31 January 2009

Night Photo from Pendleton Art Center

There have been artists here for many years, but for whatever reason, I had never gone. Wife and I had a couple hours sans kids and no plans, and it was Final Friday, so we saw 8 floors of art and saw absolutely no one we know. The building has steam heat, and one artist up top had her window open, and I tried a night shot from the window sill:

On the walk back we saw this tiny snowman:

30 January 2009

Dukakis on Midwest Rail


Interesting interview in Wired with Michael Dukakis, rail advocate:
Dukakis:...It's absurd to say we don't have money to expand rail. For what we spend in Iraq in a week or maybe 10 days, we could fund Amtrak's ongoing operations as well as make major investments. We spend about $30 billion a year on highways and about $15-to-$16 billion on airports and airline subsidies. We're talking about 6 percent or 7 percent of that for a national rail-passenger system. ...

...If you want to build a European-style 200-mph high-speed system — the kind that California is now committed to — that requires exclusive rights of way. And it probably argues for electrification. That's an expensive proposition.

... We can use our existing rights of way to reach speeds of between 110 and 125mph...

...There's a 10-state plan to connect downtown Chicago to every other major Midwest city within 400 miles using trains that travel between 110 and 115 mph. The whole thing would cost around $7 billion, and the basic proposal calls for using existing right of way.

That $7 billion is half of what it will cost to move forward with the planned expansion of O'Hare airport. Every third flight out of that airport is less than 350 miles. So if you build a regional rail system in the Midwest, you're also helping with congestion at O'Hare and opening slots for longer flights.

... from the Mississippi River east, we actually look a lot like Europe. There's similar population density and distance between cities. That's why the Southeastern states want high-speed service extended from Washington, D.C., down to Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte and Atlanta. They know it can work...

Wired.com: The cool thing about traveling by train in Europe is when you get off the train, you can cross the platform and hop on a subway. What do you do in a city like Charlotte or Houston, where those local connections just don't exist?

Dukakis: With the exception of a handful of U.S. cities, we are not where we should be in this regard. But if more investment is made in intercity rail, you'll see local and regional transit systems reconfiguring themselves to improve the connections.

...If we commit to a first-class passenger-rail system, you'll see local and regional transit organizations start talking about finding ways to connect to it...using airplanes to fly 300 miles makes absolutely no sense at all.

...The cities in this country that are planning light-rail–type systems will need to purchase every stick of rolling stock from a foreign manufacturer. There's no reason our car companies can't make them instead.

Image from here.

More Cars vs More People

As a follow up to yesterday's post against cars, here is a relevant section on the Project for Public Spaces website. The gist is that streets are public places, and they are about much more than moving fast. Some extracts:

If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic.
If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.

...more traffic and road capacity are not the inevitable result of growth. They are in fact the product of very deliberate choices that we have made to shape our communities around the private automobile. We as a society have the ability to make different choices--starting with the decision to design our streets as comfortable places for people.

...Neighborhood streets can be places where parents can feel safe letting their children play, and commercial strips can be redeveloped into grand boulevards, safe for walking and cycling, allowing for faster-moving through traffic as well as slower-paced local traffic.

...Not so long ago (and still in places like Cincinnati -Mike), ideas like these were considered preposterous in most North American communities. Transit stops were simply places to wait. Streets had been surrendered to traffic for so long that we hardly considered them to be public spaces at all. But now we are slowly getting away from this narrow perception of "transportation as conduit for cars" and beginning to think of "transportation as place."

...a radical idea--transportation can create great places, not destroy them. We see the vast amount of urban land dedicated to cars, traffic, and parking lots as a huge opportunity to create public spaces that serve community. Transportation can be the handmaiden of this transformation—by redeveloping facilities from highways to boulevards, from parking lots to mixed-use transit oriented development, and from nowhere to someplace. But we must follow some simple rules. These include:

Rule One: Stop Planning for Speed ...People first!

Rule Two: Start Planning for Public Outcomes ...public benefit, not just private convenience.

Rule Three: Think of Transportation as Public Space ....Roads are places too!

Transportation is public space to be shared by pedestrians, bikes, transit, and cars.

Transportation--the process of going to a place--can be wonderful if we rethink the idea of transportation itself. If we remember that transportation is the journey, but community is always our goal.

