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Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Hot Links

Just wanted to link a nice piece written by Rich Shivener via Metromix Cincinnati. It's basically about all of the city's jewels that Ft. Thomas residents know all about already, but it's good to see the good publicity that these businesses can bring to the community. Here's hoping to visitors mingling with Ft. Thomasonians to make for busy restaurants this weekend.

Additionally, if you do decide to go out tonight, Vito's Cafe has kids night tonight. From Vito's Cafe Twitter account: "Kids Night at Vito's Cafe this evening - kiddies 10 & under eat free, the evening is full of your favorite Disney tunes! 859-442-9444"

Should be a good time. I'm sure they have some good fish dishes for all of you relegated to Lenten specials.

That got me thinking: I'm not Catholic (I know I'm probably in the minority here), but I was wondering if there were any locations in our fair city that Catholic people congregate for fish frys? Any traditions that you may have? Sound off. Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Real" News

One of the themes that I try to incorporate in my posts are links to social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Nixle, etc. have evolved from gimmicky, pass-the-time- websites to legitimate ways to connect, market, and break news.

As a Journalism major, I came to the harsh realization that my dream of taking over Paul Daugherty's column in the Cincinnati Enquirer would probably not happen - not due to my lack of journalistic ability, rather because print journalism is regrettably a dying art form.

This blog, for instance, is another type of news outlet that has transcended from something that Darrin started to keep Fort Thomas citizens informed, to apparently a news outlet that "real" journalists use as a starting point to get their "real news."

The "Will Chambers Broadcaster" story and the latest "Snow Days" stories written on Fort Thomas Matters have themes and quotes that are very similar to stories run on The Community Recorder pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer days later (with no credit, by the way).

**This is Darrin hi-jacking Mark's post** I couldn't let this post past with also calling attention to another story from yesterday's Enquirer about the Newport Pavilion. I posted this news on Sunday night and magically it appears on Tuesday with no additional information other than a declined quote from the city of Newport and rehashed news from other old stories on Bear Creek Capital. At least when we rip off another story we refer to it and link to the actual article, provide some additional commentary or additional facts and move on rather than completely ripping the story off as our own and not linking or referencing to it. ** Now back to the rest of Mark's story **

But I'm not bitter at all. I think it goes to show that blogs like this and networks that we all use to "pass the time" are now legitimate forms of communication that we should be embracing.

So use the comments section to discuss some of the issues that are brought forth on this blog. It can only help to improve our city - even if you are just passing the time.

* A few updates on past stories:

- Connie Hall won $10,000 on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"

- After 4 years of at Georgetown College, Will Chambers is moving on go forth in his broadcasting career.

- If you want to sign the petition regarding snow days that Ft. Thomas resident, Christina Sticker Whitlatch created, she is asking that you do so via Facebook. Click her name to find her profile.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Updates on Kroger Fuel & Newport Pavilion


So I made mention prior to the Kroger opening about a School Spirit shop that would include wear from area high schools.  I am not sure what  I expected when Kroger touted this feature but I have to admit that this is a pretty weak effort.  And what, no Bluebirds gear?  Who is to blame for this - Kroger showing some cake eater bias or lack of response by Highlands?

Also, there have been questions about the fuel center opening and the last time I spoke with someone at Kroger they had indicated a March opening.  That now appears to be pushed back further.  I was told recently that the underground piping that delayed the Kroger opening is to blame and must be what is holding up construction for the Target.  With problems continuing to mount for Bear Creek this can not be a good sign for future development on the site.  The Newport Pavilion is one of the last remaining developments from Bear Creek that has not gone into foreclosure but perhaps a speedy move through foreclosure and a new developer is the best thing that could happen to the site.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alert from Fort Thomas Police

As mentioned in a recent post by Mark, the new service - NIXLE - used by Fort Thomas Police to provide alerts.  Today provided a great example of the power of such a tool as they issued an alert on a guy perpetrating a quick change scheme on Fort Thomas businesses.  The alert was complete with video surveillance photo of the guy.  Sign up today to help catch guys like this.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Links from 5, 9 ,12 & 19 Ft. Thomas Snow Stories

Channel 5

Channel 9

Channel 12

Channel 19

While most of these links are from last week, the themes around the stories from today remain the same. Are there parents out there who are grateful that school is in session on days like today, as Superintendent Williamson suggests?

