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Monday, August 31, 2009

Cold Turkey now open for dinner

Sixth Street's Cold Turkey is now open for dinner Monday through Friday. Guests are encouraged to dine in and enjoy the "relaxed atmosphere, great food, music and art from local artists." From 4pm to 10pm Cold Turkey will also be offering local delivery service.

Cold Turkey prides itself on not using any freezers, fryers or microwaves to keep everything fresh. Sandwiches and salads cost $7, soups $4, and sides are $2. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11am to 10pm now (Friday open late until 6am), and Saturday from 9pm to 6am.

Photo from City Beat

What is COAST's plan?

When discussing transit issues with people who oppose transit you often hear the statement that they're not against transit necessarily, they just don't like the proposed plan that you're discussing. It's odd, because there never seems to be a plan that these people like.

In 2002, the regional transit plan was too big for COAST's liking, while the current streetcar proposal is too small. COAST also argues that the proposed modern streetcar (video) is in fact outdated technology since two other American cities currently have it (Portland, Seattle). After hearing these arguments I have repeatedly asked for an alternative proposal of something COAST would support.

Finally Mark Miller let me in on the "latest technology" for mass transit - low-level buses that have an overhead electric power source. The response seemed shocking given the discussion was surrounding a Midwest Regional Rail plan that Cincinnati could be left off. Also shocking was the identification of an electric-powered bus as being the "latest technology" in transit.

The Ohio Hub portion of the larger Midwest Regional Rail Plan that would connect the Midwest's population and job centers with high-speed rail service. COAST's Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment would prevent Cincinnati from investing in "passenger rail transportation" without first getting voter approval - a process that would leave Cincinnati out of the funding loop and off of the regional rail network.

Miller did not identify MagLev's 300+ mph Transrapid train (video) that utilizes magnetic propulsion to avoid friction resistance and attain higher speeds, or the enhanced MagLev systems that could travel within a vacuum tube (air-less) thus avoiding the sonic boom that would come with speeds in five to six times faster than the speed of sound. A "vactrain" would be able to travel at speeds of 4,000-5,000mph at-grade and in normal conditions due to the lack of air resistance. Such a system could take passengers from New York City to London, Brussels, or Paris in about an hour, and would cost less than what the U.S. Government has recently spent to bail out our financial sector.

COAST likes to suggest that an electric-powered bus would some how serve as an alternative to a modern streetcar system. This either/or proposition is based on a false premise, that either buses or modern streetcars should be pursued. In many cities with robust transit choices you will see modern streetcars (aka trams), heavy-grade rail like subways, electric-powered buses and much more.

Buses powered by overhead electric wires run all throughout Athens, Greece. Here one of those buses is running next to a modern tram at a station near Syntagma Square.

Miller went on to clarify what he was describing with an example from Lyon, France. These buses with modern designs are sleek and are powered by electricity like modern streetcar systems, but that is where the similarities end. They still have lower capacities (unless COAST is also advocating for articulated buses), have higher maintenance costs/shorter life spans, and should be used differently in an overall transportation system hierarchy.

Modern streetcar systems aren't pursued because they somehow represent a fascination for trains and their modern designs. Modern streetcar systems are pursued because they are the best localized transit network for cities. They run smoothly, are ADA compliant, move people very efficiently, they're durable, produce no pollution in the direct surroundings, and they're proven to work.

I think Cincinnati is a world-class city, and that it deserves the best. And if COAST wants to advocate for a retooled bus system that operates with an overhead electric power source then great. I will be right there to help them push for an improved bus system, but for some reason I don't think that COAST will be so jazzed about spending money on articulated buses, real-time arrival GPS systems, overhead electric power feeds, new bus rolling stock that can utilize said power source, or dedicated right-of-way for these new and improved buses.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment meeting at City Hall - 9/1

From the Alliance for Regional Transit:

At 10:00a on Tuesday, September 1st, Cincinnati City Council will take up the matter of placing the anti-rail initiative backed by COAST on the November ballot.

The Cincinnati City Solicitor and Council's Rules Committee will determine the precise ballot language to recommend to the Hamilton County Board of Elections and ultimately to the Ohio Secretary of State. The full City Council will probably vote on the matter the next day.

This is the language submitted by the naysayers for approval by City Council:

"The City, and its various Boards and Commissions, may not spend any monies for right-of-way acquisition or construction of improvements for passenger rail transportation (e.g., a trolley or streetcar) within the city limits without first submitting the question of approval of such expenditure to a vote of the electorate of the City and receiving a majority affirmative vote for the same."

There are serious problems with this language. First of all, it's hard to understand. Cincinnatians who signed the petition have said they signed it in error, thinking instead they were registering their support for the Cincinnati Streetcar. And, as you probably also know by now, it would require a vote on each and every rail passenger rail project, including light rail and inter-city rail, that would be built within the city limits if it required the purchase of land or the spending of any monies by the city -- even if the project required no increase in taxes.

It is unprecedented. No city in the United States has ever voted to restrict its options in this way.

Please come to City Council Chambers at 801 Plum Street at 10:00a on Tuesday. Anyone may testify by filling out a Speaker's Card that can be obtained from the Council Clerk at the right side of Council Chambers. Each speaker will have two minutes to testify. Please strictly observe this rule of Council.

This is about much more than the Cincinnati Streetcar. It's about the future growth and prosperity of our city. As written, it will restrict all passenger rail transit and hinder our city's ability to be competitive. Cincinnati is now one of two of America's Top 25 Metros without rail. If adopted, this Charter Amendment -- a permanent change to our city's constitution -- will ensure that status.

