Marriage is love.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Op Ed: Greater Cincinnati must embrace gays, eccentrics

Cincinnati Enquirer - Your voice: Bruce Schultz

Greater Cincinnati is aging. It has one of the oldest populations in America. The reason has nothing to do with Darwinian evolution.

Not everybody craves a big lawn in a "wholesome" suburban neighborhood. Some are confirmed urbanites. But Greater Cincinnati is not a friendly place for gays, singles, young professionals, artists or other creative eccentrics.

We have two social industries in Cincinnati - a small cottage industry in baby-making and a booming industry in funerals. When babies grow up here, they move away because there's nothing for them to do here but go to church, watch TV and shop (i.e., life in the suburbs). Young people return only to attend the funerals of their relatives.

A brighter future for Greater Cincinnati sits unrealized in its idle downtown core. Local yokels haven't a clue about how to realize it.

How do we "fix" downtown? First, face facts. Downtown will never be a shopping mecca again in this Automobile Age. (The Automobile Age is coming to a close with rising gas prices, but as Mark Twain is reputed to have said, "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always 20 years behind the times.") Also, downtown tax structure makes it an awful choice for corporate headquarters. Downtown cannot compete with suburban tax giveaways to corporations (such as suburban tax-abatement schemes to attract big business, which come at the expense of suburban school funding and teachers' salaries).

So what's left?

"Community" means people-in-the-streets. A city starts with a population. Create one in downtown Cincinnati. Urban renewal always begins with gays and eccentrics. They are the pioneers of inner-city comebacks. Start there. (If you don't believe this, read about every other urban turnaround in America.)

Cincinnati must reject its conservative, anti-gay political blabber. It must resist its inclination toward stiff-necked conservative stodginess. It must embrace diversity instead.

Cincinnati must promote the creation of affordable downtown housing and interesting venues for young professionals and bohemians. It needs residents. Retail follows people. Suburbanites aren't coming back downtown to visit renovated squares - they're busy mowing their lawns in suburbia.

I won't ask city fathers for a pricey consultant's fee for this information. My ideas don't require moving any fountains. I'd just like to see our area get wiser - fast.

Until then, see you at the funeral.

Bruce Schultz of Cold Spring KY is a writer and former high school teacher.