Member Login

Editorial: In Defense of Millennials in the Northern Kentucky River Cities

The following text was performed live by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News, as the opening of RCN Live! on Saturday, January 23.
I know why you're excited.
The Cincinnati Streetcar is coming to Northern Kentucky!
Did you see this? They're gonna look at bringing this thing across the Ohio River into Newport and people are pumped...
...and people are pissed!
What is it about traveling on the rail that sends people off the rails?!
Some people really hate this idea but it does have widespread support: the Covington mayor, the City of Newport, some business leaders.
Even the Campbell Co. Tea Party came out in favor -- but only on the condition that passengers be allowed to smoke!
But this is a big deal! It's the most progressive transportation idea Northern Kentucky has considered since the Skyloop. Remember that? Little single passenger pods that would zip you around the River Cities? They said it would look like The Jetsons right here in Northern Kentucky.
They were even talking about a monorail over here at one point!
But that was the 90's, when Northern Kentucky used to dream big.
You remember the 90's in Northern Kentucky? Good times... Corporex was trying to get a riverfront development off the ground, Northern Kentucky University got a new president who couldn't stop building things, Judy Clabes was editor of the newspaper, Joe Meyer was running for office... Holy shit -- the 90's are back!
Which could be weird now because Northern Kentucky's relationship with the 1990's has changed, particularly with those who came of age in the 1990's. You know them, these know-it-all Millennial... these hipsters... with their rock & roll attitudes and their makeout parties.
Man, do people hate Millennials!
Some people seem to  believe that every new idea down here in the River Cities caters to these folks, and they don't like it.
Red Bike? Food trucks? Parklets? Pop-up shops? Murals? Branding? ...Streetcar?
But then there are others who argue that it's these very blood-sucking, wide-eyed, hover-boarding leeches that are going to turn these River Cities around.
So, we at The River City News rounded up some noted experts on Millennials and hipsters and urban living in Northern Kentucky to get their perspective.

What terrible people, all of them.
You know, in my line of work, I spend a lot of time talking to people, all kinds of people, and all generations. And I really don't think this is about a new generation. I think it's about change.

And that's fair because the last time change came to the urban core, it wasn't good. Families moved, businesses closed, properties deteriorated.
But now, we've bottomed out, and people are moving back, businesses are opening, properties are being brought back to life.
So, in an effort to make the cities more vibrant, people are trying things.
Should solutions and ideas be as hard to find and as unwelcome as... a Democrat in the Kenton County Building? Or in the Campbell County Building? ...Or, anywhere in Boone County?
Or should ideas be welcomed and discussed like adults working together to improve our cities?
You see, there are lots of people out there spending a great amount of time trying to create an experience here that aims to accommodate the needs of the urban lifestyle. So, guess what? That means focusing on pedestrians and not cars, it means creating places to sit outside, it means bicycles, art, color, events in the street, eating from food trucks, trails, and yes, maybe even many new ways to cross the river to enjoy what Cincinnati is rapidly becoming.
I get it. Some of you come down to the River Cities and you see color, and bikes, and murals, and street dancing, and everybody's getting fit, and you're scared that your old hometown is becoming one giant gay bar!
But there's no reason to be scared. 
We don't have to look far to visualize success. As much as it may pain some of you, there is a pretty good instruction manual  -- and it's called, Cincinnati.
If we're afraid of losing business, customers, residents, and opportunities to Cincinnati, is it not wise to take an honest look at what Cincinnati has done to make itself so attractive?
I know, we live in a knee-jerk society where every idiot has a megaphone and a Google's worth of knowledge. But the most idiotic debate in our community is about Millennials. 
I don't think being born in the 1980's automatically makes you an idiot. It just makes you younger than people born before. And that's all. 
So, let's cool it with the Millennial-bashing, all right?
I'm tired of hearing how ungrateful this younger generation is.
Many people from previous generations approach Millennials with such disdain."We didn't have Facebook, we played outside, so how about a Thank-You? We didn't have to go to college and we got management jobs, anyway, so how about a Thank-You? We smoked when we were pregnant with you, so about a Thank-You?"
Fine, but idiocy is not wasted exclusively on youth. I have middle-aged friends whose deepest thoughts are about whether Facebook should have a "dislike" button.
And let's be clear about something: Millennials didn't crash the economy and create an urban environment like that which was inherited. That was previous generations. And now, Millennials are among the most enthusiastic champions of urban revitalization, of improving the way our economy works and the way education is delivered.
Research shows that Millennials are more generous with their time, prefer to buy from companies that intend to make a positive local impact, want their employers to donate to social causes, and a strong majority of them would rather make $40,000 at a job they love instead of $100,000 at a job they find boring.
Yep, Millennials are much different than you, but that doesn't make them stupid.
And the most important thing to know is, Millennials are mostly adults now, so stop talking about them like they're children. They are not the future, they are now.
So, when you see champions of rebuilding the urban core and adding to vitality here, whether the people doing the heavy lifting be 25 or 75, instead of trying to tear them down for trying something, here's an idea:
How about a thank-you?
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News; Video by Chuck Beatty and Sarah Phipps
Photo: Anthony Cadle