City Hall is well-served by Queen City Metro routes 1, 6, 10, 32, 33, 40X, 49, and 50. To see which route is most convenient for you, and to plan your trip now, use Metro's Trip Planner.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Steve Driehaus at Findlay Market - 8/29

Congressman Steve Driehaus (D, OH-1) will be at Findlay Market tomorrow from 9am to 11am to discuss local concerns and current issues that are before Congress. The event is being called "Congress on Your Corner" and will include Driehaus and his casework staff to help answer questions and discuss the issues.

Findlay Market is open from 8am to 6pm on Saturday and is well-served by Queen City Metro routes 21, 46, 64 and 78. To see which route is most convenient for you, and to plan your trip now, use Metro's Trip Planner.

Short-sighted policy decisions ruling budget debate

Difficult budget decisions combined with an election year, make for a truly wonderful time to follow politics. That is if you enjoy constant bickering, grand standing and get nowhere fast style of government.

What is happening now in Cincinnati is not unusual. A projected budget deficit during an economic downturn has resulted in City leaders having to make very tough decisions about where to make cuts in order to balance the budget until revenues once again increase. What this has led to is a back-and-forth political mud slinging contest.

The City Manager laid out his plan to balance the budget and that included the unpopular decision to cut 138 members from the police department. Making political matters worse, the Fraternal Order of Police has refused to make any concessions in order to help preserve their own workforce, saying that the cuts need to come from other departments.

This is not new. The police and fire unions across this country are some of the strongest around and hold a hard position. They are fighting for their constituents which is reasonable, but it is up to the policy makers to hear their argument and make an informed decision based on more than just the hard stance of one or two city departments. Over the past several years other departments have been sustaining cuts, while the police force has actually grown.

Yesterday a group of four City Council members announced their plan to save all 138 police positions. Their solution: delay a $2.5 million payment to Cincinnati Public Schools that is due in October. This would save the jobs through the rest of 2009, but not help out the cause in 2010. So they go on to suggest cutting the Planning Department, Comprehensive Plan funding, and the Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) to name a few.

What is interesting is that the Planning Department is already undersized for the a city as large as Cincinnati, the Comprehensive Plan money is coming from the Capital Budget and therefore can not be used for operational costs like police or fire, and the OEQ is basically a skeleton staff that was recently formed and has been bringing in money and making city services more efficient.

Data from Office of Environmental Quality

A recent report comparing recycling program costs for 2010 found that the proposed cuts to the enhanced recycling program would actually cost the City more money than it would save. The reason is that the current recycling contract costs the City $1,179,360 each year, while the enhanced program costs $980,519 each year, thus resulting in an additional $198,841 in costs for recycling while having a less effective program. The financials work out this way due to increased revenue and savings with the enhanced program. The current recycling contract recoups about 46% of its total contract cost through revenue and savings, while the enhanced program recoups around 77% of its total contract cost - offsetting the additional cost of the program and then some.

Data from the Office of Environmental Quality

At the same time the elimination of the Office of Environmental Quality would cost the City roughly $17 million in lost revenue. The OEQ had a budget (pdf) of just under $3 million in 2009, but saved the City $650,000 in energy services performance contracts and other energy management efforts. Furthermore, the OEQ brought in $19,319,500 in grant money that would more than likely be lost as a result of cutting the department.

The numbers speak for themselves, but nobody seems to be discussing them. A reasonable debate about these tough budget decisions should be had, but said debate should be done on facts and available resources instead of political will and lobbying power.

Do we know if these 138 positions in the CPD are needed? Do we know the optimum level for a police force in order to reach the desired safety levels in our community? Maybe we need more, maybe less, or maybe everything is at an appropriate level right now. All I can say for sure is that I do not know, and I would love to see an audit that would investigate just how much we should be allocating to public safety each year to reach desired results before we keep pouring more and more limited resources into a single department at the expense of the rest.

Please contact City leaders and let them know how you feel on this issue. You can find all of the necessary contact information and additional action items HERE.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cincinnati Bearcat football is back

For those who haven't yet purchased season tickets for the defending Big East Champions, you now are able to purchase single game tickets for the Bearcats football season. This year the Bearcats will host SE Missouri State, Fresno State, Louisville (Keg of Nails game), UConn, West Virginia, and Illinois (Big Ten opponent).

Other Bearcat football news is that UC has just signed a one game deal to play the Tennessee Volunteers during the 2011 season in Knoxville in a game that will be aired on ESPN. The first game of this year's season is at Rutgers on Monday, September 7 at 4pm on ESPN.

If you haven't been to a Bearcat football game then you are missing out. Nippert Stadium has been called the Wrigley Field of college football, and is one of the oldest stadiums in the NCAA. The atmosphere is also one of the most intimate and unique as buildings loom over the stadium with the scoreboard even mounted on the roof of Ohio's largest LEED certified building - UC's Campus Recreation Center.

And if you have the time here is a comprehensive 2008 year in review video worth checking out. Lots of great footage and interviews.

OTR goes Hollywood

Viewfinder on CET will be highlighting two media projects currently in production in Cincinnati's historic Over-the-Rhine. Over-the-Rhine: The Series is described as a "gritty crime drama," and Rebirth of Over-the-Rhine is a documentary about the rebirth of the neighborhood and the people who live there.

On tonight's show at 7:30pm Viewfinder will have Joe Brinker (co-producer), Melissa Godoy (director) and Mike Jones (subject) from Rebirth of Over-the-Rhine to discuss the documentary. The show will also have Lee Zellners (producer/director), Kole Black (co-writer) and Brent Bridges (co-writer) from Over-the-Rhine: The Series.

