Avondale making progress despite City budget cuts

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council held its second of four public hearings Monday night, to discuss the budget crisis the City is facing. It's a chance for the public to come out and make their voices heard, regarding cuts City Council will soon have to make.

Last month, City Manager Milton Dohoney asked Council to approve the layoffs of 44 police officers, to help cut $5 million from this year's budget. The City is projecting a $33 million deficit for next year.

Council will meet in a special session August 30th to vote on his recommendations.

Before that hearing got underway, FOX19 took a tour with some members of the City's Finance Committee through parts of Avondale, to see what's working in their community, despite deep funding cuts.

"If you wanted to get drugs, you came to Burnet Avenue," said Councilman Cecil Thomas, who explained what things were like, when he was on the police force. "I was assigned as a walking patrol on Burnet Avenue on a number of occasions. Just keeping people moving so the businesses could survive."

Thomas witnessed a slide in Avondale first-hand. "The early 70's Burnet Avenue was a thriving business center," Thomas said, with an ice-cream parlor, banks, and jewelry stores, until the traffic shifted. A lot of drugs began to filter into the neighborhood."

It was an erosion no one could have foreseen.

"I called it the Uptown Over-The-Rhine," said Thomas. "We knew that Over-The-Rhine was a hot spot and that had filtered up into this particular neighborhood."

"I recall one of my radio runs that I responded here," he said, pointing up Burnet Avenue. "It was an officer down, shot in the street, Officer Bill Lofton. When I arrived, he was in the middle of the street, it was late, there was a crowd of people, the other officer and I managed to get the crowd under control."

Tougher times, he said, but now, it's all about bringing people back.

"We're seeing investment come into Avondale," said Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who pointed-out, you don't have to look far to see all the good things happening in Avondale right now.

So members of the Finance Committee took a walk up Burnet Avenue.

"You're talking about this corner here," said community activist, Ozie Davis, who led the tour. "Then we're gonna demolish that," he said pointing to another building on the block.

They looked at what's working and also to gauge what progress can be made, when funds appear to be disappearing.

"It's amazing what people can do," Qualls said. "So, neighborhoods like Avondale with their Community Council and their Development Corporation, have been working very hard."

"I've seen this block when it was in its glory back in the 60's," said Davis.

He, like Deangelo Boynton, of Stag's Barber Shop, have been here since then.

"Mohammed Ali standing in front of the old Stag's Barber Shop," Boynton proudly said of a photograph of the champ outside their old location, which used to sit next door. Then, they moved into a newly-rehabbed building.

"The Champ and Stag's Barber Shop!" Boynton beamed. "What was it like having him in your barber shop?," we asked. "Awesome!," he said. "He was the fastest man I ever saw in my life."

Boynton's grandfather and father had the original Stag's. Boynton was born here, raised here, and when his father passed, he stayed here.

"We had spoken about it before and I just told him I was gonna keep his legacy alive," Boynton said.

UC's Medical Complex, Children's Hospital and the Uptown Consortium have already been a valuable part of Avondale's transformation, as well as small businesses that have chosen to stay, like Stag's Barber Shop.

Councilman Thomas said when you have that combination of collaboration it can turn a neighborhood around.

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