Green Umbrella in the News

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  • September 05, 2019 6:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    • For Immediate Release


    • Green Umbrella Designates Five Local Preserves ‘Greenspace Gems’

      Sept. 5, 2019 (CINCINNATI)—Green Umbrella announced five new ‘Greenspace Gems’ this week as part of its initiative to celebrate the region’s wealth of ecologically significant natural areas. Recognized for their outstanding scenic value and biological diversity, the five follow 15 additional areas named since 2018.  

      Cincinnati ranks eighth in the nation for the accessibility, acreage, investment and amenities of its city park system by the Trust for Public Lands’ ParkScore. But the high-quality greenspace extends far outside of city limits. In Hamilton County, 83% of residents live within a 10 minute walk of protected greenspace. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, access to greenspace offers a variety of public health benefits such as stress reduction, increased mindfulness and creativity, and prevention of chronic diseases.

      Launched in 2018, Greenspace Gems is an initiative of Green Umbrella’s Greenspace Action Team. The program recognizes and celebrates natural areas in Green Umbrella’s 10-county region with outstanding scenic value, biological diversity, scientific importance or historic interest. Gems are selected by a team of conservation experts to showcase the region’s variety of unique natural sites. By telling the stories of these protected places, the initiative aims to grow public support for greenspace conservation and the organizations who are leading this work in our region.

      “The Greenspace Gems program highlights those places in the tri-state area that provide the highest quality experiences for visitors,” said Andy Dickerson, executive director of Cardinal Land Conservancy and co-chair of the Greenspace Action Team. “Whether you’re hiking for your health, birdwatching, fishing or discovering new plant and animal species, the Greenspace Gems locally represent ‘nature’s bucket list’.”

      The sites named in the fourth round of Greenspace Gems are:

    • ·        Visitors of Crooked Run Nature Preserve, in Clermont County, Ohio, will find breathtaking river views, two miles of trails and a great spot to watch over 200 bird species.
    • ·        Halls Creek Woods State Nature Preserve in Warren County, Ohio offers visitors the 4 F’s – forest, fossils, flowers and falls!
    • ·        With over 65 acres of forest, Harris M. Benedict Botanical Preserve in Hamilton County, Ohio was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1977.
    • ·        The restored wetlands at Shaker Trace make this Hamilton County, Ohio site a birding hotspot.
    • ·        Valley View, in Clermont County, Ohio, is a rescued historic farm that boasts a variety of habitats.

    For more information on the newest round of gems or to learn more about ways to nominate a Greenspace Gem visit www.greenumbrella.org/greenspace-gems.


    ###


    Celebrating over 20 years as Greater Cincinnati’s hub for environmental sustainability. Act locally with Green Umbrella and make a difference. Learn more or become a member at www.greenumbrella.org.


  • August 16, 2019 4:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: CityBeat
    by Nick Swartsell

    After a long stretch of uncertainty, various groups are coalescing to support a county sales tax levy to shore up Greater Cincinnati’s underfunded bus system

    It’s a hot mid-morning at Government Square, the central hub for Cincinnati’s Metro bus service, and riders are milling about waiting for their routes.

    Many are like Marlon Tate — in the middle of hour or longer journeys involving transfers to get to work. Tate is waiting on Route 20 so he can get to his job in Fairfield.

    “I’ll be on that bus for half an hour, depending on traffic,” he says. But that’s just part of the trip.

    He starts his commute in the Western Hills area, where he catches the Route 33.

    “That’s the first bus,” Tate says. “This is the second. That’s every day going to and from work.”

    Waiting for a bus, riding the bus, waiting for another bus — the 20 only comes once an hour— riding the bus. It all adds up to a lot of time. Like Tate, a number of other riders face long waits for buses, commutes with transfers and other time-sapping situations. A new plan could help — if Hamilton County voters approve a sales tax levy to fund it next year. In the meantime, support is growing for the proposed improvements, collectively called Reinventing Metro, and Cincinnati City Council took a tentative first step toward getting the plan passed Aug. 7.

