Family Business and Looking for a Cop

When it comes to political appointments in Cincinnati, officials apparently believe in keeping it in the family. Then-Mayor Charlie Luken raised eyebrows in late 2002 when he appointed his father,

 
Matt Borgerding


In Price Hill, the protesters couldn't get past the lobby.



When it comes to political appointments in Cincinnati, officials apparently believe in keeping it in the family. Then-Mayor Charlie Luken raised eyebrows in late 2002 when he appointed his father, former mayor and ex-Congressman Tom Luken, to the regional transit board that oversees the Metro bus system. Now Mayor Mark Mallory has done the same thing, appointing his father to the same board.

The elder Luken, a Democratic Party activist known for his cantankerous style, is a frequent critic of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) and how it spends its budget. He clashed often with other board members, who called him an obstructionist. Many city officials, though, said he fulfilled a long-needed watchdog role on SORTA and raised legitimate questions about how the quasi-independent agency is managed and funded. With Charlie Luken out of office, new Mallory is getting around to making dozens of appointments to various boards and commissions. Last week he submitted the name of his father, former Ohio House majority leader William Mallory Sr., to replace Tom Luken on SORTA's board. City council will vote on the appointment within the next two weeks. If approved, he will serve a three-year term.

SORTA members are volunteers and don't receive a salary. The elder Mallory also serves on the Ohio Elections Commission, where he is paid a $25,000 annual salary.

About 30 residents of Price Hill marched May 4 on Cincinnati Police District 3 to demand a meeting with Capt. Andrew Raabe. They didn't get it. Organized by the Price Hill chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the march drew about 30 concerned residents chanting, "What do we want? Safer streets!" The group was following up on a meeting it held with police two years ago. At that meeting, Raabe promised more bicycle and foot patrols in the neighborhood, according to ACORN. But concerns about crime have only increased, the protesters said.

"If things are getting better, people shouldn't still be dying" said Brian Speicher, co-chair of Price Hill ACORN.

The protesters asked for an "accountability meeting" but Raabe declined. He also didn't a return a reporter's call.

His refusal made some marchers angry.

"I'm sick of drug-ridden streets," said Angel Barlage, Price Hill ACORN's treasurer and a leader of the event. "I'm sick of worrying about my kids. As a taxpayer, I'm paying Raabe's salary. I think all residents deserve at least a meeting."

The group left Raabe a questions about response times and the number of patrols in the neighborhood.

"We want answers, and we're going to be persistent," Barlage said. "We're not backing down."

All the News Indian Hill Could Want
Like daily newspapers across the U.S., The Cincinnati Enquirer is struggling to find its legs in the ever-evolving media landscape. New circulation figures show mixed results for the Gannett paper, with Monday-Friday circulation increasing 2.7 percent from the same period last year to 201,979, Saturday dropping 2.6 percent to 184,434 and Sunday dropping more than 1 percent to 293,151. That's actually pretty good news — most of the country's top papers saw 5-10 percent circulation drops over last year. The numbers were reported last week by Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), which collects and publishes daily papers' self-reported figures twice a year.

ABC numbers over the years clearly show how daily newspaper readership has plummeted. Back in 1990, Cincinnatians bought more than 305,000 newspapers on a typical weekday (198,828 Enquirers and 106,440 Posts); in 2006, we're buying 232,000 weekday papers (201,979 Enquirers and 30,951 Posts). That's 24 percent fewer daily newspapers here over the past decade and a half.

In 1990, Cincinnatians bought 344,293 Sunday Enquirers, a number that actually topped out at 352,893 in 1996. Ten years later, The Enquirer sells 18 percent fewer Sunday papers.

Where did everyone go? The Enquirer sure wants to know. They've pursued a strategy of lassoing readers who've wandered to hyper-local neighborhood news (purchasing the Community Press chain of suburban papers) and niche topics (starting home, car and apartment publications as well as Cin Weekly). They've invested heavily in building the area's most popular media Web site, cincinnati.com. And they've dabbled in new technologies, from cell phone text messaging to podcasts to blogs.

This "big tent" approach might allow Gannett to touch more Cincinnatians in more ways, but as The Enquirer's readership shrinks, resources continually get diverted to the sexy side projects, leaving the city's dominant media outlet a less vital source of community news.

A recent internal memo identified The Enquirer's "key communities & districts" for news coverage going forward, focusing the paper's reporters on Clermont, Butler and Warren counties and such Hamilton County places as Blue Ash/Montgomery, Colerain Township, Indian Hill/ Madeira, Hyde Park/Mount Lookout/Oakley/Mount Washington, Springdale, Wyoming and various suburban school districts. (There's a separate Kentucky list.)

Conspicuously missing, of course, are ordinary working-class city neighborhoods and minority communities. Apparently those places will be generating less "news" from here on, freeing The Enquirer to devote its dwindling resources to more deserving folks.

On the other hand — pardon the plug — CityBeat will be producing more news coverage of urban life starting this week, as our Porkopolis blog debuts at citybeat.com. Look for our news staff to post brief reports, additional details from stories in the paper and commentary daily on the Web site.



Porkopolis TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (ext. 138) or pork(at)citybeat.com.