Scenario Planning, Cartoon Style
With news of Metro’s expanded Route 1, impending streetcar system, near-completion of the tallest skyscraper in the city, and the Banks development finally underway, what more is there to shoot for in Cincinnati? A lot, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist for the Enquirer, Jim Borgman. In 2002, he painted a very radical image of the near future:
“Suddenly everyone began streaming into the center city. Urban planners described it as the ‘donut-hole phenomenon.’ The hotels filled to capacity as thousands of outsiders parked their SUVs and rode the Metro into the vibrancy of the urban maelstrom. ‘There was nothing left on the outer rings but stale crumbs,’ explained a Downtown consultant.
Overnight, the inner city experienced a renaissance of retail, recreation andresidency. Soon the lights were blinking out in shopping malls all around the beltway.
Strong-Mayor-For-Life Charlie Luken spent three days a week cutting ribbons at newly constructed high-rise homesteads, for which developers paid the city he fees for building rights. During much of the rest of the week, the mayor could be found on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Riverside Links – 18 holes of verdant perfection that hooked and sliced around the homes and businesses of the Banks.
Casino boats from Indiana steamed upriver, attempting to lure passengers on board at Cincinnati’s Public Landing with offers of free rides and chips. There were few takers. ‘Why bet on a long shot in Lawrenceburg when you’ve got a sure thing in Downtown Cincinnati?’ asked one satisfied resident as she walked her Lhassa apso across the newly restored doggie green in Lytle Park.
Once the ordinance passed that prohibited automobiles from coming any closer in than the I-275 beltway, the skies cleared over the center city and D.C. (Downtown Cincinnati) became an international destination for health enthusiasts. ‘I come to bathe in the balm of the Ohio,’ said a tourist from Tokyo, as he stood beneath the outstretched arms of the Genius of the Waters. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Beach Patrol had to put on extra deputies during the warm weekends of summer when pilgrims seeking the rivers city’s reputed healing affects would line up for immersions along the Serpentine Wall.
Eventually the fortunate residents of Downtown began to complain at the injustice of having to pay subsidies to support the far-flung, fading suburbs. ‘I’m afraid to drive out there at night,’ was one common complaint. ‘It’s eerily quiet and there are no lights to guide you but the stars and fireflies.’ Others complained that the cost of maintaining miles of highways to far off points like Montgomery, Mason and Greater Deerfield Township, should be born by those who chose to live so far away from the comforting cluster of downtown humanity.
The City’s Motto: ‘Why leave Downtown? Everything you could ever want is right here!'”