A Missive from the Crescent City

Jun 11, 2012 by

Greetings readers,

Loki here. I know it has been awhile since I posted anything here so I thought I’d hop online and provide an update.

Thanks to the efforts of Ben Sherman and ClassicGrrl CincyVoices will be revving up once more in the near future. I’ve been dealing with chaos ever since returning to New Orleans six months ago, and have not been able to contribute as much as I would like.

Now I’m home. In a city I love and a state I abhor. Eight people shot in a single afternoon, the highest rate per capita of prisoners to population in the world (3x that of Iraq for those of you keeping score), and creationism being pushed into the schools by a governor who makes Kasich look decent. This is why I would laugh at people who spoke to me about high crime in Cincy. Truth is, y’all don’t have crime by comparison and you should be overjoyed by that.

So why the hell did we return? Because even with a list of downsides as long as the Ohio river this is still home, and home is worth fighting for.  While my ties to Cincy will always be tight you just don’t see things like this at random in the streets:

My two and a half years in Cincy allowed me to recover somewhat from the burnout of five years of covering Hurricane Katrina, the levee failure and the disturbing effects of their aftermath. It is because of that golden respite, and the wonderful friends I made up there, that I will keep CincyVoices going. You see Northside is now home as well for me, and there is a lot to fight for in Cincy.

I will basically be playing manager and facilitating the work of bloggers that are still physically local to the Queen City. I know that despite my time spent up there I am not in the thick of it anymore so I am going to focus on making sure that the incisive writers on our team have the tools to generate discussion and community centered around a more progressive vision of Cincy’s future.

Much love to Northside, OTR, the Toylab, Cincy Dr. Who, Take the Cake, AmazonLil, Oberon and the Gehrlichs, Mr Disney, and all of my gamer friends up there. I hope to visit by next summer, and cannot wait to see all of you.  I now turn things over to Classicgrrl and Ben while I deal with moving into a new apartment. You’re in very good hands.

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COAST Insider Comes Clean: It Was All A Prank

Apr 1, 2012 by

In a surprise announcement today, an unidentified COAST insider revealed that the organization was started as a prank. The insider, who is not quite ready to reveal his identity, explained that it was all started by a group of friends who wanted to parody extreme political organizations. “To be clear, our group of friends are actually against wasteful spending, but we were commenting on how things like that can be taken too far, and thought it might be a fun exercise. None of us imagined it would keep going this long.”

What’s In A Name

In talking about the origins of the group, he explained there was a lot of debate surrounding the name. “Initially someone proposed Citizens Organized Against All Spending and Taxes, or COAAST, but we thought it would be too over the top.” He went on to say “I thought COAST was still too obvious. I mean come on, you aren’t going to get anywhere in life coasting, and the only direction you can coast is down hill, but I was over-ruled, and turned out to be wrong.”

According to the source, the logo was also carefully designed to hint at the prank. The trajectory of the star is clearly downhill, and even includes a dead-cat bounce at the end. The original design included a shattered star, but that was changed because they felt it was too obvious.

Shining Moments

He went on to reminisce about some of his favorite moments in the organization’s history. He felt the Streetcar was a gift from above. His favorite moment was the infamous “We don’t have signs, we can’t afford signs” press conference. He continued “What people did not realize is that this was one of the best instances of performance art in the city. Tom Luken gets a lot of flack for this, but the signs were actually his idea, and he ad-libbed that entire bit on the spot. Outsiders cannot appreciate his sense of comedic timing.”

Decline

When asked why he was coming clean, he admitted that it just wasn’t fun anymore. He explained that they have fallen into a rut. “There is only so many times you can retweet someone complaining about something on a streetcar before even you get tired.”

He also pointed to some mistakes. “It seemed like a good idea when we decided to compare the 9/11 tragedy to the City’s policy of browning out Fire Departments. In retrospect, we really didn’t think that one through.” But the real tragedy , he admits, was trying to connect a fire death on a browned out station. “Even if it had been true, it was in bad taste, but the fact that the responsible department was working that day put it over the edge.”

He is not sure how long the others will keep things going, but he admits he is done. “I have mixed feelings about the whole experience. It was a lot of fun at times, but it was also depressing that the general public didn’t catch on to the joke. I always felt uncomfortable when I ran into committed folks that were not in on the joke.”

He imagines that his decision to out the organization will not be popular with the group. He tried to get them to come to a consensus to reveal the prank, but in the end he decided it was time, and today was the day to announce it.

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Northside Community Entertainment District Approved, City Awards Creative Tools to Grow

Mar 10, 2012 by

Northside at night (photo courtesy Adam Nelson)

With its eclectic mix of locally-owned businesses, the Northside neighborhood is already known as a prime Cincinnati food, retail, and arts destination in the region. But empty storefronts that would also make great restaurants have remained largely empty because of the lack of liquor licenses. Last week, all that changed. On Wednesday, February 29th, the full Cincinnati City Council voted to give Northside its “Community Entertainment District” status after a unanimous vote the day before by the City Council’s Livability Committee.

