FC Cincinnati, Stadia, and the Sunk Cost Fallacy

fcc stadium.jpg

The interwebs are full of hot takes, but I wanted to add one more concerning yesterday’s Hamilton County commissioners meeting. The commissioners, in deciding whether or not to contribute to infrastructure dollars to a potential FC Cincinnati stadium (likely to be built in Oakley), responded by a) suggesting Paul Brown Stadium as a preferred venue and b) offering to pay for one parking garage in Oakley, provided that it is guaranteed to pay for itself.

This led to a couple of polarizing reactions from the general public.

1. The perspective of most FCC fans
They’re flummoxed that the a certain commissioner is hellbent on suggesting our aging NFL stadium when the MLS has stated this won't work. The main reason the Detroit bid will fail (despite being one of the largest media markets in the U.S.) is that they recently tweaked their proposal to use Ford Field as their home. Even though the stadium of the NFL’s Detroit Lions is far superior to Paul Brown, the MLS will likely pass as they’ve continually reiterated that they want a soccer-specific stadium (primarily due to revenue control but also ambiance). All things considered, FCC could continue to thrive at Nippert if this was permitted but, according to the MLS expansion guidelines, this would doom the bid. Cincinnati isn’t competing against the MLS here, but against cities like Sacramento, Nashville, and Tampa willing to do what the league asks. 

An additional (and in my opinion, legitimate) source of consternation is that the Lindner ownership group is bringing so much money to the table. No other MLS expansion candidate has ownership willing to contribute so much to the stadium cost. Why would the county balk at a group offering so much private money? Well, it’s because . . . 

2. The perspective of most Hamilton County taxpayers
They were fooled once on this already before. The Bengals deal was one of the worst in U.S. history (yay us?) and rivals our failed subway system and as one of the greatest mistakes in Cincinnati history. While this perspective might have changed had the Bengals won a Super Bowl, the general public is so sickened by the misstep, it’s poisoned any future considerations. Add the fact that many taxpayers just don’t get/like soccer (despite its massive popularity among millennials) that there’s no way they’d forgive elected politicians for repeating past mistakes. 

As with any issue, there are some nuances here that force broader perspectives. But what I really want to hone in on in this debate is why the county commissioners would double down on the Paul Brown Stadium issue here. In fact, invoking PBS at all makes it nearly impossible for the public to have an unemotional conversation about public money. And an aside: the most perplexing thing about yesterday’s press conference was that the Bengals, who by contract control nearly all revenue from the stadium, were never even consulted about the commissioners suggesting that FCC play there.

So why this irrational insistence on offering Paul Brown Stadium an option if it's untenable both from a revenue and MLS perspective?

The county commissioners, particularly Commissioner Portune, are struggling with the popular sunk cost fallacy. 

Working in finance, I continually observe people and institutions that are not rational with their money. In fact, none of us really are. Nearly all of our spending habits are emotionally driven, and this is often influenced by past mistakes. Nobel prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman outlines this well in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. If an individual or organization has already invested time/resources into a failing endeavor, they’ll most likely continue to invest additional time/resources in an attempt to rectify previous mistakes. Research has proven that this is rarely successful and often leads to further losses. Quite simply, once the mistake is made, you can’t spend your way out of it.

When listening to yesterday’s news conference, I couldn’t listen to Mr. Portune without hearing sunk costs. He referenced the fear (a legitimate one even) that the Bengals will leave Cincinnati in 2026 when their lease expires. His thinking, then, is why build another stadium now when we have a perfectly good one that could be empty in less than a decade? Portune and the other commissioners' thoughts on this current opportunity are being formed by a previous financial mistake that shares little similarity to the current opportunity. The inability to discern this opportunity apart from the boondoggle is driven by emotion. 

Don't misinterpret me: this isn’t to say that the county SHOULD allocate funds on stadium infrastructure. What I am saying, however, is that continually suggesting a non-solution like Paul Brown Stadium does not make a compelling case of sound fiscal strategy. A simple “no way” with no explanation would have made more rational sense.

While it’s anyone’s guess what will happen in the following weeks, I still predict they'll cut a deal. And, ironically, the concerns over Paul Brown Stadium might be what actually gets it done. FCC’s ownership group have massive investments along Cincinnati’s riverfront. If the Bengals do leave, we’d never get another NFL team again, so there’d be a limited pool of potential tenants. If America’s passion for soccer continues along its current trajectory, maybe FCC takes possession of Paul Brown Stadium in a decade or so. I’m not sure that alienating one of the few local entities that could afford such an expenditure is the best tact in salvaging that great mistake.

And while the [futbol] club has continually mentioned that they’re ready to go in Newport, the desire to keep the franchise in city limits—both by ownership and local politicians—will likely see them cut a deal. How taxpayers feel about it might come down to spin, and maybe yesterday’s press conference was step one in that process.

I’m just irked when an emotional position is framed as rational thought.

A Decade of Urban Living

We shape the city, then it shapes us.-John Reader

I had to go back through the blog archives to confirm, but this week marks ten years since we moved down to the city.

Adding our most recent move this summer (I haven't even written about that yet), Kelly and I have made five moves in our lives. Undoubtedly, that move from the suburbs to the inner-city has been the most transformational in our marriage. I'm not sure I could've anticipated how it changed everything—the trajectory of our family, my view of ministry, and my anthropological views. It's surely been an enlightening ride.

Today, both Kelly and I were working at home and we decided to walk downtown. It's not that far of a trek (a little more than two miles from our new place) but it was an absolutely gorgeous day. We ate in OTR, did a little shopping, and worked out of a coffee shop. Throughout the day, we cohabited public spaces with all sorts of people. It's these little experiences that I've truly cherished over the past ten years and it's all been facilitated because we moved here.

The city we moved to continues to change rapidly. Even though we anticipated the transformation, but it's remarkable how the Cincinnati of 2015 is unrecognizable compared to that of 2005. Despite our town's noticeable shortcomings (specifically issues of equality across the socioeconomic and racial spectrum), I'm encouraged by a civic pride that has blossomed since we arrived. I used to feel like I was one of the only ones banging the drum of the Queen City. Now, we're part of a movement.

Our family is fully woven into the urban fabric. I'm not sure we could even imagine leaving.

I have no idea what this place will look like a decade from now. But I can't wait to find out.

Chaos and Justice

My run last night was altered by gunshots.

