Arts & Entertainment News

WNKU celebrates 25th Anniversary, plans for bright future

Thursday, April 29 marked the official 25th anniversary for local radio station 89.7 WNKU. WNKU serves as a strong force in the local community and will be engaging in some terrific things they have planned to celebrate this special milestone.

First though, a little perspective on the station and my experiences with it might be useful. In the early 1990s, my brother-in-law started telling me about WNKU and I would tune in on occasion. Things were much different then at the station than they are today. While they did play good music, it was secondary to the news offering and it was hard to even know when music was going to be played. Oh, and the signal, the major complaint for years, was awful which made it hard to pick up the station.

Around 2000, I started to listen to the station more as I had moved back into Cincinnati from college and things had become a little more musical. From that point I have had an ongoing and interactive relationship with the station. This involvement included volunteering for fund drives (they are a public station, you know, which means you can become a member here), helping at events, and even recycling my Christmas Tree with them. Needless to say, the station holds a special place in my heart. Forget Clear Channel, WNKU even with its warts, is the one radio station for me in Cincinnati. As for that signal? Well it is significantly better now than it was two decades ago, though it is still imperfect. Oh, and did I mention that I won the contest for the Top 89 of 2006 (yes that is me in the picture)?

Aside from community involvement such as presenting this weekend’s Spring Pottery Fair, WNKU does play some great and diverse music. Just a few of the artists played earlier this week in a one hour stretch on Michael Grayson’s Morning Music include Widespread Panic, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Brazilian Girls, The Avett Brothers and Norah Jones. There is a little something for everyone, and WNKU is bound to introduce some new artists to us as well.

To celebrate their 25th anniversary WNKU will be hosting a concert series of course! In talking through plans with Director of Development Aaron Sharpe earlier this week, there is palpable excitement over some of the shows they are helping to bring to town. It all starts tonight with a special show featuring Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20, or in advance online or by calling (859) 572-6700 – $15 for members and $18 for non-members.

If you are unable to make it to the show tonight at Highlands High School (map), there will be plenty of other shows in the series for you to attend. Most of these are in the traditional venues around town, but Aaron did say that the station is hoping to organize a special blowout concert towards the end of the summer as the grand finale, so stay tuned for details.

The anniversary party they hosted was at last night’s final Tunes & Blooms show which featured a live broadcast and had about 3,200 people show up to catch Jake Speed as well as The Turkeys.

As WNKU embarks on the next 25 years, I asked Aaron what the future held. There were a few things he mentioned including offering a second station on their HD broadcast, and acquiring other frequencies to help with distribution as they recently did with 94.5FM in West Chester. Additionally, the station just hired its first full time sales position as things continue to grow and change.

Whatever the future may hold, we do not know. But what we do know is how great a community partner WNKU is today. Happy anniversary WNKU! You have risen from humble beginnings to places that nobody dreamed of, and we all look forward to seeing what is up your sleeve for the next 25 years.

News Politics Transportation

Cincinnati’s Airport Location Failure

In an ever globalizing economic system, it becomes increasingly more important for metropolitan regions to have a strong international airport that not only provides reliable high-quality air service to the residents and businesses of that region. Cincinnati’s robust corporate community has historically helped position the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport as one of the major players in the nation thanks to a large Delta presence.

That presence is nowhere near the same today and Cincinnati’s international airport may soon be positioned to lose its Delta hub status altogether thanks to the recent Delta/Northwest merger that left the Cincinnati with the odd airport out with nearby hubs in Atlanta and Detroit.

Atlanta is Delta’s hometown and has the busiest airport, as measured by enplaned passenger, in the world. Meanwhile Detroit Metro Airport is a large newly renovated facility that was a major hub for Northwest prior to the merger. The new mega-airline no longer has a need for the overlapping hubs and seemingly has its eyes set on giving Cincinnati the treatment Pittsburgh received US Airways reduction from a prominent “hub” to a mere “destination” in 2008.

With Cincinnati’s large and growing business community, a region experiencing regional population growth, and a central location to other large metropolitan markets it would seem like Cincinnati’s international airport should be anything but the odd airport out in this shuffle – especially with recently upgraded facilities, top-of-the-line security, and large capacity. The problem might be that Cincinnati’s international airport is located in Northern Kentucky.

This is not said as a slight to Kentucky, but rather said as a reality that Northern Kentucky represents the southern most reaches of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), and is very distant from the southern reaches of Dayton’s MSA that is poised to be merged with Cincinnati following the 2010 Census creating the Cincinnati-Dayton Metroplex with roughly 3.1 million people.

Imagine this: Instead of having the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on Cincinnati’s south side and the Dayton International Airport on Dayton’s north side, the new metroplex has one mega-regional airport located in the middle of the two population and job centers. The draw would be so great that the airport would attract travelers from Columbus and Indianapolis alike for its profound reach much like the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport view during early stages of construction of the third parallel north/south runway (top left) – image from Landrum & Brown.

A mega-regional international airport located around the Monroe area in Butler County would been a further distance from the center cities of both Cincinnati and Dayton when compared to both cities existing airports, but Cincinnati would not have the difficult and expensive navigation over the Ohio River and Dayton would be able to benefit from an international airport with the pulling power of Cincinnati combined with their own.