29 January 2009

Vacant Cities and Rubber Wheeled Vehicles

I once new a man named Greg. He demolished buildings, and the City often called him for emergency demolitions. I remember once arguing with him about destroying our heritage, removing needed housing and things like that. But Greg was proud of his work, and he earnestly believed what he was doing was good for Cincinnati. He said that he still had much work to do in neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, because the buildings were too close together and at least every other building needed to be demolished, "so that adjacent buildings could have parking".

Since the 1950's this has been a prevalent attitude about cities like Cincinnati. It is an attempt to remake the city like the suburbs. I would guess that close to 50% of the buildings that existed in OTR in 1950 have been demolished. Liberty Street was widened, parking lots were built. But even with so much destroyed, there is still not enough parking for the 4 story buildings with streetfront retail.

People have been trying to make OTR an easy to drive and park neighborhood. They think that this is necessary for its survival, but they are really destroying it.

The problems with Greg's parking solution is manifold.
it is a waste of existing buildings.
it is a waste of city infrastructure
it creates unpleasant places
it creates unwalkable places

Look at some of the photos in this post. How safe is it for a pedestrian to cross Liberty Street? How pleasant are these parking lots and billboards? These pictures show a once, quintessential, livable, walkable, urban city, trying to become "car-friendly", and it is a shameful destruction of a beautiful city.

I've noticed that most of the new condos being built on Main Street and Vine Street come with private surface parking spaces. The City recently funded new parking lot for an OTR business that already has a large parking lot.

All of these surface lots once contained homes and businesses.

A few months ago, I posted a street scene video from 1901. As was typical before rubber wheeled motor vehicles, the street was shared equally by all types of transport (streetcars, horse carts and pedestrians, lots of pedestrians).

Rubber wheeled vehicles fundamentally changed the city. They are more dangerous to the pedestrian. They encourage dispersal. They encourage isolation. They require separation.

Now, if you consider all the ways to get somewhere, which is the most pleasant, most green, most economical, most urban? ...? Walking! On top of being healthy, and cheap, walking is also the only real way to build an urban commercial district or a neighborhood. Walking is interactive, safe and compact. Walking is green. Walkers dominate successful cities.

Now, how can a city create more walkers? Well, the sidewalks and street crossings should obviously be safe, both from crime and from cars. But more importantly, a city must have places within walking distance. Places that are worth the walk. Many planning books have studied the density required to make walking feasible.

And if a city were to decide that they wanted to support the pedestrian, support development of street level retail, and generally move the city in a non-suburban direction, what should they do toward that end? Some cities, such as Vancouver, are removing highway ramps that over-accommodate cars at the expense of the pedestrian.

Many cities never gave up their pedestrian support system (ie: streetcars, subways and elevated trains.) They have vibrant business districts, lively streets and often a growing urban population. Others that had gotten rid of rail are successfully rebuilding light rail and streetcar systems.

Cities are for people, not cars. If we make the pedestrian the first priority, density and thriving business will follow.

28 January 2009

Snow Play

Last year I posted some great kids playing in the snow photos. So far this year I haven't taken many because I've been at work a lot while they play. Here are a couple from yesterday. The snow is so beautiful in the city, and I love how quiet everything is when it is falling hard. It is always surprising how nearly all the streets of OTR are untreated. Vine Street is a snow emergency street and it is kept pretty clean, but beyond that, expect good sledding conditions ...in the middle of the street!

Lego Goes Urban - City Scenes

The Cafe Corner standard has a lot of folks building their dreams in Lego form, and many of them are getting together to assemble them into Lego communities. There's a metaphor in here somewhere...
(Click pics for larger view)

Fire at the Lego Hotel...

27 January 2009

Next Bust: Retail Real Estate

...Shopping malls are losing anchor stores, and large chains are closing stores and even going out of business altogether. Developers who borrowed to finance commercial ventures are in trouble as are the holders of the mortgages, derivatives and other financial junk associated with the loans.

The main source of the economic crisis is the infantile belief of US policymakers that an economy could be based on debt expansion. ...

...Life is already cruel for Americans living on retirement savings. Not only has the stock market bust reduced their wealth by half, but also their remaining assets are producing no income. ... Retirees are living by consuming their capital.

...Interest rates have to be raised in order to encourage saving and to provide incomes to retirees.

...a credible policy of reducing both budget and trade deficits must be announced. In the near term the budget deficit can be reduced by $500 billion by withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and by cutting a bloated defense budget that represents the now unattainable goal of US world hegemony.