That’s called a hook. That’s what I use to keep you reading the less interesting material to get to that story. Hopefully it's enough to keep you hanging with me.

I enjoy running through the city, even at night.

Especially at night.

I’ve never felt fear out late but, then again, I usually don’t run where I shouldn’t be. I stick to major roads and I'm always aware of my surroundings. That awareness keeps me jumpy though: one day I was running downtown (in broad daylight) and someone surprised me by grabbing my arm. It was an old friend. I started to throw a punch but halted when I recognized them.

But being aware isn’t just for my own protection. It draws me closer to my city. I’ve given directions to countless numbers of people. Twice I've changed the tires of ladies unable to do so themselves. One of the reasons I’ve learned to love running is it allows me to see the beauty of this place. You see things differently when you traverse the sidewalks.

Last night was the first time I ran an old route since we moved to the new house. Our street is much quieter than the bustle of our previous place, which was located on a main drag. I’m still in the habit of watching cars for potential drug deals but I’m constantly relieved when I realize it's just people hauling groceries out of their trunks.

Heroine dealers don't use large Kroger bags.

Even though we moved just blocks away, it the side street moves a little slower. Still, as I ran toward a car on the side of the road with the hood up, I immediately thought it was dealing. In the dark, I noticed a couple of people mulling around the vehicle so I reactively clenched my fists. When I was finally next to the car, I discovered the scene was truly innocuous: the car was broken down. Those were older kids waiting impatiently outside. I asked if I could help and they said a tow truck was on the way. We had a brief conversation and I continued on.

For the next mile, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself for being so suspicious. I was guilty of the same paranoia I often mock. With this situation fresh in my mind, I saw a figure moving briskly down the sidewalk toward me. He was walking erratically so my instincts caused me to tense up. Then I noticed he was walking AT me and trying to get my attention. I’ve had this happen many times before; you’d be surprised how many times I get asked for bus money when I’m running. But as this guy motioned at me so intensely and continuously that I stopped. I took out my earbuds and it was then that I could understand the reason for his urgency.

“You need to turn around! They’re shooting up there!”

It took me a second to process what he was saying.

I then glanced at the other side of the street to see quite a few people running away from the scene—not participants, mind you—bystanders seeking safety. Although I don’t fear walking these streets, and have run by this place dozens of times, I don’t go searching for danger. I took the man’s advice. As we moved swiftly down the street, away from the area, we started talking.

“I’m kind of mad,” I said. “I’ve never had to change my path because of gunshots.”

“I have,” he admitted. “Lots of times. It gets crazy in the summer.”

I thanked the man for looking out for me and took a longer way home.

Now I want to make a transition here that could be perceived as forced, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about throughout the summer.

I love my community because of its diversity; it’s home to a spectrum of people along the racial, economic, and ideological scale. Living here either solidifies your prejudices or expands your tolerance. The more you rub shoulders with others different than you, the more you appreciate the unique challenges that each of us face.

This summer, the topic of race continues to be thrust to the forefront of the American psyche. What happened in Ferguson continues to pulse through situations like Charleston and last week in Houston and even what happened this week here in Cincinnati.* The Charleston situation excluded, many of the recent race stories intersect with law enforcement. Unfortunately, these incidents are most polarizing; they solidify prejudices. It's as if we question why these things happen, we’re attacking law enforcement. Hence . . .

“If they had just obeyed the law, they wouldn’t be dead."

Look, I have friends that serve and protect. They’re some of the finest people I know. Some are white, some are black. But when we dismiss these situation as mere issues of law and order, we’re guilty of over-simplifying this issue. It’s about much more than just obeying a police officer.

You see, even though we’ve made major advancements in race relations over the past couple decades, we’re just not there yet. Nor should we expect to be there yet, as one of the largest sins of our fathers was the economic handcuffing of the African American community. Crime will always follow poverty. So don’t pay sole attention to the fruit of the tree when it’s an orchard planted by the the white affluent.

Which is chaos and which is justice? Sometimes it's difficult to tell.

Hear me, friends: just because people cry out for justice doesn’t mean they're endorsing chaos.

There are systemic issues behind all of this. And if you can’t see that, you’re just solidifying prejudices.

This morning's news didn't report on the shooting I apparently narrowly avoided last night. Either no one got hurt or, if they did, they didn't go to the hospital. Too often, when someone sees one of these reports, they chalk it up to more of the same in a ghetto neighborhood. But what's never reported is the kindness of people like the African American man who thought enough of a skinny white guy to warn him of the danger just ahead.

I’m thankful he wasn’t apprehensive of me.

"But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Amos 5:24

------------ *By the way, the shooting in Cincinnati this week was predicated by a traffic stop made for a missing front license plate. I’ve been driving without my front plate on the same streets for five years now and have never been pulled over.

Prayer for Education

I was asked to give a prayer for this year's Hamilton County National Day of Prayer Event on behalf of Cincinnati Christian University. My topic was education. Below is what I prayed. O God:

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached that the true goal of education is to teach students to think intensively and to think critically, to instill in students both intelligence and character.

So Lord, for the hundreds of institutions throughout the Greater Cincinnati area that devote themselves to guiding students through their studies, we ask that you guide them students to think intensively. We today are the beneficiaries of the generations of Cincinnatians who invested in institutions of education that were created to increase the knowledge of our youth. Those places of learning transcend brick and mortal but serve as bastions of hope for the future of our society and we pray their devotion to the greater good be met through our young people.

We ask your blessing on our schools

And for the thousands of educators in our region that serve tirelessly to ensure that the next generation have access to the opportunities of tomorrow, we ask that you work through them to move our students to think critically. An ever-evolving world demands a diverse minds yet our differences and strong opinions often keep us from considering the perspectives of others. Be with our teachers who must traverse these lines so that our children may be truly analytical. And we acknowledge, Lord, those not at the front of the classroom who also make the difference. For without staff administrators, bus drivers, crossing guards, lunchroom staff, janitors, and many others, our kids would not have this opportunity.

We ask your blessing on our educators

For the thousands of students who, even now as we pray, are in their desks learning, we ask that they may grow in intelligence. For them, O God, we pray mightily as children are precious in your sight. We ask forgiveness for our failures in not helping them all that we should. Despite well-intentioned efforts there are far too many children in our city who live in poverty, whose learning is relegated in exchange for their mere survival. The obstacles that many of these kids have to overcome seem insurmountable, but we ask that you work through our societal intellect so that theirs may be nurtured.

