Population Loss Outrage Mounts; Power Structure “Shocked”

With the news of Cincinnati’s continued population loss — first reported by Kevin Osborne Tuesday in this blog — a storm of conversation has once again erupted. Not that anyone is actually doing anything to address the situation, but a lot of mouths are flapping and keyboards tapping.

The Cincinnati Nation web site has a good overview of the local shit storm, linking to several local news sources covering the issue, including The Enquirer’s web area posing the question, “How would you change Cincinnati?”

Here are three points to consider:

1. Ignore the bitching and moaning about how there’s nothing to do in Cincinnati and it’s soooooo boring here. That’s categorically wrong. With all of its problems, Cincinnati has no shortage of fun events, great arts and cool neighborhoods. So drop that line and move on to a meaningful discussion of actual problems.

Could downtown have more and better bars and clubs? Sure. Could The Banks have opened three years ago? Yep. Could Over-the-Rhine have more art galleries and a thriving nightlife scene? You bet. I won’t argue with any of those concepts, but those situations aren’t driving residents out of the city.

Look at two recent pieces I wrote about the last weekend of the Fringe Festival and the Pride Is Alive festival and about the blooming arts district in lower Over-the-Rhine. The point of each piece was simply that, on a particular weekend almost picked at random, Cincinnati offered a ton of things to do in the urban center — especially edgy, provocative arts and culture.

In both pieces I also wished that every weekend could be like these two, but just because every weekend doesn’t have a Fringe Festival, a Pride parade, a Desdemona music fest and a members opening at the CAC doesn’t mean Cincinnati sucks.

“There’s nothing to do” is an easy knee-jerk response when the subject of Cincinnati’s population loss comes up. Not only is it factually incorrect, it diverts attention from the problems that really matter and are more difficult to articulate and address.

2. It just kills me to see the front page of today’s Enquirer trying to address people’s frustrations over the state of affairs in Cincinnati. I can just imagine an editors meeting yesterday with everyone sitting around saying, “Wow, people sure are upset. Who could have possibly seen that coming?” (Insert President Bush’s voice there talking about no one anticipating a breach of the New Orleans levees.)

Look on the Enquirer’s message boards about this topic and read what people are saying about Cincinnati’s shortcomings, and I guarantee you that over the years the paper has ignored, downplayed, maligned or editorialized against 90 percent of these suggestions.

Honestly, that’s part of the frustration that seems to be boiling over now. If The Enquirer — this area’s dominant media outlet, the organization that drives what mainstream radio and TV cover every day and what corporate execs talk about in their boardrooms — had ever seriously dealt with any of these problems (mass transit, racial issues, police/community concerns, crime, conservative politics, diversity/tolerance) maybe people wouldn’t be spewing comments like a dam that’s finally broken.

But when your city’s dominant media organization is completely out of touch and supports an equally out-of-touch political and corporate power structure, people are going to give up and either go away or just shut up.

Here’s a prediction: Tomorrow’s front page headline on The Enquirer: “Why Are People So Angry?”

Another prediction: Friday’s front page will sport another follow-up story, “Young People Spurn Cincinnati for ‘Better’ Cities.” Meanwhile, they’ll bury a preview of that afternoon’s opening day of Desdemona — the very cool Indie Rock festival bringing very cool young music fans downtown, many of them traveling to Cincinnati from throughout the Midwest — on page 5 of the Life section.

3. A huge statistic in Kevin Osborne’s blog post on low morale in the Cincinnati Police Department has gotten a little lost, but I think it says more about the city’s problems than anything. In a study of internal department views, 82 percent of Cincinnati cops say they don’t believe Cincinnati will be a safer place two years from now and 72 percent don’t believe Cincinnati will be a safer place five years from now.

That’s astounding. And those feelings are pretty much department-wide, as the study included focus group interviews with 63 officers and 635 completed surveys.

So with crime a huge issue across the city — what many people consider to be the No. 1 problem in Cincinnati right now — the police department rank and file have no faith in their own abilities to affect any change. To even move the needle a tiny fraction.

Now that’s the kind of news that could cause me to give up and move to the suburbs — not the supposed lack of things to do or poor public transit or segregated neighborhoods or anything else. But with crime such a hot-button issue and with the people in charge of reducing crime pessimistic about the near future, why the hell would anyone want to live in, work in or visit the city?

Why Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. still has his job is beyond me, but it’s a good metaphor for how things are going in Cincinnati: The powers that be are more concerned with not rocking the boat than with devising creative solutions to complex problems.

“We’re just shocked — shocked! — that there are problems in Cincinnati,” announce the collective political, corporate and media power structure.

The rest of us just roll our eyes.

— John Fox

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6 Comments on “Population Loss Outrage Mounts; Power Structure “Shocked””

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you. I agree completely. Please do a cover story on this issue so more people can read about it and understand. And, maybe CityBeat could even create a regular column centered on this issue?

  2. JoeRo Says:

    Get a clue, John. The Enquirer’s editors know exactly what they’re doing: They’re selling papers.

    “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.”


  3. John Fox,
    Stop doing the Dan Rather lather.
    Don’t let the door hitcha
    Where the good lord splitcha.
    Peace, love and best wishes for a happy retirement.


  4. most distressing, but delightfully ironic, is how Jerry Thomas and Bill Cunningham become the “drive by media” they so despise in what they consider its negative coverage of the Iraq War, when doing the exact same thing in talking about Cincinnati.

    When was the last time mush mouth Jerry or Willie said something, anything, positive about Cincinnati?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    It is not “factually incorrect” to say there is nothing to do here. It’s a matter of opinion.


  6. […] As CityBeat has been saying from our very first article on Richard Florida in 2002 up through numerous editorials and cover stories, Cincinnati needs to take the “creative class” seriously. These people aren’t the magic bullet that will suddenly stem the dramatic population loss the city and Hamilton County are experiencing, but they are part of a long-term answer. […]


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