...gangsters are using the crisis as an opportunity to steal from taxpayers and to finance their misdeeds and exorbitant salaries with Federal Reserve loans. Their shills among economists and the financial press tell the people that the solution is to fatten up the banks with funds so they will resume lending to an over-indebted public that will then return to the shopping malls.

This unrealistic approach to a serious crisis indicates a leadership crisis on top of an economic crisis. - Alternet (Graph is from a post of mine 18 months ago)

Snow and School

Well it is just after midnight, and the snow is falling hard. School will probably be cancelled, and the morning commute will really stink... unless you walk or take the train to work, then it will be kinda enjoyable...

26 January 2009

14th Street New Building

I've been watching this building go up. This photo is of the north side, along 14th. The first level structure was concrete and is being faced in a sandstone type material, and is detailed pretty good to match the neighborhood. There also appear to be quite a few outdoor balconies which are critical when building down here. I'm still not so sure about the circular roof at the corner, but I'm keeping an open mind about it:
Building Cincinnati says that these condos are now available.

When You Wish Upon a Star...

I've always felt like our government was raining it down upon us, but never knew why. Finally, we get a solid scientific answer to the question. Thanks NASA.

25 January 2009

Percy Jenkins Pleads to Save Home

Some things never change, but often the specifics do drastically change. For example, people still get forced from their homes. Years ago often it was government doing the demolition under the banner of Urban Renewal. Today it is more likely to be foreclosure or condemnation.

I found this compelling photo in an old book in the office, and thought it was worth sharing:
In this photo, a man threatens suicide in an attempt to prevent the authorities compulsorily purchasing his home as part of a London redevelopment project. "Percy Jenkins made a last defiant bid to save his home yesterday...but failed. For four hours he resisted bailiffs and police, council officials and welfare workers. He roared at them from the rooftop, threatened to hurl himself from a 30 ft high window ledge and barricaded his doors. But in the end, weeping he had to concede defeat." - Daily Mirror June 19, 1969. (from the book "Architecture vs Housing", 1971, by Martin Pawley

Snake Handling

The Gospel reading at church today was the end of Mark which talks about going forth to drink poison and handle snakes. In the sermon, father says that this last entry of Mark was added by another author and that we should not go handle snakes... Darn.

24 January 2009

First Sign of Underground Garage

Thelen conducting soil borings at the site of a future underground parking garage at Washington Park:

23 January 2009

Clifton Cultural Arts Center

I recieved and email announcing great news for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, which is located in the old Clifton School:

All of us here at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center are delighted to announce a $1 million leadership gift for the first phase of renovations to the historic Clifton School, and a $250,000 capital grant from the City of Cincinnati. These remarkable investments - from an anonymous donor and from the City's 2009 Capital Budget - combine with $250,000 from the State of Ohio to allow us to move forward with renovations. The first phase of the Clifton School renovation will make the building fully accessible and code compliant by adding a fire protection system, secured lobby entrance and an elevator to the building. Renovations will allow use of the spectacular auditorium, music rooms and other classrooms on the top floor of the building. "We are deeply grateful to this anonymous donor, the City of Cincinnati and the State of Ohio for investing in the preservation of the Clifton School as an asset that will serve the entire community through arts and cultural programming," said Cindy Herrick, Board President of CCAC. "Particularly in this challenging economic climate, the leadership and commitment of these funders are truly incredible, and will provide invaluable momentum to move this ambitious project forward." We are so grateful to all of you who have invested in CCAC as volunteers, donors, partners and supporters, and are thrilled to share this news with you. We anticipate construction will begin in fall 2009, and will be complete by June 2010. Even with these remarkable investments, we still need your help. These gifts are restricted to our renovation projects, and the operating expenses for the school - to pay the heat, turn on the lights and continue our great programming - will only be possible with the continued support of friends like you. We look forward to keeping you up to date about our renovations and our work to build a thriving arts hub to serve the community.

22 January 2009

2 yr anniversary

This blog started two years ago with four January posts. Kind of inauspicious.

I am happy with the direction of the blog, and only hope to have more original writing, especially focusing on some individual families, and how they are coping with urban Cincinnati. I think as people get more comfortable with putting themselves out there for the public (like on Facebook), they will be more comfortable with their photos and stories online. I know that I am getting more comfortable, but it has taken a while for some of us stuck in our old ways.

