Friday, December 03, 1999

Two ways Council can make us proud

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On their first day of business this week, members of Cincinnati's new city council did some serious gum-flapping. They swore to do their duty. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

        Some even told the truth.

        “There are plenty of opportunities for this city right now,” said the new mayor, Charlie Luken. “Our plate is full.”

        “This council will be scrutinized and judged more so than any other council in the history of the city of Cincinnati,” said incumbent Todd Portune. “We've got to work together.”

        So true. There is much to do. And, the argument clinic that has masqueraded as city council cannot be allowed to continue. Infighting and petty bickering accomplish nothing, impede progress and allow other cities to leave Cincinnati in the dust when it comes to landing new businesses and keeping people excited about where they live.

        Council's members have to do more than simply work together. They must become a body of intelligent deliberation and action.

        To reach this level of cooperation and work for the common good, council needs a new attitude and specific goals.

        Council's attitude should be to work toward a higher purpose. Council must make us proud.

        This is the last council of the century, the last of the old millennium, the last elected under Cincinnati's charter form of government. Instead of city council being the butt of jokes, council's nine members must work in concert to foster a sense of pride.

        That attitude can be promoted by being a council of action. And that's where specific goals come in.

Act now
        I have in mind two modest goals. They won't change the course of history or eradicate potholes. But they will earn council something it sorely lacks, good will. And, they will make this a better place to live by strengthening downtown Cincinnati, still the central gathering place in this far-flung community.

        • Revive McAlpin's — Put something in the old McAlpin's department store on Fourth Street. Don't wreck it for another boring parking lot. Make the building look spectacular. Restore the ornate 19th-century facade. Install unusual shops and tasty, out-of-the-ordinary restaurants. Downtown has enough discount shoe stores and fast-food joints, thank you. Make the old McAlpin's store so attractive, suburbanites will be lured from the hinterlands and onto the streets of downtown Cincinnati. Give shoppers something they can't get in the malls. Next February, the big old building will have been empty for four long years. Enough is enough. This new council has the power to turn an eyesore into an eye-opener.

        • Welcome the Fountain — The restoration of the Tyler Davidson Fountain on Fountain Square is on track to be completed in time for the Reds' Opening Day on April 3, 2000.

        The fountain is the city's heart, its symbol, its soul. Restoration saved the fountain and the city's spirit. That makes the grand unveiling a huge event. Don't just celebrate the day. Celebrate the entire week. Council needs to set the wheels in motion to stage seven days of festivities. Concerts. Parades. Speeches. Lectures by the team of restorers. Performances on the square.

        When the curtain is lifted and the fountain appears in its new glory, stage a fireworks display from atop neighboring buildings. Cincinnati traditionally marks special events with fireworks: Reds home runs, the end of a night at Kings Island, summer's end during Riverfest. The rededication of Fountain Square is every bit as important.

        Now, again, I realize that by big-city standards these are modest goals.

        Developing an old building and celebrating a fountain are not as extensive as moving Fort Washington Way or building a stadium. But these goals are every bit as important to the city's quality of life.

        If this new council can reach these goals, while demonstrating an attitude of cooperation, Cincinnati will be a more vibrant, more exciting place to live. Now, that would make us proud.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at (513) 768-8379; fax 768-8340.