In addition to tonight's 7:30pm show time, this episode of Viewfinder will be rebroadcast on Sunday, August 30 at 2pm.

Photo from Rebirth of Over-the-Rhine (Facebook)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Super Bad Bike Show

The annual Newport Car Show & Sidewalk Sale took over Monmouth Street this past Sunday and there were a wide variety of cars on display from 5th Street to 10th Street. Walking up and down Monmouth one could see cars like a 1930s Model T, a wide variety of Corvettes, the General Lee, and even The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. But if you took a peek down West 7th, you saw something else even a little different. This year, alongside the car show was the first annual Super Bad Bike Show.

Put on by Bike Newport and Reser Bicycle Outfitters there were quite a few entries in categories such as "Your Momma's Momma's Bike" and "Uno Speedo" that folks could walk by and check out during the day. UrbanCincy stopped over and snapped a few pictures of some of the more unique entries for your viewing pleasure.

Wine tasting at the Cincinnati Zoo - 8/27

The Cincinnati Zoo will be hosting Wild About Wine on Thursday, August 27 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. This is the fourth year for the wine tasting event that benefits the Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW).

The theme for this tasting is wine from down under and will feature eight different Australian wines (see full list below). What will be new for the August wine tasting is that the Zoo will host the event at their new Vine Street Village and will include the Elephant Reserve and Giraffe Ridge according to event organizers.

In addition to the wine, there will be light appetizers from Habanero, Smokey Bones Bar & FIre Grill, Tano Catering, Truffles from Nordstrom, Innovations Catering and more. A silent auction will also be held and there will be live music from No Name Band and Loop Man Dan.

You can purchase tickets now which cost $25 in advance and $30 the day of the event (prices include parking). Those looking to take on the designated driver role can purchase tickets the day of the event for just $15. The Cincinnati Zoo is also well-served by Queen City Metro's #1, #46 and #78 routes - plan your trip with Metro.

Wine Tasting List:
  • Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc
  • Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc
  • Hardy's Nottage Hill Shiraz
  • Alice White Lexia
  • Barossa Valley Estates E Minor Chardonnay
  • Banrock Station Moscato
  • Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
  • Nobilo Regional Collection Pinot Noir

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This Week In Soapbox 8/25

This Week in Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about a new housing development in Avondale, green roof design and business news, a new gourmet pretzel shop in Bellevue, an expanded CRA program for Hamilton County, and 25 new green homes coming to Northside.

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 8/25:
  • $4.7M Forest Square Senior Apartments development to start this October in Avondale - full article
  • UC landscape architect becomes one of first accredited green roof professionals in the world - full article
  • Twisted Sisters Cafe brings pretzel bliss to Northern Kentucky - full article
  • Northwind development to bring 25 new green homes to Northside - full article
  • Hamilton County Commissioners look to expand Community Reinvestment Area program - full article
  • Northern Kentucky Sanitation District's green roof a regional model - full article

Queen City Metro cutting Riverfest Express bus service

It's no secret at this point that transit systems across the nation have been hit very hard during this economic downturn. The funding problems are partly due to lower ridership figures as the economy has soured and fewer people have jobs to commute to, partly due to transit being seen as an easy cut by many politicians looking to make tough budget decisions, and it also seems to be due to the fact that the funding sources for many of our nation's transit systems are temporary streams and offer no reasonable financial plan for transit agencies as they attempt to plan long-term.

The problem is that while many Americans are having trouble affording the costs associated with owning a personal automobile, their alternative options are becoming more limited as transit service is reduced, prices increase, or both. In Cincinnati, Queen City Metro is cutting service and hoping to land as much stimulus money as possible so that it can afford to keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.

The latest news is that Metro will not operate the Riverfest Express this year during the Labor Day Weekend celebrations downtown that draw more than 500,000 people. Those who have gone to Riverfest in the past know that the area is packed with people and that getting to and from the festivities is not all that easy by car.

The problem is that the special Riverfest Express service cost more to operate than it generated in revenue for the cash-strapped bus agency. Queen City Metro officials encourage those who might have used the Riverfest Express service to instead utilize a regular Metro bus route that will continue operations as planned for that day.

What this means is that those who previously used the Riverfest Express can now take any bus running downtown and then transfer at Government Square to the #1 route which then runs to Sawyer Point, or they could walk the 8 or so blocks from Government Square. Both options seem to be an unlikely choice for those who were previously familiar with taking the Riverfest Express directly from the park and ride location to the Riverfront Transit Center.

It seems natural that difficult decisions have to be made in order to balance the budget, but how can we expect transit ridership to grow while we continue to cut service and/or increase fares. A long-term financial solution also needs to be found that will help avoid these issues the next time an economic downturn comes around. Any ideas?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cincinnati: InOneWeekend 8/28 - 8/30

Is there something in Cincinnati that annoys you? Do you feel that you might have the solution to one of the perpetual problems facing city life in the Queen City? If so, then you should get involved with InOneWeekend.

InOneWeekend was founded to "help entrepreneurs experience the startup life in one weekend." From there potential entrepreneurs can decide if the startup life is something they want to pursue further before taking that proverbial leap. The weekend's are fast-paced, uptempo events that bring talented individuals together in communities around the world. In Cincinnati that event will be taking place one again this weekend on the University of Cincinnati's main campus.

InOneWeekend is able to accomplish such a bold endeavor by leveraging support from their non-profit foundation, local chapter, volunteers and local development organizations. InOneWeekend also receives "vital" financial support from a variety of sources that is used to help make the expertise and ideas from local minds happen in one weekend.

