How Cincinnati stole my heart

Soapbox's founding publisher isn't a Cincinnati native, nor did she feel much love for the city when she first arrived here 15 years ago. Yet she's an engaged resident and passionate champion of Cincinnati now. Find out how the Queen City won her over.

I haven’t always been such a cheerleader of all things Cincinnati. In fact, I once vowed I’d never return to this city after a miserable internship experience 15 years ago.
I know, shocking.
I found this city to be insular—backward even—not unlike things I’ve heard muttered by others as I sat on various committees and boards during the last 13 years.
But after college graduation, I was lured back to Cincinnati by a job offer and something unexpected happened upon my return. The city started a long, strange love affair with me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
You see, in 2002, I was forced to view my city as a tour guide for hundreds of visitors when I was thrust into a leadership position on a local planning committee for a national conference. And I loved what I saw: what it meant to be committed to a neighborhood, the beauty of the buildings and the value of the people. From there, my romance with the city grew as I was exposed to more neighborhoods and met more people who gave a damn about where this city was headed.
The people. Oh the people! Who knew how welcoming, accessible and driven the people of this city could be? So many were willing to lend a hand, connect you with a phone call, or take you under their wing. Now this was a city where you could make a difference. It was a lesson I learned early on in my time in Cincinnati, and one I can only hope to repay to others who come after me.
Little did I know then, that these lessons, and these people, would solidify Cincinnati in my heart, and as my home.
But in 2006, my perspective of all things great and wonderful about the city changed. While on a ride-along with a District 1 police officer, my eyes and my heart were opened to a side of Cincinnati I hadn’t witnessed before: the drugs, the poverty, the prostitution, the homelessness. Was this the same city I had called home these last five years?
This memorable evening only steeled my resolve to make the city a better place for all of her people. And to find others who felt the same.
A Voice
Forward to 2008. When we launched Soapbox six years ago this week, we had a hunch that we had found a unique way to tell the stories of the creative pioneers, civic entrepreneurs and social innovators who were moving our city forward and tackling some of its greatest challenges, while setting the course for a new economy.
Nothing quite set the tone for what we were about to embark upon than the inaugural piece by founding managing editor Jeff Syroney. To paraphrase, Syroney wrote that you can bitch all you want about what is wrong with this city, but what are you going to do about it? Talk is cheap, and Cincinnati’s grand knack for planning unrealized projects fit all too comfortably with its bookshelf-building past.
But on these pages we celebrate the doers and innovators—even sharing their failures so others can learn from them. We demand better and hold ourselves, our peers, and our elected, business and civic leaders accountable to moving our vibrant city forward. We profile the innovative public projects, setting the bar for the nation to learn from our example. We highlight education efforts that serve as a model for a growing number of cities across the country. And we herald those key economic development projects that are too important to be railroaded due to short-sightedness.
Showing remarkable places around our city is fundamental not only to how we see ourselves, but how others see us, as well. And nothing shows off our city quite like the view from behind our own Scott Beseler’s lens. Each week, his work captures the neighborhoods transforming before our eyes and the people taking creative risks or just enjoying what our city has to offer.
A Push
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or not reading Soapbox), it’s no secret that Cincinnati has got its groove back. Of course it’s no surprise to us—we’ve been documenting the growth and sustained transformation each week for the last six years. But that’s not to say we are a city without its fair share of challenges and issues.
Just as I was reminded in the days and weeks after my police ride-along, this city has a lot of work to do, and the conversations we begin here at Soapbox are far from complete. There is always more to say, more perspectives to include, more need to turn talk into action.
This Valentine’s Day, show your love for Cincinnati by learning more about how you can lend your voice, your talents or your treasures to making our city—and our region—even greater. Need some ideas? Start here:

  • Get involved in your neighborhood council or start an initiative to make your neighborhood a better place.
  • Help shape the future of Northern Kentucky—take a minute to share your ideas with myNKY.
  • Sign the Preschool Promise and learn what you can do to ensure every child in Greater Cincinnati has access to a quality preschool education.
  • Love our Parks? Become a Friend of Cincinnati Parks—join a committee, donate or volunteer.
  • Are you tech-savvy? Become part of OpenDataCincinnati and learn how you can encourage transparency, innovation and civic engagement.
  • Want to learn more about regional transportation initiatives? Find out how you can get involved in the Believe in Cincinnati movement (and Phase II of the streetcar) or help influence the future of the Brent Spence Bridge.
This list is far from complete. What can you add to the conversation? Reach out to me @DaciaSnider or share your idea in the comment section below.
So what are you waiting for? Where will your love for Cincinnati take you?
Dacia Snider is Soapbox's founding publisher and is unabashedly proud to call Cincinnati her home.
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