At Whose Expense?

While some payday loans are indeed helpful, many of them are criminal. In urban areas, they lure lower-class people in with friendly faces only to screw them over in the long run [such as 300%+ interest on a loan]. I know of one couple who ignorantly took out one of these loans [for $500] and it nearly cost them their house. It's a lucrative business, however, so they don't appreciate when the government attempts to regulate their activities. The Ohio legislature passed House Bill 545 last month, which caps annual interest rates on payday loans at 28 percent. The old limit was 391%. So today, workers for these institutions protested in Columbus, saying that this will drive payday loan establishments out of business, netting 6,000 lost jobs for our state.

First, coming from an industry that loves to play games with numbers, I just can't buy that figure as accurate. Second, if the only way an industry can stay in business is to take advantage of people in a tight spot, then I'm not sure it's the best thing that it continues to exist anyway.

As the economy continues to struggle, the implications of predatory lending here will begin to ripple throughout higher economic strata. If this industry isn't reigned in now, things could get really ugly.

Bridging The Gap

I was talking to my friend Jade the other day. We went to grad school together and he's now ministering in Lower Price Hill, working predominantly with the inner-city poor. We were talking shop he mentioned that there still isn't a viable ministry model getting the urban poor and the urban affluent to worship along-side each other. It's a difficult gap to bridge. The impoverished can feel like outsiders, as if they're not truly viewed as equals. And, as Jade put it, while the affluent appreciate the concept of worshipping with the poor, it doesn't always carry over pragmatically; there is a fear factor involved as they sometimes can't handle the baggage, even the smells, that accompany poverty.

I agree with him, albeit reluctantly. My secret dream is for Echo to be a church that breaks down these barriers.

With that conversation still fresh in my mind, we had our largest showing of poor folk at Echo this week in a long time. And interestingly enough, they each brought with them their own smell- whether body odor, cigarettes, or alcohol. I'm not sure how they felt in our midst, as they were all seeking out something from the church. But I was inspired to observe that our people engaged them, introduced themselves, and tried to make them feel at home.

Sure it's just a blip on the radar, but it makes me think that creating an urban community where Jesus breaks down those barriers is actually possible.

I know we haven't arrived yet, but we working on building a better community. And it's going to mean learning how  to reach out to folk all across different spectra, not looking down on anyone, but embracing people as equals.

Are Cities Getting Screwed?

It's an honest question. One of the things I've noticed living next to Eden Park is how many people from the 'burbs to enjoy it for free. I don't have a problem with that but I do when those same people who consume the greatness of our city insult it for being dangerous and despicable.

This article in the Boston Globe, written by a PhD from Harvard, notes that urban areas are participating on an uneven playing field than suburbs, forced to deal directly with poverty and environmental issues created by suburban sprawl. For instance, Dr Glaesar asserts,

"Urban poverty does not reflect urban failure, but rather the enduring appeal of cities to the less fortunate. Poor people come to cities because urban areas offer economic opportunity, better social services, and the chance to get by without an automobile. Yet the sheer numbers of urban poor make it more costly to provide basic city services, like education and safety, and those costs are borne by the city's more prosperous residents."

There's a lot I could add here but I'll refrain and open it up to see if you guys have any thoughts. HT: CityKin

Yikes [locally speaking]

They're considering allowing people to bring dogs to fountain square downtown. Of course, everyone has an opinion including this gem in this morning's Enquirer. This guy writes to the editor saying,

A few articles have come up about whether dogs should be allowed on Fountain Square. If dogs are not allowed on the square, then we certainly should not permit homeless bums on the square either. Who wants somebody in their face begging them for money while you're trying to have a nice lunch or a night out on the town? my dogs are cleaner, more behaved and will not be asking you for spare change.

Humanitarian of the year, folks. And, no, your dog might not ask for money but . . . what's he doing to my leg? Definitely better behaved, though.

Unfortunately, dude was from the westside.

Where Are You From?

Cincinnati. And I mean it. I spent a portion of my days in the suburbs north of 275 along I-75. For years it was nothing but farmland, but now its pure suburbia.

Saw some interesting things. Drove past a plot of land destined to be the sight of a Bible church bordered by a Sikh temple and a Kingdom Hall on either side. Also saw a deer stand in the middle of a brand new subdivision.

Anyway, as this area continues to grow there's continued speculation that Cincinnati/Dayton will become a huge mega-region like Dallas/Fort Worth. This would make it the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country. But ask the people in the area where they live and you get a pretty consistent answer: Cincinnati.

I continually find this interesting in the midst of continual Cincy bashing. Everyone wants the benefits that accompany an urban metropolis but they don't want to acknowledge why it even exists. Take away the city of Cincinnati and suburbs like West Chester, Mason, and Florence don't exist.

All I'm asking is that if you're going to drink the cow's milk, at least feed it some grass.

Or some rural proverb like that.

Maybe it has to be your bull.

Everything Equal

So concerning our cinematic experience last night . . . Kelly and I chose to attend the nearby Showcase Cinema of the Norwood Lateral because 1) we had a gift card for that chain and 2) it was only a few minutes away. We arrived fifteen minutes early but almost missed our show because the employees were struggling to scan the card. This gave us plenty of time to mutter to each other and observe the ambiance of the theater lobby.

As we waited, we noticed something unusual about the movie listing behind the cashier's desk. The movie we were waiting to see, Stranger Than Fiction, had only one star's name listed next to it: Queen Latifah. Now it's true that the Queen was in the feature, but hers was a minor character at best. I'd say Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Maggie Gyllenhall, who had much bigger roles, would be more worthy of notice. So the question presents itself: why would they only list the Queen on the marquee?

Location, location, location.

Considering that this theater is located in a predominantly African American area, the owners were trying to deceive people into seeing the mostly white starring film.

You might not think it's a big deal, but I think it's a low blow. I wonder if the same kind of marketing takes place in suburban midwestern cities. It would be akin to advertising the new film Dreamgirls to a bunch of white senior citizens by claiming it stars John Lithgow.

Makes you think.