Books by the Banks – Reading Fun for Everyone

If you’re looking to get your book fix tomorrow, Duke Energy Convention Center is the place to be… at this year’s Books by the Banks book festival.

The public libraries of Cincinnati and Hamilton County have teamed up with Joseph Beth Booksellers, the Mercantile Library, University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Magazine to offer up a festival celebrating the written word. There will be more that 80 authors on location for you to meet and sign copies of their books. From kid lit to sports, Cincinnati history to chick novels and back again, there will definitely be a book, author, panel discussion or demonstration to pique your interest.

National bestsellers Jeannett Walls (The Glass Castle, Half-Broke Horses), Jennifer Weiner (Good in Bed, Best Friends Forever), Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain) and Barbara Bradley Hagerty (Fingerprints of God) are headlining the panel discussions occurring from 11am-3pm (a variety of authors speaking on the hour.) For a complete list of speaking authors, check out the program schedule here.

here will also be the Target Kids Corner, complete with lots of fun activities for families to do together, as well as story times throughout the day and character meet-n-greets. Personally, this blogger is incredibly pumped about the tattoo station (available all day) and meeting Curious George (1:40-2pm).

Books by the Banks is Saturday, October 17th from 11am-4pm and will feature plenty of books will be available for purchase through Joseph Beth Booksellers, which is a perfect opportunity to get a head start on Christmas shopping. The Duke Energy Center is located at 525 Elm Street (map) in downtown Cincinnati. There are several dozen bicycle parking locations within two blocks of the building, and Metro’s # 1, 21, 27, 50, 64 and 77x bus routes also serve the Duke Energy Convention Center. Plan your trip now using Metro’s Trip Planner.


Defeating Issue 9: How YOU Can Help

Election Day is just 18 days away, and now more than ever, is the time for those of us who are concerned about defeating Issue 9, the Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment, to kick the campaigning into high gear. Odds are, if you’re reading this, you probably know the basics about Issue 9 and are aware of the negative implications it will have on our city in the future. The bottom line is, you don’t need convincing. That’s great!

However, it’s going to take many more votes than there are readers of this blog in order to stop this permanent alteration to our City Charter. One of the biggest obstacles passenger rail proponents have in defeating Issue 9 is eradicating the confusion surrounding the entire subject. Education and information are the keys, as well as putting faces of real people behind the language.

There are 52 neighborhoods in the city of Cincinnati, and Cincinnatians for Progress has been working very hard to get out to as many neighborhood meetings as possible and talk to citizens there. There are certain neighborhoods that are considered “swing” circuits, with a varying mix of demographics. These are the voters that need to be informed and educated.

Did you know that anyone can volunteer? To those of you that live outside Cincinnati city limits, this is THE way to have your voice heard on this issue and make a positive impact. While you may not be able to cast a ballot on November 3, you most definitely can volunteer your time and effort to the cause. Think of it, if you just went into a booth and cast your vote, you are one voice. If you can volunteer just 2 hours of your time and reach 60 voters, you can make a huge impact. To those that border the city limits of Cincinnati, you know how this issue will impact you and your community. Get out and help so that Cincinnatians for Progress can reach as many voters as possible and educate them on the ballot language as well as the issue ahead of November 3.

Cincinnatians for Progress is organizing phone banks during the week and canvassing on weekends. We here at UrbanCincy will be volunteering our time and efforts and we would love to have you come along with us. Keep an eye on the site for dates and times where we will be volunteering so that you can join us!

Also be sure to come on out to the Don’t Be Tricked, Vote No On Issue 9 Party at Neon’s Unplugged on Friday, October 30. The party will run from 7pm to 1am and feature beer from Christian Moerlein, food from Kroeger & Sons Meats, live music, Bocce Ball, and a host of special guests. There is no entry fee and everyone is encouraged to come and go as they please. Beer and food sales will be cash only.

Arts & Entertainment News

Falcon Theater presents ‘The Complete Works of Shakespeare… Abridged’

What do you get when you combine 3 fantastic actors, football, cooking shows, rapping, juggling and too many wigs for one bald man to pull off?

Obviously a stellar performance of all the works of one of the greatest playwrights the world has ever known. That is, The COMPLETE Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), a ‘feat unprecedented in theater’, which is opening tonight at the Falcon Theater in Newport, Kentucky.

