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In My 'Expert' Opinion...

By John Fox · December 20th, 2006 · Editorial
I'm a big sports fan, and I always enjoy reading the "experts" who predict the winners and losers before a particular season begins.

I doubt anyone who calls themselves a baseball expert picked the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series or the Detroit Tigers to reach the Series. On the other hand, a lot of college football experts thought Ohio State would win the national championship, and they're one game away from doing it.

Yet I rarely see a story at season's end that goes back and rehashes how the experts did with their predictions. I assume the reason we don't see that kind of coverage is because the experts didn't do very well and they don't want us rubes to know it or we'd stop regarding them as "experts."

Having said that, I recall an editorial I wrote about a year ago that offered some predictions for Greater Cincinnati in 2006 (see "Tying the Not," issue of Jan. 4). I set up the format as predictions for what wouldn't happen during the year, and here at year-end it's time to see how things turned out.

So let's go through each prediction (highlighted in bold) and see what kind of expert I turned out to be.

· Mayor Mark Mallory won't disappoint. "I'm certain Cincinnatians will be happy they elected Mallory," I wrote. "By year's end I expect fundamental change at City Hall."

OK, I didn't start off very well. Mallory's performance in his first year as mayor has been underwhelming, though I absolutely have faith that he'll emerge as the strong leader this city needs. It might just take a little longer than I originally hoped. I expect to see Mallory display more urgency in addressing the city's pressing problems in 2007; unfortunately I said the same thing last year.

· Police Chief Thomas Streicher won't serve out the year. "A fresh attitude of cooperation among the new mayor, new council, new city manager and new police chief will go a long way toward putting Cincinnati on the right track," I wrote.

Well, three out of four ain't bad. It looks like the new city manager, Milton Dohoney Jr., was a smart hire -- Mallory and city council will do well to let him do his job running the day-to-day functions of city government. Neither Mallory nor the new council members have made a tremendous impression in 2006, but I have faith that they will eventually.

Chief Streicher is another case altogether. Last year's prediction was about the 10th time I've called for the chief to be replaced since the 2001 riots, but it looks like he's going to outlast us all.

The point, of course, is that Streicher isn't solely to blame for the state of the Cincinnati Police Department, which bottomed out after the riots when the department accepted the Collaborative Agreement in order to avoid sanctions by the U.S. Department of Justice. But major corporations and sports teams often replace the top guy in order to provide a jolt to the entire organization, and thus a new chief would bring a new approach to the police force.

Issue 5, which the voters of Cincinnati passed in 2001 to allow city officials to hire a police chief from outside the department and which the Fraternal Order of Police then filed suit to block, continues to drag along in appeals court. And so it seems that Streicher will hold on to his position pending the outcome of this legal maneuvering. Look for Editorial No. 11 in the coming months.

· The new Fountain Square won't be a waste of money. "If the square turns out to be anything like the drawings and new restaurants and retail like Graeter's and Joseph-Beth ring it," I wrote, "the civic energy will be contagious."

This prediction is technically correct -- the Fountain Square renovation isn't a waste of money.

The work completed so far has produced a much-improved square and a bright, non-smelly parking garage. McCormick & Schmick's has opened across the street, and the video board above Macy's is pretty cool.

Obviously there's a long way to go until Fountain Square is as attractive and bustling as originally advertised. I haven't heard anything in a long time about Joseph-Beth, Graeter's or some of the other rumored retail additions to the area -- though new restaurants have been announced for the surrounding blocks -- and Fifth Third Bank still needs to get going on their building project behind the square.

Still, so far so good.

· Playhouse in the Park won't move to The Banks. "Now that the city and county seem to be collaborating on The Banks," I wrote, "I expect cooler heads to prevail and realize that yanking successful anchors out of existing city neighborhoods to prop up the riverfront isn't a net gain for Cincinnati at all -- which was the whole idea of The Banks to begin with."

There had been talk floating around that big money people involved with 3CDC were interested in relocating the Playhouse from Mount Adams to the riverfront in order to jump-start interest in The Banks. Playhouse leaders acknowledged that they were interested in new theater facilities and that building on the existing site in Eden Park would be a challenge.

Again, this prediction is technically correct -- the Playhouse didn't move to The Banks in 2006, nor did Playhouse leaders announce their intention to move to The Banks. I still don't think it's going to happen at all.

