A Winter Without Snow

Here's something to ponder: What if we skipped winter one year and went straight from fall to spring? It sure feels like that's happening right now. Other than one small episode last month that sn

Here's something to ponder: What if we skipped winter one year and went straight from fall to spring? It sure feels like that's happening right now.

Other than one small episode last month that snarled morning rush hour, Greater Cincinnati has had zero snowfall this winter. Nothing.

Not only that, it's generally been sunny and pleasant, and flower buds are even peeking up from the ground here and there. Almost halfway through winter, we're not having winter.

Anyone who grew up here or who's spent any time here knows this is wrong. We remember the blizzards of the late '70s that froze over the Ohio River or at least the huge storm from a couple years ago that shut down the city at Christmas.

In this part of the country, multiple heavy snows come with the territory. We expect them, plan for them and embrace them in some ways.

It's just not winter without them.

This is the second year we've actually gone without snow. At least last winter had the decency to be gray and cold.

My daughter hasn't been able to build a snowman in the front yard for two years now. It's unrighteous.

And yet this freak of nature doesn't seem so out of place. Everything's upside down right now.

Where Republicans used to dominate, Democrats have been sworn in in recent weeks locally (Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper), statewide (Gov. Ted Strickland) and nationally (House and Senate). A year ago this would have been inconceivable.

In many small ways, these new elected officials will change the culture of public policy to be fairer and more supportive of average citizens, which will amaze and delight us. In the big picture, their successes — our successes — will begin to chip away at the cynicism most of us feel toward government in general.

Pepper's election win gave voting control of the county commission to Democrats for the first time in more than 40 years. Strickland is Ohio's first Democratic governor in 16 years. Democrats control both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years and have installed the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.

These numbers will be nothing but statistics, of course, unless those officials accomplish something meaningful. There's no excuse for them to fail.

Staying with politics, it's strange to see the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls as Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama — a woman and an African American. And yet it doesn't feel strange at all.

Given the dynamics of recent presidential campaigns (Democrats and Republicans evenly split) plus the momentum from Democrats' recent election wins that should carry into 2008, it's very conceivable that either Clinton or Obama will be our next president. A female and/or black leader of the free world is long overdue.

Many will regard Clinton and Obama as mere tokens of their respective demographic groups and dump a shitstorm of demands on them to prove their worth as something more than tokens. Just look at the crap already being thrown at Nancy Pelosi questioning her ability/demeanor/ looks as Speaker of the House — her buffoon of a predecessor, Dennis Hastert, never had to deal with that kind of criticism.

But since women and African Americans were automatically crossed off presidential lists up until very recent times, Clinton's and Obama's positions as frontrunners shouldn't be casually dismissed. They should be celebrated.

Same for the changes happening at Fountain Square and even in Over-the-Rhine. It's easy to dismiss the square's renovations, focusing on why so much money was spent to move the fountain a few feet. And yet already the new energy there is palpable.

When the weather turns nice — say, next week — expect Fountain Square to really show off its new self. The trees, the outdoor activity and the video board above Macy's should provide a whole new experience in the middle of downtown.

Maybe a new square doesn't fix downtown's problems and doesn't change the world, but its openness — new physical openness as well as management's openness to new kinds of activity on the square and on the video board — is a step in the right direction.

Up in Over-the-Rhine, they haven't moved any fountains or erected any video boards, but change continues to come in tiny increments. Apparently the next focus of change will center around Washington Park, where downtown development agency 3CDC has been buying up residential property.

Cincinnati Public Schools finally confirmed that Washington Park Elementary would close, clearing the way for the park itself to reclaim the school's footprint. At some point, a new School for Creative and Performing Arts will occupy the block across from the park's southern edge.

On the western side of the park, Music Hall seems poised for monumental change. Its main tenant, the Cincinnati Symphony, is studying reconfigurations of the main hall, including some radical ideas. More parking and more condos/ apartments for the area are definitely on the horizon.

Even in small ways the world seems out of sorts. Invincible Ohio State gets crushed in the national championship game. The Bengals go from Super Bowl contenders to missing the playoffs by losing their final three games of the season, including a home game to the Steelers. Bob Huggins coaches against Xavier wearing purple, not red.

The Playhouse's production of Company is the toast of Broadway. Heartless Bastards are on the verge of stardom. The Contemporary Arts Center is looking for another director and another curator.

Last, but certainly not least, our military involvement in Iraq has turned into a second Vietnam War, yet everyone pretends it hasn't. Our collective national denial is growing to epic proportions.

And it still won't snow.

The times they are a-changin' — even if the weather isn't.

Contact john fox: jfox(at)citybeat.com

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