Next Step Belongs to City Council

(Photo: Graham Lienhart)

Wednesday is D-Day — as in “decision” — about whether to keep the Collins Avenue steps open.

Since last summer the steps, which are a public stairway connecting East Walnut Hills to the East End, have been the subject of a heated debate that has divided residents in the neighborhoods.

At issue are the wishes of 15 property owners on Keys Crescent, a small U-shaped street that contains mansion-like homes, against dozens of homeowners from surrounding streets who want to keep the steps open.

An ordinance that proposes closing the stairway is on Cincinnati City Council’s agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, set for 2 p.m. at City Hall. A forum for public speakers begins at 1:30 p.m.

The city’s Planning Commission voted 4-1 earlier this month to keep the steps open. It takes at least six votes on the nine-member city council to overturn any Planning Commission action.

The stairs are part of a city network that trail through Cincinnati’s many hillsides, mostly built in the early 20th century. They connect the end of Collins, near William Howard Taft Road, to Keys Crescent.

Keys Crescent homeowners have sought closure since last year, complaining their street is threatened by thieves and vandals who use the steps to make a quick getaway after breaking into homes and vehicles. Many residents on surrounding streets, however, said the crime problem is exaggerated and that the stairs are a popular shortcut when walking up the hillside to get to Madison Road and shops in O’Bryonville.

Last summer, a council majority — comprised of Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, John Cranley, Leslie Ghiz, Chris Monzel and Cecil Thomas — proposed closing the steps for five years to see if it affects crime in the area. Lawyers for closure opponents then discovered that council didn’t follow due process. A little-noticed section of the city charter requires that a decision of this nature first go before the planning commission.

Some residents have criticized council members for their willingness to close the steps, noting most residents in the area want them to remain open. The decision is being pushed, in part, because wealthy Keys Crescent property owners contribute to council campaigns, residents said.

— Kevin Osborne

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3 Comments on “Next Step Belongs to City Council”

  1. Follow the Money Says:

    From: Bill Joiner [mailto:]
    Sent: Tue 2/13/2007 6:28 PM
    To: HCDPTaskForce;
    Subject: Follow the Money

    This is for those of you who have watched the strange goings-on in
    City Council, in which Jeff Berding, elected as an endorsed Democrat,
    has partnered with two Republicans, a Charterite, and a formerly
    liberal Council- Woman to oppose Mayor Mallory and the agenda of
    other Democratic members of Council. If you have watched, this “gang
    of five” abandoned Democratic values in the recent City budget by
    opposing funding for social service agencies, supporting closing of a
    City health center, closing city swimming pools, and other activities
    of the Cincinnati Recreation Center in poor areas of the City.

    If you have wondered how this could happen, perhaps it is worth
    following that old advice “follow the money”.

    I recently received an invitation to a fund-raising event, in the
    form of a 40th birthday party for Jeff. (Prices per person $500 and
    $140). Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher will be the honored guest.
    There was a list of the host committee, which included a number of
    certified Democrats, like Tim Burke , Barbara Gould, Ed Herzig,
    Charlie Luken, Marty Naseef (AFL/CIO), Robert Richardson (AFL/CIO),
    Chuck Seymour (IBEW), and Francie Pepper. But many of the rest read
    like a dream list of corporate Republican power brokers. I looked up
    those on the list on Google, and couldn’t identify all of them. But
    here is a list of those I did find. I also found that many of them
    had, as you might expect, made significant contributions to the Bush
    presidential campaign. All may not be Republican, but I leave it to
    you to decide how many are.

    The list:
    T.J. Ackerman, owner of a development company with that name.
    Neil Bortz-co-owner of Towne properties, and beneficiary of many
    development subsidies from the City and other governmental sources
    Otto Budig-President of Budco
    Robert Castellini, CEO Castellini Co, Principal owner Cincinnati Reds
    Tom Cody, Executive VP, Federated Department Stores
    Ed Diller, Managing Partner, Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister
    W. Stuart Dornette, Partner, Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister
    Jim Evans, Vice President, and General Council, American Financial
    John Hayden, President Midland, 2007 Chair of Chamber of Commerce
    Sandy Heimann, Spokesperson for Carl Lindner and American Financial
    Daniel Hoffheimer, Partner, Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister
    Louise Hughes, Director, Procter & Gamble
    Terry S. Jacobs, Director, American Financial
    Ronald Joseph. owner of Joseph car dealerships
    John S Leffler, significant contributor to Bush
    Carl H. Lindner, American Financial, major funder for Republican
    candidates at all levels
    David Lindner, American Financial
    James McGraw, Jr. Corporate Partner, Keating, Muething, and Klekamp,
    previously Principal Counsel at CG&E
    Michael Oestreicher, Partner, Thompson, Hine, and Flory
    Jim Orr, Chairman and CEO, Convergys
    John J. Schiff, CEO, Cincinnati Financial
    Patricia Smitson, Managing Partner, Thompson, Hine, Flory
    (significant Bush supporter)
    John Taylor, President, PNC Bank of Ohio and Northern Kentucky;
    Chair, Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau
    John Williams, former President, Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce
    Tom Williams, President of North American Properties
    Jim Zimmerman, former CEO, Federated Department Stores

    While it is nice that for once, a “Democrat” will have substantial
    financial backing, and this is a list that has provided substantial
    backing for Republican candidates at every level, I believe that a
    price must be paid for this kind of support, and I believe that a
    price has already been paid by Jeff’s actions in his first year on
    Council. With the publicity he has received, and this kind of
    financial backing, a Democratic endorsement, and impressive support
    by powerful Republicans, it seems very likely that Jeff will be
    reelected. It seems that our only hope is to go all out to elect
    liberal Democrats to replace the two Republicans and the Charterite
    who comprise three of the five members of the “Gang of Five”. If she
    is no longer a member of the majority, Laketa Cole, if reelected,
    might once again become the liberal Democrat she once was. Greg
    Harris and Brian Garry are likely to be two new Democratic candidates
    who we can be sure won’t forget, if they are elected, that they are
    Democrats, and deserve our support in the upcoming elections, along
    with Dave Crowley, John Cranley, and Cecil Thomas, and perhaps other
    real Democrats who will step forward. The majority of the electorate
    in Cincinnati is now Democrat. We elect a majority of Demcrats to
    Council. We deserve to be governed by true Democrats, who believe
    in, and act on, Democratic principles.

    Bill Joiner

  2. Josiah Says:

    Let’s hope the score looks like this today; Liberals & Criminals 0, the rule of Law 1

  3. Kevin Osborne Says:


    I also received Bill Joiner’s e-mail and have posted a blog item about it. Check it out.

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