Ft. Thomas Schools on the news - again

(Picture is on N. Fort Thomas Ave, on the bend right before St. Catherine)

As I was shoveling snow today at my house, channel 5 news stopped by to interview me and basically let me know how I had my work cut out for me all day. Thanks, as if I didn't know that.

They wanted to know if I had kids in Ft. Thomas Independent Schools and if so, what my reaction was to being the only school open. I don't have kids, but I did attend Ft. Thomas schools through my life. I think I may have had less than five scheduled days off of school from K-12.

For the second time in two weeks, Ft. Thomas schools were in session when seemingly every other district, public or independent, had closed.

According to the Facebook group "Fort Thomas Should Get Snow Days," which Superintendent John Williamson posts on, Highlands was to make up school today -which was originally a planned day off - for schools closing last Wednesday. Apparently Highlands is accepting weather as an acceptable excused absence, but at some point, doesn't common sense have to play a part in this? The forecast has not changed since yesterday.

I know that the accolades which Ft. Thomas Schools have attained have come with the hard work of officials and teachers and that means keeping schools in session when others are off. But when parents and students alike are not only being inconvenienced by the weather, but are being put at risk for injury, something's gotta give.

What are we trying to prove? Does anyone have any suggestions on how to improve communications between parents, students and the school system?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Old News You May Have Missed

I picked up an old issue of Cincy magazine recently.  Yes, I said Cincy Magazine and not Cincinnati Magazine although their focus is not really that different.  I was picking through the pile of magazines that we receive throughout the year and found an issue on 'Rating the Burbs' that ranks the top 43 communities in the Cincinnati area.

Going into the issue I assumed that Fort Thomas would be rated highly but was surprised to see that not only did we not make the top 20 but was just rated among the remaining communities in alphabetical order.  The magazine focuses on schools, safety, housing, and taxes.  All of which I would have expected a strong performance (with the possible exception of taxes).  But there were some interesting stats that would indicate that Fort Thomas belongs outside the top 20 at least according to this criteria.

Fort Thomas rated 20th in the first category, safety.  Safety focuses on statistics related to property such as burglary, theft, and auto theft as well as violent crimes and looks at ratios of population.  Surprisingly, assault and theft are high compared to other communities in the area.

Safety includes a chart on Fire / EMS response times - this wasn't included in the safety rankings but I noticed that Fort Thomas was inexplicably excluded from the table.  I was curious to find statistics related to the Fort Thomas response times and found the following report from March 2009 using 2008 data that was compiled by the Fort Thomas Fire Department.  The report indicates that the average response time is 5 minutes and 4 seconds.  This is nearly an entire minute below the 'national gold standard' but higher than many of the communities listed in the graph which has Mariemont listed as the lead response time of 1 minute and 50 seconds.

The second category is public schools.  Again, I was going into this category thinking Fort Thomas had to be near the top on this listing.  I could count on only 1 hand the number of schools in the Cincinnati area that could possibly be better than Fort Thomas.  According to this ranking though you would need 2 hands to count the school systems.  Some of the surprises were Forest Hills and Milford.

Clearly safety and education didn't put us outside the top 20 - then you may be asking yourself what other criteria did we lose out for.  It was primarily in economic / livability measures:
  • 4 year change in median home prices were 8.2% which was respectable
  • Homes owner occupied was 69.1% - among the lowest of all communities
  • Average commute of over 20 minutes was surprising given the close proximity to downtown (the major jobs center of the area) but I drive an average of 21 minutes to and from work each day on the east side of town so I fit the mold.
  • Property tax / $100,000 of $1,570
What other measures would you include that separate Fort Thomas from other communities in the Cincinnati area?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Battle of the Ft. Thomas Daytime DVR

Personally, I don't watch Oprah. My wife might attest that I have, from time to time, accidentally come across it, but I would never admit to watching it daily. Of course, being a male 25-34, I am not Oprah's target demographic.

