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by Hannah McCartney 05.22.2012
Posted In: Education, LGBT Issues, Equality, News, Courts at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Judge Rules 'Jesus is Not a Homophobe' T-shirt Permissible

Federal court orders district to pay $20,000 in damages and costs for banning teen's shirt

A federal court judge in Cincinnati ruled Monday that gay Ohio student Maverick Couch will be permitted to wear his "Jesus Is Not A Homophobe" T-shirt to school whenever he pleases.

Wayne Local School District, the district in which Couch attends high school, will also be required to pay Couch $20,000 in damages and court costs, according to Judge Michael Barrett's ruling.

Couch was first prevented from wearing the T-shirt in April 2011, when he showed up to school in the shirt during a "Day of Silence," meant to raise awareness of cases in which gay students are victims of bullying. Waynesville High School Principal Randy Gebhardt allegedly told Couch that he needed to either wear the T-shirt inside out or remove it, stating that the "T-shirt had to do with religion, religion and state have to be separate," and the T-shirt was "disrupting the educational process."

Couch complied, and was asked to remove the shirt when he wore it to school a second time. Principal Gebhardt threatened to suspend Couch if the shirt was worn again.

Couch and Lambda Legal Defense, a legal organization focused on protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community, brought forth a lawsuit against Wayne Local School District on April 3, 2012, alleging that Couch's first amendment rights had been egregiously violated in barring him from wearing the shirt. Only a day after the lawsuit was filed, administrators at Waynesville High School told Couch he'd be allowed to wear the T-shirt annually on one day exclusively: "Day of Silence," which took place April 20.

"I just wanted to wear my shirt. The shirt is a statement of pride, and I hope other students like me know that they can be proud, too," said Couch, according to lamdalegal.org.

When Lambda Legal sent a letter inquiring about Couch's First Amendment rights to the school district, this was the district's response: "the message communicated by the student's T-shirt was sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in the school."

For information about LGBTQ students' rights in schools, click here.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 06.13.2012
Posted In: Courts, News at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Court: UC's Free Speech Policy Unconstitutional

Judge orders university to change policy

The University of Cincinnati lost a court battle yesterday when a federal judge ruled that the public university's decision to restrict all "demonstrations, picketing, and rallies" to a Free Speech Area was a violation of the First Amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled that containing the area in which students and outsiders who obtain the proper permission to demonstrate acted as an unconstitutional limitation.

In February, the UC Chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) filed a lawsuit against the university after they were denied the right to circulate freely across UC's campus to gather signatures for a petition to place the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment on the Nov. 2012 ballot.

The students were restricted to gathering signatures only in the university-designated Free Speech Area within the McMicken Commons Northwest Corner, which is less than one tenth the size of a football field. Officials threatened to arrest students who attempted to gather signatures outside of that zone. The space restriction often rendered the the students' efforts ineffective; the Free Speech Area covers, relatively, a miniscule part of UC's campus.

YAL plaintiffs argued that UC's free speech policy was unfairly vague and unconstitutional. The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a non-profit, non-partisan legal center, assisted YAL with the lawsuit.

According to a press release from the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, Judge Black's ruling prevents UC from enacting or upholding a free speech policy from:

• “Requiring prior notification for the solicitation by students of signatures for petitions;”

• “Prohibiting all solicitation by students of signatures for petitions in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoor spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks;”

• “Requiring that all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ occur only in the Free Speech Area;”

• “Requiring 5 to 15 days prior notification for any and all student ‘demonstrations, picketing, or rallies’ without differentiations;”

• “Imposing or enforcing any policy restricting student speech in any designated public forum, including the Free Speech Area, the outdoors spaces described in the MainStreet Event Guide, and campus sidewalks, that is not individually and narrowly tailored to serve a compelling university interest.

In March, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education named UC's speech policies the worst in the nation specifically because of the restrictive free speech zone.

 
 
by James McNair 12.10.2012
Posted In: Courts, Women's Health, News at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Court Might Reveal Identity of Miami Rape Flier Author

Ohio Supreme Court has until Dec. 14 to consider settlement over sealing of case

The sealing of a criminal court case involving a former Miami University student who posted a “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier in a freshman dormitory now has the presiding judge defending his decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. And he’s doing it with the help of the Butler County prosecutor who endorsed the secrecy.

Robert Lyons, whose part-time job as the judge for Butler County Area I Court supplements his income as a practicing attorney, took the student’s guilty plea to disorderly conduct on Nov. 8. At the request of the young man’s lawyer, Dennis Deters, the judge ordered the case file and all printed references to the defendant’s name sealed from public view. The order extended to paperwork generated by the Miami University Police Department. In effect, other than the press coverage it received, all record that the crime was committed and the perpetrator was brought to justice doesn’t exist.