On Friday, August 28, InOneWeekend will host their keynote speech (free/open to public) at UC's Tangeman University Center from 2:30pm to 5pm. The speaker will be Ali Rowghani from Disney/PIXAR. From there the 100 participants selected to participate will brainstorm over 300 ideas with Jeff Stamp of Bold Thinking and vote on the concept they will push forward over the weekend. Then on Saturday the 100 participants will build the product and write the business plan and investor presentation. On Sunday those same participants will launch the new company and call it a weekend.

If you want to be one of the 100 participants and share your ideas and expertise in launching a new company, then please register in advance. Want to know more? Listen to Elizabeth Edwards from Cincinnati Innovates discuss InOneWeekend and what innovation is all about in Cincinnati on Explore Cincinnati.

Image from Glaserworks.

Share This Cincy Blogger Challenge - UPDATE 1

15 days ago I threw down a modest challenge for Cincinnati bloggers - install the Share This feature onto your site and support a locally grown and operated business. Of the Cincinnati area blogs featured on UrbanCincy's blogroll, only 5 out of 19 have taken up the challenge. Some of the 5 with Share This had it already, while others installed it after the throw down.

Cincy Blogs using Share This:

  1. Cincinnati Blog
  2. designcincinnati
  3. Each Note Secure
  4. Hoperatives
  5. The Cincinnati Man
  6. wine me, dine me in Cincinnati

But what is the excuse for the other 14 out there that have yet to partake in the Share This Cincy Blogger Challenge? If you need hlep with coding shoot me an email or leave a comment in the comment section for this post. Lets make it happen. Not on the UrbanCincy blogroll and want your blog included in the challenge shoot me an email or leave a comment about your site's use of Share This.

Cincy Blogs not using Share This:

  1. Building Cincinnati
  2. BuyCincy
  3. CincyStreetcar
  4. CityKin
  5. Explore Cincinnati
  6. Queen City Bike
  7. Queen City Discovery
  8. Queen City Survey
  9. 5chw4r7z
  10. Somewhere Over-the-Rhine
  11. Stacked
  12. The Phony Coney
  13. The Style Sample
  14. Visualingual

EDIT: Changed some language around in the post so that no one gets the idea that I'm trying to insult other Cincinnati blogs. The idea behind this is to support one another and support another Cincinnati venture at the same time. All of the blogs on here are terrific sources of information and offer tremendous insights into their respective topics, and I recommend checking the daily.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

'It Must Be Love'

Arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, and the current world #1 Roger Federer just won his 16th Masters event in Cincinnati today over world #4 Novak Djokovic in straight sets (6-1, 7-5). Sold out crowds greeted the top players in the world all week long in one of the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world.

The Western & Southern Financial Group Masters sets the stage for the biggest tournament in the world, the US Open, that will start August 31 and run through September 13 in New York. If the international competition doesn't get you jazzed up, then maybe the 23,200 fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium will.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chad Ochocinco kicks against New England

The tweets were blowing up about this the other night. Nice form and nice results, but I think the announcers are right. It's going to be hard to live with Chad after this successful performance.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Signal Timing and Pedestrian/Bicyclist Safety

Signal timing can be a great thing. It can move automobiles and bicyclists more efficiently through the city while also providing for a safer, more predictable traffic patterns for pedestrians. In order to achieve this success and a safe right-of-way for automobiles, bicyclists and pedestrian then this timing needs to be done at the right speed. What is that speed though?

In New Haven, CT they are moving forward with a signal timing project that will keep downtown speeds there between 25 and 30mph. But many Complete Street advocates would argue that 25mph is too fast. Studies have shown that a pedestrian hit at 20mph has a 5 percent chance of death, while a pedestrian hit at 30mph has a 45 percent chance of death. These findings have led to many cities looking towards urban traffic speeds in the 15 to 20mph range (bicyclists travel around the 12mph mark).

Personal experience makes me say that posted speed limits do very little to manage speeds. Signal timing does seem to work out of the appeal avoided stop-and-go traffic. Urban environments, when well designed, also will naturally reduce traffic speeds in most cases. This is a reaction of mental comfort levels for drivers. When there are lots of people around, buildings and other structures close to the street, and plenty of things to observe drivers tend to naturally slow down - self-regulating in a way.

With that said there are streets in Cincinnati that are in need of reduced traffic speeds. Aside from the typical residential streets that people always seem to clamor for lower speeds, what streets would you like to see made safer for bicyclists and pedestrians by reducing traffic speeds? My top pick would be the Calhoun/McMillan network. The parallel streets are complimentary of one another and both have large pedestrian and bicyclist volumes. Due to their straight orientation, one-way traffic flow, limited traffic-calming designs, and lack of a completely built out urban streetscape the speeds are very high and very unsafe for anyone other than automobile drivers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: 2009 Great Inland Seafood Festival

This weekend, both sides of the Ohio Riverbanks were bustling with festivals. The Black Family Reunion was happening on the Ohio side of the river, and the Great Inland Seafood Festival was happening on the Kentucky side. Having visited the Black Family Reunion festivities before, a visit to see what the KY side of the river had to offer seemed in order.

That being said, I was impressed that the vendors had such a varied amount of foods available. From the lobster rolls, to the coconut shrimp and the seafood medley, the spread had something for everyone. There were about 15 seafood vendors there, and all had multiple iterations of seafood available. I expected there to be Cajun food available, but was surprised to see not one but two Greek seafood vendors (I think from the same family).