Even if you can’t tell your Romeo from your Juliet, you will have a fantastic time watching Thurman Allen, Chris Smyth and Jan Dallas Benson bring a touch of modernity to the classic works of Mr. S. It thankfully does not take a Shakespeare scholar to understand and appreciate the play, and with any luck you’ll end up learning a little along the way. At any rate, throw any preconceptions you may have about Shakespeare being boring out the window. This is Shakespeare on psuedophedrine (if you watched this past week’s episode of Glee, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

Thurman Allen & Chris Smyth in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – photos by Jennifer Kessler.

The Falcon Theater is celebrating its 20th year of producing quality semi-professional theater by reviving another run of its best loved shows. Shakespeare Abridged made its original debut in the 1998-1999 season. Ten years later it is back… and we’re glad.

The three actors together play all the various characters in the 37 plays. There’s a lot of props and costumes that really help to illustrate their various points and bring life to the different roles (however briefly they may appear on stage). Thurman Allen plays the ‘intellectual’, often lapsing into monologue. Jay Dallas Bennison switches into falsetto and plays the heroines with aplomb, and Chris Smyth is the one attempting to hold them all together so the show will go on. This trio has an impeccable sense of comedic timing, and play off each other very well. The show moved along at an appropriately quick pace, and the actors rolled with the punches of the blogging audience and added some hilarious improvisation to their act.

Chris Smyth, Thurman Allen & Jay Dallas Benson in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – photos by Jennifer Kessler.

The other fun part about Shakespeare, Abridged is its element of audience participation. Without divulging too much, it’s safe to say that you will be diving into the minds of Shakespeare’s characters and helping to contribute to the show in some way shape or form. The improv aspect not only removes the “wall” between audience and actor, but it basically throws it completely out the window. With any luck, you might end up like this hapless blogger shown below:

Chris Smyth, Hapless Blogger/Ophelia, Thurman Allen – photo by Jennifer Kessler.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged runs the next three weekends on Fridays and Saturdays, October 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24 at 8pm. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. You can order your tickets online here. The Falcon Theater is located at 636 Monmouth Street in Newport, KY (approximately 4 blocks south of the Levy).

Arts & Entertainment News Politics Transportation

New York’s MTA Director of Sustainability speaks at USGBC forum

The USGBC Cincinnati Regional Chapter teamed up with the City of Cincinnati, Duke Energy and Structurepoint, Inc to present an open forum discussion with the public regarding the role of mass transit and sustainability in Cincinnati on Thursday, October 1 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. New York City’s Director of Sustainability Initiatives for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), Projjal K. Dutta, started off the discussion with a presentation about the importance of mass transit sustaining the growth and density of cities. He compared the transit system in New York during the early 1900s to its growth in the 1940s. As the city grew to its outer boroughs, the subway tracks followed as well.

In cities with well established public transit systems, the social stigma associated with riding public transportation is non-existent. The man making 2 million dollars a year rubs shoulders on the subway with the guy who panhandled enough to pay for a ride. As Dutta said, “in Munich, you can own a Mercedes and still take the U-Bahn in to work.” The ultimate result is to give citizens a choice in how efficiently they want to travel, not to force them to choose only one option.

Bicyclists embrace at Philadelphia City Hall’s subway station entrance.

Dutta also spoke of how we should view public transit. Is transit a social good, like clean drinking water, or should it be viewed as a business model in which to make a profit? He talked about other country’s methods for generating revenue for their public transit; be it selling the land on either side of the transit to developers, or raising the gas tax to use it for transit funding (Ohio’s gas tax is by law used only for highway maintenance and highway patrol). In any account, it is a hard issue to tackle.

After his presentation there was an open discussion between members of the audience and a panel of representatives from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK), Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, The Banks development team, and the City. Questions ranged from the panelists real feelings about the Cincinnati Streetcar, to the maintenance costs for transit and how that is affecting the systems we already have.

TANK and SORTA are both optimistic about the long term future. TANK is currently working with Northern Kentucky University on several new pieces of technology to improve efficiency and convenience for bus riders. Metro and TANK are both planning new hubs to improve cross-county travel from east to west. As has been previously noted, SORTA’s short-range financial outlook is “dismal.” The difference between the Metro bus system in Cincinnati and TANK is that the Northern Kentucky system gets money from the county for operating costs, and SORTA gets no money from sales tax in Hamilton County.

Pedestrians, buses, trains and bicyclists peacefully coexist in Chicago.

