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CINCINNATI - Cincinnati's leaders have a huge to-do list on their hands forthe foreseeable future.

That's because the U.S. Census Bureau says Cincinnati'spopulation fell 10 percent from 2000 to 2010.

If that number stands, it will pose political and financialchallenges for the city.

However, it also presents opportunities for the community towork on reforms city leaders claim are already bringing in moreyoung professionals and creating a more vibrant, exciting place tolive, work and play.

"Very disappointed," said Donna Jones Baker, President/CEO ofthe Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, an organization that helpedwith the Census count. "We worked very hard with the intent ofhaving an increase in the population."

Mayor Mark Mallory said the accuracy of the count may bechallenged. Three former appeals have been successful.

"We've seen in the past that the numbers aren't always correct,"the Mayor said. "This could be another situation where they haven'tgotten the numbers right."

Reasons for people leaving the city may include the schoolsystem, jobs, housing, foreclosures, the recession, crime andquality-of-life issues.

Lisa Ackels is among those who have moved, even though she has along-standing affection for Cincinnati.

Ackels, who is white, grew up in Oakley, was married at St.Cecilia Church and the family remodeled and lived in a house inMount Lookout.

However, when it came time for her children to start school, theAckels' built a house in Mason and left the city. She now lives inWest Chester.

"I love Cincinnati. I want it to do well," she said. "It makesme sad that people are moving out in droves, but it's not a placeI'd consider moving back to."

John and Vicki Grooms called Cincinnati's Liberty Hill home whenthey were starting their life together. Vicki grew up in the city.John, a New York native, grew to love it.

Once they began a family, the African-American couple searchedfor a new place to live and finally settled on Newport.

"I have access to the city. I have all the amenities of agrocery store and a mall," Vicki said. "Just a lot more featuresand benefits to living on this side."

John said, "I never felt like Cincinnati was under-deliveringversus some of the basic city benefits that it offers. I just feltthis was a better opportunity overall for us as a young family withtwo small children."

They're among the former Cincinnatians -- still in the region,but not within the city limits. It's a trend that dates back 60years. Cincinnati's population was more than a half-million peoplein 1950. Now, the Census Bureau puts the number at 297,000.

 

CINCINNATI CITY POPULATION
------------------------------------------------

  • 1950 - 503,998
  • 1960 - 502,550
  • 1970 - 452,524
  • 1980 - 385,457
  • 1990 - 346,040
  • 2000 - 331,285
  • 2010 - 297,000

 

CINCINNATI CITY POPULATION
------------------------------------------------
                   2000       2009
TOTAL       331,285    332,572
MALE        156,357    158,131
FEMALE    174,928   258,813
WHITE      175,492    178,291
BLACK     142,176    139,293
ASIAN          4,230        7,168
HISPANIC     5,132       5,059
TWO/MORE  5,553       7,192

 

Census data shows Hamilton County lost five percent of itspopulation, while surrounding Ohio counties gained residents.

 

GREATER CINCINNATI POPULATION 2000 - 2010
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
OHIO
CINCINNATI - Lost 10%
HAMILTON COUTY - Lost 5%
BUTLER COUNTY - Gained 10%
CLERMONT COUNTY - Gained 10%
WARREN COUNTY - Gained 34%

George Vredeveld heads the University of Cincinnati EconomicCenter and agreed that the numbers are disappointing.

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"For one thing, I think it's symptomatic," he said. "It tells ussomething about the desirability of Cincinnati and Hamilton Countyas a place to live."

Vredeveld added the figures could be harmful as well.

"Competition for economic development is going to depend on thequality and quantity of the work force," he said. "If you seepopulation leave, you're also seeing work force leave."

Jones Baker said the data means the city won't get as muchfederal grant money to provide services for residents. That mayleave her agency and others like it with tough choices for fundingbasic services.

"We're talking food, clothing and shelter," she said. "Do wefeed fewer citizens or clothe fewer citizens or house fewercitizens or do something else? What is it we're going to have todo?"

 

CINCINNATIANS LIVING BELOW POVERTY LEVEL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                           2000     2009     CHANGE
FAMILIES          18.2%    20.5% + 2.3%
INDIVIDUALS    21.9%    25.3% + 3.4%

 

HAMILTON COUNTY JOB & FAMILY SERVICES
ASSISTANCE PROVIDED

----------------------------------------------------------------------
                            2002        2011      CHANGE
MEDICARE         101,639     153,258   + 51.519
FOOD STAMPS 52,424    139,068   + 86,644
OHIO WORKS      19,828      24,566     + 4,638
CHILDCARE        13,175      15,451     + 3,175

Ackels made her move to Mason mainly for the schools. Thefamily's neighborhood school was Kilgour Elementary in theCincinnati Public Schools District. She said she was comfortablewith Kilgour, but not the district's test scores and enrollmentpolicies at the time.

"I left to have more opportunities that they have in the schoolsin the suburbs," she said. "We had less taxes to pay for moreservices."

Both of her children graduated from Mason High School.

Cincinnati Public Schools Treasurer Jonathan Boyd said thedistrict has made considerable progress in the past 10 years, butchanging public opinion of the district is difficult.

"Perceptions are hard to change," he said.

Boyd said enrollment is down, but test scores and graduationrates are up. He added the achievement gap between white andAfrican-American students has been narrowed.