    Among the possible improvements Reinventing Metro could bring, depending on the funding levels: more frequent routes, more crosstown routes to get people from one side of Greater Cincinnati to another, some 24-hour routes and dedicated lanes called Bus Rapid Transit for four routes along Cincinnati’s major traffic corridors.

    Another rider near Tate who identified herself only as Ms. Doe is also waiting on the 20 on her way to Finneytown. Wearing a glittery hat and a floral shirt, she’s trying to get all of her daily errands done.

    Doe moved away from the city three years ago and just moved back. She’s reacquainting herself with Metro, and had hoped more improvements had been made.

    “They do need to expand the routes, so that people can go further out,” she said. “They do need to make the routes more frequent. I’ve been down here since 9:30 (a.m.). The buses run an hour apart. I may not get there until 11:30 a.m., then I have to ride the bus back. It takes a lot of time. It’s like I’m working, but I’m not.”

    Metro isn’t necessarily lagging due to the way it operates. An audit commissioned by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber found that the bus service is efficient and uses money well.

    Instead, the system's budget problems are structural. Most transit agencies fund their regional bus services via countywide levies, which cast a wider net and generally raise more money. Since the 1970s, however, Metro has relied on a portion of the city's earnings tax — a fairly uncommon arrangement.

    The bus system faces a $5.8 million budget deficit this year and a $188 million shortfall over the next decade. And that’s just to keep the status quo. An independent report released by consultants AECOM in 2017 found Metro would need at least $1 billion in upgrades over the next 10 years to make it more functional and get more county residents to the region’s jobs.

    Metro currently gets by on $100 million a year, much of it coming from a .3 percent tax assessed since 1973 on people who work in the city.

    Metro's precarious financial situation hasn't been helped by state funding. Ohio's funding for public transit per capita is among the lowest in the country. Some help will likely be coming to Metro's budget via a 10.5 cent increase in the state's gas tax, however, which will generate roughly $70 million more for public transit every year. But that money will need to be divvied up among the state's 60 transit agencies.

    In the past, Metro has drawn from the system's contingency fund to bridge budget gaps. Last year, SORTA's board approved using $2.8 million from that fund. This year, however, only $3.8 million remains in the reserve. That money plus $900,000 in surplus funds from last year still leave the transit agency scraping for $1.1 million to make ends meet. 

    Supporters of passing a county levy say the income tax doesn’t generate enough revenue and forces the city to subsidize service beyond the city limits.

    Reinventing Metro would change that, and, advocates argue, substantively improve bus service if county voters approve a .7 percent or higher sales tax increase. At that level, the levy would raise about $110 million a year for bus service — double what the city’s earnings tax provides.

    Over the past few years, various groups seemed at odds with what, exactly, to do about Metro’s problems. Former Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune, for example, opposed a county levy in favor of a more regional approach. And Metro’s board of directors punted on putting a levy ask on the ballot last year.

    But now, support for the county levy seems to have coalesced. The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber backs the sales tax ask, as do the county commissioners and some prominent transit activists.

    Pete Metz, the head of the chamber’s transportation initiatives, says the group representing some 4,000 regional businesses supports Reinventing Metro because the current funding system doesn’t allow Metro to provide transit services comparable to other cities with which Cincinnati is competing for talent and businesses.

    “We have a public transportation system that is woefully underfunded and that doesn’t connect people to where they need to go today, let alone connect people to where they will need to go as we grow as a region,” Metz said at an Aug. 12 presentation on the plan for environmental advocates hosted by Green Umbrella. 

    Cincinnati City Council took a first step toward the new funding model by agreeing to eliminate the portion of city income taxes that goes to Metro if county voters approve a levy.

    There are still plenty of dominoes left to fall, but council's vote could prime the countywide sales tax levy to fund bus service.

