The Person of the Year cover story is always one of my favorite CityBeat issues each year. With our profile of Jason Riveiro here, we've now named 10 key people or groups over the past decade who have helped make Cincinnati a better place to live.
As with every year, it was difficult to narrow down all of the important issues, news events and newsmakers of 2007 and select one person. Our process isn't scientific.
It starts, of course, with the year's events. The Person of the Year is recognized for his or her work in that particular year; it's not a lifetime achievement award.
Debates over immigration policy dominated much of the political discussion throughout 2007. Even Midwestern cities like Cincinnati have been seeing significant increases in Hispanic immigrants, and with that influx come tensions over strange languages and cultures as well as a desire to learn about and help these newcomers.
Locally, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones' continued efforts to round up immigrants has cast suspicion on all Hispanics in our area and generated a lot of unnecessary fear.
And then WLW's attempt at humor fell flat when the station used Mexican stereotypes on promotional billboards.
Riveiro was one of several local Hispanic leaders to rally support from non-Hispanic civic and religious organizations, resulting in a storm of protest against WLW. It was a defining moment for the local immigrant community, which in the past had been afraid to speak out and draw more attention to itself.
Knowing it was a defining moment, CityBeat devoted a good deal of coverage to the WLW controversy and the surrounding issues. In "Strangers in Our Midst" (issue of June 27, 2007), Margo Pierce focused on a forum organized by Riveiro and others to open communications among all communities of Greater Cincinnati, especially between Hispanics and African Americans.
A mission of the Person of the Year story -- in fact, a mission of every issue of CityBeat -- is to encourage all of us to get involved and to make a difference. By highlighting a person or a group of people getting involved, particularly young people and/or those working against the mainstream grain, we hope to inspire others.
Greater Cincinnati certainly can use more individuals willing to stand up and be counted, to challenge prevailing beliefs and to lead this city and this region in new directions. If there was ever a place to stick it to The Man, it's Cincinnati. (For further proof, see "Power to the Corporations".)
Another favorite part of the Person of the Year story is that the subject doesn't know he or she is being recognized in this way. They're told we're doing an interview for a story, but they know nothing about Person of the Year until they see their face on the cover.
Surprise, Jason! And congratulations.
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