This is a huge win for Northside. Why? For at least the last couple of years, Northside’s business district, while hanging in there in the midst of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression, has had to turn away small businesses wanting to open in the neighborhood, merely because of the lack of liquor licenses available and the premium $30,000+ cost of the very few licenses that were available on the open market.

The new designation changes that game. The Northside Community Entertainment District designation gives creative tools to the Northside neighborhood to enable new growth. Rather than a business having to reach out to a broker to maybe, just maybe, find a license at a relatively huge cost, a process that often takes years, they can now call the state of Ohio directly. In our new Community Entertainment District, up to 15 additional liquor licenses are immediately available to food establishments, all at a dramatically reduced cost of $1500, all directly available from the state, and with no outside brokers involved. These licenses are not transferable. If the business with the new license were to move out of the Northside district, they would forfeit that license. Note again that these licenses are not available to a business that only wants to open a bar, these are licenses that are available only to food establishments. This is a major win for Northside and small businesses.

The original 2005 Community Entertainment District legislation was initially not really geared for anything but for-profit developers to obtain. Last year, the not-for-profit Pleasant Ridge Development Corporation couldn’t afford the Community Entertainment District’s original application fee of $15,000. Many thanks need to go to Cincinnati City Council Member Laure Quinlivan, who worked hard to change the Cincinnati municipal code to make the fee downwardly flexible, thus opening the possibility of designation to not-for-profits. This change to the fee structure allowed Pleasant Ridge to apply for the status without outside funding, making Pleasant Ridge the first Cincinnati neighborhood to apply for and win the designation.

Already, Pleasant Ridge has new businesses that wouldn’t be there if not for that designation. As well, the neighborhood of Price Hill recently won Community Entertainment District status, and several new businesses have either already opened or they are about to open. So far, the two neighborhoods that have won the designations have benefited immensely. Over-the-Rhine, Madisonville and Westwood have also applied for Community Entertainment District status but have not yet received it.

Northside's new Community Entertainment District covers not just the traditional business district, it also targets a wide area south of Blue Rock Street.

The Northside Business Association first started working with Laure Quinlivan’s city council office early last year after hearing of the possibility of Northside applying for and winning this important designation; the designation wouldn’t have been possible without Laure and her staff’s efforts. Also, Berding Surveying needs to be thanked, as they donated their services to the effort to produce the required survey and map. Once Northside’s required application package was completed, as a matter of transparency, the plan was presented at open Northside Community Council and Northside Business Association public meetings for comment. Community support was widespread, and the package was sent along to the city council’s Livability Committee for consideration.

Northside Business Association President Isaac Heintz has this to say about the designation: “The Northside Business Association pursued the entertainment district designation to provide Northside with another tool to help retain existing businesses and to attract new ones.  I believe that the designation of the entertainment district can only help to continue the positive trajectory of the neighborhood and the growth of the Northside community.”

Northside's "South Block", along Spring Grove Avenue, is ripe for redevelopment. The Landman Building, right, was recently stabilized and environmentally remediated and is ready for build-out. The building just to the left is now a LEED Silver building with several newly-occupied residential and business condos.

The new district covers much of the existing Northside business district along Hamilton Avenue from the Ludlow Viaduct in the south to just below the Northside Library in the north. In the southern end of the district, Blue Rock Street and Spring Grove Avenue are both included, roughly from Colerain Avenue on the west side, to Crawford Avenue on the east.

As you’re aware, there are currently a lot of existing empty storefronts and industrial spaces in the new entertainment district’s map. We’d love to see that change. Can’t you imagine once-forlorn Northside blocks now teeming with urban life? By enabling these new licenses, we hope to see more development in the district. This new development would include not only the new food establishments benefiting from the designation, but additional retail, arts, office and residential spaces , all serving to increase the vibrancy, diversity, and uniqueness of all that is Northside.

(Full disclosure: GeekJames, a.k.a. James Heller-Jackson, is a certifiable Northside resident shill as a member of the board for both the Northside Business Association and the Northside Community Council.)

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Northslice Gone?!!

Oct 4, 2011 by

Northslice Closed?Some friends and I found ourselves hungry today and decided that is was worth waiting an hour or two in order to go to Northslice.  It’s no secret that I think they’ve got the best pizza I’ve had since I lived in NYC, so it was all about anticipation. As we came up to the storefront on Chase we were greeted by the spectacle of papered in windows.

The doors were locked  and there was no sign of habitation. My first instinct was hope that this was a remodeling that I had missed hearing about, but the feeling in the pit of my stomach was already one of loss. This feeling was confirmed when I ran into Mike, the man who started it, just around the corner. He confirmed that Northslice has closed. I won’t elaborate on what he told me because he was not aware that I write for the public.

