News Opinion

GUEST EDITORIAL: Absence of Language Programs Will Be Felt Across Cincinnati

On November 5, constituents in the Oak Hills Local School District will make a very significant choice: To pass or kill an emergency levy (Issue 20). This decision will impact the well-being of not only the school, but of the future of Cincinnati’s economy.

I make this claim due to the threat to the district’s German program. The Lakota School district has already quietly killed their language program, and now Oak Hills’ is under fire.

Oak Hills’ German program is the second largest in the region and strong in college placement. Students routinely advance to 200-level courses upon entering college and shine amongst other German programs in the city, achieving first place three years running at UC’s German Day language competition. Should Issue 20 fail, Oak Hills will remove German from Delhi and Rapid Run Middle Schools and one of the three remaining German instructors at Oak Hills High School.

Oak Hills High School
Oak Hills High School is one of the largest in Ohio, but the district’s German language program, the second largest in the region, may be at risk. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Why does German matter? As you probably know, Cincinnati has a strong German heritage. What you may not know is that Germany’s influence remains not only in our last names, our festivals, and the foods we eat, but is strongly represented in our business sector with over 100 German-owned companies in Cincinnati.

This translates to local jobs in industries like engineering, banking, chemistry, and medicine. Many of our leading local businesses, including P&G and General Electric, have global offices in German-speaking regions because they are some of the strongest centers of innovation and economic power in Europe.

By removing German from our middle schools and high schools, we deprive our future business leaders of exposure to a key foreign language when they are developmentally most inclined to learn a second language. We deprive them of the ability to navigate through cultural differences when dealing with their future colleagues. We deprive our city of the ability to maintain ties to the strongest economies in the European market, losing our ability to compete in regional and global market places.

Programs like Oak Hills’ are being cut all over the city. Remember that curricula are determined at the local level by voters like you. Whether you live in the Oak Hills School District or not, consider the significant impact of your vote when going to the ballots on November 5. Support your local language programs to provide our middle and high school students the tools they need to succeed and to foster the growth of Cincinnati.

Issue 20 by the Numbers:
Oak Hills School District has the third lowest total costs per pupil and administrative rates in Hamilton County at $9,166. This is $1,341 lower than the state average and $2,367 lower than the Hamilton County average.

It is the first time in 16 years that the school district has requested that voters decide on an increase in revenue for operations.

This $4.82 million operating levy translates into a $168.72 per year increase to homeowners on $100,000 of assessed property valuation.

Lisa Bambach is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning where she studied graphic design. She currently works as the Marketing and Creative Director of Cincideutsch, a local German language and culture organization. If you would like to submit a guest editorial of your own, please contact UrbanCincy at

Arts & Entertainment News

Tree Planting to Kick Off Great Outdoor Weekend

578645_200276843483475_449462613_nTrees are a vital part of the health of urban environments. They soak up air pollution, mitigate storm water runoff and provide additional health and aesthetic benefits. But lately anyone traveling on Cincinnati’s roads and highways can see an increased number of dead trees poking through the thick canopy of brush on the side or the road or along the trails of Cincinnati forests such as Mt. Airy Forest.  It is true, the amount of dead trees have been increasing over the past few years. This is all due to a small shiny green insect called the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

EAB, an invasive insect that arrived in the country by way of boat through Michigan has slowly been making its way south to Ohio and Kentucky. In some wooded areas, over 40% of the forest canopy has been killed off due to this tiny pest.

This morning, the Green Partnership for Greater Cincinnati (GPGC), Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), Green Umbrella, and the Cincinnati Zoo launch an initiative called Taking Root, which is aiming to plant trees in an effort to combat the decline of forests from EAB. Although only 12 trees will be planted at this morning’s event, the goal is to plant 2 million trees by 2020.

“The environmental, economic, and social benefits of trees is massive to our region. We live in an area that has always been and wants to be a forest,” Scott Beuerlein, Taking Root campaign leader told UrbanCincy, “There’s not much we can do about ash.”