We ask your blessing on our students

And for all those previously mentioned as well as all of us who remain that play a part in education: parents, guardians, family members, volunteers, clergy, community organizers, and taxpayers—we ask that you increase our character. Inspire us to invest in who our children will become, acknowledging that even though they might never share our personal ideology, they will still grow to become our brothers and sisters. Allow us to set-aside our differences: differences of denominations, differences of religion, and even differences from those of us with no religion, to recognize that wisdom is not just ours alone.

We ask your blessing on us all. Amen.


I'll admit that I've not been the most faithful OSU fan over the past few years. It's not about the Buckeyes; it's just that I'm now the parent of an elementary school kid and my fall Saturdays were consumed by soccer games and other activities. I've previously explained my Ohio State allegiance and noted that it was very necessary to me as a sports fan since the Bengals and Reds gave me a decade-plus of futility. Now that those Cincinnati sports teams have been more competitive, I've not clung to the Buckeyes as much as I used to. Still, it's been a fun stretch to observe, watching a team that was maligned by pundents throughout the season (I'm looking at you, Mark May) put together a run to win a National Championship.

I'm still thrilled at this victory, even though Cincinnati isn't really part of the state of Ohio.

I Don't Live In Cleveland. I live in Cincinnati

I'm writing this in the middle of the Bengals' playoff game against the Colts. It's the beginning of the second half, after the Bengals went three-and-out. I'm going to be bold and post this when I'm finished writing it because I want to relate my feelings in the middle of the fray, regardless of the outcome. We're not winning this game. I'm fully resigned to this fact.

I grew up a Bengals fan. It's my birthright. Paul Brown was a brilliant football mind. Even when we didn't have the best teams, the franchise was moving in a solid direction. I was at the 1988 playoff game against Seattle that sent the Bengals to the AFC Championship. The 1989 Super Bowl was ours for the taking. It just didn't work out. But we had Boomer Esiason and a great crew of players; we'd eventually get it done.

Then came the 1990's.

Paul Brown died and so did our mojo. I attended the game where Icky Woods career ended. I believe that was the year that we took out Bo Jackson in the playoffs but the Raiders killed us. I had no idea that we wouldn't see a playoff win in the next two decades.

Unless there was a blackout, I watched the game. Even when we were horrible. David Kingler, KiJana Carter, Akili Smith, Dan Wilkinson. They played for us but never matched their anticipated greatness. The hope of 2005 was quickly extinguished with by a Kimo Von Oelhoffen shot at Carson Palmer's knee. Since then, we've always had good teams. But as Jim Collins made a fortune proclaiming, good is the enemy of great. In the meantime, our division rivals have won three Super Bowls.

As I tweeted a few weeks ago, the Bengals do just good enough to instill hope in me and then they Kimo Von Oelhoffen you. I'm watching this game now, and I just know, deep down inside of me, that it's going to play out this way.

This confession doesn't make me less of a fan; it makes me a realist. I'm exhausted from the disappointment. Why do I continue to support this team?

We're going to lose. And I'm writing this with twenty-five minutes left in the game when we're only down by three.

Who Dey, I guess.

Moving On

Tonight I did the same thing that I did one year ago this evening: I went for a run through the city.

I remember it vividly because it capped one of the best days of my life. I had a great day at work. I spent time with my ladies. I had a gripping spiritual dialogue with some men from church on a rooftop overlooking downtown. I stopped by a community mixer where I had some engaging conversation with community leaders. And later that night I felt so good, I went out for a run through downtown, Over-the-Rhine and then down to the riverfront.

As I laid down to sleep that night, I was excited about what was happening in our city and the chance to be a part of it.

It was a perfect day.

But the reason I remember it is because the very next day, the bottom fell out.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of The Fire.

I had no idea how that event would change everything. The weeks we spent out of our house and our neighborhood killed the momentum I felt we were developing. And, honestly, I've felt like we've been playing catch up until just recently (for proof, notice the lack of writing on this website during that time). As I reflect on all that's happened this year, I want to be bitter. It's been a very rough 12 months, filled with chaos and strife. And it obviously wasn't the fire's fault but somewhere, in the back of my mind, I blame it.

But I just can't be bitter, because I'm thankful.

Thankful for my family's and my neighbor's safety. Thankful for the conversations this event spawned. Thankful for the friendships it helped strengthen. Thankful to live in a community like ours. Thankful for this city that I love. Thankful for a God who provides.

You can always move on past the flames. You have to.

There are more perfect nights out there just waiting to be experienced.

CCU and Me: A Kingdom Perspective

I didn’t choose Cincinnati Christian University to be in my life. It chose me. As a young boy I wore a navy blue T-shirt of my mother’s. On the back it had written in a collegiate font, "Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Class of 1968."

I had no idea what that even meant. But it was a comfy T-shirt, so I wore it.

Whenever my parents talked about things over at the Seminary, I couldn't help but think they were talking about a place for corpses. (Later, I would come to understand that it was not actually a cemetery.) I heard about it frequently in their conversations, recognizing its importance to our lives.

You see, back in 1957, a few professors from Cincinnati Bible Seminary started the Price Hill Church of Christ in the school’s chapel building. When starting the church, Daniel Eynon called on neighborhood families to convince them to join the young congregation. Professor Eynon met Genevieve Carr, who immediately joined the church; her husband, however, refused to let his children attend. One day Eynon confronted Garrett Carr on this issue and apparently challenged him, saying something to the effect of, “just because you want to go to hell doesn’t mean your family has to.” The logic of the statement registered with my grandfather: he let his kids go to church.

Thus my father became a Christian as a result of Cincinnati Bible Seminary.

While a student at the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, my mother worked her way through college serving as Lewis Foster's secretary; she had the opportunity to type pages that were later included in the NIV translation. During this time, mom engaged in Christian service, volunteering at that same Price Hill church, where she met my father.

So my parents married because of Cincinnati Bible Seminary.

Because my home church was in the shadow of Cincinnati Bible Seminary, I grew up reaping the benefits of proximity. Professors of the school were essential to our church's growth and development. I had the opportunity to be around CBS legends such as George Mark Elliott (whose wife Kathryn taught me piano lessons), Dan Eynon, Jack Cottrell, and Bill Bravard. Seminary students often attended our church, and I terrorized a number of them who dared to volunteer as Sunday School teachers.

I’m one of the youngest people with ties to the school who remembers what it was like to worship in the old chapel building. I attended the very last service in that building before it was torn down.

