Dr Know: Security Cameras in Hyde Park, 1920s Car Engines, and Where Did the Board of Elections Go?

There’s a security camera affixed to a utility pole on Observatory Avenue in Hyde Park, facing the intersection at Edwards. It creeps me out. Hyde Park isn’t exactly a high crime area, and I know it can’t be a red-light camera, because the city voted to ban those in 2008. So why is that thing looking at me? —CAN’T LOOK AWAY

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear Look:
First, welcome to The Doctor’s first all-election column. Remember to vote, everyone.

As to your creep-outedness: Sorry to make things worse, but cameras are facing that Hyde Park intersection on all four sides. Please relax, however. The one you saw is not looking at you, nor are its three brethren. Those cameras have been there for many years, and they have hundreds of relatives throughout the city. They are monitoring traffic patterns so as to make the timing of traffic lights more efficient and safe. After all, there’s an elementary school at that corner.

Even inside our offices within the Carew Tower, we can hear the shouts of Alex Jones fans trying to warn us of our naiveté. We acknowledge, therefore, that maybe those things are looking at us, perhaps even hypnotizing us into relinquishing our privacy by making us click “agree” on every user agreement we see without reading any of them. Oh, wait, we’ve already been doing that.

Thank you for your inquiry, but please keep your eyes on the road. You don’t want to create a situation where the return of red-light cameras might seem like a good idea.


My cousin in New Orleans is a car nut and knows a lot of automotive history. She says that in the 1920s Cincinnati almost passed a law requiring cars to have engines that couldn’t go faster than 25 miles per hour. Is this just a legend, or yet another smirk for our town’s reputation? —SLOWPOKE JOKE

Dear Joke:
Smirk away, America. The explosive increase of cars in the early 20th century greatly increased the accident rate, and as usual, our nation looked to Cincinnati for the most ridiculous solution. We didn’t disappoint. In 1923, a referendum proposed that every Cincinnati driver be required to install a “speed governor” that would literally shut off their vehicle when it exceeded 25 mph.

The automotive community instantly united to finance defeat of this issue, because surely you don’t think dark money is a new thing. The “Citizens’ Committee” trumpeted that such hobbled cars would be dangerously slow on out-of-town highways, that cops couldn’t be expected to go around looking under everyone’s hood, that the thing was easily disabled anyway, and that our city would quickly become a famous place to avoid. The claims sounded credible because, you know, they were all true.

This is a good reminder that voting makes a difference: The referendum was soundly crushed, rescuing our town’s traffic laws from becoming a national laughingstock. Obscenity laws were funny enough, thanks.


I recently moved downtown and am enjoying its renewed vitality. But with the 2018 election approaching, I’m disappointed that the Board of Elections office has moved away to Norwood. Why didn’t a place like that stay more centrally located? —ELECTILE DYSFUNCTION

Dear Electile:
The Hamilton County Board of Elections was definitely not the people’s choice when it was at 824 Broadway. Citizens who had to drive there usually discovered that walking would have been faster. A simple right turn at Broadway from the Gilbert Avenue ramp was forbidden, circling back seemed impossible by design, and even a willingness to pay double-digit dollars for a parking space was no guarantee that one would be found before the polls closed.

Also remember that this is where the region’s most passionate Democrats and Republicans have to look at one another all day. Office and storage space were sufficient when the Board first leased its three floors in 1987, but working conditions slowly came to feel like the inside of a voting booth. Today’s Norwood office is quite spacious, offers a far more central location for the county populace, has more than 2,000 free parking spaces, and its single floor is vastly more accessible for the ambulatory challenged. When you vote this year—and please, everybody, do that—your only complaint should be about the results.

Dr. Know is Jay Gilbert, weekday afternoon deejay on 92.5 FM The Fox. Submit your questions about the city’s peculiarities at drknow@cincinnatimagazine.com.

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