Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Korte: Inside City Hall

Writers are being nicer in Cincinnati references

Eighty-three percent of the news stories written about Cincinnati so far this year have been positive.

That's according to a memo from Assistant to the City Manager and Public Information Officer Meg Olberding, whose $90,000-a-year job it is to keep track of such things.

Last year at this time, only 44 percent of the stories were positive. The rest focused almost exclusively on the boycott, race relations and allegations of police misconduct.

Indeed, stories about the boycott of Cincinnati have dropped from 828 in the first six months of 2002 to 132 so far this year.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie credits the Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau, which tracked down national reporters who wrote stories about the boycott last year. The bureau's Julie Harrison Calvert asked them to follow up this year with stories about Great American Ball Park, downtown's Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center and the Cincinnati Wing of the Art Museum.

Positive stories came from unlikely places - from Nashville Parent magazine to the Times of London.

The international coverage of the Zaha Hadid-designed Rosenthal Center was so gushing that Washington Post critic Roger K. Lewis resorted to a column headlined, "Could Unusually Lavish Praise of Cincinnati's Art Center Be Just a Bit Premature?"

Indeed, some stories were better than others. The city's list includes a "positive" story in Courier magazine, the house organ of the National Tour Association, which touts Cincinnati only because of its proximity to Dayton.

"To visit Dayton, one of the Buckeye State's most storied hubs, is to take a flight of fancy," Scott Braswell wrote.

• • •

On time: Vice Mayor Alicia Reece is still skipping City Council's weekly public forum, but she showed up three minutes early to the council meeting last week.

Reece previously said scheduling conflicts prevented her from showing up on time to the forum, but conceded that she doesn't have much use for the stentorian spectacle of protest and profanity.

"My position has always been from the very beginning, that on Wednesday, 99 percent of the time we have already made up our minds on how we're going to vote. I'm a big proponent of the committees. In my committee, we get a lot of interaction with the citizens," she said.

"I think the committees are the place where we actually get the work done. I think we have to get beyond the clown show, with all sorts of derogatory signs going up, and the name calling."

She also said that while she appreciated the Enquirer taking the time to log her attendance at meetings, she would prefer that reporters spend more time covering the Health, Social and Children Services, Small Business Development, Employment and Training Committee.

The committee, which Reece chairs, hasn't passed an ordinance since April 15.

• • •

Boycott news: Not getting any national ink and dismissed as "clowns" by the vice mayor, one of the boycott groups resorted Sunday to picketing U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine's annual ice cream social in Cedarville.

"We've had protesters here before," a nonplussed DeWine told the Dayton Daily News. "I think we offered them some cookies."

• • •

Campaign trail: The Charter Committee, for decades the political home of the octogenarian North Avondale set, is starting to court young professionals.

Nick Spencer, the 25-year-old founder of Cincinnati Tomorrow, joins the list of Charter-endorsed candidates, including John Schlagetter, 39, Chris Smitherman, 35, and Jim Tarbell, 60.

"He's extremely young, there's no doubt about that. But he's not just on his own. He's put together a very committed group of people," said Charter Committee President Mike Goldman. "In very traditional grass-roots fashion he's put together a successful group of people who are action-oriented."

• • •

Your tax money: Tarbell spent $300 on a horse and carriage to take Minneapolis-based arts consultant Chris Velasco on a tour of downtown and Over-the-Rhine April 16. City Council approved paying the bill last week.


City Hall reporter Gregory Korte can be reached at gkorte@enquirer.com or 768-8391.

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