As Dr. Know points out in this response from the August 2012 issue, the ways of bureaucracy do not run smooth.
Cincinnati doesn’t seem to have many historic markers. Why not? —Old Timer
Dear Timer:It’s not because there’s no history to commemorate. We’ve got more history than we know what to do with. But we also have a history of bureaucratic idiocy. The Doctor will tell you a story.
Once, many years ago, the Doctor asked himself the very same question. Employed by the city’s senior library, he thought it was an embarrassment not to have a nice freestanding historic marker informing passersby of the Library’s presence and seismic importance. So he wrote off to the City of Cincinnati to see if it might be possible to put a marker on a pole across from the front door. The answer was a brusque “No” from the sidewalk engineers. Just like that. “No.” The Doctor keeps the letter on file. In a multi-year process that required the recruitment of the city architect and its graphics dictatrix, a handsome donation from an old Cincinnati family, much bureaucratic correspondence, and endless patience, the good guys, with absolutely no support or intervention from the city’s official history types, managed to undo the sidewalk czar’s rude “No.”
There is now an official city historic marker program featuring handsome markers in the style of those in Charleston and Philadelphia. How many markers are in the program? Two. Why is that? Because the spirit of the sidewalk czar’s “No” lives on in a web of City Hall requirements that discourage all but the insanely persistent. There is an alternative—a state marker—but the plaques are ugly and ungainly, and it’s still a pain to get permission from the sidewalk ninnies who like to leave plenty of room for their precious “No Parking” signs.
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