Six days later, the Cincinnati Enquirer filed suit against Lyons with the Ohio Supreme Court. It said Lyons erred by issuing a “blanket” seal of the case. It said he failed to “find by clear and convincing evidence that the presumption of public access is outweighed by a higher interest” and further failed to conduct a hearing where the Enquirer could argue for public access. The Enquirer didn't mention in its initial report on the plea deal an intent to sue over the sealing, and to date it hasn’t reported on its own lawsuit. 

Lyons was given until Dec. 14 to file an answer. What’s weird is that Lyons is represented by Butler County’s Prosecuting Attorney, Mike Gmoser. In Ohio, the county prosecutor serves as legal counsel for county government, county agencies and school districts — and represents them in court — as standard practice. As a private practitioner, though, Lyons specializes in defending people accused of drunken driving. Guess who sits at the opposing counsel’s table in those cases? Yes, Gmoser’s deputy prosecutors.

Lyons’ unusual role as defender and decider of DWI cases drew umbrage from Gmoser in March. According to the Hamilton Journal-News, Lyons the judge was about to rule on a motion to disallow the results of an Intoxilyzer 8000 blood-alcohol testing device in a DWI case. Lyons the lawyer, meanwhile, had challenged the validity of the machine in other cases, and his firm ran seminars about its failings. At Gmoser’s request, a higher court judge in July ordered Lyons to step down from hearing 10 pending DWI cases.

Last Thursday, in his initial response to the Enquirer’s lawsuit to open the rape tipster’s court file, Lyons hinted at the possibility of not fighting the suit. He asked to have until Dec. 14 to file a full response “so as to give settlement discussions an opportunity to come to fruition.”

 
 
by 06.08.2011
Posted In: News, Courts, Religion at 04:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Former XU Priest Under Investigation

A priest who previously was the campus minister at Xavier University has been relieved of his duties by the Catholic Church after it learned about "the improper touching" of two minors several years ago in Maryland.

The allegations against the Rev. Louis Bonacci were investigated by the church's Province Review Board, which also has contacted civil authorities. Bonacci served as minster at Xavier from 1994-99. Until the allegations were made, he was serving as coordinator of spiritual direction for priests and deacons in the Diocese of Scranton, in Pennsylvania.

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by 09.15.2010
Posted In: Immigration, Protests, Courts at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Groups Plan Protest at Reds Game

Some local groups will be holding signs outside of Great American Ball Park today and Thursday while the Reds play, protesting Arizona's new immigration law and seeking signatures for a petition that asks Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All-Star Game from the state. The Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center, the Immigration Advocacy Movement and various religious and civic leaders are organizing the event and will distribute leaflets to passersby.

Also, some participants plan to disrupt today's game by unfurling two large banners stating “Not in Arizona, not in Ohio — Immigrant Rights Now — No S.B. 1070” and “Shame on Arizona, Don’t Spread Hate.” The action was planned after Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s announcement that he won't change the venue for next year's All-Star Game.

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by 12.07.2010
Posted In: Censorship, Media, Internet, Government, Courts at 09:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 

Julian Assange Quotes Rupert Murdoch

After WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange voluntarily turned himself into British authorities today, he was denied bail and remains in custody until at least Dec. 14, according to The Guardian newspaper in London.

Assange, 39, was told by London Metropolitan police about new charges he faces in connection with two sexual encounters he had in Sweden. "He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010," the newspaper reported.

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by Andy Brownfield 10.09.2012
 
 
jesse jackson

Jesse Jackson Rails Against Voter Suppression in Cincinnati

Appears on same day Husted petitions Supreme Court to strike down in-person voting

Speaking to about 60 people at the Rockdale Baptist Church in Avondale, the Rev. Jesse Jackson talked about the many “schemes” used to disenfranchise voters while encouraging Cincinnatians to register to vote and take advantage of Ohio’s early voting days.

“Dealing in this state, for example, you think so much about the painful days in the deep South — the overt schemes to deny the right to vote,” Jackson said on Tuesday, the last day to register to vote in Ohio.

“We saw Ohio as a kind of beacon of light, the beacon of hope once we ran across the river coming north. This year we’ve seen Ohio and Pennsylvania take the lead in trying to purge voters and suppress the vote to determine the outcome.”

Jackson’s comments came on the same day Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court the Six Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to allow early in-person voting on the three days before Election Day.