I like blogs that have several posts a day. To that end, I am very happy to have some co-bloggers to keep things moving here, and I also like that we keep things pretty positive despite our differences. If you want anti-everything and divisiveness, then you have plenty of options elsewhere.

If I'm reading the Google Analytics report right, we steadily get 150 individual viewers a day and about 2,500 a month. Sometimes we will get close to 300 viewers in a day. For example the inaugural Lego posting got tons of views. (good job Mark). Once in a blue moon, we will have a post that gets tons of visits. This happened when I had the Huckabee Christmas card juxtaposed to the Obama Christmas card a year ago, and some with easily googleable titles continue to get daily hits like Graphs, Pie Charts and the Economy. But those are not the direction I want to go. I am more interested in the local, urban, Cincy family stuff, and will try to keep focused in that direction.

Thank you for visiting, and please comment. ...Or email if you want to co-blog.

21 January 2009

Thank You CPS Teachers

We are so fortunate to have such great teachers at Fairview. When I see an experienced teacher, with a masters degree and 25+ years of teaching behind her, still come every morning into a room packed with eight-year old kids, and keep order, and keep a positive learning environment, I am amazed. I could never do that job. When we talk with the teachers, they know all about our child's strengths and weaknesses, and they have learning plans specifically fitted to their needs. And trust me our kids have many needs.

The competence of these teachers is far above those I had in parochial schools. I would say the second grade curriculum is comparable to what I learned in fourth+ grade.

And they are doing it with up to 28 kids in each classroom. And they are doing it with personal attention and care to each pupil. And believe it or not, on top of all they do every day, we had several of them send us cards and even make us a meal when a family member was recently hospitalized. It will be impossible to thank them enough for all they do.

Lego Goes Urban - What Others are Doing

It turns out there a lot of creative people using Lego to bring tangible form to their urban imaginings. They seem to be coalescing around the Cafe Corner form factor and design standard. Here is a selection:

From Brickshelf Gallery, "The Coke Building"

From Akos Kostyan in Hungary, "Variable House"

LegoWiz gives us an "Art Deco Cinema"

Olly in Germany brings us the "New Yorker Building"

And from PJMoyers Brickshelf Gallery, another hometown favorite especially for Griff.

20 January 2009

Ice and Ducks at Eden Park

At Eden Park yesterday, people had shoveled part of the reflecting pool smooth, and were playing hockey. We went to the other ponds and played soccer with chunks of ice, and fed the cold, cold ducks:

BTW: Obama is now president. I wish him all the best in his efforts to unite this country for progressive change. Yes We Can... yes we will.

OTR Manhattan

I was reading The 25 Things Tag, and one particular item caught my eye...
"23. I like to drink a Manhattan after a long day."
And I got to thinking, "That makes sense, what else would a 'CityKin' drink but a Manhattan?" It has been called the king of cocktails—strong, urbane, and simple.

Made famous by Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, it originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, where it was invented for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston's mother) in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The success of the banquet made the drink fashionable, later prompting several people to request the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated — "the Manhattan cocktail."

Mnahattans include whiskey, sweet vermouth, ice, and bitters. Commonly used whiskeys are rye (traditional choice), Canadian, Bourbon and Tennessee. Proportions of whiskey to vermouth vary, from a very sweet 1:1 ratio to a much less sweet 4:1 ratio. The cocktail is often stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass, where it is garnished with a stemmed Maraschino cherry. A Manhattan is also frequently served on the rocks in a lowball glass.

Bitters are frequently omitted from a Manhattan unless specifically requested; however purists maintain that bitters are required to offset the sweetness of the whiskey and vermouth. Using more vermouth and less whiskey to create a less potent Manhattan may actually make the drink taste stronger because of the intense flavor of sweet red vermouth.

Here are some other variations on the classic Manhattan:
Rob Roy-made with Scotch whisky.
Dry Manhattan-dry vermouth instead of sweet, served with a twist.
Perfect Manhattan-equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.
Brandy Manhattan-brandy rather than rye.
Metropolitan-3-to-1 ratio of cognac or brandy to vermouth.
Cuban Manhattan-Perfect Manhattan, dark rum not whiskey.
Latin Manhattan-equal parts white rum, sweet and dry vermouth, and a splash of Maraschino cherry juice, served up with a twist.
Womanhattan-1 part grenadine, 2 parts rye, with a twist.
Uptown Manhattan-typically named for an establishment's
special touches, usually a more expensive whiskey.
SoCoMan (Southern Comfort Manhattan)-Southern Comfort with dry vermouth, as using sweet vermouth with Southern Comfort would often be considered an overdose of sweet; however, some people still like these made with sweet vermouth, as that is the tradition for a Manhattan.
Perhaps we could persuade CityKin to share his special recipe in the comments. Local clubs could make it a house specialty, the OTR Manhattan.

