It appears I'll have to dig out my old Rolodex. After we elected a strong mayor who hired a stronger city manager, I didn't transfer all the numbers in my private City Hall directory to my new Palm Pilot.
Surely, I thought, I will no longer need the unlisted number for the Bureau of Screwups and Red Tape. Which, by the way, used to ring directly into the Office of the Agency for Sending Business Across the River. If that line was busy, I would automatically be transferred to the Norwood Substation of Retailers Hoping to Sell Merchandise to Cincinnatians Without Actually Having to Locate There.
These contacts came in handy earlier when I had questions about new restaurants and shops and movie theaters.
City Manager Valerie Lemmie asked building inspectors last April whether the city had a "one-stop shop" for permits. You could hear guffawing as far away as Blue Ash and parts of West Chester and Florence.
And you know what we do when there's a problem. We hire a consultant to reassure us that a genuine problem does exist. He reports to a volunteer committee of well-meaning citizens who have more important fish to fry and whose jobs do not depend on the outcome.
This takes time and money. And we pretend to have both.
A consultant recently presented evidence that a city building permit stops 473 times on its route to completion. This was no surprise to Dr. Elliot Kirstein, an optometrist who has been trying to put a rather nice little office in Oakley Square. Trying and trying and trying would be, I believe, his account of this process.
In May of last year, he and his partners bought a building - about 1,000 square feet, right next to a Laundromat. They had an architect draw up plans to increase the space to 2,400 square feet. While they were at it, the optometrists decided to give the place a makeover. Right now, it's a white stucco sore thumb in the midst of brick and limestone.
You'd think somebody might have flung an arm around his shoulder and led him through the process. After all, he's not an invading alien. He's a potential customer. Who could take his business elsewhere.
"Everybody," he says, "has been courteous and helpful. But the process is arduous and confusing. And no one person can give you an answer."
He passed along a pile of correspondence involving, among others, Transportation, Urban Forestry and the Oakley Environmental Quality District. I love brick lintels and Imperial Honeylocust trees as much as the next person, but it seems like the city is asking Dr. Kirstein to jump a lot of hoops for the privilege of upgrading a former gas station.
"They're saying we'll get approval any day now," he says. He has heard this many times.
City Manager Lemmie said streamlining economic development would require a "culture change" at City Hall.
Changing a whole culture sounds like it might take a long time.
Meanwhile, the phones are ringing in Norwood and Newport.
E-mail email@example.com or phone 768-8393.
Monitor quits just a month into the job
Lesson learned: Sides must work together
Original applicants for monitor's job
Citizen Complaint Authority set to review police actions
Monitor's origin and role
Kalmanoff's original team
BISHOPS' VOTE ON ABUSIVE PRIESTS
RADEL: U.S. bishops failed to put kids first
Bishops OK policy on abuse
LAURA PULFER COLUMN
Jumping through city hoops
Tougher air rules on the way
Deer to blame for death of driver
Program helps expecting moms
CINCINNATI - HAMILTON COUNTY
Convention Center designs presented
Deal made for filling executive police job
`Living wage' law sought for Cincinnati
Man accused of luring `14-year-old boy' on Internet
Hate-crime trial begins
Donations cover costs for Sycamore theater
Township projects nearing reality
Juanita Conklin, 74, a champion of Montgomery
West Chester expands policing as rate grows
Liberty approves tax district
Court must OK barn payment
Miami U awaits book gift
Former baseball official pleads guilty
GOP has plan to get slots at tracks
White is chosen Senate leader, Finan successor
Tougher law on killer sentencing sought in Ohio
Crime-scene TV intrudes on real life
Universities agree on compromise plan to share fund cuts
Federal grand jury begins hearing Patton case
Judge chides attorneys in Craven murder trial
McConnell has Ky. interests at heart
Teen choir hopes to sing for pope