By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Crime and housing quality are the most important issues facing Cincinnati's 52 neighborhoods, the leaders of the city's community councils say.
As neighborhood leaders and city officials meet this morning for the second annual Neighborhood Summit, the Cincinnati Enquirer asked the presidents of the city's 50 officially recognized community councils about problems in their neighborhoods and their relationship with City Hall. Twenty-nine responded.
Mirroring crime statistics, the neighborhood leaders were less likely to cite safety as their most pressing problem. Last year, 43 percent said crime was their single biggest worry. This year, it's 27 percent.
More important today are quality of life crimes - litter, loud noise and speeding in residential neighborhoods, they said.
Carthage Civic League President Robert Hartlaub Jr. said those may seem petty in light of the city's escalating number of homicide. "But this is where it starts," he said. "If people don't feel good about the quality of life in their neighborhoods, it can lead to break-ins, robberies and maybe even murders."
Neighborhood leaders do give City Council some credit for improving communication. The neighborhood summits - and more committee meetings held outside City Hall - have helped with that.
Now, they say, City Council needs to turn talk into action.
"We don't need new programs, new initiatives, or more rhetoric about cleaning up the city," said Brian Brenneman, president of the East End Area Council. "We have repeatedly reported the problems in our neighborhood and nothing is getting accomplished. City Council even walked through the East End with us last February as we took them to the sites in question and pointed out specific problems."
There's a widespread perception that downtown politics get in the way of solving neighborhood issues.
"They could act like a City Council, rather than nine individuals seeking press time," said Frank Hollister of the East Price Hill Improvement Association. "They could support and back the Police Department to go after crime hard, and not continue to pick at them."
Others said it was just a matter of City Council thinking more about neighborhoods.
"City Hall has got to want to be responsible for solving the problem. They actually have to physically and mentally want to fix the problem. Once they do that they are on the road to getting it fixed."
The Cincinnati Enquirer surveyed the leaders of Cincinnati's community councils this week about their problems and relationships with City Hall. Twenty-nine of the 50 neighborhood groups responded. Here's what they said:
What is the single biggest problem facing your neighborhood?
Crime and safety: 28 percent
Housing quality: 28 percent
Resident apathy: 10 percent
Loss of business: 6 percent
Poor neighborhood image: 6 percent
Airport noise: 6 percent
Unbalanced development: 6 percent
Youth programs: 3 percent
Other: 6 percent
What is one thing City Hall can do to be more responsive to your neighborhood?
Better communication: 21 percent
More police: 21 percent
Tougher enforcement: 10 percent
Put politics aside: 10 percent
Fix the zoning code: 6 percent
Restore Neighborhood Action Strategy: 6 percent
Change form of government: 6 percent
Other: 17 percent
Reporters Jennifer Edwards and Kevin Aldridge contributed to this story.
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