19 January 2009

GPS Locator Writsband for Children

See here for the story. I guess I would be tempted to try something like this when the kids first start going places on their own.

Auto Oriented OTR with Grasslands

Once filled with dozens of buildings and hundreds of apartments and stores, now simply mowed once or twice a year:

Double garage doors, and parking facing liberty:


6' iron fence around derelict gravel parking lot:

Fast food drive-in about to re-open as a Cricket Store, with plenty of parking:

Pleasant Street at Liberty:

Billboards, auto-oriented:

Grassy lot, site of demo years ago:

Recent demolition, missing teeth in center of block:

Elm Str Parking Lot:

Tire store:

This gas station replaced several buildings, including St xxx church. Most recently used as a temporary labor place:

18 January 2009

The 25 Things Tag

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you and post it. At the end, choose 5 people to be tagged. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

OK, It's been going around, and I almost didn't respond, but what the heck:

1. I don't know the guy, Gerard who tagged me, he must read the blog.
2. I didn't really like kids until I had my own.
3. I still don't really enjoy other people's kids too much, although that is changing.
4. I didn't go to the movies at all last year. Maybe once the year before.
5. I have been inside close-to 100 vacant buildings in OTR and the West End. Some of them are still vacant, some are rehabbed and many have been demolished.
6. I love being on the edge of a high roof, climbing in the rafters or in a dank basement with a flashlight and measuring tape.
6. I never had school spirit but inexplicably I still dislike St X. Same with XU.
7. Our beloved kitty cat died yesterday of kidney failure and old age.
8. I have never had cable or satellite TV.
9. I'm an omnivore, not very green, but definitely a locavore.
10. My dad and both grandfathers worked in factories, in unions.
11. My first memory of music is Mrs Robinson on my dad's AM car radio, WSAI.
12. For a few years as a kid all I did and all I dreamed about was building forts, camps, rope swings and treehouses.
13. We had very cold snowy winters when I was 10-13 years old. Seems like all we did was sled-ride, ice skate and build snow forts.
14. My clique in high school would probably be the wubs.
15. I miss hand drafting and my old drafting board, though I believe it damaged my eyesight.
16. The first time I flew in an airplane, I was 21.
17. That was also the first time I travelled outside the US (to Spain).
18. My work car is 19 yrs old. I want to get to 20.
19. We "met" Barack Obama July 17, 2007, but my camera was broken that day.
20. I met buddy gray in May 1989. I quit working for him 2yrs before he was shot.
21. I still get mad remembering our community garden was once mowed flat by a city contractor.
22. We had no musical instruments in my house growing up.
23. I like to drink a Manhattan after a long day. Sometimes two.
24. I enjoyed my first book when a high school teacher made us read Shogun.
25. I haven't read a complete book for years...since kids and the internet, though I have read parts of many books.

I will not tag anyone else because I never, ever forward these kind of things, but if you are so inclined, go ahead...

17 January 2009

Get $75 for Marketing Survey

We are looking for parents of boys ages 9-13 to sign themselves and their sons up to participate in an online, ongoing panel. This market research panel allows you to participate in surveys, game tests and even focus groups that pay $75.00 and up! If you are interested, call us at 1-800-884-3102 x. 1004 and ask for the Cincinnati Parents & Kids study.

I can't vouch for this group, but if someone tries this, I would love to hear how it goes.

Charlie and Lola

A friend recommended we get a Charlie and Lola DVD because the boy and girl are similar in age to our kids. But the best part about it is that the siblings like each other and are nice, and do not tease or yell at each other. In other words they are not like our kids at all. Surprisingly both our kids love the videos. You can get them used on Amazon for about $6. Good for kids 3-8 yrs old.

Lego Goes Urban - Obama Inauguration

See the 56th Presidential Inauguration Made Completely Out of Lego!