Connie Hall, however, is exactly who Oprah's advertisers are after. The Fort Thomas mother of five is an avid Oprah fan, so much so that she has been on the waiting list for live studio audience tickets for the last eight years. That's a few years longer than the Ft. Thomas Swim Club waiting list. Either way, it's a long time.

Imagine her dilemma when she finally received her Oprah tickets only to find out that just as she was getting ready to hear what Oprah's new favorite things were in her studio audience, she was also scheduled to field questions from Meredith Viera on the hot seat of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" On the same day. Seriously.

After taking the on-line test for "Millionaire", Hall was called within a couple of weeks notifying her that she had passed the test and was given a date about when she would be in the "hot seat."

"I had that gut feeling as soon as I got my Oprah notification that something would happen to prevent me from going," Hall said. "In fact, I told my 12-year old as soon as I got the Oprah tickets, that Millionaire would call - and they did."

What's a Fort Thomas mother and wife to do?

"My boys didn't give me much choice as to which show to go to! They say thousands of people audition for "Millionaire" and only a few make it,"
Hall explained.

So how was her experience on one of the most nerve wracking shows to be a contestant on?

"I wasn't nervous being there because it was a lot of fun. My nerves were the thought of being humiliated by leaving with nothing. People in my group left with nothing and were devastated. Also, I knew my boys would never let me live it down if I got the big fat zero so that was the most nerve wracking part."

"Meredith Viera was very friendly, very down to earth. We were cutting up so much between air time I kept forgetting I was there to do a job! She even sent a note congratulating me on being on the show and it was very personal. She is certainly not a TV show diva."

After taping on October 29th of last year, Hall's "Millionaire" episode was to air today at 4:30 on local channel 12. With the inclement weather getting more news coverage than it probably deserves, that date was pushed back and will air when local scheduling is back to normal. Be sure to set your DVR.

I'll be watching to see if her strategy of memorizing every question from the "Millionaire" board game came in handy, or if the video of contestants getting the first question wrong (which her boys sent her as motivation) was stuck in her head.

So would Fort Thomas Matters readers get a spoiler alert on how much cash Connie Hall won before the show airs?

"I'll tell (Fort Thomas Matters) what I told my boys, it's between zero and one million," Hall said, " In fact, (my sons) got very angry with me for not telling. Rules are rules!"

As a published children's books author, , Hall's media tour may not be over. She's currently shopping publishers for a new series of children's books and is in preliminary talks for a new talk show in Cincinnati. Don't worry if you forget to set your DVR, Fort Thomas Matters will update you on all things Hall.

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Perspectives on Deer Management

A friend forwarded a recent news story from NPR on how some communities in Connecticut are handling deer over population.  Among the highlights of the story is the fact that the deer population in the US has mushroomed from half million to over 17 million in just the past 20 years.  The wildlife manager quoted in the story also indicates that an ideal population of deer is between 8 and 15 per square mile.  If this metric holds up, Fort Thomas (with just under 6 square miles of area) should not have any more than between 48 and 90 deer.  I don't know about you but even with 2 years of semi-effective deer management we have to have a multiple of that range.

I mentioned in an article in late December about Fort Thomas' efforts to count or baseline the deer population using arial photography.  This is a good step by the city with a minimal cost of $8,000 but what happens when the inevitable results show a population well in excess of the range cited above?  Do we move to sharp shooters or the original plan of police officers wondering the woods hunting for deer?

Keep in mind that I am not advocating any of the means listed above but with those kinds of numbers quoted in the NPR story this is an indicator that deer management is going to be a challenge that Fort Thomas will continue to struggle with.  Regardless of the effectiveness of the current program that will end shortly.  While Fort Thomas may be aggressive in thinning the herd so to speak neighboring communities such as Southgate, Wilder, and Highland Heights that do not have a plan will cause the population to spill back into Fort Thomas eventually. 