As I grew into my teenage years, I had absolutely no interest in (the then renamed) Cincinnati Bible College. In fact, I almost feared it, boldly declaring that there was no way I would go to college there. I always envisioned attending a big state school to study law.

But at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I finally discovered something I was not only good at, but something that I loved: preaching the Word of God. Once I decided that I wanted to pursue this vocationally, my college decision became a no brainer: it had to be CBC.

It was the only school to which I applied. And I still have my college acceptance letter.

The past twenty years of my life—the majority of my existence—is linked to Cincinnati Christian University. I played soccer for (and later coached) the Golden Eagles. I was both the President of my class and of the student body. I met my wife at CCU, proposing one evening before the whole student body at Family. All of my siblings (even ones who didn’t attend) found their spouses on campus. I served as President of the Alumni Association. I teach classes as an adjunct professor. Twice now, I’ve had the privilege to serve as a full-time employee of the school.

Some of the best and worst times of my life have occurred on that little piece of real estate in Price Hill.

And I’m sure that some of you reading this now could proclaim the same thing. Whenever I meet with old college friends, we swap stories, some of which I had completely forgotten. (Recently I was reminded that I used to convince freshmen that there was a pool on top of the library.) And even though many of us have experienced frustrations with the school, if you're like me, they wither away when I think of the blessings I’ve encountered because it exists.

I love CCU.

I owe everything to this place.

And I can never repay it.

But I can continue to love it.

As many of you have heard, CCU is yet again facing some financial difficulties. While our fiscal position is still redeemable, this situation has prompted leadership to engage in conversations with Johnson University near Knoxville, Tennessee, about a potential merger. Johnson is a fine institution, serving a powerful need in the kingdom of God and I mean it no disrespect in addressing this subject. But even though these conversations are merely exploratory, I believe them to be unnecessary.

CCU can still stand on its own.

I am confident that the leaders of these institutions are ultimately motivated by a deep love for the Lord and for their respective schools; the conversation is being framed within the context of what’s best for the kingdom and for Christian unity. But let’s not think that a singular perspective is capable of holding the only solutions for what best benefits the kingdom of God. While the Scriptures repeatedly speak of the unity of believers, we see numerous examples our kingdom’s diversity. It’s these different voices and perspectives that make our Movement what it is today.

The voicing of CCU is distinct from that of Johnson and, regardless of how delicately we approach this, a voice will be sacrificed. Is this truly best for the kingdom of God? Maybe, but maybe not. While some gains could be achieved in the short term, ultimately our Movement could lose out.

The concern driving these talks is for the survival of CCU. If these talks progress towards execution, the newly-created institution might bear some similarities with CCU, but our history, tradition, and heritage would be forever transformed. If we love the school enough to explore a merger, why don’t we love it enough to try a new trajectory? The assets for a successful turnaround to free CCU already exist. Have we truly explored every possibility?

I love CCU—so much that you might feel my apprehension is merely passion blinding any objectivity. My life was transformed because multiple generations of women and men believed in that school—and they provided a place where people could learn to love the Lord and teach others to do the same.

Too many people have given too much to have it end like this.

That little boy in the navy blue Cincinnati Bible Seminary T-shirt would agree.

Longing for Affirmation

All the buzz around the Queen City this week has been a New York Times article praising the city's commitment to revitalization. My Facebook and Twitter feed blow'd up with links from my urban dwelling brethren, excited about the national recognition. As much as I'm the city's biggest cheerleader, I'm left wanting. A few observations:

1. There was no mention of our current struggles. You always give both sides of the situation to keep grounded in reality. Although I'm loving what's happening in the lower bowl, our city's finances are jacked up and there are about 45 other neighborhoods where the outlook isn't quite as rosy. Although things are looking good, there are systemic issues that must be dealt with. Using the Banks as a barometer of the city's progress is no different than using plastic surgery to assess one's health.

2. We really aren't that bad anyway. My thesis work will be centered on Cincinnati. When I was at school in Boston, I was asked by classmates to describe the city. One thing I shared is that people from our city generally have a poor outlook of it. We're haters. That's why some of us latch on so tightly when a paper like the Times publishes something positive about Cincinnati. Our town isn't utopia, but it's surely much better than many realize. I'm still uncertain as to why locals are so skeptical of this being a great place to live. I think we have father issues.

3. Why can't we aim for more? The most laughable reaction is that our local paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, actually published a link to the NYT article as news. I'm sure the reason that they did was to try to catch some search engine pull as it was moving through the local news cycle. It's sad, really. Instead of relying on a reputable East Coast paper to offer quality reporting,we don't we strive to create our own form of excellence? With technology, the ability for us to have more/better is accessible.

4. If you're from the Cincy 'burbs and angry about this, just stop throwing stones. You can complain about the city all day long but the reality is that, without it, you'd have nothing. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

The Cincinnati "Almost"

I recognize that taste . . . it's very familiar . . . Ah yes, it's the aftertaste of dashed hope after another local sports team almost did something remarkable.

Like an oblivious teenager longing for reciprocal love, I give my all to my Cincinnati teams only to find myself crying into my pillow late at night. You think I'd be wiser after thirty-six years, but the leanings of my prepubescent heart always trumps acquired knowledge. I keep coming back for more and, thus, I'm constantly left with this taste of almost in my mouth—a full-bodied flavor of disappointment with just a hint of regret.

But I'm forever loyal to these teams; I just can't quit them.

It's in my DNA: I was born between Reds World Championships in the 1970s. And in my formative years, Cincinnati teams had a great run: between 1988 and 1991, the Reds won a World Series, the Bengals went to the Super Bowl, and UC basketball went to a Final Four. I remember jumping for joy when Todd Benzinger caught that foul ball in Oakland in 1990, but if that happened today, I might take off work for a week. This isn't New York: sports championships don't come by here very often. They're to be cherished and loved like your children (or at least like a nephew you see every couple of months).

Since those glory years, Cincinnati fans have been subjected to regular servings of almost: Bearcat basketball in the mid-1990's, the Reds in 1999 and 2010, Bearcat football in 2009, and the Bengals in 2005, 2009, and this year. You'd think just one of those teams could've won it all.


But despite all the pain, I persevere. I love this city and, by default, civic pride demands that I love our teams. Someday, in my lifetime, one of these teams will win it all. It will be epic. And all these years of almost will be instantly forgotten.

And it could always be worse: we could live in Cleveland.

