Julie Zavon: Cincinnati – A City of Engagement

An English friend of mine, a writer, just published an essay in an international arts and letters journal. After I read her piece, I explored the journal and discovered a number of essays about different cities and what its like living there. It got me thinking about what Id say if I wrote about Cincinnati. Would I resort to the usual tributes to baseball and chili, or would I start by saying our city is a place where 50 percent of the students in its school system live below the the poverty line? Or would I try to find a balance between these two approaches? In the end I decided I would describe our city from a different angle altogether. We are a city where people engage in community, place, and issues that are important to them.

We are a city where local potters raise tens of thousands of dollars to feed hungry children. Every year the Clay Alliance organizes Empty Bowls http://www.clayalliance.org/?page_id=25. Potters contribute bowls, and for a modest entrance fee, patrons get to select and take home one of these handsome handmade bowls, and they get bowl of soup and a light meal prepared by local chefs, too. And hungry children get a meal after school http://freestorefoodbank.org/programs/childhood-hunger/kids-cafe/)  This year’s event is on November 1st (hint, hint – sign up!).

We are a city where residents, businesses, churches, and civic organizations came together to support the Anna Louis Inn, a womens shelter, when Western & Southern sought to get the property in a series of contentious maneuvers and legal battles. http://www.cinunionbethel.org/how-we-help/anna-louise-innhousing/

We are a city where people who care about urban history and architecture volunteer at Spring in our Steps (https://www.facebook.com/springinoursteps?fref=ts ) to clean up Cincinnatis 19th century brick-paved alleys and network of pedestrian staircases. They cut back honeysuckle and poison ivy and clear away rotting mattresses, tires, discarded needles, broken bottles, and heaps of rubbish to bring our citys historic byways back to life after decades of neglect.

We are a city where someone like Kathy Holwadel gets interested and starts to ask questions about our citys taxpayer-subsidized financing for private real estate development, about the low property valuations (the basis of property tax) of high-end real estate, and about the accountability and transparency of an agency with a great deal of financial cloutthe Cincinnati Port Authoritythat chose to hold public meetings in a place that couldnt be reached by public public transportation. Legal doesnt make it legitimate,Kathy says when challenging these goings on.

I want to thank Kathy for her engagement in our city. Her blog has reached out to me and others. Her example, energy, and focus give us a way to engage, too.

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