Thank God for the holidays.
If it weren’t for He/She/It and a soon-to-be former Senator from Illinois, the world would be very short on hope and promise as we collectively embark on another new year. Thanks to a stellar 2008 — so far, anyway — there is a lot to be thankful for, though, alas, it can always be better.
Like the tradition of the holidays across the globe, I’m going to use this space to sit on Santa’s virtual lap and share what I wish we’d get for the holidays here in Greater Cincinnati. Pretending it was Cincinnati City Manger Milton Dohoney’s lap or Mayor Mark Mallory’s lap or even Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune’s lap might help illustrate my point. Same would hold true for Gov. Ted Strickland or the Big Boss, President-elect Barack Obama.
• Crime reduction. Sure, Over-the-Rhine, West End and Avondale are the places the news cameras love most. But let crime be reduced to a trickle — maybe even altogether gone — everywhere, from Maysville to Oldenburg and everywhere in between. We could use a break, and I would love for every person to be able to see his or her loved ones alive and well during the holidays. Chill with the violence.
• Better public transit. The direct translation is not exactly “streetcar,” but it could be. With the bottom falling out of oil prices and the ever-dwindling prices at the gas pump the benefit, it might once again seem no big deal to drive round and round on Interstate 275 just for fun. But it is. Economists point to a real problem with the world economy.
Newsflash: Rough roads ahead. Even those who lead Cincinnati’s bus system, Metro, know it needs major re-tooling.
The addition of a streetcar — with a useful route — coupled with light rail trains to the airport, up Interstates 71 and 75 in Ohio and utilization of the empty transit center beneath the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center would be welcome additions. Gas ain’t gonna be cheap for long, and I think we’re all going to be questioning our gas consumption in the near future. Again.
• Restoring the Emery Theatre. If you’re younger than me (34), you probably don’t remember what the inside of the Emery Theatre looks like. Nowadays, it isn’t very pretty — in desperate need of updating and a serious paint job — but the potential is obvious to anyone who walks inside, as I did Nov. 23. Located in Overthe-Rhine near Walnut and 12th streets, the theater is tucked behind the former Ohio College of Applied Science, now home to apartments and a coffee shop.
But the Emery’s two balconies and amazing acoustics would be a wonderful addition to Cincinnati’s stage collection. It once was the home of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, built specifically for that purpose, and on Nov. 23 it hosted the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. A $3 million campaign has begun to help restore the theater. More help is needed.
• Cooperation in government. Locally, it seems that might finally be happening. Cats and dogs (namely Portune and Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis) are working together. Portune and fellow county commission members David Pepper and outgoing soon-to-be Judge Pat DeWine actually have a decent working relationship with their city of Cincinnati counterparts, Mallory and members of Cincinnati City Council. Let’s hope that holds with new Commissioner Greg Hartmann and 2009 City Council and mayoral elections.
Now, with the 111th Congress about to take office, followed days later by Obama’s inauguration as our 44th president, it seems ideology can take a step aside for true bipartisanship. You know, the kind where good ideas actually are considered over doctrine. Our country will benefit, as will our region.
• Quality of life for everyone. I lived more than four years in Over-the-Rhine and often found myself conflicted about the causes and effects of poverty. Some people certainly made a choice, others were down on their luck and many, I believe, really had no idea how they got into or the capability to transcend their situation.
At this time of the year, but really anytime, we should be mindful of our fellow man. Whether that be donating to the Freestore/Foodbank or just working to help make our community a better place, it’s critical that we act together. We do it not only good for those less fortunate but to bring us all into a better place.
Happy Holidays! I hope your wishes come true.
CONTACT JOE WESSELS: firstname.lastname@example.org