The three days had previously only applied to military personnel and their families.

Republicans like Husted have cited cost as the reason to not allow in-person voting on the three days before the election. But in an Aug. 19 email to The Columbus Dispatch, Franklin County Republican Party chairman Doug Preisse said “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

Pennsylvania, meanwhile, tried to require voters take a photo ID with them into the polls. A state judge blocked the law from going into effect for the 2012 election.

Jackson said restrictions as to who can vote when and where undermine the purpose of democracy. 

“Open access, free, transparent voting makes democracy real,” he said.

Flanked by a tapestry portraying President Barack Obama, Jackson touted the president’s accomplishments in his first term and urged those assembled to give him a second.

Jackson was in Toledo Oct. 5 pushing early voting. He said he was in Cincinnati because “Ohio matters” and he saw it as a way to penetrate Appalachia because “poverty is not just a black problem.”

 
 
by 03.09.2010
Posted In: Media, Internet, Courts at 09:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Enquirer Profits from Trademark Flap

Anyone who looked at the front page of today's Cincinnati Enquirer saw a prominent advertisement along the bottom featuring an image of a treasure chest and announcing, “Roadshow is in town all week in Cincinnati!”

To the uninitiated, it might appear as if the popular TV show Antiques Roadshow is taping an episode in the Queen City. The program uses a similar image and logo, after all. And that’s exactly why WGBH-TV in Boston filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 23 in Illinois against the company that placed the ad, Treasure Hunters Roadshow.

Treasure Hunters used the ad to publicize its event this week at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Unlike Antiques Roadshow, Treasure Hunters doesn’t appraise items and tries to buy some antiques that people bring in for the lowest price possible.

WGBH, which produces the show seen on PBS outlets across the nation, including WCET-TV (Channel 48), alleges the company is guilty of trademark infringement through its name and marketing tactics. It has sued the Illinois-based firm and its owner, Jeffrey Parsons, seeking an injunction to prevent use of the name and image.

As first noted by Bill Sloat on his Daily Bellwether blog, the flap over “fair use” issues has received extensive media coverage in Illinois.

Ironically, The Enquirer ran the ad just days after its editor, Tom Callinan, wrote a column criticizing unnamed blogs, Web sites and radio stations of unfairly and illegally using the newspaper’s content.

“(O)thers are profiting from our work,” Callinan wrote. “We're no longer willing to idly watch our good efforts stolen.”

As a result, The Enquirer is using a software program called Attributor to track users of its contents, gauge if the use is improper and issue warnings to alleged violators.

“In an attempt to track down such content parasites, The Enquirer and Cincinnati.Com now employ technology that scours the media landscape for illegal use of our content,” Callinan wrote. “In recent weeks, we have sent warnings to several blogs, Web sites and radio stations.

“We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.”

Callinan didn’t, however, attribute that last line to Network, the Oscar-winning 1976 film about a banal media outlet run amok in pursuit of profits and ratings. The line is uttered by unhinged TV talk show host Howard Beale, famously played by Peter Finch.

Several local bloggers were upset by Callinan’s column, calling it heavy-handed and reminding them of Big Brother with its weird “we’re watching you” vibe. They’re wondering who – exactly – he’s alleging has made improper use of the newspaper’s content. Several blogs often post items commenting on news reported by The Enquirer or criticizing its coverage, but they generally attribute the newspaper and help drive Internet traffic to its site.

Sloat e-mailed Callinan asking for more details, but the editor remained vague.

“(T)he recent ones have been small blogs and websites who may simply not know better. I don't want to out them. We handle it with automated warnings (via a program called Attributor) and it usually goes away without escalation,” Callinan responded. “My threshold for getting into a public outing of the issue would be pretty high — repeated incidents, warnings and letters from our lawyers. Just hasn't risen to that level.”

Of course, if the problem hasn’t risen to that level, why write such a high-profile and accusatory column about it?

So far, The Enquirer hasn’t reported on the lawsuit against its advertiser. Maybe the dispute “just hasn’t risen to that level” either.

 

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 03.30.2012
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Ending months of speculation about why a special prosecutor was investigating her, a Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleader was indicted Thursday for allegedly having sex with an underage student while she was a teacher at Dixie Heights High School in Edgewood. A grand jury indicted Sarah Jones on first-degree sexual abuse and a charge of unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual acts. The charges are felonies that are punishable by up to five years in prison. She resigned from her teaching job in November. Jones won $11 million in a default judgment in summer 2010 arising from a libel lawsuit she filed against Thedirty.com, a gossip website. An online post had claimed Jones had two venereal diseases and was having sex in her high school classroom. The website has asked that the judgment be dismissed, while Jones has appeared on TV shows like ABC’s 20/20 to discuss cyber-harassment.

