Cincinnati Readers Rally Support for Paper

Thousands show support for Streetvibes

2,000 Cincinnatians Tell Mayor Luken they Value Newspaper

by John Halpin

     Had Mayor Charlie Luken known the number of Cincinnatians who support the Streetvibes newspaper and the vendors who sell it, he likely wouldn’t have attacked it at a December meeting of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee. Many Cincinnatians were outraged by his comments that vendors were "panhandlers armed with newspapers" and that they were destroying downtown.

     Some of those outraged citizens decided to organize to show Luken that Streetvibes is a valuable asset to the community and an important program to the vendors who earn a living selling the monthly paper. They formed Friends of the Homeless, which began meeting in early January.

     Their goal: show Luken how many Cincinnatians support Streetvibes so that he wouldn’t pursue legislation to harm the paper.

     The result according to participants was a success. A postcard campaign was launched and two thousand Cincinnatians signed them, asserting their support for the vendors and their newspaper. The cards, addressed to Luken read: "I come downtown to experience diversity and community with my fellow Cincinnatians. Streetvibes is part of that experience. More importantly, Streetvibes provides the opportunity for the vendors that sell the paper to also be part of our great city…." The card ended with a request for Luken to support opportunity and to forgo policy that would damage the program.

     The campaign culminated in a rally outside City Hall. Nearly 50 supporters turned out, grouping around a giant cardboard house covered in several hundred of the signed postcards. Speakers shared their thoughts on the importance of the paper to the Greater Cincinnati community, and after the rally, everyone took a stack of the signed cards and personally delivered them to the Mayor’s staff.

     "The community sent a clear message to Mayor Luken and Streetvibes vendors that vendors are supported valuable to the city of Cincinnati and that attacks on Streetvibes won’t be tolerated," said Susan Knight, one of the organizers of the campaign.

     "I saw a lot of new faces," said Andy Robie, another event organizer. "This, coupled with the more than 2000 postcards we collected, tells me that this community really supports Streetvibes and views it as an asset. Hopefully Mayor Luken has gotten the message."

     When Council proposed legislation for a new anti-panhandling law, Streetvibes, which Luken equated with panhandling, was left alone. Friends of the Homeless is confident that the outpouring of support from the community played a part in that. They hope to continue raising awareness about homeless issues in Cincinnati. For anyone interested in getting involved, the group meets each Wednesday at 7PM at the Drop Inn Center.

     Anyway, despite the cold weather and the fact that the original rally was rescheduled, the turnout for the Streetvibes rally was spectacular.

Copyright NEOCH published in May 2002 in Cleveland Ohio for Issue 54