Our Little (Town)House

Just a few months in to her public school education, we encountered our first parental objection to part of Kaelyn's curriculum. Kindergartners at Fairview-Clifton German Language School take part in a book reading program. Every day, Kaelyn brings home a library book that we are supposed to read together. Mostly, this has been an enjoyable endeavor; sure, there have been a few lackluster selections, but there's only so much you can do with a kids book. I'm starting to think that writing stories for children could be a great income source.

Last night, Kelly told me that she had previewed the book of the day and didn't want Kaelyn to read it. Curious of what kind of pagan ideology found in a kid's book could push my wife to advocating censorship, I took a look at it myself.

The selection was The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. It was published in 1942 (though I'm assuming it was actually written in 1941, before the start of the Second War World), but I can remember it reading it when I was a child. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Disney Corporation made it into a cartoon in 1952 [accessible by clicking here]. Although the cartoon isn't totally faithful to the text, the concept remains the same: it's the tale of a small house on a hill in a rural area where life is great. The house secretly wishes it could partake of city life, but little does the little house know, the city would soon come to her. As roads come her way, an imposing society builds up around her, leaving her cold and lonely. All seems lost until the house is relocated back to the country. The concluding page of the book reveals the house's lessons learned:

Never again would she be curious about the city . . .

Never again would she want to live there . . .

The stars twinkled above her . . .

A new moon was coming up . . .

It was spring . . .

and all was quiet and peaceful in the country.

And this is why my wife did not want my daughter to read this book.

Now I've got to give it up to Kelly. I absolutely love that she's so passionate about our family's urban lifestyle that her visceral reaction was to protect our daughter from views that could disappoint her. But Kelly's not really the censoring type, and I figured if Kaelyn's urban school offered it, it couldn't be that bad. One of the things about city living is that you can't really cover-up the real world, so I went ahead and read the book with her this morning. After we finished, I eagerly awaited her response.

She asked for breakfast.

It might seem like much ado about nothing, but we get paranoid about raising our kid in the city. Kelly's upbringing was suburban, and mine was practical rural, with some 'burbs and city on the side. Since we both cherished our childhood experiences, we want to make sure she's not shortchanged. And for the past sixty years, the American dream has been contextualized as a suburban abode. Burton wasn't starting a movement with her kid's book, but was reflecting a reality that took off after World War II. So it really feels like we're swimming upstream here.

But the beautiful thing is that Kaelyn knows nothing different. She's been a city girl her whole life— always surrounded by people and noise, her only yard a public park. But the benefits have been innumerable. She absolutely loves the city; she tells us all the time.

So our little townhouse might be crammed in the little of the city, but I don't think she's sad. And unlike that weepy home, our family's urban curiosity is far from being satisfied.

By the way: here's the shirt that Kaelyn wore to school this morning:

I think that settles it.

p.s. A kid's book that I loved about the city was one that Kelly found. It's called Rose's Garden, and was inspired by the life of Rose Kennedy. A little video introduction to the book can be found here.

The N.A.C.C. And Me

This week is the culmination of thirteen-month labor of love. From July 5th through 8th, the North American Christian Convention will take place at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. For those of you unfamiliar with that of which I speak, I wrote up a brief explanation of what our (un)denomination is all about. Check it out here. A little over a year ago, I was asked to serve as a Local Arrangements Coordinator for the N.A.C.C. Another minister and I partnered with the convention staff to oversee the nearly 1,000 volunteers required to make the convention happen. I knew it would be a bit of work, but I was somewhat naive as to how much work it would require. I've attended a slew of meetings, had to call in a gaggle of favors, and almost maxed out my email inbox. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel now. We're a couple of days away from the convention and I'm looking forward to seeing how it will go off.

If you're curious, I'd invite you to attend. At least you can peek in on the main sessions. You can learn more about this year's convention at their website: And if you can't make it downtown, you can watch it online. Click here for a link.

I'd love to see you there!

Urban Perception (Part Three)

"Hey! The newspaper!" I yelled loud enough down the street so he could easily hear me. "Oh, sorry 'bout that," he responded as he turned around. "I thought it was one of those free ones."

Um, yeah, it WAS one of those free ones. Someone else paid for it. He stole my neighbor's paper.

Staring out the front window of our house, stretching before my morning run, I witnessed this little theft. The funny thing is, I wasn't going to say anything at all. My neighbor continually leaves her papers out on the front lawn. Almost daily I throw it on her doorstep and they sometimes collect there for days. So why bother yelling at the man? I mean, if she's not really interested in it, why not let another guy read the paper?

I knew I had to say something, at least for the principle of it.

You see, just the day before, I wrote that letter to the editor of the Enquirer about the state of my community. I took offense to the fact that a reporter made Walnut Hills sound like Snake Plissken's New York City. But I'm pretty sure that newspaper theft is the least of people's concerns about Walnut Hills. But in some way, it too contributes to the safety complex. When people feel unsafe, they're unwilling to speak up. They will easily overlook obvious transgressions of others because they're afraid of what could happen.

So how do you make a community a safer, more livable place? The culmination of my urban perception series is to urge something that transcends the urban context. It's something that you can do anywhere that would assist in making all the world (city, suburban, or rural) even better.


I'm not suggesting that you sell your home and relocate. I'm saying that you need to do something. You need to stop standing on the sideline in fear. You need to be engaged. If you see something, say something. If action is necessary, you be the one to do it; if you don't, no one else will. You need to vanquish your fears and do what's best for those who cannot speak. You have the potential to redefine personal safety. And it's done by moving.

My challenging the guy who stole the newspaper is not the first time I've said something. Over the past six years, I've spoken to total strangers concerning their transgressions. For example: if I witness someone litter, I'll let them know I saw it. And if it's a child, I will make them pick it up. And they always do. They've probably never been confronted about it. You need to move, because inaction permits fear to set up shop. Could something happen to me? Of course, but I'd rather go out while moving than in a state of compliance.

You don't have to live where I do. You don't have to see the world the way that I do. But if you're going to complain about safety while cowering, then you've already lost.

Do something already. Stake claim to your own safety.

Urban Perception (Part Two)

"So how do you live down there?" I'm never sure how to answer that question. Just the other night another suburbanite posed the question to me, thoroughly amazed by our urban lifestyle. It's always difficult for me to articulate the appropriate response. Snarkiness would be the most fun way to reply, but it wouldn't be useful. Or I could respond with a guilt inducing statement, such as, "At least I GOT TO CHOOSE to live down here." But my standard response is to merely reveal to them that I feel safe living here.

