Sunday, September 17, 2000

Indy cruises, Cincy snoozes

        I woke up the other day, poured some Cheerios and found Michael Gallis on my milk carton. “Have you seen this man?” the bold type asked. “He has been missing for 15 months, since his two-year study told Cincinnati to wake up. The people who hired him have vanished too.”

        Remember the Metropolitan Growth Alliance? A team of top business leaders brought global guru Gallis to town to warn us that Porkopolis is snoozin' while “gazelle cities” are cruisin'.

        The Aronoff Center downtown overflowed with bosses who
nodded and vowed that the Gallis Report would not wind up on a shelf.

        They were right. It's in a drawer . . . somewhere.

        “If there is a frustration, it's that we haven't moved fast enough,” said Growth Alliance founder Bill Keating. “We're very conscious of the fact that we need to surface and show people that something is happening.”

        Another founder, Bill Burleigh, is frustrated too. “I'm disappointed that the buy-in has not taken place where it is vital, both in the public and private sector.”

        “We have met with a lot of government people who say, "What's the problem? Everything is fine. We share snow plows when it snows.'”

        Other cities share a vision. We share snow plows. Great.

        In June 199, Mr. Gallis said we could be a super city if we had leadership and cooperation: “It's not like you are starting deep down in a hole and saying, "God, how do we get there?' But there is a complacency issue,” he warned.

        Little has changed.

        “I'll get in trouble for saying it, but we as a community are pretty self-satisfied,” Mr. Burleigh said. “Our windows aren't always open to all the breezes that are blowing out there.”

        Ten years ago, leadership was spelled “CBC.” But the Cincinnati Business Committee is missing too.

        “Some CBC members have been generous when we passed the hat, but some wish we would go away,” Mr. Burleigh said. “Several thought it was a bum idea.”

        The Growth Alliance has also been mired in debating its role. Its own recent survey reported, “A significant number of respondents . . . expected some sort of immediate public follow-up on the relase of the Gallis report . . .”

        But after 15 months, the only thing the MGA seems sure of is that it will not be the leader Cincinnati craves.

        Instead, it will be a catalyst, said Mr. Burleigh's new co-chairman, Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba.

        Mr. Burleigh, retiring this month as CEO of E.W. Scripps Co., and Mr. Keating, a former congressman and publisher of the Enquirer, are enthusiastic about recruiting younger talent like Mr. Votruba, who came to Cincinnati three years ago.

        And they all say the MGA will make a comeback this fall.

        Mr. Votruba is planning a Great American Cities symposium.

        The MGA is seeking federal funding to make the University of Cincinnati into a biotech research center.

        A department of regional studies is being discussed for UC or NKU, to focus on key topics in the Gallis report: transportation, the urban core, quality of life and the knowledge-based economy.

        And there's talk of a first-time summit between Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton.

        Meanwhile, Indianapolis has a blueprint, a strategy and a unified government that is leaving us in the weeds with a new big project each year.

        If all this sounds like a yawn, think of it this way: Cincinnati cried in its beer cup when Cleveland whupped us last Sunday.

        But we get hammered by Indianapolis seven days a week in the game that counts. And we just roll over and go back to sleep.

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. If you have questions or comments, call (513) 768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.


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