Walnut Hills Steps Appear Doomed

(Photo: Graham Lienhart)

Cincinnati City Council will hold the second of three readings of a proposed ordinance Wednesday to close the Collins Avenue public stairway against the wishes of a majority of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Before city council holds a final vote on the matter, tentatively scheduled for March 28, some East Walnut Hills and East End residents are sending letters to Mayor Mark Mallory and council members, hoping to change their minds. The effort, which has been underway since last summer, was featured on WCPO-TV’s newscast Monday night.

The city’s Planning Commission voted 4-1 in February to keep the steps open. It takes at least six votes on the nine-member city council to overturn any Planning Commission action. Closure supporters are Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, John Cranley, Leslie Ghiz, Chris Monzel and Cecil Thomas. Opposed are Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, along with members Laketa Cole and David Crowley.

Because city council doesn’t have the seven votes needed to suspend its operating rules, however, the approval process has been extended as closure opponents try to strike a compromise. So far, they’ve made no progress.

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 contains about 15 upscale homes whose residents say thieves and vandals use the steps as a quick getaway after causing trouble on their street. Many residents on nearby streets counter that the crime problem is exaggerated, and a review of statistics kept by police seem to support their position.

At one public hearing on the issue, for example, a Keys Crescent homeowner said the steps should be closed because he disliked having to lock the doors to his vehicle parked in his driveway. The attitude has angered residents elsewhere in the neighborhood, whose children use the steps to catch buses on Madison Road.

Closure opponents note that fencing off the top and bottom of the steps would only stop access for law-abiding people but provide no hindrance to criminals, as Keys Crescent is accessible from all directions via a school yard, broad unfenced yards, several streets and sidewalks.

Also, closure opponents believe closing the Collins steps would set a precedent that would make it easier to close other public stairways in the city, including such institutions as the Mount Adams steps. Many people still regret the closing of the city’s inclines, and the steps system still serves as a major city asset, they say.

— Kevin Osborne

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11 Comments on “Walnut Hills Steps Appear Doomed”

  1. David Gallaher Says:

    Could Clowncil be divided into “root causers” and those who must take some concrete action even if it’s wrong? Sort of like Bush bombing Iraq to stop terror.
    Does anyone at all think steps are a “root cause” of crime?
    The Little Woman and I live just off 13th Street which was barricaded as a measure similar to closing these steps. After almost putting Mr. Bubbles’ detailing shop out of business, the barricade finally came back down.
    Meanwhile crime goes on… steps or no steps, barricade or no barricade.
    And, meanwhile the root causes go on… such as the War on Drugs.

  2. Marilyn Says:

    This truly makes me ill — that a few people in “upscale” housing can wield so much power.

  3. Justice Says:

    The steps are nothing but a pathway for crime and disorder. Close them and send a message to the criminal classes that Cincinnati will not longer coddle and protect them.

  4. John Fox Says:

    Clearly the steps are more than a pathway for crime and disorder — Kevin’s post says the children in the neighborhood at the foot of the stairs “use the steps to catch buses on Madison Road,” presumably to school or for other non-criminal activities. Like most real-world situations, this issue isn’t black-and-white good vs. evil. You’d think some intermediate steps could be taken to address the Keys Crescent concerns (better lighting, better upkeep of the steps and surrounding vegetation, Block Watch help, etc.) before the steps are just shut down.

  5. Marilyn Says:

    Justice said: “The steps are nothing but a pathway for crime and disorder.”

    Is this true? I’d like to sit on the steps and take a tally of the people who use the steps. It’s always been my belief that most people are good, and we only hear about the “criminal classes”. (Since when have we been divided into classes that include ‘criminal classes’? I don’t think I’d get along with you at all, Justice.)

  6. FOXYROXY Says:

    oh man. this is just yet another example of council spinning its wheels on the stupidest crap.

    so one guy doesn’t wanna lock his car doors? move to mayberry, jerk. welcome to 2007–we lock our doors here.

  7. ToeJamFootball Says:

    Yes, let’s chase away the few remaining wealthy homeowners in the urban core. It’s critical that the core remain a cesspool of poverty. Let’s rise those taxes and add more levies to fix all those “root causes” because we certainly don’t have enough of either.

  8. Justice Says:

    Go tell all those members of the criminal class sitting in the jail and hanging out on Vine Street just how good they are.

  9. Kevin Osborne Says:

    Toe Jam,

    The vast majority of residents who use the steps are solidly middle class, many have lived here for decades, some work at P&G, etc. There, does that make you feel better?

  10. FOXYROXY Says:

    Telling a guy to lock his car doors is not trying to chase away wealthy home owners from the urban core–It’s giving some out-of-touch schmuck a reality check.

  11. Nur Jemal Says:

    Geez, the racism here is so apparent.

    The people doing this are just sick.

    I suggest that we pray for their souls, sounds like they need that more than the rest of us need the stairs.

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