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Robot Cops

By Stephanie Dunlap · August 11th, 2004 · All The News That Fits
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Cincinnati City Council voted Aug. 4 to put the repeal of Article 12 of the city charter on the Nov. 2 ballot. Gary Wright, chair of Citizens to Restore Fairness, was in attendance for the formality of the vote, though council legally had no choice but to obey the will of petitioners who'd gathered more than twice the necessary number of signatures required for the referendum. Councilman Pat DeWine double-checked that with the city solicitor.

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The city might start using automated traffic controls to catch drivers who speed or run red lights. Cameras snap an offender's license plate and the bill arrives in the mail.

A speaker told council the cameras would violate his Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure and his 14th Amendment right to due process of law. He also said that what the companies selling the cameras don't advertise is that simply making yellow lights longer would nearly eliminate the running of red ones.

William Kirkland, a member of the Black Fist, called the devices "electronic racial profiling." He's unconvinced that the cameras will be fairly distributed throughout the city.

"We don't need any more Big Brother," he said.

Mayor Charlie Luken expressed other reservations.

"I do think we should think carefully about putting cameras everywhere around the city and substitute that for good law enforcement," he said.

Council voted 6-3 to allow automated traffic controls, though any contract specifying the cost and location of the cameras will have to pass before council again, Luken said.

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Kirkland also asked Luken to sit down with the civil rights boycotters and protesters before leaving office next year.

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Pat DeWine and Councilman Sam Malone plan to propose a referendum on elimination of the city's property tax.

"Cincinnati already spends more money per person than every other city in Ohio," DeWine said Aug. 4.

But Councilwoman Laketa Cole said property taxes aren't what chases people out of Cincinnati; a lack of housing does that. Surveys found that more than 75 percent of the time, residents who moved less than 50 miles away left to find new and better housing, she said.

Instead of eliminating property taxes, Cole proposed funneling property tax revenue exclusively toward new housing.

"Fifty-five percent of the city's housing stock was built before 1950, and we simply cannot compete with the suburbs with our existing housing stock," Cole said.

Her motion is pending in the Finance Committee.

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Council also voted to allow festival seating at concerts. General admission seating has been banned here since 11 people were trampled to death at the Who's concert in 1979.

One speaker described helping carry the lifeless body of a woman named Jennifer from the concert and begged council to reconsider. Before voting to rescind the ban, council members said that concert safety controls had improved.

Reinstating festival seating was a start, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece said, but council also should repeal the 2.1 percent tax on money entertainers and athletes earn in the city.

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Luken seemed to wake Malone from a reverie when he asked the freshman councilman if he had any comments before the council meeting adjourned.

"I am not running for mayor," Malone blurted out. "I love everybody. I come in peace."

Luken then asked City Manager Valerie Lemmie if she, too, loves everybody.

"I love people who love me," she said.



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