Second Ward turnout sparse in meetings to plan Hamilton’s future

A corridor in Lindenwald. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
A corridor in Lindenwald. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

When residents participating in the Plan Hamilton effort to create a 10- to 15-year vision for the city’s future met in five areas of the city recently, they were asked to place dots on a city map to represent where they live.

As a neighborhood leader of the Lindenwald neighborhood looked at that map on Wednesday, he noted dots were notably sparse in some of the poorest areas of the city, including the East Side neighborhoods of the 2nd and 4th wards, Jefferson, the East End, and even northern Lindenwald.

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Those are some of the city’s areas most in need of help, noted Frank Downie, chairman of PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others; Celebrate Our Lindenwald).

It’s especially surprising because city leaders had taken care to distribute the five meetings throughout Hamilton, including at Booker T. Washington Community in the 2nd Ward on July 22, a Saturday.

Wendy Moeller, owner and principal planner of Blue Ash-based Compass Point Planning, which is facilitating the comprehensive plan, said the East Side turnout was disappointing. The map’s dots make it easy to see the gaps.

“The main reason we did this map is we wanted to see if there were those big spots, and then we need to re-think how we need to get those folks engaged,” she said. “We will probably try to do some strategies to get them involved, but there’s other things we’re going to be doing …”

“We are trying to get any idea to go out there,” she added. “Sometimes it’s very engaging to go out to churches, or if they have local community events there.”

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While the Lindenwald business district made both lists of things residents are proud of and want to see improved in coming years, not making either list was the 2nd Ward, which city officials have previously committed to work to revitalize along with Lindenwald in coming years.

“There were a number of places that called out the 2nd and 4th wards,” Moeller said. “People talked about neighborhoods, or even sub-neighborhoods that we didn’t try to identify individually. A lot of times they were identified in specific meetings, and didn’t necessarily cross all of them.”

“That’s why one of the things I continuously hounded on was ‘Just because you don’t see something specifically here does not mean it’s not important,’” she said. “This (series of lists of top issues raised) is where we’re just hearing repeated issues.”

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Bob Harris, president of the South East Civic Association, which focuses its efforts on the 2nd and 4th wards, said he attended the BTW Center meeting.

“I don’t know where Hamilton’s going to be 10 years from now,” Harris said. “What I do know is you have to have your best minds at the table. You need those who will work hard, with sweat equity, to make a difference in your city. And you do need diversity on all of your committees and boards.”

“That may not be something I’ll see in my lifetime,” he said. “That’s what we should be looking for as a community and a city.”

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Harris said the lack of diversity in city government, and on City Council, was one reason he supported a recent failed effort to place on the November ballot an issue that would change council’s elections to a ward system. Opponents have said a ward system could create infighting between parts of the city, and lead council members to represent parts of Hamilton, rather than the whole.

“I hope that what is being done this time (with Plan Hamilton), that we use that information to make a major difference,” Harris said.

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