Cincinnati officials are touting how the violent crime rate in Over-the-Rhine has dropped in recent months, on the heels of the FBI and local police arresting five alleged gang members Thursday that are accused of committing crimes there. Police note there hasn't been a homicide in Over-the-Rhine in the past seven months, adding stepped up patrols partially are responsible..

Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order Thursday that is designed to crack down on human trafficking. His order creates a task force to coordinate statewide rescue efforts, law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, and services for victims. The task force is scheduled to report back to Kasich within 90 days on the problem's scope and how best to address it.

As The Enquirer's parent company this week sheds numerous employees by offering a voluntary “early retirement” severance deal, a union representing reporters at The Dayton Daily News are fighting efforts to replace older, more highly paid workers. The Dayton Newspaper Guild rallied outside the Cox Media Center on Wednesday, as the union resumes contract negotiations with the media company. Guild leaders said newspaper executives are seeking unlimited power to use freelancers to replace professional journalists, along with wanting to abolish job security for its most experienced workers by eliminating seniority-based layoffs. Cox also owns newspapers in Mason, West Chester, Hamilton and Middletown.

A Columbus man is crediting his friend for saving his life after a freak accident involving a turkey. Ohio State University “super fan” John Chubb, who also is known as “Buck i Guy,” was recently driving home on Interstate 79 from Pittsburgh after the Buckeyes’ win over Gonzaga when a turkey crashed through his windshield and knocked him unconscious. Chubb's friend, a retired Columbus firefighter, grabbed the steering wheel and safely brought the car to a stop. (Shades of Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati: “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”)

In news elsewhere, a group launching a $3.6 million advertising campaign criticizing President Obama for high gasoline prices is connected to the notorious Koch brothers. The American Energy Alliance is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, and sources told Politico that both groups are funded partly by industrialists Charles and David Koch and their donor network. In all, the brothers’ network is aiming to steer significantly more than $200 million to conservative groups for political advertising and organizing ahead of Election Day.

A conservative think tank with ties to local politicians has been drawn into the controversy over Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's shooting death. The unarmed 17-year-old was killed last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer who is expected to use Florida's “stand your ground” law as his defense. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model legislation for state lawmakers, promoted "stand your ground" laws. A statement issued by ALEC said the law probably is being misapplied in Martin's case: “It does not allow you to pursue another person. It does not allow you to seek confrontation." State Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) is among ALEC's leaders, as CityBeat has previously reported here and here.

Meanwhile, the police reports from the two officers who first responded to the scene of Martin's shooting have been posted online. They reveal what the officers encountered and how shooter George Zimmerman reacted upon being confronted by police.

Newt Gingrich's recent casual attitude toward his supposed presidential campaign might now have an explanation. The Washington Times has revealed that Gingrich secretly met with GOP rival, Mitt Romney, on Saturday. The ex-House Speaker said he has made no deal to end his bid for the Republican nomination, adding he hasn’t been offered a position in a potential Romney administration in exchange for dropping out. Curiouser and curiouser.

The Human Rights Campaign has obtained confidential documents from a prominent anti-gay rights group that indicates its legislative strategy includes trying to divide African-American and gay voters and pit them against one another. The documents, from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), were unsealed this week in a Maine court case. “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,”the NOM report states. “Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.” Seems like that strategy worked with our local NAACP president, Christopher Smitherman.
 
 
by German Lopez 11.01.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, COAST, Courts, News, Streetcar at 03:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
coast

COAST’s Busy Week in Court

Conservative group involved in two lawsuits related to streetcar, CPS levy

A local conservative group is making a lot of use of member and lawyer Chris Finney. The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) was involved in two lawsuits filed this week: one regarding the Blue Ash Airport deal and another regarding Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS).

Criticism of the Blue Ash Airport deal is not new for COAST. The group has repeatedly criticized the deal, largely because as much as $26 million from the deal will be used to fund Cincinnati’s $110 million streetcar. In the past, COAST has repeatedly characterized the streetcar as a “boondoggle.”

The deal between Blue Ash and Cincinnati is not new, but it did get reworked earlier this year. In 2006, the $37.5 million deal had Cincinnati selling Blue Ash some land on the Blue Ash Airport property, which Blue Ash would then use to build a park. Blue Ash voters approved the deal, which contained a 0.25 percent earnings tax hike, in a two-to-one margin.

