Best Of 2019

Let’s face it, Cincinnati politics is always a little weird. But this past year was, to put it simply, just plain wild, man. First, there were dueling allegations about gender discrimination and overtime pay malfeasance in the Cincinnati Police Department. That led to the dismissal of a top CPD official by City Manager Harry Black on charges of insubordination. That, in turn, (are you still with us here?) led Mayor John Cranley to ask for Black’s resignation. But Black refused, leading to an unprecedented weeks-long standoff between the city manager, Cincinnati City Council and the mayor. Council, which needed to vote to fire Black, refused to do so before an investigation and also balked at the cost of a proposed severance package. Cranley wanted Black gone as soon as possible, saying that his request that Black resign came after years of complaints from city employees about intimidation and retaliation by the city manager. Black protested his treatment at the hands of Cranley, and his supporters on council and among African-American groups like the local NAACP said he was forced out. Prior to Cranley’s request that Black resign, the city manager said a small “rogue element” within CPD was working to undermine the police chief and the city’s Collaborative Agreement police reforms. Black denied he had done anything wrong, alleged the mayor was involved in shady development deals and held on for dear life until there were enough votes on council to usher him out the door. He resigned minutes before a Saturday special meeting of Cincinnati City Council could vote to fire him last spring. Black received eight month’s salary and benefits — a severance package worth about $274,000. Council’s vote ended the bizarre stalemate — but the incident sparked conversations about the city’s unusual form of government, which splits power between the mayor and city manager, as well as a debate about racial tensions within city government. Months later, ghosts from the standoff continue to float around. Texts between five Democratic council members about the situation and other city business were the subject of a lawsuit by conservative activists, who say they represent violations of Ohio’s open meetings laws. The entire incident didn’t exactly buttress public faith in City Hall, nor did a $101,000 settlement the city paid to settle the lawsuit or the harsh words a county judge had for council. Oh yeah, the release of 26,000 texts sent among council members — some of them insulting to others — probably didn’t help either.

Previous Winners

City Life


This year, Cincinnati transit activists the Better Bus Coalition took it up a notch, providing free bus benches, pushing successfully for the city’s first bus-only lane during downtown rush hour and introducing a ballot initiative to boost bus funding. The coalition has done tons of social media activism around Metro’s struggles, highlighting aging buses, riders left waiting in the cold and more in daily posts. But the group takes things several steps further, too. They’ve engaged residents to create their own roadmap to a better Metro, for example. It remains to be seen whether voters will approve their proposed Cincinnati payroll tax increase, which the group estimates would cost a person in Cincinnati making $40,000 a year an extra $6.67 a month. Either way, expect the Better Bus Coalition to stay active in pushing for better transit service. Better Bus Coalition, betterbuscoalition.org.

The renovated Ziegler Park Pool is turning into not only a community hot spot, but also a hip place to see and be seen. Partly because of the location (across from Alumni Lofts in the former School for Creative and Performing Arts), partly because of the cost (daily admission is $4 for adults, with a sliding fee scale for season passes) and partly because of the features. Helmed by 3CDC, this former Cincinnati Recreation Commission pool has undergone a significant makeover to encompass three distinct sections: a zero-depth wheelchair-accessible area, an area with lap lanes and another with a diving board and rock-climbing wall. As a community-first pool, the urban swim club also offers lessons, a swim team and activities like water aerobics. But we’re here for the Adult Swim parties. During these 21-and-up nights held monthly during the summer last year, there were DJs, wine, local craft beers (and Bud Light) and food trucks. In addition, Ziegler also hosted a Dog Swim to close out the season, inviting vaccinated and well-behaved canines into the pool for a dip. Ziegler Park Pool, 1322 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, zieglerpark.org.

2. American Can Lofts

3. The Boulevard at Oakley Station

4. Aqua on the Levee

5. Harper’s Point Apartments

6. Alumni Lofts

7. Newberry Lofts on 6th

8. Woodbrooke Apartments

9. The Waldo Apartments

10. The Gramercy on Garfield

2. Over-the-Rhine Community Housing

3. Model Group

2. Union Terminal

3. Cincinnati Observatory

2. Northside

3. Clifton

Like a mini version of the iconic London Eye, Skystar is a 15-story “observation wheel” that went up at The Banks downtown at the end of August to celebrate the riverfront development’s 10th anniversary. The Ferris wheel features 36 glass-enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas that take up to six riders on a 12-minute spin for a unique view of the river and Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky skylines. The portable — yes, portable — tourist attraction has been traveling across America, setting up shop in cities including Norfolk, Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky to offer elevated views and a novel pop-up experience. At night, the wheel turns into a glowing orb with more than 1 million colored LED lights and casts a pretty cool neon reflection into the waters of the Ohio River. Skystar became so popular that the company extended its original stay from August to December 2018 through mid-June 2019, which means it will be around for Opening Day, the Taste of Cincinnati and Asian Food Fest. More than 100,000 people have ridden the wheel since its arrival. Skystar, 55 E. Freedom Way, Downtown, skystarwheel.com.

2. Brian Garry

3. Pete Rose

4. Molly Wellmann

5. Tamaya Dennard

6. Bob Herzog

7. Anthony Muñoz

8. Nick Lachey

9. Drew Lachey

10. Cam Hardy (TIE)

10. Chris Seelbach (TIE)

2. Xavier University

3. Northern Kentucky University