If you're one of those people who enjoys relaxing in a public park, maybe eating a sandwich and enjoying the lush greenspace Cincinnati has grown proud of, that's all well and good. (Bring a blanket and some apples; enjoy yourself.) That is, until you get a little sleepy and want to lie down on the ground or a bench — that's illegal now.
The Cincinnati Park Board yesterday approved a no-lying down rule across all of its 5,000 acres of park land, likely in response to ongoing Occupy Cincinnati lawsuits over the legality of closing the park at night. People who lie down in parks are now subject to $150 fines for the misdemeanor offense.
Demonstrators filling downtown's Piatt Park on Garfield Place as part of the anti-corporate, Occupy Wall Street protests should take heart: The park's namesakes likely would support your actions.
In an excellent post on The Daily Bellwether blog, writer Bill Sloat looks at the history of the Piatt brothers, Donn and Abram, and the causes they held dear. Abram Piatt was a wealthy farmer and poet who served as a general for the Union Army during the Civil War. Donn Piatt was a staff officer for the Union Army.
The city of Cincinnati and Occupy protesters have reached a legal settlement that will erase criminal charges against protesters and designate part of Piatt Park a 24-hour public space for one year. The open space will still be subject to park rules, which include the “prohibition or restriction on noise, encampments, open flames, tents, and common law nuisance principles.”
The Enquirer reported
today that the settlement was expected to be filed in court this morning. The settlement will end protesters’ federal lawsuit
against the city, which was based on the First Amendment right to
peaceably assemble. The far eastern section of the park, which is
where Occupy Cincinnati set up its encampment starting in October and
where many of the arrests occurred, will reportedly be designated a
12-hour public space for one year beginning 10 p.m. March 19.
Should the city refuse to extend the Open Period, Occupy protesters are allowed to institute a new lawsuit challenging the park rules.
The city has agreed to install new signage at the park noting its modified closing time and will install signage or placards at least 14 days prior to the open time’s scheduled expiration at 11:59 p.m. March 18, 2013.
The city retains the right to terminate the Open Period should park rules not be followed. According to the lawsuit:
Consistent and persistent violations of Park Board Rules and/or generally applicable laws which constitute a public nuisance under Chapter 3767 of the Ohio Revised Code, including without limitation any conduct in violation of prohibitions or restrictions on noise, encampments, open flames, or tents, shall constitute a breach of this Agreement. As a remedy for such breach, the City may terminate the Open Period prior to the expiration date set forth in Section 3 above by obtaining an order from a court of competent jurisdiction enjoining any such nuisance and finding that termination of the Open Period is necessary to abate any such nuisance.
City Hall will appoint an individual to function as the liaison of the Park Board and schedule a public meeting within 60 days and another within 180 days to accept public input.
More than 20 Occupy Cincinnati protesters last night received citations for staying at Piatt Park after its official closing time, a process which included warnings by police and then some peaceful ticketing before police left the occupiers to their business. CityBeat has launched a page dedicated to our ongoing coverage of the protests, including a live feed of #occupycincinnati and #occupycincy hashtags.
Streetcar proponents have spent considerably more on their campaign than the anti-streetcar people, probably because Issue 48 is so wide-reaching it has brought out people concerned with things way more important than the streetcar such as regional planning, commuter rail and making Cincinnati not look like it totally sucks.
Also being outspent are the SB 5 supporters, who have seen support decline dramatically in recent weeks as people look around their neighborhoods and see a bunch of regular people whose rights would be taken away. And Building a Better Ohio does unethical things like this, which makes people think they are meanies.
Here's a blog about City Council candidate Chris Smitherman arguing against all the legal experts who say Issue 48 will block all rail construction through 2020.
Headline: "Stadium tax rebate favors wealthy." Analysis: "No shit." Owners of the county's most-expensive homes reportedly receive more savings from the property tax rollback than they pay in the sales tax increase that was supposed to pay for the sports stadiums. An Enquirer analysis of last year's property tax payout found that the half-cent sales tax increase amounts to a maximum of $192 annually, while some high-value homeowners received tax rebates of $1,175 or more.
• Million-dollar homes account for less than 1 percent of households, yet they received nearly 5 percent of the total rebates — or one out of every $20 paid out.
• One out of four homeowners - those with a home worth $200,000 or more - got $8.8 million in rebates - more than half the total rollback.
• The median Hamilton County homeowner with a property worth $106,700 is eligible to get a $50.15 rebate under the rollback.
• The 132 Hamilton County homeowners with houses worth $2.5 million or more get at least $1,175 apiece.
• Property owners with homes worth $150,000 or less account for nearly six out of 10 households, but collectively they received less than 23 percent of the benefits.
County commissioners have four days to tell the auditor to go ahead and tax homeowners at the previous rate, but Chris Monzel and Todd Portune are up for reelection this year and won't dare change take it away from the powerful rich people.
[Correction: Monzel is not up for reelection.]
Said former commissioner David Pepper:"At its core, the property tax rollback creates a reverse-Robin Hood scheme, where middle-class homeowners and renters are not only the ones paying for the stadium, but also footing the bill for a tax break for high-value property owners. Those high-end property owners are not paying for the stadium at all."
Several other municipal court judges either declined comment or said they would consider the point Stockdale makes in his letter if it is raised during the hearings.
Attorneys for the protesters said they intend to do just that. They already have asked judges to dismiss the charges on grounds the park board rules violate the free speech rights of the protesters.
They say Stockdale’s letter raises another weakness in the city’s case against their clients.
“Whether it’s a violation of the First Amendment or an over-reach by the park board, they are clearly relevant questions,” said Rob Linneman, an attorney for the protesters.
After three nights of arrests, Occupy Cincinnati protesters Sunday night chose to leave Piatt Park at its 10 p.m. closing time and march on the sidewalks around the park. Eleven members were arrested Saturday night for staying on the square after a rally past the 3 a.m. time allowed by its permit. The group is still waiting for a federal judge to rule on whether or not Piatt Park's 10 p.m. closing time is a violation of the First Amendment.
Chicago Police arrested 130 Occupy Chicago protesters over the weekend, and the group plans to picket Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office in response. Protesters described harsh treatment by police, with some spending more than 24 hours in jail. The picketing at City Hall will reportedly include a nurse's union in response to two nurses and a union organizer being arrested while volunteering at Occupy Chicago.
Uh oh, the owners of buildings adjacent to Piatt Park are angry and they're not going to take it anymore. They reportedly met with city officials yesterday led by Arn Bortz, former mayor and Towne Properties partner/Councilman Chris Bortz's super-rich uncle, to ask that they be removed. Bortz also accused protesters of defecating in the park and abusing people walking through, both well-known annoyances for neo-fascists.