I can report that shortly afterwards while we were bemoaning the situation I did overhear conversations to the effect that the building had been sold out from under him. [Edit for Clarity: These were conversations overheard among random customers at Melt, where we had decided to go as our second choice. -Loki] No matter what happened it seems that we have lost the best pizza in Cincinnati. If whoever owns the name and or building reopens under that name it won’t be the same.

My heart goes out to Mike, he seemed crushed. I know I am. This is a horrible loss to the neighborhood and to Cincinnati in general.

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Mayberry Foodstuffs Grocery Closing

Oct 4, 2011 by

As you may recall from my Downtown Grocery post, I’m a big fan of the Mayberry Foodstuffs grocery. While they don’t have enough to completely replace a trip to Kroger, they helped fill in the Downtown grocery void. I usually make a visit once week on my walk home from work and often chat a little with the person working. A couple of weeks ago he notified me that Mayberry will start grocery delivery in the Downtown and OTR areas. I figured business must be good. Sadly today our chat was not as positive as he told me Mayberry Grocery will be closing in late October. When I asked “closing? for good?” he said yes, unfortunately business has not been good enough to stay open. Some of the specialty products found in the store will be available in the other Campbell owned properties such as Skinny Pig and World Food Bar.

While I have noticed a reduction of hours and I’m typically the only customer when I do visit, I am surprised by the news. It seemed like a lot of money and work was put into the renovation of their space. I also thought the previous conversation about delivery was a sign business was ok. Unfortunately I guess it was not to be. At least we can still enjoy Josh Campbell’s food creations at Mayberry, Skinny Pig and World Food Bar.

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Loki Presents: Live Webcast of Rising Tide 6

Aug 27, 2011 by

Loki Presents: Live Webcast of Rising Tide 6

Every year at this time I return home to New Orleans over the anniversary of the levee failure that most people attribute to Hurricane Katrina. One of the biggest reasons I do so is because I am one of the organizers for the Rising Tide Conference. Started by our local bloggers and premiering the first anniversary of the disaster, this is a bloggers conference that is not only for bloggers. Just take a look at the lineup below the webcast embed. From Dave Simon, who most of you know through The Wire or Treme, to this year’s debut of Rising Tide’s Tech School there is a lot here for everyone.

I know this is not Cincy related, but since I live here now and it’s an important part of my story I’m sharing it here. Enjoy the webcast and please leave comments below if you have any questions. (Click the read more link to go to the webcast itself. It is contained within the post and does need need any external players or apps.)

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:
David Simon, creator and executive producer of HBO’s New Orleans drama Treme. He is a former journalist for the Baltimore Sun and writer and producer of acclaimed programs such as The CornerThe Wire and Generation Kill.

Richard Campanella, professor at Tulane University, geographer, and author of six critically acclaimed books on the physical and human geography of New Orleans: Bienville’s Dilemma,Geographies of New Orleans, Lincoln in New OrleansNew Orleans Then and NowDelta Urbanism, andTime and Place in New Orleans.

PANEL PRESENTATIONS:
Social Media, Social Justice – Cherri Foytlin, contributor to the Bridge the Gulf project; Jimmy Huck, Jr., Executive Committee member of Tulane University’s Center for Public Service; Jordan Flaherty, author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six; Stephen Ostertag, creator of PublicSphereNOLA; and moderated by Bart Everson from Xavier’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Louisiana’s Coastal Health –Moderated by Alex Woodward, writer for Gambit,  panelists include Len Bahr, founding editor of LACoastPost; David Hammer, contributing writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune; Ann Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade; Drake Toulouse, blogger atDisenfranchised Citizen; and Bob Marshall, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the Times-Picayune.

New Orleans Food Writing Guests Peter Thriffley and Rene Louapre of Blackened Out and Offbeat Magazine will join Todd Price, author of A Frolic of My Own to discuss the eating out in New Orleans and writing about it, and the new generation of great online New Orleans food writers.

Brass Bands – featuring Lawrence Rawlins, band director of Roots of Music; Alejandro de los Rios, producer of the Brass Roots documentary; members of the TBC Brass Band Edward “Juicy” Jackson, Joe Maize and Sean Michael Roberts; moderated by writer Deborah Cotton; followed by a performance by the TBC Brass Band.

TECH SCHOOL:
Rising Tide is also proud to announce the addition of Tech School to this year’s lineup. Tech School will offer a second stage of panels devoted to hands-on, how-to style social media and blogging topics ranging from improving your photography, advanced WordPress techniques, the latest in web strategies and online tools. Presenters for Tech School include FSC Inter@ctive, the Louisiana Bloggers Network,NeighborlandInvade NOLABen Varadi and more.
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