As a resident, I can attest that it's just not that bad living in the city; as long as you and the people in your household are not engaged in illegal drug trafficking, then you're going to be relatively fine. But, unfortunately, crime does take place here. And it's that crime that causes people to perceive entire communities like ours as dangerous.

So if people avoid Walnut Hills because it's unsafe, what exactly IS safe?

Is it an absence of crime? Is it the ability to leave my front door unlocked over night? Is it the removal of blight from my eyesight? I'd suggest that, for most people, it's an inexplicable state. It's a simple feeling that puts you at ease. An example of this: I spent a few days in downtown Indianapolis last summer for a convention and quite a few people commented to me how they felt safer there than in downtown Cincinnati. I tried to get an explanation as to why, and they couldn't cite any discernible fact. It was just a feeling. Personally, as I've only been urinated upon in one of these areas, I continue to view my town as safer. Still, it is this perceived safety that determines whether or not we will tolerate an area.

It's the perception of safety is the main reason that people prefer the suburbs; when I am safe, the thinking goes, I can let my guard down and feel comfortable. When I lived in a suburban context, many of my daily actions were on autopilot. I wouldn't think twice whether or not I was in a bad part of the 'burbs. The ability to function without thought towards safety allowed me to live life differently. I was, in essence, freer.

But safety is a fleeting concept and must be maintained through effort; there are always threats. In a suburban mindset, maintenance of safety is mostly spatial: if I can keep a buffer zone between myself and what I perceive to be dangerous, I am safe. And this is why the NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) reaction is so prevalent in suburban communities.

A local example: recently, the conversation about public housing in Cincinnati has increased. Some suburban communities that accepted federal funds are going to be forced to increase their number of public housing options, including the Section 8 voucher program. These suburbs are vowing to fight this expansion (even though they have no legal recourse) because they see it as an affront to their way of life. Understand the thinking behind this: increased poverty nearby brings increased crime and a loss of safety. One of these communities is Green Township, the suburb in which I grew up, and a community already losing the safety buffer. Suburban sprawl, which resulted in the net-growth of these community, continues to lead people to resettle further and further from the city core, maintaining this spatial separation of safety.

It's not just happening in Cincinnati; it's an American phenomenon, assisted by the vast amount of land in our nation. With few natural borders to stop it, people can (and will) keep sprawling.

But, eventually, something is going to give.

We've seen it happen in the American southwest, where McMansions sit vacant (and some are subdivided for government housing). Maybe it will be the long commutes, or the flooded housing market, or the revival of the inner-city, or the escalating price of petroleum—whatever the case, people will no longer be able to keep their safety buffer zone. They will be forced to come face-to-face with the very thing they tried to escape.

So if this perception of safety is fleeting, how, then, do we live? More on that soon.

Urban Perception (Part One)

Some things set me off more quickly than others. This past weekend, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an article concerning the merging of municipal services of some of our region's smaller towns and villages. No big deal, really; it's an economic reality in this day and age. But while the article was mediocre, the introductory paragraph that caught my eye. It read:

"After enduring the frequent Bang! Bang! Bang! of gunshots while living in Walnut Hills, Phillip and Erin Smith wanted to move to a safer but affordable community."

And there you go.

It might not seem like much to you, but it was a very big deal to me. That opinion statement about my neighborhood, delivered as fact, continues to mesh into our metropolitan's psyche. I know that the vast majority of Greater Cincinnatians have never ventured into Walnut Hills out of fear. They somehow think it's godless Gotham in need of a Dark Knight. But I know dozens of people in this neighborhood who absolutely love living here and wouldn't think of living anyplace else. So I shot off this letter to the editor:

The Enquirer's stereotypical opinion of our region's urban communities is tiring. In a recent article about the merging of municipal services, reporter Steve Kemme utilizes his opening paragraph to continue this negative polemic. By describing Philip and Erin Smith's move to "a safer but affordable community," and by using the onomatopoetic, "Bang! Bang! Bang!" he likens my neighborhood of Walnut Hills to the lawless Wild West. It could not be further from the truth.

I have lived in Walnut Hills for six years now and have rarely heard actual gunshots. In the summer months, you might hear children setting off fireworks that, to the untrained ear, can be confused as gunfire. I heard guns discharged much more frequently when we lived in Cincinnati's northern suburbs than I have living in the inner-city. And our dropping crime statistics attest that Walnut Hills is much safer than local media would ever care to report.

My wife and I are excited to be raising our five-year-old daughter in Walnut Hills. While some may not view it as attractive as a secluded suburban enclave, it is our paradise. Living among a socio-economically, racially, and ideologically diverse people presents us with unique opportunities that cannot be quantified. Throwaway insults, which denigrate neighborhoods like ours, continue to prove that this newspaper is out of touch.

Steve Carr, Walnut Hills

They posted my letter in their online edition and it elicited several responses. Nearly all of them were typical for when such an opinion is stated.

"Walk down the sidewalk outside Walnut Hills Kroger along MacMillan then get back to me."

Good suggestion. Actually, I do walk there very much. I've never had any problems with anyone.

"Maybe there's a lot of background noise by Steve's residence or possible he has his house for sale. What ever it is, his reason for living there smacks of balderdash."

No background noise that I'm aware of. Now we did have the house for sale last year. We were trying to exchange the house for a condo, staying in Walnut Hills. But I still don't fully understand the rationale behind that comment. Still, kudos for using the word, "balderdash."

And, finally, my personal favorite: "Well Stevie, I live in New Haven and NEVER hear gunshots. You only hear them 'rarely'/ Isn't that still too much????"

I love how he calls me "Stevie." We must be friends. But let's focus in on this response.

I have been to New Haven. It's a blip of a town outside Harrison, Ohio. You're a good ten minutes drive into civilization (if you consider Harrison as such), but you're basically living rurally. Chances are, this anonymous commenter was reared in a rural/suburban environment and moved out to New Haven to get the best of both worlds: living secluded but within distance of amenities. The commenter preferred to live in a safe place, removed from the possibility of harm. This is his (making the assumption that the commenter is male) paradise.