    Council member P.G. Sittenfeld introduced the proposal that, if approved by voters, would eliminate the .3 percent of the city's earnings tax that goes toward Metro's operations — but only in the event that Hamilton County voters approved a sales tax boost of .7 percent or above for funding Metro. 

    Sittenfeld said the vote was the first step toward "multi-generational change" by vastly improving the region's bus system.

    The charter amendment will go to city voters in next year's March primary election. Meanwhile, SORTA's board will also need to approve putting the sales tax levy — which would be anywhere from .7 to 1 percent above the county's current 7-percent sales tax — on a ballot in the spring or fall of 2020. Then county voters would need to approve that levy.

    The income tax rollback is something of an olive branch for voters who may be skeptical of a tax increase — as is the potential inclusion of funds for road and bridge repair in the county tax levy ask. The infrastructure dollars would also have to in some way benefit transit services. That could push the overall sales tax hike to as high as 1 percent.

    Overall, the city's income tax is 2.1 percent, meaning that eliminating Metro's portion would lower the city's earnings tax to 1.8 percent. That's easily the lowest of any major city in Ohio. 

    The idea of eliminating Metro's share of the city's earnings tax has in the past sparked questions from transit advocates. Cincinnati's Better Bus Coalition, which has led successful grassroots campaigns for improving bus service, floated its own proposal to create a ballot initiative that would have raised the city's earnings tax if SORTA didn't act on a countywide levy.

    Even with the possibility of a county levy, BBC President Cam Hardy had previously expressed concerns about eliminating the city's tax entirely because it would reduce the city's presence on SORTA's board and chip away at a revenue source for Metro.

    But Hardy has since come on board with the county levy plan, saying it’s the best option for improving Metro.

    “We are hitting a historic moment in our region when it comes to discussions about public transportation,” Hardy said at the Green Umbrella event. “The plan before us today changes the way (the system) is funded. Our earnings tax today isn’t bringing in enough money to fund our transportation system. I live in Northside. My aunt lives in Bond Hill. It shouldn’t take me an hour and a half to go see her.”

    Not everyone is convinced eliminating Metro's portion of the city's earnings tax is a good idea. Council member Chris Seelbach voted against council’s proposed charter amendment, saying he supports better funding for bus service but doesn't think the city should give up a valuable revenue source. He was outvoted, however.

    Now it will likely be up to city and county voters to decide the next moves.

    Riders waiting at Government Square seemed to agree — something needs to be done.

    “You know, I’m a patient person,” Tate says when asked about the possibility of more frequent service and more direct routes. “But oh yes, it would help. That I think would help everyone.”  


  • August 14, 2019 4:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO
    by Pat LaFleur

    CINCINNATI — If you happen upon Jim and Jack's on the River, a charming bar and grill tucked on U.S. 50 in Cincinnati's Riverside neighborhood, chances are you were already looking for it.

    "Our business is more of a destination place," said manager Karen Hartwig. "People are coming here for a specific reason. They’re not just popping into the neighborhood of Riverside and saying, 'Hey, let’s stop into Jim and Jack’s.'"

    She and other Riverside stakeholders hope plans for a new bike trail running along the neighborhood's riverfront will help change that.

    Earlier this summer, city crews completed a small portion of the Ohio River Trail West. It's just the beginning of what will become a 22-mile, $20 million mixed-use walking and biking trail that will stretch from downtown Cincinnati to Shawnee Lookout in Sayler Park. In June, planners and advocates cut the ribbon on a half-mile stretch of the trail in Dan J. Gilday Recreation Complex.

    Although it's just a small segment of what will become a much larger trail, Hartwig — whose father opened Jim and Jack's 35 years ago — said it's a sign of big things to come.

    "We’re hoping it brings more people into this area, into this neighborhood," she said.

    Riverside, a long and narrow neighborhood that hugs the riverbanks along the city's West Side and sits boxed in by the steep incline up to the East and West Price Hill, is mostly industrial without many of attractions to draw people from other parts of town.

