The Cincinnati Park Board today voted to strike down signs enforcing rules in Washington Park. The vote ended Park Rule 28, which allowed the Park Board to enact new rules by placing a sign on Washington Park grounds.
The signs, which the city could use to enforce any park rule as law, had recently come under fire by homeless advocate groups. In a statement, Josh Spring, executive director of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, wrote, “Park Rule 28 allowed opening for the back-room creation of the special rules in Washington Park that were written by an employee of the Police Department, a couple of Park Board employees and 3CDC employees — completely without the input of the public or any legislative body or process.”Before the Park Board vote, homeless advocate groups claimed the rules were being written away from public view — in part by private companies. Jerry Davis, member of the Homeless Congress, cited 3CDC's involvement in the rule writing as an example: “3CDC is a private corporation that does not answer to the Citizens of Cincinnati. This private group should not get to decide what rules are created and enforced. 3CDC is saying to the Citizens of Cincinnati, ‘You pay the bills and we make the decisions.' "
Three Over-the-Rhine residents, including Davis, sued the Park Board on Sept. 4 to put an end to the signs. In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Spring claimed the park rules “discriminate against certain classes of people” — specifically, the homeless and poor.
The Washington Park rules were different than rules at other Cincinnati parks in a few ways: They did not allow “dropping off food or clothing,” “rummaging in trash and recycling containers” or the use of any amplified sound. Homeless advocate groups claimed these rules were contrary to broader park rules that allow the sharing of food, permit inspecting and removing items from trash and recycling containers and only prohibit amplified sound if it disturbs the peace or safety of the public.
Homeless advocate groups said the rules hurt others as well. Spring wrote in the lawsuit’s press statement, “If a family decides to picnic in Washington Park and the parents hand their children food, they would be in breach of these rules, or if a friend hands a jacket to her walking companion, she would have broken these rules.”
Cincinnati Police Department Captain Daniel Gerard admitted the rules were targeting the homeless when, according to documents revealed by homeless advocate groups, he said, “Until the Drop Inn Center moves, the line about food and clothing drop off being prohibited is absolutely needed.” The Drop Inn Center is a homeless shelter.
Despite the Park Board vote, the lawsuit will continue. The city will file to dismiss the lawsuit, but the city claims the lawsuit should never have been brought forward.
“The issue was brought to our attention, we took a look at it and decided to take down the signs, yet they inexplicably decided to file a suit anyway,” said Aaron Herzig, deputy city solicitor. “That's not how it should work. The city looks at a concern and decides to take action, and there's no need for a lawsuit at that point.”
Jennifer Kinsley, the attorney representing the three Over-the-Rhine residents suing the city, defended the lawsuit and its continuance.
“We congratulate the city on doing the right thing by repealing Rule 28, but the lawsuit covers a broader range of topics than just that rule,” she said, citing statutory damages. She also said she's worried the Park Board ruling will not overturn rules already enforced by the signs: “It may and it may not. We've seen that the Park Board, 3CDC and others are willing to bend the law in order to make special rules for that park, so the status of the rules for that particular area are unclear at the moment.”
Herzig says the rules on the signs were not enforced after the signs were taken down “weeks before the lawsuit.” He says the only rules remaining are the rules officially published by the Park Board.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The final presidential debate is tonight. It will cover
foreign policy. The debate will likely focus on the recent attack on
the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya and Iran’s nuclear program. Whatever happens, political
scientists say debates typically have little-to-no electoral impact. In
aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.2 points in Ohio and Romney is up 0.3 points nationally. Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, and it could play the role of 2000's Florida. The debate begins at 9 p.m. It will be streamed live on YouTube and C-SPAN.
CityBeat will host a debate party tonight at MOTR
Pub in Over-the-Rhine from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Come watch the debate and live
tweet. Councilman Chris Seelbach will make an appearance. If you can’t
show up, at least tweet if you watch the debate with the hashtag
#cbdebate. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more information.
If Gov. John Kasich gets his way, 60 percent of bachelor’s
degrees will be completable in three years by 2014. The move intends to
raise graduation rates and save money for students. Currently, very few
students graduate in three years. Only 1 percent of Miami University
students and 2 percent of University of Cincinnati students graduate
Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a new education
policy approved by Kasich that requires all students to be proficient in
reading in third grade before they can move onto fourth grade, could
cause 40 percent of students to be held back in some schools.
The policy is meant to encourage better progress and higher reading standards, but some studies
have found retention has negative effects on children.
The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati announced a merger and expansion into Dayton. The organization will now be called the Urban League of Southwest Ohio.
Greater Cincinnati home sales ticked up in September, but there was some slowdown.
The end of the Scripps trust that funded the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Company could lead to the end of a few newspapers. But Ohio will not be affected; the company no longer owns newspapers in the state.
Plant identification has never been easier at Cincinnati parks.
University of Cincinnati researchers are using a $2.7 million grant to see if there’s a difference between generic versus brand drugs for transplant patients. The study could potentially save money and lives.
Tired of traditional bridges? Meet the trampoline bridge.
Two relatively new Ohio parks, Cincinnati’s Washington Park and Columbus’ Columbus Commons and Scioto Mile, were among the four finalists for the non-profit Urban Land Institute’s 2014 Urban Open Space Award.
According to the Institute, the award “celebrates and promotes vibrant, successful urban open spaces by annually recognizing and rewarding an outstanding example of a public destination that has enriched and revitalized its surrounding community.”
The 2014 winner was Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, described by the Institute as a “5.2-acre deck park built over a recessed freeway in Texas” (similar to what Cincinnati planners want to do with downtown’s Fort Washington Way). It bridges “the downtown Dallas cultural district with burgeoning mixed-use neighborhoods, reshaping the city and catalyzing economic development.”
The award was made at the Institute’s October meeting.
The two other finalists were Tulsa’s Guthrie Green and Santa Fe’s Railyard Park and Plaza.
To be eligible, parks had to meet these criteria:
▪ Be located in an urbanized area in North America;
▪ Have been open to the public at least one year and no more than 15 years;
▪ Be predominantly outdoors and inviting to the public;
▪ Be a lively gathering space, providing abundant and varied seating, sun and shade, and trees and plantings, with attractions and features that offer many different ways for visitors to enjoy the space;
▪ Be used intensively on a daily basis, and act as a destination for a broad spectrum of users throughout the year;
▪ Have a positive economic impact on its surroundings;
▪ Promote physical, social, and economic health of the larger community; and provide lessons, strategies, and techniques that can be used or adapted in other communities.