To him, Walnut Hills is the antithesis of this dream. So not only does he choose his lifestyle, but he feels obligated to take pot shots at communities like mine because it affirms the decision he made. This New Havenite is not alone in this position. Read the forums on local media websites and you will observe all sorts of vitriol against urban areas. And, in my opinion, the Cincinnati Enquirer panders towards this position. It is people like this commenter who consume their product. And, in an anemic newspaper market, sales takes precedent over objectivity. If you were to spend a week trolling Cincinnati media, you would find numerous examples of this perspective interwoven in news stories, painting the inner-city in a negative light.

"But the inner-city is where the crime is taking place," the cynic responds.

I will agree, to a point. While violent crime obviously occurs in urban areas, it does not discriminate by context; for example, just weeks after we moved to Walnut Hills, a young girl was murdered within half-a-mile of our former suburban abode. While these stories are reported, the media tends to paint stronger connections between crime and community in the inner-city than it does elsewhere. And even though it's subtle, it's a subliminal message that will entrench itself into viewers' minds. Don't believe me? Watch your local news and be on the look out for the easiest sound byte a reporter can get is, "I can't believe it could happen here."

Of course they can't. Because they've become inclined to believe that crime can only happen where it's supposed to: in "those bad neighborhoods." And that's why they chose instead to live in their safe community. So when crime comes to their front yard, they're shocked. This reality on which they've based their life now has gaping holes. Paradise lost.

All of this gets me to the issue I want to wrestle with: how does our perception of safety affect our lives?

More on this soon.

The Power of Words

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was the author of one of the greatest American novels: Uncle Tom's Cabin. This piece of literature, published in 1852, convinced many skeptical Americans to adopt an anti-slavery position; the book is viewed as one of the major influencers of the Civil War. Upon meeting Stowe, President Abraham is said to have remarked, "so you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war." I love that a person with a perspective was able amplify it to stratospheric levels using only words. Although I've never fully read Uncle Tom's Cabin*, I think of it fondly because of my neighborhood. Harriet moved to Walnut Hills when her father, Lyman Beecher, took the presidency of the Lane Seminary (located where the Cadillac dealership on Gilbert Avenue stands today). Here she met her husband, Calvin Stowe, who was a professor at the seminary. In 1848, Harriet's young son died of cholera, and she could not escape the grief she associated with Cincinnati. She left two years later but was able to utilize her experiences while living here for her book. Harriet traveled throughout the region and saw slavery firsthand in Kentucky. She even had a friendship with John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.

Stowe's Cincinnati home still stands in our community. It is well-maintained by a local group of racially diverse women who wish to honor Harriet's legacy. It's yet another reason I'm proud to live in this neighborhood.

On the day of her birth, I'm grateful for those like Harriet Beecher Stowe who use their talents to make the world change the way we see things.


*I tend to lose focus with the book's antiquated language but I continually come back to it for insight. It's in public domain—available free online and in audio format too.

Another One Bites The Dust

If you don't track Cincinnati news, you might have overlooked the story that Kroger is closing yet another store, this time in Westwood. This isn't surprising in the least, as I noted this trend in a post about a year ago. Since then, I've discussed the issue of urban health in many different venues, but allow me to add a few fresh comments in light of this development. Don't believe the data. With this closing, Kroger increased the data apologetics in order to justify the closing; they brought up not only lost revenue but also stat from customer loyalty cards. Without an objective analysis, I just can't buy it. Anytime this corporation claims to be losing "millions," it's according to its own mysterious rubric. And Kroger wouldn't tolerate any of its stores losing that money at that pace. This is merely a masking agent to deflect public criticism. As I noted last year, suburban locations is where this company wants to be. Urban Krogers will soon go the way of the albatross. Remember that this is a health care issue. I was talking to my friend Jade Kendell, who lives in lower Price Hill, about this topic at his house a few months ago. One block away from his home is a convenience store which have the only viable groceries within walking distance. Unfortunately, the store only sells junk food and cheap booze. All the kids in the neighborhood by food their because 1) it's available and 2) it's cheap. Understand that all of us eventually pay for this as the obesity and diabetes rates skyrocket in these communities and we subsidize their health care through taxes and increased medical expenses. A recent NY Times article featured this issue within the city of Philadelphia. Read it here.

It's not about race. It's about socio-economics. But read the comments about the Enquirer article and you'll soon realize that it is about race with the general public. This is yet another reason I'm obsessed with Cincinnati history; it explains how these neighborhoods became neglected. When you study the outright class segregation the our city father's created, you begin to realize that these situations were manufactured.

We'll all feel the pinch soon. Kroger's business plan is based on consumers who have access to automobile transportation, hence the added impact of this closing stores in urban, bus-going communities. As gasoline prices this summer seem destined to escalate towards $4 a gallon, those precious driving customers will likely begin to reevaluate their shopping habits.

You might not care, but you should.

Old Man River

I don't mean this to sound cruel, but I love it when the river surges towards flood stage. Our return to urbanity moved me to redevelop my love for the Ohio River. I'll sometimes drive to work "the long way" just so I can catch a glimpse of the waters. When I go running, I like to head down the Gilbert Avenue hill towards the river valley (even though I dread the return trip up the incline) so I can be near the waters.

Growing up in Cincinnati means recognizing the importance of the river to this town. It was the river that made Cincinnati one of the fastest growing cities in America in the earlier part of the 19th century (the fifth largest U.S. city by 1850). Of course, it was also the river that led to the city's stagnation; city fathers believed railroads would undermine the river's commerce and transportation and didn't build a major train hub (Union Terminal in the 1930's) until long after Chicago took the lead on it. So while the slowly flowing brown water might be the perfect metaphor of what's gone wrong in Cincinnati, I can't help but view it as a thing of beauty.

Both my parents grew up along the river (albeit in two different towns) so perhaps it's in my blood. The story my mother told me when I was a child about a high school classmate of hers who drowned while swimming across the river (it has a wicked undertow) is still lodged in my mind decades later. And I remember fondly a seventy-year old sign that my father somehow "acquired" that notes the official flood level of the catastrophic 1937 flood (cresting at 80 feet). So while the river has always been a part of me, I continue to harbor a healthy respect for its potential dangers. I was in college in 1997 when the river last teemed over the flood walls, submerging large portions of the shoreline. I've seen firsthand the results of its unleashed power.

And this is why I'm apologetic for my delight in the rising waters. I know that there are people and businesses who are negatively affected by flooding (of course, they choose to be there), but it is mesmerizing. Many locals don't recognize that the river as we view it today is not how it always was. Before the installation of dams, the river would dry up, making it impossible for boats to traverse (click here for a picture from the 1880's illustrating this). So the Ohio River is now more controlled than it ever has been, ensuring a consistent flow of water. Yet despite our technological advances, when we get too much snow or rain we can't prevent the river from flooding. It reminds us that even in our attempts to obtain control, we are still helpless to keep the waters at bay.

