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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Is Manager Dohoney ready for this City?

New city manager approved but young council members wary
by Jennifer Greenup

Wednesday council voted 6-3 to confirm Milton Dohoney Jr. as the next city manager in Cincinnati City Council’s last Council meeting until August.

Councilmember Chris Bortz was one of the members who voted against Dohoney’s confirmation "I would like to explain my position on one of the most important votes we might make this year," said Bortz. "We most ensure our government is proactive. We need the very best."

Bortz said that while Dohoney has a lot of experience running a city government he didn’t think that Dohoney had enough experience to deal with the issues facing a big city and that he would like someone who did.

Last week Councilmember’s interviewed Dohoney for over an hour and then postponed the vote because Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, who voted against Dohoney’s confirmation, was unable to attend the meeting.

The postponement was arranged through an agreement minutes before the Council meeting began after Councilperson Leslie called the move disingenuous.

Ghiz also voted against Dohoney’s confirmation. At last weeks Council meeting Ghiz was unsuccessfully in getting Dohoney to produce any type of written plans or documents showing the types of programs and policies he had implemented at his current job.

However, Councilmembers Laketa Cole and Cecil Thomas said that they had done their homework on Dohoney and were very satisfied that he would do a good job as city manager.
Councilman David Crowley, who voted to confirm Dohoney, said that he had hired and fired many people in his career and that sometime you have to go with your "gut."

"The only concern had been that the job was too big for Mr. Dohoney," said Crowley, "Not that he was ever incompetent."

The controversy surrounding the new manager’s confirmation is in part due to the City’s new Charter.

Councilmember’s are already busy negotiating changes to rules that govern the hiring of the city manager with the Mayor so that all councilmembers play a bigger role in the process. Councilmember’s also want to establish an evaluation process to determine the city manager’s performance.

The city manager’s position is carries a great deal of responsibility. As the executive of the cities government he is responsible for implementing the Council’s policies. He also makes policy recommendations to the council giving him a great deal of influence over city policy.

The city manager will oversee the 17 city departments and the city’s 6,500 employees.
He is the city’s liaison with the residents and the business community and is responsible for economic development and public safety.

Dohoney says that he is up for the challenge and not afraid to take risks in the City’s best interests and that the level of detail it takes to work out policies is beyond the councils time.

"It is about activity and strategy to advance the community," said Dohoney. "I’m going to be actively involved."

Dohoney further said that he wanted to assure Council that he will carry out what ever policy they dictate to him.

"It would be my approach to bring things before City Council," said Dohoney. "I would cooperate with you to move the City forward recognizing the distinct roles we play."

email Jennifer Greenup jenniferg@queencityforum.com. Ms. Greenup is a reporter and feature writer for QCFMag.com.

Monday, June 26, 2006

To See Or Not To See: "Wordplay"

Discover a world that thinks inside the box!
by Jan Stetter

All eggheads unite! And when you come together to see this affectionate documentary, it is certain that you will be in good company. Wordplay is the newest summer offering of films that entertain while educating the moviegoer about the passion, addiction, and pleasure people derive from working The New York Times daily crossword puzzles.

The film introduces Will Shortz, the Crossword Puzzle Editor of the New York Times. He came to his job by his youthful tenacity and perclavity to puzzles; all kinds, all shapes, all forms. In college at Indiana University in the early 70’s he created his major and submitted a course of study substantiating his choice. Found in a dictionary, "Enigmatology" was born the serious field of academic inquiry for Will Shortz.

Besides being the editor of the crossword puzzles, he is the director of the annual national Crossword Puzzle Tournament held in Connecticut each winter. The film introduces you to the winners, the wannabees, the diehards, and the truly genius in a world that includes people not so very different from the rest of us.

The commitment to this daily homage of wordplay and all of the confessions of diehard crossword puzzle players will entertain. Among the famous devotees are Bill Clinton, Amy Ray and Emily Sailers of Indigo Girls, Mike Mussina of New York Yankees fame, and John Stewart from the Daily Show.

Stewart is quoted as saying, “I am a 'Times puzzle fan. I will solve the USA Today, perhaps in a hotel, but I don't feel good about myself.”

The film tells many facts about how crossword puzzles are created. It shines light on the degrees of competence and obsession with this game. There is the trepid pencil player that begins the week attempting the Monday puzzle that is considered easy. Then we meet the extremists who use pens only and keep a daily record of the duration of completing the puzzles and triumphs if said puzzle is completed in one setting, beating the previous week’s record.

