.9% of Hamilton County commuters used public transportation in 2011. The rate of public transportation use is slightly lower than the national 5% average, and also does not take into account recent ridership increases that have outpaced national gains.
“The average travel time for workers who commute by public transportation is higher than that of workers who use other modes,” McKenzie continued. “For some workers, using transit is a necessity, but others simply choose a longer travel time over sitting in traffic.”
Due to the lack of a comprehensive regional transit system, approximately 79.3% of Cincinnatians are stuck behind the wheel of a car by themselves, and another 9.2% are carpooling to work each day.
The data for the study came from the American Community Survey (ACS), which collects information on education, occupation, language, ancestry, housing costs and transportation. The ACS has been ongoing in some form since 1850, approximately 60 years after the nation’s first decennial census, and is currently in jeopardy of losing its funding.
“This information shapes our understanding of the boundaries of local and regional economies, as people and goods move across the nation’s transportation networks,” McKenzie concluded.