According to research Cincinnati has lost 10% of its forest canopy due to EAB. The costs are equal to about $3.2 million in storm water management, air pollution mitigation, and energy costs.

The event, which will start this morning at Eden Park, will kick off the larger scale Great Outdoor Weekend, which is now in its tenth year. Great Outdoor Weekend will take place this Saturday and Sunday.  There are eight venues within the city including the Civic Garden Center, Park + Vine, and the Cincinnati Museum Center. The events are geared towards educating attendees on sustainability, rooftop gardening and of course tree planting. More events will be hosted throughout the Cincinnati region.

As  Beuerlein explained to UrbanCincy, “The main goal of the Great Outdoor Weekend is to connect Cincinnatians with outdoor recreation and nature education opportunities in their neighborhood, and create relationships there. These relationships have a mutual benefit: citizens have a way to learn, relax, exercise, make friends, entertain their kids, and connect to nature.”

Arts & Entertainment News

Metro Art Shelters Project to Transform Eyesores into Literary Canvasses

In January 2013, Cincinnati City Council voted to ban advertising on public right-of-way. The idea was to rid the city of all those bus bench billboards and other seemingly unsightly ads, but what the ordinance also did was force the removal of advertisements at all bus shelters throughout the city.

In a classic case of unintended consequences, City Council actually may have made the public right-of-way less attractive by making bus shelters to appear as abandoned and leaving scared sidewalk spaces where bus benches once sat.

The situation surrounding the bus shelters was so bad, in fact, that Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI) found, through their annual safety perception survey, that individuals had a negative perception of safety around bus shelters.

While some viewed it as a misstep, ArtWorks and the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) saw it as an opportunity to do something different.

Later this month, Cincinnatians will see the former ad space at 24 of these bus shelters, throughout Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, re-purposed as a canvass for local artists. The specific end product will include varied artistic styles all portraying some work of literature.

“Through this collaborative partnership between ArtWorks, SORTA, the Main Library, and DCI, these twelve bus shelters will receive a playful face-lift and add to the public art vibrancy in our central business district,” explained Cait Barnett, Marketing Manager at ArtWorks.

Barnett went on to say that SORTA will clean and paint the shelters and that the lead artist for ArtWorks, Ryan Little, and youth Apprentices between the ages of 14 and 21 will design graphic prints for the empty spaces.

The literary designs, ArtWorks officials say, were determined by the community through a public survey conducted by the Public Library of Cincinnati through June 30. Those literary inspirations came from the following pieces of work:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  1. Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
  2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  4. Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore
  5. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
  6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  8. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  10. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  11. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  12. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
  13. The Odyssey by Homer
  14. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  15. The Man in the Iron Mask by Paul Mantell
  16. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  17. The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
  18. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  19. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  20. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  21. Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
  22. The Tortoise and the Hare by Aesop
  23. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
  24. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Metro Art Shelters project has also been championed by the Downtown Residents Council (DRC), who is hoping to raise $5,000 for public art throughout Downtown. Those interested in giving to the project can do so through the DRC’s power2give webpage.

According to ArtWorks, all donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by The Johnson Foundation.

Learn more about power2give in our recent podcast with Greg Lutz from ArtWorks and Laura Belcher from power2give, who was kind enough to call in to the show from Washington D.C.

Business Development News

Promise of Streetcar Driving Occupancy Rates at Hanke Exchange

The owners of The Hanke Exchange – a collection of five buildings in Over-the-Rhine between Reading Road and Michael Bany Way – have announced that Teach for America will open their Cincinnati office at the Jupiter Building at 1110 Main Street.

Teach for America, a non-profit focusing on urban education, will reportedly occupy 4,019 square feet of street-level space.

The property now has an 84% occupancy rate, which stood at a paltry 28% just three years ago, and the Stough Group, which owns the properties; believe they can reach 100% occupancy by the end of the year.

Hanke Building
The Hanke Building’s street level space was more recently used as a headquarters for the Barack Obama campaign. Photograph by Travis Estell for UrbanCincy.

“With regards to our tenants, we like to have a wide range of users, from creative or restaurant contacts to corporate and institutional users due to our access to parking,” explained Scott Stough, Director of Marketing, Stough Group.

