Saturday, October 05, 2002
Boycott News
by Chris Anderson
Cincinnati Blog has some interesting stuff posted lately about the boycott, including a link to a website called the "Cincinnati Boycott Fraud."

More intriguing is an e-mail from Nathaniel Livingston protesting his treatment in the media, including Brian Griffin's weblog. Livingston seems to be especially mad that the "white rioters" at Octoberfest were not reported by the media.

I was at Octoberfest on both Saturday and Sunday, and all I saw were people, both white and black, having a good time. No violence or vandalism anywhere I went. Of course, you can't be everywhere at once, but whatever altercation Mr. Livingston or Ms. Mayes got in, could hardly be called rioting.

The "truth" can be shaded, but that's just a fact.
10:44 AM | link to this
Friday, October 04, 2002
Our Campaign Gimmick Is Cooler Than Yours
by Chris Anderson
Queen City Metro is sponsoring a cool new display at Union Terminal of a light-rail vehicle. This one's from Minneapolis, which has their light-rail system funded and under construction.

Light rail opponents, a rather grumpy bunch, are accusing Metro of playing politics with the train display in order to build support for the half-cent sales tax increase. No, not at all, says Metro. Whatever made you think that? This is strictly "educational."

BWA-Ha-ha! Of course it's political. They are holding it at Union Terminal, for God's sake--the Tristate heart of railroad nostalgia.

As a political move in the Issue 7 campaign, I think that's perfectly fine. What, Metro can't get behind its own campaign? Seems like when the folks at Metro start acting smart, the other side cries foul. The display is being paid for by the train manufacturer, in a smart PR move of their own.

Well, sort of smart. When the figures range from $100,000,000 (for an expanded bus system) to $2,600,000,000 (for the full light rail system), an amount like $3,100,000 can seem small.

Or maybe not. The $3,100,000 is the per-unit cost each of the vehicle set-ups to be used in Minneapolis. That's two cars joined by a flexible 7-foot section. The information, by the way, comes from this press release from Bombardier.

That caught my eye, and to me it's the genuine news-worthy item in the article. $3,100,000 per vehicle set-up. For ground transportation, that cost is extraordinary. Looking at it as an investment, with a 30+ year vehicle-life makes the annualized cost more palatable, but make no mistake--this is an expensive proposition. It's also just the cost of the rolling stock.

I still haven't made up my mind on Issue 7. I figure I'll go "educate" myself, take a trip down to Union Terminal, and see what $3,100,000 buys.
1:45 PM | link to this
Three's Company, Five's A Crowd
by Chris Anderson
Deerfield Township Trustee Randy Kuvin thinks that the ballot issue to expand the Board of Trustees from three members to five isn't needed. "It seems to have worked pretty well for 200 years," he said.

An anonymous Trustee from another Township agreed. "Right now, if we want to decide in advance to rezone my cousin's farm or buy land at inflated prices from real estate speculators, it only takes two phone calls," said the Trustee. "With a Board of five, I'll have to make at least three calls, and that's with my three-way calling set-up. Plus, there's a chance that someone might actually disagree."

Waxing nostalgic with Kuvin, I agree that 200 years is...um...a long time. Why, a three-member board does perfectly fine. They hired the new constable, did a super job of oiling the dirt road to control the dust this summer, and managed to keep the grass cut at the cemetary! The paint on the one-room schoolhouse looks great, too.

What a boneheaded argument. A three member board for a large and increasingly diverse urban township is too small for good representation. I don't know how Deerfield will vote, and part of me doesn't really care. It will still be sprawl-hell with a three-member board or a five-member board.

What they ought to do is merge with Mason and get some real municipal authority. Along with a 7-member Council (Oh, no). Suggest that around Deerfield, however, and somebody's likely to pull out a gun.

