Friday, October 3, 2008

Cincinnati Must-See TV

For those who haven't seen it, this was incredible publicity for Cincinnati that was recently aired nationwide. These are only a few snippets of what was a non-stop PR bonanza. Thanks to all involved for making this happen . . . .

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Positive Developments in a Tough Time

Believe it or not, several very positive developments recently occurred on key County priorities:

$8M To Abate Blight Caused by Foreclosures

First, we recently learned the great news that due to the recently passed Housing Bill in DC, Hamilton County will be receiving close to $8M in federal funds that will allow us to redevelop blighted, foreclosed properties in jurisdictions across the County. (The City received about the same amount for its neighborhoods).

While we had expected some dollars, this was definitely far more than I had expected.

Practically speaking, these dollars will allow us, working in partnership with those communities that are seeing the highest numbers of foreclosures, to eliminate the blight that those foreclosures are causing, which erode the value and quality of life of the surrounding neighborhood. We can invest to either demolish or rehabilitate blighted properties--and in the case of demolition, we can then invest to create greenspace, or new commercial or residential development opportunities.

Last week, anticipating that these dollars are coming, we called together leaders from the highest foreclosure communities to seek their initial input on how these dollars can be allocated to be most helpful to their needs, and we are reviewing the many guidelines and regulations that will instruct how the funds can be spent.

By December 1, guided by that input, we will submit our community plan to the federal government. Overall, this is a huge opportunity for many communities.

(Of course, our top priority continues to be to prevent foreclosures in the first place through our Homeowner Preservation efforts.)

Treating the Mentally Ill in Our Criminal Justice System

Second, like our drug court (see discussion in blog below), one of the more positive reforms in the County Courthouse in recent years has been the creation of the Mental Health Docket at the misdemeanor level.

This approach, led by Judges Stautberg and Allen, allows us to pay special attention to those arrested for nonviolent offenses who suffer from substantial mental illness. Rather than simply locking these folks up for a short time, ignoring their underlying mental illness, and seeing them reoffend a short time after release due once again to their untreated illness, the mental health docket has provided a great way to intervene and get them the help they need. It will reduce recidivism, and reduce the costs of our criminal justice system.

So far, this specialized approach has only been in place at the Municipal Court level. The Criminal Justice Commission has been clear that some type of specialized attention to those with mental illnesses should also be available at the Common Pleas level, as it is in other counties.

And here's where the good news comes in--the Health Foundation recently awarded the County a $75,000 planning grant to study and propose a comprehensive and concentrated effort to respond to those with mental illnesses at the Common Pleas level. This process should lead to a concrete plan by mid-2009 as to how we can apply best practices from across the country, as well as what we've learned here, to make sure we have a cutting-edge, safe and smart approach to dealing with mentally ill inmates at the Common Pleas level.

Thanks to all those involved in securing this grant, first and foremost the Health Foundation, and thanks to Judge West for leading the effort in the coming months.

Upcoming Windstorm Forums with Duke Energy

I received some incredibly thoughtful and helpful feedback to my recent windstorm survey, and will post it soon.

In the meantime, Duke Energy is seeking direct input from citizens on their response.

Here's the memo I received today:

"On September 14, 2008, a historic wind storm from the remnants of Hurricane Ike struck the entire Greater Cincinnati area, carrying hurricane force winds that included three bursts in excess of 70 miles per hour. The unprecedented winds brought widespread damage especially to trees and power lines.

More than 780,000 customers, or 90 percent, were out of service after the storm with many being out more than once. Nearly 11,000 cases of damage were reported and addressed. This was the largest outage event in the history of the company’s Ohio/Kentucky service area.

Currently, all of our departments involved in storm restoration are going through a lessons learned process to improve our future storm response. In addition, we are reaching out to our customers to share our restoration and prioritization process and learn how we could improve our communications during restoration. We want to provide customers the opportunity to share with us how we can improve our communication process with them.

