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Step Up, Step Back, Step Up Again

By Gregory Flannery · February 7th, 2007 · Porkopolis
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  These Walnut Hills area residents wanted a hillside stairway kept open despite complaints from homeowners at the top of the stairs.
Graham Lienhart

These Walnut Hills area residents wanted a hillside stairway kept open despite complaints from homeowners at the top of the stairs.



Score one for grassroots community activism against big bucks contributors to Cincinnati City Council, at least for now.

Defying council's wishes, the city's planning commission recently voted to keep a public stairway open that connects East Walnut Hills to the East End. Planning commissioners voted 4-1 Feb. 2 to keep the Collins Avenue steps open for use (see "Controlling the Stairs," issue of Jan. 31). City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., who sits on the commission, cast the sole dissenting vote; Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, city council's liaison to the planning commission, was among those who supported keeping the stairway open.

The steps are part of a city network of nearly 30 miles of public stairways that trail through Cincinnati's hillsides, mostly built in the early 20th century. They connect the end of Collins near William Howard Taft Road to Keys Crescent, a small U-shaped street with 15 upscale homes.

Led by Tim Mathile, an heir to the Iams pet food fortune, Keys Crescent homeowners have pushed for the steps' closure. They complain 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 they use the stairs as a shortcut when walking up the hillside to get to Madison Road and shops in O'Bryonville.

The crime problem is exaggerated, they added, and Keys Crescent residents actually want to turn their street into a private enclave at public expense.

Mathile and other Keys Crescent residents have contributed to the campaigns of city council members, and some closure opponents say that's giving supporters undue influence with elected officials.

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. But lawyers for closure opponents then discovered that council didn't follow due process, adding that a little-noticed section of the city charter requires that a decision of this nature first go before the planning commission.

City council can overturn planning commission decisions with six votes, and it's unclear whether the same bloc still exists after a bitter council debate during the past month about the municipal budget has caused divisions among those members.

Council could bring the matter for a vote sometime this month, if it believes the votes still exist to overturn the decision, or choose to simply accept the planning commission's edict.

A Call for Help, a Spat Over Spit
Here's a news flash to overpaid professional athletes and celebrities: Call a cab when you're drunk. You can afford it.

With nine Bengals players arrested in the past 13 months, the team is now offering a 24-hour hotline for players to call if they've been drinking alcohol and are in danger of getting a DUI, according to a recent Cincinnati Enquirer article. Get real.

These players aren't middle school students experimenting with alcohol for the first time. They're grown men who know the effects of a night out on the town. Instead of enabling their behavior or treating them like children, make them take some responsibility, dip into their wallets and fork over the cash to pay for a taxicab if they're too buzzed to drive home.

Better yet, hire a driver before the night's festivities even begin. The players make millions of dollars per season, far more than the average working stiff, so chances are they won't even flinch at the added cost.

Some people might reply that partiers often don't know when they start drinking just how impaired they'll become later. But if a group of suburban soccer moms can have the presence of mind beforehand to hire a limo when they're planning a night out for a bachelorette party, then so can Chris Henry and Justin Smith.

We criticized local blogger Jason Haap (The Dean of Cincinnati) in last week's Porkopolis for what we viewed as his unnecessary online dispute with retired Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Bill Sloat over Sloat's murky recollection in his own blog of being spit upon in 1972 as a soldier on leave in New Orleans during the Vietnam War era. Haap rightly notes that many such accounts of vets being spat upon are merely the stuff of urban legend propagated by right-wingers and debunked by researchers in recent years. Still, if Sloat says it happened to him, then we must believe him unless there is convincing evidence to the contrary.

Regardless, Haap gets kudos for his recent blog post showcasing in a series of letters, obtained through public record requests, the origins of The Enquirer's Grandma in Iraq blog last year and the fact that editors knew the blog's author was a military public relations flak but didn't initially reveal that fact to readers. The blog was pulled after some readers alleged it was government-sponsored, pro-war propagandizing.

Learn about these issues and more on CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at citybeat.wordpress.com.



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