Merle Reagel, a professional crossword puzzle constructor, sums up best what the movie Wordplay has to offer: it reveals this lone avocation (of solving crossword puzzles) is not as unusual as people think it is. Crossword puzzles are much more mainstream than people think they are.

Watching Wordplay will do two things for you. It will A-M-E-L-I-O-R-A-T-E your L-E-X-I-C-O-N and A-U-G-M-E-N-T your D-E-L-E-C-T-A-T-I-O-N.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact jans@queencityforum.com

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Grizzly Man

As a credible Documentary—No way! As a plot for a Mockumentary—Absolutely!
By Jan Stetter

Grizzly Man has been billed as a documentary. It is the story of Timothy Treadwell, a forty-six year old man who proclaimed himself an advocate for the grizzly bears living in Katmai National Park, Alaska, and his companion Amie Huguenard. After spending thirteen summers of adulating his beloved bears, both were viciously killed by the very animal Treadwell had dedicated his life to protect.

A mockumentary is defined as a parody using actors with improvised stories. A documentary is defined as giving a factual presentation in an artistic form. Grizzly Man falls into neither of these categories. As an idea for a mockumentary it is credible. As a documentary it fails royally.

Over one hundred hours of film footage recovered after Treadwell’s demise, served to show a man who single-mindedly appointed himself champion of one of nature’s most magnificent and dangerous animals. Where is Treadwell’s authorization or certified credentials to be proclaimed an advocate to the bear? What formal, accredited studies were earned by Timothy Treadwell to commune with the grizzly bears?

The true delusions and idiocy Mr. Treadwell displayed in his film shows breathtaking natural scenery and footage of a lost soul. All point to an eccentric man who lost reality.

Incredulously, it must be stated that this film was nominated and won several awards from film festivals worldwide. Are the people who vote for these awards as beguiled as the people who profited from making this documentary?

Treadwell abdicated any sense of credibility when, he passionately follows a female bear immediately after she has relived her bowel and he places both hands into the animal’s excrement. Treadwell then has his friend film him as he exults, “I am one with you. I feel the heat from your body. I feel a part of you as I touch your droppings, I love you! I love you, bear.”

Earlier he films an episode of two males fighting over a female. Once again the victor bear relieves himself as he viciously attacks the weaker bear. When the fight is over, Timothy talks into the camera telling the weaker bear that he can relate to defeat --something to the effect, “Don’t sweat it buddy, I’ve been rejected before. And I understand how you feel! Why looking at that beauty (pointing to the female bear) I would certainly compare her to Michelle Pfeiffer.”

This is not to suggest this movie lacks entertainment. The amateur photography of the Alaskan wildlife is breathtaking. The true life coroner, the former girl friends and Timothy’s parents all could have readily been played by any number of actors from successful mockumentaries.

For all you bear lovers--sorry for finding humor in this tragedy. For me that is more honest and a better tribute than idolizing a man that was too far gone to realize his own limitations.

Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard were merely lunch for that bear.

Perhaps that is the crux of the criticism; Timothy Treadwell did as Timothy Treadwell pleased as if his self-righteous beliefs justified his commitment to the bears. So why make a film that admires such audacity and blind faith where the outcome is so devastating?

Timothy Treadwell was not a hero. Giving credence to this film as an example of a factual presentation in an artistic form is ludicrous.

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact

Is it safety or balanced budget?

Council unclear on budget's priorities
by Jennifer Greenup

Cincinnati City Council members are busy debating the budget; almost all of them believe that safety should be the top priority of the City after a balanced budget. All but one councilmember has endorsed a commitment to placing 100 more police officers on the streets, called for earlier this month by Councilman Chris Monzel.

Councilmember’s John Cranley, Cecil Thomas, Chris Bortz, Jeff Berding and Leslie Ghiz also submitted a motion calling on the City to add 100 new officers to city streets.
“There is no doubt that people have left our city over a perception of danger,” said Cranley. “If you go around and asking people if they want to see more officers on the street, they would say yes.”

Councilman David Crowley voted against the motion. “We just added 75 new police officers,” said Crowley. “There are many ways to fight crime. It seems the easy way to reduce crime by putting more police on the streets.” He continued, saying that the city could change the way they uses its 1047 police officers so that more of its officers would be on the street.

“Only 48 percent [502 officers] can respond to calls,” said Crowley. “That is low compared to other cities. We could change our rate to increase officers on the street."

Councilman John Cranley, however, pointed out that even if the City voted to add more officers to the department, it would be years before they were all added.

“It would be a miracle to get these officers on the streets by 2008,” said Cranley. “The bigger issue is that this is not a rush to hire.”