The Hanke Exchange not only has direct access to the Parkhaus Garage, but also to a 32-space parking lot behind the 137-year-old Hanke Building on Sycamore Street.

Scott went on to say that the final tenant they are pursuing for the first floor space at the Hanke Building is a “progressive institutional tenant” that is extremely interested in the area and excited about being in such close proximity to the new streetcar.

If that lease works out, it would mark the sixth corporate or institutional tenant to lease space including US Bank, Grifol’s PlasmaCare, Human Capital Institute, and the Stough Development Corporation.

Later this month, the owners say they plan to update the wall painting on the side of 1116 Main Street to reflect the new Hanke Exchange branding. It is a move that the Stough Group hopes will boost visibility as the first phase of the Cincinnati Streetcar is built with a stop right across the street.

“I cannot speculate on property values, but I believe the streetcar is an important first step in developing public transportation for our city’s urban core,” Scott concluded.

News Politics Transportation

Support for Public Transit Grows, While Funding Sources Remain Limited

A new survey conducted by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) reveals that nearly 74% of Americans support the use of their tax dollars for “creating, expanding, and improving public transportation” in their community.

The results were championed by groups like the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) at their annual rail conference being held in Philadelphia.

“We are experiencing this surge in support because citizens can see, touch, and feel the economic impact of investing in public transportation,” said APTA Chair Flora Castillo. “This survey emphasizes that public transit plays a great role in society because it directly touches people’s lives.”

Metro Buses
Ridership and public support for transit has continued to grow in Cincinnati, despite consistent attacks from the Kasich administration. Photograph by Randy Simes for UrbanCincy.

The survey comes as many transit agencies around the United States are experiencing gains in ridership, including an additional 200,000 riders on Metro bus service in 2012. The news also comes on the heels of the approval of Ohio’s budget which includes a provision that bans students in grades K-5 from using transit buses for their transportation to or from school.

“A provision like this would be devastating to these students’ ability to get to school,” Roseanne Canfora, spokeswoman for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in May.

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) also utilizes Metro bus service to get students to and from school. While Metro’s contract with CPS does not include students in grades K-5, the state-level changes reflect a growing anti-transit sentiment from the statehouse in recent years.

While ridership on transit and support for taxes going towards transit increases throughout Ohio and the United States, the State of Ohio continues to invest in almost exclusively roads. In the recommended 2014-2015 Transportation Budget, Governor John Kasich (R) and ODOT Director Jerry Wray call for a mere 1.9% of the $3.1 billion budget to go towards public transportation.

The newly released study championed by APTA focuses on national policy, however, and shows that the non-profit advocacy group aims to arm themselves with the results.

“We look forward to sharing these great results with Congress,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “In most political circles, receiving nearly 74 percent in favor of increased investment would be considered a landslide.”

The MTI-conducted survey also found that 66% of Americans believe that Congress should increase its spending for public transportation.

Locally in Cincinnati, meanwhile, funding levels for Metro continue to stagnate as the City of Cincinnati has remained as the sole regional financial contributor to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) since its creation in 1973.

SORTA officials have attempted to grow support from regional partners by restructuring its board, as recently as 2009, to include more regional representation from Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties. The efforts, however, have not yet changed the funding equation.

“Any change to the current funding system is a matter for consideration by Cincinnati and Hamilton County elected officials, and voters in this region,” explained SORTA Board chair, Suzanne Burke. “We are unaware of any changes being considered, and additional public funding from Clermont, Warren or Butler counties is for their citizens and elected officials to consider.”

With no additional funding partners or public taxes envisioned for the near future, SORTA officials are working to continue to grow and restructure its service that is reflective of the changes in the city and region over the past 40 years – something that has not, and will not be easy to do.

“Metro is pleased with the recent news released by APTA,” Burke concluded. “We believe this region’s changes since 1973, when our system was formed, require us to consider possible improvements in public transportation. Public transit is a key job connector and a huge factor in the improved quality of life in our region.”