I was out for a long run yesterday and couldn't help but stare at the river. After meandering around the riverfront, I ended up a Sawyer Point. Park officials already had barricades up on some of the lower paths because of the rising waters. Naturally, I went around the barriers towards the water's edge. There's a concrete platform the juts out into the waters, usually hovering eight feet over the river; due to the rising waters, the platform was a mere twelve inches above the water level. I stood out on the structure and could see the river flowing rapidly around me. It was awe-inspiring. Here was this massive body of water and little old me watching it flow determinedly downstream.

Maybe that's why I love the river: it forces me to recognize my place in the world. I cannot contain it; I operate at it's mercy. I must respect it or it will be my demise.

The creative mind of the Lord continues to amaze me.

Church Struggle

Things have been going well at Echo. I feel like we're in a much better place than we've every been. This church is growing up, and it's going to last. That's about all I can ask for. Still, I'm continually anxious to see what we're becoming. But there's always a fire to put out. Currently, it's the status of our rental facility. While the relationship with our lessor hasn't necessarily deteriorated, they are becoming less logical. We're almost left to wonder if we'll suddenly be forced to find a new facility. Being the Boy Scout that I was/am, always anticipating possible scenarios, I'm pushing for preparedness in case it happens. I've kept a list of alternate meeting sites for awhile and, recently, I've been going through the list—exploring other possible meeting spaces within our neighborhood.

I visited one such space last Sunday morning. It is an aging church in midst of our inner-city community with a pretty large facility. It's indicative of many churches in today's cities: they were a good size church in the 1940's and 1950's but they were unable to adjust to the cultural changes that accompanied urban renewal. As a result, many of its congregants fled to the suburbs and the church began to decline. Left behind was a group of locals (unable to sprawl) and church devotees—themselves no longer in the community, but harboring an obligation to the urban church. These churches are struggling to stay in business. And when the fire is finally extinguished they close their doors and the building is razed or becomes an Urban Outfitters.

What's interesting as that the base experience does not necessarily differ from a thriving congregation. As I walked in the church this morning, I was greeted warmly. You could tell that the people love their church, while wanted things to go better. The worship wasn't professional quality, but it was sincere. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the ladies performed a song that she had written herself. And the message the pastor preached was as passionate as those in churches I had seen at much larger congregations.

But there were twenty people in the pews—average age 68. In a few years, they'll shut the doors. It's a very typical story in the city, highlighting the importance of churches like Echo to engage these communities. These communities will last but the churches will not. So we need to continually focus on adding new churches to the landscape.

But in my discussion with this church, I was pleasantly surprised. Even though they're struggling financially, they've recognized that their building is an incredible asset. They are currently renting it out to five different organizations throughout the week. Not only have they sought the additional revenue, but they're renting to groups that are positively impacting the community. They admitted, "we might not be here much longer, but we're trying to do what we can now to make our community a better place while we can."

I'm always thankful for people who see the big picture. Nothing's going to last forever, so you have to think beyond yourself. It's the mindset I'm trying to think of when working with our young congregation. I'm sure we can build something that will last forty years, but I'd prefer something that could last for forty generations. For this vision to become a reality, we need to make sure we're wise enough to adapt to the changing culture around us.

It's a struggle, but the stakes are too high to ignore.

Showcasing the City

If you're not watching TLC's Police Women of Cincinnati, I'd encourage you to set your DVRs accordingly. The new series (part of an older franchise which previously explored other metropolitan areas) follows the duties of four policewomen on the Cincinnati Police Department. I'm already hooked. Some of the positives I took away from episode one:

  • They selected interesting ladies to follow. They seem incredibly competent and their interviews segments are compelling. I know I've met one of the officers (in front of my house) and I think I met another one around the community.
  • My 1990's exposure to "COPS" wore me out on these reality cop shows. But this show has a totally different feel. It was much more human.
  • Thus far, they seem balanced in their representation of urban issues. I've met a couple CPD officers who possess absolute disdain for their beat. But I've met many who truly love the people they protect. I think we'll get to see that even more in future episodes.
  • HD viewers are rewarded with some absolutely stunning night images of the city. I'm not sure who did their aerial filming, but I haven't seen better . . . ever.

That said, I harbor some hesitation about this show. I don't fear how outsiders will perceive our town as a result of the show (previous installments covered Dallas, Memphis, and South Florida. Those places have survived). No, my concern is for how Greater Cincinnatians will think of our urban areas.

There is already a prevailing city verses the suburbs attitude here. Our local media does little to regulate that, quick to highlight crimes near the city center while virtually ignoring evils committed in the 'burbs (a recent armed robbery at the West Chester Kroger received minimal coverage). Unfortunately, this new TLC show will do nothing but reinforce the negative opinions harbored against the city by those from this area. Cincinnati is not overtly violent and dangerous. We have no more issues than any other city our size. But many local residents will tell you otherwise.

I'll give you an example. I was in our cafeteria earlier today talking to a CPD officer and I asked him if he watched the show. He said he did and enjoyed it. He then asked my opinion. I told him that I wasn't too excited that my street was featured about six times, but that it was interesting TV. As we wrapped up our conversation, he encouraged me to, "be safe around your neighborhood."

This CPD officer knew where I lived and thought I was crazy for living there. If this is how someone who knows my neighborhood feels, how much worse an opinion do those who have never been here have?

Friends, I live in a safe place. When things go bump in the night, I'm never more concerned than I was when the same happened at our house in the suburbs. Many of the "dangerous streets" highlighted in last night's episode are those I've traversed on foot many-a-time. I fully recognize that you might not want to live here, but don't disparage it just because you don't understand it. For every thug they on television, there are hundreds of right-living people in the community. Urban life can be messy and chaotic, but it can also be beautiful. There's diversity. There's uniqueness. There's a neighborhood that has it's own personality. These are things I've never felt in my suburban life.

So go ahead and watch this show but don't succumb to the lowest common denominator. There's no need to blow up the city and start over. There are good people here who are doing their best to eek out an existence. The city doesn't have a monopoly on lowlifes. They're all over the place.

And as for me, I'll keep watching the show too. Who knows, I just might see my house.