There were other non-food booths there – folks selling sunglasses, a Skoal booth, and another tent had jewelry and knit items along with ice cream and sno-cones and of course there was plenty of alcohol for those who wanted it. There was also a music stage, and music was planned for much of the festival by a variety of acts including a Beatles cover band.

Photo from Midnight Special

When we showed up, it was towards the end of the night, and as the heat was dying, people were coming out to partake in the food. They had 1-pound lobsters for sale for $10.95, but (unsurprisingly) they sold out Saturday afternoon. The vendors really seemed to enjoy interacting with the crowds, and their booths all were decorated in a whimsical manner (pirate’s flags, giant fish on the signs, etc.). Maybe I don’t dabble in seafood nearly enough, but we did not see local vendors that we recognized other than Bella Luna. I’m not sure why Washington Platform, Bonefish or even Mitchell’s were not there, but my only guess could be that the extra expense would not be worth it to them financially.

Before coming out, I checked the local papers (City Beat, Metromix, KY Enquirer), and from what I could see there were no print ads for the festival, just mentions in the weekend calendars of events. Beyond those papers, I really didn’t see much advertising for this festival, which may have been due to the economy. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived the “Newport Ambassadors” had been sent home, so we really couldn’t get much info from them about the history of the festival.

Some of the long-time vendors there told me that the crowds were smaller this year, but that could have been due to multiple reasons. From what we were told, in the past it was tied to a boat festival on the Ohio River, and last year turn out was very good. However, the boat show was cancelled this year due to the economy, and it’s anyone’s guess as to if it will come back at all. If that’s the case, my vote would be to move this to either late spring or early fall – for me, the thought of buying fresh seafood in 90 degree heat just doesn’t appeal, and I LOVE seafood! Personally, I don’t understand the reasoning behind having a festival like the Great Inland Seafood Festival during the hottest month of the year.

As festivals go, this one was definitely a different one than many of the festivals we have during the summer. While the programming around it was pretty nominal (aside from live music), it definitely had a more relaxed feel than the Taste of Cincy and most of the other events in the downtown Cincinnati/riverbanks area. I feel like the folks there are the same kind who go to Jimmy Buffet concerts – real laid back and looking to have a good time. Maybe one visit is enough for some, but if anything go at least once for the fun vendors and atmosphere!

Tip if you go next year: If you go, you’ll pay at least 5$ for parking down by JB Fink’s. Since we biked, we didn’t have to deal with that added expense. If you were to drive to this, I’d advise going to park at the Levee (where it’s cheaper), and spending some time there either before or after the festival to make it worthwhile. Since this festival is a bit smaller than others, you could probably walk around, eat some food and leave probably within 1-2hrs if you don't want to stay for music.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Places You Should Know - Venice on Vine

Ever get hungry while you are wandering through the shops in The Gateway Quarter? Well, there is a pizza place on the corner of Vine and 13th called Venice on Vine that is there to hook you up with a bite to eat. On the surface, it seems just like any other pizza parlor There is exposed brick, a large oven, art on the wall, and a friendly staff to take your order and make up your lunch. Look closer though and you'll see this is not your average restaurant.

Run by the non-profit group Power Inspires Progress, Venice on Vine is not just there to satisfy hungry patrons but is there to train and develop employees by helping them build job skills that they can carry into the workforce and become viable members of society. Most everyone that comes through the Venice program does so because they are have a poor work history, lack transportation to another job or are in need of a second chance either due to criminal or drug history. The folks that run Venice are there to help ensure that the trainees, as they are called, get a fresh start, job training skills, and the resume builder that is needed to land full time gainful employment.

If a candidate makes it through the three step interview process ,they come to Venice to learn and develop a variety of skills that are needed in the restaurant business. The trainees earn stars for their name tag by showing proficiency in the different roles at Venice including dishes, utilities, server, cook, register, and catering. In doing so they are building job skills, and oh by the way, running their own place. UrbanCincy visited on a Tuesday night and while it wasn't very crowded, the staff of five was busy cleaning up from the day and there was not one detail going unnoticed.

In addition to learning all the parts of the restaurant, trainees are encouraged to continue their development and education in other areas. Many are focused on furthering their education by working towards their GED, or will work on building additional job skills such as Microsoft Office or even resume writing. In fact, each person earns money for food by taking five 45 minutes sessions during each two week pay period to further develop themselves.

Photos by Dave Rolfes

The night we visited, the longest tenured employees had been there four months but that is part of the plan. Once brought on board, a trainee is expected to graduate within twelve months and go out to find a job in the workforce. The stated goal of the program is "to increase the power of people through skill development, relationship building and collaboration with other organizations." Without a doubt, the trainees were so happy to talk about their experiences, why they joined Venice, and it shined through brightly just how proud they were of where they worked.

Coming up on it's third anniversary at 1301 Vine, another thing that is noticeable about Venice on Vine is its ties to the community. The tables in the restaurant are adorned with flowers from neighboring City Roots. There is artwork displayed and for sale on the wall from local artists that work through the Visionaries & Voices program. There are even local bands played on the stereo and displayed on the Cincy In Your Ear rack near the register.

Again, without looking closer it is easy to think Venice is just another pizza joint when in reality it is so much more. It is an important piece to the Gateway Quarter that really helps to develop the people that live in and around the area and help them build the job skills they need to be successful. Help Venice on Vine help others by volunteering, donating, or just being a customer and stopping in for a pizza or hoagie the next time you are around town because quite frankly the food is almost as good as the cause they are going after.