We have scheduled two community information sessions to discuss our windstorm restoration process and gain valuable feedback on improving our customer communications. We hope you will share the location, date and times of these meetings with your residents.

Thursday, October 2, 2008, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. – Oasis Conference Center, 902 Loveland-Miamiville Road, Loveland, OH 45140

Monday, October 6, 2008, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. – Forest Park Senior Center, 11555 Winton Road, Forest Park, OH 45240

If you want a chance to ask questions or make suggestions directly to Duke, this is a great opportunity.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gloomy Times: Where's the Leadership?

Yesterday, as I watched the goings on in D.C. and the plummeting of the Dow, in addition to the same gloom so many others are feeling from the impact on businesses and families across our country (not to mention the dramatic local effects this may all have, which really scares me), I felt another feeling: embarassment.

Total embarassment for what has become the ugly and completely dysfunctional "profession" of politics.

What did we see yesterday on Capitol Hill? Fingerpointing. Lack of trust. Running for cover and flimsy excuses justifying votes. Dueling press conferences posturing and blaming one another.

Unnecessary and reckless partisan rhetoric when what we really needed--just once--was a little good faith unity to get through this and come up with a solution a majority can agree on. Campaign after we solve this crisis, not as it's unfolding!

Egos run amok. This morning, one Republican Congressman said that yesterday's vote was about teaching Henry Paulsen a badly needed "civics lesson" because he had seemed arrogant. Very sound reasoning at a time like this.

So few willing to step up and be true leaders. Maybe worse, so few able to do so because the collective credibility of DC starts out at such a low level to begin with, and because things have become so polarized and broken that so few listen to each other in the first place. (,8599,1845655,00.html)

People voting "no" out of political preservation, without having said a peep over the last week, and not having made any constructive efforts to actually propose or ask for solutions they could live with. (If you don't like something, get in the mix and work to improve it--don't just vote no, make a statement, leave town, and think you've done your job).

Politicians more concerned about how to use this crisis for their own political ends rather than how to actually solve it.

Leaving D.C. en masse for a few days as if this economic crisis is going to take a timeout!

The following story walks through the leadership failures from all sides:

This is crunch time. Our Congresspeople each take an oath to look out for the best interests of this country and its citizens. They each make $169,000 per year to do the public's work. They are not simply elected to get re-elected, but it seems that for too many, that's about all they spend their worrying about. That, and tallying results from phone calls and emails so they can determine how they should vote on issues. (If I voted in that way in the political jobs I've had, Fountain Square would still be the underused and stale place it was six years ago, and all the new restaurants surrounding it would be elsewhere).

While we all tolerate (more than we should) a lot of political bickering, posturing and rhetoric at less troubled times, we at the very least expect the short-sighted politics to take a timeout, and the grownups to get serious, at the tough, critical times. Which was why the petty antics and dysfunction of yesterday were so startling. We looked for leadership, and we found ourselves staring into an abyss.

Make no mistake. This is a complicated problem, and no solutions are going to be simple, wildly popular, or risk-free. Constructive opposition and bipartisan negotiations over the past week improved the original proposal greatly, and hopefully the deal can be further improved in the next couple days.

But outside of the details themselves, if we don't see different and vastly improved leadership emerge in the next couple of days from those in Congress, we will all pay a steep price for a long time. And that price will most certainly be borne along Main St.--as well as Vine, Walnut, Reading, Beechmont, and Harrison, not to mention along our riverfront.

UPDATE: columns that make a similar point:

This quote from Tom Friedman also sums it up nicely:

"I always said to myself: Our government is so broken that it can only work in response to a huge crisis. But now we’ve had a huge crisis, and the system still doesn’t seem to work. Our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, have gotten so out of practice of working together that even in the face of this system-threatening meltdown they could not agree on a rescue package, as if they lived on Mars and were just visiting us for the week, with no stake in the outcome. "
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