Tremont, with its $500,000 condos, $26 duck appetizers, and that famous chef who looks like Mr. Clean, has come a long way since the days when syringes outnumbered squirrels in Lincoln Park.
So it should come as no surprise that it's also home to that benchmark of yuppie frivolity: the doggie bed-and-breakfast. For $32 a night, Frodo can splash in the pool, frolic across a 5,000-square-foot backyard, and kick it with up to 50 other guests at the Mutt Hutt on Scranton Road.
In a city where even dollar stores are slashing prices, a luxury canine hotel would seem a fabulous thing. Unfortunately, the neighbors hate the incessant barking. "If a dog barks on occasion, as a neighbor you have to allow it," says Nina Swerdlow. "But this is an alarm clock that goes off at 7:30 every morning." As a server at a downtown hotel, she often doesn't get to her west Tremont home until 2:30 a.m. — only to be woken up a few hours later.
She's the most vocal of a group of neighbors who complain of being harassed. They've taped the daily ruckus and even measured its decibels — registering noise comparable to that of a jackhammer, according to one resident.
They've been fighting the Mutt Hutt since it opened in 2006. Residents gathered 70 signatures to try to block it, but Councilmen Joe Santiago and Joe Cimperman joined forces to encourage the business. When their petition was overruled, residents filed suit with the zoning board, a claim that was dismissed and is now somewhere in the land of appeals.
To Swerdlow, it's a classic example of west Tremont housing a nuisance that only serves the moneyed of east Tremont. "Are you going to put it next to a town house that's a quarter of a mil?" she asks. "Hell no. You think they'd tolerate it?"
Neighbor Henry Senyak agrees: "We're tired of the newer yuppies trying to push an agenda. Nobody else has a voice."
Councilman Santiago still defends his support: "We have to keep every job and business we have in the city," he says. "We shouldn't fight with businesses. We should work with them so that they can stay open and keep employees."
Mutt Hutt owner Rebecca Riker didn't respond to interview requests.
Rip the Molester
There's a reason Cincinnati is considered the capital of Kentucky. City Councilman Chris Monzel is Exhibit A.
During his re-election campaign, Monzel wanted to emphasize his quest to get sexual predators off the street. So campaign workers snagged what they believed was a generic mug shot from the web and used it in an ad. But this being Cincinnati, the councilman's aides apparently found it too difficult to locate a picture of an authentic pervert.
The mug shot they chose was actually a 2006 photo of actor Rip Torn, taken after his arrest for drunk driving. Oops.
The actor, who's portrayed bank robbers and sheriffs on-screen, was apparently not happy with the new title of sexual predator. So Monzel was forced to take out an ad in The Cincinnati Enquirer, apologizing for the error.
Maybe Next Year?
To say that Ohio is gay-friendly is like saying that seaweed salad is sure to be a hit at a Browns tailgate party. While employers can't fire you for being fat, Samoan, or left-handed, you can be fired solely on the basis of your romantic tastes.
So every year, some legislator will introduce a queer-protection law, only to watch it unceremoniously die. But this year is different. Instead of it simply being ignored, state Senator Dale Miller's bill was treated to actual meetings and testimony, just like they do in real legislatures!
Sadly, it still doesn't have a chance. "It's an evolutionary process," says Miller. "It takes time. But I don't think it's gonna pass."
The reason why is best illustrated by Senate President Bill Harris. When asked by reporters what he thought of the bill, Harris said he assumed such protections were already on the books. As if, Mr. President.