    "We do get a lot of support from the people who work in the industries — for lunch, trade and happy hours and such — but we don’t have people who just migrate to the neighborhood for anything specific other than us," Hartwig said.

    Making off-road connections

    The Ohio River Trail West only spans the length of Gilday Park for now, but Riverside Community Council member Gregory Lang said that this segment is just the beginning.

    "The plan is that we’re connecting to another piece of the project further east of here, which directly connects through from this park, Gilday, to Boldface Park (in neighboring Sedamsville)," Lang said. "We’ve also got another section planned for construction in Lower Price Hill."

    And to the west, Riverside has plans for more trail that will eventually connect all the way to Sayler Park.

    It's all part of a plan to connect the city's western riverfront communities with an alternative to U.S. 50 (also known as River Road along that stretch). It's a span of road that's a hot spot for speeding and a favorite route for large tractor-trailers, making it less than ideal for alternative modes of transportation such as bicycles.

    Pair that with the single Metro bus route that runs through the neighborhood, and circumstances all but ensure visitors need a car to drop by.

    Lang said it's a problem that exists throughout much of the city's West Side.

    "The West Side is under-served by a lot of recreational facilities, in particular bike lanes itself, so it was key that we work on a section of the trail," he said. "So whether it be work, trying to get to work, whether it be just recreational to try to get people to the park or from one park to the other, to get from their house to this spot is another. It’s just a way to connect."

    Riverside's natural landscape is often overshadowed by the railroad and other industrial parks that line River Road, Lang said, but it also makes for the perfect setting for a biking and walking trail.

    "This is kind of a unique section of the river in that it is so steep. And because of the steepness, that’s the reason it is as green as it is," he said. "Even though there’s a lot of industry here, there’s still a lots of natural assets, parks all along this section of the river, up on top of the hill, down on the river, and the goal of this trail is to try to connect those pieces."

    The neighborhood's generally flat terrain — the thing that helped attract railroads in the first place — make it ideal for biking.

    "Ideally, we’d want to parallel the rail because of that. It’s not always easy to do that, but that’s something we’re working with," Lang said.

    'Ohio River Trail West'... and beyond

    Once complete, the Ohio River Trail West will constitute just one segment of the much longer Ohio River Trail, parts of which are already complete throughout the city's East Side riverfront neighborhoods.

    And it doesn't end in Cincinnati.

    "The plan is eventually to span the whole width of Hamilton County," said Wade Johnston. Johnston heads up Tri-State Trails, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Green Umbrella, which advocates for sustainable and environmentally-friendly investments throughout the Greater Cincinnati area.

    In 2017, Tri-State Trails unveiled its vision for a 30-mile trail loop— "CROWN," or the Cincinnati Riding or Walking Network -- that would encircle Cincinnati's urban core and connect to more than 100 miles of smaller trails and on-street bike infrastructure.

    The CROWN's wide footprint, spanning the width of Hamilton County once realized, is part of Green Umbrella's effort to make alternative and active modes of transportation accessible to all residents, not just those in neighborhoods, cities and townships that can afford to build them.

    "There’s so much potential to build more facilities in Greater Cincinnati so that biking is not something that is exclusive to affluent communities," he said. "It’s something that in any community you live in, I think, you should have an opportunity to safely walk or bike around."

    The trail network eventually would also connect to larger, state-spanning trails such as the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, which connects Lake Erie and the Ohio River completely through off-road bike paths. This means it would bring a surge of "bike tourists" to businesses like Jim and Jack's.

    "People come from all over the country to ride on this amazing (Ohio-to-Erie) trail experience and dip their tire in Lake Erie and then end putting it into the Ohio River," Johnston said. "We believe that by creating these connections will encourage that type of economic activity to continue."

    For Hartwig, it doesn't matter where they come from, just as long as they come through the door.