When Cincinnati couldn’t get a $10 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the city stopped working on the airport as it became too costly. The city then tried to shift the proceeds from the deal to the Cincinnati streetcar, but the FAA said funding must be used for airports since the property is classified as an airport. 

Eventually, Cincinnati asked Blue Ash to rework the deal. The plan was Blue Ash would rescind the deal, and then Cincinnati would officially close down the airport and resell the land to Blue Ash while it’s no longer classified as an airport.

At first, city officials said $11 million of the opened-up money would go to the streetcar and $26 million would go to municipal projects. Since then, the city has shifted $15 million of that municipal project funding — supposedly temporarily — to help Duke Energy move underground utility lines from the path of the proposed streetcar route, at least until the city and energy company can work out an ongoing feud.

The reworked deal, which was approved by Blue Ash City Council in a 6-1 vote on Aug. 9, seemed like a win-win for both sides. Cincinnati would get more funding for ongoing projects, and Blue Ash netted $2.25 million from the deal — $250,000 to cover fees for Blue Ash’s new park and $2 million was subtracted from the deal since Blue Ash would no longer have to match the FAA grant.

But COAST does not approve. The organization doesn’t want any funding redirected to the streetcar, and it claims the reworked deal is not allowed. The lawsuit filed by Blue Ash resident Jeffrey Capell and Finney cites a section of the Blue Ash City Charter that disallows some contracts: “No contract shall be made for a term longer than five years, except that franchises for public utility services and contracts with other governmental units for service to be received or given may be made for any period no longer than twenty years.”

Mark Vander Laan, Blue Ash’s city solicitor, says the city charter section the lawsuit is referencing is irrelevant. He argues the deal is not a contract as the city charter defines it; instead, it’s a mortgage and debt instrument. In the Blue Ash City Charter, there’s another section that deals with debt instruments, and that’s what the rescinded deal falls under, according to Vander Laan. He says the city would not function as it does today if the lawsuit’s claim was correct: “If that were the case, all the bonds we’ve ever issued would have been incorrect.”

Vander Laan says the real issue here is disapproval of the streetcar, not any legal technicalities: “They may have a complaint about the streetcar, but that’s not the city of Blue Ash’s issue at all. We don’t think it’s even an appropriate basis to challenge this.”

He added, “Frankly, if somebody had an issue with (the deal), they should have taken that issue back in 2006 and 2007.” That’s when Blue Ash voters first approved the airport deal, but back then, the money wasn’t going to the streetcar, which didn’t even exist at the time.

In another legal battle, COAST filed a lawsuit against CPS over staff allegedly campaigning for Issue 42, a ballot initiative that will renew a CPS levy voters approved in 2008. The case goes back to 2002, when Tom Brinkman, chairman of COAST, sued CPS for “illegal and unconstitutional use of school property for campaign purposes,” according to the lawsuit. That case ended in a settlement, which forced CPS to enter into a “COAST Agreement” that says, “CPS will strictly enforce a policy of preventing … Other Political Advertisements on CPS Property.”

But COAST now says that agreement has been broken, and the lawsuit cites emails as evidence. The emails show staff promoting voter registration drives, which aren’t directly linked to Issue 42, and staff offering to contribute and volunteer to the campaign. In the emails, there are a few instances of Jens Sutmoller, Issue 42’s campaign coordinator, asking CPS staff to give him personal emails, which shows he was trying to avoid breaking any rules.

In CityBeat’s experience, CPS officials have been pretty strict with following the settlement with COAST. In a Sept. 20 email, Janet Walsh, spokesperson for CPS, told CityBeat she could not provide some levy-related information during work hours: “Yes, but due to constraints about doing levy-related work on work time (we can't), it may have to wait until I can get on my home computer.”

COAST has endorsed a “No” vote on Issue 42. In CityBeat’s in-depth look into CPS and Issue 42 (“Battered But Not Broken,” issue of Oct. 3), Brinkman defended COAST’s position by saying they’re not necessarily against the school getting funding. COAST is more interested in holding the school accountable: “It’s a five-year levy. The reason we have five-year levies is so the public can gauge after four or four and a half years how the entity where the taxes are going to is doing with the money.” In that sense, for COAST, it’s important to bring the levy renewal to voters as late in the game as possible — November 2013 in this case. CityBeat this week endorsed a "Yes" vote on Issue 42 here.

Criticism of CPS levies is also not new for COAST. The group campaigned against last year’s new, permanent $49.5 million levy, which CPS said it needed to meet new technology needs and keep some buildings open.

 
 

 

 

 
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