Venice on Vine on Urbanspoon

Recycling gets hit hard in Cincinnati due to budget cuts

The City of Cincinnati announced yesterday that its yard waste collection service for residences and business owners has been canceled. The move comes on the heels of suspended discussions about the use of larger recycling carts, and reforms presented by City Manager Dohoney that would streamline and pay for a new waste collection system.

During the budget discussions in past weeks, many fiscal conservatives openly mocked the idea of investing in new recycling carts for City residents. The 64-gallon wheeled recycling carts would have put recycling on a comparable level to normal trash pick up in terms of capacity, but would have also cost the City a $3.5 million of upfront capital. The debate was quickly ended and the discussion about improving the City’s recycling program has been indefinitely suspended.

These are not the first of the items that have set waste collection and recycling back in Cincinnati. In November 2008, City Manager Dohoney proposed a new waste collection fee to help balance the budget, and went on to say that a $300,000 study of a automated trash collection system using trucks that lift cans with mechanical levers instead of having city workers do the heavy lifting.

Photo from the City of Cincinnati

The automated system would, in the long-term, save the City money as Dohoney reported that "we are averaging seven people out a month with some type of injury as a result of how we collect solid waste." Dohoney went on to say that those injuries were costing the City approximately $1 million a year. Both this, and the trash collection fee, were met with heavy criticism as many did not like the idea of a new fee, for an otherwise indirectly paid for service through property taxes.

But as the politicians and community leaders continue to punt this issue back and forth the problems still exist. Cincinnati’s rates of recycling are far too low, the costs associated with trash collection are still too high, the efficiency of collecting trash is still not where it needs to be, and users still have no benefit to reduce their waste production.

The solutions are present. City Manager Dohoney’s proposal was a step in the right direction, but the adoption of a RecycleBank-style program would be another step towards reducing the production of waste and encouraging higher rates of recycling. A ‘Pay as You Throw’ (PYT) system would require users to pay for their waste collection based on the amount of waste they produce, something that would encourage lower rates of waste production and higher rates of recycling when paired with a RecycleBank-style program.

It is truly unfortunate to see long-term economic, social and environmental benefits cast aside due to the fear of an initial capital cost that is seen as either being wasteful or too much given the current economy. In addition to growing revenue streams, cities also need to find ways to improve their efficiencies for not only their customers, but their bottom lines. These kinds of actions would help avoid future personnel cuts the next time an economic downturn hits, and make city operations more responsive.

The results from these cuts will be seen quickly and easily as people will immediately start discarding their yard waste with their regular trash. The use of smaller recycling bins versus larger carts that are easier to use will continue to stack the deck against recycling over regular disposal that might be more convenient. The progress that Cincinnati has made on this front in recent years might just all be lost in one budget cycle.

Yard Waste Cancellation Details:
Beginning Friday, August 21, yard waste collection will be discontinued as a separate service. The City will maintain regular garbage collection and will pick up yard waste as a part of that, although City officials strongly encourage residents and business owners to find alternative means to discarding their yard waste (i.e. composting, mulching, yard waste drop-offs). If you have additional questions, or would like to find the Hamilton County yard waste drop-off location nearest you visit this website.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advantage IQ to expand downtown Cincinnati presence 40%

The City of Cincinnati’s Economic Development Department is reporting that Advantage IQ will be expanding their Downtown presence over the next three years by 40 percent.

The company currently has its offices in The Center at 600 Vine and will add the additional capacity there where it already employs 75 people. Advantage IQ is headquartered out of Spokane, Washington and provides expense management services for multi-site businesses.

The expansion was made possible by a job creation tax credit from the City of Cincinnati and the Ohio Department of Development. City officials say that a $1.1 million return is expected for the City in terms of the revenues generated from the new and retained jobs.

This Week In Soapbox 8/18

This Week in Soapbox (TWIS) you can read about the new upgrades for Cincinnati's premier tennis tournament, a new restaurant in Covington with a European flair, a brownfield to alternative energy project in Hamilton, new homes in Avondale, the Northern Kentucky Regional Farmers Market, and a special event in historic Over-the-Rhine.

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 8/18:
  • Cincinnati tennis tournament growing with $10M expansion - full article
  • $780,000 gift to produce second of ten homes for Cincinnati Habitat - full article
  • $2M Clean Ohio grant could turn Hamilton brownfield site into alternative energy facility - full article
  • Over-the-Rhine: Cincinnati's Overlooked Opportunity - full article
  • Northern Kentucky Farmers Market brings fresh produce and fun atmosphere to Mainstrasse - full article
  • Europa opens on Main Street in downtown Covington - full article

Newport Gangster Tours Are Back!

Remember when Newport was Sin City? Some people around these parts do, but most of us don't think of Newport as more than a destination for dining, movies, or a show at The Southgate House. Well, the fellas running the Newport Gangsters Gamblers and Girls Tour are getting the story out about the city's colorful history and they do it with a passion and energy that only make it more interesting. Additionally, they are happy to talk up local establishments including Mammoth Cafe, Dixie Chili, Sin City Antiques, and York Street Cafe not only for their current contributions but also for their place in the history of Newport, KY.

In the Spring of this year a few friends started the tour as a fund raiser for Global Service Learning Inc. and originally intended it to be just a limited engagement to raise money and help send local school kids to Jamacia. The trips are dedicated to serving a part of the population that could definitely use a some help, and it's used as a teaching tool for our local kids to show how service and activism can benefit them in the long run. After tickets sold faster than expected, they brought the tour back for Italianfest in June and they had over three hundred more people show up over the course of that weekend. Well, they have been on hiatus for the rest of the summer, but now the fellas are back for the fall offering tours through the end of November.