One audience member wondered aloud why we couldn’t just use an integrated bus system (as opposed to rail) to drive up development and save on infrastructure costs. Mr. Dutta succinctly stated, “there is no better marker of intent than putting rails into the ground.” Bus lines can easily be changed, where as developers can be certain that a streetcar or rail line won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

The unanimous agreement from the panelists was that sustainable transit is not only attainable but absolutely necessary in Cincinnati. When we put all our eggs in the highway basket, we can’t properly sustain this city. Todd Kinskey, the director of the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, finished up the discussion by saying “there’s no choice but to get out of the car. We keep ripping out neighborhoods and building highways. Why add another lane of traffic when it’s just going to get clogged?”

What sort of crisis is it going to take to get the majority of Cincinnatians to wake up and realize that the automobile is not the end all be all of travel? Apparently the economic disaster that has been the last year was not enough. We need to take the steps forward now to invest in our future, before we wake and realize that the way we do things now is not enough. Integrating all forms of transit- cars, rail, bikes, buses and people – is the most successful, sustainable option for our fantastic city.

Development News Politics Transportation

The 3C Corridor and its impacts on Cincinnati

Representatives from the Ohio’s Department of Transportation traveled to City Hall last week to host an open forum discussing and explaining the 3C passenger rail project to Cincinnatians. This proposal will connect Cincinnati to Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland via passenger rail, and a group of about 30 people gathered at City Hall to get more information on the upcoming project and voice their opinions on the project and how it will affect Cincinnati.

The 3C representatives went through a detailed presentation outlining the plan that will be submitted to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act for funding. If funding is approved for this project, there will be a preliminary “Quick Start” phase to get the rail up and running as quickly as possible. In this first phase it will take approximately 6.5 hours to ride the train from Cincinnati to Cleveland, with the trains reaching speeds of up to 79 miles per hour.

The eventual goal is to develop high-speed rail in Ohio, with trains traveling up to 110 miles per hour, and eventually connecting into the larger Midwest regional rail plan often referred to as the Chicago Hub. At these speeds the travel time from Cincinnati to Cleveland will be reduced to approximately 3.5 hours. Future hubs will create more stops than the six that are currently proposed. The current recommended route that will be submitted with the proposal includes hubs in Cleveland proper, south Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, north Cincinnati, and Cincinnati proper.

So how does this affect Cincinnati? Having reliable passenger rail connecting the public throughout the state of Ohio is fantastic. Of course, high-speed rail is the preferable (and eventual) goal, but one has to wonder how effective taking “baby steps” towards rail will be as opposed to tackling high-speed rail in one fell swoop.

The biggest concern at the meeting was the location of the train station that would service the greater Cincinnati area. The research group initially picked three locations to focus on: the Queensgate area, an area near Riverside Drive/the Boathouse/Sawyer Point, or a station located farther east, near Lunken Airport. All three of these options naturally have their drawbacks. The Queensgate area already deals with large amounts of freight traffic, and the concern was that there would be too much congestion in the area to make that stop feasible.

The proposed “Option one” (Riverside Drive) area was the station that caused the most concern and alarm among residents who were in attendance at the meeting. Denise Driehaus, a state representative who hails from the West Side, voiced her concern that locating the station on the far southeast side of the City would set up obstacles for citizens traveling from the west side. It is also less advantageous from a retail and tourism perspective, as newcomers to the Cincinnati will be dropped off on the east side rather than more towards the city center.

There were several East End citizen groups who were concerned about the Option One site for different reasons. Over the course of several years, citizen groups and people from the area have worked hard to create a “Riverfront Renaissance” consisting of the network of parks and housing in that particular area. These citizens are concerned that a new diesel train station would disturb the views and tear down the aforementioned parks. All of these proposed stations are, as of now, only temporary locations. As the Riverfront Renaissance spokesman stated, “temporary’ is measured in decades in Cincinnati.”

As of the meeting, the ODOT representatives stated that they had not come to a conclusion on which Cincinnati site they would choose to include in the October 2nd proposal. However, Jason from Somewhere Over-the-Rhine cites an article from the Enquirer stating that the backlash from this open forum meeting prompted officials to choose the Lunken Airport site as opposed to the eastern riverfront area.

There are obvious drawbacks to this site as well, the most obvious being its distance from the Cincinnati’s center city and its attractions and accommodations for business and leisure travelers alike. There is also the issue of being so far away from the existing Amtrak service that connects Cincinnati with Indianapolis and Chicago to the west, and Washington D.C. to the east – both of which run out of Cincinnati’s Union Terminal in Queensgate.

What are your thoughts?