The fine folks at LegoLand California are modeling the historic scene depicting President-elect Barack Obama taking the Presidential oath of office on the steps of the Capitol. President-elect Obama and his wife Michelle, and daughters Sasha & Malia, along with Vice President-elect Joseph Biden are replicated as mini-figures in LEGO brick. Hundreds of LEGOLAND mini-figures have been “invited” to witness the inauguration. Bush-41 snoozes on the main dais with wife Barbara (in her signature hairdo and pearls). There are even some celebrities in the crowd!
More than one-thousand mini-figures have been created out of thousands of LEGObricks to be a part of the festivities. Mini-figures include President-elect Obama and his family, Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and Jill Biden, President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynn Cheney along with former President George Bush Sr. and Barbara Bush. Other mini-figures depicting ceremony participants include: Senator Dianne Feinstein, Dr. Rick Warren, Aretha Franklin, John Williams and performers Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo-Ma, Gabriela Montero, Anthony McGill, the Unites States Marine Band, the San Francisco Boys Chorus and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. Park guests can also find Oprah Winfrey in the crowd witnessing this momentous event as well as read fun facts about past inaugurations such as "who gave the shortest and longest inauguration address" and "which inauguration was the first to be televised." The historic scene is on display from Friday, Jan.16 through Memorial Day Weekend.

Click any picture for a larger view, or get some background from the builder here by clicking the video in upper right.

A toast and blessing to our new president and his quintessentially-urban first family from all of us here at CityKin.

16 January 2009

Connected Street Proposal to Obama

....the stimulus must distinguish between the right kind and wrong kind of pavement — those investments that make communities more livable and sustainable versus those that weaken our strategic position and make families frighteningly vulnerable to volatile energy prices.

...networks of highly connected walkable streets are at the heart of great urbanism and of emerging standards for green neighborhood development...

...CNU’s Connected Networks Proposal gives Congress and the Obama Administration a simple and direct means for identifying and funding walkable, high-value networks. In contrast to most federal funding programs, which target sections of individual state highways and other major roads in isolation, CNU’s proposal would apply a new “network” designation to entire areas meeting specific connectivity standards...

...connected streets are the necessary framework for enduring neighborhoods where shops, schools and other places that serve our daily needs can be found within convenient walking or biking distance... -Congress for the New Urbanism

Raccoon: The Other Dark Meat

Natural foods, unprocessed and untouched by modern production methods, are all the rage nowadays. This could prove to be the perfect food for urban locavores intent on harvesting a reliable source of wild game.

Some excerpts from an article in The Kansas City Star:
"Raccoon, which made the first edition of The Joy of Cooking in 1931, is labor-intensive but well worth the time, aficionados say. Raccoons go for $3 to $7 — each, not per pound — and will feed about five adults. Four, if they’re really hungry. Those who dine on raccoon meat sound the same refrain: It’s good eatin’.

As long as you can get past the “ick” factor that it’s a varmint, more often seen flattened on asphalt than featured on a restaurant menu. (One exception: French restaurant Le Fou Frog served raccoon about a dozen years ago, a waiter said.) Eating varmints is even in vogue these days, at least in Britain. The New York Times reported last week that Brits are eating squirrels with wild abandon.

Raccoon meat is some of the healthiest meat you can eat,” says Jeff Beringer, a furbearer resource biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “During grad school, my roommate and I ate 32 coons one winter. It was all free, and it was really good. If you think about being green and eating organically, raccoon meat is the ultimate organic food,” with no steroids, no antibiotics, no growth hormones.

And when people eat wild meat, Beringer says, “it reminds the modernized society — people who usually eat food from a plastic wrapper — where food comes from."
In Ohio, raccoon season ends on the last day of January, and there's no daily bag limit, so get 'em while the gettin's good. You'll need a valid hunting or trapping license unless you're having problem raccoon interactions with your pets, or are eradicating dangerous raccoons from your dwelling.

The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources says, "Raccoons are well adapted to urban living. Raccoon damage typically involves raiding gardens, upsetting trash cans and taking up residence in chimneys, attics or other unwanted areas. Control is not difficult, but requires persistence.

Nuisance or sick raccoons may be trapped without a permit, but it is illegal to live trap and relocate them to a new area. In order to prevent the possible spread of raccoon diseases in Ohio, all live trapped raccoons must be released again on the homeowner's property or humanely euthanized.

Once that's done, you'll find some tasty raccoon recipes here. Or head down to the Mercantile Library and see if they have a first edition of "The Joy of Cooking".