    "Once they’re here, we’ll impress them," she said. "They’ll want to come back, but we’ve got to get them here first, and we’re hoping things like that and new developments are able to do that for us."


  • August 13, 2019 4:49 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    by Tana Weingartner

    Cincinnati Parks is giving away free trees. The Park Board's Urban Forestry division runs the annual ReLeaf program as an effort to bring residential neighborhoods up to 40% tree canopy coverage.

    "You can help the environment, that's what this is really about," says Rocky Merz with Cincinnati Parks. "One tree alone can help control 400 to 1,000 gallons of stormwater runoff. As we saw this spring and into the summer, we've got major stormwater issues here just like we're seeing around the country and this is one way to help mitigate that."

    Urban Forestry started handing out trees in the late '80s to provide shade trees for homeowners who either didn't have room for trees on the street tree lawn (that strip of grass between streets and properties), or had overhead utility lines in them.

    Nearly 20,000 trees later, the program continues. It's now part of the Taking Root reforestation campaign founded by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Green Umbrella, OKI Regional Council of Governments, and the Green Partnership of Greater Cincinnati.

    The program has handed out more than 40 species of trees over the years. Options this year include 'Oregon Trail' sugar maple, eastern redbud, 'Emerald City' tuliptree, Okame cherry, dawn redwood and swamp white oak.

    Trees, the Parks points out, also help reduce soil erosion, reduce the effects of "urban heat islands," and provide energy-saving shade and beauty.

    Merz expects to hand out around 500 trees but says the number could go higher if there's enough demand.

    Here's a link to the application form.

    The Park Board is especially interested in giving trees to communities with less than 40% tree canopy. Target neighborhoods below that goal include:

    Avondale (34%)
    Bond Hill (23%)
    Camp Washington (8%)
    Carthage (16%)
    Coryville (11%)
    East End (27%)
    Evanston (29%)
    Hartwell (31%)
    Linwood (20%)
    Lower Price Hill (18%)
    Mount Auburn (35%)
    Oakley (24%)
    Pleasant Ridge (34%)
    Queensgate (9%)
    Roselawn (22%)
    Walnut Hills (30%)

    Cincinnati Parks gets funding for the trees from the Duke Energy Foundation and the Cincinnati Parks Foundation.


  • July 23, 2019 11:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO

    Michaela Oldfield, director of the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council, joins “This Week in Cincinnati” to discuss new regulations for community food gardens in Cincinnati

  • July 23, 2019 11:02 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: Soapbox Cincinnati
    By Liz McEwan

    This month, Green Umbrella’s Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council announced that the long-awaited Urban Agriculture Zoning Ordinance has finally passed in the City of Cincinnati. With this legislation comes increased freedom for residents and communities to take their food security into their own hands.

    The Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council is a formal initiative of Green Umbrella. Its mission is “to advance a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system” across all of Greater Cincinnati. The council works to address systematic and legislative changes that affect food systems and access on a community level.

    The council program manager, Michaela Oldfield, says that this legislation is good news for Cincinnati residents as it cleans up the rules and regulations surrounding things like community gardens, backyard gardening, small-scale urban farming, and community composting.

    Oldfield says this legislation has taken two years to pass but passed unanimously.

    “The process itself was really important,” she explains, “because we worked with multiple departments across the city and multiple stakeholders to see what actually happens when people do urban agriculture. We wanted to find appropriate rules for actual situation and leave jurisdiction to the appropriate departments.”

    Up until now, laws have been duplicitous, she says, making it harder to navigate the rights and regulations for growing food in the city. Now, residents can find more complete and centralized information about what is and is not allowed within the city limits. The code also addresses potential problems such as ongoing maintenance and waste management. The ordinance establishes rules for small-scale composting in backyards and community gardens.

    Green Umbrella supported this ordinance for multiple reasons. Oldfield explains that it increases opportunities for community gardening and entrepreneurship, and that community gardening, especially, has broader community effects.