The region is currently pouring $2-plus billion into the construction of a new river crossing primarily needed because of the sprawl in Northern Kentucky, and by association, the related industries that locate around airports. This money instead could have been used to construct high-quality rail connections between the population and job centers of Cincinnati and Dayton with the international airport located in northern Butler County. The inevitable metroplex then would have not only had a larger and more effective international airport serving its residents and businesses, but the metroplex would have had passenger rail connecting the two centers with one another.

Had this scenario played out, would we be talking about Detroit’s international airport experiencing reduced service instead? Would we be talking about a $2-plus billion bridge replacement over the Ohio River? Would the northern and southern sprawl outward from Cincinnati been instead consolidated into the northern corridor along I-75 that has been met with Dayton’s southern sprawl? How much economic and population impact would this have represented for the State of Ohio? Would the Cincinnati-Dayton Metroplex be an even greater center for aviation industries than it already is?

The answers to these questions may not be easily identifiable or defined, but it does seem clear that the best location for a large international airport serving the Cincinnati-Dayton Metroplex would have been in the middle of the two population and job centers – not the far southern or northern reaches.


This Week in Soapbox – 3/30

This Week in Soapbox, UrbanCincy has the following five stories to check out. Read about Cincinnati’s newest food truck, home builders’ shift to urban projects, Wake Nation’s new practice pond, a new Hispanic business initiative, and a feature story about the Cincinnati’s burgeoning fashion scene.

If you’re interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week’s stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

TWIS 3/30/10:

  • Taco Azul to hit Cincinnati’s streets in late Aprilfull article
  • CitiRama sells first home, installs innovative geothermal systemfull article
  • Wake Nation breaks ground on expanded facilityfull article
  • Hispanic 100 initiative helps Latino professionals branch out full article
  • Cincinnati Gets Fashionable (feature story)full article

This Week In Soapbox 8/11

This Week in Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about expanded business hours at an eclectic downtown eatery, new life for a historic structure in Dayton (KY), Brandt Retail Group’s new urban focus, Cincinnati’s new comprehensive plan, the new specialty cupcake shop in Bellevue, and the Cincinnati Counts campaign for the 2010 Census.

If you’re interested in staying in touch with some of the latest development news in Cincinnati please check out this week’s stories and sign up for the weekly E-Zine sent out by Soapbox Cincinnati. Also be sure to become a fan of Soapbox on Facebook!

TWIS 8/11:

  • Expanded hours compliment new menu items at Gilpin’s downtownfull article
  • $1M grant may inject new life into historic RayMee Buildingfull article
  • Brandt Retail Group opening downtown office, creating urban focusfull article
  • Cincinnati to begin work on first city-wide comprehensive plan in nearly three decadesfull article
  • Specialty cupcake craze hits Bellevue with new shopfull article
  • City of Cincinnati intends to be fully counted for 2010 Census with new task force groupfull article
News Politics Transportation

Is new funding structure needed as Metro braces for cutbacks?

The Cincinnati region’s primary transit operator, Metro, is citing that due to the ongoing recession and a drop in city tax revenue that less service is in the cards. Metro says that they are “bracing for extremely difficult decisions in the coming months,” and that they are working with several different entities analyzing options to remedy the situation.

This funding problem is one not unique to Cincinnati’s Metro as many major transit agencies across the nation are currently considering service reductions, fare increases or both to help address their budget deficits.

View United States of Transit Cutbacks in a larger map

Loss of funding:
Nearly half of Metro’s $94.6 million operating budget comes from the allocated 3/10 of 1 percent of the city of Cincinnati’s earnings tax. This earnings tax is projected to be some $2 million to $3 million less than originally anticipated. “The exact decrease is not yet known, but Metro is working with the City on alternatives,” says Metro who anticipates a $2 million to $3 million funding reduction by 2010.

Another problem is that fare revenues are projected to be some $3 million to $5 million less than anticipated. These losses are attributed to the nearly 10 percent unemployment rate (fewer workers = fewer commutes) and recent actions by Cincinnati City Council that limited revenue growth by $600,000.

On top of all this, Metro has been notified that it will see a $137,000 funding reduction from the State of Ohio for elderly and disabled fare subsidies, and a $233,000 funding reduction from Hamilton County that would help provide service for people with disabilities.

What to do:
So far Metro has already done a number of things to help reduce costs including the restriction of non-essential travel; shortened call center hours; reduced printing transfers, system maps, bus schedules, brochures and newsletters; increased fares and pass prices; and even reduced service 3 percent in March and May.

But what else can be done that would preserve the service of essentially the sole transit system in a metropolitan region of 2 million plus people?

One of Metro’s diesel-electric hybrid buses – image from Metro

It is already being seen that the vast majority of stimulus money going towards transportation projects is going towards roadway projects and not transit. It has also been seen that many view mass transit as a luxury item rather than a necessary component of a metropolitan area’s transportation network.

Metro is additionally challenged as the vast majority of its funding comes from one entity even though they serve a much larger area. A new regional transit authority was pitched by former councilman John Cranley as he was leaving office, and approved last October, but not much has happened since.

A regional funding structure would not only diversify Metro’s funding sources, but it would also create a shared funding responsibility amongst the communities served by Metro. At the same time a regional transit board should be created that would operate one single transit authority (including Nky). This would reduce overhead costs and make for a more streamlined authority that could experience economies of scale within the workplace. This structure would also result in a comprehensive system that could be managed at a regional level instead of pieced together at a more micro level.