15 January 2009

Property Taxes Due

If you are a property owner in Hamilton County, then you just recieved your annual invoice from Robert A. Goering. I'm posting this information for non-property owners, so they can see what we pay, and what it is spent on. For an in-city $100,000 house, the breakdown is something like below.
Item FundedDollarsPercent of Total Tax
City of Cincinnati2075.0077.8
Vocational School County Gen Fund 20.000.75
County Voted Bond Debt 1.25 0.05
Drake Hospital6.800.25
Indegent Hospital22.000.82
Mental Health17.440.65
Mental Retardation 29.40 1.10
Park District8.060.30
Crime Info Center1.100.04
Children Services19.750.74
Senior Services10.000.38
Museum Center1.620.06
Total Property Tax 2667.222.6% of home value

Call me a liberal Democrat, but the amounts seem reasonable to me. $450 for public schools. $2000 for streets, garbage collection, police and all the other things the City provides? Of course they also get income tax, and the county also gets a sales tax.

And certainly, many people live in houses, condos and apartments that are worth more than $100,000, and the tax is increased proportionally.

Is the County Voted Bond Debt the Stadium projects?

14 January 2009

Chicagoan Searches for Ed Hopper in Cincy

A Chicago writer visited Cincinnati (among 46 other cities) and asked people, "Do you feel Americans are isolated as Hopper portrayed us?" Some of what he reported from Cincy:

Hopper's painting here, Prospect Street, Gloucester, is a simple, wholesome street scene, quaint as Cincinnati. A row of sunlit houses stand on a street deserted except for a dark green car hunkered along the curb. Two church tops are visible on the horizon. A flesh-toned sidewalk runs before the houses beside the gray road along the bottom of the painting on which you seem to be standing to view the scene. A museum curator called the painting, "a distillation of the essential American residence street anywhere."

....Over-the-Rhine claimed to be the largest national historic district in the nation and to have a "turn-of-the-century" aura. It also retained that era's squalor...

..Nearby Findlay Market was advertised as an "authentic, European-styled open-air grocery" but felt more like a flea market...

(Patron at Kaldis:) "It's this whole idea about making a family-friendly city, and it's not, you know. It's a city. And that's sort of an oxymoron: a family-oriented city."

Lego Goes Urban - It's Skyline Time !

(Click any Pic for a larger view)
A custom product of Milton Train Works, this kit is a limited production run made under special license for our hometown signature dish, Skyline Chili.

The interior detail is what makes the model. And the removable roof and split construction makes it accessible enough to play with. The signature black and white checkerboard floor runs throughout. Even details like the rooftop ductwork for the kitchen hood system were included. Grubby mechanical systems like these are typically overlooked in the interest of aesthetics.

Booths, a dining bar with fixed stools, and a long steam table bring back memories of early morning munchies after a long night of merriment.

Smokin' hot waitress, large greek cook, and the beginnings of a hangover not included.

12 January 2009

Form Based Codes are Radical Green

"I can’t tell if the SmartCode is a radical, green, left-wing document or a developer-friendly, market based right-wing one,”...

...it's both. ... Communities aren't going to get a green code implemented, or any code, without that code appealing to developers...

I'd go so far as to state that developers using the SmartCode are the radical greenies of this decade. The market-based tendency of developers to optimize density on their sites, while giving buyers the mixed-use, human-scaled, walkable neighborhoods they seek, is in fact both radical and green. Radical, because we need comprehensive zoning reform, a serious challenge to the status quo, to allow such development. And green because those development patterns do more to preserve the health of the environment than any technological innovation is likely to deliver. -Sandy Sorlien

New Streetcar Website

Here. A good summary, with links to relavent sites etc.. I'm thinking of doing some more Streetcar posts here at Citykin. I haven't really focused on it since last February.

The City is Nature Too

"If we define nature as wild animals and plants, forests and rivers and mountains — everything out there — then we set humankind and its works apart, and that is a damaging illusion. If we define nature as the whole evolving cosmos, with us as a part of it, that comes closer to the truth, but it creates a dilemma for ethics." - Scott Russell Sanders in Terrain


This diagram is an important part of Christopher Alexander's theories about good design, specifically urban design. His early essay "A City is not a Tree" asserts that a good city is instead a semi-lattice. The tree diagram is hierarchical and the points (places) are not connected. The semi-lattice has more interconnection. The points on such a diagram could be the public elements of a city (newspaper stand, bus stop, corner store, bench, house door, etc).
Christopher Alexander was firstly a mathmetician. He turned to design, specifically urban design and architecture secondly, so he approaches design problems from an atypical perspective.