    “Agriculture and growing food has a lot of benefits. For example, as a small business, it has low startup cost. It also provides nutrition education, food education, recreational opportunities, and is a healthy activity. Community gardens also reduce crime because they activate previously vacant space.”

    A fundraising boost from an unlikely source

    Green Umbrella also announced an exciting fundraising opportunity this coming August. As an initiative of the philanthropic organization Plus 1, The Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council was chosen as the recipient of donations from the August 2nd “Night Running Tour” concert at the Riverbend Music Center featuring Beck, Cage The Elephant, Spoon, and Wild Belle.

    The funds, which are unrestricted dollars, will be used to hire two people from the Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program who will help start a new healthy food access program. This new program will be a coordinated effort between the food policy council, health institutions, and community organizations working to change the local food system and promote healthy lifestyle changes.

    “It’s a big deal for us to receive this,” Oldfield says. “We are incredibly thrilled and thankful to be chosen.”

    To find more detailed information about the new Urban Agriculture Zoning Ordinance, visit the FAQ.

    The Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council will hold a few listening sessions in August to answer questions about the new legislation. Partnering organizations like the Civic Garden Center and the City of Cincinnati’s Urban Agriculture department will be present as well. Information can be found on the policy council webpage.

    Visit the Green Umbrella calendar for more local events and updates.

    Tickets for the August 2nd Beck concert can be purchased from Ticketmaster.


  • July 17, 2019 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: CBS Detroit

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Tremaine L. Phillips to the Michigan Public Service Commission Wednesday.

    “The Michigan Public Service Commission is committed to protecting the public by ensuring safe, accessible energy and telecommunication services at reasonable rates,” Whitmer said. “Tremaine’s experience ranges from the utility sector, state government and clean energy advocacy. His diverse background will give him the knowledge and insight to be successful in his new role and is supported by a broad array of stakeholders from environmental groups to business organizations.”

    Phillips is currently the director of the Cincinnati 2030 District and the former vice president of strategic initiatives for Empower Gas and Electric, LLC. He formerly served as the assistant deputy director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG), an energy program associate with the Michigan Environmental Council, and an intern with the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In 2016, he was recognized as an emerging clean energy leader through the Midwest Energy News’ “40 Under 40” award.

    He earned his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Economics and Policy from Michigan State University, and his Master of Arts in Public Policy and Management and Juris Doctor degree from The Ohio State University. As current residents of Erlanger, Kentucky, Phillips and his family look forward to moving back to his home state of Michigan.

    Mr. Phillips is appointed to succeed Norm Saari, whose term expired July 2, 2019, for a term commencing September 9, 2019 and expiring July 2, 2025.

    The Michigan Public Service Commission’s mission is to protect the public by ensuring safe, reliable, and accessible energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates. The Commission’s goals include assuring adequate and reliable supplies of regulated services; supporting adoption of advanced technologies; assuring the security of critical utility infrastructure; and providing regulatory oversight in a prudent manner while implementing legislative and constitutional requirements.

    This appointment is subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

  • July 15, 2019 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WVXU
    By Ann Thompson

    The global carpooling market is expected to more than double by 2025. In Cincinnati and across the nation, it remains fairly low. The environmental group Cincinnati 2030 District is encouraging more people to do it and recently held a meeting about corporate carpooling.

    Director of Cincinnati's 2030 District Tremaine Phillips says nearly 80-90% of Cincinnati commuters drive to work alone. That's about 10% higher than the national average. The goal of his organization is to reduce energy-, water- and transportation-related emissions by 50% by 2030.

    Phillips says carpooling is not only green but also has myriad benefits for both the employee and the environment. "It can help to increase employee attraction, retention and wellness as well as help to reduce carbon-related emissions."

    Phillips admits he left a job because of the commute, and so do 25% of others nationally.

    Richard Sanborn used to drive a pick-up truck from Hamilton to the VA Medical Center where he works. It was costing a lot and is bad for the environment. Now he carpools with other VA employees in an Enterprise van that the VA subsidizes. He admits he did it more for the money and down time.

