16 November 2012

Quadrant Magnets for CPS Schools

Today, our local newspaper has dedicated it’s entire opinion page to criticizing the current first-come-first-served enrollment process for CPS magnet schools.  

First is an article written by a “Local Expert”, Michael Evans, a professor of education at Miami University, who lives in Wyoming.  Notable is that the suburb of Wyoming is just outside the City of Cincinnati neighborhood of Hartwell.  Also notable is that it is very expensive to buy a house in Wyoming, which you must do if you want your children to attend the highly-ranked Wyoming Schools.  Mr. Evans is worried about the Cincinnati parents who cannot spend the time camping out and waiting in line.  But is he concerned about the parents who cannot afford to buy a house in Wyoming?  Hmmm.  Did you ever notice that there are no apartments in Wyoming? No affordable housing?  Hmmm.  Why not? 

Look, my kids are old enough that I personally do not have to worry about CPS’s Elementary Magnet Schools.  But I remember what it is like when you have a 4 year old, and you are very anxious to give them the best education you can.  If CPS does not allow parents to have control and choice, then the parents that have the means will make a choice, and that choice will be spend a lot of money on a house in a better school district or send their kids to private/parochial school.

The only opinion on the page that was interesting to me was the one from Helen Adams, of Clifton.  She complains that Clifton no longer has a neighborhood school.  I think she makes a great point.  Fairview is located on the site of the defunct local Clifton School.  And now it attracts students from Pleasant Ridge and Westwood.  Does all this traveling from the far reaches of the district make sense? 

When my wife and I first looked at schools, we were most interested in the CPS Montessori Schools.  At the time there were 4 quadrants, and you could only apply to the school in your quadrant.  The schools were: Dater, Sands, Winton, and North Avondale.  I like the quadrant solution.  You stay somewhat close to home but still have choice.  The only problem for us, was that the year we started the process, our quadrant school Sands… moved.  And it moved as far away as possible and yet stay in the City limits: Mt Washington.  We were not interested in spending the next 8 years commuting our children to Mt Washington.

Maybe a lottery is the way of the future.  That seems to be the take of the Editorial page.  Hey Cleveland is doing it.  But I just cannot see new parents willing to risk the education of their children on complete chance.  Moving to a full lottery system could severely hinder the attraction and retention of young couples.  A lottery would be a step back for the City, and area-based magnets schools would be a step in the right direction.  

14 November 2012

How to Have Your Heart Broken Every Year

....Grow an Urban Garden…

Just Try.  Get permission from some owner of a vacant lot.  This can be the Civic Garden Center, the City, or private developer.  Whoever, but meet with them and explain what you are doing and coordinate who is taking care of the lot and who should stay out.  Spend long hours bringing in good soil, removing glass, building beds, finding a water source, picking up litter, removing dog shit.  Meet with other people interested in gardening, invite them to assist, even if they are slightly insane. 

Work beside old people who just grow okra like they did growing up in the south.  Scold kids who jump the fence or run through the beds.

Then spend more time arguing with dog owners who refuse to curb their dog out of the garden and then listen to people complain about how your vegetable garden isn’t pretty, and then meet others who want to buy the lot to park cars on it.

Then do the things every gardener does: planting, weeding and watering.  Spend money and time nurturing a good mix of annuals and perennials.  If you are an optimist grow things like tomatoes and squashes.  If you are a pessimist and think those will get stolen too quickly, grow root vegetables and herbs.  If your really an optimist, plant fruit trees and grape vines.  Get the kids to help.  Show them that figs can actually grow in Ohio.  Have them save the worms you accidentally cut with the shovel.  Show them monarch caterpillars and cocoons.  Have them hide a growing pumpkin under leaves so people won’t see it. Get a good sage plant going, then get a big bush rosemary plant going in a sunny spot and give it lots of water so it grows big and healthy.

Spend 6 months doing all this and watching all your hard work come to fruition, and then…

…then come by some Saturday afternoon in October and find that someone has cut it all down. That beautiful rosemary bush that could have grown for years and years, cut to the ground. Everything butchered and piled in the corner compost bin. It can bring you to tears to see it.  It is so heartbreaking and so tragic.  This year it has put my wife in a depression.