What should you expect when you head down to the tour? Well, it starts at The Syndacate and features a short presentation about the history of Newport and the characters that really made it like Las Vegas before there ever was a Las Vegas. The tour guides will talk you through how Newport ended up the way it did and give you some great stories about the personalities that give it such a wonderful history.

After about twenty minutes, you head outside for a seventy five minute walking tour through the city. Heading up Monmouth for three blocks there are plenty of stops to talk about all the history, including the seventeen gentelmen's clubs that used to line the street, as well as a wonderful story of gangster activity outside what was the Mustang Club.

Back down York Street, the group shows you the building where all the chips (no, not the kind made with potatoes) were made, the lot that used to be the Weideman Brewery Complex, as well as and old haunt of Frank Sinatra. And while the history is very interesting, the tour guides could not do a better job bringing the stories alive and they have clearly done their homework. The tour is easily walkable as it totals not much more than a mile and it is very flat the entire way.

It's no wonder that these guys were drawing 100+ people to their tours at Italianfest! They are great and definitely worth checking out. They hope to draw a few hundred people down each weekend through the fall. You'll never look at Newport the same way again, especially all the parking lots around town. Tickets are a mere $15 for the regular tours, $20 for the Haunted tours on the last 3 weekends of October, and $40 for a behind the scenes tour which runs on the first three Saturdays of November.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two places and an event that you must see in Cincinnati

In case you haven't seen these already, here are three videos about two spots you need to check out and one event you need to experience in Cincinnati.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Transit video contest(s)

I have recently been made aware of not one, but two video contests going on for transit causes. The first is sponsored by Cincinnatians for Progress and is asking people to submit videos through YouTube that, "describe why Cincinnati should vote NO on the charter amendment." CFP is asking that links to the YouTube videos be sent to

CFP will then share the best videos with Cincinnati's online community, local news media and the winning video will be shown at a special screening event and might even be used in a TV commercial this fall to help defeat the Anti-Passenger Rail Amendment.

The next video contest is being sponsored by the American Public Transit Association and is asking for people to submit videos about why they "dumped the pump." Winning entries in the Dump The Pump Video Contest are eligible to win a year of free transit, an iPod touch and $25 VISA cash cards. Entries must be submitted by September 18th.

Mia Carruthers and Taking the Stage picked up for second season

I will forever be a celebrity in my own head after the back/side of my head was featured prominently in Mia Carruthers' debut music video that came from Taking The Stage's first episode. At the very end of the video is when I make my move and get a full frontal with the camera as I head back out onto McMillan Street. After we heard Mia perform this song a good six times everyone at Baba Budan's knew the lyrics.

What makes all this relevant is that Taking The Stage has reportedly been picked up for a second season, and will still have the popular @MiaCarruthers on the show with several other yet to be announced cast members. So be on the lookout for MTV's film crews at a random spot around town, because you too could be the next Randy Simes.

If you have trouble viewing the embedded video below, you can watch the video directly on MTV's site here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Meet the City Council candidates at Findlay Market's Biergarten

Starting this Sunday, August 16th candidates for Cincinnati City Council will be at Findlay Market's Biergarten will restore the age-old tradition of gathering at Over-the-Rhine beer gardens for political discussion and debate.

Organizers say that council members, mayors and U.S. presidents gathered in Over-the-Rhine at one its many beer gardens in the 19th and early 20th centuries. "Today, the neighborhood is no longer the epicenter of political destinies that it once was, but it is at the core of numerous issues that impact the entire city."

Both incumbent and non-incumbent candidates have been invited to answer questions and engage in conversation with the public about their plans for the City. Each candidate will be given 10 minutes to address the public.

The Findlay Market Biergarten opens at noon and will host the discussions from 1pm to 3pm on August 16th and 23rd. Guests will be able to choose from Christian Moerlein, Little Kings, Hudy Delight and Burger beer products.

Confirmed candidates for this Sunday, August 16 include:
Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, Laketa Cole, Tony Fischer, Greg Harris, Chris Monzell, Roxanne Qualls, Wendell Young, George Zamary

Confirmed candidates for next Sunday, August 23 include:
Darryl Cordrery II, Kevin Flynn, Nicholas Hollan, Amy Murray, Laure Quinlivan, Lamarque Ward, Bernadette Watson, Charles Winburn

More Than Fair

When was the last time you saw a live Demolition Derby?

I live, work, and normally entertain myself in the city – but everyone could use a little country culture every now and again. Even though the Reds were in town and it was Salsa Night on the Square, I visited the Hamilton County Fair tonight. I went to support my parents, who entered quilts and photographs (and brought home ribbons I might add) but ended up spending hours there and really enjoying myself.

Photos by S.L. Hanners

I won’t tell you everything that’s there – you’ll have to find that out for yourself. Instead I give you the top 10 list of things you MUST DO at the Hamilton County Fair.

  1. Ride the flying ice cream truck.
  2. Board a retro classic (and very aerodynamic looking) bus.
  3. Pet a piglet.
  4. Watch cars wreck into each other until only one driver is standing.
  5. See a vintage boat that appeared in the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die”.
  6. Learn where milk comes from and try it yourself.
  7. Check out the new ‘Go Green’ display.
  8. Buy a telephone booth.
  9. Avoid horse droppings.
  10. Discover something new about where you live.

The price is right - $8 each gets you into the exhibits, demonstrations, the grandstand entertainment, and all the rides on the fairgrounds. Last but not least, I was impressed to see – wait for it – recycling bins available at a festival in town. Finally someone is giving us a place to put those empty plastic soda and beer bottles! Even the biggest festivals in the city haven’t achieved that feat yet. Way to go Hamilton County Fair, you’re more than fair in my book!!