11 January 2009

Freedom Center Parking

Has anyone else had the misfortune of trying to follow these signs to the designated parking area? They kinda take you around in a big circle.

09 January 2009

Muppet Show

One of the best purchase I ever made for the kids was the old Muppet Shows on DVD. We just watched the Elton John episode, and it was fun:

Scrap Zoning Laws and Legalize Great Places

...What is the single most significant change that can be made in every town and city in America? One that would aid economic development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, foster healthier lifestyles, reduce dependence on foreign oil, protect open space and wildlife habitats, and reduce wasteful government spending?

Scrapping zoning codes.

...The mix of uses that gives (our favorite places) life are outlawed by zoning in virtually every city and town in all 50 states.

...The quite sensible idea that people shouldn't live next to steel mills was used to justify a system of "zones" to isolate uses that had lived in harmony for centuries. Suddenly, new neighborhoods were segregated by income, and commerce was torn asunder from both customers and workers. Timeless ways of creating great places were ruthlessly outlawed.

This coincided neatly with the rise of the car industry, and the systematic dismantling of America's electric streetcar network...

..."The American Dream" of single-family tracts, shopping centers and business parks owes more to zoning mandates than to market economics. Zoning was imposed on the American landscape by an unholy alliance between Utopians preaching a "modern" way of life and hard-headed businessmen who profited from supplying that new model, including an auto industry steeped in the ideology that "What's good for General Motors is good for America."

...Environmentalists are slowly realizing that, in protection of the environment, cities aren't the problem, they are actually the solution. ...

... what is the DNA of livable communities?

..regulating the form of buildings, since that is what determines the long-neglected public realm of streets and sidewalks. It does that by regulating setbacks, heights and the physical character of buildings.

...some still claim that the real estate meltdown is only a nasty cyclical slump, that's just whistling past the graveyard. The model is broken. Building and financing generic products (class A office; suburban housing tract; grocery-anchored strip center; business park, etc.) through globally marketable securities has become radioactive...

...Scrap zoning. Adopt coding. Legalize the art of making great places that people cherish, that produce economic value, and that leave a lighter environmental footprint on the land.

Wow. Read the whole thing, written by Rick Cole, City Manager of Ventura, CA.

08 January 2009

Coleman Asks Obama for Rail Funding

Today, the mayor of Columbus attended a conference to watch Obama's stimulus speech and penned a letter asking for $200 million to fund their "Regional Rail Project". What has Mallory asked for?

New Urbanists Seize the Moment

In The Atlantic:
....the president of Smart Growth America, said it was time to build more rail—“the second half of our transportation system,” ...

...the current synchronicity of the real-estate crash, global warming, and peak oil is not “some kind of cosmic punishment … But there is one connection, and that’s our urban pattern.” It’s not too late for Americans to change our ways, but it will be much harder to do better in the 21st century, because of the way we’ve built the 20th.”
Also in The Atlantic, in 1972, a prediction about the car problem:
The Last Traffic Jam
Too many cars, too little oil. -by Stewart Udall

Charley Harper for Kids

When I think of my favorite things Cincinnati, Charley Harper is pretty far up the list. When I was a kid, I recall the Cincinnati Nature Center using a lot of his images as membership decals and such. The federal building has a great mosaic, as well as Miami University.

Now Ammo books has started to release a number of titles for kids, including the ABC book you see here. This quickly made my "must buy" list, and the boy loves it. It's not perfect. It is very thick (by far the thickest board book we own) and there are a couple annoying errors. First there is "I is for Iguana" which clearly has a picture of a Komodo Dragon, and then "P is for Penguin" which has a picture of a Murre, not a penguin. But I still love it. There is also a skinny version that has different pictures (and does not make those two errors). In addition, there is a Charley Harper 123s and Charley Harper Flash Cards and Floor Puzzles.

For simplicity I have linked to the products on Amazon, and have also set up a quick store with all the Charley Harper for Kids I could find on Amazon. However, I encourage you to check them out in person. I know Joseph-Beth has a number of the titles in their excellent kids section, and feel free to add any other local sources in the comments.