Or musket. What year is it, anyway?
1:42 PM | link to this
Thursday, October 03, 2002
More on the Free Times
by Chris Anderson
The shutdown of the Free Times and New Times LA have gotten some more reaction since last night. The Plain Dealer has a story about the shutdown, including the staffers removing their stuff. Poynter has put up the memo to Free Times staff regarding the closing. Ken Layne has a reaction from LA.

The www.freetimes.com web address now takes you to a redirect page that at least acknowledges the dead paper, instead of plopping you into the Scene website without explanation.

Blogger Chas Rich writes that the Free Times had been going downhill. I'll agree that their coverage of former Mayor Mike White bordered on the obsessive.

Perhaps I was nostalgic for a paper that was more worthy a few years ago than it was of late. An e-mail from Derf (John Backderf, one of the founders of the Free Times, now with Scene) gives an insider perspective. He writes that the "Free Times was a lively paper, with some great talent, but always struggled with sloppy journalism and biased reporting. Since being acquired by Village Voice Media in 1999, it has absolutely fallen apart and seen virtually it's entire editorial staff turn over several times. How does 5 editors in two and a half years sound?"

Not good. It points up Village Voice Media's mishandling of what was once a great independent paper. Corporate owner buys proud independent company and proceeds to run it into the ground, then lops it off in a deal with another corporate owner. Familiar story? Depressingly so.

Derf thinks that Scene will step up and continue to improve: "Scene, unfettered from the cost of competing, will now rapidly grow into a typical quality New Times paper. Love them or hate them, New Times puts out a great product."

I hope so. I like to keep up with goings-on in my hometown, and I always made it a point to pick up the weeklies when I was there. Over the past few years, I also liked to read the Free Times on the web. Up until now I'd thought less of Scene, although that reflects a bias going back to the days when it was a semi-literate band rag. I'll be watching to see how Scene changes now that its main competitor is gone.
1:37 PM | link to this
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
Cleveland Free Times Killed
by Chris Anderson
The Cleveland Free Times was unceremoneously killed today, in a textbook example of why corporate conglomeration is bad for media.

In a genuinely anti-competitive move, the two corporations decided to trade each other their alternative weeklies in Los Angeles and Cleveland, and then fold each paper into its competitor. So long, Cleveland Free Times and New Times LA. Voila, no more need for Village Voice Media and NT Media to compete with each other in the two cities.

The results have been immediate and chilling. Typing in the "www.freetimes.com" website adress takes you straight to Cleveland Scene, the Free Times former competitor. The disappearance is Stalinesque, with no mention of the sale, and no trace of the Free Times. It's as if it never existed.

The poor guys just got done celebrating their tenth anniversary last week. There was no sign that anyone even knew what was coming. Here's a google cache of one of the ten-year anniversary articles. Read it while you can, since it appears there will be no online documentary evidence of the Free Time' writings.

This really sucks. The Free Times editorial stance pissed me off more often than not, but they were a good watchdog on the City of Cleveland and the backroom deal-makers. Scene's editorial content was tepid by comparison.

I'm with Matt Welch on this one. It sucks for everyone but the corporate suits. Writers, ad-buyers, musicians and readers will all be worse off. I know, it happened here when Everybody's News folded, but EN had been shrinking for some time. The Free Times was more vibrant than Scene, and that makes it all the worse.

Correction: I mistakenly referred to the LA Weekly as the paper being killed in that city. It is the New Times LA that is being folded into the LA Weekly, and that has been corrected above.
4:22 PM | link to this
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Conspiracy Theories
by Chris Anderson
Former Cincinnati Police Officer Clarence Williams III has sued the Cincinnati Enquirer for incorrectly reporting that the man in the car with Terry Thomas was his son, Clarence Williams IV. The suit includes the newspaper, the reporter, the Cincinnati Police Division, and five unnamed police officers.

Attorney Ken Lawson spots a conspiracy. According to the suit, it goes something like this: Fraternal Order of Police is fighting to keep the City from hiring outside to replace Assistant Chief Ron Twitty. Mr. Williams III, as a former officer, former Sentinel and a current police chief in Florida, is an excellent candidate for that position. Therefore, FOP conspires with reporter Jane Prendergrast to smear Williams by identifying his son as being part of a high-profile arrest and as a convicted drug dealer. This would supposedly hurt Mr. Williams' chances to be hired in as Col. Twitty's replacement.