The Hamilton County Fair continues through August 15th. Find out more at their website.

Special thanks to Brianne Fahey, formerly of Live Green Cincinnati, for submitting and producing this content. If you have a story, lead or piece of information that you would like to have shared on UrbanCincy just shoot us an email at

$10M expansion and upgrade for Cincy tennis stadium

There have been rumors about an major upgrade for the stadium court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. Those rumors are rumors no more as tournament officials have announced a $10 million expansion and upgrade project that will start immediately following the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in two weeks and be ready in time for next year's events.

The $10 million project will be funded by the USTA, a majority partner in the tournament, and Cincinnati's Tennis for Charity. The upgrade will add an additional 890 stadium seats, 6 new luxury suites, major media facility upgrades, and player amenity improvements that will clear the way for the now separate men's and women's tournaments to be combined and held simultaneously...all making the biggest summer tennis tournament in the United States, outside of the US Open, even bigger.

The most prominent addition will be the new 52,000 square-foot West Building that will house the new luxury suites, seating capacity, player and media facilities. Tournament officials say that the new West Building will be twice as tall as the existing structure and rise some 97 feet above court level.

Here is a breakdown of the new features:

  • A 21,000 square-foot court-level (below grade) player area with two locker rooms (each accommodating more than 100 players), private training rooms, locker rooms for male and female coaches, and a 2,200 square-foot fitness area among other amenities
  • An 8,000-square foot space on the ground floor which includes a 5,500 square-foot indoor player lounge and offices for the ATP World Tour and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour
  • An 11,000 square-foot second floor for player dining, a warming kitchen and storage
  • A 4,800 square-foot outdoor player lounge on the roof of the second floor
  • A 6,300 square foot third floor for interview rooms, featuring a main interview room and three additional interview rooms
  • A 4,800 square foot Media Center on the fourth floor with more than 100 stations for writers and photographers
  • Six new luxury suites overlooking Center Court
  • 750 new covered loge-level seats
  • The addition of 140 seats in the northwest corner of Center Court

Thursday, August 13, 2009

UrbanCincy writer featured in UC's 'Student Spotlight'

Read the full article here.

"Travis Estell has been designing and maintaining Web sites since middle school. Upon entering E-Media, Travis made his abilities known, when he took over the maintenance of the Bearcast Web site. Since then Travis has been voluntarily helping with many sites."


"His weekly radio show, Explore Cincinnati, covers issues the city is facing. Travis spends hours each week researching topics to discuss and lining up guests to be on the program. The show airs on Bearcast and is available as a podcast online. Bearcast presented Travis with an Innovator award for his work on the show."


Construction workers on the tower crane being used to build the Great American Tower at Queen City Square. Thanks to UrbanCincy friend Casey Coston for the photos taken from the 29th floor of the Atrium Building across the street.

Queen City Square: An Opportunity Lost?

Last Friday Cincinnati Business Courier publisher Douglas Bolton wrote an interesting editorial piece that discussed the recent news about tenants at the Great American Tower at Queen City Square.

In the past I have said that the new office space is a plus for the downtown office market even if it filled up by shuffling existing office tenants around. The thought process was that some local companies would be able to upgrade their office space for a comparable price due to the additional supply in the market. The space left behind by those companies would then potentially be filled by a company looking to locate in the center city market, but previously could not afford to do so, or find enough contiguous space to fit their needs.

What makes Bolton's editorial piece interesting is that he used it as an opportunity to throw down a challenge for Eagle Realty and other businesses who might be considering filling up the remaining 20 percent of office space inside the tower.

"I have a challenge to Western & Southern Financial Group CEO John Barrett, who marvelously brought to fruition at the end of last year a 20-year vision for the block at Sycamore and Third streets. The challenge extends to any other company located downtown considering moving to the remaining seven floors and 175,000 square feet of space available in what will be the city’s tallest building: Don’t do it."

Bolton goes on to discuss the importance and opportunity of landing an out-of-market company for the remaining space, or bring a "marque" suburban company into the downtown market.

I was left thinking about something else during a recent conversation on the topic. Is the Queen City Square development a project meant to boost Cincinnati's good ol' boy network? Consider the following.

The Western & Southern-controlled Eagle Realty, who is developing Queen City Square, has had some recent troubles with other development projects - most notably the prominent Fifth & Race lot which has since had development rights taken from Eagle and transferred to Towne Properties.

Queen City Square is a marque project that will add instant starpower to Eagle Realty in future deals. The two-phase mega project needed to be successful though, so insert the rest of the good ol' boy network in Cincinnati. In rolls IFS Financial Services and Fort Washington Investment Advisors (both entities of W&S), Great American Insurance, and Frost Brown Todd.

So far everyone involved in this development project has come out smelling like roses. The architect, developer, financiers and tenants all included. But what is being done in and of itself is not immediately productive for the downtown office market. That success will come when those vacated spaces left behind by these already existing downtown companies are filled; and that work will be done by the owners of those other buildings.

What will probably happen is that these vacated spaces will fill up with a plethora of small tenants looking to take advantage of the low price points, therefore creating less fanfare than a large single entity moving into Cincinnati and downtown. It is unfortunate, but true, and the Cincinnati business community needs to step up their game and take Bolton's challenge.

Queen City Square presented Cincinnati's best opportunity in many years to land a new corporate tenant or headquarters for downtown with its high-quality finishes, large contiguous space and prominent location on the city's skyline. This will be virtually impossible to do with the older spaces that are now available - opportunity lost.

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