· The Bengals won't slide back to their losing ways. "Long-term commitment to Marvin Lewis, Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson, Rudi Johnson and others," I wrote, "means the team's short-term success -- this season's playoff run -- isn't a fluke."

Nailed that one. The Bengals' poor showing on Monday Night Football notwithstanding, the team is positioned to reach the playoffs again in a few weeks -- with the key players making the key contributions. Palmer really looks like a long-time Pro Bowl quarterback in the making.

· The Reds won't win the World Series. "OK, that's about the easiest prediction going for 2006," I wrote. "But ultimate success in Major League Baseball is based on pitching, and the Reds just aren't in the major leagues in that department."

Nailed that one, too. The Reds hung in the Central Division race deep into Septemeber, and with the Cardinals' run to the World Series title it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the Reds are only a few more regular season wins away from being a legitimate championship contender.

It's not gonna happen that easily. The home team needs some big-time pitchers, as stated; the problem is, so does just about every other team. That's why so many fans think minor league phenom Homer Bailey might be the Reds' key man in 2007.

· Andy Kennedy won't be UC's basketball coach in the fall. "Expect Bob Huggins to land a high-profile coaching job somewhere before the summer," I wrote, "which will put extra pressure on UC to bring in its own high-profile coach."

Nailed the predicton but not the backstory. Huggins became head coach at Kansas State, not exactly the definition of "high profile" -- the Wildcats, in fact, are a distant third in their own state (both Kansas and Wichita State currently are in the Top 15).

But Huggins got former North College Hill star Bill Walker to come to K State and is projected to have one of the best recruiting classes already for 2007. So expect to see Huggs back on national TV by this time next year.

Meanwhile, UC ended up replacing Kennedy with Mick Cronin, a former Bearcats assistant coach under Huggins who'd started to build his own coaching career. Again, not the definition of "high profile."

But if you listen to college basketball "experts" like Bill Peterson (see his column on UC and Xavier hoops on page 20) you hear that Cronin likely will end up being the right coach for UC at the right time. He might be here for a long time and build his own successful Bearcat legacy.

· Sen. Mike DeWine won't win re-election. "Based on President Bush's low popularity, the Republicans will drop several incumbent Senate seats but won't lose their majority status," I wrote.

Nailed the DeWine prediction and missed the Senate majority thing, which I happily cop to being wrong about.

I became impressed with Sherrod Brown as the campaign heated up, hearing him speak on a couple of occasions and reading his position papers. I enthusiastically endorsed him for the Senate, not because I think DeWine was a lousy senator -- he actually had been a moderate to some extent -- but because I think Ohio needs a senator who embraces liberal social, health care, environmental and international positions. Brown's relatively easy win was a little surprising.

No one, not even this "expert," could have seen the Democrats' tidal wave of voter support coming this time last year. I'm still kind of stunned by the whole thing, as the three main Democratic challengers we featured on the cover of CityBeat right before Election Day -- Brown, Ted Strickland and David Pepper -- all won fairly easily.

· Rep. Jean Schmidt won't lose the GOP primary. "She's the media's punching bag now," I wrote, "but conservatives love her and won't abandon her because the liberal elite thinks she's an idiot."

Republican incumbents Schmidt, Steve Chabot and Geoff Davis made sure Greater Cincinnati remained a barrier island of red in the Nov. 7 blue tidal wave.

· Ken Blackwell won't be Ohio's next governor. "If there is a God in heaven," I wrote, "he'll destroy the moneychangers and blowhards who appropriate his name to promote their political agendas -- and they'll take their man Blackwell with them."

Bitter much? I'm just glad I didn't have to face myself on Election Night contemplating the reality of Gov. Blackwell. Good luck, and good night!

· The Post won't survive the year. "This is a prediction I'd happily be wrong about, but what's the point anymore?" I wrote. "The once-proud afternoon paper is a shell of its former self (and) putting The Post out of its misery early is the humane thing to do."

The joint operating agreement between The Post and The Enquirer ends on Dec. 31, 2007, and rumors abound that The Post won't make it to that final post. I was wrong about this prediction, and -- as stated last year -- I'm happy to be wrong. That doesn't change the fact that the afternoon paper is on its last legs.

Adding up the score, I count it as getting eight of 11 predictions correct for 2006 -- and that's after missing my first two. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Contact john fox: jfox(at)citybeat.com


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