That theory is a house of cards. It assumes that the conspirators thought they could get away with what turned out to be an easily disprovable report. Even assuming that Ms. Pendergrast received false information without verifying it, it still doesn't rule out error in identifying the suspect. I find it hard to believe that police officers would go out of their way to slander a man who was one of their own, and that they would risk so much for what would have been a half-baked scheme.

Still, the Enquirer got caught printing false information, and in the process stepped on some very sensitive toes. Look for a prominent apology, an out-of-court settlement, and probably Ms. Pendergrast in the unemployment line. She'll be alone, of course. As they showed in the Chiquita scandal, it's the Enquirer reporters who get fired, not their editors.

Here's an alternate conspiracy theory for you. The arrest of Terry Thomas was an embarrassment to the folks who have lately made their careers championing his brother Timothy Thomas and his mother, Angela Leasure. Perhaps Mr. Lawson saw, in the aggrieved Williams family, the chance to deflect attention from the arrest by filing a splashy lawsuit. That way, the focus stays away from individual bad behavior and back on the police and the "power structure", which is where some folks want it to stay.

I like it, but it's probably like most conspiracy theories: entertaining but untrue.

Here's a final question to chew on: What employer would be so crazy as to hire someone who is in the process of suing them for $10,000,000? If Clarence Williams really wanted this job prior to today, it appears that he's changed his mind and is looking for the money instead. Unless he's going for both. With our crazy racial atmosphere, on second thought it wouldn't surprise me at all if some loudmouthed folk insisted that not only would it be racist not to hire Chief Williams, but that the City had a duty to do so.

Tell me I'm wrong. Please.
1:36 PM | link to this
A Done Deal
by Chris Anderson
As expected, the City and County struck a deal yesterday to expand the convention center. The process wasn't pretty to watch, and our whole concept of regionalism was put to the test, but in the end compromise won out.

Two things remain to be seen. The first is whether the downtown hotel market will bear an occupancy tax of 16.5%, now the third-highest in the country. I think that it will. The demand for travel and entertainment services such as hotels, rental cars and tickets tends to be relatively inelastic with regard to taxes. The hotels help themselves with this by typically quoting prices before taxes, and providing tax information only as a percentage.

The second is whether an expanded convention center will in fact draw more conventions. The expansion will help the convention center better handle two or more small conventions at once. This is a good thing, because Cincinnati isn't among the first-tier convention cities and never will be. Cincinnati is a better fit for the niche market of smaller, less expensive conventions. The expansion will help with that. More restaurants, nightlife and cultural attractions within the downtown basin area (including Covington and Newport) will do as much.
1:31 PM | link to this
Monday, September 30, 2002
Cinergy Buys Naming Rights to Convention Center
by Chris Anderson
The City added a bit of good news in its struggle to come up with a deal to expand the Convention Center. Cinergy will buy the rights for $12 million. It's a four-year deal at $3 million a year.

In contrast with the proposed Delta deal, the deal with Cinergy will provide twice as much on an annual basis without the long-term commitment. The Delta proposal was for $30 million and 20 years, or $1.5 million per year.

That's both good and bad. The good news is, you guessed it, $3 million a year. After four years, the City and Cinergy can negotiate an extension. The bad news is that a longer commitment, as Delta contemplated, could have been included in the revenue that will back the municipal bonds used to finance the expansion.

That may not be a factor, however, since the bonds will be backed by the full faith and credit of the City of Cincinnati. Let's hope that Cinergy opts to keep their name on the Center after 2007. I think that's likely. They've had naming rights on the stadium for about 5 years, and I don't think it's a coincidence that they purchased the Convention Center rights just after Cinergy Field closed for good.
2:32 PM | link to this