Usually it is some volunteer group trying to clean up the neighborhood (fuck those do-gooders). (Don't they fucking know what rosemary looks like?) But other times it has been done by paid contractors hired by the City who got mixed up on what lots to clear.  It is so frustrating.  People have absolutely no respect for what you are doing. None.

It has happened in fenced lots and open lots.  It has happened on lots owned by the City and lots owned by neighbors and lots owned by the Civic Garden Center.  It has happened to us most every year for maybe 15 years.  It is so frustrating, I quit years ago.  

But my wife trudges on.  She needs to garden.

So each year, each spring she starts our and tries again.  Or at least she always has so far. 

Now, I am racking my brain trying to think of a solution, a better way.  The only thing I can come up with is purchasing some land and fencing it and locking it.  But where would this lot be?  If it is to far to walk, then we will go there less.  If it is isolated, it may suffer even more vandalism.  We really don’t need a huge space, but most urban lots are ignored by the owners and they have no incentive to sell or do anything.  Heck an agency will even come by and cut the weeds and plant bushes on it for you  

Tentatively, I’m lookout for a south-facing OTR lot for sale, never to be built upon. Cheap.

08 November 2012

Found Drawings

While emptying a room of clutter, I found these old measured drawings of the Gamble House. I know the guy who measured and drew these (back in the 80s?), and he was a very good draftsman. I'm not sure where the originals are, and these copies are not so great, resulting in inferior scans. I have more of them... and for posterity sake, I will scan those soon and add them here.

 Longitudinal Section

North Elevation

East Elevation

07 November 2012


Obama won re-election last night.  Hamilton County elected a Democrat for sheriff for the first time in maybe forever.  And even more dramatic to my mind, the Freestore decided to renovate housing instead of tear it down. 

One of my earlier blog posts, in 2007 was about how the Freestore Foodbank was trying to demolish historic buildings in OTR.  That post got tons of hits and publicity.  It also triggered the director of the Freestore, John Young to invite me over to try to convince me his position was correct. 

But when I met with John Young, I was struck by how out of touch he was with the neighborhood surrounding his business.  He was extremely dismissive of Over-the-Rhine, comparing it to the Gaza Strip.  It was obvious he was totally disconnected to all the positive change happening around him.  I also met with his architect, whose name escapes me.  But he too was dismissive of not just OTR, but totally dismissive of the idea that people in America would desire to live in dense urban settings like OTR. He believed only the poor who couldn't afford a car should live in the inner City.  I remember the architect saying that that these buildings they wanted to demolish had a European feel about them, but that people in the Midwest want parking, and that is exactly what the Freestore needed, more parking. 

But what the Freestore clients actually needed was this housing restored.  Housing near services.  Housing near transit, and near jobs.

Today the Enquirer has an article that was already partially covered by Building Cincinnati back in March, that the new director of the Freestore has plans to renovate 1606-1608 Walnut Street.  The Freestore has changed their leadership and their attitude to the neighborhood.  This is fantastic. 

I think that parts of today's Republican party are like the old Freestore management.  They do not see the way our City and our Nation have changed.  Locally, a growing portion of our citizens wants to live in urban areas and care about transit options.   Nationally, a growning portion of our citizens support gay marriage and universal health insurance.  Republicans cannot continue to run on Ronald Reagan's ideas.  Obama is akin to Reagan in that Reagan totally understood the mood of 1980; Obama understands the mood and the needs of our country in 2012

Our kids made this sign, which somehow ended up on the front of the New York Times today. Wow.

05 November 2012

Roger Ebert, American Treasure

If you haven't read Roger Ebert's blog or Facebook posts, do yourself a favor and check it out.  He is prolific, thoughtful and bleeds Chicago.  A couple samples:

I love to wander lonely streets in unknown cities. To find a cafe and order a coffee and think to myself -- here I am, known to no one, drinking my coffee and reading my paper. To sit somewhere just barely out of the rain, and declare that my fortress. I think of myself in the third person: Who is he? What is his mystery? I have explained before how I'm attracted to anonymous formica restaurants where I can read my book and look forward to rice pudding for desert. To leave that warm place and enter the dark city is a strange pleasure. Nostalgia perhaps.

When I was a child the mailman came once a day. Now the mail arrives every moment. I used to believe it was preposterous that people could fall in love online. Now I see that all relationships are virtual, even those that take place in person. Whether we use our bodies or a keyboard, it all comes down to two minds crying out from their solitude.