Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Suburbs on city election: Who cares


They note importance, but glad they're not involved

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Residents of Cincinnati's suburbs are pretty sure they should care about what happens today in the city's election.

Follow the results live tonight at Cincinnati.com
        They know Cincinnati is important to them, even though they don't live there and can't vote. They talk about “mutual interests” and “regionalism” and a “shared identity” with the city.

        But for the most part, they seem to regard Cincinnati's election as if it's a traffic accident on the side of the road: They're curious enough to look, but glad they're not involved.

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        Interviews with business leaders, politicians and regular citizens suggest the historic vote in Cincinnati today for mayor and City Council is of little interest beyond the city's borders.

        Despite weeks of TV ads and intense media coverage, some suburban residents can name only a handful of candidates in Cincinnati.

        And those who can name them seem relieved the candidates aren't running in the suburbs.

        “I'm glad I'm not involved in it, no doubt about that,” said Lee Cailey, of Anderson Township.

        “I'm just grateful I live over here,” said Maria Von Handorf, of Fort Mitchell, Ky.

        Like it or not, however, Ms. Von Handorf and other suburbanites readily admit that what happens in Cincinnati today will affect their lives, too.

        The city and its suburbs are linked by mutual interests in everything from business to mass transportation to the region's national image. Last year alone, Cincinnati collected $149 million in income tax from suburban residents who work in the city.

        So when change comes to the city — as it will today with the selection of a new City Council and first mayor with executive powers — everyone feels the impact.

        “As Cincinnati goes, so goes the region,” said Dave Gully, administrator of West Chester Township. “If they slide into the abyss, we'll slide with them.”

        He said events in Cincinnati, good and bad, affect the “collective self-esteem” of the entire region.

        Never was that more clear than during Cincinnati's riots and unrest last spring. Although the violence was limited to Cincinnati neighborhoods, the suburbs suffered because of their close association with the city.

        Fewer suburbanites came downtown. Convention business suffered everywhere. And the entire region was saddled with Cincinnati's new, negative image.

        That image is an issue many candidates have raised on the campaign trail this year.

"A lot is at stake'

        The city's image reflects on everyone in the region.

        “It doesn't help anybody when you have travel advisories around the world because of the riots,” said Greg Shumate, the Republican Party chairman in Kenton County.

        He said travelers from overseas or

        from other parts of the country don't distinguish between Cincinnati and its suburbs. To them, it's all just Cincinnati.

        And when Greater Cincinnatians travel, they can't duck uncomfortable questions about the city and its problems by saying they live in the suburbs.

        “Once you get outside of the region, you're not from Western Hills or Hyde Park or Northern Kentucky,” Mr. Shumate said. “You're from Cincinnati.”

        That's why Mr. Shumate said the election today is important for everyone, whether they live in the city or the suburbs. The vote will determine who will address Cincinnati's problems for years to come.

        “I think a lot is at stake,” Mr. Shumate said. “We're greatly impacted by Cincinnati politics.”

        Not everyone, however, will be watching the election results as closely as Mr. Shumate does.

        Joyce Beaudion of Batavia tries to avoid Cincinnati as much as possible, and she feels the same way about Cincinnati politics.

        “I think it does matter to us,” she said of the election's outcome. “Somewhere in there, I think there's a reason I should be concerned. I'm just not.”

        Emmett Ireland hears plenty of political talk at his Saddle Club bar in Fort Mitchell. Very little, he said, is about Cincinnati.

        “Generally, I'd say people don't have a whole lot of idea what's going on over there,” he said.

"We all watch'

        That sense of detachment from the big city is not surprising to Robert Craig, the director of planning for the Warren County Regional Planning Commission.

        He grew up in Detroit and said suburbanites there have tried for years to distance themselves from the city's politics and problems.

        It didn't work there, he said, and it won't work in Cincinnati.

        “A lot of people here have nothing to do with the city because they don't need to,” Mr. Craig said. “They shop out here, go to school here and work here.

        “But we shouldn't be so parochial. We're all regionally connected, whether we like it or not.”

        Ms. Von Handorf said she un derstands her suburb's connection to the city, and she's trying to pay closer attention to the election there.

        She even got into an argument the other day with a friend over the mayor's race. But when asked to name some of the 26 City Council candidates, she could recall only a few.

        Like other suburbanites interviewed Monday, she remembered the candidates by their TV ads, not by their stand on the issues.

        “My daughter imitates that boxing ad,” she said, referring to the ad showing Councilwoman Alicia Reece clad in boxing gloves and shorts. “She jumps around and says, "I can do that too, Mom!'”

        Mr. Gully said it would be nice if everyone appreciated how important Cincinnati and its elections are to the region. But he said the TV ads are probably the only reason most suburbanites pay attention.

        “On an entertainment level, we all watch,” Mr. Gully said. “Cincinnati is a great source of entertainment in the suburbs.”

        Follow the results live tonight at Cincinnati.com



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