Three of the four Republican members of Cincinnati City Council introduced a motion today calling for the city manager to immediately begin enforcing all city laws at Piatt Park, which eventually might result in the arrest of Occupy Cincinnati protestors.
Councilman Wayne Lippert introduced the motion this afternoon. Councilwomen Leslie Ghiz and Amy Murray signed the document, giving it their support. It would require at least two more signatures to have enough backing to be approved.
But it might take awhile before the measure is voted upon by City Council if, in fact, it ever is given the legislative process used by the group.
Because the motion was submitted today, it cannot be referred to a committee for review and recommendation until the next meeting of the entire City Council; that occurs on Oct. 26.
At that time, it likely would be referred to council's Law and Public Safety Committee — but such an action is left to the discretion of Mayor Mark Mallory, who could delay it, perhaps indefinitely. Even if Mallory referred it to the committee, it wouldn't be discussed until its Nov. 1 meeting. If a committee majority recommended passage — and that's a big “if” — it would go before the full City Council for a decision on Nov. 2.
Which just happens to be the last City Council meeting before elections on Nov. 8. A coincidence, we're sure.
Lippert's motion states: “For nearly the past two weeks, the city administration has refused to apply and enforce the law as it pertains to the city's parks. This is out of the ordinary in relation to how these laws have been enforced in the past. This is certainly dangerous for the city from a legal perspective going forward.”
It continues, “With the exception of the stay put on ticketing/removing people from the city parks by a federal court on Oct. 18, 2011, the city has made the decision without the authority or discretion, to selectively enforce our laws with regard to city parks. This is a regrettable and dangerous error on the part of the city administration. The city administration has put our city at great legal risk with regard to its choice to selectively enforce our laws, and its discretion must end immediately.”
Although the issuance of citations to protestors has begun again, a staffer in Lippert's office said the motion asks the administration to enforce the law and policies that have been customary for individuals in the parks after they close. “We have been told that the customary policy when it comes to individuals in the park after 10 p.m. is that they are cited two or three times, and following that they are arrested,” the staffer said.
Based on answers given to The Enquirer, at least two other council members agree that protestors should be removed after the park's closing — which would mean Lippert's motion may be approved.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls told The Enquirer, “I believe in the constitutionally protected right of speech, right of assembly, and right to petition government to redress grievances. I do not believe that 'occupying' public space by camping out and violating regulation designed to manage use and ensure reasonable access is protected. I do not think the protesters should be allowed to stay overnight.”
Also, Councilman Chris Bortz told the newspaper, “I think the Occupy Cincinnati protesters should be permitted to protest anywhere they choose, so long as they follow the laws that apply to all of us equally. Overnight stays in the park are not permitted, and selective enforcement of those laws opens the city to liability from anyone who may choose to protest in the future. The city must consistently, predictably and equitably enforce its laws.”
Bortz's family operates Towne Properties, which owns apartment buildings next to the park. Bortz's uncle, ex-Mayor Arn Bortz, has lobbied Mallory to remove the protestors.
Lippert and Murray are appointees to council, each seeking their first elected term on Nov. 8.
Lippert was appointed by maverick, conservative Democrat Jeff Berding, a Bengals executive who resigned from the group amid controversy. Berding recently has been stumping statewide for a “yes” vote on Issue 2, to retain GOP-approved restrictions on the collective bargaining rights of public sector labor unions.
Murray was appointed by Chris Monzel, who left City Council when he was elected to the Hamilton County Commission.