 

CINCINNATI PUBLIC SCHOOLS
-----------------------------------------------
                                            2000     2010
ENVOLLMENT                42,000   33,000
GRADUATIONRATE           51%      83%

                                           2003      2009
ACHIEVEMENT GAP
BETWEEN WHITE&         14.6%     4.3%
AFRICAN-AMERICAN
STUDENTS

Cincinnati Public Schools are now rated "Effective" on the OhioState Report Card. Boyd said that is a major improvement from thebeginning of the century.

 

CINCINNATI PUBLIC SCHOOLS
DISTRICT REPORT CARD

-------------------------------------------------
1999-2000 -- Academic Emergency
2000-2001 -- Academic Emergency
2001-2002 -- Academic Emergency
2002-2003 -- Academic Emergency
2003-2004 -- Academic Watch
2004-2005 -- Continuous Improvement
2005-2006 -- Continuous Improvement
2006-2007 -- Continuous Improvement
2007-2008 -- Continuous Improvement
2008-2009 -- Continuous Improvement
2009-2010 -- Effective

Boyd attributes the loss of students to the economy, jobs andhousing -- not the quality of education.

"We saw that between October and December, when we lost Ibelieve a little over 200 students, that many of them left thearea," he said. "We're accustomed to students moving from buildingto building within our district and even to the suburbs, and wetrack those, but these students have left the area."

The district has realigned resources, closed buildings andreduced staff to compensate for the lost enrollment. CincinnatiPublic Schools are now performing better than other Ohio urbandistricts.

"We're being recognized by the state and nationally for ourachievements," Boyd said. "Other districts are coming to see whatwe're doing."

However, significant work remains, especially when Boyd said thedistrict could get $30 million less in state funding in GovernorJohn Kasich's new budget. That's on top of a $20 million deficitthe district is working to erase.

"Obviously, we have to be a district that people want to cometo," he said. "We have to move all of our buildings out ofinstruction challenge to achievement and we're working on thatquickly."
Education wasn't the top reason for the Grooms family tomove.

John and Vicki said they're urban people who wanted to be closeto the center of Cincinnati.
"When we were considering housing, we were serious aboutlooking in Mount Adams, but the value per square foot for thedollar was a little better here in Newport than there," Johnsaid.

Their house has a spectacular view of the Cincinnati skyline andJohn can walk to work at Procter & Gamble. Vicki said she canfind all her daily needs within minutes of the house.

"We have a grocery store. We have a Target. We have a lot of thesuburban type of things that Cincinnati on the city side doesn'toffer," she said.

Those comments lay out the challenges. The test comes in howCincinnati's leaders respond.

"We're going to continue to do what we've been doing, which ischanging the image of the City of Cincinnati, investing in projectsthat people want to see and developing The Banks project betweenour stadiums," Mayor Mallory said. "Projects like the streetcarkeep young people here and make young people want to come to theCity of Cincinnati. Revitalize our neighborhoods and make sure thatCincinnati is a great place to live."

The Mayor said the number of young professionals coming to andstaying in the city is up. He added Over-the-Rhine is beingrevitalized and downtown is becoming a hot spot for night life.

Vredeveld pointed to The Banks and Horseshoe Casino as havinggreat potential.

"The Banks project is pretty exciting," he said. "I think it'sgoing to draw people downtown. They've got a lot of apartmentsavailable and this is going to be helpful."

He added the casino may not affect population, but will increaseeconomic activity."

For Jones Baker, the key to growing the city's population isjobs.

"Jobs mean everything," she said. "We've got to convinceemployers, large employers, that the city is a good place to live,work and play."

If anyone would ask John Grooms what the key to the future is,he would agree that it's jobs.

"I think if we kind of refurbish Cincinnati so that it still hassomewhat of a night life that has that main attraction to youngerfolks, I think that would be a big draw as well," John added.

Vicki's top priority would be a grocery store downtown.

"Right now, I don't think they've done a good job of it attrying to develop that aspect," she said.

She added she hopes downtown development continues with an eyetoward providing things for singles to do.

"That means creating more opportunities for young people wantingto interact with others downtown -- the night life, morerestaurants," she said. "Just keep people interested in wanting tobe in the city."

Would the Grooms ever move back to Cincinnati?

"Really, I consider Newport an extension of Cincinnati," Johnsaid. "I feel like I'm a Cincinnatian with a better view ofdowntown Cincinnati."

Ackels' advice to Cincinnati leaders is simple and to thepoint.

"Take care of the schools. Take care of the businesses that arein the city. Try to do whatever we can do to get them to stay," shesaid. "I think downtown is starting to look good. I just hope itlooks great enough that it will draw people down there."

However, she won't be leaving West Chester.

"I very seldom go down into Cincinnati anymore unless I'm goingto Clifton for a football game or basketball game," she said."There's not much down there that I can't get up here."

She pointed to the influx of businesses along Tylersville Roadand Union Centre Boulevard.

Experts say when all the census information is in, GreaterCincinnati will be the 24th largest metropolitan area in thecountry with 2.1 or 2.2 million people. That's good news for theregion, but Jones Baker said the improvement of Cincinnati is keyfor survival of both urban and suburban communities.

"If we don't have good, strong cities where there is a healthypopulation and thriving business and industry and places to live,work and play, then we're not going to have strong suburban areaseither," she said.

Copyright Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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