We, at Team Moroski, are so blessed to have such an excellent Neighborhood Outreach Coordinator, Michael Heckmann. “Iron Mike” Heckmann works full time at Starfire U, serving as a mentor and teacher to the students there. He is also very involved with neighborhood partnering at Starfire – that is, he is partly responsible for pairing his students with neighborhood leaders so that the network of support for his students grows and flourishes.
A few days after I was terminated by the Archdiocese, Michael asked if I could meet up with his students in Washington Park. I was so excited for a couple of reasons. The main reason I was excited is because I LOVE Starfire and the students that attend the school. I was also excited to get out in the community and spend some time with friends (as I had spent the previous week on “administrative leave” in exile – admittedly, I was getting a little “batty”).
When I arrived in Washington Park I was greeted by a HUGE hug from my friend, Robert, a Starfire student. I worked with Robert at Moeller where he served in the cafeteria. Robert also spent some time with me in my office at Purcell Marian. It was the best hug I had received in weeks and it put my mind back into a good place. I also met many new friends from Starfire while I was there – one of whom told me that “the Church should be given back to the people” in response to the Pope’s recent announcement that he was stepping down. I knew I was in the right place.
I still was fairly uncertain as to why Iron Mike had asked me to come out that day, and then I realized that it was for a video shoot on what it means to be a good neighbor.
I was interviewed by one of Mike’s students, who simply asked me what it meant to me to be a good neighbor. My response was also quite simple – a good neighbor is one who looks out for his friends, family, and community members. A good neighbor is one who creates an environment where his/her neighbors can achieve their true potential. I also noted that, when I moved to Cincinnati close to 16 years ago from Atlanta, one of the things I noticed right away was how Cincinnati not only had an abundance of unique neighborhoods, but also that the neighbors were quite kind to one another and very proud of where they lived.
That last bit is something that makes our city beautiful. It is also something that we need to build upon if we are to continue to grow.
On Sunday, March 17th, the Cincinnati Enquirer had an article that spoke to this very topic and mentioned excellent organizations like Price Hill Will and the amazing community development work they do in their neighborhood. Our neighborhoods need to be strong and get the same love that Downtown and Over-the-Rhine are getting if we are to ensure a vibrant and stable future for our children.
I had the great opportunity of going to the Mt. Auburn Community Council last evening and learn from the community members there. They aren’t seeing as much love as their neighbors down the hill. They need help with their retaining walls and aren’t seeing it. They watch as Christ Hospital gets a lot of love, but their other fixed assets are slowly getting left behind.
I also made many new friends at the Lower Price Hill Community School, who, with some love from BLOC Ministries, is trying to raise $2.2 million so that they can get $5.4 million in federal tax credits to rebuild St. Michael’s Sanctuary. Why go to all of this trouble? Because they are good neighbors and realize that their neighborhood suffers from a 66% jobless rate, a 64% dropout rate, and 2/3 of their children live below 100% of the poverty level.
These are only two communities who are fighting for some love from City Council. There are many more – just look up all the good things that CIRV and the Urban League are doing in Avondale.
So, how can City Council spread the love to their neighbors? By making difficult decisions and rectifying the budget so new money can be allocated evenly. Using new money to fill budget gaps is not solvent, nor is it economically intelligent. New money should be used for new investment. The revenue from the Horseshoe Casino could be siphoned into new projects such as the Lick Run Watershed, retaining wall infrastructure in Mt. Auburn, and numerous other capital improvements that have long been ignored. The $92 million upfront money from the parking lease is a very nice chunk of change, and, as the reader knows, I support the lease, but I would love to see this new money be used for NEW investment – not to fill budget gaps. City Council CAN fix the budget, but unpopular decisions and cuts will have to happen. This is a difficult reality. Laure Quinlivan shared an excellent analogy with me the other day regarding this situation – when money is tight, families downsize. When a family member loses a job, they move out of the five bedroom house to a three bedroom house. Sacrafices have to be made. Cincinnati, like a family, needs to realize that some of its family members are suffering and we have to sit down and re-prioritize our family bank account – our city’s budget. One thing we don’t want or need is to go the route of San Bernardino and file bankruptcy.
A wise man once said to “love your neighbor.” I think that is good advice. Loving our neighbors is the only way that Cincinnati City Council is going to create the kind of future we want for our children. The path is not easy, but it IS possible.
Just ask Robert, or any other Starfire U student. They are surrounded by love and support from people like Michael Heckmann and many others, and just look at all of the good things that they accomplish. Team Moroski wants to surround YOUR neighborhood with love and support. We want to learn from YOU.
Last night was Mt. Auburn – the week after next is Walnut Hills – the week after that may be your neighborhood. We look forward to meeting you.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with any events at which you would like us, or to send us your neighborhood strategic plans and documents of any kind – whatever you think a future City Councilman would need to better love you.