    "I never thought of it in a green aspect. Mine was more a selfish motivation. I was able to take a lot of naps," he laughs.

    The VA's Alisha Genevro rides with Sanborn and doesn't see any disadvantages.

    Marianne Plummer just started using Commute with Enterprise on her ride from Springboro to the VA Medical Center, even though she's been driving Downtown for decades. What took her so long?

    "I'm a slow learner I guess. I didn't know about van pools for a long time and wasn't sure if I wanted to be committed to not having my vehicle."

    Another option is Scoop. The app sponsored the carpool discussion with Cincinnati 2030 July 11.

    Rideshare is another option.

    "We know that many organizations are working on transit and other public transit solutions to help to bring down that figure closer to the national average and we're looking to compliment those solutions," Phillips says.


  • July 03, 2019 9:49 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: UC News
    By Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

    This driven UC alum is on a mission to build a more equitable, sustainable Cincinnati.

    Rashida Manuel has a passion for social involvement and community service that is simply unparalleled. “I guess I would say that it comes from my family,” she reflects. Her mother was a social worker that instilled a social-conciousness in her from a young age. “There was a community service class at my high school… I took it twice," she says between laughs. "I just loved anything that had to do with service. When I got to UC I tried to continue that and it is what I’ve have been doing ever since”.

    Rashida completed her undergraduate degree at UC in Journalism with minors in Africana Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She stayed at UC to complete her master's degree in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies before beginning work in community outreach at a Fortune 500 company. “I liked the work, but I wanted to get back to working with students.” This desire led her back to UC’s campus where she found a group of impassioned, mobilized law students working tirelessly on a very special operation: the Ohio Innocence Project.

    “The Ohio Innocence Project is really cool because they work to exonerate people who have been wrongfully convicted in Ohio," Rashida explains. To date, the Ohio Innocence Project has freed 28 people who were put away for crimes they did not commit; collectively, they have served over 525 years on false charges. She continues, "The law students are the ones doing the bulk of the work on that. I started there as the executive staff assistant.” After a few months, Rashida was promoted to program and outreach manager. In that role, she oversaw the Ohio Innocence Project University (OIPU) Program, which was designed to get students throughout Ohio educated and engaged about the advocacy efforts at the Ohio Innocence Project. The program's outreach stretched to six different campuses across the state.

    When asked to reflect on how it feels to watch someone walk out of the courtroom after serving, in many cases, decades of false imprisonment, Rashida becomes pensive. "I guess bittersweet would be the best way to describe it. There’s a lot of bitterness there, because you can be so angry that someone went through something like that so unjustly," she answers slowly, taking time to hang onto each word. Her tone changes. "The sweetness is them being released and being able to see the lives that they create for themselves afterward. It's always bittersweet."

    Ricky Jackson, who served 39 years before being exonerated, is an exceptional case of making up for lost time. Rashida's eyes light up when she talks about him. "Ricky had spent over half his life in prison and to see the way he was able to come back from that – you know, obviously you can’t forget 40 years – is incredible. His ability to forgive is amazing." Ricky's story can best be told in his own words; he was a guest speaker at the 2015 TEDxMet event at New York City's Metropolitan Art Museum, the same year he was released from prison. His speech is not one of bitterness or resentment; Ricky seems at peace and happy to move on with his life. The title of his presentation is "Finding Freedom in an Art Museum".

    After Rashida concluded her work at the Ohio Innocence Project in December of 2017, she began to set her eyes on a new kind of advocacy: environmentalism. She accepted a position as the director of public engagement at Green Umbrella, an environmental alliance that is working to transform Cincinnati into one of the most sustainable metropolitan areas in the country by 2020. Their approach is two-fold: 1) bottom-up - to assess the needs of local communities and work to address them through education and advocacy, and 2) top-down - to educate and support large corporations in downtown Cincinnati in pledging to facilitate sustainable business practices.