The story also underscores the need to continue to find better and safer ways to manage the population.  Contraception is expensive and results have been sporadic at best.  One community member was quoted in the article as mentioning fencing and other options proposed a few years ago in Fort Thomas.

Continuing the discussion of metrics I ran across a deer management plan from Fremont Michigan that is titled "Long-term Community Deer Management Plan" that focuses on a broad array of means to control the deer population.  This is a comprehensive plan that includes habitat management and engages the community in the solutions.  The plan also sets a target population at a more realistic 25 - 35 per square mile.  All of which brings up a great question - what is the goal of the Fort Thomas plan?  Is there a specific target population?  What mechanisms beyond hunting will create a long-term sustainable plan?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Idea for Ft. Thomas Rec. Dept.

Darrin has talked extensively about more family friendly events that Ft. Thomas could incorporate into their family night events. Updating and using the amphitheater has been something that he has detailed that would be a huge draw.

Dave Buerger
, director of the Ft. Thomas rec. dept is looking for ideas to revamp family night. (HAT TIP TO AMANDA JOERING ALLEY).

"We're stepping back and taking a look at what else we can offer and ways to get more families to participate," said Dave Buerger, director of the recreation department. "Our focus with the family nights is to bring families together and get them involved."

Taking a page from Newport of the Levee's Progressive Dinner , why not a Ft. Thomas Progressive Dinner this Spring? Appetizers at The Midway, followed by dinner at Ft. Thomas Pizza and dessert at Sarelli's?

Newport's version cost $30. I'm quite sure this could be organized and done for less that that. Thoughts?

Hope everyone has a good weekend. If you need help digging out, and live between Tower Hill and St. Catherine on N. Fort Thomas, let me know if I can help.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Renassaince District Making a Push Beyond Streetscape Improvements

I wanted to provide a quick update on efforts by the Renaissance Board in Fort Thomas to get some momentum for the Midway district beyond streetscape efforts that have been under construction for some months now.

2010 Renaissance goals focused on the Midway District include:
  • filling the district with thriving businesses 
  • creating more walking customers 
  • maintaining the businesses we already have.  
Each of the four committees (Design, Promotion, Organization, and Economic Restructuring) will be working on some facet of creating a vibrant business district.  The group has reached out to the Small Business Management program head at NKU for some additional support.  Debbie Buckley, the Renaissance Manager, would also love to hear from you the reader if you have any good ideas - feel free to let her know in the comments section below.

Among the specific development activities that are in process include:
  • A Midway Business District color brochure is being prepared to entice perspective owners with the goal to fill each and every available storefront in 2010.  
  • An application has been submitted for nearly $20,000 in grants through the Main Street program to bring signage to the District as well as signs on I-471.  Grants will be awarded in February.
Debbie indicates that "developing pride in the district is first and foremost in our minds.  We hope to change that mentality and create something that the entire City of Fort Thomas can be proud of and invite friends and family to visit."

"Our new museum is drawing dozens of people--largely from other areas of the tri-state.  Wouldn't it be great for museum workers to point out the district to those patrons and they would also become patrons of our businesses?  We have created the tourism draw--now it's time to create the business district that will entice them to return over and over again."

I do hope we are putting our hope on other draws beyond the museum.  While that may be drawing some traffic I have to think that those biking the trails in Tower Park could be an even bigger draw.  Additionally, upgraded programming at the amphitheater would bring families with children and tie-ins with Midway businesses could be a key part of that strategy.  Continued focus on the Earth Mother Market will also continue to draw people but only as long as they can continue to pull in vendors and expand hours of operation.

I applaud the efforts and it is important to have groups like this that include mostly volunteers and organized by a highly energetic Debbie Buckley that can be the driving force behind positive changes.  Elected officials and the city manager have shown an inability to get these districts moving in the right direction and it is up to the energy of this group and the creativity and connections of those serving on these groups to sustain the momentum.