Thomas, a former police officer said that when he joined the department 30 years ago, there were 956 officers on the force. Since that time, the types of crimes and the amount of crime committed on the City’s streets has increased.

“We need to bring our police on line with the amount of crime on the streets,” said Thomas. “There is a new level of crime [on our streets] with 15 and 16 year-olds committing gun crimes.”

Mr. Crowley said the city needs to look at other ways to reduce crime that does not involve law enforcement which the other councilmember’s agreed with.

“We need to be proactive about attracting people to the City,” said Chris Bortz. “There are many challenges and selling this community as a place to do business is just as important as a safe City.”

Councilwoman Laketa Cole said that an increase in home ownership would help solve some of the City’s crime problems.

“I believe that while we are adding officers, we need to do other things to reduce crime,” said Cole. “If you have an increase in home ownership, you have a reduction in crime.”

However, while the city faces a large budget deficit and costly policies to improve the lives of the Cinicinnati’s residents, they are also debating rolling back the property taxes by $2 million dollars, a Monzel proposal. The rollback would save the average homeowner $9 a year according to Mr. Crowley.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Council Examines Rebuilding Options

Renewal efforts effect grant eligability
by Jennifer Greenup
Cincinnati City Council's efforts to remove “blight” from the city may end up costing them federal Housing and Urban Development grants which are based on the number of old buildings a city has for distributing funds.

Council passed two motions on Wednesday, one, a joint motion by Councilmember’s Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz and Leslie Ghiz, and the other by Councilman Chris Monzel. They have called upon the city to increase funding for removal of blighted buildings.

The removal of old buildings and neighborhoods which are been replaced with new housing and businesses has already taken place. The city’s revitalization of its neighborhoods has removed many old structures, such as in neighborhoods surrounding the University of Cincinnati, which are the bases for the City’s federal grant award.

Yet, according to a report by NPR on Wednesday, cities all over the country are now faced with the unintended consequences of redevelopment through demolition. According to the report, cities that renovated their old buildings are now receiving more grant money than cities that demolished their old structures and replaced them with new business and housing developments.

Cincinnati may never face this problem if these cities are successful in lobbying Congress for changes in the grant formula system.

City Council is currently reviewing agency responses to its policies and efforts to reduce “blight” in Cincinnati.

Ron Thomas of the Code Enforcement Response Team said that through a joint effort of the Building, Fire, Health and Police Departments, the city has reduced duplications of citations and code violations. The effect is that there are less duplicate cases clogging the court system.

Cincinnati is also working hard to keep up the appearance of its lots and greenspaces.

According to the Department of Public Services Acting Director Steven G. Bailey, the city currently is responsible for mowing and removing trash from over 1800 locations. Fifty five are high visibility locations which they mow every ten days; the rest are on a 45 or 70 day cycle of mowing.

However, it can take up to 90 days for complaints about high grass to go through the city’s policy process before the city can gain legal access to private property to mow the grass.

“When citizens call in, we can’t immediately cut the grass,” said Councilwomen Laketa Cole. Ms. Cole said that Cincinnati needed to make policy changes so that it doesn’t take so long but she wanted the residents to know the policy issues the city faces to resolve the complaint.
She encouraged anyone with a complaint to call the Public Service at (513) 591-6000.

Reporter Jennifer Greenup covers the City Hall and local politics. The feature appears each Thursday exclusively in QCFMag.com. Contact: jenniferg@queencityforum.com

Monday, June 12, 2006

To See Or Not To See: Mock-umentaries

by Jan Stetter

Dare it be assumed everyone knows the meaning of mockumentary? It actually is what it implies. A mockumentary is a film genre of parody or satire loosely resembling a documentary. Often the dialogue is unscripted and improvised by the actors.

Documentaries may fascinate, to others they may bore. Perhaps mockumentaries differ in that they are usually filmed with the goal of being an art form. Rarely are the plots a call for social justice or stories of corporate whistle blowers. They have the format of a documentary where snippets of the story are shown as interviews or as live action windows to the characters’ lives.

You may remember the movie, The Blair Witch Project. This was an example of a mockumentary that told a haunting ghost story. Many mockumentaries are comedies. Any of the mockumentaries directed, written or involving Christopher Guest are a sure win.

