By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Merchants will almost triple the number of "downtown ambassadors" on Cincinnati streets this holiday season in an effort to refocus their efforts on a "clean and safe" downtown.
And once the holidays are over, they'll stick around permanently.
The 10 new ambassadors - in addition to the six already patrolling Fountain Square and the Government Square bus transfer station - are part of a bottom-up reorganization of Downtown Cincinnati Inc.
Their job will be to pick up litter, polish fixtures, keep an eye on safety, give directions and welcome people downtown. By adding manpower, DCI hopes to keep the ambassadors downtown for longer hours and expand their reach toward the outer edges of downtown.
David Ginsburg, the new interim president of DCI, said the ambassadors will be the "eyes and ears" of the Police Department's Downtown Services Unit.
Add new sidewalk-sweeping equipment, and the ambassadors act as part cleaning crew, part security and part concierge, he said.
During the Red Hot Weekend in September, the ambassadors - with their yellow shirts and blue jackets with "DCI" on the back - volunteered to take photographs of people at Fountain Square.
Steve Hillard, the program's general manager, said panhandling will be one area of concentration.
"We're really trying to do a good job with the passive panhandlers - to develop a good, respectful relationship with them," he said.
DCI executives say the new ambassadors are evidence they're refocusing their energies following criticism by Mayor Charlie Luken that the downtown services organization had lost its direction.
The entity does marketing, business attraction and retention and other services for the downtown special-improvement district, which is funded primarily by $1.7 million a year in assessments on downtown property owners.
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