    Much of Rashida's work at Green Umbrella consists of community outreach and engagement. She is focused on creating a more equitable, socially-just environment for people from underrepresented communities. "We are trying to look at how we can expand the message of what we are doing to communities that are often left out of the conversation," she says. Avondale is one of the communities that they have focused on lately. "What’s important is to learn about the community and partner with organizations who are already there doing work." Rashida learned that Avondale is a food desert; they have no local grocery store. What they do have are several community-led gardens that are working to combat the food shortage." To help give these gardens visibility, Rashida worked to educate Avondale community-members on these opportunities and to show that there are sustainable, healthy options available to them.

    Regarding environmentalism on the local level, Rashida offers that the best ways to live sustainably are to "find innovative ways to solve the needs here in the community that you’re in and to be more local in your perspective". This is the core of the work Rashida and Green Umbrella are doing to bring Cincinnati into a greener future; she has high hopes that their efforts will play a role in helping Cincinnati to become a sustainability hub for the rest of the nation to strive towards.

    Rashida stays busy to say the least; her advocacy efforts stretch across many disciplines. Outside of her work on the Ohio Innocence Project and Green Umbrella, Rashida spends her time volunteering for various advocacy groups around Cincinnati, including Planned Parenthood, the Ohio Women's March and others. She also remains involved on UC's campus as an alum by serving as a member of the advisory board for Friends of WGSS (Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies). This gives her the opportunity to work as a colleague to some of her former professors. "I can’t get away from UC and I love it," she beams. Her first job at age sixteen was for UC's Continuing Education program and she "felt a connection with the campus even back then... I feel that in some way I will always be connected to UC."

    Despite all of her impassioned, mission-oriented advocacy work, Rashida makes it clear the most important thing to her is family. "Really what is important to me is spending time with family and friends. I try to bring them along with me in whatever work thing I’m doing too." She sees a passionate social-conciousness beginning to surface in her daughter that reflects the values Rashida's mother instilled in her as a child. "It feels good, my daughter is 14. It’s great now that she is at the age where these things have been infused in her and now she’s a little activist too." Cincinnati is in good hands with people like Rashida working tirelessly to make it a better, greener, and more equitable place for future generations to come.


  • July 02, 2019 9:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Source: WCPO
    By Josh Bazan

    An effort to make Northern Kentucky roads safer for walking and biking is looking for community feedback.

    Connect NKY held a slow ride on bicycles through the streets of Newport in Tuesday. The group wants to get more people on two wheels.

    “Every city, people are moving to urban areas. Young people, empty nesters, all ages,” said Rachel Comte, chair of Connect NKY.

    With more people starting to live in the heart of Newport, Comte sees a growing need.

    “I walk, I bike and I use scooters, and I think people living down here want to be able to do that every day,” she said.

    “So we’re trying to make that a safe activity so people feel safe in being able to make that choice,” said Wade Johnston, director of Tri-State Trails at Green Umbrella.

    Johnston is working with Comte and Connect NKY to try to bring dedicated bike lanes to Newport and encourage more people to take two wheels instead of four.

    “I’m talking about getting people to bike to the grocery store or bike to the Levee to go to a movie or bike downtown to go to a Reds game,” Comte said.

    The slow ride through Newport is helping the group figure out where the city's infrastructure can be improved to make it safer for cyclists. It wants to put up temporary bike lanes to improve trouble spots.

    “We’re also, at the end of each ride, having a discussion of what was scary, what was not, where do you want bike infrastructure, where don’t we need it, all sorts of feedback,” Comte said.

    The group hopes those temporary lanes will become permanent.

    “So that we can show the public without having to invest a lot of money - just a short, quick, cheap installation - that bike infrastructure is something that is accessible and improves our community,” Johnston said.

    After they settle on the locations, organizers will set up those temporary bike lanes Sept. 6-15.



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