Christopher Guest is an actor, director, composer and musician. He was one of the writers as well as actors in his first mockumentary, 1986’s This is Spinal Tap. Throughout his career in making mockumentaries he has aligned himself with talented actors who revel in the opportunity to create and improvise a story into the life of the characters. Except for This is Spinal Tap, all other Guest mockumentaries were co-written with Eugene Levy.
For your viewing pleasure, may I suggest:

This is Spinal Tap 1986

A film that follows a fictitious rock band “Spinal Tap” touring America in the mid-eighties in hopes that the tour may jumpstart their waning popularity and careers. The pretentious smugness and self adulation of the band members makes for a mock glimpse of what touring with bands similar to Queen, Black Sabbath or Aerosmith may have been like. The mock footage of their concerts is comedy at its best.
Starring Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Rob Reiner, Fran Drescher
Waiting For Guffman 1996
This film parodies small town community theatre and what happens when a few of the locals hang their star on the possibility of being discovered by a famous New York critic. Guest and Levy write for characters who believe their talent as thespians far surpasses any Hollywood success or classically trained actor. Don’t miss their musical rendition of the movie Backdraft.
Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hare, Parker Posey, Larry Miller, Fred Willard

Best In Show 2000
The title refers to the name of an award given at an elite dog competition. The movie follows five dog owners and the lengths they will go for their dog’s chance to be voted “Best In Show”. Watch this mockumentary to meet a hilarious cast of characters with names like: Harlan Peeper, Meg and Hamilton Swan, Cookie Guglemen Fleck, her husband Gerry and Stefan Vanderhoof and his significant other Scott Donlan.
Starring Christopher Guest, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Catherine O’Hare, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins.

A Mighty Wind 2003
A Mighty Wind is a mockumentary that tells the story of a reunion of three of the biggest groups of sixties folk stars who all were discovered or managed by the recently deceased, Irving Steinbloom. His children decide to pay tribute to their father by having a national televised performance at Radio City in New York. Although Radio City could not accommodate this wealth of talent, see what these musicians do to honor the long respected art of folk singing in New York City’s Town Hall.
Starring Christopher Guest, Bob Balaban, Catherine O’Hare, Harry Shearer, Michael McKeon, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey and Fred Willard

Having trouble making decisions about whether a movie is worth it? "To See or Not To See" reviews movies each week on Monday. Contact:


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Low Income Neighborhoods, Families Getting Raw Deal

Report uncovers racial desparity, makes suggestions
by Jennifer Greenup
City Hall--Cincinnati City Council was presented with a report about the fair lending practices of local financial institutions, despite refusing to pay for the presentation last week by a 5-3 vote.

The National City Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) report recommends that there is a key need for more home ownership and improvement loans, and that Cincinnati should include branch building in city development plans. The report also said that banks need to build branches in low income neighborhoods.

The report shows that poor neighborhoods in Cincinnati suffer from a lack of access to banking institutions.

Some communities do not have even one banking branch in their neighborhood forcing them to use high price check cashing businesses and loan institutions for their check cashing needs.
Councilwoman Laketa Cole agreed that something needs to be done to improve access to banking services in low income neighborhoods.

“It is easier to go to check cashing businesses than to a bank because there is no bank in their community,” said Cole. But Cole admitted that there is only so much the city can do.

“The city can’t force banks to do business in neighborhoods,” said Cole. “But I hope we can use our leverage to push them into working more in these neighborhoods.

However, Josh Silver, NCRC vice president of research and policy said, “Businesses are considering low income neighborhoods very attractive” although they offer different services then in high income neighborhoods.

The report also shows that Cincinnatians with low to moderate incomes have a hard time gaining loans for home ownership.

The report showed that people with low and moderate incomes are less likely to receive prime loans and are either denied loans or are forced into taking high cost, subprime loans.
Moreover, African-Americans were three times more likely to receive subprime loans than whites: 33.23% to 9.59%.

And as incomes increased, the percentage of African-American denied loans increased compared to white with the same income.

“As income increases, racial disparity also increases and was greater for higher income African-Americans,” said Silver. He continued that he was not surprised by the reports finding which are comparable with leaning practices across the nation.

Cole said that along with more banks in Cincinnati communities, they also need to offer financial education to help teach low income residents how to build their credit so they can obtain home and business loans.

Mary Anne McCord Berry, chair of the Community Reinvestment Act Oversight Committee said that now that they have the report, the next step is to sit down with the administration to come up with a plan to move the City forward in addressing the needs of the City’s residents.

Although the City paid $25,000 for the report by the NCRC, it cost over $100,000 according to the council. Council refused to pay the $3000 traveling expense, an action prompted by Councilwoman Leslie Ghiz who felt that the cost of the report should have included travel expenses for the presentation.
QCFMag reporter Jennifer Greenup covers local politics. The Greenup report appears each Thursday.