Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Single in Cincinnati


The city's five unmarried council members dish about social life here

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Cincinnati City Council's five unmarried members: Laketa Cole (left), Sam Malone, David Pepper, Alicia Reece and John Cranley.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
Did you notice? A majority of members of the newly sworn-in Cincinnati City Council is single. Newcomer Sam Malone, 32, (who is engaged; no wedding date set) is a Republican who joins Democratic holdovers Laketa Cole, 30; John Cranley, 29; David Pepper, 32; and Alicia Reece, 32. Including the unmarried Mayor Charlie Luken, that's a sizable singles contingent.

The Enquirer singled out the singles and invited them to a roundtable discussion about what it's like to be unattached in the Queen City. (The mayor was invited but couldn't attend.)

What's your idea of the perfect holiday date?

Cole: A holiday cruise. Royal Caribbean, a three-day weekend to the Bahamas.

Pepper: This is why you're still single ... there aren't enough guys who'd do that. I'll say New York City at the holiday time is a great place.

Cranley: Dinner at the Primavista, Holiday Pops (concert) at Music Hall, carriage ride to Fountain Square, ice skating at Fountain Square and a nightcap at La Normandie.

Pepper: I've got to re-answer. Can we have a city map?

Reece: For me it would be a big treat if the Bengals were still playing. Go to a game, drink hot chocolate, and go to the (Montgomery Inn) Boathouse afterwards. We have to have 50-yard-line seats. (Laughs).

Malone: I love the (Cincinnati) zoo. Bengals game. Close off with a nice dinner.

In forbes.com's list of best cities for singles, Cincinnati is ranked 39th out of 40. Agree or disagree: This is a lame city for singles.

Cranley: I disagree. Whether it's the Main Street entertainment district, or all the stuff to do around Fountain Square, and places like Mount Lookout square, places in the Kenwood area. I think there are a lot of opportunities to meet people. We get a bad rap.

Pepper: I disagree with John a little bit. I think it's maybe not as bad as 39th out of 40 ... But of people I know here, especially ones who aren't from here, their social existence really revolves around their workplace. If socially you don't get beyond your workplace much, people think (the singles scene) is pretty stagnant.

We as a community need to figure out how to get different sectors and groups to mix together in a more natural way than they do today.

Reece: Certainly there's a lot to improve. We're in a transition. We were known as the best city to raise a family. Now the trend has changed in terms of an increase in single people in the city. I don't think we're where we could be. One thing, particularly for African-Americans, is the lack of diversity, and diverse things to do.

Malone: I was in the military I traveled quite a bit. One of the places I enjoyed was Seattle. They had three (multiplex) cinemas downtown. One had a Gameworks right next door. It's a huge multigenerational complex. The problem for singles in Cincinnati is there's not a lot of things they enjoy doing.

What can you do to make the city more single-friendly?

Cranley: Downtown housing I think is the No. 1 thing that can be done to improve single life.

Cole: I don't think it's just about housing, it's also about job opportunities. Many of my friends who are single have left because of the job market.

Pepper: The bigger challenge is more than just housing, it's creating a space where people are living, and that kicks off a lot of other things, whether it be coffee houses, clubs, a place where everyone goes beyond where they work every day. In Washington D.C., where I lived, there are (places such as) Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle; it's incredibly diverse and everyone goes there. Barriers that divide people in the workplace and even where they live are broken down. We don't have that.

Malone: I would like to see a Showcase (Cinemas) downtown. We need that, and a Gameworks over here. I'm telling you, (Newport on the) Levee is whooping us. When I was in the military, guys always went to the malls. It's always nice inside the malls to have sports bars where people sit down and socialize.

Cole: I don't think the Levee is whooping us.

Pepper: It is beating us because we don't have as much ... . But the long-term vision can't just be one big building, but this whole sense of place we've been talking about.

Does the city's family-oriented reputation work against it when it comes to attracting singles?

Reece: I don't think so. It's not bad to be known as a great place for families. But I hear from friends, 'When I get married I'll come back to Cincinnati because it's a great place to raise kids.' The thing I fear is, if we lose them, they may not come back.

Pepper: It goes back to that sense of place. If you're single, in a lot of our family-friendly neighborhoods you'd be out of place. In Washington, I'd go to neighborhoods that were sort of 'single people' neighborhoods. ... Interestingly, here the numbers show we actually have as many single people as we've ever had, but (when it comes to) where they live and play, they're just not doing it together.

Malone: When I think of some of the happening cities ... their downtowns are fast, poppin', nighttime. The reason Cincinnati barely has a pulse is because the downtown is too slow. Downtown has to be moving a lot faster in the evening. That dictates what goes on in the community.

Any other ideas that would appeal to singles?

Reece: After the (2001) unrest, we had a "bridging the gap" happy hour that I think we should continue. It was the first time you saw diverse singles together. I would love to have it once a quarter. Maybe we as the young, single council can host. It can be a combination of fun and substantive things.

Pepper: That's a great idea.

Reece: One other thing I'm hearing, and you can laugh about this, but I went to Chicago and they have one. We need a roller-skating rink inside the city. We go out now in West Chester.

When was the last time one of your parents asked when you'd get married?

Cole: Election Day. I'm my mother's only child. The votes came in and her thing was not that I won, she said, 'Oh, yes, now you can get married and have kids.' Everyone in the room looked at her like she was nuts.

Pepper: They don't ask anymore because I always tell them to shoo.

Cranley: My parents ask every now and then.

Reece: My parents never want me to get married. They say I'm on the right track.

E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com




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